Should capital punishment or death penalty be reinstated in the Philippines? This is a question now being tackled in the halls of Congress.
As with any controversial issue such as this, there’s always two schools of thought. In this case, one is that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes; the other, that taking the life of a convicted criminal has little to no impact on those pre-meditating to commit crime.
Many consider capital punishment as barbaric, while others believe it is the appropriate punishment for those who deprive others of their life or inalienable rights.
Is capital punishment a form of prevention? Or is it a means of unnecessary retribution?
Is the imposition of capital punishment a convenient excuse for the inefficiencies of the justice system, including the lack of courts, prosecutors and public attorneys as well as unsolved crimes?
For many Catholics, God’s commandment is clear: “Thou shall not kill.” So how is taking the life of someone who has taken that of another be any more right and moral?
For activists, the right to life is the most basic and important of all human rights.
The world over, we have seen the familiar problems with capital punishment — human error (judges, attorneys, witnesses), irreversibility, arbitrariness and racism — issues that have, in fact, made the case for many governments to abolish it and block its reimposition.
Some have argued that the execution of a convicted person paves the way for closure, especially for the families of murder victims.
But studies published in journals show that the death penalty adversely affects both families of murder victims and families of the accused. In his Psychology Today blog, Talking About Trauma, psychologist Dr. Robert T. Muller reports that psychological studies have found that the death penalty produces negative effects on families and friends of murder victims (referred to as “co-victims”).
One University of Minnesota study found that just 2.5% of co-victims reported achieving closure as a result of capital punishment, while 20.1% said the execution did not help them heal. That may be because, as one co-victim described it, “Healing is a process, not an event.”
A 2012 Marquette University Law School study reported that co-victims had improved physical and psychological health and greater satisfaction with the legal system in cases where perpetrators received life sentences, rather than death sentences.
Congressional leaders have said that a bill reinstating the death penalty in the Philippines could be voted upon in less than a month. Expediency is a virtue for lawmakers, but for an issue as complicated and controversial as capital punishment, our hope is that lawmakers consider all sides of the issue and base their vote not on personal preferences but on well-founded studies, realities and experiences the world over.
For starters, let the legislators investigate crime data over the years — including those when capital punishment was still law in the country.
We need a much better justification for reinstating capital punishment other than Senator Manny Pacquiao’s argument that even “Jesus was sentenced to death.”