Catholic Church opposes capital punishment anew
PLUNDER will remain on the list of heinous crimes punishable by death in the final version of the bill that seeks the revival of capital punishment in the Philippines, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Tuesday, February 14.
“I will insist that it be included,” Alvarez, who is an author of a bill seeking the reimposition of death penalty, said in an interview.
Alvarez stressed that there’s “more reason to include plunder,” following the hearing on the supposed anomalous contract between the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and Vanderwood Management Corporation, which amounts to a total of P3.2 billion.
During the congressional hearing on Tuesday, Alvarez questioned the 15-year lease agreement, claiming that it is “really highly disadvantageous to the government.”
PAGCOR reportedly agreed to pay P13 million per month to Vanderwood despite the absence of the facility.
“P13 million a month? Yun yung ni-rent mo doon sa hangin — hindi pa existing yung facility (That is how much you rent the air — the facility does not exist yet). Pinagbayad mo ng P13 million a month, pinagbayad mo yung gobyerno ng P13 million a month doon naman sa facility na inuupahan lang ng P300,000 a month from the government also (You asked the government to pay P13 million a month for a facility you rent for P300,000 which is also owned by the government) ” Alvarez said, addressing former PAGCOR Chairman Cristino Naguiat.
The gaming arm also allegedly admitted to paying Vanderwood a P234-million lease in advance.
“Definitely plunder yun, ang laki ng halaga ng pera na nilustay nila, pera ng gobyerno (It’s definitely plunder, a large amount government money has been wasted),” Alvarez claimed.
In response to the House speaker, Naguiat insisted that what PAGCOR paid for is “within government rules,” pointing out that the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) cleared the deal.
OGCC head Raoul Creencia, on the other hand, claimed that PAGCOR was only allowed to pay after the facility’s construction was completed.
Creencia also argued that, although he cleared the deal, “it was PAGCOR that ultimately made the decision.”
Referencing this deal, Alvarez stressed that plunder should remain in the list of crimes punishable by death.
“Sabi ko nga (Like I said) with more reasons na talagang dapat isama natin e, kagaya nga nito (to really include plunder, like this one). Sus, hindi ko ma-imagine talaga kung bakit pinayagan itong kontrata na ito (I can’t imagine why this contract was approved),” Alvarez said.
Alvarez then warned the current PAGCOR officials that they could be also held liable for plunder if they continue to honor the supposed anomalous contract with Vanderwood.
Meanwhile, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that legislators are “afraid of the death penalty,” suggesting that they do not want to be prosecuted in the event they are charged with plunder.
“When you deprive constituents of the millions and billions of money that should be given to them, you are killing them effectively. That’s a heinous crime to my mind,” he said, according to various reports.
Malacañang previously said it would defer the plunder issue to Congress and not obstruct the deliberations of the bill.
Currently, other heinous crimes covered under the proposed legislation include treason, piracy, bribery, murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery with violence, drug trafficking and carnapping. However, a final list of offenses is yet to be decided upon, according to Panelo.
‘Jesus, Rizal, Bonifacio convicted of death penalty despite innocence’
Citing Jesus Christ and Philippine heroes Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio as examples of innocent victims of the death penalty, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Socrates Villegas expressed once again the Catholic Church’s opposition against the proposed revival of capital punishment in the country.
“The Lord, Jesus Christ, died because of death penalty. He was crucified,” Villegas said during an Inquirer Multimedia forum on Monday, February 13. “Jose Rizal died because of death penalty. Andres Bonifacio died because of death penalty.”
According to the archbishop, Jesus, Rizal, and Bonifacio were all convicted of capital punishment while “being innocent.”
He then stressed, “There are so many people who were killed by death penalty despite being innocent.”
Villegas made the statement following boxer-turned-politician Senator Manny Pacquiao’s earlier comments that the Bible justifies the death penalty.
Last month, Pacquiao claimed that both the Bible and the Constitution allow the imposition of the death penalty as a punishment for heinous crimes.
“The Bible says do not kill. Ang ibig sabihin kasi noon pag nagkasala ka sa akin hindi kita pwedeng patayin (In the past, it means that if you sinned against me, I cannot kill you). Let the authority handle that,” Pacquiao previously said.
He then added, “Siguro naman sa Constitution allowed yung heinous crimes na death penalty and then sa Panginoon naman, binibigyan ng Panginoon ang karapatan ang government (The Constitution allow us to use death penalty for heinous crimes while the Lord also gives the government the rights) to use the capital punishment, which is the death penalty.”
Sought for comments, Villegas said he respects Pacquiao’s opinion.
Villegas, however, argued that “Jesus died on the cross voluntarily accepting death, he accepted death so there would no longer be deaths like that… so there would be no more deaths from injustice.”
“And yet the dyings, the killings continue. It is not because the crucifixion is impotent, it is because we have not taken the lessons of Jesus to heart,” Villegas added.
In a pastoral letter dated January 30, Villegas previously expressed the church’s ‘deep concern’ for the ‘many deaths and killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs.’
“This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome. But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers. We are concerned not only for those who have been killed. The situation of the families of those killed is also cause for concern. Their lives have only become worse,” he said.
Responding to the CBCP’s letter, Alvarez called the bishops of the Catholic Church a “bunch of shameless hypocrites.”
But Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, former head of the CBCP, said the Catholic Church will continue to denounce the killings.
He also said that they would continue to oppose the death penalty and proclaim the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas on Sunday, February 12, he said, “Hindi ko naman mauutos ‘yung huwag kang papatay. Sa akin ba galing ‘yun? Galing sa Panginoon ‘yun, inuulit ko lang. Kung makinig siya (Alvarez), salamat. Kung hindi, siya ang bahala (I cannot order to not kill. Is that command from me? It’s from God and I’m just repeating it. If he listens, thank you. If not, it’s up to him). Kung minsan (Sometimes), public officials, they should be public servants, hindi (not) they became like ‘public lords and public Gods’ nakakahiya (shameful).”
Despite criticism from the CBCP, Malacañang said it is also open to working with the Church with regard to the drug war and the death penalty. n