As to this writing the SONA (State of the Nation Address) of President Rody, is being crafted. It is bruited other than issuing strong statements against the proliferation of illicit drugs, which involved rank police officers, elected officials, and wealthy businessmen, the President may also cover his political agenda he shift into federal structure of government and parliamentary system; as well, the imposition of capital punishment – death penalty – purposed to deter crimes and retribution for extra-heinous offences committed, e.g., a mother and her one year old child murdered by crashing their heads with the use of a hammer.
I am a man of faith and was questioned what my rationale is why I hold a view that is seemingly in contradiction to my core beliefs of compassion and forgiveness; but, espousing a “bizarre idea”, the institution of capital punishment? Further, I was challenged that if God is a loving God and He is the Author of Life why would He institute imposition of death penalty? Is the imposition of death penalty not an act of murder contrary to His command, “Thou shalt not commit murder”?
The profound question on sanctity of life versus death penalty constrained me to examine again and ponder over what the Scriptures say about capital punishment. I am not a sadistic person that relish killing, neither am I a vengeful individual that hold grudges against parties who wronged me.
Let me preface, however, my essay by stating that I am not overly partisan because I supported the candidacy of President Rody. Rather, I wish to invite the readers to meditate what the Spirit says about capital punishment as written in the Scriptures. Its precepts are true and are aligned to God’s nature that He is holy God and God of justice.
Primordial, the state sanctioned death penalty demonstrates the government value human life. From the Scriptures we read, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Genesis 9:6 (NIV)
God gave mankind the responsibility to protect the helpless victims and execute the murderer. Murder is an attack to a person created in the image of God. To snuff out the life of innocent soul is an indirect assault to the Creator. The life of every single person has value because you and I are made in God’s image. This value is extended to the strongest, the most handsome, to the wealthiest among us to the mentally incapacitated, the most physically handicapped, and to the poorest of the poor. The image of God is the reason why we are to treat other human beings with dignity and compassion.
Capital punishment reminds us of the seriousness of spilling the blood of fellow beings created in the image of God. The government or culture that abandons capital punishment wittingly abandons God and the value He places on human creation.
Point number two, death penalty when used consistently deters crime. If we examine the Book of Genesis the reason why the world in Noah’s days was destroyed by Flood was due to the widespread crimes of blood shedding that God said He is going “…to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.” Genesis 6:13 (NIV)
The old homeland is filled with violence – kidnapping for ransom (kahit nakapagbayad na ang pamilya ng mga na hostage pinapatay pa rin); systemic corruption in government bureaucracy perpetrated by elected officials and appointed bureaucrats bleeding the national treasury dry; the proliferation of illegal drugs protected by rank police officials and wealthy criminal drug lords. The demonic activities that enslave the entire nation must stop.
God established civil authority to keep the evil of murder and other forms of violence in check. God promulgated the institution of government to carry out His will in governing a nation. The pattern of restoring order in society is shown in the Book of Genesis: Adam and Eve disobeyed God, so the Creator took away immortality; Cain sinned and was banished from the presence of his parents, but to keep retaliation from overtaking him God put a mark on him and promised vengeance if anyone attacked him; rulers became corrupt and oppressive, hence, God limited mankind’s lifespan from hundreds of year to 120 or less. The entire population in Noah’s days were so corrupt that God sent flood to destroy them except Noah and his family.
Opponents to capital punishment say it is not so. They point to statistics to make their case. In the Philippines they noted that until President Arroyo’s time, there is a provision for death penalty; but, murders, kidnapping, and prevalence of other shapes of crime went on unabated. The opponents of capital punishment, have a valid point. Unfortunately, however, they overlook significant facts.
First, the death penalty did not deter crime because the violators who were sentenced to death were not put to death. Hence, the murderer has all the chances to commit crime again. Haven’t you heard prisoners confined in the maximum prison cells are granted passes to leave for a few days to carry out murder? If the convicted perpetrator of extra-heinous crime is immediately put to death, the criminal could no longer commit another crime. A dead criminal is too dead to fire a gun or rob another unknowing victim.
Second, is the problem of inconsistency of the use of capital punishment. How many death row inmates die from execution? Many of them died in prison from old age or from ailment. The noisy influence of anti-capital punishment advocates lead by some religious leaders; the foot dragging law enforcers; the reluctance of corrupt judges to impose death sentences (nasuholan kasi); and the pack of appeals that pile before the appeals court, obviously slows down the execution process.
Let us take a look of the Ampatuan Case. How many of the accused died in their cells? The crime transpired during the term of President Arroyo; but, none were sentenced yet of the crime they committed. The six year term of PNoy was over, yet, the case is still pending for trial?
(Not all members of the Ampatuan Clan are criminally involved. In fact, one of the Ampatuan brothers helped in persuading his involved brethren to submit to the authorities. I know because I was in Manila when the crime was committed. I immediately called up one of the brothers to appeal to his father and kin’s to lay down their arms and yield to the authorities).
Organized crimes have a better performance in terms of deterrence. Do you know why it is difficult to break up Mafia? Members who desire to turn in themselves to the law are too scared to squeal since anyone who betrays their Code of Silence (Omerta) get automatic death sentence. Mafia is consistent in carrying out capital punishment to those that commit treason against their organization.
Third, the execution of death penalty must be done in public. The community must participate in the execution of the criminal found guilty. But, the Philippine experience except for the execution of Lim Seng, the convicted drug lord, his death sentence was carried out by firing squad in public. I was there, I witnessed it along with my friend who was undergoing cadet officer’s military training. But after that episode, there was no public viewing of criminals executed. Execution of convicted criminals sentenced by death penalty must be viewed by the public and implemented consistently.
Reason number three why I defend the proposed imposition of capital punishment in the legal system, is: just application of the law defers God’s judicial intervention.
God gave the right of execution to mankind to uphold the value of human beings, to deter potential violent criminals.
Otherwise, if criminal neglect is the order of the day, God, would step in and clean the land, just like the Flood during Noah’s time when God cleansed the corrupt land from violent people. God has handed this responsibility to the state since He specifically delegated this responsibility to civil government. Christians are admonished not to take vengeance on those who harm them; rather, the Apostle Paul reminded them that God has authorized the government to enact retribution for Him and for the victims.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer”. Romans 13: 1-4
The government have the inherent power to carry a “sword”. What does the sword do? It kills. The New Testament affirms the government have the authority to use the sword to stop evil. The greater reason why capital punishment must be carried out towards convicted murderers, is, spiritually speaking, when justice is not rendered for the spilled blood of the murder victim. the land where the shedding of innocent blood happened is corrupt before the sight of God. “Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” Numbers 35: 3
If we fail to execute the guilty, which means we value more the lives of the criminals than the innocent victims, our nation cannot escape the wrath to come. If our leaders will not seek justice our country will never rise from the curse of corrupt land, the Sick Man in Asia. The innocent blood of millions cries out to God. He will call the administration and this generation to account for it.
About the Author:
Bob Gabuna after hibernating for a long while to recover his health from Leukemia, will resume his column writing, Perspective. Bob had been writing for the Filipino Journal since 1988, the year after he and his family arrived from the Philippines. Bob, prior to acceptance of the invitation of the Canadian Ambassador posted in Makati to migrate, served the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization. He authored the Position Paper to restructure the Armed Forces by carving out the Philippine Constabulary as a major branch of the Armed Forces and form a national police under the oversight of another civilian department. Eventually, he was seconded as Technical Assistant to the “50 Wise Men” that constituted the Constitutional Commission that crafted a new fundamental law of the land after EDSA 1986.
Today, Bob, is again involved in researching materials to the proposed shift into parliamentary system and federal form of government of the birth land to address the pestering issue of “Imperial Manila”, and the systemic corruption perpetrated by nationally elected officials. After his long hibernation in the Philippines in pursuit of the commercial cultivation of Cassava for production of bio-fuel, Bob joined his wife settle in the Arctic and built a house. As resident of Territory of Nunavut, Bob, was appointed Member-At-Large, City Council of Iqaluit as member of Public Safety Committee. Too, he was appointed by the Premier, Territory of Nunavut as Director, Governance Council, Workers’ Safety & Compensation Commission, Northwestern Territories and Territory of Nunavut.