8 Cebu lawmakers vote ‘yes’ to death penalty

MAJORITY of the lawmakers from Cebu voted for the reimposition of the death penalty at the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, March 7.

Among those who voted in favor of the bill were Representatives Peter John Calderon (seventh district), Wilfredo Caminero (second district), Jonas Cortes (sixth district), Ramon Durano VI (fifth district), Gerald Anthony Gullas (first district) and Benhur Salimbangon (fourth district).

Third district Representative Gwendolyn Garcia and Lapu-Lapu Representative Aileen Radaza also voted in favor of the supermajority.

They however failed to explain their votes after the nominal voting during the plenary session.

First district Representative Raul del Mar was the only Cebu lawmaker who opposed the passing of House Bill 4727, which seeks to revive capital punishment for drug-related crimes.

Del Mar said the justice system in the country is flawed and that death penalty is not the solution to lessen crime rates.

"Often, only the poor are up in the death row. Errors in assigning blame for crime can happen and have happened. 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 capital punishment is a step back for the country, noting that 140 nations have abolished it 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," he said.

Instead of death penalty, Del Mar said the government should think of ways to strengthen the country's justice system.

Meanwhile, second district Representative Rodrigo Abellanosa was the lone lawmaker who abstained from the nominal voting.

Abellanosa said the bill is a divisive discussion in Cebu province.

"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.

The House Bill 4727, which seeks to revive capital punishment for seven drug-related crimes, was approved in the third and final reading at the House of Representatives, with 216 lawmakers supporting it, while only 54 stood against it.

Opposition lawmakers tried to stop the passing of the death penalty bill up until the last minute.

Veteran lawmaker Edcel Lagman said the schedule of the bill's third and final reading is unconstitutional. He said it violated the three-day notice rule prescribed by Section 26(2) of Article VI of the Constitution.

House Minority Floor Leader Lito Atienza also questioned the House leadership on handling the proceeding at the lower chamber on Tuesday. He accused the majority leaders of blocking the opposition from 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. Among those are the importation of dangerous drugs, trading and distribution of illegal substance, and maintenance of drug dens.

The capital punishment was restored after it was suspended in 2006 during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the passage of the measure to stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality since he was elected in Malacanang. (SunStar Philippines)

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