House drugs committee chair confident of death penalty passage
MANILA, Philippines — Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers expressed confidence on Tuesday that the renewed push to revive the death penalty would have fewer obstacles now that President Rodrigo Duterte himself had made a pitch for it in his State o the Nation Address.
Barbers, chair of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, said the House could simply bring a new version of the death penalty bill to the plenary as the lower chamber, during the 17th Congress,already passed it on third reading.
According to Barbers, the bill ran into problems in the Senate due to controversies surrounding it. This time, however, Barbers said he felt senators, who had opposed the bill, would have a change of heart.
“Now that hearing it straight from the President yesterday, I’m sure the allies of the President in the Senate, including the Senate President, would more or less change their mind and would support the call of the President for stiffer penalties for drug-related crimes,” Barbers said in an online interview.
“I think it would not be that hard to pass it in the Senate because here in the House I doubt if problems would arise because we already approved it in the 17th Congress,” he said.
In his SONA on Monday, Duterte said the death penalty would be a great deterrent to crimes, especially drug-related ones.
But advocates against the death penalty had argued that data would disprove the claim that state executions would deter crimes. Citing numerous research work and studies, anti-death penalty advocates said that, in most cases, only the poor were executed and errors in judgment were most likely to send innocent people to death row.
The President has made several calls to reimpose the death penalty by lethal injection, which was one of his campaign promises.
“I reiterate the swift passage of the law reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” Duterte said in his fifth SONA.
People are divided over the issue of capital punishment, which was abolished during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Results of a survey in October 2018 showed 7 out of 10 people in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, opposed death penalty.
Previously, the Commission on Human Rights said that Duterte’s push for the death penalty contradicted at least two statements he made in the same SONA — first, about not dodging human rights obligations, and second, putting human lives as priority.
When he mentioned the death penalty, Duterte noted that not all gave him applause, leading him to think that some were unhappy at the proposal.
Barbers insisted, however, that only a few applauded because only a limited number of individuals were allowed inside the House plenary for the SONA as a health precaution.
“It’s just because the crowd was small that’s why only a few clapped their hands,” said Barbers.
“I’m sure those that voted in favor of the passing of the death penalty in the 17th Congress — which majority are still members of the 18th Congress — would definitely support it,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.