Anti-death penalty lacks numbers, admits prison ministry official

October 7, 2022 - 4:24 PM
A streamer against the death penalty inside the CBCP compound in Intramuros, Manila. (CBCP News)

In terms of allies in the present Congress, anti-death penalty advocates are clearly at a disadvantage, the Catholic Church’s prison ministry office admitted Wednesday.

While the House of Representatives is dominated by allies of the ruling administration, Gerry Bernabe of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) said they only have four “sure allies” in the Senate so far.

“It’s challenging these days but I believe, because we are on the right side, we can do this fight,” said Bernabe, who is also a Volunteers in Prison Service (VIPs) national coordinator.

“As the struggle against death penalty will go on, let us remain vigilant and stand up for what is right,” he said.

Bernabe made the statement after Mass at the CBCP chapel in Manila’s Intramuros district for the World Day Against Death Penalty, which will be observed on October 10.

The liturgy was presided over by Fr. Eli Rowdy Lumbo of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service, with CBCP secretary general Msgr. Bernardo Pantin and ECPPC executive secretary Fr. Nezelle Lirio as concelebrants.

At present, there are about six pending measures before Congress that seeks to restore the capital punishment in the country: four of them were filed in Senate and two in the House of Representatives.

In a statement, ECPPC chairperson Bishop Joel Baylon renewed their opposition to any moves to revive the death penalty under the Marcos administration.

Among other reasons, he said that the death penalty “will only victimize the poor” that lacks access to quality legal services and that it cannot work in an “imperfect judicial system like ours”.

“Thus, we strongly and unequivocally oppose moves in the present Congress to restore the death penalty in our justice system,” Baylon said.

The bishop called on legislators to instead pass laws that will make the country’s criminal justice system “more pro-life and pro-poor, more restorative and not merely punitive”.

“Let us affirm our option for life,” he said.