MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that contrary to the accusation of opposition lawmakers, it was the majority bloc who was "bullied" following the approval on 2nd reading of the controversial death penalty bill.
Fariñas made the statement on Thursday, March 2, a day after House Bill (HB) Number 4727 hurdled its 2nd reading before congressmen. (READ: 3rd reading vote for death penalty bill on March 7 – Fariñas)
After the vote, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said the House is now a "chamber of puppets and bullies," while Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr said he now belongs to a "House of Horrors."
But Fariñas disagreed, saying it was actually the more than 260 members of the majority bloc who were bullied by the opposition lawmakers. (WATCH: Death penalty bill breezes through 2nd reading in House)
"I will agree with them if they are referring to those who are doing everything to frustrate the will of the majority. The House of Representatives exists to represent our people. The people want the death penalty reimposed as expressed through their representatives in our caucuses and shown by them in our sessions, but a minor group against it has been bullying the majority from expressing its will," said Fariñas.
He said that when anti-death penalty lawmakers kept on insisting that quorum was needed during the period of debate for HB 4727, the likes of Lagman were bullying the administration-allied congressmen.
"They requested that we only consider the measure on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which we granted. Then, they would bully the majority by demanding that it stays in the session hall to listen to their arguments," said Fariñas.
"How many times did they prevent themselves from supposedly expressing their views by questioning the quorum themselves? They would not want to proceed with their interpellations if the majority of the members was not present to listen to them," he added.
HB 4727 seeks to allow judges to punish perpetrators of drug-related offenses with either life imprisonment or death.
The measure is a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte, who counts a majority of congressmen as his allies.
Fariñas and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez are also the President's party mates in the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
During the period of amendments for HB 4727 on Wednesday night, March 1, Lagman also tried to introduce amendments replacing all lines imposing the punishment of "reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) to death" with "reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years in prison) to reclusion perpetua."
Fariñas said this is another case of bullying by Lagman's bloc.
"We all saw how those against [the bill] bullied the majority by introducing amendments that were outrightly unacceptable since they were irreconcilable with the death penalty. After such were rejected, they would appeal them to the body and demand nominal voting on every question," said Fariñas.
"It was high time for the majority to stand up to bullying tactics of a few members!" he added.
All individual amendments proposed by Lagman, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora, 1-SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta, and Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr were thumbed down by their colleagues.
A majority of the congressmen present during the session on Wednesday also refused appeals made by Lagman, Buhay Representative Lito Atienza, and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque for nominal voting to be conducted for the 2nd reading.
Lagman, Villarin, Rocamora, Atienza, and Roque have been vocal in their opposition to the death penalty bill. – Rappler.com