Rape, plunder, treason to be removed from death penalty bill

Mara Cepeda

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Rape, plunder, treason to be removed from death penalty bill
(UPDATED) House justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali says it became easier to get the consensus of the majority when they proposed to include only drug crimes

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House majority bloc decided to further water down the death penalty bill by removing rape, plunder, and treason to get more votes for the controversial measure.

This was revealed by House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali following a majority caucus on Monday, February 27. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez attended the meeting as well.

“We agreed that [the] bill will be limited to drug-related heinous crimes…. So tanggal na ‘yung treason, ‘yung plunder, ‘yung rape (So we will be removing treason, plunder, and rape),” said Umali. (READ: House ends death penalty debate after 7 session days)

With the latest decision, House Bill (HB) 4727 is expected to be further amended to just include the following drug-related crimes: 

  • Importation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
  • Sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution, and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
  • Maintenance of a drug den, dive, or resort
  • Manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
  • Cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs or are sources thereof
  • Unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs
  • Criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful act committed
  • Criminal liability for planting evidence concerning illegal drugs

The Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative explained that the majority bloc realized it can garner more votes for the measure if the bill will just retain the drug offenses.

“Kasi meron kaninang mga issues na ni-raise na meron ding effect on the economy, ‘yung sa trade natin (Because they raised issues that it will have effects on the economy, trade) and so on and so forth, but that is not I guess the real reason. It is more of ‘yung getting the consensus of the group… It became easier when we limited it to just one [type of] crime,” said Umali.

“Sa rape, lumabas ‘yun sa top 3 nung nagkaroon kami ng survey. Pero again, parang if you include rape, why not kidnapping?… And these are all heinous crimes. So parang humahaba nang humahaba. ‘Di matapos,” he added.

(Rape came out as one of the top 3 crimes in our survey. But again, if you include rape, why not kidnapping?… And these are all heinous crimes. So the process takes longer and longer. It won’t end.) 

Umali then cited the justice panel’s probe into the narcotics trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). The committee found Senator Leila de Lima, her former bodyguard and alleged bagman Ronnie Dayan, and ex-Bureau of Corrections officials liable for the prison drug trade. (READ: De Lima asks SC to stop ‘illegal’ arrest)

The panel also recommended the reimposition of the death penalty on drug crimes

“Parang nauwi lang tayo do’n, ano? Ang importante kasi we went through a process. Democratic tayo. We consulted the members. And at the end of the day, nung ni-limit dun sa drug-related heinous crimes, parang bumilis at gumaan na ang ibang medyo meron pa silang misgivings on other crimes,” said Umali.

(It’s like we just returned to the original plan, right? What’s important is that we went through a process. We were democratic. We consulted members. And at the end of the day, when we limited it to drug-related heinous crimes, it’s like the process became faster and lighter for those who still had misgivings on other crimes.)

He also denied that the latest reduction of the crimes under HB 4727 is a sign that the majority bloc does not have the numbers to ensure its passage. 

“Hindi. That is not really the case. As early as last week, sa tingin namin, meron na kaming boto,” he said. (READ: Alvarez ‘very confident’ House will pass death penalty bill)

(No. That’s not really the case. As early as last week, we think we already have the vote.)

HB 4727 originally listed 21 crimes, but congressmen compromised last week for the measure to just include plunder, treason, rape, and several drug crimes. They also earlier removed the mandatory penalty of death and included safeguard measures for the accused.

The period of individual amendments was already opened for the measure last week.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas earlier said the bill will be put to a 2nd reading vote on Tuesday, February 28, but Umali said the voting may take place on Wednesday, March 1, instead.

‘Death penalty itself, not number of crimes, abhorrent’

Opposition lawmaker and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said the House leadership is only watering down the bill “because they want to entice members of the supermajority.”

“They have to further downgrade the mesaure to convince more people to vote for the death penalty bill,” said Lagman in an ambush interview.

He said the opposition bloc will continue fighting HB 4727, regardless of the number of crimes listed.

“But as far as the opposers are concerned, as long as there is a crime punishable by death, we are going to oppose it. As long as the supreme penalty of death for any crime [is there], we are going to oppose it,” said Lagman.

“It’s not the death penalty, it is not the number of crimes punishable by death, but it is the concept of the death penalty that is abhorrent,” 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.