Church pushes restorative justice, not retributive

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MANILA, Feb. 4, 2014— If Jesus Christ were being tried today for supposed wrongdoing, he would almost certainly be acquitted. But he has already been executed.

Whether it is this case or some other, the Catholic Church opposes capital punishment because human beings are fallible as well as the country’s criminal justice system.

In a statement, the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) said that the death penalty would only increase the risk of executing innocent people.

“Some two thousand years ago, a man was sentenced to death and crucified on the cross,” part of the statement reads.

The church agency expressed sadness that some people and organizations “have not learned their lesson” until now.

“They still impose the ultimate punishment on those whom they deem have violated their laws, despite the fact that some of those that they have sent to death are innocent, like Christ, the man who died on the Cross,” it said.

The church agency reiterated that aside from studies that the death penalty does not deter violent crimes, it is also “unchristian and inhuman, to say the least”.

Some legislators earlier called for the revival of the death penalty, eight years after it was abolished by the then Arroyo administration.

The ECPPC particularly strongly opposed the bill filed by Senator Vicente Sotto III, a strong ally of the Church in its campaign against a population control law, to re-impose death penalty.

“The CBCP-ECPPC considers this effort to be an unenlightened, counter-productive, and counter-progressive move,” it added.

“The stance against the death penalty is in no way a posture to let criminal offenders go scot-free. The Catholic Church believes in Justice and it is ranked high in its hierarchy of values,” the ECCPC also said.

According to Sotto, the series of heinous crimes like rape and murder is already alarming, thus making the revival of death penalty necessary.

Aside from Sotto, there are also several groups that are advocating the return of the capital punishment saying it is a perfect deterrent to criminals.

ECPPC executive secretary Rodolfo Diamante, however, said that the death penalty couldn’t be an effective crime deterrent as long as issues in the criminal justice system are not resolved.

‘Project Innocence’

Diamante cited around 400 inmates that are “wrongfully convicted” based on their own studies conducted with students from different universities to prisoners convicted of murder and rape.

“While it may not be said as already being factual, but we have reasons to believe that these persons were wrongfully convicted,” he said.

Diamante said that because of this, the “Project Innocence”, of which the ECPPC is a member, was launched recently to help review cases of some convicted prisoners.

He stressed that if wrongfully convicted individuals are meted with death penalties, there will be no more chances of correcting the mistake once they are already executed.

Restorative justice 

The Church stressed that any deprivation of the right to life would not gain justice for anyone and rendering the death penalty to obtain justice does the opposite as recent history has proven.

The ECPPC instead reiterated an earlier call for the justice system to transcend from the punitive to restorative justice.

In restorative justice, according to him, the offenders are given opportunity to repair the damage they have done through various creative ways.

“Rather than take away precious human life, the Church wants to explore alternatives to mete out justice,” the ECPPC added.

“For one, it seriously considers – and vigorously advocates – a shift in the paradigm of justice: from litigation to mediation; prosecution to healing; punishment to reform and rehabilitation; from retributive to restorative,” it also said. (Roy Lagarde)

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