Robredo on lawmakers' stand on death penalty: Position or principles?

MANILA, Philippines – For Vice President Leni Robredo, the controversy surrounding the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives is a chance for lawmakers to prove that they value their principles more than their positions.

"Ito iyong chance nila para ipakita kung ano'ng mas mahalaga, ano 'yung mas mahalaga sa kanila: to hold on to their positions o panindigan ang kanilang paniniwala?" Robredo said in a press conference on Thursday, February 9.

(This is their chance to show what is more important to them. What is more important to them: hold on to their positions or stand by what they believe in?)

The Vice President was reacting to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's plan to replace deputy speakers and committee chairpersons who will reject the death penalty bill.

Alvarez said on Wednesday, February 8, that it would be awkward for deputy speakers and lawmakers holding committee chairmanships if they do not agree with a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte.

He even said former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be replaced because she opposes the death penalty bill. Arroyo is one of the deputy speakers of the House.

Capital punishment had been abolished for the second time in 2006 under the Arroyo administration. (READ: Congressmen's compromise: No mandatory penalty of death in bill)

For Robredo, now is a "defining moment" for House members to show what kind of leader they are.

"Tingin ko parang leaders are born this way na handang mag-defy sa utos ng mas nakatataas," the former Camarines Sur representative added. (I think leaders are born this way – they are ready to defy the orders of higher-ups if necessary.)

No final LP stand

The debates on the death penalty bill started in the House last week. Alvarez said on Thursday that he wanted congressmen to pass the bill by mid-March, which means they would tackle the measure for only a little over a month.

In the Senate, however, lawmakers are keen to kill the proposal.

Alvarez has met with congressmen of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to inform them that the party will be taking a unified stand on voting for the measure.

Asked if the Liberal Party (LP) will also decide on a uniform vote, Robredo said they will first seek consensus among their members. If they are divided, the Vice President said they will be taking a conscience vote.

Robredo, a longtime human rights lawyer before she entered politics, has been vocal on her stand against the death penalty. Opposition lawmakers from the LP also previously said that most of their party mates are against the measure. (READ: Robredo: Death penalty bill rushed to fulfill Duterte's wishes– Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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