The clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila has condemned lawmakers’ willingness to heed President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to reimpose the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

Duterte made the call in his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 27. A dozen bills seeking to reinstate capital punishment have been filed in the House of Representatives.

“While we agree that it is the duty of legislators to enact laws and state policies, we condemn the lack of independence and imprudence of some of them who decided to immediately bow to the wishes of President Rodrigo Duterte,” the Manila clergy said in a statement, read in online Masses in the archdiocese last Sunday, Aug. 9.

International law, they said, prohibits the Philippines from withdrawing from the United Nations Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights, which aimed to abolish the death penalty.

“We, the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Manila, are both alarmed, and disturbed at the ease with which our lawmakers responded to the call for its reimposition and to the dangers such penalty poses to life and society,” they said.

While the Manla clergy agreed that crimes should be punished appropriately, they stressed that punishments should not include death. They also argued that death penalty cannot deter crimes. 

“What deters crime is the certainty of conviction and the imposition of punishment. What the country needs, therefore, is a reform of the criminal justice system with the eradication of crooked, corrupt and unprincipled practices in law enforcement,” they said. 

Death penalty, said the Manila clergy, is much like the president’s war on drugs — ”biased and unfair.” It is also an “unjustified form of retribution”  that legalizes the extermination of the marginalized, they said.

“The fallibility and imperfection of our justice system is enough reason to reject death penalty.  There are many indicators suggesting that miscarriage of justice is unavoidable,” the clergy said. Jayziel Khim Budino