Return of death penalty gets House approval

THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading Tuesday the reimposition of the death penalty in the country's justice system.

A total of 216 lawmakers supported the passing of the bill, while 54 congressmen stood against death penalty.

Among those who voted against House Bill 4727, which seeks to revive capital punishment for drug-related crimes, are former President and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, and Batangas Representative Vilma Santos-Recto.

Cebu City first district Representative Raul del Mar and Baguio City lone district Representative Mark Go also voted against the death penalty bill.

Del Mar said that the justice system in the country is flawed and the capital punishment is not the solution to lessen crimes.

"Often only the poor are up in the death row. Errors in assigning blame for crime can happen and have happen. The death penalty is irreversible, it cannot be undone. This method of execution has been found cruel, inhuman and barbaric," he said at the plenary on Tuesday.

The Cebu lawmaker added that restoring the death penalty bill was a step back for the country.

He said more than 140 nations have abolished capital punishment in law and practice.

"Restoring capital punishment would be a throwback and setback. We failed to progress, we failed to improve. No to impracticality, no to inhumanity."

Del Mar added that instead of reviving the death penalty, the government should strengthen the country's justice system, from police method and equipment to arrest and prosecution of criminals.

Meanwhile, Cebu's third district representative Gwendolyn Garcia voted in the affirmative side alongside Quezon City Representative Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. and Surigao del Norte Congressman Robert Ace Barbers.

Barbers, who chairs the House committee on dangerous drugs, said he voted "yes" as drugs contribute to may crimes.

"I fully support this measure because like our President, I am fully aware of the dangers, as well as the irreparable damage, that this menace has brought our people, our children and how the entire future of our country has been compromised. Senseless killings, irreversible brain damage and a completely wasted populace are but some of the realities we face with the proliferation of illegal drugs," he said.

Rodrigo Abellanosa from second district of Cebu City was the lone lawmaker who abstained during the nominal voting process.

Abellanosa said that after consulting his constituents, he decided to abstain as it proves to be a divisive issue in Cebu.

"This deeply cut and divided my constituents in almost to an equal degree. I then abstain and propose to submit this highly sensitive issue to a referendum in the future, possibly during the barangay elections in October," he said during the plenary session.

Meanwhile, House Minority Floor Leader Lito Atienza questioned again the House leadership on handling the third and final reading of the bill in the lower chamber.

He accused the leadership of hindering the opposition in questioning the bill.

"The free debate on the basic issue of death penalty, you did not allow. You terminated abruptly without any debate on your basis of your desire not to listen. Today we should have been allowed to speak before the body. You didn't allow us to do that," Atienza said.

The Buhay Partylist representative described the reimposition of the death penalty as a "curse to the predominantly Catholic nation."

The latest version of the bill seeks to punish seven major drug-related offenses.

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 any of 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;

- Qualifying aggravating circumstances in the commission of a crime by an offender under the influence 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;

- Criminal liability for planting evidence.

Capital punishment was last suspended in 2006 by Arroyo.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has called for the passage of the measure to stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality. (SunStar Philippines)
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