MANILA - A critic of the proposal to reinstate the death penalty in the country has claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte is behind the pressure for congressmen to approve the proposal.
House Bill No. 1 was approved by the Committee on Justice before Christmas and will be sent to the plenary when Congress resumes sessions next week.
As it stands, HB 1 reimposes the death penalty on all heinous crimes as defined by previous laws.
Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said the move to revive death penalty is an initiative of the Duterte administration.
"Ito ay initiative ng administrasyon, hindi naman ng Kongreso. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. Kaya kaming mga congressmen, sad to say, ay under pressure. Lahat 'yung sumasasama sa kanilang mayorya at ito ay halo halo ng mga pulitikong sumasama sa mayorya ay susumunod lang sa utos ng nakakataas. Kaya malakas na malakas ang pwersa na ito dahil sa pwersa ng gobyerno at liderato, no less than President Duterte is the one directing the passage of the bill," Atienza explained
(This is an initiative of the administration and not of the Congress. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. We, congressmen, sad to say, are under pressure. Those who joined the majority were obliged to follow orders. There is a strong force advocating the revival of the death penalty because no less than the president is the one directing the passage of the bill.)
Atienza also claimed that the bill was railroaded.
"Ang death penalty ay ni-railroad nila sa committee at ngayon nakaakma na sa plenary. Ang ibig sabihin noon, pag-uusapan na, pagde-debatehan na ng kabuuan ng Kongreso. I said railroaded because hilaw na hilaw itong panukalang ito," Atienza said.
(The death penalty bill was railroaded at the committee level and is not for discussion at the plenary. It is now open for discussion and debate at the plenary. I said railroaded because the measure is lacking in substance.)
However, Atienza remained optimistic that the administration may be overestimating its pull among lawmakers on this particular issue, holding out hopes that congressmen will vote on the basis of free will.
HB 1's main author, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, denied allegations there is pressure from the Palace.
Castro pointed out that the Justice Committee has yet to advance the bill to plenary and that the bill has not been certified as urgent.
The deputy speaker also rejected the idea of watering down the bill to cover only offenses related to illegal drugs to make it more acceptable. He admitted that his colleagues are divided on the matter.
Administration allies in the Makabayan bloc are also against the proposal.
ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio said their group will oppose the measure.
The death penalty was abolished in 2006 under the Arroyo Administration. Former President and now Deputy Speaker Gloria Arroyo has already said she is against the measure but will not quarrel with the majority on this matter.
Even if the bill hurdles the Lower House, the bill is expected to go through the eye of the needle at the Senate.
Senator Sonny Angara said in a text message, "There will be a lot of debates judging from the pronouncements of my colleagues. Some are staunchly opposed while some are also strongly in favor. Party lines will not matter so much just like during the RH law vote, it will be akin to a conscience or judgment vote, dictated by deeply help religious and politico-philosophical beliefs about the justice system and crime and punishment. "