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Grim reaper country

By: Jason A. Baguia December 09,2016 - 09:02 PM

The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 1987 Philippine Constitution are quite compatible in terms of their treatment of the question of capital punishment.

The Charter, promulgated after Filipinos overthrew the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, held in check the death penalty save for whenever legislators may be find it necessary to reinstate in the face of heinous crime.

The compendium of Catholic teaching, released in the nineties during the papacy of Saint John Paul the Great, does not delegitimize the killing of a criminal.

Nevertheless, the church no longer sees the necessity of this irreversible response to villainy. Quoting the saint, the Catechism states that cases that absolutely necessitate an offender’s execution “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

In making this judgment, the church recognizes the vast powers of the state “for effectively preventing crime by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself.”

Yet while this view is reflected in the Constitution’s sparing provision for taking the lives of convicts, the Philippine government is once again on the brink of restoring the death penalty that it had reinstituted in 1993 and repealed in 2006.

On the seventh of December, the Lower House’s justice committee approved the consolidated bill to bring back capital punishment. It now goes to the plenary where advocates expect its approval on third, final reading before Christmas.

Notable in the committee debate covered by Philippine Daily Inquirer’s DJ Yap was both sides’ presentation of statistics that purportedly establish the usefulness or uselessness of the death penalty in fighting crime.

Instances of crime rose while capital punishment was in place, said Dinagat Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, citing figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

But criminality rose after the abolition of the death penalty, countered the committee chair, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, referring to numbers released by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Granting that the PSA and PNP records are reconcilable, they make clear that dastardly deeds flourish whether or not capital punishment is in effect. The data say nothing about whether or not the penalty deters crime, a question with which scholars continue to wrestle.

Since the findings of studies examining the relationship between the death penalty and crime are inconclusive, our lawmakers ought to refrain from using them or arguing about the matter. The focus should shift to improving crime prevention, about which there is greater convergence in scholarly literature.

Reasons for perpetrating crime range from poor self-mastery, frequent association with delinquent peers, a history of mental illness, scant parental supervision to impending natural disaster or distance from the nearest police station.

Restoring the death penalty will do nothing in dealing with these factors behind criminal behavior. They are addressed neither by the hangman’s noose nor the gunman’s bullets but with everything from healthful, functional families to strategic police visibility.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas may have been right when he said the framers of the 1987 Constitution should have banned capital punishment if it were absolutely extraneous to keeping the peace. That they kept it an option open to future legislators, however, is no argument for its reinstatement given its questionable runs in our history. Granting a perfect judiciary (which we do not have), capital punishment will eliminate criminals without eliminating the conditions that create criminals.

Fariñas further contended that the election of the current Malacañang occupant is a mandate for the death penalty’s reinstitution. Not necessarily, your honor. Tens of thousands of those who support the President have a standing objection to his rehabilitation of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family by ordering his burial at the national heroes’ cemetery. A vote for a leader is not a vote for all of his policies, much less for his whims.

Capital punishment is the refuge of a state that is reluctant to wield its crime prevention capability to the fullest and a society that is indolent. It is the state and society telling each other: “Since we are bad at nurturing and refuse to learn how to nurture, let us just kill, kill, kill.”

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TAGS: Catholic Church, church, Constitution, criminal, dictator, Filipino, government, Philippine, Philippines

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