PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte was loud and clear on his stand on death penalty during his State of the Nation Address (Sona). He wants it reinstated. While this came as a music to some, it also sent waves of chill to others.
One sad truth on the imposition of death penalty is seeing justice as an earthly matter. How can this be? People who are lined up for this punishment are presumed guilty of committing a heinous and very grave offense that only the termination of a God-given life can pacify the atrocity of the scandal committed. We are surely familiar with the religious concept of justice that when a person committed a monstrous crime, this person’s soul will suffer on the opposite side of paradise once life on earth is finished. With the institution of death penalty, people ignore this heavenly idea of justice.
I see two primary reasons why death penalty is wanted. First, to lessen the commission of the same crime, perpetrators must suffer death in the hands of the state. This should be seen as a legal death. Death penalty is then served as a lesson or warning. Second, to make the grieving feel a sense of justice, the doer/s must suffer death. Death penalty is served as justice to the aggrieved, the family, community or the state. This sounds like a vengeance sanctioned by the state through its laws.
With the re-imposition of death penalty, it implies that the state believes that there are some people who are pure evil. These are people who have no chance of living whatever goodness left in them. These are the people who have surrendered their lives to the devil that no kind of intervention can be done to alter their ways.
If we believe there are really people like this and that ending their lives can make the society a better place, then death penalty should be reinstated. We feel those people who wanted death penalty back when we experience heightened grief, derision frustrations, and hopelessness such as hearing a news about a one-year old boy raped and murdered or an adolescent being raped then skinned and mutilated.
We can’t help but ask, “Why?” We then come up with the idea that criminals like them do not deserve to be living with us. Since we are not sure due to absence of faith, if their souls will suffer an unending death on the next life, we seek satisfaction by witnessing their death.
The Church does not agree with death penalty because of the teaching that only God has the right to take life. Terminating a life then is out of the question when handing out justice. Justice is served by God punishing them after life through the fires of hell. Imprisonment is like separating the bad tomatoes from the good tomatoes so that the whole will not become rotten. This makes much sense in the view of the Church.
The imprisonment also gives the offenders the chance to repent and go back to their good ways. It does not however erase the sin committed so it is expected that they will still be punished at the end but also be given consideration on account of their repentance.
We are a country with strong religious orientation so it is impossible not to consider the position of the Church when talking about death as a penalty. We cannot also say the Church must stay out with this issue because of their teaching on defending and promoting human dignity.
One glaring problem on restoring death penalty even if we discount the teachings of the Church is the weakness of our justice system. If we can say that our justice system is 95 percent precise and accurate in serving justice, then it might have a higher chance of passing. Yet we understand that in our country, many of those who are in prison today are not supposed to be there. Rich people, even guilty, manipulate our justice system. If we can fix these kinds of concerns, people might be willing to listen to the proposition.
The intention in attempting to re-instate death penalty is no doubt good yet the action is still considered unacceptable. The context of our justice system is the primary reason why it is unacceptable. It has a lot of flaws. There are still many things to fix. With the death penalty, considering the loopholes in it, the poor and other marginalized groups in the society shall suffer more. We do not want to witness innocent people take the lethal injection just because they do not have the voice to defend themselves.