MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The House of Representatives fired on Wednesday leaders who voted against the death penalty or skipped the voting on 3rd and final reading last March 7.
The leadership positions of lawmakers who were among the 54 who thumbed down the death penalty were declared vacant during the plenary session, the last day before Congress went on a break.
The session was adjourned immediately after the motion was approved without objections.
During the session, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas moved that several positions be declared vacant.
Among those who were fired from the leadership for their death penalty vote were:
- Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (Deputy Speaker);
- Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Civil Service and Professional Regulation Committee Chairperson;
- Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero, Basic Education and Culture Committee Chairperson;
- Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, Land Use Committee Chairperson;
- Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Natural Resources Committee Chairperson;
- Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman, Muslim Affairs Committee Chairperson;
- Buhay party-list Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde Jr., Overseas Workers Affairs Committee Chairperson;
- Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, People's Participation Committee Chairperson;
- Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus, Poverty Alleviation Committee Chairperson;
- ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, Public Information Committee Chairperson;
- Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, Government Reorganization Committee Chairperson;
- Diwa party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Women and Gender Equality Chairperson;
Cebu Rep. Ramon Durano will replace Escudero.
Although Alvarez earlier said that the House leadership would be reasonable in dealing with those absent from the vote, Abad and Aglipay-Villar were still axed from their committee chairmanships.
Others who skipped the vote, but did not lose their posts as of this writing were:
- Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, Dangerous Drugs Chairperson;
- Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr., National Defense and Security Chairperson;
- AGRI Party-list Rep. Delphine Lee, Ethics and Privileges Chairperson.
Arroyo, who abolished the death penalty during her term after briefly supporting it as a deterrent for drug-related crimes and kidnappings, said she has no regrets voting against House Bill 4727, because she decided based on her conscience.
"The issue of the death penalty is unlike any other, in that it touches the core of each person's fundamental view of human life. I believe that the issue required a vote based solely on conscience and the deepest of personal convictions,” she said in a statement.
Despite being ousted from her post, Arroyo said she continues to support President Rodrigo Duterte, a capital punishment advocate.
"I thank the President for his expression of understanding late last year regarding my position on the issue," said Arroyo.
"I also thank the Speaker for the honor of having served as deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. It meant much to me. As a plain congresswoman, I will continue to do all I can to support both President Duterte and Speaker Alvarez,” she added.
Zarate, meanwhile, reiterated that they stand by their vote against the death penalty, which they deem to be “anti-poor.”
He also shrugged off the loss of their posts, and said it was to be expected. However, he denounced the House leadership’s “arm-twisting.”
“It does not speak well for the House leadership to have resorted to arm-twisting and railroading just to ensure the passage of an anti-poor death penalty bill. We in Bayan Muna and the Makabayan bloc will have to seriously assess the situation and discuss our next move," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the replacements may be named when Congress comes back from its break. He also said the leadership yesterday asked coalition parties to name their nominees, who will be subject to consideration.
Alvarez clarified that those who voted 'no' cannot take over the positions of those who voted no, effectively boxing out the entire Makabayan bloc.
He also said that Commission on Appointments member Josephine Ramirez Sato is going to be covered by the reshuffle, despite her appeals to the contrary.