THE President has once again raised his call for the passage of a bill that restores the death penalty, having campaigned for it during the 2016 presidential election. We note the support for the reinstitution of capital punishment (death penalty) in the House of Representatives and the Senate, with deep sorrow and regret.
We declare our absolute opposition to capital punishment and we call on all people of good will to join us in our fight. The second century Christian martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, who received a sentence of death from the Roman Empire, once wrote, “The glory of God is a human person fully alive.” At the heart of our Christian faith is the belief that each human person is loved into being by God, created no less in his very image of God (Genesis 1:27), predestined from the beginning to become the image of the Son of God, Jesus Christ himself (Romans 8:29). There is no higher view of humanity than this: that each human person is given the gift of life to share in the image and likeness of God.
An attack on any human person, the image of God, is an attack on God. Moreover, at the core of our proclamation of the Good News (evangelion), the Gospel of Christ is that God’s Son came not to condemn (John 3:17), but to offer redemption, and forgiveness: “The Lord is long suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to turn to him.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Rather than take the life of sinners, Christ came to offer his own life for our redemption: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Such is the depth of the love of God for us, sinners.
NOTHING—neither human sin, nor injustice, nor evil, “nor anything else in creation can separate us from the saving love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) This is the faith we confess, and we oppose the death penalty because it is contrary to the Christian principles of respect for human life, mercy, forgiveness and charity.
We also oppose the death penalty on the following grounds: 1) Capital punishment will disproportionately impact poor communities. The poor do not have adequate resources and recourse for competent legal representation; 2) In the Philippines, the death penalty had historically been meted out to some of the most vulnerable, for example, both children and the frail elderly. Given our broken judiciary, this could occur again; 3) The very serious flaws in our judicial system could mean that the death penalty would be wrongly imposed on the innocent; 4) A death penalty could be used to weaken democracy and silence political opposition, by sentencing human rights activists and political dissidents to death in the name of national security; 5) Capital punishment does not act as a deterrent to crime, and serves only the purpose of revenge, contrary to the Gospel ethics of loving one’s enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
Our declaration of opposition to capital punishment should not be taken as a statement that persons who commit serious crimes should not be held accountable. In consonance with our Christian faith, we call on the government to offer offenders rehabilitation, so as to restore them to communion with God and the human community. Instead of crafting laws that marginalize the poor, we call on our government officials to devote their energies on the betterment of the majority of its citizens who live in poverty.