House committee OKs measure to revive death penalty

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2016 01:05 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2016 02:34 PM

MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Ten years after it was abolished, the proposal to reimpose the death penalty has advanced to the plenary of the Lower House.

Voting 12-6-1, the House justice committee approved the committee report of the substitute bill of the bills restoring the death penalty.

The vote of the mother committee came after an earlier vote of 12-5 adopting the subcommittee report of the same.

The bill reimposes the death penalty for heinous crimes which it defined as “grievous, odious and hateful offenses, which by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant, outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality.”

It proposes three modes of execution: hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.

Under the substitute bill, all impositions of the death penalty will be automatically reviewed by the Supreme Court no later than 15 days after the judgment was promulgated.

The crimes that will be covered are the same crimes that were covered by the previous law on the death penalty, Republic Act 7659.

These are treason, qualified piracy, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, infanticide, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, robbery with violence against or intimidation of persons, destructive arson, and plunder.

Illegal drug offenses are also included in the list of crimes punishable by death.

The proposed measure, however, imposes a lower threshold for imposing the death penalty for possession of drugs.

Under the proposal, the death penalty will be imposed for possession of dangerous drugs for the following quantities:

- 10 grams or more of opium,
- 10 grams or more of morphine,
- 10 grams or more of heroin,
- 10 grams or more of cocaine hydrochloride,
- 10 grams or more of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu,
- 10 grams or more of marijuana resign or marijuana resin oil,
- 500 grams or more of marijuana, and
- 10 grams or more of other dangerous drugs.

These amounts are lower than what was indicated in the previous law.

DEATH PENALTY OPPOSED

Lawmakers opposed to the reimposition of the death penalty in the Lower House had tried to delay the measure.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman first questioned if the deliberation today complied with the 3-day notice rule, since the notices to members should have been given last week when there was a holiday.

The committee secretariat informed Lagman that the notices were given before the holiday.

In advocating for the bill, Subcommittee on Judicial Reforms Chairman Leyte 3rd District Representative Vicente Veloso pointed out that a lot of nations also have the death penalty as a means of dispensing justice, stressing that the state has the obligation to protect the lives of innocent people.

Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene Bag-ao asked for the compelling justifications for the imposition of the death penalty. She added, the severity of the punishment is not a deterrent to crimes, but the certainty of accountability.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, for his part, pointed out that the committee report lacks substance to justify the bill.

Veloso countered that government should be given a chance to impose the death penalty to repeat offenders.

He maintained that before death can be imposed as a penalty, a case would have gone through the trial court and appeals courts.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, a supporter of the bill, argued that the framers of the Constitution should have banned the death penalty if they thought it was bad. He also said that President Rodrigo Duterte won on a promise to reimpose the death penalty.

Fariñas asked his colleagues to bring the debate to the floor of the plenary.

‘ANTI-POOR’

After the vote, Zarate said the reimposition of the death penalty will only hurt the country’s poor.

"Seldom if ever at all that the rich, elite and the influential people have been made to suffer the penalty of death in this country,” Zarate said.

“Worldwide, it has been proven that state-sponsored killings do not deter the commission of crime; on the contrary, it would just continue. The deterrent to crime is to ensure that perpetrators are caught and penalized fast."

Zarate said the death penalty would not also cure the problem of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) which have marred the government’s war on drugs.

“It is a myth that with the death penalty there would be no extra-judicial killings; in fact, they will continue unless the same exploitative and corrupt justice system exists,” he said.

“Death penalty is not a substitute to nor will cure the commission of EJKs. As long as police take short cuts and human rights are not respected, EJKs will still happen despite the death penalty law."

Bag-ao, for her part, stressed that the Constitution bars “excessive fines” that are “degrading or inhuman.”

She also noted that the the Philippines is a signatory to the 2nd Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We agreed not to execute anyone within our jurisdiction and to take all necessary means to abolish the death penalty. Are we ready to be condemned by the international community for breaching international laws?” Bag-ao said.

“Death penalty is a legalized process of extrajudicial killing which is a mere translation of state-sponsored killings which we are now experiencing.”