Arroyo, anti-death penalty solons ousted from key posts
For voting against the administration’s pet bill, they were booted out of their key posts.
The House of Representatives majority on Wednesday declared as vacant the committee and leadership posts of lawmakers following their opposition on the pet administration bill to restore the death penalty.
This developed as the House leadership followed through with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s threat to strip the lawmakers who voted no to House Bill 4727 of their committee and leadership posts. House Bill 4727 was approved on third and final reading in the lower House.
The declaration of seats as vacant happened on the last day of Congress before it goes on break. Quorum was declared with 239 members responding to the roll call.
During the plenary session, majority leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Fariñas declared the following committee chairperson seats as vacant: committees on civil service and professional regulation, land use, people participation, public information, natural resources, poverty alleviation, government reorganization, basic education and culture, Muslim affairs, overseas workers affairs, and women and gender equality.
“I move that we declare the positions of the chairpersons of the committee vacant,” Fariñas said.
Fariñas also moved as vacant the deputy speaker for Central Luzon post held by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
“I move to declare vacant deputy speaker for Central Luzon,” he said.
This paved the way for the ouster of the anti-death penalty lawmakers of their key posts.
In a statement, former president Arroyo expressed gratitude for her short stint as deputy speaker, but said the death penalty is an issue she could not compromise.
“The issue of the death penalty is unlike any other, in that it touches the core of each person’s fundamental view of human life. I believe that the issue required a vote based solely on conscience and the deepest of personal convictions,” Arroyo said.
She said she would continue to support President Rodrigo Duterte and the leadership of Speaker Alvarez.
“Thus, despite my support for President Duterte and Speaker Alvarez, I voted against House Bill No. 4727. I thank the President for his expression of understanding late last year regarding my position on the issue. I also thank the Speaker for the honor of having served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. It meant much to me,” Arroyo said.
Alvarez earlier said he does not care if he burns bridges by stripping anti-death penalty lawmakers of their key posts.
“Well, if I’m burning bridges so be it. Wala ako magagawa dyan (I can’t do anything about that),” Alvarez said.
He said political parties have submitted their representatives to the House committees following an expected revamp of committee chairperson and deputy speakers to replace those who voted no to the death penalty.
The House of Representatives in a vote of 217 earlier passed on final reading House Bill 4727 that seeks to restore the death penalty for drug-related offenses. Fifty-four lawmakers voted against the bill.
The following Makabayan lawmakers lost their posts: Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, who chaired the public information committee; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate (natural resources); and Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus (poverty alleviation).
Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, and Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao also lost their key posts for voting no to the death penalty.
Santos-Recto chaired the civil service and professional regulation committee, Belmonte chaired the committee on land use, and Bag-ao chaired the committee on people participation.
Other lawmakers who voted against the death penalty and lost their committee chairpersonships are: Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero (mother of Senator Francis Escudero) who chaired the basic education and culture committee), Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman (wife of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman) who chaired the committee on Muslim affairs, and Buhay Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde (son of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde) who chaired the overseas workers affairs committee.
Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, the wife of former budget secretary Butch Abad, was absent from the voting and thus was subsequently ousted from her post. She chaired the committee on government reorganization.
Diwa Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was absent from the voting, too, and was axed from her chairperson post in the committee of women and gender equality.
Alvarez said even lawmakers who abstained from voting are facing the ax.
An actress and “Star for all Seasons,” Santos-Recto said she was prepared to be stripped of her committee post only for her to stand by her conviction against capital punishment.
“We’re prepared for it. Alam naman natin ‘yun… Inannounce naman ‘yun (We already knew this would happen because it was announced before). At the end of the day, it’s your conviction… Naka-psyche na utak ko for that (My mind was prepared for it),” Santos said.
Zarate said he had expected to be ousted from his committee, but lamented the leadership’s “arm-twisting” just to railroad the death penalty bill.
“It does not speak well for the House leadership to have resorted to arm-twisting and railroading just to ensure the passage of an anti-poor death penalty bill,” Zarate said.
Of all the anti-death penalty lawmakers, only Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato was spared of the ax. She is a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments, where the membership is determined by the seats of the political parties and is an independent constitutional body.
Among the House leaders, only Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo lost her deputy speaker post for voting no to the death penalty. It was during her term as president that the capital punishment was abolished.
Interestingly, the following representatives with committee chairperson posts were not ousted even though they were absent during the voting: Pangasinan Rep Amado Espino Jr. (national defense and security), Agri Rep. Delphine Lee (ethics and privileges), and Surigao Del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (dangerous drugs).
Even though she was ousted as chair, Rep. Escudero slid down to vice chairperson of the basic education and culture committee. She was replaced as chairperson by Cebu Rep. Ramon Durano VI, Fariñas said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman had chided Alvarez for reportedly backing out out his threat, but Alvarez said the House revamp would still push through but only at the right time.
The bill passed by the lower House seeks to limit the death penalty on drug-related offenses (except possession of drugs, which is punishable with life imprisonment). JE