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Philippines president bans capital punishment, meets with Pope

.- The president of the Philippines, on Saturday, signed a law abolishing the death penalty and called on all Filipinos to "celebrate life in the most meaningful way." She also thanked the Catholic Church for “being a beacon of grace and discernment” and for leading the campaign against the death penalty, prior to meeting with the Pope on Sunday.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attempted to allay fears, of many, that the abolition of capital punishment, "opens the floodgates," of crime. She vowed that she would not relent in battling terrorists and criminals, reported the Philippine Star.

"We shall continue to devote the increasing weight of our resources to the prevention and control of serious crimes, rather than take the lives of those who commit them," Arroyo was quoted as saying.

"We have taken a strong hand against the threats to the law and the republic, but at the same time we yield to the high moral imperatives, dictated by God, to walk away from capital punishment," said the president, who is a devout Catholic.

The Papal Nuncio in Manila, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, congratulated Arroyo and legislators who approved the measure. He said it was an important step in showing that the culture of life is “very alive and important” in the Philippines.

"We cannot speak about human rights when death penalty is imposed," he reportedly said.

In Cebu, archdiocesan media liaison officer, Msgr. Achilles Dakay, welcomed the development. However, he also called for an end to vigilantism, which has claimed 167 lives since December 2004, reported the Sun Star.

Since Congress instituted capital punishment in 1993, he said, heinous crimes such as rape and murder have not stopped or lessened.

The lives of more than 1,200 death-row convicts - including at least 11 al-Qaeda-linked militants - will be spared due to the abolition of capital punishment.

President Macapagal Arroyo signed the law on Saturday, just prior to departing for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, which took place on Sunday.  The President said, on Saturday, that she would tell the Holy Father that the actions of the Philippines were, “in the name of life for a world of peace and harmony." 

According to a press release from the Vatican this morning, in addition to discussing the death penalty, "Mrs. Macapagal Arroyo also showed the Pope a plan for reforming the Constitution, which aims at a more harmonious development of the country, reserving greater attention to the poorer sectors of the population.”

She also discussed a plan for dialogue with Muslim inhabitants of the Philippines and her hope of achieving peace in the country.


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