By Raynan F. Javil

House leader advances death penalty approval

Posted on February 21, 2017

THE LEADERSHIP of the House of Representatives has set the second-reading approval of the death penalty bill on Feb. 28, from the initial March 8 date, as majority lawmakers decided to trim down the list of heinous crimes punishable by death to nine from 21.

Lawmakers decided to remove the possession of illegal drugs as one of the heinous crimes punishable by death.
“If they cannot maintain the quorum to listen to them by Wednesday, then it’s over. What’s the point in doing the debate, we will advance the voting on Feb. 28. So I’ll give them until Tuesday to maintain quorum to listen to them,” House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Farinas told reporters, referring to the opposition lawmakers who keep on questioning the number of House members present on the plenary during session.

The House majority members held a caucus yesterday afternoon to determine if they would terminate the period of debates on the death penalty and just proceed to the bill’s approval.

“How could I force people to listen to their points if people have already made up their minds,” said Mr. Farinas, adding that “nobody wants to listen to them.”

The majority leader also said that they have agreed to trim down the list of heinous crimes under the proposed death penalty law.

“We agreed that we will whittle it down to a minimum number of offenses.... Drug-related offenses and then plunder and then treason,” he said, adding that the crimes listed are the most compelling reason to bring back the capital punishment.

Mr. Farinas said that lawmakers decided to remove the possession of illegal drugs as one of the heinous crimes. With this move, only seven drug-related crimes will be punishable by death.

Mr. Farinas also clarified that plunder will stay as one of the heinous crimes and “in fact the bill as it stands includes plunder and 20 other offenses.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party (LP), in a position paper, maintained its opposition to the passage of the death penalty bill.

“This has been our stand since 2006, when we voted to abolish the death penalty, and the reasons for our vote remain: It has repeatedly proven to be ineffective, it is overwhelmingly inflicted on the poor and powerless, it is imposed by a fallible and flawed justice system, and it violates international laws the Philippine nation has sworn to abide by,” the LP’s position paper read.

The LP noted that the death penalty is not a deterrent and has never been “scientifically proven” to have a substantial effect in reducing crime incidence, pointing out that the country’s national crime volume even increased by 15.3%, during the bumper year of executions in 1999 when seven individuals were executed for different heinous crimes.

The LP added that the death penalty, when it was still in effect in the country, was imposed mostly on inmates belonging to the poorest of the poor and low education level.

“In other words, the death penalty disproportionately targets the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society, those who have limited access to adequate legal representation and who are the most prone to have their rights disregarded or violated,” the position paper read.

They also warned that reinstating the death penalty could cost the country trade perks such as those under the Philippine-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“In addition to the PH-EU FTA, we are at risk to lose access to the EU’s Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+)... It gives us access to EU markets which contributes to our economic growth,” the LP said.