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Capital Punishment Pros Cons

The Pros and Cons of Capital Punishment

“The death penalty issue always puts in question the fairness, efficiency and accuracy of our judicial system. People ask why is it that the rich generally escape capital punishment?”

Almost everybody who witnessed the execution of Jaime Jose, Basilio Pineda, Jr., Edgardo Aquino, convicted rapists of actress Maggie de la Riva in 1972, described the affair as a sordid and depressing experience.

Their electrocution evoked a general feeling of shock that even the most hardened individuals found hard to conceal.

The executions revived an old controversy regarding the abolition or adoption of capital punishment. Is the practice of legal killing of criminals really necessary?

On February 10, 1970, President Marcos issued a general retrieve of all death convicts, pending the study of pros and cons of the issue by Congress. The law-making body, however, shelved the matter and the issue remained unsolved until the adjournment of the eight Congress in 1971.

Meanwhile, the presidential reprieve was lifted, but then Director of Prisons Alejo Santos managed to stave off all executions until his retirement from public service.

Ruben Ablaza, convicted to die for the abduction and rape of Annabelle Huggins, was spared by a commutation of sentence to life imprisonment.

Armingol Hanasan, convicted murderer for insurance, died of heart failure a few before his execution in 1971.

There were no executions during the administration of Cory Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos. Although the 1987 Constitution abolished capital punishment, it allowed Congress to have the last say. Congress reestablished capital punishments and Leo Echegaray may be the first man to be executed by the state since 1970.

Proponents of the abolition of capital punishment contend that the trend in modern penology is reformative and not retribution.

More civilized countries tend to shun the practice of exacting “life for a life.” Their lawmakers say that the death penalty is not succeeded in diminishing criminality at all.

In 1971, then Senator Salvador Laurel, an abolitionist, filed a bill proposing the abolition of capital punishment. In the explanatory portion of the bill, Laurel stated:

“Capital punishment is principally vindictive. It originated from the cruel and inhuman principle of lex taliones, or ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’, which has no place in a Christian and civilized society like ours. It is patterned after the old classical theory of criminology which establishes a direct proportion between crime and punishment, believing that man can thereby be deterred from committing more crimes.

“This school of thought has been proved wrong, as shown by the prevalence of criminality today, not only in our country but in almost every part of the world.” The pro-death side insists that the death penalty has been an effective punishment for vicious criminals. They aver that capital punishment is a strong deterrent against crime.

Judge Guillermo Guevara, a leading exponent of retention of the supreme penalty, argues:

“Every state has the right to protect and defend itself from all those who threaten its existence.

“And no one can deny that the dangerously depraved criminal threatens the existence and order of any civilized society.

“Stripped of emotional considerations, therefore, the execution of such a man is simply necessary social cauterization. The death penalty is imposed in order that society may survive by lopping off from its body an unfit and degenerate member, who in the last analysis, is not adapted to social life.

“Hence, the elimination of the depraved outlaw, the cruelest, the most degenerate, the nearest-the-brute creation, would appear to be a moral, social and even biological necessity.”

Still another group believes that our present laws should be re-examined. It contends that the laws governing four major crimes punishable by death – murder, robbery with homicide, genocide, parricide, infanticide, kidnapping with serious illegal detention; kidnapping and rape – deserve modifications.

Kidnapping and rape are believed to be least deserving of the death penalty.

This group argues that the abolition or retention of the death penalty is a matter of general public concern, and the final decision should not be left to the people in the form of plebiscite.

Thus the issue is expected to be taken up in a future constitutional convention.

The Philippines is the seventh country in the ASEAN to restore death penalty as a means to deter the commission of crimes. The other pro-death penalty countries are Brunei Darrusalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The only countries in the region that still outlaw capital punishment are Cambodia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.

The death penalty issue always puts in question the fairness, efficiency and accuracy of our judicial system.

What if one of those convicted is innocent, who only happened to be in the company of the culprits? Or, because of poverty, the accused may not be able to hire a competent lawyer? Or who could have been tortured by the police to admit culpability?

There have been cases where individuals sentenced to death are finally found to be innocent by the people ask, why is it that the rich generally escape capital punishment?

Killing criminals will not solve the peace and order problem. If the collective consciousness of a people is inclined towards rejection of life, how can we expect the culture of life and love to prevail?

If all forms of media and the arts, including movies, continue to institutionalize violence and to treat individuals and human life as commodities, there will be people who will arrogate upon themselves the power to manipulate, to exploit and to kill.

Crimes are frequently committed in society where many people are addicted or exposed to drugs, pornography, sex, vices, and prostitution.

Statistics show that the majority of heinous crimes, specifically rape have been perpetrated under the influence of liquor or prohibited drugs, as well as after having viewed pornographic materials.

If the government is to stamp out criminality, then it must get at the root of those evils. Otherwise, exacting capital punishment is just as heinous as the crime that has been committed. Imposition of death penalty does not preclude the perpetration of crimes in a society where values are weak.

Dostoesvsky, in describing the feeling of approaching execution has written: “The worst pain may not be in the bodily suffering, b but in one’s knowing for certain that in a day, and then an hour, and then in 10 minutes, and then in half a minute, and the now, at the very moment, the soul will leave the body and the one will cease to be a man.”


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