When it was announced that under President Rodrigo Duterte, the government, with the assistance of China and Japan, will build a fully modern railway system or systems to serve the entire country, we were one of the first to applaud.
This totally salutary development needs to be qualified, however. It should be stated by both houses of Congress, that this massive undertaking will not include the building of a legislative railroad through which major or controversial proposals of the administration will be summarily approved or rubber-stamped – without requisite study and debate.
We raise this issue now because of the news that has been relayed to us that the House of Representatives under Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez plans to railroad through the chamber the legislative proposal for the restoration of the death penalty.
The bill on capital punishment forms a key part of President Duterte’s war on drugs. And Speaker Alvarez has himself authored the death penalty measure.
They are perfectly within their right to propose this legislation. They should argue accordingly.
But equally, opponents of capital punishment have the right to argue against passage of the measure. They contend as follows:
“Both the Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings and the House probe on the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prisons have clearly demonstrated that the pillars of our criminal justice system — from law enforcement to corrections — have been overwhelmed by corruption.”
Consequently, the real problem is not with the penalty, or the severity of the punishment for crime.
To return to our point concerning the establishment of a congressional railroad for administration bills, we are deeply concerned that the quality of legislation would suffer if the congressional process is less than the deliberative system ordained by the Constitution.
In the coming months and years, many vital issues and concerns will come before Congress for deliberation. These concerns include proposals to amend the Constitution, or to constitute Congress as a constituent assembly. There will be measures as well to pass a Bangsamoro law and to lift the economic restrictions in the Charter.
The idea that such matters will be resolved through a congressional railroad is repugnant and dangerous.
Similarly, we ought to be cautious in handling the measure to restore capital punishment, which has been fought over many times in our republic.
Human life is too precious, and state killing is too serious to be railroaded in Congress.
A Congress railroad is one rail infrastructure which the Philippines surely does not need.