House leaders willing to limit scope of crimes punishable by death
The leadership in the House of Representatives is willing to limit the scope of a proposed bill restoring the death penalty to the most heinous of crimes.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the House justice committee, said the leadership is looking at limiting the death penalty to such crimes as drug trade and abuse, murder, kidnapping, carnapping, and rape.
“The committee and the leadership is open to a reduction of the crimes to be covered,” Umali said in a phone interview with reporters.
This was a drastic reduction of the number of crimes punishable by death in the original bill.
According to the original version of the bill, the following are punishable by death under the Revised Penal Code–treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with homicide, rape, intentional mutilation or arson, and destructive arson.
Plunder is also punishable with reclusion perpetua to death, according to the Republic Act 7080 or the plunder law as amended by Republic Act 7659.
The following offenses under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act are also punishable by death–importation; sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation; maintenance of a den, dive or resort; manufacture; possession of certain quantities of dangerous drugs; cultivation; unlawful prescription; misappropriation or failure to account confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs; and planting of evidence.
Carnapping is also punishable by death under the Anti-Carnapping Act or Republic Act 6539.
Umali said the death penalty bill seeks to reduce the threshold amount for shabu punishable by death or reclusion perpetua to 10 grams, from the 50 grams threshold under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
Umali said possession of 10 grams of shabu would be penalized with reclusion perpetua, while possession of 10 grams to 50 grams or more would be punishable by death.
Umali added that the death penalty would also not be mandatory for possession of marijuana because of the possibilities of using the weed for medical purposes.
He said the penalties for possession of marijuana would be retained under the law.
Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, possession of 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or oil, and possession of 500 grams or more of marijuana, are punishable by life imprisonment to death.
“It will revert back to the existing law which is the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act,” Umali said referring to possession of marijuana.
As for plunder, Umali said the non-bailable offense for public officials convicted of criminally accumulating at least P50 million ill-gotten wealth, through kickbacks after a series of overt criminal act, is no longer punishable by death.
He has a different position from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who said plunder was no longer included in the death penalty bill because of an existing law, Republic Act 7080, that already imposes life imprisonment to death.
“Reclusion perpetua, hindi na sinama sa death (It’s only reclusion perpetua, it’s not included under death)… There is no need to amend the existing law because plunder itself is reclusion perpetua,” Umali said.
“Since it’s already reclusion perpetua, considering that this is already the penalty, it’s as if there is no amendment,” he added.
Umali said plunder as a criminal offense is not as heinous as crimes such as murder, kidnapping and rape.
“Plunder is a crime, but involves more the money, than individuals or persons,” Umali said.
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.
But the penalty of death was abolished for all heinous crimes (including plunder) after former President Gloria Arroyo in 2006 signed Republic Act 9346, which repealed all laws imposing the penalty of death.
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.
READ: House leadership forces vote on death penalty | Anti-death penalty Arroyo has to go as deputy speaker – Alvarez
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.
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 the death penalty is seen to be a priority legislation in the House of Representatives.
The bill seeks to impose the 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 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./rga
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