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An Appeal to the Government to Halt the Re-imposition of the Death Penalty

The government has listened to diverse views on the issues of our time. We seek its ear on the matter of the death penalty. We deem the punishment inappropriate and unnecessary for pragmatic and moral reasons.

First, history has shown that good persons including the Son of God Himself became victims of the measure: Jesus Christ, the apostles, Spartacus, St. Thomas More, Joan of Arc, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Jose Abad Santos to mention a few.

Second, man's justice is so imperfect he convicts the innocent and the death penalty is irreversible. A subsequent finding of innocence will never restore the life taken. A life sentence (make it one of hard labor), on the other hand, can always allow a rectification of a wrongful judgment. A case in point is that of Thomas Lee Goldstein of California. He was convicted of murder in 1980 on falsified testimonies. After 24 years in San Quentin, Folsom and Tehachapi prisons, DNA evidence proved his innocence in June 2004 (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/21/national/21free.html?th). So many other wrongful convictions prove the danger of imposing an irreversible penalty. Modern technology can prove innocence on the ground of reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, it cannot assure perfect judgment. The rational course is to err on the side of reversibility.

Third, the deterrent to crime is not the severity of penalty but the consistency of implementation of the law. We validate this with our daily observation. Since law enforcers consistently apprehended violators of the helmet ordinance, motorcyclists have worn the gadget. Since law enforcers do not apprehend jaywalkers, pedestrians just cross the street anywhere they like. The same happens with vote-buying. It is public knowledge that majority of politicians and innumerable voters are involved but almost nobody is arrested so the practice goes on election after election. Even if we make death the penalty for jaywalking or vote-buying but if nobody is arrested then people will violate the law. On the other hand, if we make the penalty light but every violation has a very high probability of being caught then crime will diminish.

Fourth, statistics show that there is no correlation between the death penalty and the crime rate. From 1994 to 2006 when capital punishment was imposed, the crime rate was higher; from 2006 to present it is suspended, the crime rate is lower. (Refer to http://www.investphilippines.info/arangkada/climate/security/; http://halalan.up.edu.ph/fact-check/271-dealing-with-criminal-in-justice-in-the-philippines). The attached graphs prove this point.

Fifth, the rationale for punishment is not to inflict pain on the guilty or deprive him or her of life and property but to protect society from future offenses. This objective can be attained even without death penalty, by securely putting criminals behind bars, by cutting off all contacts with the external community.

Sixth, even the most hardened criminals are capable of change for the better. A Philippine example is Bingbong Crisologo who burned two villages at the height of his clan's political war with the Singsons. He was meted a long prison term. Today he is a member of Congress. We only need to build an environment that allows offenders to see goodness rather than evil.

Seventh, Christ's redemptive act has superseded the death penalty meted in the Old Testament. Even the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas favoring the death penalty during the Dark Ages must be understood within the context of the realities then versus those in the modern era. St. Paul's statement on "the wages of sin" is a reference to spiritual rather than physical death. By the sacrament of Penance, we regain our spiritual life but physical life can never be regained once lost (at least not before the general resurrection on the Last Judgment). We are more capable of deterring heinous crimes without resorting to capital punishment, if only we avail of a proper combination of technological, sociological and many other means.

These reasons compel us to appeal to the government to halt the re-imposition of the death penalty.

Crime Statistics

There is no correlation between the death penalty and the crime rate. From 1994 to 2006 when capital punishment was imposed, the crime rate was higher; from 2006 to present it is suspended, the crime rate is lower.

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Philippine record of death penalty

Before 1987 - death penalty imposed (1)

1987, December 31, 1993 - death penalty suspended (2)

January 1, 1994 to June 24, 2006 - death penalty imposed (2)

June 25, 2006, present - death penalty abolished (3)

References:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_Philippines

(2) http://www.amnesty.org.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Philippines_DP_Criminality_asa350091997en1.pdf

(3) http://www.arabnews.com/node/286797

Posted on: 03.27.2017

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