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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

The gods of death

/ 12:10 AM February 20, 2017

Several individuals will play the role of gods when death is revived as penalty for certain crimes: the witnesses, the police, the prosecutor, and the judge.

These individuals have inherent biases, tilted emotions, colored perceptions, and susceptibility to either influence or bribery, as all human beings are. In other words, they will be imperfect gods.

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The awesome powers of the Almighty God are essentially twofold: He brings forth life, and He brings about death. He may soon find himself sharing His power with imperfect gods to bring about death.

In lieu of an Almighty God perceived to be remiss in His duty to punish crimes with mortal death, the House of Representatives has taken the initiative to bestow the power to terminate life upon imperfect gods.

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House Bill No. 4727, which seeks to reimpose the death penalty on “heinous crimes,” is now in the process of being approved by the chamber. The bill gives judges the power to impose the death penalty upon those found guilty of crimes that include eight drug-related offenses, murder, qualified bribery, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence or intimidation of persons, planting evidence, car theft, and rape.

The bill also seeks to impose the death penalty upon those convicted of treason, qualified piracy, parricide, infanticide, and destructive arson.

The House members who are actively pushing the passage of the death penalty bill seem to think that those who commit heinous crimes are always caught holding the bloodied knife or the smoking gun. That is so far from reality. While the law requires conviction “beyond reasonable doubt,” the facts used to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt can be manipulated or manufactured.

A crime is always committed with the intention and design to hide the identity of the criminal. In addition to this inherent difficulty in identifying the culprit, the use of forensic evidence—which is the more reliable means to identify the criminal—is the exception rather than the rule in our country. The kind of evidence that is mostly used to convict an accused are the words of witnesses. Regrettably, words are the kind of evidence that is easiest to twist or invent. Testimonies are prone to contain impurities of falsehood.

Furthermore, with a police force that is described by President Duterte himself as 40 percent “corrupt to the core,” the risk of becoming a victim of a frame-up, planted evidence, or blackmail is high. Add to the mix the issue of our prosecutors and judges being overworked or susceptible to corruption. And there is also the social justice issue of the rich having ready access to high-caliber and influential lawyers while the poor make do with less-experienced and work-overloaded lawyers.

When the imperfect gods perform their trial rituals in court, the negligence, manipulation, or deceit of even just a single one of them can result in the imposition of the death penalty on an innocent human being. Putting to death an innocent person forever lurks as a possibility.

When Moses went to Mount Sinai, he came down with a stone tablet that contained Almighty God’s commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Imperfect gods are on the verge of amending the commandment.

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Instead of looking outward and imposing harsher penalties on ordinary citizens, the government must look inward and ensure stricter enforcement on crooked public officials. If public resources are used to remove criminality in the police force and to stamp out corruption among politicians, a reduction in criminality among the citizenry will automatically follow.

Plunder is the most serious crime that public officials can commit. Members of the House are seeking to pass a law that will impose the death penalty upon ordinary citizens, but they want exemption from this harsh penalty if they themselves are convicted as plunderers. And these lawmakers expect the citizenry to believe that they are serious in fighting crime. The gods must be crazy.

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TAGS: capital punishment, death penalty, Flea Market of Idea, gods of death, heinous crimes, Inquirer Opinion, Joel Ruiz Butuyan
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