Suarez wants death penalty under Duterte admin only

MANILA, Philippines – House Minority Leader Danilo Saurez, a co-author of the measure seeking to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes, only wants capital punishment to be implemented under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"Dito sa version ng death penalty [bill], ang provision sa IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) ay magpo-propose [ako] ng sunset provision that the death penalty will only be up to the term of President Duterte. Pagkatapos ng kanyang term [ay tapos na]," said Suarez during the weekly minority press conference on Wednesday, December 14. 

(Here in this version of the death penalty bill, I want to propose a sunset provision under the IRR that the death penalty will only be up to the term of President Duterte. After his term, it will be finished.)

Asked why, Suarez said with a laugh: "Baka by that time, ubos na [ang mga kriminal] eh (Perhaps by that time, the criminals will all be gone already)." (READ: Death penalty bill hurdles House committee)

But the Minority Leader further elaborated on his answer, sharing that he has been receiving calls from bishops and priests to reconsider his support for House Bill (HB) Number 1. (READ: Cardinal Tagle: 'I will not give up on criminals')

"Kaya nga kung may sunset provision, baka ma-appease nang onti ang Simbahan. At parang binibigyan ng 5 taon to somehow eliminate these lawless elements," said Suarez.

(That's why I want a sunset provision, to appease the Church somehow. And to give 5 years to somehow eliminate these lawless elements.) 

He explained that the remaining years under the Duterte administration could serve as a gauge if reimposing the death penalty will truly lower the crime rate in the Philippines. Anti-death penalty advocates have been arguing that it is not a deterrent to crime.

"'Pag naglagay tayo ng sunset provision, by that time siguro mare-realize natin kung talagang deterrent sa criminality at [kung] talagang bumaba ang crime rate, then we are right that death penalty should be there," said Suarez.

(If we put a sunset provision, and if by that time we see that it is a true deterrent to criminality and the crime rate decreased, then we are right that the death penalty should be there.)

"Ina-admit ko na napaka-weak ng ating judiciary, procedural, and at the same time, moral issues in the system. Na kahit may death penalty, baka hindi maging deterrent, baka rin 'di ma-curb 'yung criminality," he added.

(I admit that our judiciary is weak as well as the procedural and moral issues in the system. That even if there is death penalty, it may not be a deterrent and it may not curb criminality.)

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, another co-author of HB Number 1, had agreed to extend the House debates on the death penalty bill to January 2017. 

Members of the House independent minority bloc believe the House leadership has not yet gathered enough support for the measure. But the Speaker insisted that the bill would be passed on 3rd and final reading by next year.  

Conscience vs party vote

Unlike Suarez, however, minority lawmakers Buhay Representative Lito Atienza and AKO Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr are both against reimposing the death penalty. 

"I don't believe that it would solve the problem. It will create another bigger problem! It is the criminal justice system that is at fault!" said Atienza.

He believes that congressmen would use their conscience once HB Number 1 is put on the plenary floor for voting. 

"This will be a very divisive measure that will see the alignment of like-minded members for or against. I don't see it being followed on a party basis. Even if Speaker wishes for that, I have a higher regard for my colleagues. They will use their conscience," said Atienza.  

Garbin agreed, saying lawmakers' votes on the death penalty will "transcend political affiliations."

"Now speaking of corruption and we have to reform our judicial and criminal justice system, ito nakakatakot po ito (this is scary). Baka kahit sino na lang, ma-implant lang 'yung 10 grams, non-bailable na 'yung kaso (Anyone can implant 10 grams of drugs and the case would be non-bailable already). This could be a deterrent to a crime or can be used for extortion or corruption also by enforcement agencies," said Garbin. 

Another minority lawmaker, Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, is also against the death penalty.

ACTS-OFW Representative John Bertiz, meanwhile, wants human trafficking and child pornography to be included in the list of crimes punishable by death. – 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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