The House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the death penalty bill on third and final reading, but those who opposed the measure vowed to question it before the Supreme Court.
Through a vote of 217 -54 with one abstention, lawmakers passed House Bill 4727 which seeks to reimpose capital punishment on drug dealers and authorities who will be found guilty of planting illegal drugs as evidence.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has earlier warned that he will kick out deputy speakers and lawmakers with committee chairmanships who will vote against the bill.
His threat was ignored by at least five lawmakers who voted no — Deputy Speaker Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga,
House Civil Service panel Chairman Vilma Santos-Recto and House People Participation panel Chairman Arlene Bag-ao, House Committee on Land Use Chairman Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City and Josephine Sato of Occidental Mindoro who is a member of the CA.
Rep. Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, chairman of the Committee on Dangerous Drugs, voted yes, arguing that lip service, condemnations and pro-life protests cannot free the nation from an impending doom from illegal drugs.
“What we need is a firm grasp of reality and uncompromising action to save our children from certain catastrophe. After everything that we have seen, the brutal crimes committed by drug addicts, the wasted bodies of long-time drug users, the countless families ruined and the involvement of high government officials in the lucrative drug trade, are we going to wait until our very own family members fall victim to this unspeakable brutality before we finally take action?” Barbers said.
But for Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list who voted no, it is wrong to consider death penalty as a solution to stop crime when ineffective enforcement and prosecution of law mar the country’s criminal justice system.
“There is always the high probability of someone being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death because of our dysfunctional criminal justice system. The right to life is non-derogable, whether in times of peace or in times of war. This right cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of the circumstances,” Roque stressed.
“The right to life means it is the highest of all societal values, so that it cannot be easily dispensed with. A person wrongfully executed for a crime he or she did not commit is a denial of a basic principle of criminal law as expressed in the great English jurist William Blackstone’s famous formulation: It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” he added.
Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay vowed to challenge the death penalty bill before the Supreme Court.
Lagman decried the unlawfulness and haste of approving the measure, maintaining that there was no compelling reason to restore the death penalty.
“I don’t know why they are such in a hurry when the Senate is yet to take action on this. They have this bad habit of doing things with alacrity and trampling on rules. Even if this bill is enacted into law, we will immediately go to the Supreme Court, even before the ink that was used to sign this into law dries up,” Lagman told reporters.
Aside from violating the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Lagman said the death penalty violates the Constitution because the authors have failed to provide a compelling reason for the restoration of the death penalty.
“Not one author of the bill was able to provide a compelling reason. The bill does not even provide for a mode of execution, whether it would be lethal injection, firing squad or hanging. That’s because haste makes waste,” he added.
“What happened today is a day of revelation, and you saw who are those who stood their ground against the death penalty and those who succumbed to intimidation,” Lagman said.