Passing the death penalty bill is like drawing a line between the rich and the poor, a lawmaker said on Sunday.
In a statement, Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list noted that the House majority members have “clearly drawn” the line between rich and poor offenders.
“[With] moneyed defendants likely to receive mere prison terms, if at all get convicted, destitute ones are bound to draw death sentences,” Atienza said in a statement.
“Death for the poor, lavish lives in prison for the rich. This is apparently what our colleagues in the majority want,” he added.
Atienza, a deputy minority leader, was responding to a “last-minute” decision of the so-called super majority in the House of Representatives to abandon mandatory executions.
“[My response to the decision is for the House majority] in favor of giving trial judges the leeway to hand out either the lighter sentence of reclusion perpetua, or the heavier punishment of death, to those found guilty of heinous crimes,” he said.
The death penalty is a “travesty” where only indigent citizens “inadequately represented at trial will receive it” and those who are living with a lavish life, are able to retain the best lawyers that will keep them from such convictions, Atienza also noted.
“If their expensive lawyers are not enough, the rich will simply buy their way out of death sentences, or even out of prison, by bribing corrupt prosecutors and judges,” according to the lawmaker.
In the statement, Atienza said House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte has called for a caucus on Monday to discuss possible early voting on the death penalty bill or House Bill 4727.
“The House is set to advance the voting on the controversial bill reviving the death penalty,” he added.
Atienza, however, said he and his colleagues who oppose the passage of capital punishment for heinous crimes “have been trying to stall the passage of the bill,” with them repeatedly asking for a quorum during sessions.
On February 9, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he is aiming for the passage of the bill by mid-March or before the House takes a 6-week break starting March 18.
Alvarez threatened other leaders in the Congress that their House committee leadership is at stake if they will not support the passage of the death penalty bill.