Philippine Catholic bishops hope kill bill will not pass

House of Representatives set for final reading on legislation that could re-impose the death penalty

UCAN photo: Human rights advocates hold a ralyy outside the south gate of the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Valentine's Day.

UCAN/ Joe Torres, Manila
Phili[pines, March 6, 2017

Philippine Catholic bishops expressed hope that members of the country’s Lower House will not support the passage of a law that will punish drug-related offenses with death.

The House of Representatives on March 7 was set to hold the final reading and vote on the proposed measure that will re-impose capital punishment in the country.

Retired Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, said several congressmen who voted in favor of the bill during the second reading on March 1 might change their minds.

The re-imposition of capital punishment was a campaign promise of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who vowed to fight illegal drugs and heinous crimes.

Archbishop Arguelles said voting after the third reading of the bill might come up with a different result.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said he was “extremely disappointed” with the railroading of the passage of the bill but expressed hopes legislators will vote with their conscience.

“I pray for the legislators that they maybe guided by the Holy Spirit in making decisions about life and death,” said Bishop Santos.

“Our humanity rests on how we respect life that God our creator has given us,” he added.

Members of the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives led a protest outside Congress on March 6 to decry what they described as “bullying” by Duterte’s allies in the House.

“The pro-death penalty majority … effectively deprived House members of exercising their rights and registering their strong opposition, as well as those of their constituents,” read a statement by opposition legislators.

They said they are opposed to the death penalty bill because it is “blatantly anti-poor.”

“It will be no different from the spate of extra-judicial killings where 99 percent of the victims were from the ranks of the poor,” said the legislators.

The International Commission of Jurists, meanwhile, called on the Philippine Congress to dismiss the proposed measure, saying that it is a “blatant breach” of the country’s international legal obligations.

The Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its second Optional Protocol aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

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