House leadership forces vote on death penalty
The leadership in the House of Representatives will force a vote on the bill restoring death penalty on heinous crimes
In an ambush interview with reporters on Wednesday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he is on his way to meet with the ruling political party the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan in a caucus to come up with a party stand on the death penalty.
He said the members of the ruling party in the lower House who do not want to vote for the death penalty might as well resign.
“They’re free to resign from the party,” Alvarez said.
“Kasi party stand nga yan eh (It’s a party stand). If you don’t agree with the party stand, you might as well quit,” he added.
Alvarez also has the same threat to the deputy speakers and committee chairperson who would not approve of the death penalty.
“Pagka deputy speaker ka pangit naman na hindi ka sang-ayon doon sa administration-sponsored bill, at saka pag chairman ka nung committees,” Alvarez said.
(It doens’t look good if you’re a deputy speaker or a committee chairperson, and yet you don’t agree with the administration bill.)
“Deputy speakers na hindi sasama doon sa administration bill, papalitan po natin. Kasi awkward na deputy speaker ka and then you don’t agree with the leadership,” Alvarez said, adding that the same applies to lawmakers from the majority who are committee chairpersons.
(The Deputy Speakers who will not join the bandwagon for the administration bill, we will replace them. It’s awkward if you’re a deputy speaker and yet you don’t agree with the leadership.)
For his part, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who chairs the House committee on natural resources, said the Makabayan bloc would not compromise its position against the reimposition of the death penalty.
Asked about relinquishing his post, Zarate said the bloc would meet with Alvarez first to discuss this condition set by the House leadership.
“Nung nakipag-usap tayo kay Speaker Alvarez, susuportahan natin yung kanilang leadership pag usaping pro-people legislation. Pero we will keep our independence sa pagtayo sa mga issues na tinginnaming hindi para sa kabutihan ng mamamayan,” Zarate said in an ambush interview.
(When we talked with Speaker Alvarez, we vowed to support his leadership in terms of pro-people legislation. But we will keep our independence when it comes to our stance on issues which we deem not for the greater good.)
Among the deputy speakers, former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo have expressed opposition to the bill.
In a December 5, 2016 press conference, Arroyo said she has talked to President Rodrigo Duterte who assured her that there would be no problem if she opposes the death penalty.
“I spoke with President Duterte about that, it’s alright with him if I oppose the death penalty,” said Arroyo, who abolished death penalty when she was president in 2006.
The leadership in the lower House is forcing a vote on the death penalty following a gridlock in the Senate.
At least nine of the 24 senators have expressed opposition to the death penalty as the Senate started its committee deliberations on the restoration of capital punishment.
Meanwhile, 10 are pro-death penalty, while four are pushing for capital punishment only on drug-related cases.
The Senate deliberations centered on the international treaty obligation International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights pertaining to the death penalty.
The bill restoring death penalty is seen to be a priority legislation in the House of Representatives.
The bill seeks to impose death penalty on more than 20 heinous offenses, such as rape with homicide, kidnapping for ransom, and arson with death.
Speaker Alvarez, President Duterte’s staunch ally in Congress, was among the authors of the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty after former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.
Alvarez filed the bill pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.
Alvarez’s bill sought to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.
In the bill he co-authored with Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose the death penalty because “the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts.”
“Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes,” according to the bill.
Duterte won the elections on a campaign promise to restore the death penalty by hanging, even making a snide remark that the convict’s head should be severed by hanging. Alvarez said Congress would look into the cheapest way for the death penalty, either by firing squad, lethal injection or by hanging.
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