THROUGH a “shouting match,” the House of Representatives approved on second reading Wednesday House Bill 4727, a watered-down death penalty bill imposing capital punishment only on drug manufacturing and trafficking.
With the “viva voce” vote, there was no official tally as those for or against the divisive measure only had to shout “aye” or “nay.”
Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc moved for the approval of the bill on second reading around 7:30 p.m., and Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas ruled that the ayes had it.
Bondoc rushed to end the period of amendments to block Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who repeatedly proposed amendments to remove death penalty as punishment for any crime.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, the House justice committee chairman, rejected Lagman’s proposed amendments at every turn for two hours.
Lagman’s persistence on his amendments that would render the death penalty useless prevented Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list from proposing lethal injection as the sole mode of execution and introducing a sunset provision that would have limited the implementation of death penalty until noon of June 30, 2022 or the end of the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, who pledged to bring back capital punishment in the 2016 campaign.
Roque gave his colleagues the heads up on his proposed amendment on lethal injection before yielding the floor to Lagman. In the end, Bondoc did not allow Roque to propose any amendment.
The bill proceeds to a vote on third reading. The Senate has yet to pass its own version of the bill.
No nominal voting
Lagman and his fellow anti-death penalty lawmakers Rav Rocamora of Siquijor, Tom Villarin of Akbayan, Jose Atienza of Buhay party-list repeatedly moved for nominal voting—with each member saying yes or no on the podium—on the amendments and on second reading approval, but were defeated.
Atienza vowed to question the vote in court, and wondered why the House Super Majority coalition rushed to pass the bill on second reading.
Only 28 lawmakers favored nominal voting, short of the required one-fifth.
Not all of the Liberal Party’s 32 members voted for nominal voting that could have stalled the approval of the death penalty bill. The erstwhile ruling party had previously vowed to block the measure.
Among the 28 lawmakers who favored nominal voting were Makabayan bloc lawmakers from party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis.
50-50 in the Senate
Senate Majority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd admitted on Wednesday there was a “50-50” chance of getting the proposal to re-impose death penalty in the country passed in the chamber, but said more senators might change their position if proponents of the bill agree to limit its scope.
“We were able to get some senators to support the revival of the death penalty because I agreed to limit it to high-level drug trafficking,” he added.
“But if you are a pusher caught with a kilo of shabu, you will not be qualified,” he added.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th said the proposal to revive death penalty would be seriously debated in the plenary.
“The minority will play an active role in the debates and we will make sure that counter perspectives are given a space in the Senate,” said Aquino, the new deputy minority leader.
The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights had started hearing proposals to restore the death penalty, but the hearings were indefinitely suspended amid worries the country might violate the 1986 Treaty of International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
The treaty prevents states from carrying out execution as a form of punishment.
Aquino said lawmakers must confer with Foreign Affairs officials regarding international treaties in connection with the bill.
But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd has maintained that while treaties are part of the law of the land, a country can still get out of such agreements, especially when there are compelling reasons.
VACC holds vigil
Members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) held a vigil outside the House of Representatives to urge lawmakers to approve the death penalty on heinous crimes, not just drug manufacture and trade.
Some members of the anti-crime group held up pictures of massacre and murder victims.
“We are pro-death penalty. We believe that having death penalty will reduce the number of those committing violence, especially those who commit murder, rape…the same goes for corruption so we also want plunderers to be included,” VACC chief coordinator Rose Roque said.
VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez told The Manila Times: “I hope that if the House approves the death penalty bill tonight, the Senate will support also the death penalty to help the victims of heinous crimes in their quest for genuine justice.”
He cited the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group’s beheading of a German hostage. “I hope our lawmakers will wake up because if this happens to them, what will their families say about the death penalty?” Jimenez said.
WITH REINA TOLENTINO AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA