We are a community of followers of Jesus who are serving as peacebuilding missionaries and are also motivated by love and joy to help transform our land and peoples towards justice and peace. We are against the reimposition of death penalty in the Philippines.
While we support President Duterte’s commitment to fight against crimes, illegal drugs, and corruption, and while we applaud his independent foreign policy, his rapid reforms among a number of service departments, and the effective flow of the peace negotiations—we cannot support the imposition of the death penalty in this country.
When Senate Bill Number 42, “An Act Re-Instituting Death Penalty in the Philippines,” was submitted right on the same day when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte assumed office, we immediately felt we have to pray, gather data, make careful evaluation, and clearly identify what we can fully support and what we cannot support in the new administration’s policies and procedures in their fight against crime, illegal drugs, and corruption.
PeaceBuilders Community was established in Davao City where our national office has been operating since 2006. We love the leadership of our former mayor, Rodrigo Duterte. We are ordinary workers, peacebuilding field workers, and peace advocates who saw our neighborhoods that were transformed from war zones to safe communities under the leadership of then Mayor Duterte–who was ‘Tatay Digong’ to most of us. We supported his campaign until he was elected as President of the Philippines.
Now, we are sharing how we think and feel about the spate of killings since this ‘War on Drugs’ started. How do we look at this through the lenses of the Peace of Christ? How do we approach ‘Human Security’ using the principles of a Mennonite peace theology?
Then, we learned that last 29 November 2016, the Justice Panel’s Subcommittee On Judicial Reforms of the House of Representatives approved the hotly debated House Bill Number 01, seeking to reimpose capital punishment for all heinous crimes.
We cannot support, and we will actively protest against, the re-imposition of the death penalty primarily because of our theology and ethics.
Our theological conviction against death penalty is rooted in our biblical understanding of Christ’s life and work: “Since Christ through His redemptive work has fulfilled the requirement of the death penalty, and has given the church a ministry of reconciliation, and in view of the injustice and ineffectiveness of capital punishment as a means for the achievement of the purpose of government,” we cannot agree in clear conscience with the re-imposition of the death penalty. Our understanding of the life and work of Jesus directs us to oppose the death penalty.
Our social-ethical position against death penalty is based on an overwhelming consensus among top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty. Also, 88% of criminologists do not believe that death penalty is an effective deterrent. Furthermore, we resonate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein, that, “No judiciary, anywhere in the world, is so robust that it can guarantee that innocent life will not be taken, and there is an alarming body of evidence to indicate that even well-functioning legal systems have sentenced to death men and women who were subsequently proven innocent.”
As has been our modus operandi, we will share this conviction and position to all the members of the legislative, to key officials in the executive, and to key officials in the judiciary. We will also make our voice heard among other sectoral leaders of our society — religious, police, military, academe, media, and civil society organizations.
May the God of justice and peace lead us all as we process this crucial issue in our journey in building this nation.