Manila (AsiaNews) – “The death penalty eliminates hope. It is a final decision that removes every possibility for change. Let us help people change without killing them. Let us put them on the right path towards rebuilding their life in society,” a Filipino bishop told AsiaNews, anonymously for security reason. The prelate was referring to China, which tomorrow will execute Sally Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain, three Filipinos convicted of importing illegal drugs to the country.
Today, Catholic bishops, priests and believers took part in a prayer vigil asking for clemency for the three drug couriers sentenced to death. The service was held at Nuestra Senora de Guia shrine in Ermita (Manila) and was organised by the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
The death penalty imposed on the three drug couriers is front-page news in the Philippines. According to local media, China’s justice system imposes the death penalty too easily with the risk of killing the innocent. In fact, one of the three death row inmates said under oath that she was the victim of a scam.
Many Filipino politicians have accused the president of timidity vis-à-vis Beijing, calling for talks over the case only to bow to Beijing later and declare his respect for Chinese authorities.
According to Amnesty International, China is the only country where executions are up. In 2010 alone, more than a thousand people were executed. In the rest of the world, the number of executions carried out last year was 740.
For the aforementioned prelate, many countries use or want to reintroduce the death penalty because they have a flawed justice system.
“In China and the Philippines the justice system is failing. Investigations, detention and punishment do not reflect actual justice. For the bishop, many people fall through these cracks and are sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit, or for crimes that do not deserve the death penalty.
“If the system is imperfect, why do nations like China impose something that is irreversible on their people? Oftentimes, trials are just a farce and the culprit is found innocent after his execution.”
“The Filipino Church is against the death penalty,” he explained, “because God is merciful and called upon us to love our enemies. Those who sin are under God’s mercy.”
Pleading with countries that still have the death penalty, the bishop said that “those in power who exert authorities over people ought to be forgiving and be certain that they are acting justly. Only this way can we reaffirm the sense and dignity of human life,” for “every man should hope for forgiveness and have a chance to start over.