After death penalty vote, House a 'chamber of puppets and bullies'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition lawmakers were disappointed after the House of Representatives approved on 2nd reading the contentious death penalty measure on Monday night, March 1. 

“In the history of Congress – I’ve been here since 1987 – I have not experienced this inordinate muzzling of members of the House,” Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman told reporters after a majority of his colleagues gave their approval to House Bill (HB) Number 4727 through viva voce voting.

“This is a chamber of puppets and bullies!” he added. (WATCH: Death penalty bill breezes through 2nd reading in House

During the period of amendments prior the vote, Lagman tried several times to propose amending every line imposing the punishment of “reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) to death” to “reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years in prison) to reclusion perpetua.”  

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin also submitted a similar amendment.

But both lawmakers were turned down by House justice panel chairperson and bill sponsor Reynaldo Umali, who denied the proposals to remove the penalty of death in an “omnibus rejection.”

When Lagman and Villarin appealed to the rest of the House to reconsider Umali's decision, they also lost the appeal via viva voce voting.

"Dapat dumaan din sa nominal voting (It should have passed through nominal voting) because the 2nd reading is very important eh. Because many could have had objections on certain sections and they can raise those objections before the final vote sa (in the) 3rd reading," said Villarin. 

Further amendments to HB 4727 that were proposed by other lawmakers – Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr, Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora, and 1-SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta – were also thumbed down. 

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas eventually moved to terminate the period of amendments following Lagman’s repeated amendment proposals.  

One minute after the House officially closed the period of amendments, they also approved HB 4727 on 2nd reading. 

At the end of the session, several congressmen gathered around Lagman, who silently sat on his chair for a few minutes before granting an interview with reporters.

‘House of Horrors?’ 

Reimposing the death penalty is a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte, who counts a majority of congressmen as his allies. (READ: Duterte: Death penalty is retribution

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez previously threatened to remove House leaders from the posts should they decide to vote against HB 4727. (READ: Death penalty bill fallout: Alvarez says Arroyo to be replaced as deputy speaker

For Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, he now belongs to a “House of Horrors.” 

“We are treated like puppets. Whatever the majority or the Speaker [Pantaleon Alvarez] wants, with the power of the gavel, that’s what’s going to happen,” he said.  

In its current version, HB 4727 would allow judges to punish perpetrators of the following drug offenses with either life imprisonment or death:

The measure is expected to be passed on 3rd and final reading by Tuesday, March 7, said Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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