Lawmakers who are against the death penalty bill should stop questioning the quorum or the majority attendance of House members needed to proceed in plenary debates.
Rep. Rey Umali of Oriental Mindoro, chairman of the House Justice panel, made the call after only two anti-death penalty bill lawmakers were able to question the measure in the last two weeks.
“There are numerous members of the House in the plenary, only that it is short of the quorum [of 147 lawmakers]because other members are also attending to constituent work. Others are maybe on break. If you want to debate, then they should not raise the issue of quorum. Anyway, our proceedings are covered by the media,” Umali said in a radio interview.
“Besides, we have our journals. If one of our members wants to study the measure, they can also refer to the journal. They don’t need to rely on plenary debates alone. There are also caucuses (meetings) among lawmakers on crucial measures,” Umali added.
Umali claimed that questioning the quorum is also tantamount to depriving the public of a chance to hear the merits of the death penalty measure.
“It is important for the debates to push through. You can also read about what happened in the debates in newspapers. There are a lot of ways on how a member can study the pending death penalty. If we can’t proceed with plenary debates because the quorum is being questioned, the public won’t have the same chance of knowing the benefits and cons of the measure,” Umali, a lawyer, argued.
The House is expected to approve the death apenalty bill on second reading by March 8 and on third and final reading on March 15.
Also on Sunday, Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list announced that 36 members of the party-list coalition would vote in favor of the death penalty.
“We decided that we will support the stance of the House leaders on the priority legislation of the Duterte administration. Having a provision that there are crimes which are punishable either by lifetime imprisonment or death penalty is already a good compromise,” Batocabe said in a separate radio interview.
“I would say my other colleagues would also welcome that compromise because death won’t be mandatory anymore,” Batocabe added.