|Filipino activists call for a stop to drug-related killings during a protest march in time for the observance of Holy Week. (Photo by Vincent Go)|
It is ironic that days after Philippine legislators passed a law that aims to re-impose capital punishment, most Filipinos observe the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ with so much "piety" this week.
Not content with the 8,000 deaths of suspected drug users and dealers in the past nine months, members of the Lower House of Congress are crying for the legalization of killings by hanging, lethal injection, or firing squad.
The Philippines abolished the death penalty more than a decade ago and even ratified the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that aims to abolish capital punishment.
In a pastoral letter, Catholic bishops vividly recalled that when the Philippines announced the abolition of the death penalty in 2006, the lights in Rome's Colosseum were illuminated to rejoice the decision. The symbolic celebration is carried out every time a state abolishes capital punishment.
The Philippines was looked at as a global leader in the campaign to abolish the death penalty. A decade later, however, this predominantly Christian nation is in the process of legalizing killings supposedly to address its drug problems.
Data provided by the Free Legal Assistance Group, an organization of lawyers, revealed that 71 percent of the Philippine Supreme Court's judgments on the death penalty were wrong. That is seven out of every ten people who were sentenced to death in the past did not deserve to be killed.
Bearing the brunt of capital punishment are the poor who can hardly afford to pay lawyers. The wretched of the earth are among the defenseless of the Lord's flock.
Will the death penalty eradicate the roots of the drug menace in the country? Is it a deterrent to the further commission of crimes?
Data from the Philippine National Police shows that from 1996 to 2006, when the death penalty was in force, the rate of rape and murder rose. From 1998 to 2000, the rate of rape incidents rose by 274 percent. After death penalty was abolished in 2006, there was a decline in the crime rate.
"Let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water, let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against the death penalty," the Catholic bishops have said.
May the words of our bishops prick the conscience of our leaders and stop the bloodshed in this already bleeding nation. The profound lamentation brought about by the Lord’s death thousands of years ago was vindicated after three days when Jesus rose from the dead.
Easter is the triumph of good over evil. The defeat of the proposed restoration of capital punishment should be a realization of the resurrection, the non-repetition of the execution of Christ through the execution of his beloved people.
Mary Aileen Bacalso is secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. For her commitment to the cause of the disappeared, the government of Argentina awarded her the Emilio Mignone International Human Rights Prize in 2013.
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