Lagman objects to ‘railroading’ of death penalty bill
The House of Representatives on Wednesday closed the period of plenary debate on the bill reimposing the death penalty less than a month after it reached the chamber.
Lawmakers managed to get amendments to the bill approved by voice voting despite opposition from anti-death penalty lawmakers Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza.
Lagman said the vote was out of order because the justice committee had not met to approve the amendments.
“These so called amendments are improper, invalid, and possibly illegal because they do not have the concurrence of the committee on justice, which did not hold a meeting,” Lagman said.
He appealed to members to allow for more time to debate on the bill.
“We should not be railroading this important measure, although it’s a retrogressive bill, because the hallmark of a deliberative assembly, like this honorable chamber, is to give free rein to extensive debates so that differing positions can be heard,” Lagman said.
But his plea fell on deaf ears.
Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc signaled to presiding Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin to bang the gavel in voting by voice to approve the amendments.
The amendments were introduced Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
The bill reached the plenary only on Feb. 1 and was subjected to sponsorship and debate for not more than 10 session days.
There were only seven lawmakers who interpellated the bill over a span of five to six days.
After the lawmakers voted to approve the amendments by the majority leader, the session adjourned, signaling a period next week during which members would be allowed to propose and vote on the amendments to the bill during session.
The plenary voted to approve the motion to close the period of sponsorship and debate and to approve the amendments by the majority leader, paving the way for the period of individual amendments.
Only after the bill has been amended during session can it be approved under second reading.
The bill will then proceed to third reading approval once calendared again on the floor, where lawmakers will be allowed to explain their vote under nominal voting.
In his amendments, Fariñas limited the application of the death penalty to treason, rape with homicide, rape of a minor, rape committed by a law enforcement officer, plunder, and drug-related offenses (except possession of drugs, which is punishable with life imprisonment).
His amendments also include a provision allowing church officials and civic rights groups to assist a person accused of a heinous crime.
Under the amended bill, a fiscal or prosecutor would furnish copies of the charge sheet to the Commission on Human Rights, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Free Legal Assistance Group, and all religious groups.
This would enable these groups to monitor all death penalty cases.
The amended bill would also require the Public Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Solicitor General to assign senior lawyers in handling the automatic review of appealed cases involving the death penalty. /atm
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