Why I am against the death penalty

I USED to favor the death penalty. In my younger years, I thought people who committed heinous crimes deserved to die at the hands of the State. Slice him open and make him bleed–that sort of mindset. My generation can still remember the public execution of drug lord, Lim Seng, during the Marcos regime as a prime example of using the death penalty as a deterrent. There are crimes that are so vicious and senseless and brutal that one can’t help but feel rage against its perpetrators. Child rape. Chop-chop murders. Acts of terror aimed at killing on a massive scale. There is so much to seek vengeance for.

So, I understand those who favor the death penalty. I respect their opinion. They just want our society to be safer. They want the State to deliver the deadly kick to that tiny elite of criminals that deserve to be quickly dispatched to perdition. Why should the State pay for the upkeep of these murderers, drug lords, and rapists? Just kill them and let their deaths serve as a warning to those embracing a life of crime.

I can’t exactly remember when I switched sides. It may have been during the time when Dondon Lanuza reached out to our non-profit organization, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, because he needed to raise millions in blood money in order to prevent his own execution in Saudi Arabia. He once told me that he would sleep in his bunk bed at the Saudi jail and be jolted awake, fearful that the jail guards would be coming to drag him to the plaza to be beheaded.

Certainly, I could never go back to favoring the death penalty after helping the family of OFW Jakatia Pawa before, during and after her execution in Kuwait. She was hanged despite being innocent.

Yet here again, we face the same battle to save Jennifer Dalquez, an OFW in the United Arab Emirates, who stabbed her employer with the same knife he was threatening to kill her with, while attempting to rape her. She was defending her life, her honor. Unless the high court reverses her conviction, Jennifer will be facing the death sentence for a crime she was forced to commit.

This is what I believe. It is not impossible that the State may execute an accused by virtue of his or her poverty, and lack of access to decent legal advice and representation. Indonesian authorities intercepted the smuggled drugs hidden in Mary Jane Veloso’s suitcase. She was thrown in jail. Who financed the entire operation? I don’t think her Filipino recruiters could afford to capitalize a 6.7 lbs heroin shipment. The financiers, said to belong to a West African syndicate, have disappeared, leaving a poor domestic worker-wannabe on death row.

Hooded vigilantes that roam our streets to kill suspected drug pushers and users, avoid gated communities, for obvious reasons. They barge in and slay people, then disappear into the night. How many of them have been caught? How many of them have links to hoodlums in uniform?

Will that barbaric, powerful underworld where mercenaries reside, implode with the restoration of the death penalty? Or will the talent fees of cold-blooded killers riding tandem on a motorcycle simply escalate?

I think being imprisoned in our congested jail cells under the most inhumane conditions possible is already hell. Oh, but what about the lifestyles of the rich and famous at the New Bilibid Prison? Despite their braggadocio, these rich inmates are not exactly in nirvana. Even if a convicted felon is alive and behind bars, there is an open grave waiting, courtesy of a rival gang, or a corrupt guard, or someone on the outside wishing that particular inmate eternal peace. Even in the most corrupt jails, every inmate is fair game because you never know who your conspirators are. And get this, when you accidentally slip and fall in the bathroom into someone else’s dagger, nobody within the system really cares.

Rid the Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and its attached agencies, and our entire judicial system, of state-funded hooligans. Light up our streets, and invest in CCTV cameras that are actually hooked to a 24/7 anti-crime monitoring system. Triple the number of uniformed personnel pounding the beat. Increase and upgrade the salaries of our public attorneys, and file more cases against corrupt judges and justices.

Let’s demonstrate enormous political will in carrying out the above measures, and then let’s see whether we still need the State to impose the death sentence.

I do not favor the death penalty, but that’s just my personal opinion. What’s yours?


Manila Times Link: Why I am against the death penalty

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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