CAPITAL punishment in the Philippines will soon see a re-imposition, or call it a rebirth, as the House of Representatives majority party seems bent on using its might to make it happen.
Two legislators who spoke in Cebu over the weekend said the measure re-imposing the death penalty is sure to pass in the House in about two weeks. Akbayan Representative Tomasito Villarin, who visited Cebu last Friday, and Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar (1st district) said the supermajority in the House will use its influence over members to have it passed. The two belong to the opposition party.
Villarin said House members were told they risked their committee memberships if they did not support the administration’s agenda. Villarin was in Cebu to launch a signature campaign against the proposed revival of the death penalty and the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old.
Del Mar said he gives the House two weeks to approve the bill because those aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte are the majority and “they are already prepared.”
“Now I see it in place,” del Mar said of the majority’s moves to ensure quorum, fast-track deliberations by setting interpolation limits.
“You can see the signals that they are there to make things happen.” Del Mar spoke Friday before the Philippine Association of Retired Persons national executive board to “give a perspective” on where the House stands on issues.
The death penalty was abolished in 2006 under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Catholic Church insisted on it because to kill a person, even a convicted criminal, goes against its teachings, it said.
The revival of capital punishment is being pushed now under Duterte to serve as a deterrent to heinous crimes.
Under the bill, the number of heinous crimes was reduced from 21 to only five. The crime of plunder was removed from the list of those punishable by death.
This is the type of rebirth capital punishment would have once it is approved by the House. In addition, death does not become a mandatory penalty as it gets included in a range of penalties from life imprisonment to capital punishment.
The Senate is expected to act on a counterpart measure but several senators have started voicing their opposition.
Villarin said he and others in the House opposition could face political harassment to silence them. He cited the recent arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima on drug charges as an example. Del Mar said he hopes House members will vote on the death penalty bill according to their principles, their conscience.
There are those in favor of restoring capital punishment and there are those who are convinced to vote yes because of their affiliation with Duterte.
“Do not look upon them with disfavor,” he said, as they have reasons for their vote.
One thing is sure. This is a rebirth that will not be celebrated on the streets.