President Rodrigo Duterte questioned the move of Congress to exclude plunder and rape from the list of crimes punishable by death penalty.
In an interview in Cagayan de Oro, Duterte said he will seek clarification from Congress why the two crimes were removed from the bill that seeks to revive the capital punishment.
“I really would like to know the rationale of Congress why is it that rape and plunder was taken out,” he told reporters. “It is not consistent (with my drive against corruption)],” he added.
The President said that even though he had no intention of killing plunderers, he would still like to know the rationale behind its exclusion.
“I said I’ll stop corruption, but I didn’t say I will kill the plunderers. What was in my mind is that corruption will stop and it will stop,” he said.
On Monday last week, the House Majority bloc decided to exclude plunder, rape and treason from the list of crimes punishable by death penalty. The bill was passed via voice vote on second reading.
Lawmakers, including Duterte’s allies, have said they decided to take out plunder and rape to make the controversial bill easier to pass. Only drug manufacturing and drug distribution will be covered by capital punishment.
The House is set to take up the measure on third and final reading on Tuesday.
Senators have indicated that debates on the death penalty bill will be more exhaustive in the Senate.
Fight not over
But Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao said the fight against death penalty is not yet over.
Baguilat said that his fellow lawmakers could still change their minds and vote according to their conscience.
The lawmaker said that his colleagues should “not succumb to fear and intimidation” by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who threatened several lawmakers not to vote against the bill.
“Let this be a conscience vote, not one dictated by party lines. But they should state their position clearly so the people may know who passed this sentence on the Filipino people,” Baguilat said.
“I’ve seen high points and low points in the House, but nothing caused me as much shame and sadness as when I saw a good number of my colleagues seemingly celebrating the passage of the death penalty bill,” he added.
“[Passing the] death penalty [bill]speaks about our morality as a nation and will impact mostly the poor,” the minority lawmaker said. “Railroading the discussions deprived our people the chance to truly examine the bill and the state of our country.”
Baguilat urged his colleagues to “take responsibility for whatever action they will take.”
“I also call on the church to take a stronger stand on the issue. I call on those who respect life to let their voices be heard,” he added.
A staunch critic of the death penalty bill, Baguilat expressed fears that with the voting patter of the death penalty bill, other “anti-rights” bills such as the lowering of age of criminal liability to nine years old may also be swiftly passed.
“It is disturbing to say the least that the House leadership has prioritized bills that promote the culture of death and the trampling of human rights,” he lamented. CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND DEMPSEY REYES