Church groups stage a protest rally outside the Philippine Congress building in Manila as President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address on July 24. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Duterte refuses to back down over re-imposing death penalty, contraception
Joe Torres, Manila
Philippines July 25, 2017
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements this week that he will press for the passage of laws that will revive capital punishment and implement a reproductive health policy that will allow the use of contraceptives has drawn criticism from Catholic Church leaders.
Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Catholic bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said the president’s decision to take the “path of violence” is “lamentable.”
Diamante said Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24, does not reflect the state of the nation but the state of mind of a president “who refuses to listen to the cry of the people and the collective wisdom” of the community.
In his speech, the president urged Congress to re-impose capital punishment, saying that it is time for legislators “to fulfill our mandate to protect our people.”
“For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it’s also about retribution,” said Duterte, adding that the essence of the country’s penal code is retribution.
The president said instilling fear in criminals is the only way to stop them.
“In the Philippines, it is really an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You take life, you must pay it with life. You cannot place a premium on the human mind that he will go straight,” he said.
In March, the House of Representatives passed a measure that will revive capital punishment for drug-related offenses.
Catholic bishops have been vocal in their opposition to revive the death penalty.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops’ conference, earlier said that “though the crime be heinous, no person is ever beyond redemption, and we have no right ever to give up on any person.”
“When we condemn violence, we cannot ourselves be its perpetrators, and when we decry murder, we cannot ourselves participate in murder, no matter that it may be accompanied by the trappings of judicial and legal process,” he said.
Father Jerome Secillano of the public affairs office of the bishops’ conference, meanwhile, said church leaders maintain that the use of contraceptives to control the population is “not needed.”
The priest maintained that there are “alternatives to spacing the number of children” and family planning “should not be viewed as a poverty measure.”
In his State of the Nation Address, Duterte said that although he is “not for abortion [and] not for birth control” he is “certainly … for giving freedom to Filipinos to decide the size of their family.”
The president said the Supreme Court should reconsider the restraining order it issued against subdermal implants that prevented the government from fully implementing the country’s Reproductive Health Law.
In August 2016, the court issued a “temporary restraining order” on contraceptive implants.
“The [temporary restraining order] has become the bane of [government] projects,” said Duterte.
Father Secillano said that while the president is free to express his wishes about the reproductive health law, the matter must be left in the hands of the court to decide about the “efficacy and soundness of the measure.”
The priest said the country’s Reproductive Health Law is the “wrong medicine for the perceived overpopulation and maternal problems.”
“It can never be a panacea to women’s health problems, over-population, and poverty,” said Father Secillano.