House passes death bill

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the reimposition of the death penalty, dashing on drug dealers as well as authorities who will be found guilty of planting illegal drugs as evidence on third and final reading on Tuesday.

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There were 217 who voted in favor of the death penalty bill—annihilating the mere 54 House members who voted against the restoration of the capital punishment.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte has earlier said that he will kick out Deputy Speakers and House members with Committee Chairmanships who will vote against the death penalty.

Alvarez’s threat did not work on at least five lawmakers who still 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 House Committee on Dangerous Drugs voted yes to death penalty, arguing that lip service, condemnations and pro-life protests cannot free our nation from the impending doom.

“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 propose the death penalty as a solution 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, a lawyer, said.

“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,” Roque added.

Roque’s fellow anti-death penalty lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, for his part, vowed to challenge the death penalty bill before the Supreme Court.

Lagman decried the unlawfulness and haste of approving the measure, aside from the lack of compelling reason involving heinous crimes as required by the 1987 Constitution in restoring the death penalty.

Lagman cited Section 26 of Article 6 of the Constitution which provides that: “No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days and printed copies thereof in its final form had been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment…”

Lagman also cited Section 58 of Rule 10 of the Rules of the House which provides” No bill or joint resolution shall become law unless it passes three (3) readings on separate days and printed copies thereof in its final form are distributed to the Members three (3) days before its passage except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment …”

“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 upon of 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 being in violation of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Lagman argued that 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, on whether it would be lethal injection, firing squad or hanging. That’s because haste makes waste,” Lagman said in a separate talk.

“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 added. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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