Philippine bishops: Death penalty ‘self-contradictory’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines denounces new attempts 'to lobby the legislature for the restoration of the death penalty'

REVIVE THIS CHAMBER? This is the view from inside the Philippines' lethal injection chamber at the National Penitentiary in Manila on Jan 9, 2004. File photo by Joel Nito/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) rejected a new lobby to restore the death penalty in the country, denouncing it as “self-contradictory.”

In a statement Wednesday, July 2, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also said the “imperfection of our judicial system” could lead to injustice if the Philippines restores the death penalty.

Villegas said: “There is something terribly self-contradictory about the death penalty, for it is inflicted precisely in social retaliation to the violence unlawfully wielded by offenders. But in carrying out the death penalty, the state assumes the very posture of violence that it condemns!”

The CBCP issued this statement after it was “informed of attempts by advocacy groups to lobby the legislature for the restoration of the death penalty.”

Villegas explained that justice “does not demand the death penalty.”

He said: “The aim of justice is the restoration of broken relations and the ruptured social coherence that follow from crime. Executing a human person does not contribute to any of these goals of justice. Neither can it be argued that the supreme penalty is necessary to vindicate a legal order. In fact, it is a weak and retrogressive legal order that calls for the execution of offenders for its vindication!”

He also described the death penalty as “cruel and inhumane” for two reasons: 

  • The “terrible anxiety and psychological distress” suffered by families of convicts
  • The stigma also faced by the families of the convicted

Justice system ‘liable to error’

Villegas added that a “most important consideration” is that the Philippine justice system “is liable to error” like all others.

“But the death penalty, once executed, is irreversible and no repentance or regret can ever make up for the horrible injustice of a person wrongfully executed. There is furthermore the sadder fact that some judges, betraying the dignity and nobility of their calling, allow extra-legal considerations to taint their judgments, rendering judicial disposition of cases less reliable still,” the archbishop said.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care earlier rejected the death penalty as an “easy, quick but wrong solution.”

These statements came after Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, among others, said he wants to revive the death penalty.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 1987, under the term of former president Corazon Aquino, a devout Catholic. Her successor, Fidel V Ramos, reintroduced it in 1993. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo suspended it again in 2006.

Mrs Aquino’s son, President Benigno Aquino III, said he is hesitant to revive capital punishment. –



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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email