MANILA - The House of Representatives has finally kicked off deliberations on the bill reimposing the death penalty, but it was again slowed down by a vanishing quorum.
Quorum woes started to haunt the bill even before the bill can be sponsored Wednesday, the third day the bill was in the plenary's agenda.
Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza, a critic of the measure, contested the quorum. He insisted that there were only 173 congressmen present, not 193 as proclaimed by the secretariat during the roll call.
Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, however, said that 20 congressmen attending the ways and means committee hearing on the tax reform package were counted as present in accordance with the rules.
With that under way, the bill was finally sponsored by Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, during whose 58-minute speech the plenary's quorum vanished.
In his speech, Castro said the bill will serve as "armor against crime."
"Isang kalasag ng mamamayan at estado laban sa krimen ng mga kriminal upang maidepensa o maipagtanggol ang mamamayan sa karumal-dumal, kakilakilabot at kasuklam-suklam na krimen," he said.
Once Castro's speech was done, Atienza again pointed out that there was no longer a quorum, leaving the plenary with no choice but to adjourn as mandated by House rules.
According to House Bill 4727, the death sentence may be carried out for heinous crimes such as:
- qualified piracy
- qualified bribery
- kidnapping and serious illegal detention
- robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons
- destructive arson
- illegal drug cases, including possession of at least 10 grams of illegal drugs
- planting of evidence
Those below the age of 18 may not be sentenced to death. The Supreme Court will also be given the right to automatically review death convictions.
Options for the death penalty include death by hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said President Rodrigo Duterte accepts the reality that his pet proposal to reimpose capital punishment may not pass.
"Sabi lang niya kung ayaw niyo ipasa, 'di wala tayong magagawa. Ako na nagdugtong noon. Anything is possible na maging party vote. I will decide when it happens. Mahirap mag-speculate sa possibilities eh tignan natin pag andun na," he said.
Alvarez, however, said not passing the death penalty bill may lead to more killings.
"Patayin na lang. 'Yun na nga eh kung kayo tanungin ko ano gusto niyo merong death penalty bill na may proseso o patayin na lang diyan ang mga kriminal? Napanood niyo ba sa pedophile? 'Yun ba kayo niya gusto niyo pa buhayin ganung klaseng tao pati 1 year old inaabuso? Wala na siyang magagawa. Reklamo kayo ng reklamo na extrajudicial killing tapos heto dadaan sa proseso't lahat ayaw niyo pa rin hindi ko na maintindihan," he said.
Alvarez later clarified that he means there will be more criminals shot on sight if they are apprehended committing a crime.
"Hindi naman niya sinabing mas dadami pa ang EJK. Eh di shoot to kill na lahat iyan on sight, when you commit a crime. 'Di ba? bakit mo pa huhulihin yan?" he explained.
"Siyempre 'pag merong nakita ka nang crime gaya halimbawa nahuli mo in the act of committing a crime anong gagawin mo? Patayin mo na lang yan. Eh di mga law enforcers 'di ba? Anyway provided for by the law," Alvarez also said.
Alvarez said he is determined for the House to pass the bill regardless of its fortunes in the Senate.
"Problema nila iyun (sa Senate), 'di ko naman controlled 'yung Senate, that's the problem of the Senate President," he said.