Of History, Death Penalty and Zamboanga

BY: JUSEPH ELAS

“You say ‘society must exact vengeance, and society must punish’. Wrong on both counts. Vengeance comes from the individual and punishment from God.”  ― Victor HugoThe Last Day of a Condemned Man
In the history of crimes in the Philippines, the most notable cases are rape, murder and treason. Since time memorial up to the present, these crimes continues to proliferate in the country and the astronomical rate of cases related to these crimes makes it so alarming.

The Philippines follows the 1987 constitution but prior to that, the country’s doctrine of law was amended for four times; the first known constitution of the country is the Malolos Constitution (1899) written by Felipe Calderon and Felipe Buencamino; second one is the Commonwealth Constitution (1935), the 1973 Constitution and the Freedom Constitution (1986). Given these provisions in the highest law of the land, one can only wonder why the judicial system of the Philippines seems to be deteriorating, making it process slow. Is that the reason why crimes continue to proliferate? Are the criminals not afraid anymore to commit crimes because they know that the law will come after them when they are already almost at the gates to meet death?

The present predicament concerning the crime rate in the Philippines is the reason why some lawmakers are pushing for the reimposition of Death Penalty which was abolished in 2006 by the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Looking back, during the Spanish and American era, the most common methods of execution were the shooting by the firing squad where one notable man who is famous for this is Dr. Jose Rizal, executed in Bagumbayan (now Luneta) in December 30, 1986; and the garrotte and the notable case for this that of the GomBurZa.

On the other hand, in 1962, the United States colonial government introduced the electric chair. However, under the presidency of the late Manuel L. Quezon, there were no reported executions using the electric chair; not until 1961 when Marcial “Baby” Ama was executed in the said method after committing countless murders.

Another notable rape case is the abduction and gang rape of young Filipino actress, Maggie dela Riva. The criminals’ electric chair execution was been broadcasted live on national television.

The abovementioned historical data shows that death penalty was strictly practiced in the past and people have nothing to say about it.

In statistics, crime rate in 2001 was at 98%. One may think that it’s pretty high given that it’s nearing 100%. Take note that that is before the country abolished death penalty. But one will also be shock to find out that in 2009, three years after death penalty was abolished, crime rate has gone up to 545%. That is five times higher compared to the rate in 2001.

Again, the data above is a clear sign that the crime rate was not high in the past compared today because of the imposition of death penalty as a punishment for heinous crimes such as murder and rape. Today, if person is convicted of a crime punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the penalty is Reclusion Perpetua (20 years and 1 day to 40 years of imprisonment). If the crime committed is a violation of special law like RA 8353 or the New Anti-Rape Law, the penalty is Life Imprisonment.

So, is death penalty a solution?

Some lawmakers (Sen. Sotto and Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada) believe that it’s a high time for the reimposition of death penalty as the capital punishment of the land. The continuous increase of crime volume still remains as the reason for them to push this in the senate. On the other hand, the religious will intervene by saying only the Almighty can take away life and not man.

Philippines, given that it is the only Christian-dominant country in the Southeast Asia, is torn between choosing the interest of the country in terms of safety and security of its people and moral judgement.

Let zoom in to Zamboanga, a melting pot for [unsolved] crimes.

I happen to interview a known instructor of the College of Social Science (WMSU) who teaches Political Science and History. He goes by the name of Mr. Al-Ghani Mohammad. I asked him if the imposition (or reimposition) of death penalty as capital punishment will sow fear in the hearts of the criminals and he said “Yes. Case in point is Davao City. Although death penalty is not imposed but the Mayor resorts to extrajudicial killings for erring violators of law. People who have criminal intent will have a second thought to realize their ill motive because they know that death awaits them. Fear mitigates fear. This is a classic example of the time-honored principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

I threw a follow up question that goes “Do you think sir that scheme will also work in Zamboanga? Or there is no need for that if only the government knows how to handle such crisis?”

The instructor said “I assume yes. But Zamboanga City is different from Davao City. We cannot apply the extrajudicial remedy here in Zamboanga City given the fact that it is a melting pot of various cultures, aside from the fact that extreme individuals are also here. We have so many laws. What the city government should do is a no non-sense implementation of these laws. To do this, our city officials especially the mayor should have a political will. According to Machiavelli, a leader should be both loved and feared. But if it is impossible to be both, it is better to be feared. Duterte applies this principle. I think Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climcao-Salazar Beng do the same.”

And I believe what Mr. Mohammad said is true. The crimes that continues to haunt our land is solvable either by hook or by crook. Our leaders should start exercising power using a metal hand, only then these crimes can be mitigated; only then, safety and security are ensured. Only then, we can finally say “It’s More Fun In The Philippines!”
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