AFTER failing to influence the Congress, multi-sectoral organizations in Cagayan de Oro City launches the "Lakbay-Buhay," a twenty-one day march-caravan across the country, and this time, to influence the Senate to decide against the Death Penalty Bill.
The march, which started on Thursday, May 4, involved groups of farmers, indigenous peoples, labor, urban poor, and other basic sectors, in a bid to express the groups' unified opposition to the death penalty bills, which they said, are contrary to the principles of human dignity and restorative justice.
Fr. Raul Dael, formator and professor of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary said they want the legislators to know that there are other options to penalize a criminal and that it should not be an option unless until the country reforms its judicial system.
Dael also hit the representatives for approving the bill in a haste, accusing them that their votes might have been bought.
"We know for a fact nga dunay mga congressmen nga gikuhaan sa ilang mga position because they voted against the death penalty bill, so mangutana ko, ang usa ka prinsipyo nga gipalit, usa ba kana siya ka baruganan nga lig-on? Para sa ako mapalit man gani akong prinsipyo sa uban, that is a questionable principle, and this is what I believe," he said.
"Naa man gayuy nagpalit sa ilang vote. Dili ko makahusga sa ila why they did it, tingali naa silay rason sa ilang baruganan," he said.
It can be recalled that last March, the lower house approved House Bill 4727, seeking to reimpose capital punishment for heinous drug-related offenses, with 217 yes, 54 no and one abstention.
Jose Morales, of the urban poor said the most vulnerable victims of the bill is the poor who cannot afford good lawyers to defend themselves.
Morales said what the government should do is address the cause of the drug problem which he said, is poverty.
Akbayan regional chairman Karl Yngojo said the sanctity of life should never be violated as "justice is only possible if convicts are allowed to atone and reform for their sins."
"Vengeance is not justice. With poor people unable to afford adequate representation in courts usually overrepresented in death row, it is clear to Akbayan that the death penalty is not a panacea to the social problems and will only kill more poor marginalized people than actually server justice," he said.
"The thousands of extrajudicial killings drives this point home. We in Akbayan believes the problem of drugs requires more complex and holistic responses, and not the shortcut offered by violence," he added.
In its manifesto, the "Lakbay-Buhay" stands firm that death penalty is unlawful as it violates existing international treaties where the country is signatory to.
It said that the re-imposition of death penalty is nothing more than inhuman, illegal, ineffective, and anti-poor.
"The drug threat, however, serious the government has painted it to be, can never justify the moral, social, legal, and economic cost of such re-imposition," it said.
The march to Manila will pass through 14 cities all over the country, which includes Cebu City, Tacloban City, Borongan, Catarman, Sorsogon, Legazpi City, Naga City, Gumaca, Lucena City, San Pablo City, Lipa City, Imus City; Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, northern Metro Manila, University of Santo Tomas and the Rizal Park in Manila.
The pilgrims will conduct public educational during stopovers in cities to raise public awareness on how the revival of the death penalty will lead to a culture of death in the Philippines.
A simultaneous public forum will be conducted on Saturday, May 6, at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral, Xavier University, Lourdes College, Kiosko Kagawasan Divisoria before walking to the pier on the succeeding day, May 7, to start the march to Manila.