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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Villanueva: Death penalty economics

THE pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) voiced very strong concerns of the clergy on the re-imposition of the death penalty and proliferation of Extra-Judicial Killings (EJKs). It has become a very contentious topic even in ordinary conversations of citizens. It is much more controversial in news reports and social media.

I have always been very vocal of my opposiition to killing as a means to solve the drug problem here in the Philippines. I have always emphasized that drug addiction and trade is not the main problem that the country is facing right now.

This problem is just an offshoot of a much bigger problem of the country, poverty. People go into drug trade and commit crimes against property and persons because they are desperate of making a living for their family. Therefore, killing them would leave their family without a breadwinner, which means that the family that was left behind will be much poorer than they were when they had a breadwinner.

There are so many households (families) around the country that are living in extreme and absolute poverty. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines extreme poverty as those who live for less than US$1 (roughly P50) per day, while absolute poverty may be described as those who cannot meet the basic necessitities like food, shelter, clothing, education and health.

The poverty incidence here in the Philippines, based on the 2015 PSA data is 21.6%. This figure shows a statistically significant decrease from 2012 figures (26.6%). The poverty incidence figures show the percentage of the total population that are considered to be poor.

These people may be described to be in a poverty trap. Thomas Malthus, a famous economist, proposed that those who fall into poverty may only be brought out of that trap by a very powerful institution. This powerful institution is the government. The government has a mandate to intervene in the market (forces of demand and supply) when there are conditions that prompt it to do so.

Some of the steps that our government has done is the conditional cash transfers (CCTs) or the 4Ps (Pantawid sa Pamilyang Pilipino Program). This type of transfer payments to the citizens is but one way to achieve one of the country’s macroeconomic goals which is to redistribute equitably income in the economy. There are still some people who would like to remove this “dole-outs” which I strongly oppose, but I will discuss it more in detail some other time.

So, what is the connection of the information to my opposition to the re-imposition of the death penalty here in the Philippines?

The poor has always been in a more disadvantaged position when the wheels of justice roll. They are more likely to commit crimes due to desperation. They have lesser capability to get a better defense. This is not be a sweeping statement but this is the reality. What are the percentage of people deprived of liberty (formerly called inmates) that are poor as against those who are rich? There is a glaring difference.

It all boils back to their priority as a family. Will they spend money and time for proper defense and not feed their family? Of course, they will prioritize earning for a living than earning to get good defense.

The Public Attorney’s Office is there to help, but they can only help as much due their heavy workload.

Recent news reported plunder was removed from the crimes punisable by death. It is but convenient for these people in the legislature to remove the crime they are most likely to commit. It is very glaring that they are doing this to protect themselves.

Corruption is the reason why people are in poverty, and people in poverty, as I mentioned earlier are most like to commit crimes that is punishable by their proposed death penalty. If we follow this logic, the people who are most likely to be punished by death are the poor.

It is about time that we set our priorities straight. We rid our society of corruption, these greed people in positions of power, so that we can address the deeper problem of this society. Their lack of real empathy and compassion for the poor is the root of their greed for power and money.

Let us not be blinded by the end by justifying the means. We cannot achieve real prosperity without focusing all our efforts on solving the real problem of our country, poverty.

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