Alvarez: Plunder already punishable with death under law
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday clarified reports that the non-bailable offense of plunder is supposedly no longer punishable under the death penalty.
In a radio interview with DZRH, Alvarez was sought for clarification on reports that plunder is no longer being deliberated in Congress as a heinous crime under death penalty.
Plunder has been used to detain high-profile officials for allegedly amassing through conspiracy and overt acts at least P50 million ill-gotten wealth.
Known personalities detained for plunder are former president Gloria Arroyo (who was later released), and the three pork barrel scam suspects former senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile (Enrile was allowed to post bail due to humanitarian considerations).
Alvarez said plunder was removed from the list of offenses under death penalty because there is already a law penalizing plunder with life imprisonment to death.
Alvarez was referring to the Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law, which already penalizes plunder, or the criminal offense of accumulating at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth through a series of overt criminal acts, with reclusion perpetua to death.
“Mayroon nang special law on plunder. Ngayon ang sabi nga noong ano, noong ibang mambabatas, as it is, talagang ano na ‘yun, life imprisonment,” Alvarez said.
(There is already a special law on plunder. Some lawmakers want to tackle it. But as of now, it is already punishable with life imprisonment.)
He said lawmakers may discuss the offense of plunder as punishable under death penalty, but as it is, the law already states that it may be punishable with death.
“Ngayon, pupuwede kasi nating isama ‘yun, wala namang problema, pagkatapos magdebate doon sa plenaryo at kung nais nilang isama, ay isasama natin iyan. Ngayon, sa kasalukuyan, talagang as it is, capital na po ang nakapataw doon,” Alvarez said.
(We can include that, no problem, maybe after we debate in the plenary. But as of now, plunder is already punishable with death.)
Plunder is defined in the law as the criminal act of “amass(ing) accumulat(ing) or acquir(ing) ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts… in the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million,” punishable with reclusion perpetua to death, according to Republic Act 7080 as amended by Republic Act 7659.
Alvarez earlier said the proposed reimposition of death penalty in Congress would no longer make capital punishment mandatory, giving the judges or justices the option to impose life imprisonment on heinous crimes.
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 under 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.
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 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. JE