Why bringing back the death penalty is not the solution
It is not surprising at all that Senators-elect Ronald dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief, and Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go are inclined to restore the death penalty. They are just echoing what their boss President Duterte says.
Would judicial killings in the form of death penalty deter crimes, or is it intended specifically as a path to retribution? Death penalty is commonly understood as the legal execution of a punishment for a crime committed.
This is in contrast to extrajudicial killings (EJKs), the killing/execution/liquidation of a person perpetrated by government authorities without the sanction of legal process or judicial proceedings.
Newspapers have been dripping with bloody accounts of people extrajudicially killed in the name of the war against illegal drugs. EJKs have become a convenient means to penalize suspects.
Likewise, the idea of reimposing the death penalty has been revived and championed. Sen. Manny Pacquiao even joked that death by hanging is easy, since all you have to do is kick the chair.
Why can’t the government choose to find ways to nourish life, rather than push for restoring the death penalty as a supposed means of deterring crime or exacting retribution?
A study by Amnesty International says the death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. Most of those penalized by the death penalty are victims of unfair legal systems.
Many death sentences are issued after so-called “confessions” have been obtained through torture; these confessions are unreliable, as they only show that victims of torture are compelled to say anything to make the torture stop.
Worse, discrimination often influences court decisions. People are much more likely to be sentenced to death if they are poor or belong to a racial, ethnic or religious minority. This is further compounded by the reality that the poor and marginalized groups have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves.
The death penalty is also used as a political tool to punish political opponents. In the Philippines, we have more than 500 political prisoners facing trumped-up charges; their situation would be all the more difficult if they also faced a possible death penalty sentence.
The government should instead exert all efforts to provide the best social and basic services to the people. By ensuring that the education system is progressive, liberating, service-oriented, propeople and nationalist, the poor could have access to good and quality education. This should not be seen as a privilege, but as a basic right.
In the context of massive poverty and injustice, the death penalty only increases the victimization of the poor, while the rich continue to enjoy the advantage of saving themselves because of their privilege and wealth.
How can we deter crime? Ensure quality life for all. And how do we provide justice to victims of heinous crimes? Through restorative justice, which saves lives from guilt and hate, vengeance and retribution.
NORMA P. DOLLAGA
Kapatirang Simbahan Para Sa Bayan (Kasimbayan)
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