A lawmaker on Monday claimed the ruling coalition has mustered enough votes to pass the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list made the statement ahead of the caucus of administration lawmakers in connection with the plenary debates on the death penalty measure.
“The ‘yes’ vote [for death penalty]in the House has now the [majority]number. I’m a member of the Visayan bloc. Last week we had a meeting. Out of 41 congressmen out of the Visayas bloc that’s headed by Congressman Benitez, only six of us will vote ‘no,’” Paduano told reporters.
He was referring to Rep. Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental.
“For the party-list coalition [of which I am also a member], more than half of the 40 of us will vote ‘yes,’” Paduano added.
The Super Majority bloc in the House of Representatives is composed of the ruling PDP-Laban, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, National Unity Party, Liberal Party, Lakas-CMD and the party-list coalition.
Paduano, however, won’t vote for death penalty even if he belongs to the Super Majority.
“I believe everyone deserves a second chance. That is my faith and that is my religious belief. I believe congressmen should vote based on their conscience in this issue,” Paduano said.
Buhay party-list Rep. Jose Atienza, who opposes the bill, said the House should not be a stamp pad of the administration and should not blindly follow the orders of the President.
In a forum in Manila, he said the bill would only benefit the well-off as the justice system is stacked against the poor.
“As long as the criminal justice system is corrupt, we will not be able to fight effectively, criminality with death penalty,” he said.
Death for plunder, treason, drugs
The proposed death penalty bill will be amended to spare convicts of drug possession from execution, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte said Monday.
Fariñas made the announcement after the caucus of administration lawmakers.
Crimes punishable by death penalty will include plunder, treason, and drug-related offenses except drug possession.
“Upon our agreement, we will introduce an amendatory bill. We removed [drug]possession,” Fariñas told reporters.
Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, a drug possession offense is punishable by life imprisonment to death when a person carries: 10 grams or more of opium; 10 grams or more of morphine; 10 grams or more of heroin; 10 grams or more of cocaine or cocaine hydrochloride; 50 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu”; 10 grams or more of marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil; 500 grams or more of marijuana; 10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDA) or “ecstasy”, paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), lysergic acid diethylamine (LSD), gamma hydroxyamphetamine (GHB), and those similarly designed or newly introduced drugs and their derivatives..
If a person carries illegal drugs less than the threshold, the punishment is reduced to life imprisonment.
The death penalty bill was abolished in 2006 during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This meant that the harshest punishment for drug possession offenses, regardless of the amount of drugs in possession of, is lifetime imprisonment.
Explaining the limited scope of the bill, Fariñas said: “The compelling reasons are present in these crimes. We should send a message to our people that giving aid and comfort to the enemy (treason) is a heinous crime which would merit death penalty, depending on the circumstances.”
“We also maintained that plunder is covered [in the bill],” Fariñas added.
However, he did not specify the threshold on when drug possession would be upgraded to a drug trafficking offense.