Alvarez clarifies: Plunder still in current version of death penalty bill

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez clarified that plunder is still listed in the existing version of the death penalty measure.

The Davao del Norte 1st District Representative made the clarification on Tuesday, February 14, following public outcry over his statement last week that majority congressmen have agreed to take out plunder among the crimes punishable by death listed under House Bill (HB) Number 4727. 

"Talagang as it is, nandudoon pa 'yun (plunder) sa listahan… Sabi ko nga with more reasons na dapat isama natin eh. Kagaya nga nito, hindi ko ma-imagine talaga kung bakit pinayagan itong kontrata," Alvarez said in a chance interview.

(As it is right now, it's still in the list… I actually said there are more reasons now why we should include it in the bill. For example, I can't really imagine how they can allow this kind of contract.) 

Alvarez had just come from a hearing of the House good government and public accountability committee, where he grilled former officials of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) over an allegedly anomalous P234-million contract they entered into with Vanderwood Management Corporation. 

Last February 9, Alvarez met with members of the House majority bloc, most of whom wanted to remove plunder under HB 4727. This was when he said plunder will be removed from the controversial capital punishment measure. (READ: Alvarez wants House to pass death penalty bill mid-March)

"Napagkasunduan na hindi na natin gagalawin 'yung plunder law kasi as it is, capital punishment na 'yun (We agreed not to touch the plunder law anymore because as it is, the law is imposing the capital punishment)," Alvarez said during a press conference.

Through Republic Act (RA) Number 7659 signed into law by former president Fidel Ramos, RA 7080 or the plunder law was amended to punish convicted public officers with "reclusion perpetua to death" in December 1993. 

But through RA 9346, the Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006 under then-president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who remains opposed to the restoration of capital punishment. 

Under RA 9346, the effects of RA 7659 and other laws, executive orders, and decrees imposing the death penalty were "hereby repealed or amended accordingly."

On February 13, Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez clarified Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas both wanted to retain plunder under the death penalty bill. 

But the two House leaders supposedly lost to majority of their colleagues during the closed-door caucus.

Hernandez also explained that final changes on any bill can only be done during the period of amendments after congressmen are done debating on the measure during the plenary session. 

The congressional debate for HB 4727 is currently ongoing at the House.  

Possible amendments to HB 4727 have already been publicized by the House leadership, including the removal of the mandatory penalty of death as well as several other crimes listed under the measure. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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