'Death penalty revival efforts in House useless'

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2017 04:29 PM

MANILA - Critics on Wednesday said efforts at the House of Representatives to revive the death penalty may become futile if the Senate won’t act on its counterpart measure.

While the supermajority at the lower chamber is perceived to be backing the bill, the Senate seems to be divided on the proposed measure.

“Nalulungkot ako dahil nauubos ang oras sa death penalty na di naman aaktuhan ng Senado samantalang napakadaming mas makakabuting bills ang hindi nadidinig sa plenaryo,” said Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque.

Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza shared the same observation. He also called on the majority not to railroad the bill by skipping the debates.

“Why are you rushing it? Kailangan marinig natin ang lahat maski masakit sa tenga ng majority yun, makinig kayo,” Atienza said.

“There are about 20 members still wanting to participate and interpellate. Why would you now deprive these 20 members to be satisfied with the exchanges in the interpellation?”

Atienza believes the absence of a quorum is proof that a majority of the lawmakers at the lower chamber actually reject the bill.

"That’s one way of looking at it but I think the main reason there is no quorum is the lack of interest on the part of the general membership, especially the majority,” he said.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, meanwhile, admitted that the death penalty bill will face rough sailing in the Senate.

PH TO LOSE TRADE BENEFITS

Separately, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin in a statement said that the Philippines risks losing over $12 billion in trade benefits and over 200,000 jobs if it reimposes the death penalty.

Villarin said if the Philippines revives the death penalty, it will lose zero tariffs privilege for its exports to European Union countries.

"Why will we let go of such gains when the perceived benefits of reimposing the death penalty are non-existent?" he said. 

The Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) allows the Philippines to export to the EU without duties or with reduced tariffs.
The GSP+ is based on ratification and compliance with international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and good governance.

The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of about 6,274 Philippine products exported to EU countries.

"It will only worsen the peace and order situation in Mindanao, which will be greatly affected by such policy. Death penalty will kill industries, jobs, and livelihoods of the poorest people in our country--a tragic irony of unfathomed proportions," Villarin said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that in 2014, the year the Philippines signed the GSP+ trade agreement, tariff-free exports amounted to $6.73 billion.

It rose to $7.17 billion in 2015 and will eventually cover the total trade to EU which comprises around 12% of our country's exports.

EXPAND PUBLIC ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, meanwhile, proposed the expansion of the Public Attorney’s Office in case the death penalty bill is approved. 

 “We would like to make sure that those who are accused who are poor will not be prejudiced. Free legal assistance should be extended to those who belong to those who are poor,” the party-list group said.

The party-list group said PAO needs more budget to address the need for more lawyers, especially those who will assist the underprivileged allegedly involved in heinous crimes punishable by death penalty.

CIBAC Party-List calls for the creation of a special division in PAO which will handle cases of poor defendants who may be penalized with death penalty. 

“It is of prime importance that the state guarantees that nobody gets wrongfully convicted due to failure to obtain adequate legal aid,” the group said.