House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday kicked out deputy speakers who are opposed to the death penalty bill, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Alvarez said his decision was final.
Another deputy speaker who is against the death penalty is Rep. Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur.
“It is the policy of the leadership, and that is not arm-twisting. I am not threatening anybody. When I say something, I’d do it. She (Arroyo) will have to be replaced as Deputy Speaker. I haven’t talked to her, but I already asked the Majority Leader to attend to it,” Alvarez said.
“I am not forcing the members of the House leadership [to vote in favor of death penalty bill]. If there are really four deputy speakers against it, then I will have to ask for their replacement from their respective parties,” he added.
Alvarez shrugged the warning of Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list that the House leader will eventually lose the support of his allies if he continues to kick out deputy speakers who are against the death penalty.
“I am not forcing anybody. If I lose support, I’m okay with it. I am not forcing anyone to go with me,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker made the stance after a caucus with PDP-Laban members on Wednesday morning, with discussions on the death penalty bill stymied in the last two weeks because of lack of quorum.
“The party stand of PDP-Laban is the restoration of death penalty. I think we have around 100 members. If you don’t agree with the party stand, then you might as well quit from your party membership,” Alvarez told reporters.
“They are free to resign from the party. I will not force them, of course,” he added.
Alvarez also warned “Super Majority” coalition members from other political parties to toe the line or lose their positions in the House leadership.
The Super Majority coalition is led by PDP-Laban. The ruling coalition includes members of the Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Party-list Coalition, National Unity Party and Lakas-CMD.
“I already asked their cooperation since they belong to the majority [coalition]. If you were a deputy speaker or committee chairman, it would look bad if you are not supporting the administration bill. We could replace them [in the House leadership if they don’t agree with death penalty],” Alvarez said.
“But it will be up to them to leave the Super Majority,” he added.
The death penalty law was abolished during the Arroyo presidency in 2006.
On Wednesday, lawmakers amended the death penalty bill by providing life sentence as an option to punish those convicted of heinous crime.
“We agreed that the death penalty won’t be mandatory (anymore). Instead, the punishment will be ranging from reclusion perpetua (lifetime imprisonment) to death. This means it will be the judge’s call when to mete death penalty [to a convict],” Alvarez told reporters.
“The punishment will depend on attending circumstances. The judge will be the one to decide what is appropriate between the two,” he added.
The initial version of the death penalty covers heinous crimes and drug-related offenses.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Tuesday cautioned anti-death penalty lawmakers against repeatedly questioning the lack of required majority attendance on the session floor, warning that the House leadership could bar some 50 lawmakers from questioning the death penalty bill.
Under the rules, the House cannot discuss measures in the plenary without a quorum.
“If the gentleman [from Manila]will insist on having a quorum, then we will not have enough time to accommodate the 50 interpellators for the death penalty debates. If there are three [lawmakers]in favor [of death penalty]and three against, we can move to close the period of debates,” Fariñas said.
Fariñas was referring to Rep. Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list, who has been questioning the quorum. Atienza conceded and instead proposed to suspend Tuesday’s session until a quorum is reached.
In 25 minutes, a quorum was reached and the sponsorship on the death penalty bill proceeded.
The death penalty bill covers heinous crimes and drug-related offenses, and deems the possession of at least 10 grams of illegal drugs as drug trafficking punishable by death.