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Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo

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.

Stop sowing intrigues over post ‘removal,’ Leni told

Tuesday, 06 December 2016 00:00 Published in Headlines

The camp of former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. yesterday cautioned Vice President Leni Robredo against issuing contemptuous statements which it claimed are aimed not only at casting doubts on the vice presidential election protest pending before the Supreme Court (SC) sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), but also to destabilize the Duterte administration.
In a telephone interview, former Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz noted that Robredo’s statements linking her resignation to the vice presidential issue is tantamount to conditioning the minds of the people that any decision arrived at by the PET not favorable to her, is part ofthe Duterte administration’s scheme to “steal the vice presidency” from her.

“That is not only contemptuous, that is like sowing intrigue that could lead to destabilization,” he told The Tribune.
By spreading intrigues, Robredo could be held accountable as the law provides that “any person can be held liable by publishing false news that may endanger the public order, or cause damage to the state’s interest.”
“I just don’t now why Ms. Robredo also links any issue to the vice presidential electoral protest,” de la Cruz stressed.
When the SC, voting 9-5-1, allowed the burial of Bongbong’s late father at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Robredo issued a statement saying it was a preview of how the PET would vote to unseat her and install the former senator as vice president.
Now that she had resigned as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Robredo floated a plot “to steal the vice presidency” from her as one of the reasons she is relinquishing her post.
In a text message sent to her by Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, Robredo was asked to refrain from attending any Cabinet meeting starting yesterday, December 5, which the Vice President claimed, validates the supposed plot against her.
“Clearly she is not confident with her supposed victory and she wants the people to rally behind her, thus she has to resort to sowing intrigues,” said de la Cruz.
“Unfortunately for her, it’s not doing her any good as people view her pronouncement as fomenting destabilization,” said dela Cruz.
Resignation ‘inevitable’ — GMA
Former President and now Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for her part, said Robredo’s resignation from the Cabinet was expected, having policy differences with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The resignation was inevitable because of their divergence, important divergence on so many important issues,” she stressed.
Arroyo cited her experience as vice president during the Estrada administration where she had to restrict herself from issuing statements contrary to the President’s policy.
“And when I was Vice President, as long as I was a member of the Cabinet under Estrada, I resisted from making any critical remarks about him. And when I could no longer avoid that, then I tendered my resignation,” she said.
Arroyo added the manner by which Robredo was informed of being barred from attending Cabinet meetings was not unique to the incumbent vice president.
“Well you know, there was one time, I also received a message that I did not have to attend a particular Estrada Cabinet meeting. So I figured well, they’ll probably have to take up something political and since I belong on the opposite side of the political fence, they wouldn’t want me to be privy,” said the former president.
“So I respected the instruction not to attend that specific cabinet meeting. It can be done. It’s really the call of the individual person,” she said.
Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo also slammed Robredo for making a big issue of her resignation from the Duterte Cabinet when she has been attacking the President in public.
“Madame Leni, lest you forget, all Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President. You are not an exception,” he posted in his Facebook account.
“The President can fire anyone for any reason or no reason at all,” he stressed.
Mr. Arroyo said Robredo should stop complaining regarding her supposed “termination” because she had been active in attacking “her boss” (Duterte) in public even as she is a member of the official family, whenever she disagrees with him.
“You should have resigned long ago if you had any delicadeza. Sad to say, you didn’t,” he noted, addressing Robredo.
‘Fired, did not quit’
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said as far as he is concerned, he believes Robredo was fired, contrary to her claim that she has resigned.
“How can you explain when someone asks you to stop attending meetings you are supposed to be a part of? Isn’t that synonymous with being fired?” he stressed.
“The President was just being civil. You don’t expect Secretary Evasco to text her saying she’s fired,” said the Speaker.
Leave supermajority
A member of the Liberal Party in the House yesterday called on his colleagues to break off now from the Duterte supermajority following the “marginalization of Vice President Leni Robredo by the Duterte administration.”
According to Albay Rep Edcel Lagman, Robredo is the highest ranking LP-elected official and that righteous indignation impelled her quitting her Cabinet post.
“It is too much an insult to a sitting Vice President for President Duterte to intimate his preference for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as vice president, the very candidate Robredo beat in the elections and whose electoral protest Duterte is inclined to support,” Lagman said.
“No self-respecting official must suffer any further the grave assaults on her person and position,” he added.
The lawmaker said it is the height of imprudence and discourtesy to bar Robredo from attending Cabinet meetings.
He said the LP’s disengagement from the supermajority and assuming the role of political opposition will strengthen the authentic minority as an indispensable institution in a democracy.
“The break will also further energize efforts to contain and oppose administration policies violative of the Constitution and inimical to the people’s welfare,” Lagman stressed.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat also threw his full support for Robredo.
“The President’s order to ban the Vice President from Cabinet meetings was the most demeaning act in a series of affronts to the Vice President. The move is made more ironical by the fact that Robredo has openly called on the Filipino people to support President Duterte, although she has disagreed with some policies of the administration, which of course happens in any democracy,” Baguilat said.
“But if she is no longer welcome to attend Cabinet meetings, as clearly communicated by Secretary Evasco, Vice President Leni did well to resign as HUDCC chair. This should be a signal for political leaders to do some serious soul searching,” he added.
“This move by the administration could only divide the Filipino people further, after a number of equally perplexing decisions,” Baguilat noted.
He said this was a serious cause for alarm and that the LP, which Robredo chairs, “should unite and help block this plot.”

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday shrugged off the effect of the petition for mandamus filed by the group of independent bloc led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the election of Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez as minority leader.

In an ambush interview during the PDP-Laban Thanksgiving event at Midas Hotel Wednesday night, Alvarez described the Lagman petition as nothing more than a garbage.
“It’s nothing, it’s garbage,” said Alvarez of the independent bloc’s petition.
“I tell you as a lawyer, it won’t prosper,” the Speaker stressed.
Last Tuesday, Lagman bared their petition for mandamus entitled “Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Rep. Edcel Lagman, Rep. Raul Daza, Rep. Edgar Erice, Rep. Emmanuel Billones, Rep. Tomasito Villarin and Rep. Gary Alejano vs. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Suarez,” is now ready for adjudication before the High Court.
In a statement, Lagman refuted the Minority Group’s assertion Liberal Party (LP) is only out to control the House as it desperately wants to stay in power.
Majority of the LP members have opted to join the House Majority with party stalwart, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo being elected as Deputy Speaker. Lagman describes Quimbo’s group as second class in the Majority despite the fact the Marikina solon being one of Alvarez’s deputies.
“It is not a question of securing political power because that belongs to the majority coalition, principally the ruling PDP-Laban,” said Lagman.
“The petition for mandamus with the High Court is a suit to assure credible and potent dissent, which is the hallmark of a democratic deliberative assembly like the House of Representatives,” he averred.
Lagman however avoided commenting on the allegation the LP is guilty of establishing a company union within the House of Representatives in 2013 when it helped San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora bag the Minority Leaders.
In 2013, during the election of House leaders in the 16th Congress, the LP bagged the Speakership through Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte. However, LP “lent” some members of the administration coalition to Zamora enabling him to beat Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, a bitter opponent of then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, for the Minority Leadership.
The other day, the Minority Group led by Suarez said that while they welcome the filing of the petition so as to out the issue finally to rest, they are “confident the contemporary actions initiated by Lagman’s group will be exposed as a desperate attempt to stay in power.”
Alvarez also dismissed Lagman’s allegation the Minority Group is an extension of the House Majority.
“He can always think that way but even then, his petition will not prosper,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker added he doesn’t see the High Court compelling the House to recognize Lagman’s group as the legitimate Minority Group.  
“Of course not. There is a separation of powers. With that alone, their petition is already dead,” Alvarez said.
According to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the petition for mandamus with the High Court is a suit to assure credible and potent dissent, which is the hallmark of a democratic deliberative assembly like the House of Representatives.
Lagman branded the Suarez-led minority as a “eunuch of a minority” even as he pointed out that the issue is not a question of securing political power because that belongs to the majority coalition, principally the ruling PDP-Laban.
“A eunuch of a minority makes the House the courtyard of spineless clowns,” Lagman said.
“How can the Liberal Party be accused of desperation to stay in power when those who joined the majority coalition are virtual second class citizens in the supermajority, while those who opted from the very start to be with the minority are so few as to make a run for power,” Lagman added.
The Albay lawmaker stressed that the members of the genuine minority are not seeking political power since power is a contradiction to a minority status, the authentic minority of seven members seeks to maintain a genuine opposition who are not beholden to or an adjunct of the supermajority.
He said that the doctrine of “political question” is almost an extinct invocation because the 1987 Constitution expanded the power of judicial review of the Supreme Court to include the adjudication of cases involving grave abuse of discretion committed by functionaries in the political departments.


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