House approves death penalty bill on final reading

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 07 2017 05:38 PM | Updated as of Mar 07 2017 08:58 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing the death penalty, but only for drug-related offenses, in a bid to bolster the Duterte administration's anti-narcotics drive.

The final vote for House Bill 4727 came down to 217 voting for the bill, 54 voting against it, and 1 abstention. 

Among the prominent lawmakers who voted against the bill were Deputy Speaker Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, members of the Makabayan bloc, and those from the Liberal Party.

Cebu City 2nd District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa declined to specify a vote regarding the measure.

Among those who voted "no," Arroyo, Santos-Recto, Reps. Emmy de Jesus, Carlos Zarate, Antonio Tinio, Kit Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, and Josephine Ramirez Sato hold leadership positions.

They now stand to possibly lose their posts, as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in February that they will replace deputy speakers who will not vote for capital punishment, which is supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Papalitan namin...Deputy speakers na hindi sasama doon sa administration bill, papalitan po natin. Kasi awkward na deputy speaker ka and then you don’t agree with the leadership," he said.

He also urged PDP-Laban party members opposed to the death penalty to resign from the party, as it is part of the House supermajority.

Meanwhile, contrary to his initial views on the matter, Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya voted "yes."

In justifying his change of heart, he said the bill no longer makes death penalty mandatory, as there is an automatic review of sentences, and the penalty was limited to drug-related crimes in the draft submitted for third and final reading.

The House last week approved on second reading the version, which makes the death penalty an option for judges to impose it on those convicted for drug-related offenses. 

The initial proposal at the House listed 21 crimes punishable by death, but it was later trimmed to four, including plunder, treason, and rape from the list of covered crimes, and then reduced further to only drug-related offenses. 

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish death penalty in 1987, but the Ramos administration reinstated it in 1993 in response to allegedly increasing crime rates. It was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006. 

Last year, then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said he will restore the death penalty if he won the election, and indicated after it was clear he had won that he prefers capital punishment by hanging rather than by lethal injection.

He said the re-imposition of the death penalty is not meant to deter crime but is for retribution.

A similar bill is pending before the upper chamber.