The Death Penalty in the Philippines

Once again we see a backwards looking initiative that is not going to make one bit of difference to the crime rate in the Philippines. The recent proposal to reinstate the death penalty in the Philippines highlights the short-sightedness and rigid thinking of the new administration.

To reinforce the blood thirsty nature of the President he has recently commented on his intentions to “execute five or six death row convicts daily.” 

This would target murderers, drug traffickers and rapists. All abhorrent individuals that deserve to be punished for their crimes. However, are these the kind of people who think of the consequences of their actions? Of course they are not. The intended cause and effect behind this change simply doesn’t exist in the first place. For the sake of this article though, let’s assume hypothetically that the death penalty is actually an effective deterrent.   

There are two issues here for people to consider. The morality of the death penalty sponsored by government, and the system’s capability to support such a definite and final sentence without fault.


The first issue is a personal judgment for all Filipinos to make. Being a deeply religious country on the surface you would expect people to be against this on moral grounds. I would not be surprised if this was not the case though. The last six months has raised numerous moral questions around government action and many have not cared in the slightest. 

Being religious and being a good person I don’t see in any way linked. So let’s put aside the morality argument for now.

Can Filipinos say with confidence that the justice system is capable of delivering sound justice? This is likely to raise more doubts than the moral question. If the system is not reliable then we should never even make it as far as the moral question when assessing the validity of such a penalty. The potential for error is just too great.

Regardless of your opinion on the morality of executing criminals, I don’t think many would think it moral to execute innocent people. Unless of course they put them in the collateral damage category that has been synonymous with the thousands of deaths in the last six months.

I may be going out on a limb here, but my assumption is that people do not want to see innocents killed and would be disgusted by the possibility of this happening. This is the heart of the issue and people are not making any noise about this risk. So perhaps I am wrong.

For those who support this action I would be interested to hear your case for your blind faith in the legal system.

Every single person in the country is vulnerable to a false accusation that could land them on death row.

Making it to Death Row an Achievement in Itself

In the context of what is happening in the Philippines ending up as an innocent on death row would almost be a victory. There would still be some hope that you can prove your innocence. To get there though you would have to survive the arrest and being held in a cell awaiting trial without being shot…. Both have scenarios have been risky lately with suspects being gunned down while in handcuffs frequently.

Then of course you have to survive the subhuman conditions in jail that will only get worse.

Fix the System First

Again we see Duterte putting the cart before the horse. He wants results, but he jumps to the end without the proper processes in place. These shortcuts will result in awful things happening.

How can you enforce the death penalty with any confidence when the justice system is sick? Putting a person to death is a very final act. Unless you can be sure of the person’s guilt it is not something that should ever be considered.

Vision + Substance Required

Why not seek reform of both the Police Force and the Justice system before implementing the death penalty? This will take time yes, but it is needed. Such deeply enshrined problems take time to fix. As will the poverty that leads so many to become criminals in the first place.

Quick fixes and band aid solutions will not take the Philippines where Duterte wants it to go. His intentions and vision for a great Philippines remains admirable. But his execution (pun not intended) remains destined to condemn the country to long term suffering and continuation of the roundabout of problems that have plagued the Philippines for decades.

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