Alvarez on death penalty: Inefficient justice system not Congress’ problem

Mara Cepeda
Alvarez on death penalty: Inefficient justice system not Congress’ problem
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says problems in the judiciary should not prevent lawmakers from doing their job

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez believes it is not the concern of the legislative branch if the judiciary would not be able to properly handle the reimposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes.

In an ANC Headstart interview on Monday, February 13, Alvarez said the public cannot stop the passage of House Bill (HB) Number 4727 just because the criminal justice system is facing several problems of its own. (READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a ‘flawed, corrupt’ justice system)

“So, 3 branches [of government] iyan – legislative, executive, at saka the judicial branch. Kami po, iba po ‘yung trabaho namin: We enact laws. Mayroon tayong executive, ‘yun ‘yung mga nagpapatupad ng batas. ‘Yung pinag-uusapan natin na justice system, kung may problema diyan ma’am, ay hindi namin problema ‘yun,” said the Speaker. 

(So there are 3 branches of government – the legislative, executive, and the judicial branches. Our job is this: We enact laws. The executive implements the law. If we’re talking about the justice system, if there’s a problem with that, ma’am, that’s not our problem anymore.)

Alvarez, who is eyeing the bill’s passage by mid-March, has already been criticized for threatening to strip congressmen of their leadership titles if they vote against HB 4727. He had also challenged the Church leaders opposing the bill, asking them why they seem to be protecting evil instead.

Opponents of HB 4727 have also argued that the death penalty will only aggravate the other issues being faced by the justice system now – from law enforcers, prosecutors, and judges accepting bribes to lack of funding in prisons overcrowded with convicts. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?)

But for Alvarez, these should not get in the way of HB 4727.

“Ginagawan natin ng pre-condition ‘yung trabaho namin. [They’re telling us], ‘Huwag ‘nyong gawin ‘yung trabaho ‘nyo, kasi inefficient ‘yung isang branch of government.’ Hindi naman fair ‘yun,” he said.

(They are putting a pre-condition on our job. They’re telling us, “Don’t do your job because one of the branches of government is inefficient.” That is not fair.) 

Plunder removal from bill not yet final

The House is currently under scrutiny as lawmakers continue debates on HB 4727. (READ: The clock is ticking on anti-death penalty lawmakers)

According to Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, more congressmen supported the bill when they compromised to remove the mandatory imposition of the death penalty on heinous crimes during their caucuses last week.

“We still do consensus building. In fact, based on these caucuses, there was a positive result that there is no mandatory imposition of death penalty. In fact, because of that position, a lot of members of the House changed their position. Instead of a hardline no, a lot of them accepted, parang (it seems) they believe this is more palatable,” said Hernandez in a separate press conference. 

He also downplayed public criticism against Alvarez’s announcement that congressmen plan to remove plunder from the list of crimes punishable by death under HB 4727.

He said Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas both wanted to keep plunder in the list, but other congressmen disagreed during the caucuses.

“In fact [the] Speaker and [the] Majority Leader, when we were discussing plunder whether there was an imposition of death penalty, they voted that it has to be retained, meaning the reimposition of the death penalty will be included in plunder. However, because of the consensus, majority wins, medyo nanalo ‘yung removal (the removal kind of won),” said Hernandez.

But he clarified that plunder’s removal from HB 4727 is not yet final as congressmen are still in the consensus-building stage. 

“We are not yet in the process of amendments. We are still in consensus-building. And after the debate will come amendments, and that is the only time where you will see whether someone will propose to remove it or not,” said Hernandez.

“But as it is right now, it (plunder) is included. Until somebody, during the period of amendments, will introduce an amendment that it shall be removed,” he added. – 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.