LP members willing to be stripped of chairmanships over death penalty vote

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2017 03:56 PM

Several Liberal Party members who hold key positions in the House of Representatives are "willing to forfeit" their chairmanships once they vote against the death penalty bill being pushed by the supermajority, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Tuesday.

Eight of the 32 LP congressmen who allied with the supermajority were given key House positions. 

These lawmakers are Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo, West Philippine Sea Committee chair and former speaker Sonny Belmonte, People's Participation Committee chair Kaka Bag-Ao, Metro Manila Development Committee chair Winston Castelo, Land Use Committee chair Kit Belmonte, Civil Service chair Vilma Santos, Government Reorganization chair Dina Abad and Commission on Appointments member Josephine Sato.

Kit Belmonte, Bag-ao, Abad, and Sato "were steadfast in voting against the death penalty" and were "willing to be stripped of" their chairmanships, but Quimbo "asked for more time to process the eventual decision of the party," Lagman said.

"We're going to wait for a vote on the death penalty bill... 'Di na masyadong matagal ito sapagkat today or tomorrow or next week ay magbobotohan na sa death penalty bill," Lagman said.

Lagman said House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's threat to remove dissenters from key posts may encourage more LP members to break away from the majority and join the few Liberal congressmen who opted to form an "independent minority" bloc in the House.

Lagman, Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, Ifugao Rep. Tedoro Baguilat, and Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones, along with Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin belong to the independent minority bloc that lost the minority leadership to Danilo Suarez's group, which is perceived to be friendly with the House leadership.

But the Albay representative admitted that it is possible for some LP members to stay with the supermajority, especially after the party allowed its members to deviate from the party stand and cast conscience votes.

"For example, Belmonte voted for the death penalty as a congressman during the Ramos administration," Lagman said.

Alvarez's speakership has already been the subject of rumored challenges from those disgruntled with the push for the death penalty, Villarin said.

"It would have a significant dent... Baka posibleng meron na magchallenge sa leadership. I think that's also one reason why from the 21 crimes (punishable by death) gagawing 3. Parang the death penalty is now a bargain sale," Villarin said.

Alvarez earlier singled out Deputy Speaker Gloria Arroyo who already said she will vote against the measure. Arroyo signed the law abolishing the death penalty in 2006 as president.

"If the approach under the Duterte administration is to marginalize or to sideswipe all opposition, its not healthy for democracy," Villarin said.

Despite a possible power struggle, Lagman said the Speaker is expected to make good on his threat to punish dissenting majority members.

"If he does not do that, who will believe him once (he pushes for) the other bill with respect to the reduction of the age of criminal responsbility?"

Despite the threats, the House independent minority said it is confident that they "can get the numbers" to block the Speaker's pet project that will reimpose capital punishment against drug offenders.

"It's not only the LP na magvote ng "no". The Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People's Coalition, and the Makabayan bloc... I think we would welcome legislators who stand on their principles who would really argue on the basis of merit and not on the basis of fear," Villarin said.