From the very start of his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that if he ever became president, he would look to reinforce the death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment. Evidently, the people felt that death penalty is needed. It's that or they are just willing to compromise their beliefs regarding death penalty because of some of Duterte's other promises. I mean, they did vote for the guy.
Anyway, with Duterte firmly established as our leader for the next six years, I have to ask . . . death penalty?! What?!?!
Obviously, I'm not enthusiastic with the notion of my country reinforcing it. But what is death penalty?
According to Farlex's The Free Dictionary (link), death penalty is " a sentence or punishment of death by execution" or "the practice or legal sanction of allowing the imposition of punishment of death for people convicted of certain crimes". But the term "death penalty" already gives us what it is and there's no point in looking it up in our dictionaries. And yet, I doubt people know what it really is.
Death penalty has been a hotly-debated issue for decades. It has divided people and many personal reasons exist either for reinforcing it or keeping it a non-option. But of all the reasons that are given, one reason against reinforcement has always troubled me: it is a sin.
I know I've already stated I'm against death penalty. But I have always been a firm supporter for the separation of church and state. I have once posted a thought piece on this blog saying that the state has no business in meddling in the church's affairs (link). In that post, I put a premium on professionalism on the state's part basically saying that government employees cannot let their personal beliefs get in the way of whatever is good for the nation. I demand a lot from public servants. That notion still stands here. I can understand if the person in the streets uses his religion to justify keeping the death penalty out of our country. But we need to ask more from our leaders when they discuss this issue.
Now that I have shared why morality should not be used when discussing the issue, let's take a look at another thing people use to defend their stance on death penalty.
Statistics and their interpretation have been back and forth on the issue. For every research saying death penalty deters crime, there are researches saying that the methods used are flawed. From researches of Isaac Ehrlich to Naci Mocan, there have always been experts who have released papers countering their methods. Quite frankly, I don't have the technical knowledge to fully scrutinize them. But if experts don't agree on the causes and effects, regression analyses or correlations shouldn't matter in forming political stands.
Morality and statistics about the deterring ability have been the bases most thrown when people argue about the death penalty on social media. And both bases should not be used right now. We could have used morality back then when theocracy was a thing. And we can maybe use statistics in the future when further study can be done and conclusive evidence is formulated. But right now, both bases can't be used in my book.
Now, how can I be against the death penalty?
Cambridge defines justice as the "fairness in the way people are dealt with" (link). There are many definitions given by other institutions. But justice always brings up words like fairness or reasonable or something in that alley.
Now, does the death penalty provide justice? No. Death penalty does not bring about justice to the victim. If someone is murdered and the murderer was killed by the state, how does that put the victim and the loved ones back from the disadvantageous position the killer put them in? The personal damages to the victims can be paid in monetary or whatever value by the killer through a separate sentencing. Sure, the death of the killer may relieve the anger of the loved ones. But that anger was not brought about by the desire for justice; it was brought about by the desire for revenge. And revenge, which is emotionally-driven, has no place in the professional and rational government this nation deserves.
Don't get me wrong. If somebody kills one of my loved ones, I'll hope the killer fries in the electric chair. But the state should not be influenced by the grieving because grief has a way of throwing rationality out the window.
Now, what do we do with the convict?
The state is also put in a disadvantageous spot in the event of a murder. The state loses a resource in the victim. And with the loved ones grieving, their contributions to society won't be as good for a long time even if given psychological care. Death penalty would basically double that. But it would also stop the killer's future transgressions no matter the magnitude granted the state actually got the ruling right. I've once said that our justice system is not really the greatest right now (link). And the potential costs of losing someone because of a wrongful ruling can really be devastating to the suspects' loved ones who are also resources of the state.
Now, the best thing to do to the killer is to lock him/her up. The biggest sin we commit is not seeing prison as more than just punishment. We have come a long way from the biblical times Pacquiao used to justify the death penalty. We have more resources discussing penology and mental health. Prison should be viewed as a way to rehabilitate the convicts. I'm not saying we should treat convicts like babies and spoil them. Prison should still be viewed as a punishment to deter crime. But it also needs to provide convicts with the opportunity to be better and to actually contribute to society. It is expensive. But so is the long arduous process of the state defending itself from international antagonism brought about by reinforcing the death penalty, actually killing someone, the opportunity cost of the used resources, controlling the rallies that will definitely pop up every so often when a sentence is carried out, etc.
All options being accepted by the public in dealing with heinous crimes are expensive. But wouldn't you rather spend for justice rather than revenge?
Now we return to giving death penalty the definition people don't read on dictionaries. What is the death penalty? It is a state's irrational go-to-move to appease the victim's loved ones. It masks the government's mismanagement through the promise of justice that doesn't really materialize. It is a lazy move supported by people who let their government get away with shit.
The death penalty is a step back from the Philippines our nation deserves.