Alvarez to ostracized pro-death penalty Catholics: Change your religion

Mara Cepeda

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Alvarez to ostracized pro-death penalty Catholics: Change your religion

Alecs Ongcal

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also reminds those opposing the death penalty about the separation of Church and state. The Church should just focus on social work, he says.

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez advised Filipino Catholics to look for a new religion should they be ostracized for supporting the reinstatement of the death penalty in the country.

In an interview with dzRH on Tuesday, December 6, Alvarez reiterated his hope that House Bill (HB) Number 1 would be passed on 3rd and final reading before congressmen take their Christmas break.

HB Number 1, which Alvarez co-authored, seeks to reimpose capital punishment for all heinous crimes in the Philippines, including drug-related cases. The bill is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Alvarez, however, was asked during the interview if the bill would still be passed given the Catholic Church’s strong opposition against the death penalty. 

Gusto ko na ring ipaalala sa kanila ang separation of Church and state. Gawin nila ‘yung trabaho nila bilang nagpre-preach sila ng faith,” said the Davao del Norte 1st District Representative. 

(I just want to remind them about the separation of the Church and state. They should do their job since they’re preaching about the faith.) 

He argued that the Church should just focus on social work, including feeding the poor. 

Ginagawan ng paraan ng gobyerno itong malaking problema sa droga. [Kung] wala naman silang maitutulong dito ay tumahimik na lang. Huwag na silang makialam. Mag-concentrate na lang sila sa kawang-gawa. Maraming nangangailangan ng serbisyo nila. Maraming nagugutom sa kalye. Bakit hindi nila pagtuunang pansin ‘yun?” said Alvarez. 

(The government is finding ways to curb the drug problem. If they can’t help in this, they should just be quiet. They should not interfere. They should concentrate on doing charity. There are many people who need their services. There are many people who are hungry. Why not focus on that?) 

Karamihan ng Catholic schools dito sa Maynila nakikisali pa sa demonstrasyon. Huwag na sila makisali diyan,” he added. (Many Catholic schools here in Manila are also joining demonstrations. They should not participate in those.) 

Those opposing the death penalty have cited a Supreme Court decision in 2004 that said, for 11 years from 1993 to June 2004, 907 out of 1,493 cases were submitted to the High Court for review. Of this number, the death penalty was affirmed in only 230 cases, equivalent to only 25.36%. All in all, the SC revealed a high judicial error rate of 71.77%. (READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a ‘flawed, corrupt’ justice system)

‘Find another religion’

The radio show host also asked Alvarez if he would still hold the same position, given previous reports on Filipino Catholics supposedly being barred from partaking of communion during Mass after expressing their support for the Reproductive Health Law.  

Speaker, sa RH Law dati hindi daw nabibigyan ng komunyon pag nagsisimba (Speaker, with the RH Law before, there were people who were allegedly stopped from taking communion during Mass),” said the radio show host. 

Eh ‘di magtiwalag! Ang importante naman dito naniniwala ka sa Panginoon eh. Ngayon, kung ganyan ang ginagawa nila, eh ‘di maghanap ka na ng iba mong relihiyon,” said Alvarez. 

(Then leave! What’s important here is that you believe in God. Now, if that’s what they’re going to do to you, then find another religion.)

HB Number 1 has already hurdled the House justice panel’s subcommittee on judicial reforms and is up for deliberations in the mother committee. 

Human rights groups and some lawmakers have objected to the reimposition of capital punishment in the country, saying it is not a deterrent to crime. (READ: Lawmakers urged to reject revival of death penalty

One of the Catholic Church’s leading Bible scholars, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David had also criticized Senator Manny Pacquiao for using the Bible to justify the death penalty during his first privilege speech at the Senate. 

David stressed the need to interpret Scriptures in the proper context, with Jesus as “our criterion and standard for reading the Bible as Word of God.” –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.