Death penalty bill passage saddens Bacolod prelates

THE bid to revive death penalty "might bring dire consequences to the nation," a priest of the Diocese of Bacolod said.

Fr. Felix Pasquin, rector of San Sebastian Cathedral, said Thursday, March 2, that the way lawmakers voted on the death penalty bill the other day "saddens and alarms us."

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved on second reading the proposed measure to impose capital punishment on drug-related offenses through viva voce voting or a vote of "ayes" and "nays."

However, the local Catholic church, which had stepped up its efforts to oppose death penalty, slammed the move of the legislators.

Pasquin said the mass reading Thursday was taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, which is about God making the man choose between life and death.

"God commands us to follow his ways, thus gaining His blessings. To follow Him is obviously to choose life. God adds that if you don't listen to Him, then we shall perish. Choosing death as in the case of the death bill might bring dire consequences to the nation," he said.

Pasquin added: "It is saddening that we seem to disregard God and alarming due to the frightening consequences of going our own way without regard to God's teachings."

He said that they will continue to pray that "conscience vote will prevail."

Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon said the development is sad and unfortunate as he urged the public to continue to pray for the lawmakers to "follow the truth" and "not be pressured by political interests."

Some of the legislators in Negros Occidental were divided on the restoration of capital punishment.

Those who voted "yes" were Representatives Melecio Yap Jr. (first district) and Alfredo Benitez (Third District) while against the measure was Juliet Ferrer (fourth district).

House Bill 4727 is expected to be up for third and final reading by March 7 or March 15 before Congress goes into a recess.

The bill seeks to repeal Republic Act 9346 that prohibits the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines. It also seeks to further amend the Revised Penal Code and the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Under the bill, the mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

The new version of the bill limits the crimes punishable by death to only drug-related offenses in a bid to strengthen the Duterte administration's relentless war on drugs.

The substitute bill delists the crimes of plunder, rape, and treason from its coverage.

The bill said the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million shall be imposed upon any person involved in the following acts:

-- 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 precursor and essential chemicals; maintenance of a den, dive or resort where any dangerous drug is used or sold in any form;

-- Manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemical; possession of dangerous drugs;

-- Criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/ paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful act committed; and criminal liability for planting evidence.

The measure also requires the Public Attorney's Office and the Office of the Solicitor General to create a special panel composed of senior lawyers to handle the automatic review or appealed cases of the death penalty.

The bill said another amendment requires the public prosecutor to furnish copies of case information to the Commission on Human Rights, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Free Legal Assistance Group,
zand other religious and civic organizations.

Capital punishment was last suspended in 2006 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has called for the passage of the measure to stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality. (With reports from PNA)
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