#tell_it_to_sunstar: Death penalty and social justice

A NUMBER of those who oppose the reinstatement of death penalty argue on the basis of the sanctity and value of life. While there is a lot of truth to this, we must not also forget that another good reason to oppose the proposed legislation is none other than the principle of social justice.

First, while it is true that life is sacred, there are specific forms of killing that are moral and legitimate based on divine, and natural law.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church basing its explanation on St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledges as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

Self-defense and the use of armed forces to stop aggression have been accepted as valid and morally justifiable acts even though their consequence would be the loss of lives.

The second point, however, which I think is the more important argument against capital punishment can be put this way: Under what circumstances may the state impose capital punishment? The answer to this should be: If it is needed to establish a just society, and provided that social justice is upheld and not jeopardized.

I think it would be more compelling to oppose any plan to reinstate capital punishment based on the second point (not so much on the sanctity of life).

Let us begin with the fact that our justice system is flawed. The cost of legal battles is prohibitive, and the poor have nothing to pay except their life.

Another point: many of the crimes committed in this country are related to poverty. Poverty, however, is not just the lack or absence of income. It has something to do with a lot of interconnected realities.

For example, the household structure of informal settlers may be one of the factors of rape. Murder or homicide may also be common among drinking bars that thrive due to lack of government regulation.

In other words, why should we kill people whose offenses are partly if not mainly the product of the state’s making or its failure to ensure that the various dimensions of life are well arranged?

In the Bible, Jesus said “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.” I think this is a key fundamental Christian principle that serves as the basis for any opposition to death penalty.

If the state cannot as of yet provide its people the basic means for them to achieve life’s essential necessities, it does not have the moral ascendancy to deprive them of their right to exist.

So long as the margin between those who have more in life from those who have less in life is wide, this government will never succeed no matter how much it would kill its own people.

The state may punish people to maintain peace and order but it has to do a lot of things to address the woes of this country that cannot be minimized by mere police visibility.

For this reason, we should oppose the reinstatement of capital punishment. Its revival is a sign that this administration does not have a clear understanding of justice in its various dimensions: political, social, and economic.--Rhoderick John S. Abellanosa
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