Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who openly professes faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross, once more expressed support for the death penalty last week and cited the Bible to justify his stance.
The Philippine senator said that while the Bible commands people not to kill, it approves the death penalty as part of the law of the land. The command "thou shall not kill" applies only to individuals, which means a person cannot kill someone who wronged him or her, but this does not forbid the death penalty, he explained.
"In the past it means that if you sinned against me I cannot kill you. Let the authority handle that," he said. "We're not talking about individually, but we're talking the law of the land, which is approved by God and instituted by God. The government is instituted by God."
Pacquiao also said he had been convincing his colleagues at the Senate to stop making decisions based on their conscience. He urged them to consider what is best for the people. Someone who makes decisions based on conscience is "not a good leader," he said.
"What's your basis in opposing death penalty? Because of your religious beliefs or because of the Constitution?" he asked.
He said the Constitution could allow capital punishment for heinous crimes, and that God has given the government the authority to impose it.
"Even Jesus Christ was sentenced to death because the government imposed death penalty," he said.
In his first privilege speech in August last year, Pacquiao called for the restoration of the death penalty, citing several Biblical verses to support his advocacy. He said after reading the Bible "on a regular basis," he became convinced that "God is not just a God of mercy, but he is also a God of justice."
The Bible verses he quoted in support of the death penalty are:
Genesis 9:6 -- "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."
Exodus 21:12 - "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death."
Romans 13:4 - "For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."
Senators who opposed Pacquiao maintained that the Philippine justice system needs to be fixed first to ensure that justice is properly administered before the death penalty should be considered. Otherwise, they would risk killing the innocent in the name of the Law.
The restoration of the death penalty is one of the priorities of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who promised during the campaign season that he would work toward its reinstatement.
Duterte has consistently claimed the drug problem in the Philippines has grown immense. However, the country's top anti-drug officials have refuted that claim, saying the president's claim and the statistics he presents to the public are "exaggerated, flawed or non-existent," according to Reuters.
Many senators are opposing the restoration of the death penalty, but allies of the president in the House of Representatives, who constitute the majority, said the capital punishment would likely be passed within the year.
The Philippine Catholic Church fiercely opposes the death penalty. In December, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle distributed a copy of a prayer to all churches across Manila, which was read during the Sunday mass.
"There is in our land a cry for vengeance and a move to fill up death rows and kill offenders but disguised as a call for justice. Let true and lasting justice spring forth," the prayer said.