Congress sets aside death penalty, age of criminal responsibility
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – With two impeachment complaints looming at the House of Representatives, justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali said the measures reimposing the death penalty and lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility are now in the "back burner."
"Na-push to the back burner iyon (That was pushed to the back burner) because again of the impeachment, because we are giving priority to the impeachment," Umali told reporters on Wednesday, May 3, when asked for the status of the bill seeking to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to either 9 or 12 years old.
"But it remains to be a priority but whether or not we will be able to pass it before we end the first regular session is another matter," he added.
Umali, whose committee is tasked to tackle bills concerning the criminal justice system, also said the death penalty measure is no longer considered an immediate priority in Congress.
The lawmaker plans to file bills seeking to revival. the death penalty for crimes like rape, plunder, and treason.
"Sinabi na ni Majority [Leader] kahapon, ni Congressman [Rodolfo] Fariñas na back burner muna itong mga death penalty so baka hindi niya i-refer sa amin (Majority Leader Fariñas said the death penalty will also be in the back burner, so maybe he will not refer it to us). So we cannot move in the meantime," said the Oriental Mindoro 2nd District representative.
The House already passed on 3rd and final reading the bill reimposing the death penalty for drug convicts in March, but its chances in the Senate remain bleak.
According to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, at least 13 senators have already expressed they will be thumbing down the capital punishment bill once it is brought before the plenary.
House and Senate leaders met on Tuesday, May 2, to determine 14 bills they will be passing on 3rd and final reading by May 31. Bills on the death penalty and lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility were not part of their list.
As these two measures take the back burner, the House justice panel will soon be busy reviewing the impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano.
Two groups have also drafted their own impeachment complaints against Vice President Leni Robredo. The Impeach Leni Movement as well as the tandem of Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez are looking for a lawmaker to endorse their complaints. (READ: Lawmaker hits Impeach Leni Movement, denies links to complaint)
The Constitution allows any Filipino citizen to draft an impeachment complaint against a public official, but he or she must get an endorsement of a lawmaker for the complaint to be considered officially filed at the House of Representatives. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?) – Rappler.com