Sunday, June 26, 2016

A PRIMER ON THE DEATH PENALTY: How to Approach the Controversy

A PRIMER ON THE DEATH PENALTY: How to Approach the Controversy
by Randy Dellosa, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, life coach

If I were asked to name some people who were sentenced to death by public execution, 5 people would automatically come to mind. Three of them comprise the priests known collectively as “Gomburza.” The fourth one would be Dr. Jose Rizal. And the last one would be Jesus Christ. As for the manner by which they were publicly executed, Gomburza died by garrote, Rizal by firing squad, and Christ by crucifixion.


In Philippine History class, I learned that PNoy’s father, Senator Benigno Aquino himself, was one of those sentenced to die by firing squad. He may have escaped the firing squad, but paradoxically, it was still a bullet that took his life. It is understandable then why Corazon Aquino abolished the death penalty during her term.


Throughout history, the issue of death penalty has always been a controversial topic mainly because there are strong arguments for and against its imposition.

Main arguments FOR the death penalty:

1. A life for a life. Those who commit heinous crimes such as plunder, treason, kidnapping, arson, murder, and rape should be killed.

2. Criminals who fear the death penalty will think twice before committing crime.

3. We can be sure that those who were executed will never ever commit crime again.

4. Revenge (retribution) is necessary so that family members of the victim can have emotional closure. 

5. Killing the criminal is more humane than imposing a life sentence behind bars.

Main arguments AGAINST the death penalty:


1. It is a proven fact that the death penalty does not prevent crime. Some research studies even indicate that the crime rates increase after a public execution. 

2. Because the justice system is strongly-flawed, innocent people have been intentionally or mistakenly executed.

3. The death penalty is discriminatorily applied to poor people, racially-prejudiced people, and people with mental illness. Rich and influential people are rarely meted the death penalty.

4. Supporters of the death penalty are as morally guilty as the executioner that kills the criminal.

5. Those who are executed are deprived of the chance to rehabilitate their lives.


If you are FOR the death penalty, the type of justice that you espouse is called “retributive justice.” “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” is how the Old Testament puts it. The primary emphasis of retributive justice is retaliation or vengeance for the crime committed.

If you are AGAINST the death penalty, the type of justice that might appeal to you is called “restorative justice.” It is focused on making the criminal offender suffer a life sentence in prison but with the aim of rehabilitating the offender, meeting the needs of the victim(s) and the community, and promoting healing for all involved.


In the upcoming debate on the death penalty, you can expect that social media trolls are going to resurrect in full force as they did during the elections.

Trolls are easily recognized because they are closed-minded, potty-mouthed, arrogant, hateful, illogical, and sarcastic cyberbullies. Their reasoning is flawed by their emotional prejudices and political loyalties. And the most annoying thing about them is that they actually enjoy provoking anger among netizens.


Here are my tips on how you can be a reflective thinker/analyst on the controversial topic of the death penalty:

* Don’t rush in making a decision on the death penalty. Postpone making a final decision until you have thoroughly studied and reflected on the details of the issue.

* Listen open-mindedly to points of view that oppose yours. 

* Welcome sound criticisms about your beliefs and assumptions. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. 

* Base your beliefs on facts and evidence rather than on political loyalty or emotional biases.

* Study and appreciate the arguments on both sides.

* Be respectful to those who don’t share your views. Agree to disagree.

* Learn from discussion groups, debates, and experts from both sides. 

* Place yourself in the shoes of the family members of the victims of heinous crimes.

* Place yourself in the shoes of prisoners awaiting their execution.

* And lastly, think independently. Be your own person. Don’t be a blind follower or group-thinker.

Have a good day, fellow Flips, and MABUHAY TAYONG LAHAT! (Except of course the prisoners on death row). Sincerely yours, Mahatma Randhi :D

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