"What if there is no God?"

-- President Duterte in Malacañang, Sept. 26, 3016

RESTORATION of death penalty may be argued for and against without dragging God to it. President Duterte did. To opposers who say that only God can take a person's life, he asked "What if there is no God?"

When United Nations debated a resolution calling for moratorium on capital punishment, not its abolition, they dwelt on it as a "cruel and inhuman practice."

And four times, U.N. affirmed the resolution, in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Even though more countries voted for it than those who rejected or abstained, the question is not settled. U.S. and China have resisted the moratorium. Our president wants to restore it.

In disputing those who use God in the debate, Duterte raised it indirectly, "Every president along this way would just say, What if there is no God?" (Cory Aquino would've been appalled and say, speak for yourself.) And his own I believe-but alert, "I believe in God but there's my perpetual question to Him, where were You when we needed You?"

But this is a dominantly Catholic country, where what separates church from state is razor-thin line which is often crossed without violating the constitutional ban.

God factor in the debate cannot be ruled out when the House will consider the death penalty bill.

Other arguments

Yet that doesn't cast aside other areas of debate, such as whether death penalty kills mostly the poor who can't pay the cost of good lawyers and the innocent who're convicted by flaws of the justice system and whether lethal injection really deters crime.

Duterte may pick up the thread of the U.S. and China argument: let each country decide. That fits neatly into his posturing that the Philippines can solve its own problems, the heck with the rest of the world -- and will have another reason to quit U.N.