Candidates in Philippines urged to reject death penalty
The Philippine bishops' Commission on Prison Pastoral Care is asking presidential election candidates to declare themselves against the death penalty.
Last week, members of the commission and of the Anti-Death Penalty Coalition attended a Mass near the presidential palace for two kidnappers who face execution on January 30.
Father Robert Reyes, who has organised marches and events to support the Catholic Church's social teachings on human rights, the environment, land reform and other issues, presided over the liturgy.
During a press conference after the Mass, Bishop Arigo explicitly asked President Arroyo "to stop executions and abolish the death penalty."
However the five presidential candidates, including President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so far only one has signed an appeal to be sent to the commission's president, Bishop Pedro Arigo.
Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila and Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Ligayen-Dagupan, have criticised the government's reinstatement of capital punishment as immoral and inhumane.
In a statement, Archbishop Cruz said that the government was "incapable of keeping law and order" and warned that the reinstatement of capital punishment was a promotion of the "culture of death."
Archbishop Cruz said that capital punishment must be repealed by all means and urged national leaders to exercise their prerogative to speak out against "abominable" State executions.
The law on capital punishment was reintroduced in the Philippines in 1993. The first death row inmates were executed in 1999. The last one was executed in January 2000. The then president, Joseph Estrada, ordered a moratorium during the Jubilee Year.
There are 1,005 people on death row in the Philippines: 17 are foreigners, many charged for illegal drug dealings. Twenty-nine are women.
The presidential elections, which will follow national elections, are scheduled for this May.