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Death Penalty: Moral or Immoral?

By MARVIN G. AÑONUEVO    (January 20, 2004)

           "...that Death Penalty Law does not defy the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life..."

            I keep on asking to myself, why it is that some religious leaders are unaware of the biblical views regarding “death penalty”. Last December 31, 2003, I was reading a newspaper, the Philippine Star. While doing so, I came across the news article of Ann Corvera on the issue of moral values of the candidates we have today. Her news article highlighted statements of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, urging Filipinos to closely examine the values of candidates in the May 2004 elections, particularly their stand on population control and the death penalty law.

On death penalty law, the Archbishop convincingly said that re-imposing the death penalty defies the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life. To resort to capital punishment in an effort to instill peace and order in the country is a sign of failure of the community. “The very fact that you impose (the death penalty) is an admission of failure. It is an acceptance that our laws, our mores, our culture, our behavior could not sustain peace,” he said.

By this statement, it is quite obvious that the Archbishop of Manila is against death penalty law for the reason that according to him it defies the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life. The question is this. Does death penalty really defy the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life?

Death penalty Law is really one of the controversial issues in the country today. Some groups agree, and some do not. In fact, some of those who really oppose go in an open air just to object.  But what I have observed, many of those who disagree do not have substantial and sufficient reasons why they are against the issue.

 Since God is the source of life and Christianity is a religion built on scriptures, let the Bible be the basis of our reasons.  Reasons must be based on correct understanding of biblical principles, and that is founded on the Old and New Testament scriptures of the Bible. To the Christians who wish to take the Bible seriously – which is the classical standpoint – it does not become difficult to see the Bible’s message concerning the death penalty

While I was writing this article, one of my friends shared to me her stand about this issue. She told me that she is against the execution of this law as a penalty for heinous crimes committed by somebody, for the reason that it violates the divine law as stated in the ten commandments, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). Besides according to her, death penalty is not the positive solution in order to prevent raging crimes in the country. Well, I said, I am very much convinced, without shadow of doubts that religious people must oppose abortion for it is absolutely prohibited. It is always evil. No one can ever abort a ‘guilty’ baby, so the act can never be right. But this is not the case, however, with capital punishment.

Then I asked her: “What if a soldier kills an enemy during an encounter, does he violate the law of God?” Remember, God’s word says that love your enemy. “Oh, that’s another story. Soldiers are to protect the people from bad elements. I mean that is in line with their duties being in authority,” she replied. Now, if this is the argument, a person can be inconsistent in his stand that God alone has the right to take away man’s life because even a person is in authority for the reason that it’s still killing a person!

Let me share to you friends the biblical views regarding this issue. And I am very much convinced based on the Word of God, that Death Penalty Law does not defy the fundamental commandment of God not to take away man’s life for the grounds that the defendant not only act illegally, willfully in causing the death, but act deliberately, and does the evidence show, beyond a reasonable doubt.


In Exodus 20:13 "You shall not murder." Laymen and those not initiated sometimes get ahead of themselves and carelessly believe that the Bible forbids the death penalty because of this commandment. But this is a great mistake. Bible scholars are united in interpretation that the commandment has nothing to do with the capital punishment. To give three examples: (1) The Catholic commentary The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 1993, writes as a comment on this verse: "Only illegal killing is prohibited; Israel had the death penalty". (2) “Thou shalt not kill.”   Virtually all religious scholars agree that the correctly translated commandment "Thou shalt not murder" is a prohibition against individual cases of murder… (Dr. Charles Ryrie, Biblical Answers to Contemporary Issues & The Ryrie Study Bible, Exodus 20:13). (3) The protestant Study Bible New Geneva Study Bible, 1995, writes: "The verb here is never applied to Israel at war, and capital punishment was already authorized. (Gen. 9:6, Lev. 24:17, Num. 35:30-34).  


            There is no biblical prohibition against the government imposition of the death penalty in deserving cases instead the Bible clearly asserts, from beginning to end, without any reservation, that righteous judgments include the execution of a murderer. In fact, after saying ‘Thou shalt not kill’, the Law says, ‘He that smites a man so that he may die, shall be surely put to death’ (Ex 21:12). The two appear in the same context, exactly 25 verses " See also Leviticus 24:17 and Numbers 35:30-31.  




            (1) Justice - Opponents of capital punishment reflect social positions that have questionable biblical foundation and, often, they reflect positions which selectively only discuss the mercy of God and improperly avoid the justice of God. One of the purposes of capital punishment is justice. A person who takes a human life, without proper sanction, forfeits any right to life - no alternative is allowed and the community must not be swayed by values to the contrary.

 Numbers 35:31 "Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death." In other words, no one should be able to buy himself free from the death penalty. Money should not be able to save the life of a murderer. George W. Bush, the president of the USA: “I support the death penalty because I believe, if administered swiftly and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and will save other innocent lives.”

Opponent’s questionable biblical foundations are usually found within the following categories: (a) Confusing the obligations of individuals with those of the government. Example: Matthew 5:38-39: "You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also." Strangely, opponents cite this as proof of Jesus’ abandonment of capital punishment. If one were to assume that this text refers to the actions of the governing authority and not individual obligations, then one would clearly find that government could not enforce any law which sought to protect the lives and property of its law abiding citizens. There is no reference to capital punishment in the text. Therefore, all wrongdoers, be that robbers, rapists or murderers could act repeatedly, with impunity, if the text was an obligation on the governing authority. This text is directed at individuals and has no application to the governing authority or its right and duty to execute. (b)  Believing that Christ abandoned the Law of the Hebrew Testament and instituted a new ethic in the New Testament, based solely on mercy. There are 20 chapters, within the 28 chapters of Matthew, which discuss destruction, hell, unquenchable fire, and/or differing forms of  punishment and exclusion by God (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 8:12; 11:23-24; 12:30-32; 13:41-42, 49-50; 18:8-9; 22:2-14; 23:33, 25:40-46) and/or honor the Law of the Hebrew Testament (see specific references Matthew 5 and 15). "For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Ephesians 5:5. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9. And so it is throughout the New Testament. See also  Mark 3:29; Luke 13:24-28; John 5:24-29, 15:6; 2 Peter 2:4-9; Jude 1:5-15: Revelation 13:10. 

 (2) Peace and Order - St. Thomas Aquinas, states, “The civil rulers execute, justly and sinlessly, pestiferous men in order to protect the peace of the state." (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146.) "If a man is a danger to the community, threatening it with disintegration by some wrongdoing of his, then his execution for the healing and preservation of the common good is to be commended.  Only the public authority, not private persons, may licitly execute malefactors by public judgment. Men shall be sentenced to death for crimes of irreparable harm or which are particularly perverted." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 11; 65-2; 66-6).


(3) Obedience - Capital punishment was not only allowed but mandated in the Old Testament. In the New Law (New Testament), St. Paul recognizes the legitimacy of capital punishment; it is not without purpose that the ruler carries the sword. He is God’s servant, to inflict his avenging wrath upon the wrongdoer. “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing” (Romans 13:4).


One of the most respected of all popes, Pope Pius V, reaffirmed, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) that execution is an act of paramount obedience to the (fifth/sixth) commandment. "The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder."  


Referring to that Catechism, Catholic scholar Father James Reilly, M.S. notes that "From the time of St. Paul until today this has always been the official teaching of the Catholic Church and only the Holy See or a General Counsel has the authority to change it. The curious thing is that those Catholics who have repeatedly condemned capital punishment and have, often, apparently at least, declared it immoral, never refer to that passage from the Roman Catechism. It may be that they are unaware of it, but such ignorance is, in my opinion, inexcusable." (Haven Bradford Gow, "Religious Views Support The Death Penalty", The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints, Greenhaven Press, 1986, p. 82 ).

 (4) Punishment - If no crime deserves punishment by death, and then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves. Matthew 27: “As Christ became accursed of the cross for us, for our salvation He was crucified as a guilty one among the guilty.” That Christ be put to death as a guilty person, presupposes that death is a fitting punishment for those who are guilty. Of course we understood that Christ was not a sinner, but he became sin for us. But one of the malefactors (thief) that was on the other cross, admitted that because he was a sinner, he was worthy of death. “We (the criminals) are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man (Jesus) has done nothing wrong,” (Luke 23:41). As Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount, "Obedience will be rewarded with life; disobedience will be punished with destruction. A God who rewards with life and punishes with death is One whose laws provide for death as a judicial punishment.

Crimes that deserved death penalty according to the Bible are the following:

1. Murder (Gen 9:6, Ex 21:12, Numb 35:16-21).

2. Abuse of father or mother (Ex 21:15).

3. Speaking a curse over parents (Ex 21:17).

4. Blasphemy against God (Lev 24:14-16,23).

5. Breaking the Sabbath (Ex 31:14, Numb 15:32-36).

6. Practicing magic (Ex 22:18).

7. Fortune telling and practicing sorcery (Lev. 20:27).  

8. Religious people who mislead others to fall away (Deut 13:1-5, 18:20)

9. Adultery and fornication (Lev 20:10-12, Deut 22:22).

10. If a woman has intercourse before marriage (Deut 22:20-21).

11. If two people have intercourse when one of them is engaged. (Deut 22:23-24).

12. The daughter of a priest practicing prostitution (Lev 21:9).

13. Rape of someone who is engaged (Deut 22:25).

14. Having intercourse with animals (Ex 22:19).

15. Worshipping idols (Ex 22:20, Lev 20:1-5, Deut 17:2-7).

16. Incest (Lev 20:11-12, 14, 19-21).

17. Homosexuality (Lev 20:13).

18. Kidnapping (Ex 21:16).

19. To bear false testimony at a trial (Deut 19:16, 19).

20. Contempt of court (Deut 17:8-13).


The manner of execution in the Old Testament could be stoning, burning, using a sword, spear or arrow (Lev 20:27, 21:9, Ex 19:13, 32:27, Numb 25:7-8).


(5) Warning - Regarding the deterrent affect of the death penalty, poet Hyam Barshay made the following observation; "The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down." Prof. Ernest van den Haag, "On Deterrence and The Death Penalty", Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, vol. 60, no.2 (1969).

            (6) Prevention - "If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." (John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence.)

By executing murderers you prevent them from murdering again and do, thereby, save innocent life. This means those potential murderers would be prevented under specific circumstances because of their fear of execution. There are many, perhaps thousands, of such documented cases, representing many innocent lives saved by the fear of execution. Circumstances dictate that the majority of these cases will never be documented and that the number of innocent lives saved by individual deterrence will be, and has been, much greater than we will ever be able to calculate.

These are just few of so many verses in the Bible that support death penalty. God’s command concerning death penalty is an expression of God’s holiness and righteousness. God has set certain orders. When the created man breaks these, God imposes punishment. That God uses the death penalty for crimes such as murder, assault, cursing and sexual sins, shows, not that God is mean and vicious, but that God values mankind and the eternal moral principles very highly. When a person violates or hurts a fellow man by words or acts this is something very serious to the Creator. Such things must sometimes be punished by death. Thus, it shows that God cares for us ordinary people, that He wants to protect us and that He wants us all well. Without order and without punishment we would only be creatures lacking responsibility that could do whatever we wanted to each other without being held responsible for anything. We would then live in a world that did not have any morals or ethics.

Perhaps you might ask: “Can we not give those criminals the opportunity to live and repent of their sins? “The fact that the evil, as long as they live, can be corrected from their errors does not prohibit the fact that they may be justly executed, for the danger which threatens from their way of life is greater and more certain than the good which may be expected from their improvement. They also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers." St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, 146.

Finally, let me close this article by these sayings: Our choice is to spare the lives of the murderers and to, thereby, sacrifice the lives of the innocent or to execute those murderers and to, thereby, spare the lives of the innocent.  Which do you choose?

God bless our Nation!

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The Extortion Acts of the NPA

By Capt CROMWELL I. DANGANAN (INF) PA     (January 16, 2004)

            “…this shameful act of extortion is one of the main causes of corruption and irregularity in the government as the politicians are blackmailed into giving-in to this misdeed.”

            This year, the CPP/NPA/NDF members will be tasked to collect more money, and stuff for the movement.  They will take advantage of the fear they are instilling to the populace in order to add more funds for their cause.

            Aside from the Permit to Campaign (PTC) Fees they will get from politicians, business establishments and small entrepreneurs are being monitored by the NPA extortionists to strike at every opportunity and stash cash away from their hands. They extort money as their primary means to sustain their hopeless armed struggle.  They consider themselves as modern heroes, capitalizing on the underdog mentality of the Filipino people to justify their existence.

            The people must understand that this is merely a myth. The people must not cooperate and refuse to be extorted. The CPP/NPA/NDF will have a heyday collecting millions this year without thinking that all businesses are suffering the economic slump. The main bulk of their extortion this year would come from their imposition of PTC to candidates for this coming election.             This shameful act of extortion is one of the main causes of corruption and irregularity in the government as the politicians are blackmailed into giving-in to this misdeed. And not only rich owners of businesses are spared. Even the lowly farmer or barrio folk is deprived of a decent meal.  Farm animals and tools are also targets of these extortionists. There have been consistent reports of extortion from the IRA of local government units, denying progress and development in the countryside.

            Our country would have marched to progress years ago. Our country lost 34 years of economic progress, compliments of the communists. This year, these CPP extortionists must have the conscience not to collect fees from candidates as they are among the groups advocating for a corruption-free system of government, and not to deprive a peasant farmer's family of five a kilo of rice or two pieces of eggs for the survival of 20 NPA rebels too lazy to work for a living and who would rather subsist like parasites on the produce of the needy, suffering masses.

            "Say no to these extortionists," is the advise of MGen Rabonza, 8ID Commanding General. The people, he said have no obligation whatsoever to support terrorists like the NPAs.

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