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Philippine bishops urge flock to fight the death penalty

In a special prayer, Catholic bishops have urged Filipinos to "make a stand" against restoring the death penalty. The bill, pushed by President Duterte, has already passed the lower house of the Philippine parliament.

The clerics read out the homily at all masses across the Philippines on Sunday.

"Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, let us not allow our wells to be poisoned by bitter water. Let us uphold the sanctity of life and make a stand against death penalty," the Catholic bishops said in a pre-written prayer.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006. However, firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte launched a bid to restore it as part of his brutal crackdown on crime. Lawmakers already backed the bill in the country's House of Representatives and it is expected to pass the Senate as well.

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Despite the death penalty being illegal, Duterte has repeatedly supported extrajudicial killings and police have reportedly executed thousands of suspects since he took office in June.

Jesus was not 'an advocate' of killing

On Sunday, the bishops said that the death penalty would be biased against the poor, who would not be able to afford a good lawyer, and argued there was no evidence that it deterred crime.

Referring to the upcoming Senate vote, they called on worshipers to "pray fervently for the legislators."

"Jesus was never an advocate of any form of 'legal killing.' He defended the adulterous woman against those who demanded her blood," they said, citing the New Testament story about Jesus opposing a stoning.

Around 80 percent of all Filipinos are Catholic, and the Church wields a significant influence in the country. At the same time, Duterte and his crusade against drugs are also immensely popular. When confronted by the Catholic Church earlier this year, Duterte accused it of greed, hypocrisy, and sexual abuse of children.

The pro-death penalty camp hopes to reinstate capital punishment by May this year.

dj/rc (AFP, dpa)

 

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