House majority: Death no longer mandatory in capital punishment bill
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said the bill seeking to restore the death penalty would no longer make death mandatory.
Alvarez said the bill on death penalty would give the option for judges either to impose capital punishment, or the lesser penalty of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua.
This was the agreement during the majority caucus called upon by the House leadership Wednesday
“Kinonsulta namin yung majority coalition, ito hindi kayo payag, saan tayo pwede mag-meet? Napagkasunduan na walang mandatory death pero bahala na yung judge ano ipapataw na penalty,” Alvarez said.
(We consulted the majority coalition. Since they do not agree, we decided on where we can meet and make a compromise. We agreed that death will no longer be mandatory. Let the judge decide on what penalty to impose.)
Alvarez also denied that he is “arm-twisting” the lawmakers when he set the condition that those who would not vote for the death penalty will have to relinquish their deputy speakers posts or committee chairperson position.
He said it is only the policy of the leadership to toe the line on voting for the administration’s pet bills.
“Walang arm twisting, hindi ako namimilit There is no arm twisting, I am not forcing anyone… I am not threatening. It is the policy of the leadership.. I am not forcing anyone to go with me,” Alvarez said.
Asked if he would be willing to give the lawmakers against the death penalty a chance to explain their position, Alvarez said: “The only chance they get is you go with the majority leadership, or you don’t.”
In a separate interview, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, vice chairperson in the House justice committee that deliberated on the bill, said the caucus agreed on imposing life imprisonment on heinous crimes on top of death penalty.
He put it this way: from rest in peace (RIP) to reclusion perpetua (RP).
The House leadership is forcing a vote on the death penalty following a gridlock in the Senate.
Alvarez said the ruling political party Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) will come up with a party stand on the death penalty. At least 100 of the 290-strong chamber are from the PDP-Laban.
He also called on deputy speakers and committee chairpersons to relinquish their posts if they do not vote for the bill.
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 country’s obligations to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Second Optional Protocol states that “Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”
House Bill 4727 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.
Alvarez, President Rodrigo Duterte’s staunch ally in Congress, was among the authors of the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty after former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006 for its failure to deter crime.
Alvarez filed the bill pursuant to 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 deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil 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. RAM
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.