Will capital punishment spur economic growth? | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

Will capital punishment spur economic growth?

/ 07:35 PM February 16, 2014

When we see affluence and sustained economic growth among rich Asian neighbors, a common denominator that pervades is the imposition of capital punishment upon criminals either from the ranks of their citizens or foreigners breaking the law classified as heinous.

From these prosperous Asian neighbors, fear has been struck in the hearts of their nationals whose ultimate outcome is respect for the law.

This same mind-set is naturally conveyed to foreign criminals who obviously shy away from territories with their own nationals fearful of losing their own lives due to infractions.


Capital punishments


In these countries, a crime committed deserving capital punishment is adjudged based on its degree of bestiality, brutality, against another or simply breaking a law that is intended to protect its nationals from grave harm such as kidnapping, rape, robbery, murder and even drug smuggling.

The cultural heritage of Asians is another aspect to consider.

Fear of the law seems to permeate in progressive Asian countries arising from a higher degree of respect upon each national toward another.

China has overtaken traditionally progressive Asian, American, European, Middle East and African nations in terms of rate of continuous economic growth.

In spite of its dense population as one of the largest in the world, that nation is relatively at peace.  Respect for the law rises as a consequence of its law on capital punishment.

As an outcome, economic growth has been phenomenal.


Singapore is also highly respected and regarded by the whole world as a country so peaceful and progressive.  There is a relatively high level of awareness of strict enforcement of their local laws from a simple infraction such as smoking in public and littering while capital punishment for drug trafficking is known as a heinous crime.

Their economic growth has been one of the models for the entire world to see.  And capital punishment is ever present.

Malaysia has likewise transformed into an economic powerhouse. Capital punishment is strictly enforced especially if it is drug related.  Since 1960, there have been 441 executions, nearly half are drug related. Today, there are nearly 700 cases under death row; nearly 70 percent are drug related.

On the other hand, Japan’s capital punishment is a statutory mandate covering crimes related to murder and treason.  Between 1946 and 1993, Japanese courts had sentenced 766 people to death, 608 of whom were executed. The death penalty is ordinarily imposed in cases of multiple murders involving aggravating factors. There were nine-point set of criteria imposing death penalty, in consideration of the degree of criminal liability and balance of justice. Though technically not a precedent, this guideline has been followed by all subsequent capital cases in Japan. The nine criteria are as follows:

1. Degree of viciousness or bestiality

2. Motive

3. How the crime was committed; especially the manner in which the victim was killed.

4. Outcome of the crime; especially the number of victims.

5. Sentiments of the bereaved family members.

6. Impact of the crime on Japanese society.

7. Defendant’s age (in Japan, one is a minor until the age of 20).

8. Defendant’s previous criminal record.

9. Degree of remorse shown by the defendant.

And as we can all see, Japan remains to be an economic powerhouse.

Common denominator

All these Asian economic titans have one common denominator.  They imposed a measure to strike fear in the hearts of their nationals to ensure respect for the law. In so doing, stability ensued, enabling and empowering their citizenry to pursue higher ideals and embracing cultural values that encouraged investments to rise from internal and external investors.  Credibility and assurance of return on investments rest on the integrity of the entire citizenry of a country.

Arguments against capital punishment have always been linked with political, professional consequences and religious beliefs.  The cover-up has consistently been the need to show mercy upon the criminals. Completely erased from the spectrum are the sentiments of the victims, pain and suffering from relatives, economic impact upon the lives of families left behind.  Completely disregarded are the dimensions of the crime based on degree of bestiality and heinousness of the crime.

In the Philippines, striking fear in the hearts of the citizenry and public servants has been proven to be a factor contributing to economic growth.  The stance of President Aquino against corruption starting from the judiciary (ala Justice Corona) has empowered the government and private sector to pursue infrastructure projects—encouraging investments from internal and external investors. From this measure alone, confidence upon our country has risen with investment grades rising.  Crime remains unabated though, against claims of a rate of decline being documented.

Politics remains to be an element that saw the implementation, suspension, revocation and reinstatement of capital punishment. President Marcos implemented the law in his term, eventually revoked, then reinstated by President Ramos, implemented by President Estrada, again revoked by President Macapagal-Arroyo.  Each decision was based on the political scenario managed by the incumbent President. When President Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment, there was a recorded rise in crime rate by as much as 37 percent, with the Maguindanao massacre being the highlight.

Capital punishment

The logic, or illogic, commonly used to block capital punishment is that crime will still be committed despite its presence and will not deter crimes completely. But the seeming reality is that whatever set of measures a country takes, crimes persist, regardless of religious and political beliefs notwithstanding.

In a speech, President Aquino said his government’s strategy to prevent crimes in the Philippines rests on “an empowered citizenry, a skilled and trusted law enforcement sector, an effective prosecutorial service, and an independent judiciary.”

Yet to others, to complete the entire gamut of law enforcement, what President Aquino stated above may not be enough.  Capital punishment may be a desired option to consider as a just recompense equal to the gravity of the crime.  It is a deterrent, a means to strike terror in the hearts of criminals, a complete strategy to truly empower citizenry, for the public to respect the law, inclusive and part of all prosecutorial services that an independent judiciary can choose to apply.  For others, capital punishment should not be singled out as a “no-no” based solely on political and religious sentiments.

Indeed, from the serious opinion of those who subscribe to it, capital punishment is part of the realm of justice as rightly proportionate to criminal acts of a heinous nature and fair retribution for the victims thereof.  With this one element in place, respect and fear for the law will ensue, degree of peace and respect for others will rise, and commensurately so too will confidence grow from its own citizens, attracting foreign investments.

Will capital punishment then spur economic growth?  Will our prosperous Asian neighbors be enough proof of this concept? Time will tell.

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(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a member of the MAP CSR Committee and President of the NV-VOGT Philippines SPVs. Feedback at <[email protected]>  and <[email protected] >. For previous articles, please visit www.map.org.ph)

TAGS: death penalty, economy, News

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