Duterte’s ‘law’

05:02 AM September 05, 2017

President Duterte was quoted as saying “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” Exodus 21, 23-25, the “lex talionis” or the law of the talion.

He mischaracterized it as “the law of the jungle” (“Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” News, 9/1/17). A very common misconception.


Before the lex talionis, the law of retaliation, the exchange rate was 7:1, even 77:1, not 1:1, in the time of Lamech in Genesis 4, 23-24. In effect: “You kill one of our tribesmen, we’ll kill seven, even 77, of yours.”

Lex talionis brought equivalence or parity, one eye for one eye, and was therefore a liberal progressive step.


Of course the new testament is suffused with lessons on love and charity; Jesus teaches us to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and to be kind and compassionate. We are not to give up on anyone but sadly, “Duterte frowns on idea of reforming criminals,” the same Inquirer article blares.

We attended the same law school but we simply seem fated never to understand each other on human rights addiction and the one thing we can ever be in life: to be kind.

R.A.V. SAGUISAG, Palanan, Makati City

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TAGS: eye for an eye, Inquirer letters, Lex Talionis, R.A.V. Saguisag, Rodrigo Duterte, tooth for a tooth
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