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Letters to the Editor

Facts, records debunk case for death penalty

/ 02:04 AM December 28, 2016

We, the members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, express our opposition to the proposed reimposition of the death penalty.

Death penalty as a solution to the problem of criminality has once again taken the spotlight with President Duterte expressing support for it, and with members of both the Senate and House of Representatives once again bringing the issue into the national conversation.

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On June 21, 2016, at the 6th World Congress, Pope Francis called for a world “free of the death penalty.” We reiterate and uphold this stand; capital punishment brings no justice to victims; it instead fosters vengeance.

We also echo the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ call, in 1992, for the non-restoration of the death penalty. Also, the 1987 Constitution abolished the death penalty. This is a great, very significant forward step in recognizing the dignity of every human being and in valuing human life from its conception to its natural end.

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In determining the validity and benefits of this punishment, we have to consider the question of its deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and protection values. Death penalty proponents argue that it satisfies this question in all those aspects. However, the facts and records point to the contrary.

1. Death penalty has not proven to be an effective deterrent to crime. Amnesty International reports (the latest, in 2015) have been consistent through the years: There is no correlation between capital punishment and deterrence. And research suggests that criminals are mainly concerned about whether they’ll be caught, not what might happen to them after arrest.

2. Death penalty has no retributive value; it does not restore justice. It may satisfy the desire for vindication, but not the desired end of a humane and Christian approach to punishment.

3. Death penalty does not address the issue of rehabilitation. On the contrary, it renders impossible any type/form of rehabilitation, which aims at transforming convicts into productive members of society and should be one of the major purposes of punishment. It totally gives up on this rehabilitative purpose.

4. Death penalty is not the only way to protect society. There are other ways (e.g., life imprisonment).

If death penalty is once again imposed, will it be a safeguard against the conviction of the innocent? Records show that almost all of those sentenced to death were poor; do we want a repeat of this? The problem may be more about reforming the justice system, cleaning the ranks of law enforcers, or improving our penal facilities.

As religious and consecrated men and women, we are committed to reach out to the recipients of our respective apostolates—in the field of education, in socio-pastoral work, in basic ecclesial communities. To them and with them, we share our collective voice in proclaiming the sanctity of human life and the need to respect it in whatever stage or circumstance.

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We thus uphold the consistent teaching of the Church against the death penalty. Saint John Paul II beautifully puts our argument in a nutshell: “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary”

—FR. CIELITO ALMAZAN, OFM, SR. REGINA KUIZON and the 12 other members of the AMRSP board

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TAGS: death penalty, Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II
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