Lagman to Filipinos: Tell your congressmen to fight death penalty

Mara Cepeda

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Lagman to Filipinos: Tell your congressmen to fight death penalty
The opposition lawmaker also encourages members of all religious denominations to attend the House debate on the capital punishment measure

MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman urged Filipinos opposing the death penalty to convince their congressmen to block the passage of the controversial bill. 

“Our constituents should be able to reach out to their respective representatives and tell them they are against the death penalty,” said Lagman in a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, February 16. 

“It is not the solution to the people’s poverty and the lack of justice. The death penalty will only further marginalize and victimize the poor. The majority of our constituents are the poor and so they should be able to tell their congressmen that they are opposing this measure and that they will be the victims because they cannot afford [top] caliber lawyers and they have no access to judicial processes,” added Lagman. 

The opposition lawmaker was asked how the public can help anti-death penalty congressmen in fighting the passage of House Bill (HB) Number 4727, one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Lagman on death penalty bill: Vengeance is not justice)

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is bent on having the bill passed on 3rd and final reading by March 8, even threatening to strip congressmen of their leadership titles should they thumb down HB 4727. 

The House leadership said more congressmen have expressed support for the bill when the majority bloc agreed to remove the mandatory penalty of death in the measure. (READ: Alvarez clarifies: Plunder still in current version of death penalty bill)

But Lagman believes public pressure may force other legislators to vote against HB 4727 instead. 

“They should tell their congressmen: First things first, you must reform the police, prosecutorial and judicial system before we even talk about the death penalty. Once there is an effective reformation and rectification of our flawed police, prosecutorial, and judicial system, there will be no need anymore to reimpose the death penalty,” said Lagman.

More pressure from the Church

He is also happy with how the Catholic Church has opposed HB 4727 so far. On February 18, the Walk for Life procession was held to protest against anti-life measures under the Duterte administration. 

“We are happy with the opposition of the Catholic hierarchy and many of the bishops. But we feel that should be a more pronounced and energetic campaign against the reimposition of the death penalty. And I think the Church is going to do that. And it’s not only the Catholic Church which is against the revival of capital punishment. The other churches, the other religious denominations are also against this bill,” said Lagman. 

He also invited the Church and other religious denominations to attend the 4 pm House sessions every Tuesday and Wednesday, when the death penalty bill is up for debate on the floor.  

“I think more of the bishops should be speaking against the death penalty and if possible, because it has been done before, they could visit us during the deliberations so that their presence will be seen and felt by the members of the House,” added Lagman.

A total of 50 lawmakers are lined up to speak against the death penalty bill at the House. – 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.