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Debunking the myths supporting death penalty

Rodrigo Duterte has long made crime-fighting a centerpiece of his political track record, dating back to his days as Mayor of Davao City. In the campaign trail last year, Duterte repeatedly said that restoring the death penalty will be one of his priority legislation.

This March, his allies in the House of Representatives led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez successfully passed a bill restoring the capital punishment. Its fate in the Senate, though, is much less certain. The debate about death penalty has been going on for decades, if not more, all over the world.

Today, The Filipino Scribe would like to explain its opposition to the push for the reinstatement of death penalty by debunking the frequently-cited arguments by its proponents.

1) The death penalty is inherently anti-poor

In an article published in Rappler last July 2015, it was noted that a lot of poor prisoners do not know how to read or write and know very little about their cases.  Unlike wealthy defendants, these people are not able to hire well-connected lawyers a la Estelito Mendoza and Ferdinand Topacio. Instead, they rely on pro bono legal services offered by the Public Attorneys Office and groups like the Free Legal Assistance Group and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers.

In other words, poor prisoners cannot afford attorneys who know how to explore every legal technicality in the book to prolong if not win their respective trials. Hence, they are more susceptible to lose their respective cases.

arguments against death penalty philippines

Executions by lethal injection will most likely be the preferred method once death penalty is restored
(Photo credits: www.Guns.com)

2) It will not bring closure

Many people claim that implementing the death penalty will bring closure for the families of victims of heinous crimes like rape and murder in accordance to the concept of retributive justice. The fact is, it does not.

Writing for Psychology Today, Professor Robert Muller of York University in Toronto, Canada explained that “the long judicial process between conviction and execution, which can span many years in some cases, merely prolongs grief and pain for co-victims.” Justice delayed is justice denied, and it only adds to the victim and their families’ suffering.

Instead, it can be said that the following are likelier to help the victims and their families heal:
*Faster resolution of the case
*For the courts to render the correct decision in the case
*Counseling from professionals

3) It will not deter crime

Supporters of death penalty also claim that the imposition of death penalty will be effective in deterring crimes. That notion is hard to substantiate.

 Two years ago, an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation looked into the question of whether death penalty deters henious crime  anywhere in the world. Among those they interviewed is Justice Lex Lastry of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia and Professor Jeffrey Fagan of the Columbia University School of Law.

Fagan noted that extensive studies have shown that criminals “are deterred more by an increase in their likelihood of apprehension than by an increase in the magnitude of their punishment, meaning that likely capture is a more effective deterrent than potential death.” He also mentioned that the temptation of making huge financial gains trump any rational judgment.

4) The courts are not infallible

The Philippine judicial system is deeply flawed. The Supreme Court said as much in its decision on the 2004 case People of the Philippines vs Efren Mateo y Garcia (G.R. 147678-87). It noted that from 1993 to 2004, the High Court overturned or modified death penalty judgments in 652 out of the 907 cases appealed before it because of judicial errors.

By the way, throughout Philippine history, death penalty has been wrongly implemented so many times due to a failed justice system, fabricated charges, and biased judges:|
1) Three martyred priests (GomBurZa)
2) Jose Rizal
3) Andres Bonifacio
4) Macario Sakay
5) Jose Abad Santos

Against this backdrop, it is clear that reimposing the death penalty won’t serve any purpose other than bolstering politicians’ pogi points and satisfying people’s lust for blood.United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer put it best in his dissenting opinion in the 2015 case Glossip v. Gross: “If the death penalty does not fulfill the goals of deterrence or retribution, it is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering and hence an unconstitutional punishment.”

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