MANILA, Philippines – The minority bloc in the House of Representatives urged Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to give way to a “conscience vote” on the controversial bill that seeks to reinstate the death penalty in the country.
“We are calling on the leadership of the supermajority [to pursue] a conscience vote; not to insist on a party or a pressure vote,” Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said in a press conference on Tuesday, January 24.
He explained that a conscience vote is crucial for a highly-debated issue like the death penalty.
“This is a very important measure where members of the House, particularly the supermajority, should be allowed to freely exercise their conscience and conviction,” Lagman said.
He added that Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told him that plenary debates on House Bill 1 are expected to begin either on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
Lagman said the House rules committee headed by Fariñas is currently tackling the bill.
The House justice committee approved the proposed measure on December 7, 2016. Anti-death penalty advocates criticized the approval, saying there was not enough time for dissenting parties and other resource persons to air their side during the committee hearings. (READ: House death penalty bill: How they voted)
The minority bloc also expressed concern that there were moves to spread “disinformation” intended to stifle the free exchange of opinions during the period of interpellation on the proposed measure.
“If you are a member of the justice committee, you cannot interpellate. There are also those who say that if you are a member of the rules committee, you have no right to interpellate in the plenary debate,” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin in a mix of English and Filipino. (READ: Unlike in House, chances of death penalty bill in Senate still unclear)
“This kind of [disinformation] is a threat to the members of Congress not to speak up against the death penalty,” he said.
Villarin, who asserted that these are not in the House rules, said it is important to address the alleged disinformation since there are a number of first-time lawmakers now who are holding vice chairmanships in committees.
When asked, he agreed that the tactic was a form of intimidation to ensure the speedy passage of the administration’s priority measures.
“Intimidation because in a way, they don’t want a debate. Given that now, there are how many priority measures, you have [charter change], death penalty, lowering of age [of criminal liability], and they want that to be done in a short time,” he told reporters after the press briefing. – Rappler.com