Thousand lives will be ‘wasted’ in death penalty revival

MANILA, September 2, 2008— Over 1, 000 lives of inmates await to be “wasted” if death penalty in the country will be revived, Catholic Church officials warned Monday.

Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso said it’s “very tragic” that some lawmakers are out again calling for the restoration of state executions.

Medroso, Commission on Canon Law chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that capital punishment system doesn’t work for victims’ families, and that the state is better off without it.

He argued that the death penalty do nothing to curb the violence that has poised on so many communities in the country.

“Violence must not call for more violence. We are in favor of justice but not call of capital punishment,” said Medroso.

The bishop said he was disappointed upon learning that Manila 6th District Representative, a pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church, filed a bill seeking to revoke the law that repealed the death penalty.

“That’s why I’m saddened that they are going to resurrect this kind of bill that would harm again life. Life is always precious,” Medroso said.

“Secondly, life comes from our Creator so we don’t have any right at all to take life,” he added.

Abante’s House Bill 4482 revives Republic Act No. 8177, which imposes death by lethal injection on those found guilty of heinous crimes.

The lawmaker said there has been a rise in the commission of capital offenses after the capital punishment was abolished in 2006—reason why he is pushing for the death penalty’s return.

But Medroso said there are other means of punishing people in the name of justice.

He cited “perpetual imprisonment” as one instance so that inmates will be given a chance to change their lives.

“We don’t lose hope for conversion of people,” said Medroso.

Msgr. Roberto “Bobby” Olaguer, chief chaplain of the New Bilibid Prisons, said there are almost a thousand inmates who were sentenced to death.

Of the figure, he said, around 65 of those convicted criminals already have specific dates for them to be executed.

Olaguer said the Church is against death penalty because all human life has dignity and other means are available to punish heinous criminals.

“We seek to build a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill,” he said.

Olaguer said the Church prison ministry is doing all efforts to help inmates turn their lives around. “Let’s give them a chance to get on with their lives,” he said.

“In my experience (as NBP chaplain), there are some who are already in the death row but eventually emerged as leaders in our prison ministry,” he said. (Roy Lagarde)

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