Arroyo ally downplays Speaker threat vs anti-death penalty solons
An ally of Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo downplayed the threats of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to strip lawmakers who voted against the death penalty of key positions in the House of Representatives.
In an interview with reporters at the Sandiganbayan where he attended a graft hearing on Thursday, Surigao Del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. said he does not think the House leadership will push through with Alvarez’s threat.
“I don’t think so. Once the Speaker will push through with that, that means that the Congress is no longer democratic,” Pichay said.
Pichay said Arroyo, who also risks losing her deputy speaker post for voting against the death penalty, will not exchange her principles for a leadership position.
“I think you cannot exchange a principle for the position of deputy speaker. She’s been President already. Why would you have to hang on for the position of deputy speaker?” Pichay said.
“So, as far as I’m concerned, principle is more important than position,” he added.
Pichay is among the 54 lawmakers who voted against the death penalty.
He said he voted against the reimposition of capital punishment because the 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits inhumane punishment.
“Because if you read Article 19 of Constitution, nakalagay dyan (it is stated there that) excessive fine should not be imposed. Nakalagay din d’yan (It is also stated there that) inhumane punishment shall not be imposed, death penalty should not be imposed except for compelling reason,” Pichay said.
He added that the Constitution reduced the maximum penalty to life imprisonment instead of death penalty.
“The framers of the constitution, wala silang intention talaga na i-reimpose ang death penalty (they have no intention to reimpose the death penalty),” he added.
Speaker Alvarez earlier threatened to strip lawmakers voting no to the death penalty of their committee positions and deputy speaker posts.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Alvarez has taken back his empty threat after succeeding in railroading the bill on third and final reading – an allegation Alvarez denied.
The House of Representatives in a vote of 217 passed on final reading House Bill 4727 that seeks to restore the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
Fifty-four lawmakers voted against the bill.
Apart from Arroyo, some Makabayan lawmakers stand to lose their chairmanships for voting against the death penalty. These include Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, who chairs the public information committee; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate (natural resources), and Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus (poverty alleviation).
Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato are also expected to lose their key posts for voting no to the death penalty.
Santos-Recto chairs the civil service and professional regulation committee, Belmonte chairs the committee on land use, Bag-ao chairs the committee on people participation, while Sato is a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments.
Other lawmakers who voted against the death penalty at risk of losing their committee chairpersonships are – Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero (mother of Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero), who chairs the committee on basic education and culture, Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman (wife of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman), who chairs the committee on muslim affairs, and Buhay Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde (son of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde), who chairs the overseas workers affairs committee.Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, the wife of former budget secretary Butch Abad, was absent from Tuesday’s voting. She chairs the committee on government reorganization.
Back for her last term as congresswoman after being detained for plunder over a charity funds mess during her presidency, Arroyo is the only deputy speaker who voted against the death penalty.
It was during her term when Congress abolished the death penalty in 2006. IDL/rga
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