Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has appealed to Filipino Catholics to help and not “eliminate” sinners “but give them hope and offer of new life.”
The prelate made the call on Dec. 11, following the release of Manila Archdiocese’s “Prayer Against the Death Penalty” last week.
Church leaders in the Philippines have been vocal in opposing a proposed bill in congress to revive the death penalty for heinous crimes.
The Committee on Justice in the House of Representatives approved on Dec. 7 a consolidated bill on the revival of the death penalty for approval by the legislative body.
If passed into law, the death penalty — through hanging, firing squad or lethal injection — would be meted out for more than 20 crimes.
During the annual Advent recollection, attended by thousands of people, Cardinal Tagle cited the kindness of Jesus Christ that led Zacchadeus, a corrupt tax collector, to give to the poor.
The Manila prelate said that “those who seem to be impure” must be given hope.
Cardinal Tagle’s prayer against the death penalty, which is meant to be said in Masses throughout the Christmas season, appealed to God to “help us to work tirelessly against state-sanctioned death.”
One of the prayer intentions is “for our wounded society misled by the illusion that one must take life in order to defend it.”
“There is in our land a cry for vengeance and a move to fill up death row and kill offenders, but disguised as a call for justice. Let true and lasting justice spring forth,” the prayer states.
Setback against anti-crime drive
A “pro-life” legislator said the revival of the death penalty is bound to set back Philippine efforts to bring to justice criminals who have fled the country.
Rep. Lito Atienza, senior deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives, said the country will “lose the ability to bring home and prosecute drug lords, plunderers, embezzlers and even murderers who have slipped out of the country.”
The legislator said many countries around the world are “rightfully repulsed” by capital punishment, and would refuse to send fugitives back to the Philippines if they could face the death penalty.
“We may have situations wherein Filipinos with arrest warrants issued by Philippine courts are captured overseas, but foreign governments won’t repatriate the escapees on grounds they could be executed here,” said Atienza.
The legislator said many of the 102 countries that reject the death penalty are signatories to international treaties that categorically forbid executions and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
“These countries consider it their duty to protect the right to life of every human being. Their governments won’t expose people, regardless of citizenship or race, to the threat of potential death sentences,” said Atienza.
He said the death penalty “actually does not serve any purpose that is not already being served by the punishment of life imprisonment.” —Joe Torres, UCANews