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Austrian bishops join call vs death penalty revival, killings in PH

The Austrian Bishops Conference has joined their Filipino counterparts in criticizing and demanding an end to the human rights abuses and killings under the Duterte administration.

The Austrian bishops also supported the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ opposition to the reimposition to the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.

The prelates made this known in a declaration following its general assembly on Friday, a copy of which was sent to CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop Socrates Villegas.

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Heinz Hödl, a director at the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, relayed this declaration dated March 17 to Villegas, who in turn forwarded it to the Inquirer.

The Austrian bishops said they are “adding its voice to the growing number of condemnations against the proposed law reforms.”

These are the bills seeking to reinstate the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old.

“The Austrian Bishops’ Conference hereby declares its solidarity with the fundamental concerns of the CBCP and supports the strong stance of the CBCP,” part of the declaration read.

The Austrian prelates are the first non-Filipino Catholic bishops’ conference to speak out against the spate of killings and the human rights abuses in the country under the Duterte administration.

It may be recalled that other members of the international community have similarly criticized human rights abuses in the Philippines and the revival the death penalty for heinous crimes.

READ: UN body condemns ‘illegal’ killings of PH drug suspects

The CBCP has been steadfast in its opposition to the two proposed measures, even issuing pastoral letters objecting to the said bills in January, or after its three-day plenary assembly.

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The Filipino bishops also criticized the spate of extra-judicial killings under the Duterte government’s war against drugs as a “reign of terror” in poor communities.

In their declaration, the Austrian bishops appealed to “political decision makers in Austria to commit themselves to the respect of human rights in the Philippines.”

“The Austrian government and European institutions are asked to use all political power and diplomatic channels to bring public attention to these human rights violations and help mitigate them,” they added.

The Austrian bishops’ declaration cited the spate of killings, which has claimed 8,000 lives since Duterte assumed office in July last year.

They noted that apart from the war on illegal drugs, cases of violence against human rights activists, indigenous activists and journalists have been on the rise.

“The lack of condemnation of these human rights violations leads to a culture of impunity,” the Austrian bishops warned.

The Catholic Children’s Organization of Austria and development agency DKA-Austria have objected to the bills on the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.

In response, Villegas thanked their Austrian counterparts in a letter dated March 18 for their “encouraging message of solidarity.”

“Kindly convey to our brothers in the Austrian Bishops’ Conference our profound gratitude and assurances of fraternal affection,” the CBCP president said in his letter to Hodl.

Villegas said they are called “to be martyrs for the same Lord and his teachings.”

“Indeed, the face of God is mercy, and this teaching is becoming harder and harder to proclaim in a creeping culture of death. We will not be silenced and we will not relent,” he said.

Villegas also appealed to the Austrian prelates to “please continue to remember us in your prayers as we share with you the humble merits of our sacrifices during this reign of terror in our country.” JE

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TAGS: Austrian Bishops Conference, bishops, Catholic Church, CBCP, Church, Crime, Death Penalty, EJK
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