Illustration by Jon Ahmed Durano
Capital punishment can be traced back as far as the Fifth Century B.C. in the Romans’ Laws of the Twelve Tables. It manifests across the rest of history in Draco’s code, the Hittite Code, even in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. History indicates that it is a natural thing to want, an obvious solution to a growing penitentiary. We are rushing to join the ranks of the United States, China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, some of the few remaining countries in the world where the death penalty is still being practiced.
Putting aside that the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Philippine Constitution protects our right to life, there is admittedly a certain appeal to the idea of being rid of the crooked criminals that drag our society down. There is an allure to knowing a rapist will never again see the light of day. There is an awful sense of vindication in knowing that The simple permanence is attractive.
However, the death penalty bill in its current state only punishes the perpetrators of drug-related crimes to aid the war on drugs. The representatives defend it as a deterrent for drug usage and that it will therefore lower crime rates despite studies that show otherwise. The Death Penalty Information Center, for example, indicates that the murder rate in US states without capital punishment are consistently lower than those that have imposed it from 1990 to 2015.
The United Nations said in 1968, “[…] the data which now exist show no correlation between the existence of capital punishment and lower rates of capital crime.” The international community has already made their stance on capital punishment very clear. We alienate ourselves from the international community where the trend has consistently been moving towards ending capital punishment. While we go back to relying on medieval forms of crime deterrents, the rest of the world is moving forward, leaving us in the dark.
Furthermore, a study conducted by Gross estimated at least 4 percent of all people who receive the death penalty in the United States are innocent. Our own Supreme Court has even acknowledged their concern for wrongful convictions with regards to the imposition of capital punishment in the case of People v. Mateo in 2004.
Moreover, we also have to consider the proposed victim of the bill: the people addicted to drugs. Addictions are commonly dealt with rehabilitation and then reintegration into society. While there is an argument that retaining these criminals in our prison system is expensive, truth is, so is the death penalty. Backed by surveys, Donald McCartin, a former California jurist, has said that it is 10 times more expensive to kill prisoners on death row than keep them alive. The Philippines also stands to lose her eligibility for the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus tariff exemption system whose biggest beneficiaries were the country’s small and medium enterprises.
There is a clear risk to economic penalty and international relations. The death penalty is unconstitutional. Innocents will be wrongfully convicted. The death penalty does not reduce crime rate. When the death penalty does not even serve the drug war, who then does it serve?
The appeal of a seemingly simple and permanent solution is deceiving. Like every illegal recreational drug, the appeal disappears under closer inspection where we see how truly destructive it really is. Those who seek to implement it are no better than the people they wish to eliminate. The death penalty only removes the unlawfulness of extrajudicial killings, a move by those on a power trip.