Alvarez: ‘Realistic’ to limit death penalty to drug offenses for now

Mara Cepeda
Alvarez: ‘Realistic’ to limit death penalty to drug offenses for now
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says there are still 'a lot of possibilities' for the death penalty bill, including the addition of rape and plunder under the measure in the future

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez rejected criticism being thrown at congressmen after they approved on 2nd reading the reimposition of the death penalty for 8 drug crimes.

Alvarez explained on Monday, March 6, that the majority bloc agreed to remove rape, plunder, treason, and other crimes originally listed under House Bill (HB) Number 4727 so they would be able to produce “output” already.  

“Gusto natin meron tayong output kaagad. Kung hindi naman talaga halimbawa ‘yung sabihin natin na tinanggal na talaga ‘yung ibang crimes dahil inuuna lang natin ‘yung related do’n sa illegal drugs,” said the Speaker.

(We want to have output already. We’re not saying we really removed the other crimes because we just put the ones involving illegal drugs ahead of the rest.) 

He denied, however, that the decision was made as a matter of convenience, given that reimposing the death penalty for heinous crimes is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

“Hindi ‘yun matter of convenience kundi alam mo, we have to be realistic. Kasi kung gusto natin sabay-sabay at matagal naman nating pag-uusapan ‘yan, eh mabuti pa ‘yung isa-isa na lang para meron tayong nagagawa,” said Alvarez.

(It’s not a matter of convenience but you know, we have to be realistic. Because if we want the crimes to be added at the same time but it will take a while for us to talk about it, then it’s better if we do it one by one so we can accomplish something.)

The original version of HB 4727, which counts Alvarez as one of its principal co-authors, originally listed 21 crimes punishable by death. Congressmen later agreed to remove rape, plunder, treason, and other offenses following several majority caucuses. 

Over the weekend, Duterte said he wants to know the rationale behind lawmakers’ decision to remove rape under the measure. Alvarez said he will be explaining their reason to the President himself. 

Some lawmakers also said members of the bicameral conference committee for HB 4727 – composed of select congressmen and senators – may opt to insert rape, plunder, treason, and other offenses in the measure. 

“There are a lot of possibilities,” said Alvarez when asked for a reaction, agreeing that HB 4727 may still be further amended before both the House and the Senate approve it.

Asked which among rape and plunder he would prefer to be added to the bill right after drug offenses, Alvarez said, “Sabay (Both of them).”

Alvarez, a longtime ally of Duterte, is bent on having HB 4727 passed on 3rd and final reading before Congress takes a break on March 18.

He already warned that House leaders who will vote against the bill or vote abstain and those who will be absent during the proceedings will be replaced.

Opposition lawmaker and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman earlier said the House has turned into a “chamber of puppets and bullies” after congressmen approved HB 4727 on 2nd reading last week.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, however, said the real bullies at the House are “those who are doing everything to frustrate the will of the majority.” – 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.