Alvarez: We’re not rushing the death penalty bill in the House

Mara Cepeda
Alvarez: We’re not rushing the death penalty bill in the House
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says that should the measure be passed into law, President Rodrigo Duterte would have the political will to implement the death penalty

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez denied that the House leadership is fast-tracking the passage of the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes in the country. 

Kung ni-railroad ‘yan, nung finile ‘yung bill… Kailan ‘yun? July. O anong buwan na ngayon? O ‘di sana July, pumasa ‘yan nung August kung ni-railroad ‘yan. E nagkaroon naman ng committee hearing,” said Alvarez in a press conference on Tuesday, November 29. 

(When was the bill filed? July. What month is it now? If it was railroaded, then it should have been passed by August. There were even committee hearings.)

On the same day, the House justice panel’s subcommittee on judicial reforms voted 6-5-2 to approve House Bill (HB) Number 1, which would reinstate capital punishment for all heinous crimes. 

Alvarez himself is one of the co-authors of the bill, which is also one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte

On Tuesday, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman renewed his allegation that the House leadership is “railroading” the passage of the death penalty bill into law after Alvarez expressed hope of having it passed on 3rd and final reading by December. 

“The railroading has started and they hope to reach the terminal before the Christmas break…In short, the message of the House leadership is this: ‘Have a deadly Christmas,'” said Lagman. 

For Alvarez, however, Lagman is free to object to the steps being undertaken by the subcommittee.  

They can always question that. I have no objection. ‘Pag ayaw kasi lahat naman may reason e. Maghahanap ka talaga (If you don’t like something, you always find reasons why. You will really look for them),” said Alvarez.

Political will 

In its current form, HB Number 1 provides 3 methods for the death penalty: hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection. The measure may be revised when it is presented before the rest of the members of the House justice committee.

“Whatever is cheaper” was Alvarez’s answer when asked in August what capital punishment mode he prefers. He said on Tuesday that he still holds the same view.

“Yes, that’s true, hanggang ngayon (until now)…Bahala na ‘yung executive branch diyan (That’s up to the executive branch),” he said.

He also belied critics’ arguments that the death penalty is not a true deterrent to crime

When you look back, tingan mo ‘yung history, ‘yung record, while death penalty was there, halos wala namang na-execute. Why? Because of ‘yung mga persistent lobbyists ‘di ba? And ‘yung lack of political will nung mga presidente,” said Alvarez.

(When you look at history, the record, while the death penalty was there, there was hardly anyone who was executed. Why? It was because of the persistent lobbyists, right? And the lack of political will of the past presidents.) 

“I think, siguro ngayon, tingnan natin (now, we will see). ‘Pag ni-restore natin ‘yung death penalty (If we restore the death penalty), I’m sure the President has the political will to implement the death penalty,” he added. 

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty under the 1987 Constitution, but it was reimposed during the administration of President Fidel Ramos to address the rising crime rate.

During the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga congresswoman, the Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming to abolish the death penalty. Capital punishment was eventually abolished under her watch in 2006. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.