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Philippines: Death penalty restoration may doom 88 OFWs on death row

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso and 87 other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) languishing in death row in overseas prisons will be deprived of a chance of absolution as soon as the capital punishment is restored in the Philippines, Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza warned.

Meantime, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is expected to come out with a statement on death penalty anytime soon.

LOSING MORAL HIGH GROUND

Atienza stressed that the Philippine government's efforts to save the lives of OFWs in death prisons overseas will effectively be counteracted by the death penalty bill being pushed by the Duterte administration.

"One of the many ramifications (of the return of the death penalty) is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency - for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution," said Atienza, who is pushing for a pro-life legislative agenda.

"Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here - if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life," Atienza added.

SAVING MARY JANE

With the help of former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, now Senator Manny Pacquiao and the Aquino administration, Veloso, a drug convict in Indonesia, was granted a temporary reprieve last year.

She was saved from the series of executions carried out on April 29, 2015 by the Indonesian government.

Executed that day in Nusa Kambangan were Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, 4 Nigerians and an Indonesian.

Citing a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Atienza said at least 87 other OFWs are confronted with the death sentence abroad, most of them in Malaysia and China.

CHURCH'S STAND

A Church source said it was CBCP president Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas who told him of the plan to release a statement.

However, it was not clear if the statement will be released at the end of the bishops' Plenary Assembly which started Saturday at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

The CBCP usually issue a collective statement on pastoral and social issues after their 3-day gathering.

But a check with Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo revealed that the bishops have yet to discuss the issue as ofSunday morning.

But a number of Catholic prelates earlier already expressed their opposition to the idea of reviving death penalty saying it's against moral law.

"Death penalty by hanging is against moral law. Human life is sacred because it comes from God, the Creator. No one, not even the State, may take a human life, even of hardened criminals," said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

Source: Manila Bulletin, July 10, 2016

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