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Philippine Bishops criticise President for bringing back death penalty

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have denounced President Gloria Arroyo for reinstating the death penalty.

Mrs Arroyo, a Catholic, came into office opposed to the death penalty, but she made a U-turn last week when she said she would order the immediate executions of up to 95 convicted kidnappers after the Supreme Court had reviewed their cases.

She also called for the commuted death sentences of another six kidnappers to be annulled so they could be executed as soon as possible.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz said her decision was tantamount to admitting that police operations were "futile in preventing crime".

"With this reversal, the president openly surrendered to the reign of crime in the country," he said. And the 100-member Catholic Bishops' Conference urged the president "not to resort to a quick-fix solution on the problem of criminality."

Describing herself as "a very good Catholic" she told reporters: "You can interpret a Church law conservatively or liberally.

"I've studied religion and theology long enough for me to know that there are ranges of interpretation and I've taken this course because of my duties as president."

Mrs Arroyo's decision follows an upsurge in kidnappings this year, with many of the victims being affluent Filipino Chinese or Chrisian missionaries. Ransoms are often paid secretly amid suspicions that some police officers may be involved in the kidnappings.