FACULTY of Sacred Theology Dean Rev. Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P. has denounced the death penalty as a “sanitized or stylized form of vengeance” and said respect for human life applies even to criminals.
“Each of us is called to respect the life and the dignity of human being. Respect for life applies to all, even to the perpetrators of terrible acts. No one can forfeit the right to life because life is not at the disposal even of the State,” Aligan said in a forum last May 18.
Capital punishment should not be an issue of the emotional or political aspect and a tool to advance the interests of politicians, he added.
Aligan called on Thomasians to be objective and discerning to fully realize the ill effects of restoring capital punishment in the Philippines, where the justice system favors the rich and well-connected.
“As Thomasians, they should always search for the truth and at the same time, they should not be emotional about the matter. The more na emotional ka, the more you associate yourselves with persons. Try to be objective and try to know what’s wrong with the death penalty,” Aligan told the Varsitarian.
Philosophy professor Jove Jim Aguas said the government has a moral obligation to provide rehabilitation opportunities for convicts and that their welfare is still a concern of the State.
“It’s not just the obligation of the State that criminals are punished [but also] that they are rehabilitated or reformed. You don’t execute everyone who violates the law. There is hope that criminals are rehabilitated and reintegrated in the society,” he said.
Bringing back death penalty will only destroy the sanctity of human life and will not be beneficial to the poor, Aguas said.
“It (death penalty) will put us in a bitter, deeper mark. It will only put a big dent on our values. Put death there and who will be executed? The rich and the politicians? If death penalty will only execute the poor, it will make their lives [more] miserable,” he said.
Last May 12, UST Rector Rev. Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. called on the Thomasian community to join the campaign against the reimposition of the death penalty and urged University faculty and staff to conduct dialogues and discussion groups with students to raise awareness and a deeper understanding on the value and sacredness of human life.
“As the culture of death threatens to engulf our society, we are called to go against this tide and instead, promote a culture of life and respect for human dignity. To this, we must continue to say no to the re-imposition of the death penalty,” he said.
Dagohoy also called for support for an online petition, signed by him together with presidents of Catholic schools including Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University, San Beda College and St. Scholastica’s College, addressed to senators who are set to deliberate and vote on the death penalty bill soon.
House Bill 4727 was passed on the third and final reading in the House of Representatives last March 7, with 217 congressmen voting in favor, 54 against, and one abstention.
Only drug-related offenses will be punishable by death under the measure as lawmakers voted to remove rape, plunder and treason as crimes covered by the bill.
The forum titled “Pax-Usapan: Restoring Death Penalty in the Philippines” was organized by Pax Romana in the Faculty of Arts and Letters.