House to extend death penalty debates to January 2017

Mara Cepeda
House to extend death penalty debates to January 2017
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas says more supermajority congressmen would be amenable to reimposing the death penalty if only applied to drug-related cases

MANILA, Philippines – It’s not happening this Christmas.

Contrary to the personal preference of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the House of Representatives will not move to pass the proposed death penalty bill on 3rd and final reading by December. 

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that House Bill (HB) Number 1 would be passed on second reading by December 13, the second to the last session day before Congress takes its Christmas break. 

When Congress reopens in January 2017, lawmakers will debate the bill in plenary.

‘Di na pagbotohan ‘yung death penalty before the break. Wala. So ite-take up sa floor, pagde-debatihan [though] floor debates,” said Fariñas on Wednesday, December 7, the same day the House committee on justice approved HB 1 with a vote of 12-6-1.

The decision came after the members of the House supermajority held a closed-door caucus on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the bills to be prioritized before Congress ends session for 2016. 

Fariñas said that most members of the supermajority are in favor of reimposing the death penalty in the Philippines, though more lawmakers prefer it to be applied only to drug-related cases. 

Kanina, like I told you, when we met, ang bilang ko mga in favor of death penalty easily 50. ‘Yung against mga 15, ‘yung talagang ayaw. Tapos ‘yung 35 eh undecided. But they said dadami pa ‘yan and request nila, puwedeng request natin na i-full debate ‘yan. So ‘yan ang ni-relay ko kay Speaker at pumayag siya,” said Fariñas.

 (Like I told you, when we met, I easily counted 50 members who are in favor of the death penalty. Those against are 15. Then there are 35 undecided. But they said the numbers might increase and they requested if we can have full debates. So I related that to Speaker and he agreed.)

Kasi maraming nagsabi kanina na kung drugs lang ‘yan, they want to do it already. Then sa Senate, in fact, even Senator [Manny] Pacquiao – I just talked to him now, he wants to  talk to the members – na papakiusap niya na drugs na lang muna para mabilis,” added the Majority Leader.

(Because many lawmakers are saying that if the death penalty is only imposed on drug cases, they want to do it already. Then at the Senate, in fact, even Senator Pacquiao – I just talked to him now, he wants to talk to the members – they are urging us to only impose the death penalty on drug cases so the process would be faster.)

Pacquiao previously filed his version of the death penalty bill at the Senate. 

According to Fariñas, the debate would allow for amendments, including reducing which heinous crimes would be meted the death penalty.  

“We will allow everybody to interpellate and then although the bill presently as crafted covers multiple offenses, so puwedeng pag-debatehan (so there will be a debate). Puwedeng i-limit lang sa ilang drug cases or sa plunder or whatever (It can just be limited to drug cases or plunder or whatever),” he said.

Members of the House independent minority bloc had previously accused the House leadership of “railroading” the passage of HB 1 into law to meet Alvarez’s a deadline, a charge the Speaker himself denied

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 V Ramos to address the rising crime rate.

Capital punishment was eventually abolished in 2006, under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Now Pampanga 2nd District representative, Arroyo is still against the reimposition of the death penalty.

The Catholic Church, human rights groups, and some lawmakers have objected to the reimposition of capital punishment in the country, saying it is not a deterrent to crime. – 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.