Lawmakers brace for death penalty debates

MANILA-- Lawmakers at the House of Representatives are bracing for the extensive plenary debates over the reimposition of the death penalty in the Philippines.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, member of the independent House minority bloc, said there is no "ripe" time for pushing for the revival of capital punishment, especially with flawed police, prosecutorial and judicial systems.

Lagman, instead, insisted on the implementation of the much needed reforms in the police and justice systems.

"We must put the death penalty bill irretrievably in the backburner[] Once we are able to effectively reform the police, the prosecutorial, and judicial systems there will be absolutely no need in reviving the death penalty," he added.

The lower chamber is expected to undergo full floor debates on the contentious issue starting Tuesday's session.

The Albay lawmaker said that about 50 interpellators have already confirmed, but so far only 25 lawmakers have been inputted in the partial list that was submitted to Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas. He noted that the interpellators are "predominantly" coming from the so-called "supermajority" coalition.

Lagman reiterated his call to the House leadership to allow his colleagues to exercise a conscience vote instead of a party vote, which he considers as a "pressure vote". Either way, he expressed confidence that they will prevail on this contentious issue.

Meanwhile, the 7-member Makabayan bloc also expressed its opposition to the restoration of the death penalty as proposed in House Bill No. 4727.

The group laid out its arguments against the measure, noting that it is anti-poor; a historic tool for suppressing political dissent; prone to abuse by corrupt police, military, and other state agents; and ultimately, an ineffective deterrent against criminality, rooted in mass poverty and an unjust social system.

"Given the existing social inequity, combined with our flawed and corrupt justice system, the reimposition of the death penalty will inflict yet another injustice on the poor and marginalized," the group said.

Instead of reinstating capital punishment, the progressive bloc cited the need to conduct a "massive purge" of corrupt and criminal officials in the bureaucracy.

"The solution to the nation's problems will not be paved by fascism but by pursuing radical system change in the socio-economic, cultural and political spheres, including the establishment of a justice that favors the poor and oppressed," the bloc said.

Gabriela solon Emmi de Jesus, who is part of the Makabayan bloc, lamented the flawed justice system in the country, saying that the death penalty is a threat to life and basic rights.

De Jesus said even its promised suppression of rape and other heinous crimes against women is just a "paradox".

She cited that the incidence of rape, including child rape, continued to rise even after the re-imposition of the death penalty with the annual average of rape incidents reaching 3,899 in a span of 15 years.

Fellow Gabriela solon Arlene Brosas further warned that with four out of 10 law enforcers said to be involved in rogue activities, the death penalty opens another floodgate for abuse from the police and other persons of authority.

"The death penalty will breed further injustice amid heightened poverty, social inequities and a deeply flawed justice system. We oppose the re-imposition of the death penalty," said Brosas.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said he is confident the lower chamber will pass the measure reinstating the death penalty after thirty days of full deliberations.

"I am very confident of its passage. Well, we have a supermajority coalition and if there is anyone who will go against it, there are probably just around 5 or 10 (lawmakers)," Alvarez said.

"Probably 30 days is already long enough for us to complete its passage in the House Let's allow the full debates to happen first so we can discern the sentiments of the members of the majority," he added.

The measure reviving death penalty already passed a major hurdle in the committee level last Dec. 7, 2016.

Under the proposed measure, the heinous crimes for which the death penalty will be imposed include illegal drug trafficking, arson, treason, murder, rape, kidnapping, and carnapping.

The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

The imposition of death penalty has been suspended since 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines."

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly declared that he wanted capital punishment reimposed on heinous crimes, especially on criminals involved in drug-trafficking. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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