University President issues statement on the death penalty
14 February 2017
Memo to : The University Community
Subject : Capital punishment
As our legislators continue to deliberate on a law that seeks to re-impose capital punishment, we do well to recall our previous memo of 29 July 2016 (“Life”), where we said:
“We recognize the willful efforts of government, the private sector and civil society to rid our communities of this drug menace and to institute measures that protect persons and property from such violence.
“However, Christian faith tells us that Jesus came so that all may have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10). Because of the fundamental Gospel value and sanctity of each person’s life, the death of anyone regardless of virtue cannot but diminish us, and any society or culture that encourages and multiplies death cheapens life for everyone.
“… [W]e call upon members of the Ateneo community to:
· Promote reverence for life, respect for human rights, and restorative justice;
· Espouse best practices in crime prevention and control;
· Watch over the enforcement of equality before the law, due process, and mandated judicial processes in instances of criminal arrest;
· Lobby against the potential reinstatement of capital punishment and the lowering of the age of criminal liability; …”
The University heeds and supports the efforts of everyone in the community who has long been lobbying against the reinstatement of the death penalty.
While, under the Constitution, Congress has the prerogative to re-impose capital punishment “for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes,” the same Charter declares it an overriding State Principle that “[t]he maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life[italics ours], liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.” Accordingly, in 2007, the Philippine State deemed it only right and proper to sign the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and thereby categorically committed that “[n]o one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the Protocol shall be executed.”
Furthermore, prevailing studies continue to confirm that there are no compelling reasons for the reinstatement of the death penalty. It has not deterred the commission of heinous crimes. Moreover, it would especially, immorally discriminate against the poor and marginalized sectors of Philippine society who remain acutely disadvantaged in terms of adequate legal representation and other processes needed to defend themselves against the infliction of such an ultimately harsh penalty.
Re-imposing this irreversible sanction now would not be faithful to the abiding spirit of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which declares that ‘[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of the law.” As the Human Rights Center of the Ateneo de Manila Law School succinctly pronounces, “[e]xecuting a person who may have been a victim of a flawed justice system can never be undone.”
Most fundamentally, our Christian faith teaches - and it bears reiterating - that “the Prince of Peace lived among us to proclaim the life-giving news of God's universal love and to establish the peace of the Kingdom in our midst. On his cross, there is only it seems callousness and savagery. With the eyes of faith however, we see differently. At times however dimly, we see love and mercy given in return for our cruelty. By his wounds that are our wounds, by his peace that is our peace, we are changed and at last redeemed.”
Only recently (in the memo of 25 January 2017 on “Minimum age for criminal liability”), we appealed to the community: “Let us take our children to school. Let us accompany them to God. Let us not bring them to jail.” In that same spirit we call on everyone, particularly those we have vested with the power to lead our nation: let us build for our people a truly humane society which fully values the dignity and life of every human person. Let us pursue and exhaust restorative justice. Let us not bring our people to the execution chambers.
Ultimately, we know we cannot trust darkness to rid ourselves of the dark. Our faith reveals to us who we truly are, that we are children of God, called to be light of the world. May God give us enough courage to be lux in Domino and enough humility to be kindled by his light. God bless us to strive always for that fullness of life which he meant for us here on earth as it is in heaven.
ad majorem Dei gloriam,
Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ
 Leechaianan, Y.; Longmire, D.R. The Use of the Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking in the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand: A Comparative Legal Analysis. Laws 2013, 2, 115-149.
 Maria Glenda Lopez, The Poor on Trial in the Philippine Justice System, 14 Phil. J. of Third World Stud. 69, 69 (1999).
 American Bar Association, Access to Justice Assessment for Philippines, available at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/directories/roli/philippines/philippines_access_to_justice_assessment_2012.authcheckdam.pdf (last accessed on 13 February 2017).