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A Christmas wish… no to Death Penalty

Atty. Aurora A. Santiago

Duc in altum

 

I WITH everyone a Very Joyful and Peaceful Christmas and a Very Healthy and Prosperous New Year! 2017 is the Year of the Parish; let us make our parish a communion of communities. As our former parish priest said, we have to make our community Buhay, Mulat at Kumikilos (Active, Informed and Responsive). Let us learn to see the face of Jesus in each and every person. Let us seek the goodness in every person we meet. Let us educate each other, guide each other and help each other. Let us be pro-active, not reactive.

***

Pres. Duterte lamented that the cause of crimes in the country is the proliferation of illegal drugs. We all know what illegal drugs can do to the mentality and logic of a person. It is the normal reaction of the family of victims of crimes caused by drug users to retaliate, to avenge the wrong done on them. We support the President in his campaign against illegal drugs. However, we differ in the manner how it should be implemented. We agree with the Church when it stated that illegal drug users and pushers are sick person and not criminals. They were forced by circumstances to these illegal drugs—family problems, peer problems, community problems. They should be treated with care, they should be reformed, they should be allowed to return to his community and be productive members.

The re-imposition of death penalty is now widely debated upon in all fora. The idea came about when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his campaign against illegal drugs, declared that death penalty should be restored, as deterrent to the increase in criminal offenses, especially caused by the use of illegal drugs.

In the Old Testament, the rule is Lex Talionis—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If the offender damaged or injured the eye of his victim, the victim or his family can extract the eye of the offender. If a wrongdoer killed a person, he should also be killed.

The New Testament shows the value of human life; that nobody has the right to take the life of a person. Jesus did not judge the adulteress, instead he forgave her; he commanded Peter to put away his sword.

These modern days, more and more countries reject death penalty or capital punishment. They allow the rehabilitation of the offender, let him repent and lead a new life. The Universal Catholic Church rejects death penalty, following the 5th Commandment, “You shall not kill.” Nobody is allowed to kill a person, only the Creator has the right to take the life he gave, at the right time.

Death penalty deprives a convicted person the opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration into his community. It precludes himself from becoming a productive member of society. He needs to be given the chance to correct the wrong he has committed through repentance and reparation. Giving the person another chance to a new life is more humane and would deter the commission of crime in the future. Abolition of death penalty respects the sanctity and dignity of life; the society can issue rules to protect itself since death penalty has no deterrent effects on the solution of crimes.

During his pastoral visit to the United States, Pope Francis himself urged the abolition of death penalty. He encouraged the protection of human life at every stage of its development. He stated that “every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

True, the State has the power to uphold the rule of law, to maintain peace and order, to provide justice for its citizens. Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.” (Art. III, Section 2, Bill of Rights). The Philippines practically “abolished” capital punishment or death penalty. The courts of justice imposed life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua (40 years, more or less, of imprisonment) as the most severe penalty. By that, the case is automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court. Congress should enact laws that would effectively reform and rehabilitate convicted criminals. The Bureau of Jail Management must take measures to improve and develop the conditions of jails and detention centers. The criminal justice system must effectively prosecute crimes to provide equal protection for all.

***

Happy Sacerdotal Anniversary to Fr. Rico Ayo, Fr. Romy Tuazon, Fr. Larry Frias, Fr. Patrick Hiwatig, O.P. Happy Birthday also to Kalookan Diocese Curia staff Jun Acebuche.

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