The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has already responded to requests sent by the Malacanang Palace on the "Flores de Pusher" issue. According to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, they believe that the CHR is the best body to accurately evaluate whether the walk of shame that the drug pushers were forced to do was really within the law.
These recent turn of events, inspired by the Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's rise to power, raises a serious question: is public shaming a legitimate and justifiable form of punishment?
According to international mandate and human psychology - as well as the writer's personal perspective on this issue - it isn't. Such an act has so much potential to spin out of control and make things infinitely worse.
"They deserve it"
One of the strongest arguments for public shaming is simple: these criminals deserve to be humiliated. This humbling experience will somehow show them the error of their ways, and they can soon return to being a functioning member of society.
However, human psychology shows that this isn't the case. Most pedophiles, for example, are well aware that they have improper sexual impulses, and they themselves loathe this part of their being. Does the shaming - such as public registries - cause the pedophile to change his ways? It's highly unlikely. Does it discourage others from pedophilia, or does it just drive the fetish further underground?
Another example is racism. The environment you grow up in can render you immune to feelings of shame, especially if you are being shamed for deeply rooted prejudices. Imagine this: you are a teenager, with white supremacist parents, living in a white supremacist neighborhood, and you get suspended from school because you said something racist. Do you reflect and realize you and brown people are one and the same, or do you simply become hateful towards those who have rebuked you - fueled by your prejudices, and strengthening them as well? Does it even stop you from being racist, or do you just find ways to do these things where you believe you're less likely to get caught?
Go for the roots, not the branches
It is wrong to think that deeply rooted social diseases such as racism, sexism and homophobia are just individual failures that can be cured through vicious public scrutiny and a permanent stain on their personhood.
Even if this does help the individual turn over a new leaf, would society still accept him? Would this policy help others change too? And overall, would it help fight these pervasive prejudices?
According to an article from the National Journal, some believe that this punishment "could demonize low-level offenders in difficult personal situations" - forcing them instead to continue the cycle.
Modern public shaming lasts much longer than that of the past - remember that once incriminating information about a person is available online, it can be replicated an infinite number of times, and it's never going to go away.
The upload of information renders public shamings much more fatal in the long term than the scarlet letter - which, if you get the reference, was at least branded on her chest, which she could cover. Imagine how, years from now, an employee might have second thoughts about hiring an otherwise exceptional candidate because of a reckless comment or a drug pushing job she had managed to recover from being readily broadcast on the internet.
In addition to that, this leaves the criminals vulnerable to malicious counterattacks from netizens on all sorts of social media platforms.
This all goes to show that public shaming is highly unwieldy, and can quickly spiral out of control. This punishment carries a high risk of causing more harm than the initial offense - and one of the tenets of criminal justice is that the punishment must fit the crime.
In fact, it seems more like a tool used to dehumanize the criminal for the sake of satisfying the crowd.
To people who think some criminals do not deserve humane punishments, it wouldn't hurt to reevaluate your stance on this. Arbitrarily oppressing the people who have oppressed us will almost certainly not end well. One cannot save a criminal by making him a victim.
At the core of this issue, we should make sure we are not blindly led by a twisted sense of self-rightesousness, hiding behind the mask of social justice.