TWO lawmakers on Wednesday claimed members of the House won’t toe Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s line on the death penalty bill, and that voting would depend on conscience, not party affiliation.
Party-list Representatives Jose Atienza of Buhay and Alfredo Garbin of Ako Bicol made the stance a day after Alvarez declared that lawmakers belonging to the majority bloc would have to vote in favor of the death penalty bill, a pet measure of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The House justice committee approved on December 7 a bill seeking the reinstatement of capital punishment for heinous and drug-related crimes in which the possession of 10 grams of narcotics could be considered drug trafficking.
“I don’t see it being on a party basis, even if the s peaker pushes for it. The members will use their conscience.
Many of them are Christians, Catholics. This is not only a legal issue. It is a moral issue. How can you allow life to be treated as if it is a commodity that the government can take, to think that it is not the government who gives a life?” House Deputy Minority Leader Atienza told reporters.
“Are we not scandalized enough with the 5,000 people who have been killed? We must first solve the bigger problem here: our weak criminal justice system,” he added.
The former Manila mayor was referring to the 5,000 drug suspects who were killed in police operations or by vigilantes since President Duterte assumed office last June 30.
The vote on death penalty will transcend political affiliation, said Garbin, also a deputy minority leader.
“Why? Get this: Anybody can just plant 10 grams of illegal drugs on somebody and that person in possession can be charged without bail and could be sentenced to death. Yes, death penalty could deter crime, but our justice system should be reformatory in character,” he said.
“The penalty of death is not being commensurate with the crime committed,” Garbin added.
The bill lists 21 “heinous crimes,” including treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence against persons, destructive arson, plunder and car theft.
‘Sunset provision’ eyed
For House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez who is one of the authors of the death penalty bill, the chances of the restoration of capital punishment will improve if its implementation will be limited to the Duterte presidency, which ends in June 2022.
“As it is, the voting will be close, but the death penalty will still win by plurality. But I have to tell you that a lot of bishops have asked me to reconsider my position, and so I thought of inserting this sunset provision of implementing the death penalty only until the end of President Duterte’s term,” Suarez said.
“If we go with this [window], we could see later on that it will be able to reduce crime incidents and eliminate lawless elements. But if it turns out to be the other way around and fails to curb criminality, there’s a remedy. This sunset provision could appease the Catholic Church,” he added.
Speaker Alvarez is adamant that Congress will be doing the right thing in restoring the death penalty, despite the staunch opposition of the Catholic Church.
“Just imagine those people who commit heinous crimes. They are like demons. Now, why would the Church protect evil? Why would they let evil triumph over good?” he said.
“Satan comes in many robes,” Alvarez added.