House to vote on death penalty bill on 3rd and final reading
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House is expected to approve on 3rd and final reading the controversial death penalty bill on Tuesday, March 7.
The House leadership scheduled the vote roughly 8 months since Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro filed the first version of House Bill (HB) Number 4727 under the 17th Congress.
The measure seeks to allow judges to punish the perpetrators of the following 8 drug offenses with either life imprisonment or death:
- 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 precursors and essential chemicals
- Maintenance of a drug den, dive, or resort
- Manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
- 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, 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
- Criminal liability for planting evidence concerning illegal drugs
The bill previously listed 21 crimes, but Alvarez said congressmen decided to limit the offenses to drugs because it is "realistic" to do so.
The lawmakers will cast their vote one by one through the nominal voting scheme, wherein anyone who wishes to explain his or her vote will be allowed to speak on the floor.
Once the House approves HB 4727 on 3rd and final reading, it will be transmitted to the Senate where it is expected to be challenged by senators against the reimposition of the death penalty. (READ: Pimentel on death penalty: 'Close fight' in the Senate)
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, an anti-death penalty advocate, said the casting of votes for HB 4727 would be a "day of revelation" for the House. (READ: After death penalty vote, House a 'chamber of puppets and bullies’)
"The roll call vote or nominal voting will reveal the identities of those with courage and will to defy the House leadership's agenda for the final passage of the bill and those who may have succumbed to intimidation and pressures from House leaders," said Lagman.
HB 4727 is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who counts at least 267 congressmen as his allies. (READ: Duterte: Death penalty is retribution)
The passage of HB 4727 through the House has been swift, so far, with lawmakers allotting only 7 days for the period of debate and two hours for the period of amendments. The measure was approved on 2nd reading last week.
Alvarez had said that House leaders who will either vote against the bill, abstain from voting, or skip the proceedings on Tuesday will be replaced.
They include members of the House Makabayan bloc and the Liberal Party, who already publicly declared their anti-death penalty stance. (READ: Will LP bolt House majority? Decision after death penalty vote)
Former president and now Pampanga Second District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is against the death penalty bill, is House deputy speaker.
The death penalty was abolished under Arroyo's presidency in 2006. Under her watch, the Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans state parties from reviving capital punishment.
Arroyo said in December 2016 that she continues to oppose the death penalty. (READ: Death penalty bill fallout: Alvarez says Arroyo to be replaced as deputy speaker)
Lagman said Alvarez should deliver on his threat to remove House leaders who do not support the death penalty bill.
"Speaker Alvarez has no alternative but to consummate his planned reprisal. Otherwise, no one will believe him when he wields again the sword of Damocles in the primary consideration of other measures," said Lagman.
Apart from Alvarez and Castro, the other sponsors of HB 4727 are as follows:
- Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Ilocos Norte 1st District
- Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, Quezon 3rd District
- Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Batangas 2nd District
- Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr, Camarines Sur 1st District
- Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, Cebu 3rd District
- House justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali, Oriental Mindoro 2nd District
- House justice panel vice chairperson Vicente Veloso, Leyte 3rd District
- Robert Ace Barbers, Surigao del Norte 2nd District
- Rodel Batocabe, AKO Bicol
- Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Muntinlupa City
- Carlos Cojuangco, Tarlac 1st Distrct
- Michael John Duavit, Rizal 1st District
- Paulino Salvador Leachon, Oriental Mindoro 1st Distrct
- Elisa Kho, Masbate 2nd District
- Henry Oaminal, Misamis Occidental 2nd District
- Rogelio Pacquiao, Sarangani
- Benhur Salimbangon, Cebu 4th District