HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez does not consider it as arm-twisting but rather a stating of reality. Deputy speakers or committee chairpersons who will vote against the passage of House Bill 4727 will have to relinquish their posts. The bill proposes to impose the death penalty for more than 20 heinous crimes. The restoration of the death penalty is President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise.
But that is arm-twisting and it is a message to members of the so-called super majority in the House of Representatives that they should toe the Alvarez line or quit the coalition. Alvarez, who co-authored House Bill 4727 with his deputy, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, described the restoration of the death penalty as part of an “all-out offensive against felonious acts.”
An interesting sidelight to the issue is that if Alvarez makes good his “threat,” among the first ones to be hit would be former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is currently a House deputy speaker. The death penalty was abolished when Arroyo was president. With Alvarez’s pronouncement, would Arroyo change her stance on the death penalty like many other congressmen probably will?
Alvarez, and to a certain extent the President, seems bent on putting to a test the integrity of the House “super majority.” A good number of House members will now have to either follow their conscience and vote against the re-imposition of the death penalty or jettison their principles and follow Alvarez’s dictate.
It is highly possible Alvarez can force the majority to vote for his bill but there will surely be a chunk of the “super majority” who will not be swayed by his threat. Which means that the issue could drive them to the opposition. Meanwhile, those who will be swayed would be exposed as unprincipled. In a way, this is also a test of the integrity of the individual lawmaker.
And what about the Senate, where a pro-Duterte majority is also in place? Reports say nine senators are against the re-imposition of the death penalty, 10 are for it and four are for it but only for drug-related offenses. Will that change when pressure is exerted by the President and possibly Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 09, 2017.
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