The Philippines’ death penalty on heinous crimes (READ: Death penalty in the Philippines: Is it worth reviving?) is either blowing the lid off or the advocates are just suffering from ethical senescence.
End of the 2016 second quarter, the House of Representatives endorsed House Bill No. 01 (HB 01), or the death penalty law that opened a disgruntling division in the entire Christian nation where more than 80% in the Philippines is Roman Catholic.
Acceptance can only be a way out to veer away with a debate over a religious view so pious that it has already been embedded in the culture of Catholicism.
The house bill seeks to impose a death penalty particularly heinous crime, repeal the Republic Act No. 9346, or the Act that prohibits the imposition of a death penalty in the Philippines, and amend Act No. 3815, or the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and some special penal laws, as amended. (You can read the HB 01 here.)
The following are heinous crimes:
- piracy in general and mutiny on the high seas or in the Philippine waters;
- qualified piracy accompanied by murder, physical injuries, or rape;
- qualified bribery;
- robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons;
- destructive arson;
- [the] crime of plunder;
- dangerous drug-related offense; and
- carnapping to a certain extent and qualifications.
Philippines death penalty: Ataxia of conscience and ethical senescence
The death penalty isn’t just your ordinary type of punishment. Nor is it just like other categories of punishments where both the convicted offender of a heinous crime and the State as the punisher feel an exonerative satisfaction to the punishment for the crime committed. Rather, it is a prick of conscience and a lifelong moral burden to the executioner of the action delegated by the conscienceless State.
Supporters or advocates of Death Penalty Law are seemingly suffering from ethical senescence—believed to have ataxia of conscience that resulted in an unethical judgment brought about by aging moral uprightness.
They argued in favor of this capital punishment as a just and fitting penalty for a heinous crime committed. They, somehow, misconceived the meaning of punishment to arrive at the notion of law and the idea of intentional killing or murder in the pretext of justice to serve it just.
Crime Deterrent: When misconception prevails
While proponents could present statistics that showed a downward slope of the crimes committed in a period or two, it couldn’t substantiate a conclusion as a crime deterrent factor, because data about this capital punishment as a crime deterrent refused the sufficiency test.
There might be some data about the death penalty as an effective crime deterrent, but the sufficiency of the data is dwarfed by countries with capital punishment as their means to deter crimes.
Besides not giving accurate information, there are only a few countries with the death penalty as a tool to curb crime proliferation.
In the Philippines, sufficient data to convince us that the death penalty is effective as a crime deterrent is a missing link. A planned recourse to review international data about the death penalty although significant to consider cannot be a salient input to justify that the death penalty, indeed, deterred crimes. It cannot be treated as a “one-size-fits-all” perspective. It just cannot stand.
There are more other arguments than we can imagine in favor of the death penalty. However, a majority of these arguments boil down to moral issues or ethical perspectives. The only legitimate issue to begin and end the debate over the death penalty is as a crime deterrent argument—unsupported with sufficient data; an idea without an ounce of evidence to assert as really such.
Irreparable damage versus infallibility
While judges in courts are a hundred and fifty percent human beings, infallibility is a major setback nobody could afford to risk the innocents after all.
Killing them has no turning back to grant them life anew—the irreparable damage that is overwhelmingly substantial to consider a few steps backward or the raison d’etre why the death penalty isn’t just a choice.
The law is a law no matter how harsh it is. But could you imagine a law that is primarily made to give justice to the victims so much harsher than a life sentence?
Proponents may quip insisting that the death penalty is as good as justice as what victims deserve to receive it.
The death penalty advocates shortsighted and misconceived justice over retribution. Two different words and ideas with absolutely different notions in law and moral perspectives.
Retribution doesn’t equate to justice. A retributive justice cannot be considered justice after all. Revenge is just too unethical and extreme to use the harshness of the law in the pretext of justice.
Although victims are viewed as innocently killed by offenders, a direct and intentional killing is much more than premeditated murder. It could give burden to the conscience and moral health to an executioner, who carried out the order of the State to kill in the name of service to serve justice that the court sees it appropriate.
Then what separates the executioner an inch away from the convict?
While it is the purpose of the house bill to “protect the honor and the dignity and the very life” of each Filipino, it doesn’t logically follow that imposition of the death penalty, where the State can directly and intentionally kill the very life of a person is considered as a protection of the very life.
The imposition of the Death Penalty Law defeats the promise of the Preamble of the Philippine Constitution itself.
A blow of degradation
The death penalty isn’t only an outright intentional murder in a form of punishment but also a blow of degradation of human rights in toto.
The legality of the law in the country is based on the foundation of the human law that is created, modified or amended, and revised to serve the very purpose of justice the very law is deemed to be implemented.
Justice arrives at the notion of law needs not to be retributive justice. For in qualifying justice as it is, after all, isn’t about the justness of the law in providing just, equitable reward and punishment under a given premise or circumstances.
An “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” notions of understanding reward or punishment are no justice at all as what the very law of the land is upholding.
Furthermore, the Constitution is dead silent about retributive justice that the house bill attempts to circumvent the Constitution’s wording about the death penalty.
While the Constitution is amenable to the death penalty for heinous crimes, and special laws define heinous crimes that can be understood well and are qualified for better classification, to reinstate the death penalty as to deterrence of crime commission purposes is absolutely and in grandstanding cannot be qualified, measured, and proven by such statistics alone.
Statistics can play its own game depending on where the loyalty of the statistics begins and ends. If the history of statistics proves its legitimate significance, then the history of crime deterrence measures has not yet been established its legitimacy for the Philippines to count on.
If the Death Penalty Law is introduced primarily for deterrence and essentially for the protection of the dignity and the very life of a human being consistent with the Constitution’s very ideals to promote a humane society, sans the Philippines’ duty as party-signatory to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, then the imposition of the death penalty on heinous crimes is outright not an option as punishment for such crimes. It rather defeats the sanctity of life in a humane society that the Constitution promotes. It vehemently degrades the country as a whole to the very grassroots of the Philippine society. ▲ #NoToDeathPenalty #JunkDeathPenaltyLaw #RespectLife
“Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.” —THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Regel Javines is a former editor-in-chief of an official student publication in a state university. He has been blogging since 2011 writing news and opinion on various social issues; a stringer for already defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network and Allvoices.com. He is also a former content editor and proofreader for various book publishing companies and spent a short stint in The Manila Times as a Deskman for national and foreign business news. See Regel’s posts.