MEMBERS of the Super Majority bloc in the House of Representatives have agreed to pass the death penalty bill that has been limited to cover drug-related heinous crimes.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, Chairman of the justice panel, made the announcement following a caucus of allies of President Rodrigo Duterte and two days before the House is expected to vote on the death penalty measure.
The bill initially covered 21 crimes but the list was trimmed down to four last week –plunder, treason, rape with homicide and drug-related crimes. After the caucus the administration lawmakers decided to limit it to drug-related cases – manufacturing, selling and trafficking of drugs but not drug possession.
“We have removed treason, plunder, rape. It was done because this is about getting the consensus of the group. It became easier when we limited it to drug-related crimes, except for possession. After all, this was the original intent in the aftermath of our inquiry of the illegal drug trade in [New] Bilibid [Prison],” Umali told reporters.
Under the 1987 Constitution, death penalty “should not be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it.”
“We are being asked for a compelling reason for the reimposition of the death penalty. We are being asked for statistics, and we all know that there are a lot of drug dependents who were jailed, arrested, and so on and so forth [in the government’s war on drugs],” Umali pointed out.
He was referring to the 700,000 self-confessed drug dependents who surrendered during the implementation of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs that also claimed the lives of at least 7,000 suspected drug personalities.
“Last week, we really thought we already have the numbers [to approve the death penalty bill]. But there are those who will vote with a heavy heart. We didn’t want people to have a baggage. Even Senator [Tito] Sotto told me that if the bill will be limited to drug related crimes, they will not have any problem [stirring it to passage]in the Senate,” Umali said.
“Yes, it is easier to pass now because we have provided a compelling reason that we are being asked about by those opposed to the death penalty. People will say, why not include rape? Why not kidnapping? That discussion will go on and on and those who are against the death penalty remains to be against it. The whole point is to get a headway in this, and we got that,” he added.