Malacañang on Thursday denied reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has been pressuring Congress to pass a bill seeking to restore the death penalty.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte is keeping his hands off deliberations on death penalty, noting that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.
“The revival of death penalty is a campaign promise of President Duterte and part of the priority legislative measure of his administration. The President respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government,” Andanar told reporters.
“He trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he added.
Andanar issued the statement following Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza’s claims that Duterte has pressued lawmakers to approve the proposal to revive death penalty.
“Ito ay initiative ng administrasyon, hindi naman ng Kongreso. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. Kaya kaming mga congressmen, sad to say, ay under pressure. Lahat ‘yung sumasasama sa kanilang mayorya at ito ay halo halo ng mga pulitikong sumasama sa mayorya ay susumunod lang sa utos ng nakakataas [This is an initiative of the administration and not of the Congress. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. We, congressmen, sad to say, are under pressure. Those who joined the majority were obliged to follow orders],” Atienza said.
Duterte last month said that five to six people will die every day once Congress approves the revival of death penalty.
The death penalty in the country was abolished under the 1987 Constitution but was reinstated under President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993.
It was again abolished under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.
Even before being elected in the 2016 polls, Duterte has been pushing for the revival of the capital punishment, saying it would serve as retribution for those who committed heinous crimes.
A bill seeking to reinstate the death penalty has recently been approved at the sub-committee level in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill 185 proposing that death penalty be reimposed and the penalties be increased for heinous crimes involving dangerous drugs in October.
The bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church, human rights groups, and some lawmakers who asserted that death penalty does not deter crime.