DEVOUT CHRISTIAN WANTS CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AGAINST CRIMINALS
MANILA (UPDATE) – Neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao on Monday defended anew his support for the reinstatement of death penalty, saying it is ''lawful and moral.''
Pacquiao's statement backs President Rodrigo Duterte's push to revive the death penalty in the Philippines, which was suspended by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and was also opposed by her successor, Benigno Aquino III.
In his first privilege speech, Pacquiao, a born-again Christian, cited no less than the bible as his basis for saying that death penalty is justifiable.
''Death penalty is a lawful, moral, and a sanctioned governmental action,'' he said.
''Having read the bible on a regular basis, I'm convinced that God is not just a God of mercy, but he is also a God of justice," he said.
Pacquiao said the drug menace is destroying the country, with many families getting broken and many innocent civilians falling prey to drug-dependent criminals.
''Walang pinipiling mabibiktima ang ilegal na droga. Even innocent civilians can be an unwitting victim once an addict goes out and wreak havoc,'' he said.
''God is allowing the death penalty, [yet] we are opposing the death penalty. Are we greater than God?"
Pacquiao said he has yet to make up his mind about which form of execution would be best.
''Nananaig po ang hanging o firing squad. Sisipain lang po ang upuan eh,'' Pacquiao said when pressed for his choice by Senator Vicente Sotto III.
Pacquiao said he has so far filed Senate Bill 185 which seeks to impose death penalty and increased penalties on certain heinous crimes involving dangerous drugs.
Duterte was interpellated by several senators, including Liberal Party members Leila de Lima and Joel Villanueva.
De Lima, who has long opposed death penalty, said there are more effective ways of ''minimizing'' crimes triggered by the use of illegal drugs other than death penalty.
''Death penalty may inhibit, but other penalties may also inhibit, like the proper service of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment,'' she said.
''Palakasin natin ang correctional system. Baguhin ang mga naging masamang sistema sa bilibid."
Villanueva, for his part, said impoverished Filipinos must be given opportunities so they would not turn to selling illegal drugs.
''Kaisa ako ng People's Champ para isulong ang mga makabuluhang progama na magbigay ng mga oportunidad na magkaroon ng magandang buhay,'' Villanueva said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also called out Pacquaio for expressing support and even visiting drug convict Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia.
Veloso, supposedly innocent and was merely duped by an illegal drug syndicate, was saved from the death penalty after a last minute reprieve.
Hontiveros also asked Pacquiao whether he agrees with the opinion that death penalty is an anti-poor policy.
Pacquiao responded by saying that under Duterte, everyone will be treated equally.
Pacquiao has declared himself to be an ally of fellow Mindanaoan Duterte, who has waged a bloody war on drugs.
Duterte has made it a vow to reinstate the death penalty and pair it with his crusade to rid the country of the ills brought about by the illegal drug trade.
The Catholic Church strongly opposes the death penalty. Anti-death penalty advocates, meantime, often cite studies showing that death penalty has not been a successful crime deterrent.
Addressing the argument that the current trend worldwide is towards the abolition of death penalty, Duterte said the capital punishment is not a deterrent but a means of ''retribution."