Skip to main content

On the repeal of the death penalty law

The Philippines Congress has approved a government bill repealing an earlier bill instituting capital punishment. While laudable, the problem is the public seems not to have been part of the debate. The Catholic Church of course was a leading party to the debate and so were organizations that represent victims of heinous crimes.

The death penalty has had a long history in human society. It is a logical extension of the individual’s right to self-defence. The theory was society being composed of individuals possesses the same right. While the intended act of self-defence is to protect life, the possible unintended effect is to destroy life. This principle is also extended to the concept of a “just war” and even why we have to slit the necks of innocent chickens if there is a threat of bird flu infections.

In the Catholic Catechism, the death penalty is discussed under the section on punishment. Punishment should result in the correction of the offender and if the offender accepts his/her crime, then an additional result is expiation.

In its two thousand year history marked by people being burned at the stake, the Church has finally come into the realization that there are really very few reasons why the State has to impose the death penalty. Thus it strongly supports the removal of the penalty from the Law books. While the Church may say that there are very few reasons to impose the penalty, it cannot say that there are NO longer any reasons why the penalty should not be imposed. I spoke to a Catholic theologian in the USA and he said that the death penalty is allowed by the moral law under certain circumstances and the Church does not have the authority to change the moral law. It can however determine to the best of its competence, what circumstances make it legitimate to impose the penalty.

And so I disagree with the idea of removing the death penalty from the law books for this recognizes that there are no longer any reasons why the penalty should be imposed. In situations where there is a threat to one’s life, the right to self-defence and self-preservation is absolute although the law may put conditions when and where the right is legitimate and morally right. I believe that the Filipino Evangelical Protestants have it right. They recognize that there are very few reasons why we should impose the penalty but there may be a reason why we still need it.

My opinion is probably influenced by my training in the martial arts when I was in high school. My masters taught me a lot of self-defence skills some of which can inflict death but these skills will never be used. The Japanese say that the peaceful nature of a man is revealed when he spends hours and even years honing these skills which apparently will never be used.  With this training, we aim to reach a state of peace and when that does not happen then we fall into our moral weaknesses.

What is very regrettable in Filipino society and politics is that the idea of repealing the death penalty law has been purely used for political mileage and not for the opportunity for moral reflection that this could have entailed. The President has many times changed her mind depending on the public sentiment. The Philippine Catholic Church has been patently dishonest when it does not fully explain to the laity why it supports repeal. Thus the media continues to report that the Church anti-death penalty stand is in its canons: false and it has changed the moral law: definitely false. The pro-death penalty party while we can understand why they support it has never gone beyond its calls for vengeance. The Bible has consistently stated that vengeance does not belong to man, but to God only.

I do not wish to see the death penalty imposed on criminals as I do not wish to kill a man in self-defence. I can only pray that the Lord will defend me at all times and I have no reason to use my skills.

I will support the repeal of the death penalty law when perhaps we have outlawed war.





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.

Flame trees in bloom

The hottest summer courtesy of El Nino in at least 10 years gave runners and walkers in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus a visual treat. This year the flame trees Delonix regia are in full bloom!
In past summers it wasn't as hot and dry so the trees did not shed their leaves and few blooms were produced.
It is the tropical version of the Japanese Hanami or the Cherry blossom viewing season. While Hanami tells us the fragile impermanence of beauty, the flame tree hanami tells us that summer burns but soon it will all be over.