One of the offshoots of the recent gruesome murders of car dealers in the Philippines has been widespread calls for the Senate to pass legislation to re-instate the death penalty to deter such crimes.
Capital punishment has been abolished twice in post-Marcos Philippines—the first time when the 1987 Constitution was ratified (which broadly prohibited the death penalty, except for a very few types of crime), and then on June 24, 2006, when Republic Act No. 9346 was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Many analysts attribute the abolition of capital punishment to the strong influence of the Catholic Church in the country and its pro-life stance (Filipinos are pre-dominantly Catholic).
However, just as some Senators support it, so do many ordinary Filipinos. I asked some peers of mine—ordinary Filipino college students—about their views on the death penalty.
Engineering major Harold Marayag said he sees it as ‘fighting fire with fire,’ and that the death penalty should therefore be meted out to those who commit gruesome crimes.
Web developer Mheo Soriano agrees that heavier sentences—and nothing could be heavier than taking a life—and a more efficient judicial system are needed, though he added he's sceptical that Filipinos will see the latter any time soon.
Weizel Gulfan, who works in PR, pointed out that given the tragic state of the Philippine penal system, with its overcrowded, under-funded prisons, the death penalty would simply add to the problem of overcrowding.
Political science major Nikolai Pascasio, meanwhile, pointed out that the death penalty could just be an ‘easy way out’ for convicts to escape the punishment of languishing in prison for years.
Another political science major, Vertine Beler, said he's indifferent over the death penalty issue, adding that regardless of whether it’s re-imposed or not, criminals will continue to commit crimes with little fear or restraint as long as the police are inept and the justice system is so frustratingly slow.
These are just some of the views Filipinos have on the issue, but it's an interesting cross-section. Whether the proposal to re-introduce capital punishment succeeds or not, the issue will likely continue to be debated for a long time to come.
One thing that likely unites many Filipinos, though, is the hope that the vigorous debate going on now won't be the end of the matter. Whether or not the Philippines sees capital punishment again, there's plenty more the government and law enforcements agencies can be doing to tackle crime.