The House Justice Sub-Committee on Judicial Reforms has approved a bill that seeks to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes, including possession of at least 10 grams of illegal drugs.
The panel approved the substitute death penalty measure, a consolidated version of six bills, even if it was not listed in the agenda.
The six lawmakers who voted for the restoration of the death penalty are Deputy Speakers Gwen Garcia, Sharon Garin and Fredenil Castro and Reps. Aurelio Gonzales, Art Defensor and Ace Barbers.
Five lawmakers — Eric Singson of Ilocos Sur, Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, Luis Campos of Makati, Victoria Noel of An Waray and Eugene de Vera — wanted the capital punishment meted only on drug-related offenses.
Barbers said possession of 10 grams of illegal drugs should be punishable by death to deter anybody from getting near drugs.
“This [10 grams] amount of drugs can be concealed and kept in a pocket. If we include this in the law [imposing death penalty, it will cause a fear factor and nobody would even dare carry drugs in his or her pocket. I believe that [step]is a deterrent,” Barbers pointed out.
But for Reps. Edcel Lagman of Albay and Ramon Rocamora of Siquijor, passing the death penalty bill without a committee report violates House rules.
“Who presided over the drafting of these substitute bills which are not even on the agenda? Who participated in such a meeting? This is a clear violation of our rules which requires a Committee report [on a substitute bill],” Lagman said.
“The Constitution requires a compelling reason to restore death penalty, and there is no compelling reason now. The railroading has begun. The message of the House leaders is clear: Have a deadly Christmas,” Lagman added.
Rocamora, a public prosecutor for 24 years, argued that bringing back capital punishment will lead to the execution of innocent people.
“I oppose the death penalty because our criminal justice system is not capable of implementing it. For one, 60 percent of drug-related cases stem from trumped-up charges because authorities find it difficult to find other evidence. Now, is it fair to put people to death based on trumped-up charges?” Rocamora stressed.
“We need to maintain our decency. We need to maintain our humanity,” he added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte earlier said the House will approve the death penalty measure before Congress adjourns for its Christmas break on December 14. Llanesca T. Panti