Religious groups on Tuesday gave contrarian opinions to lawmakers on the morality of imposing death penalty even on the most heinous of criminals.
Various religious groups read out their position papers during the House justice subcommittee on judicial reforms hearing, which discussed the bill seeking to reimpose capital punishment.
Grecor "Butch" Belgica, a murder convict turned evangelist, told the committee that even the Bible condones capital punishment on people who have sinned against the commandments of God.
Belgica is the father of defeated senatorial candidate Greco Belgica.
"Biblical law pities the offended and not the offender, and sympathizes with the aggrieved and not with the aggressor ... Biblical law assures 'due process' to the offender but bequeaths justice to the offended. In short, justice for the aggrieved, and due process for the aggressor," Belgica said.
Belgica said capital punishment would ensure the cleansing of the world from sinners.
"God's law establishes the responsibility of civil rulers to act as representatives of the people in doing what is right in the sight of the Lord to cleanse the land of innocent blood. Therefore, we vote for civil rulers who actively support capital punishment for murderers," Belgica said.
"A magistrate (candidate) who opposes the death penalty for murder is a dangerous man for he stands against the only penalty that will cleanse the land of innocent blood, and therefore, he willfully contributes to the pollution of the land by blood," he added.
For his part, Father Eli Rowdy Lumbo, executive director of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service Foundation, opposed the death penalty because it rules out the chance for reformation even to the most heinous criminal.
Lumbo shared his experience of dealing with convicts who regretted committing heinous crimes, and those wrongfully accused of the crime but acquitted after years in detention.
"How do we see such persons? Is it not incumbent upon society to form or reform those who have gone astray, to teach those who were not taught and guide those who have made wrong decisions?" Lumbo asked the lawmakers.
"We make a stand against the restoration of the death penalty. It is not the solution to the criminality that confronts our country and the death of the offender is not the answer to senseless deaths of the innocent. We stand for reformation and rehabilitation of the offender," he added.
Leyte Rep. Vicente "Ching" Veloso, the chairperson of the House justice subcommittee, said this issue has divided the nation, but he takes courage from the children of the nation whose future is at stake.
"Listening to both parties, I am in a bind ... If I would say I am not in favor, what would my children say? ... The issue has divided the great minds of our society," Veloso said.
It was Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who first filed the bill seeking to reimpose death penalty after former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.
Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.
Alvarez's bill sought to reimpose death penalty on heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.
In the bill he co-authored with deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose death penalty because "the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts."
"Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes," according to the bill.
Duterte has won the elections in a campaign promise to restore death penalty by hanging, even making a snide remark that the convicts' head should be severed from the hanging.
Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way for death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection, or by hanging.
Solon fears railroading of death penalty bill
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman warned the public that the Lower House may be seeking to railroad the passage of a law reimposing the death penalty.
Lagman pointed out that the House Justice Committee has been conducting marathon hearings on the measure, which is one of the priority bills of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Today the committee on justice set a whole-day meeting. Again, tomorrow, it's a full-day meeting. Prior to that, there was also another meeting. That will only show to you how they will like to railroad the passage of the bill," Lagman said.
Lagman, nonetheless, held out the possibility that the proposed measure will face significant opposition at the plenary of the lower chamber.
"They should expect opposition from members of the House, also coming from the supermajority. There are many members who are against the re-imposition of the death penalty. There are I think 14 members who were also part of the 13th Congress when this was abolished and 12 of them of them are still steadfast in supporting the non-reimposition, There are 26 members of the House who voted for the abolition of the death penalty," he said.
"I think we will have that close to our chest. We don't want to unduly alarm the leadership of the supermajority. We have significant numbers."
The bill is authored by no less than House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.
Alvarez had reportedly expressed his intention to have the Lower House approve the bill by Christmas.
Lagman, meanwhile, noted that the proponents want to impose the penalty for narcotics offenses.
"I think they will like it easier to pass by limiting the imposition of death penalty on a particular set of crimes. It's a way of hastening the passage of the bill because some might agree to just limit it to drug-related offenses. But to those who are against the death penalty, it is immaterial," he said.
"What is important is there should be no imposition. It's against human rights. It's not a deterrent. All empirical studies would show that death penalty has no deterrent effect."
President Duterte earlier said that death penalty is not necessarily for deterring crimes but for retribution.
Lagman's ally and member of the so-called "Magnificent 7", Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, meantime, cautioned the House majority against railroading the bill.
"This is a public issue. Definitely there would be mobilization against this proposal," Villarin said.
"We remind the House leadership that the public is watching. There are stakeholders and its the future of our country that we are discussing here. Death penalty belongs to the dark ages."
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