Majority lawmakers who voted yes to the death penalty bill will leave it up to the discretion of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on the fate of those who voted no to the administration pet bill.
Majority Leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Fariñas said this was the consensus of pro-death penalty lawmakers who met in a caucus on Monday at the House of Representatives.
“(The consensus is) to give to the Speaker the prerogative to impose any action he wishes to do. The group gave full support to the Speaker,” Fariñas said.
Fariñas said although there were lawmakers who wanted Alvarez to take back his threat to strip anti-death penalty lawmakers of their key committee and leadership positions, several more wanted the leadership to be strict with this policy to earn the respect of the members.
Fariñas said the members may no longer follow the leadership if Alvarez does not follow through with his previous threat.
“The greater sentiment, kailangang i-implement, kung hindi mawawalan ng discipline (The greater sentiment is, it has to be implemented, otherwise there will no longer be discipline)… Ang counterargument naman ng iba (the counterargument of others is), with more reason we have to act on it,” Fariñas said.
He said lawmakers also agreed not to bother with anti-death penalty Rep. Edcel Lagman’s harsh statements against the leadership and the majority lawmakers who voted yes to the death penalty.
The Albay congressman had called the leadership “bullies” and deplored the lack of courage of many lawmakers to defy the leadership on the issue of death penalty.
“Ang sentiment, hayaan na lang (The sentiment is just to let it be). I lament the name calling that has happened, calling us as bullies and puppets. And then calling those who voted yes as fainthearted, ambivalent or lacking courage or will to defy the speaker. Hindi naman po (That’s not true),” Fariñas said.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the House justice committee that tackled the death penalty bill, said Speaker Alvarez may opt to file an ethics complaint against Lagman.
He said Lagman crossed the line for calling the House leadership bullies and for chiding Speaker Alvarez on his move to strip anti-death penalty lawmakers of their key posts.
“If you allow members to call each other bullies, this is already bordering on disrespect… Once you start disrespecting a co-member or a House leader at that, particularly the Speaker or the institution, that is something that calls already for a sanction,” Umali said.
Fariñas said the agreement was to spare no one from the House revamp, not even former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, who risks her deputy speaker post for voting against the death penalty.
Capital punishment was abolished in 2006 under the Arroyo administration.
“Ang sabi dun sa group (The group said), all or nothing. Once you exempt someone, magkakahirapan (that would make the situation more difficult),” Fariñas said.
Fariñas said the fate of Arroyo is up to the Central Luzon bloc which elected Arroyo to represent the region in the House leadership as deputy speaker.
As for the appeal of Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato, who risks losing her membership in the powerful Commission on Appointments for voting against the death penalty, Fariñas said he will talk to Speaker Alvarez to spare her from the massive House revamp.
In a statement, Sato appealed to Alvarez to reconsider his plan of removing anti-death penalty lawmakers of their committee positions.
She said that if this pushes through, “the first victim of the death penalty would be the House of Representative as an institution” and that “the bells will toll for the death of freedom and democracy in the House.”
She said she could not be fired from the Commission on Appointments because the membership of the commission as an independent constitutional body is determined by proportional representation of political parties in Congress.
“In my case, however, I am in the Commission as a designate of the Liberal Party. The Commission on Appointments is a constitutional body whose membership is based on proportional representation of the political parties in the House. If I am removed based on my vote then that would be an infringement of the independence of the Commission,” Sato said.