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Needed to shock indifferent society

/ 11:00 PM November 09, 2012

THE DEATH penalty can’t reform a dead criminal, true, but it can shock an indifferent society. Nowadays, crime has gone not only unabated but also berserk and more heinous. Criminals don’t only steal but kill; they don’t only kill one but many; they don’t only steal, kill, but also burn—or rape and even chop their victims. To a felon, a rapist, a car thief, a plunderer or a terrorist, death is only hearsay, all bark and no bite, all sound and fury, signifying show biz. No wonder a criminal is never deterred.

The public sees the death of criminals only in Hollywood movies (and read it in crime novels) but hardly in real life. Instead, what it witnesses are the bloody, mangled, charred bodies of the victims, the latest of whom was a UST cum laude graduate. Media overwhelm us with the triumph of crime on prime TV time and headline news. So no matter how Congress sharpens the fangs of a death penalty, this law will be worthless unless its teeth bite to the hilt. The punishment should be consummated, its execution broadcast on national television and headlined in major broadsheets.

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Let us emulate the Saudis, their simple but effective execution of justice. In that country, he who steals a little loses a little—it could be a finger, a hand, or a whole arm depending on the value of what was grabbed, snatched or robbed. Out there, he who kills dies, so simple and yet so effective. And here’s the reason: criminal justice is demonstrated in public places on the busiest day of the week, Friday, when people are out to eat, go shopping or, perchance, witness justice taking place right on the street.

It could be shocking to watch a beheading but that’s precisely the purpose—to send the unmistakable message to society that crime does not pay. It is a social therapy. The death penalty doesn’t aim to reform a dead criminal. It aims to reform society. Psychologically, a criminal believes in crime because he sees it unfold in his own bedroom: a hold-up here, a carjack there, a rape here, a massacre there, from the petty to the heinous. Pictorials show him the glory of crime and the triumph of evil, the success of the lawless and the defeat of the law-abiding, evidenced by broken bodies sprawled on pavements, and the agony and pain on the faces of the victims’ loved ones. Don’t these daily doses of dead crime victims signify the invincibility of crime?

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Government must and can reverse this situation by reviving the death penalty. Media, especially television, should exploit their power to broadcast live an execution (by any means) and show it on prime time so that everyone can witness the demise of crime and enjoy the sweet success of justice. Brutal? Inhuman? No, because this is the only nonverbal language that criminals understand. Ferdinand Marcos did it and the drug lords disappeared. It is also fair because it suits an equally ruthless and shocking crime. A criminal getting convicted is not the end of his crime. His death is.

—POMPEYO S. PEDROCHE,

[email protected]

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TAGS: death penalty, heinous crimes, justice, letters
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