Lagman: House lacks numbers to restore death penalty

Mara Cepeda
Lagman: House lacks numbers to restore death penalty
But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez tells the public to wait when congressmen finally vote on the death penalty bill during plenary, saying, 'I'll take care of it'

MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman believes the House leadership has not yet secured enough support for the bill that would reinstate capital punishment for heinous crimes in the country.

Lagman made the statement on Tuesday, December 13, after Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said most of the supermajority lawmakers would vote in favor of House Bill (HB) Number 1. 

Fariñas said that during last week’s supermajority caucus, 50 of the congressmen who attended are pro-death penalty while only 15 are strongly against it. 35 remain undecided.

There are 267 lawmakers belonging to the supermajority, which means there are still 167 legislators unaccounted for.

“On percentage, I don’t know where he got [those] percentages, but we have reports from those who attended the caucus that those who were opposed and those undecided were more than those who said they were for the reimposition,” said Lagman in a press conference of the independent minority bloc called the “Magnificent 7.”

But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the co-authors of HB Number 1, insisted that the measure would be passed on 3rd and final reading.

“Dito sa Kongreso, tingin ko naman we can muster the majority… Tignan na lang natin ‘pag nagbotohan. Ako na ang bahala diyan,” he told reporters. 

(Here in Congress, I think we can muster the majority… Let’s just wait when we vote on it. I’ll take care of it.) 

Alvarez initially wanted to have the bill approved by December, but agreed to extend debates on the death penalty to January 2017. 

Lagman previously accused the House leadership of “railroading” the passage of HB Number 1 into law, a claim Alvarez denied.

HB Number 1 has been met with strong opposition from various groups, lawmakers, and the Catholic Church, who all say the death penalty is not a true deterrent to crime.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas have both denounced the proposed return of the capital punishment. 

Increasing numbers for anti-death penalty vote?

During the press conference, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said he believes that the number of congressmen against the death penalty would increase in the coming weeks. 

“Definitely, many congressmen are pushing for a conscience vote. The main consensus is dapat this is (this should be) a conscience vote,” said Villarin. 

“We are gaining ground and hopefully, by the next few weeks, even after Christmas, puwedeng mag-gather itong mga anti-death penalty (we can possibly gather those who are anti-death penalty). We are fighting for this to win, meaning to win against the reimposition of the death penalty,” he added.

Lagman also welcomed the position of Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to continue opposing the death penalty despite being a member of the supermajority. It was under Arroyo’s term as president when capital punishment was abolished in 2006.

“We welcome the position of the former president that she is steadfast in the crusade against the death penalty… We are banking on [the fact] that all those under her party will also vote against the death penalty reimposition,” said Lagman, referring to Arroyo’s Lakas-CMD party. –

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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 or tweet @maracepeda.