Thursday, November 26, 2009

Death penalty revival?

Death penalty revival sought over Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines—The carnage in Maguindanao that killed at least 57 persons, including members of media, has revived calls for the restoration of death penalty on heinous crimes.

Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to begin discussions on pending proposals for the return of the death penalty.

“To restore death penalty is to preserve lives of innocent people,” Abante said at the Serye forum in Quezon City Thursday.

Abante, a pastor, said criminals like those who murdered the 57 persons in Maguindanao do not recognize laws when they commit crimes. He said the death penalty will “deter” them from committing more criminal acts...

In June 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the measure abolishing death penalty a few days before she left for the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

The issue has sharply divided the country between those who want to retain it and those who do not think it is a deterrent to criminality.

Whenever particularly sensational crimes are committed in this country, talks of reviving the death penalty are bound to resurface. The rationale is not entirely unfounded. My recent post elicited some well-informed arguments for and against imposing the death penalty. At this point, I would venture to suppose that capital punishment must be founded, if at all, on an impartial, extensive due process. Do we have such an extensive due process here in the Philippines where the playing field is level for the rich and the poor? Before we pose the question, it might be appropriate to ask first if the current police system is similarly impartial and effective in the enforcement of existing laws.

In 1999 when the death penalty was still in place, about a thousand inmates were in New Bilibid Prison's death row.
According to this report, a survey of 425 death row inmates showed that most earned less than $6 a day when they were arrested. Three-quarters of them were farmers, truckers, laborers and so on. Few can afford the $30 that attorneys charge to attend the death sentence hearings. It is estimated that only 12%-15% of those charged in capital cases can afford private representation. So much so for an enforcement system and "extensive due process" which appears to be missing its blindfold.

A similar thread transpired in this blog earlier this year when the death penalty issue was similarly revived due to notorious drug traffickers. From there I will quote from my good friend

"But one thing is sure. When God created your life it wasn't a temporal event, it was a divine one. Could it be that the temporal act of killing represents a divine problem which requires a divine solution? As Yoda would say, how would you address a disturbance in the Force?"
The Catholic position on capital punishment allows room for legitimate diversity in opinion. To quote Pope Benedict XVI:

3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

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