The Duterte government, its super majority in the House of Representatives and its majority in the Senate are poised to make another act that will pull down the Filipino people rungs below our current level of human development. They will restore the death penalty in our criminal justice system.
Not wishing to offend the majority of our population who are Christians, many of whom do take some teachings of the Lord Jesus and of the churches to heart, these pro-death-penalty government officials and lawmakers have deferred passing the law this Christmas season. But we have learned that they are determined to get the law enacted—in fact, to get the bill railroaded into passage–when Congress resumes its work after the New Year holidays.
Only 58 countries of 195 in our world today still impose the capital punishment.
Among these are Iran, Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, Belarus, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Congo, Chad, Yemen, Guinea, Bangladesh, and all the Middle East countries except Israel.
Also state executioners are India, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and the United States.
Some of these countries only kill criminals who have committed heinous crimes or acts of treason.
But some countries also impose death on blasphemers, apostates — and even eaters of forbidden foods on solemn holy days.
The value of human life
The reason for us Filipinos not to want our government to kill (except in the field of battle in times of war) is the value of human life—from both the spiritual/supernatural viewpoint and the simple perspective of plain reasoning and self-preservation.
Our sage of a Christian columnist F. S. Tatad said it perfectly in a recent column:
“The sticky issue here is human life——the most precious of all gifts from God. Christmas raises human life to its highest level as God becomes man so that man could become the alter ego of God. But human life does not become more precious at Christmas, and less so afterward. Its value is constant. If it is wrong to kill at Christmas, it is wrong to kill at any other time. Even without God becoming man, the creation narrative tells us that human life is the only gift that created its own recipient; man began to exist only after God decided to create him in his own image and likeness.
“Without the gift of life, man would not have existed; this makes life the most preeminent and precious of all gifts. Coming directly from the hand of God, no power on earth has the right to snuff it out. God alone has the right to take the life of anyone who has forfeited it. Yet God spared Cain who killed his brother Abel; and in the case of the woman caught in adultery, for whom the old law prescribed stoning unto death, Christ admonished the crowd, Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. And turning to her, he said, “Has no one condemned you?” “No one,” she said. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more,” he said.
“This means no mere human may lay his hands on another who has committed a heinous crime. Human life is, and ought to be, sacred and inviolate, everywhere and always. No hunting season permits the state to hunt men and women as a hunter hunts wild game for sports or food. The idea of the state killing a man, as a matter of law or right, belonged to a primitive and distant age when very little distinguished men from wild beasts, vengeance from justice; long before human reason, purified by love, cast aside the rule of lex talionis—-an eye for an eye—to a forgotten and unlamented age.”
Execution does not deter criminality
From what we referred to earlier as “the simple perspective of plain reasoning and self-preservation” it is wrong to execute the worst criminals because it has proved to be a failure as a crime deterrent in the empires and modern countries that used it—including the Philippines.
That is the reason why half of the independent countries in our planet have ceased to apply the death sentence, some like the European countries for decades now. Reason moved our lawmakers and government to reject it almost 40 years ago but a dark cloud descended on official thinking and reinstated it, in a half-hearted way that still allowed some criminals to be officially murdered.
Now President Rody Duterte wants it permanently restored. We pray he relents on this project and makes the restraint he exercised during the Christmas season his permanent personal disposition.
May he see that the death penalty is morally and politically wrong.
To us the most compelling reason is that it will, as before, lead to the deaths of our innocent poor compatriots. Some of them admit guilt for crimes committed by rich perpetrators to ensure the financial well-being of their families. Some are fall guys cornered by the guilty supported by corrupt law-enforcers.
Rarely do the guilty rich get meted the death sentence.