House committee OKs death penalty
Plunderers, traitors, pirates, rapists, murderers, drug addicts and dealers, and car thieves will face death by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection under the proposed “Death Penalty Law” that has passed committee-level approval at the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, the House justice committee approved, by a 12-6 vote, a substitute measure reimposing the capital punishment for heinous crimes, sending the bill to the plenary floor for deliberations on second and third reading. The bill consolidated several similar measures.
With its rapid approval despite spirited objections from some lawmakers, the measure allowing courts to impose death as punishment for terrible crimes—one of President Duterte’s campaign promises—may be debated on the plenary floor and possibly passed on third and final reading before Christmas.
House leaders are targeting passage of the bill on final reading before Congress adjourns for the holidays next week.
Under the proposed “Death Penalty Law” drafted by the subcommittee on judicial reforms, the penalty of death shall be imposed on 21 “heinous” offenses, amending the punitive provisions of all concerned laws and statutes.
The crimes are:
Treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence, destructive arson, plunder.
Dangerous drug importation, sale and trading, manufacture, possession, cultivation and unlawful prescription, misappropriating confiscated illegal drugs and planting of evidence by public officers, and car theft.
The bill also states exemptions to the death penalty, such as when the offender is below 18 years old or when the guilty person is more than 70 years old.
The method shall be by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection, according to the proposal.
Authors of the bill include Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.
The approval of the committee report was preceded by a nearly three-hour-long debate by lawmakers in favor of or opposed to the death penalty bill, one of the priority legislative agenda items pushed by Mr. Duterte, along with measures lowering the age of criminal liability and switching to federalism.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao strongly objected to the approval of the bill, arguing that there were no compelling reasons to justify the reimposition of capital punishment.
But in the face of an overwhelming majority, their arguments fell on deaf ears.
Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, a former Court of Appeals justice, said it was important to give courts the option to impose the penalty of death against the worst and most hardened criminals.
“If the one in front of you is Satan himself, at least give the government the option to kill the person. That’s Satan already,” he said.
Mostly among the poor
Bag-ao begged to disagree with Veloso, saying most of those who would end up facing death as punishment for their offenses were ordinary people.
“It’s not Satan who would face the courts, but ordinary people, many of them among the poor,” she said.
She also cited Philippine Statistics Authority figures showing that the period when the death penalty was imposed did not indicate any decline in crime numbers. In fact, she said, the numbers showed there was more crime during the time capital punishment was in effect.
But Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the committee chair, later presented figures submitted by the Philippine National Police purportedly showing that an opposite trend in which criminality started to rise after the death penalty was abolished.
Seeking to put an end to the debate, Fariñas, the majority leader, noted that the framers of the 1987 Constitution, many of them devout Christians, had opted to keep the option of capital punishment.
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