Promoting impunity

Rodrigo Duterte for death penalty
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THE campaign by President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies in Congress for the restoration of the death penalty is replete with irony. Capital punishment is supposed to discourage criminality while at the same time insuring that those who commit certain crimes get what they deserve. But what’s likely is that rather than deter crime and assure crime victims of justice, it will further strengthen the impunity, or exemption from punishment, of the powerful, privileged, and well-connected.

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Deterring crime

Detail from Pisanello's Saint George and the Princess
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PRESIDENT-ELECT Rodrigo Duterte’s reiteration of a campaign promise to have Congress restore the death penalty resonates among most Filipinos who’re justly concerned with,  and are in fact terrified by, the crimes that almost daily threaten their homes, their property and their lives and those of their kin. The number of rapes has nearly doubled, say women’s groups, and murders, kidnappings, assaults, and robberies have been multiplying, even as the drug trade destroys entire families. Outrage over these crimes’ persistence and their going unpunished is not limited to the survivors and kin of the victims. The demand for retribution cuts across classes but is especially strong among the students, professionals, office employees, and graveyard shift workers who feel they’re most vulnerable, and who are the most common crime victims.

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Inflexible

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COMMISSION on Human Rights chair Loretta Rosales was right: the death penalty has no place in any legal system — make that in any civilized legal system — but the rest of her statement the day after Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Ramon Credo were executed in Xiamen, China, and Elizabeth Batain in Shenzhen, also in China, was off the mark.

Rosales issued a statement condemning the death penalty, but also declared that Ordinario-Villanueva, Credo and Batain had been “twice victimized,” first by the drug syndicates that used them, supposedly without their knowledge, to smuggle drugs abroad, and second by the “inflexibilities” of the Chinese judicial system. Rosales also took the opportunity to suggest that China consider abolishing the death penalty.

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