Prelate urges ‘conscience vote’ on death penalty bill
Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Monday urged Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to allow a “conscience vote” among lawmakers on the death penalty bill, saying it would be a “moment of glory” if their votes on President Duterte’s priority measure would prevail over party lines.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum that the prelates would not lobby against the bill.
“That is not our duty. Our duty is to disturb consciences, to teach consciences so that based on that educated well-formed Christ-like conscience, then laws can be passed. So my appeal is still for conscience,” Villegas said.
The Church believes that a more effective deterrent to the drug menace President Duterte has vowed to eradicate is “an aggressive reform of the justice system,” said the Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop.
Alvarez has threatened to crack down on House leaders who would vote against one of the key legislative measures Mr. Duterte has proposed to put more teeth into his administration’s war against illegal drugs and criminality.
“I hope the Speaker will allow a conscience vote on the death penalty. And I know if conscience will allow to prevail over party lines, it would be a moment of glory for our legislators because it is the triumph of conscience over party lines,” Villegas said.
“From my heart, I will say it will be a great shame that as we celebrate 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines, in the nine-year preparation for it, the death penalty will be restored. It is going to cause us great shame as a nation because it is certainly contrary to the Catholic faith that we have received,” Villegas said.
He said the nine-year preparation for the 500th anniversary was patterned after the nine-day prayer novenas.
Mr. Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives led by Alvarez have expressed confidence that the move to revive the death penalty will be approved in the chamber.
“You cannot solve the problem of drugs, which kills people, by killing people who kill people,” Villegas said.
“We are not saying the drug problem is not serious, it is serious and it must be solved,” he said. “But killing will not solve it. It will just create a culture of revenge, a culture of disregard for the rights of human beings.”
The drug problem is only a symptom of the bigger problem of poverty, Villegas said.
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