Death penalty-1: The case for capital punishment

5

YEN MAKABENTA

First read
I HAVE been asked by some readers to state my position on the death penalty debate. Among them are some incumbent congressmen, who probably hope that my views will help them decide on their position on the issue.

There is a sense of urgency about the matter, because the House is set to end today plenary debate on the issue. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is determined that by mid-March, the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress will successfully pass House Bill 4727, and thereby set the stage for the enactment of a law on capital punishment.

You cannot answer the policy question by saying that the church where you worship teaches that the death penalty is necessary, or that it is inhuman and should be rejected.

Neither is it sensible to just answer that you are in favor of the penalty, because President Duterte wants the death penalty restored in the country, so that the state can execute criminals more expeditiously.


The point is each of us must think the issue through for himself, and apply his best judgment of what would be good public policy for our country. We should not abdicate the responsibility, because the issue will define what kind of society we are.

An issue for thorough study
I have not rushed to define my personal position on the issue, because the issue is quite complex and requires thorough study. It is simple only for lazy minds.

This past month, I have spent time doing research, reading some of the most current and thoughtful papers on the subject. Now, I feel confident that I can say something useful about the death penalty.

I reserve this week for several columns on the death penalty, which in sequence will discuss: 1) the case for the restoration of the death penalty; (2) the case for the rejection or abolition of the penalty); and 3) the contemporary trend away from severe punishment (which is a useful perspective for the Philippine debate).

I begin by discussing first what I have found to be some of the more compelling arguments for capital punishment.

Why the death penalty is necessary
Like other government executives before him, our President Duterte believes that the death penalty is affirmative of life. By failing to execute murderers or stop drug lords, we signal a lessened regard for the value of the lives of victims.

Society has a right to defend itself. The state has the responsibility to protect its citizens, by ensuring that the law is obeyed and violators are punished.

This is the standard “moral defense” of death as punishment. Even if executions don’t deter violent crime or the drug trade any more effectively than imprisonment, the death penalty is still required because it is the only means society has of doing justice in response to the worst of crimes.

Capital punishment affirms life
One of the landmark documents in support of capital punishment is a famous essay penned by former New York City mayor Edward Koch, which he entitled: “Death and justice: How capital punishment affirms life”.

He wrote it while he was city mayor (1978-1989). He became a speaker in many forums on the death penalty. Refuting his arguments became a major objective of opponents of capital punishment because he speaks persuasively about the justice and necessity of the penalty.

In his essay, Koch addresses seven arguments against the death penalty.

The death penalty is barbaric.

No other major democracy uses the death penalty.

An innocent person might be executed by mistake.

Capital punishment cheapens the value of human life.

The death penalty is applied in a discriminatory manner.

Thou shalt not kill.

The death penalty is state-sanctioned murder.

Koch’s survey of arguments is sweeping and he builds a case that is cogent and compelling. It demands an answer that is as soundly rooted in facts, logic and conviction. He cites actual cases to make his points.

I quote below some paragraphs that are the highlight of his essay. He wrote:

“Life is indeed precious, and I believe the death penalty helps to affirm that fact.

“The death of anyone—even a convicted killer—diminishes us all. But we are diminished even more by a justice system that fails to function. It is an illusion to let ourselves believe that doing away with capital punishment removes the murderer’s deed from our conscience.”

Rights of society are paramount
“The rights of society are paramount. When we protect guilty lives, we give up innocent lives in exchange.

“When opponents of capital punishment say to the state, ‘I will not let you kill in my name’, they are also saying to murderers: ‘You can kill in your own name as long as I have an excuse for not being involved.’

“It is hard to imagine anything worse than being murdered while neighbors do nothing. But something worse exists. When those same neighbors shrink back from justly punishing the murderer, the victim dies twice.”

This is powerful reasoning.

President Duterte’s thinking on the trafficking of illegal drugs, drug lords and drug pushers, is roughly similar to this. He shares the frustration and anger of people who see that the Noynoy Aquino government did nothing to combat the drug menace. So what if suspects are killed during the drug war, to wipe out the menace?

In my next column, I will discuss the equally powerful reasoning of the opponents of capital punishment. Be warned, they include the likes of writers like Nobel laureate Albert Camus.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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5 Comments

  1. Perhaps a compromise can be made, if all heinous crimes are reclusion perpetua except for one.

    Death penalty should be reserved for the worst plunderers like those who stole relief aid from victims of terrible disasters like Typhoon Yolanda. To the calamity stricken the pilfered food and medicine means the difference between life and death, it is tantamount to multiple murder.

    Corruption has impoverished the nation and nothing kills like poverty, but the crooked lawmakers want plunder exempt from the death penalty, that should not happen.

  2. Nigel of Makati on

    What about the death penalty?
    Christians disagree on this issue. Let me state several things. First, God told us that “life shall go for life” (Dt. 19:21;) and “whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Gen. 9:6). When men are sentenced to death it is not the case of man playing God . . . it is the matter of man obeying God. God has the right and authority to declare what should happen to those who kill others. God declares that life is so valuable that anyone who dares to steal life from another . . . forfeits his own life.
    But the second thing we must point out is that the Bible also provided that the death penalty should be carefully administered. Every avenue should be checked to make sure that the person is actually guilty. In the Bible a person could not be executed unless there were two witnesses. And every witness knew that if they declared that an innocent man was guilty, the witness would die. We should certainly support the appeals process and all the “checks and balances” designed to make sure innocent people are not executed. We should also work to make sure that the law is applied fairly to all.

  3. As for me , I have three reasons why I am oppose to the “Death Penalty” :

    1). For those guilty of Heinous Crimes, death would save them from PHYSICALLY SUFFERING for what they did.

    Patrick Henry said : “GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH”

    2). For those wrongfully convicted , death would deprive them and their family to enjoy God-given life together.

    3). The most important of all , the NEW TESTAMENT tells us : THOUGH SHALL NOT KILL. !!!

    • Dudley Sharp on

      Ely:

      Reconsider.

      1) Nearly 100% of capital murderers do all they can to avoid the death penalty. Patrick Henry was honorable. Capital murderers are not.

      2) Innocents are much more at risk without the death penalty.

      3) The Church had an affirmatively positive pro death penalty view for 2000 years. The commandment, correctly, translated is “though shalt not murder”.

      3)

  4. From the Holy Bible, this is what we learned. To God, we are supposed to have two (2) kinds of life:
    PHYSICAL LIFE

    a. This encompasses our political, economic, and social well-being.

    b. From the Holy Bible, for simply taking the “letter”, or interpreting it literally, we learn “moral lessons” that makes us “RELIGIOUS”. To God this is just “semi-biblical”.

    c. It is in this aspect that our “leaders should have sterling sincerity and a hard-hitting will” to govern.

    d. For all these, “human wisdom” is of utmost importance in order to be effective; and so, we hear God’s counsel:

    Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

    e. As everybody knows, all these end in the grave.

    SPIRITUAL LIFE

    a. It is in this aspect that God gave us the Holy Bible, primarily for the salvation of our soul.

    b. If in “physical life” human wisdom is golden, here it is an abomination to God:

    1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom KNEW NOT GOD.

    c. Who would like to be in the following?

    2 Timothy_3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    Luke 10:21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes:

    Matthew 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    d. To the RELIGIOUS, never will they accept that this is “Biblical CHRISTIANITY” that Jesus Christ founded. Here, we hear JESUS CHRIST rebuking the Religious Leaders and their followers:

    Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    Matthew_22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

    How many praise God this way?

    Psalms 56:10 In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word. 11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.