Pro-life solons brace for Ash Wednesday approval of death penalty
Anti-death penalty lawmakers are bracing themselves for the looming approval of the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives on Ash Wednesday.
Lead opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman in a statement said the House leadership should repent for their moves to railroad House Bill 4727 seeking to restore the capital punishment on the day the country started its celebration of Lent.
“The observance of Ash Wednesday must not be left unnoticed in the House of Representatives because this day signifies repentance and grief,” Lagman said.
Lagman said the House leadership should repent for disrespecting the sanctity of life and violating the country’s treaty obligations toward the abolition of death penalty.
Lagman chided the leadership for violating the House rules when the majority voted to accept the majority’s amendments removing plunder, rape and treason as among the crimes punishable with death, and for closing the period of plenary debates thereby “muzzling” the 18 lawmakers lined up to interpellate.
The death penalty bill would be limited to drug-related offenses, in a bid to support the administration’s bloody narcotics crackdown that has claimed over 7,000 lives already.
“The House leadership must repent and grieve for the following transgressions in connection with the consideration of the death penalty bill,” Lagman said.
In a press conference at the House of Representatives, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said he hopes the majority would allow nominal voting in the second reading approval later, which would allow lawmakers to explain their votes.
The death penalty bill is eyed to be approved on second reading by voice voting, or by voting by ayes or nays, in Wednesday’s session.
Atienza said that at least by voice voting or viva voce, the constituents would be made aware if their representatives are voting for such a controversial measure.
“The majority will always be the majority. Pero kaya gusto naming magkaroon ng nominal voting para at least alam ng taumbayan. Marami sa kanila ang nagtatago sa viva voce, tinataguan nila ang constituents nila na karaniwan ay tutol sa death penalty.” Atienza said.
(We want nominal voting so that the people would know. Many representatives are hiding behind viva voce, they are hiding from their constituents who are commonly against the death penalty.)
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said he would propose an amendment to the bill inserting a “sunset provision” limiting the death penalty only during the tenure of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The bill as it is was amended to be limited to drug-related offenses, while the heinous crimes of plunder, rape and treason were removed from the death sentence.
Roque would also move to remove the methods of death such as firing squad and hanging which he said are cruel ways of capital punishment.
For her part, Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman said she and her fellow lawmaker Makmod Mending Jr. would oppose the reimposition of the death penalty.
Only Hataman and Mending from the Muslim bloc are against the death penalty, she said.
Hataman, the wife of ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman, said the Sharia law seeks to protect the preservation of life, and that the conditions set by the Sharia law allowing death sentence are not provided in the current justice system.
She also cited her experience of promoting human rights.
“Human rights is non-negotiable for me. Based on our studies of the Sharia, the conditions set by Sharia is not available in the current justice system,” Hataman said.
“The very essence of Sharia law is the preservation of life, and all the remedies to preserve life,” she added.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the House justice committee, earlier said the majority is more open to passing the bill if it would be limited to drug-related offenses (except possession of drugs, which will be punished with the maximum offense of life sentence).
With the bill limited to drug-related offenses, it would no longer punish with death the heinous crimes of rape, plunder and treason.
The bill will also give the judge the leeway whether to impose life sentence or the maximum penalty of death on convicts.
The bill will punish with death or life imprisonment the following drug-related offenses: importation of dangerous drugs; sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs; maintenance of a den, dive or resort; manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals; misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account for confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs; planting of evidence.
This decision to limit the death penalty puts an end to the flipflopping position of the House leadership on the coverage of the death penalty.
The majority caucus initially wanted to remove plunder from the list of heinous crimes, raising criticisms of conflict of interest by lawmakers who do not want to punish with death the non-bailable offense against public officials accused of earning at least P50-million in ill gotten wealth.
But the caucus again returned plunder after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez refused to remove the offense from the bill.
The bill however stated that the death penalty should not be imposed on children below 18 years old or senior citizens over 70 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime. The penalty to be imposed on convicts are hanging, firing squad and lethal injection.
The bill will no longer make death mandatory, with the judge having the leeway to determine whether to impose death penalty or life imprisonment. JE
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