WITH the apparent increase in the trade in illegal drugs and general lawlessness in the Philippines, reinstating the death penalty for the worst crimes has again become a popular topic.
To some extent this is understandable. We are all frustrated by seeing heinous crimes go completely unpunished. Even those who commit the most horrible, shameful acts of brutality seem to have little trouble avoiding ever being called to account for them; and when they are, they can, provided they have the money for it, buy themselves a comfortable imprisonment, complete with amenities such as the latest electronics, pets, a swimming pool, drugs, and weapons – just a few of the many alarming discoveries made during searches of the New Bilibid prison in the past year.
We are frustrated by frequent reports of police officers, the very people we rely on to maintain peace and order, being involved in crimes ranging from petty drug dealing to spectacularly brazen kidnappings and murders. To be fair to our men and women in uniform and their leader, PNP Chief Ricardo Marquez, the vast majority are honorable, hard-working officers, but it takes only a few to cast uncertainty on them all.
That culture of impunity in law enforcement, which is in turn a reflection of the culture of impunity in our government and society at large, has only gotten worse under the execrable misguidance of President BS Aquino 3rd, who compounded the personal shortcomings of inexperience and inability to learn with the sins of selfishness and prejudice in leaving the management of the nation’s law enforcement and public safety to unqualified cronies with questionable morals and motives.
If we are to clean up the mess left behind by the regrettable Aquino era and become better as a society, we cannot achieve that by taking an evolutionary step backwards to reinstate the death penalty. It is a barbarous shortcut to justice that does nothing to deter crime, and in fact is morally and logically counter-productive: The point of having laws and enforcing them is to create a culture of values, of respect for life, property, and productive coexistence. None of those values are exemplified by the act of killing a person. There is some evidence, in fact, that the imposition of the death penalty correlates to higher rates of violent crime: In a 2012 study, of the 10 states in the US with the highest murder rates, only one did not have the death penalty; of the top 20 states, 17 were states with the death penalty.
Indeed, we are all frustrated, but the correct way to resolve that frustration is not to reject the moral values of our faith and culture that we profess to honor and defend, and not to treat the symptom instead of the disease with a method that is demonstrably ineffective, but rather to select leaders with the skills and good intentions to address the root causes of criminality, and work with them to fix our broken society.
We also wish to point out that the vast majority our people expressly accords with the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and condemns the death penalty. We are with the majority in respecting this teaching of the Church.
We unequivocally reject the death penalty as immoral and erroneous, and we must reject any candidate who insists it must be reinstated.