Leaders of the House of Representatives who oppose the proposed death penalty should stand their ground even at the risk of losing their post, Vice President Maria “Leonor” Leni Robredo said on Thursday.
Robredo made the call a day after Speaker Panteleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte vowed to purge House leadership of anti-death penalty lawmakers by replacing Deputy Speakers who are against the restoration of capital punishment such as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rep. Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur.
“What the Speaker said is both a threat, arm-twisting and so much more. I don’t agree with this strategy, but this is also a defining moment for the House members, especially for those holding leadership positions. This is their chance to show what is more important: To hold on to House positions or stand on their principles?” the Camarines Sur representative during the 16th Congress told reporters.
“Leaders are born this way, being ready to defy the higher ups for their principles. Speaker Alvarez said that this [ouster of anti-death penalty Deputy Speakers]is a leadership measure. It won’t be easy, but this is a privilege for our lawmakers to show what really matters to them,” Robredo said.
The House has already amended the proposed death penalty bill by providing lifetime imprisonment or death penalty for eight heinous crimes but the Vice President has remained an opponent of the death penalty.
“We’ll be watching on how they are going to deal with this dilemma. It doesn’t come very often that a legislator is being made to choose what matters more, and their action is equally important to us spectators because their actions will reveal their true colors,” Robredo pointed out.
She recalled that such threat of losing House leadership posts was not issued at the time that the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill was being pushed during the presidency of then-Liberal Party (LP) chairman Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The LP had a party stand in favor of the RH bill but the debates took at least a year long before the LP mustered enough members in favor of the RH bill passage.
A few LP members who were not in favor of the RH measure did not cast their vote on the bill.
Robredo, now the interim LP chairman, conceded that the LP is yet to decide on whether it will take a party stand against or in favor the death penalty bill.
“What we agreed upon in the party is that we will get a consensus and the stand of the majority, either for or against [death penalty], that will be the party stand. But if the party members are equally divided, we will go for the conscience vote, and from what I know, many members of the House from the LP are pushing for a conscience vote,” she said. LLANESCA T. PANTI