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Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez has offered a “sunset provision” which would abolish death penalty as soon as President Rodrigo Duterte’s term of office expires in 2022.
The Chief Executive and his supporters have sought to reinstate the punishment as a deterrent to rising crime and drug use.
Admitting that he has been receiving calls from leaders of the Catholic Church, he said the provision in the measure could soften the strong opposition to the bill’s enactment.
“When the sunset provision takes effect after President Duterte steps down from office in 2022, we would have enough data to analyze if the death penalty really served its purpose to deter crimes,” he told a press conference.
Thousands have died in police operations against illicit drugs since July 1 when Duterte assumed the presidency. Those killed were mostly street level peddlers and users, who police said had resisted arrest.
“I have to confess that I received several calls from our beloved bishops and religious leaders asking me to reconsider, because they know my position,” Suarez stressed.The opposition leader is one of the authors of the death penalty bill that is scheduled for plenary deliberations when House sessions resume next month.

Suarez also guaranteed that the minority bloc in the chamber will be given the freedom of choice on the restoration of capital punishment for heinous crimes.
Not a party issue
Members of the independent minority bloc believe the House leadership has not yet gathered enough support for the measure but Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, another co-author of House Bill 1, insisted that the bill would be passed on third and final reading by next year.
The House justice committee has already approved the bill for heinous and drug-related crimes which also provides that possession of 10 grams of illegal drugs as drug trafficking which is punishable by life imprisonment or death.
During the same press conference, Buhay partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, however, called for a conscience vote on the death penalty measure even as ACTS-OFW Rep. John Bertiz urged authors of the controversial bill to include human trafficking among the crimes punishable by death.
Atienza lamented reports that the House leadership is moving for a party position in support of the measure which is a priority legislative proposal of the Duterte administration.
“But I don’t see this being followed on a party basis, I have higher regard for my colleagues,” Atienza, a pro-life advocate, said.
“This will a very divisive measure.  We can see the alignment of like-minded members for and against, the bill,” he added.
Atienza said he is optimistic about the outcome of the plenary vote, stressing he expects a huge anti-death penalty vote even from the Malacañang-backed super-majority.
“Many of them are Christians, Catholics. Would we not be scandalized as more than 6,000 have already been killed?” he asked.
Atienza was referring to the drug suspects who were killed in police operations and vigilante attacks since Duterte assumed office last June 30.
AKO Bicol partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. also expressed his opposition to the death penalty.
“This is scary. Anyone can plant 10 grams of drugs and the case would be non-bailable already. This could be a deterrent to a crime or can be used for extortion or corruption also by enforcement agencies,” he noted.
Garbin stressed the penalty of death is not commensurate to the crime committed.
The proposed death penalty bill metes death for the following crimes: treason; qualified piracy; qualified bribery; parricide; murder; infanticide; rape; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons; destructive arson; importation of dangerous drugs and or controlled precursors and essential chemicals sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs and or controlled precursors and essential chemicals; maintenance of drug den; manufacture of dangerous drugs and or controlled precursor and essential chemicals; possession of dangerous drugs; cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs; unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs; criminal liability of public officer for misappropriation; misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated seized or surrendered drugs; criminal liability for planting evidence and car theft.
Bertiz, however, said compared to car theft, which is included as a capital punishment crime, human trafficking involving women and children, is a far more heinous offense committed by local and international syndicates.

Speaker Alvarez confident on death penalty passage

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 00:00 Published in Headlines

Despite the growing opposition against the death penalty bill, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday said the death penalty bill is going to be passed in the House as envisioned by the Duterte administration. Alvarez said the House of Representatives will be able to muster enough warm bodies to pass the bill by January.

The Speaker stressed the need for Congress to reinstate the capital punishment in the country in support to President Duterte’s campaign in the war against drugs.
“Here at the Lower House, I am confident we will be able to muster a quorum to pass the death penalty bill,” Alvarez told reporters, stressing that the “party vote” will prevail during the passage of the measure.
Alvarez said he is hopeful that members of the majority bloc will toe the line as the bill is among the priority measures of the Duterte administration.
Alvarez maintained that the re-imposition of capital punishment in the country is necessary because the rise of criminality in the Philippines has reached an “alarming proportion.”
He said the enactment of the bill reviving the death penalty will enable the government to come up with an “all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts.”
But the minority bloc belied the claim of Alvarez that the House leadership will have the numbers to pass the death penalty bill.
“On percentage, I don’t know where he got the percentages but we have reports from those who attended the caucus that those who were opposed and those undecided were more than those who said they were for the re-imposition (of the death penalty),” said Lagman.
Lagman also welcomed the position of former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to remain opposed to the death penalty bill.
“We welcome the position of the former president that she is steadfast in the crusade against the death penalty... We are banking on [the fact] that all those under her party will also vote against the death penalty re-imposition,” Lagman said.
Yellows swallow bitter pill in bid forging alliance with GMA
With their numbers reduced to a negligent few, the hardcore group within the Liberal Party (LP), referred to sometimes as the yellow bloc, yesterday bared they are willing to forge an alliance with former president and now Deputy Speaker Arroyo in fighting off a bid by the Malacañang-backed supermajority to reimpose the death penalty.
In a press briefing, Lagman, the figurehead of the so-called independent minority bloc calling itself the “Magnificent Seven,” composed of Aquino-administration allies in the Lower House, also called on Arroyo’s “partymates” to join the anti-death penalty advocacy in the chamber.
“We are banking on all those who were with her in her party will also vote against the death penalty imposition,” said Lagman, referring to the Lakas-CMD which he and Arroyo used to head.
Earlier, Arroyo bared she had already informed the President, the prime advocate of the capital punishment, that she will not support the bill.
However, the former chief executive stressed that she will not be drawn to a debate on the issue.
Lagman said that while the country has been spared a “deadly Christmas”, he expects the death penalty bill to resume in January as promised by its principal author, Speaker Alvarez.
“Our advocacy has won the first battle to really object and not to have this measure approved on second reading before Christmas day,” he said.
Asked if their group is willing to forge an anti-death penalty alliance with Duterte and Alvarez’s supporters from the supermajority that includes Arroyo, Lagman said they can do it to gain a victory against the restoration of the death sentence.
“That is not a problem, the more adherence, the better,” he said.
“We welcome the position of the former president that she is steadfast against the death penalty,” the veteran solon stated.
Lagman, together with Reps. Tom Villarin (Akbayan) and Teddy Baguilat Ifugao), is confident that aside from Arroyo, a huge number of solons belonging to the administration-backed supermajority will reject the Alvarez bill.
“Many Congress members are pushing for a conscience vote. Even in the supermajority, the consensus is for a conscience vote,” Villarin said.
Baguilat and Lagman revealed they received information that leaders of the supermajority decided to forgo plans to have the death penalty bill passed this month because of objections from members who are openly against the death sentence and those who remain undecided.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas has announced that second reading debate on the bill will be re-scheduled to January 2017.
Majority caucus failed
to obtain results
Kabayan Rep Harry Roque, earlier said, that the majority caucus conducted by Alvarez on Wednesday did not produce the desired results.
Roque said that almost half of those who attended the caucus were not amenable to the move.
Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was abolished in 1986 during the term of Former President Corazon Aquino. It was restored by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993, and was suspended again in 2006 by then president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Alvarez filed HB 1 which seeks to re-impose death penalty on “heinous crimes”, such as human trafficking, illegal recruitment, plunder, treason, parricide, infanticide, rape, qualified piracy and bribery, kidnapping and illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, car theft, destructive arson, terrorism and drug-related cases.
Ifugao Re Teddy Brawner Baguilat has urged the public to add their voice to the growing chorus calling for a stop to hasty moves in Congress to reimpose the death penalty.
The Commission on Human Rights as well as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines have already taken a firm stance against the death penalty with the CBCP saying that the abolition of the death penalty by the 1986 Constitution was “a very big step toward a practical recognition of the dignity of every human being created to the image and likeness of God, and the value of human life from its conception to its natural end.”
Thus to reimpose the death penalty would mean “a backward step without moral necessity.”

The House committee on justice yesterday voted12-6-1 to approve the proposed revival of the death penalty in the country amid widespread opposition from groups who insist that the law has not deterred crime when it was in effect for 12 years since 1994.
“With twelve (12) votes in favor of approval, six (6) against and one (1)  abstention, the committee report on substitute bill restoring death penalty is hereby approved,” Oriental Mindoro Rep Rey Umali, panel chair, said during the hearing yesterday.
But it looks like the death penalty bill will not be voted upon i the House plenary before the Christmas break.If the House of Representatives would be passing the controversial measure reimposing the death penalty, it would definitely not happen this year, said Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas yesterday.

This was after the  chamber agreed to defer voting on the measure to next year to give way to extensive plenary debates next week on the substitute bill created for Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s House Bill No. 1.
Fariñas said half of the supermajority - made up of 267 of the 293 House legislators - havesignified their support for the bill during a caucus on Wednesday.
Around 15 percent of the members are against the measure, while a bigger 35 percent remain undecided, the lawmaker added.
Fariñas said the plenary debates would determine the final version of the bill that would be voted upon next year.
Fariñas also showed to media his text message to Alvarez about the caucus: “[There is] the common sentiment that we do not rush it before our Christmas break in order to have full debates. We’ll even get more votes if we limit the coverage initially to drugs and plunder.”
Alvarez responded to Fariñas text mesage: “We won’t vote on it before our break as such is the common sentiment.”
There is also the problem of many senators having expressed opposition to the passage of the death penalty bill.
Dinagat Island Rep. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao, who opposed the bill, said that the provisions of the bill should be reviewed.
Among those who opposed the bill were Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora, Negros Occidental Rep. Julie Marie Ferrer, Agusan del Sur Rep. Lawrence Fortun and Bag-ao.
Those who voted in favor of the bill were: Anwaray party-list Rep. Victoria Isabel Noel, Northern Samar Rep. Edwin Ong, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, Compostela Valley Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, Capiz Rep. Fred Castro, 1-Care party-list Rep. Carlos Roman Uybarreta, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, Garcia and Fariñas, the Majority Leader.
In opposing the bill, Bag-ao cited Section 19, Article III of the Constitution which states that, “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides.”
“We cannot solve old problems using old solutions that we have already rejected in the past,” Bag-ao said.
She noted that only 13 percent (474) of the documented 3,524 reports on extrajudicial, vigilante-style, unexplained killings are arrested while the other 87 percent are still at large or under investigation.  
Bag-ao pointed out that the real issue is not the imposition of the death penalty but the assurance to the public that offenders will be apprehended regardless of the nature of the penalty.
She said that there is  neither studies conducted nor any empirical data presented to justify the reimposition of death penalty.  
The Philippines is a signatory to the 2nd Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 20 September 20 2006 and ratified the same without reservations on 20 November 2007.  
House Minority Leader, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez yesterday expressed optimism the death penalty will get the approval of at least 80 percent of the House members before Congress goes on their Christmas break next week.
This was after the House committee on justice, voting 12-6-1, approved the death penalty measure at the panel level.
Voting against were Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao; Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte; Negros Occidental rep. Juliet Ferrer; Agusan del Sur Rep. Lawrence Fortun; Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora; and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.
COOP-NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo abstained.
While most of the members of the Minority Bloc are  supportive of the reimposition of the death penalty, Suarez said he will not stand in the way of two members of their group who vowed to oppose the restoration of the death sentence in the country’s penal system.
Senior Deputy Minority Leader, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza and Deputy Minority Leader, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque are both strongly against the measure.
“I believe that around 80 percent of the members of the House will approve the reimposition of the death penalty when it is submitted to the plenary,” Suarez. Told reporters during a press briefing.
On the other hand, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin said that while six lawmakers, all of whom belonging to the supermajority voted against the measure in the committee level, it will enjoy a relatively smooth sailing at the plenary.
Members of the supermajority held a caucus yesterday where the proposed fast-tracking of the plenary action on the death penalty bill is expected to be taken up.
Suarez, a staunch supporter of the death penalty measure, said he is confident that the restoration of the capital punishment of death will be more effective as a deterrent to heinous crimes because of the Duterte administration’s firm resolve to address criminality, especially illegal drugs.
However, the opposition leader called on President Duterte to concentrate on other pressing problems of the nation after concentrating the first six months of his term in fight a “bloody” war against illegal narcotics.
“It’s obvious that 2016 was about the war on drugs.  2017 should be about other concerns that are equally, if not, more urgent,” the Quezon lawmaker told reporters during the weekly minority bloc press conference.
Suarez said the government can start by preparing the country in cushioning the impact of ‘uncertain and challenging times” brought about by the continued fall of Philippine peso, unemployment, poverty and traffic crisis.
“We have reiterated our request that the President give equal focus to other issues. 2017 is the time to do that,” he stressed.
Senate chief uncertain
on  death bill’s OK
Senate president Koko Pimentel expressed uncertainty on the fate of the Senate’s passage of the death penalty measure, despite the House’s passage at the committee level of the bill.
He said it is difficult for him to give a date for the bill to be deliberated in the committee level. “I may be wrong if I give a projected date,” he added.
Pimentel made the statement following a House committee’s approval of its report on a substitute bill to reimpose death penalty as punishment for heinous crimes.
But he claimed to keep to  an “open mind” in order to support the President’s initiative.
“I’m willing to review my anti-death penalty stand and I keep an open mind,” Pimentel, a party mate of Mr. Duterte, said, noting that it should be limited to the “most heinous of crimes.”
What is certain, according to Pimentel, is that the death penalty bills will undergo lengthy discussions at the Senate.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, one of the authors, said many of the senators have yet to express whether they are in favor or against the proposals.
Lacson said Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee, will discuss the proposals.
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, seems to be against it as he argued that a death penalty law will not lead to more convictions.
Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, was positive that the death penalty proposals will pass. He said plenary discussions will likely begin by February or March.
“The bill is likely to pass, but may take a longer time, but I think there’s a very strong possibility that it will pass especially if it’s my proposal, which is only for high-level drug trafficking,” Sotto said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said he estimates that at least nine senators are opposed to the proposals.
Although death penalty was abolished in the 1987 Constitution, it was reinstated through Republic Act 7659, which imposes capital punishment on certain heinous crimes, and RA 8177 provides for lethal injection as the means of carrying out the death penalty.
In 2006, then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Republic Act 9346 abolishing death penalty in the Philippines by repealing RA 7659.


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