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Priest: Justice system reform needed, not death penalty

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MANILA, Dec. 19, 2014—Amid the heated talk on the revival of the death sentence, a Catholic priest reiterates the Church’s stand on the controversial topic, saying it is more important to reform the whole criminal justice system.

While admitting that killing hardened criminals is a tempting prospect, Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’ Episcopal Commision on Public Affairs (ECPA), stressed capital punishment is no guarantee that crimes will not be committed anymore in the future.

Fr. Jerome Secillano (in white) represented the Church at a Senate committee hearing on the reinstatement of the death penalty on Dec. 16, 2014. (Photo: Zeigfred R. Samarista)

“Crime prevention is not about killing criminals, it’s about having an effective police force that will protect the citizenry and apprehend those who would inflict harm on the same; it’s about having uncorrupt court personnel who will punish the guilty and set the innocent free and not the other way around because of money; and it’s all about having a disciplined Bureau of Corrections that is committed to reforming those imprisoned and not to babysitting them!” he shared.

According to the priest, who represented the Church in a Senate hearing on the revival of the death penalty Thursday, Dec. 18, the reformatory institute is only one part of the whole criminal justice system that must be reformed and made effective and efficient, including law enforcement, justice and correction management

Much as he would like to agree with proponents of capital punishment, Secillano expresses doubts that killing a particular criminal or drug lord will stop the proliferation of drugs.

“For as long as there are corrupt personnel in the government, even the conviction of criminals for the penalty of death may not even happen after all,” he explained.

The priest pointed out the Church is not looking for a perfect single solution to deter crimes, but only wants different State institutions to perform their duties according to their mandate.

“When I call on the different institutions to do their tasks responsibly, effectively and efficiently, it’s a challenge to be actively engaged in preventing crimes. The call for death penalty is one of passivity because it allows crime to be committed. Death penalty is imposed after the fact (crime),” he said.

According to Secillano, the death penalty is “merely a band-aid solution”, stressing the need to challenge law enforcers and others in government who are tasked to protect the public.

“Remember, an ounce of prevention is probably much better than a ‘band-aid cure,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)


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