Alvarez: House leaders vs death penalty will be replaced

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he will strip congressmen of their House leadership titles if they oppose the death penalty bill. 

"Pagka-deputy speaker ka, pangit naman na 'di ka sang-ayon doon sa administration-sponsored bill at saka 'pag chairman ka ng committees (If you're a deputy speaker, it's not agreeable that you're against the administration-sponsored bill, and the same goes if you're a chairman of one of the committees)," said Alvarez in a chance interview on Wednesday, February 8. 

"[Ang] mga deputy speakers [at committee chairpersons] na 'di sasama sa administration bill, papalitan po natin. Kasi awkward na deputy speaker ka tapos you do not agree with the administration bill," he added. 

(The deputy speakers and committee chairpersons against the administration bill, we will replace them. Because it's awkward if you're a deputy speaker then you do not agree with the administration bill.)

The House has kicked off the debate for House Bill (HB) Number 4727, which seeks to reimpose the capital punishment for 21 heinous crimes. (READ: Return of death penalty will fix faulty justice system – lawmakers)

The measure is a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte, who counts the majority of congressmen as his allies. The President's party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), has around 100 members in the House. 

The other parties – Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People's Coalition, National Unity Party, Lakas-CMD, and the party-list coalition – also signed coalition agreements with PDP-Laban. Several members of these parties were named as deputy speakers or committee chairpersons

Among them is former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, one of the 13 deputy speakers. It was under her administration when the Philippines abolished the death penalty in 2006. 

As of posting, Alvarez is meeting with PDP-Laban congressmen to inform them that "the party stand is the restoration of the death penalty." He is the party's secretary-general.

The Speaker said PDP-Laban lawmakers who will oppose the death penalty will not be sanctioned, but he will not stop them from resigning from the party. 

"They are free to resign from the party. I will not force them, of course," said Alvarez.

He added that he already "asked for the cooperation" of other party leaders to get more congressmen's support for HB 4727.

"I already asked also their cooperation since they belong to the majority," said Alvarez. 

Opposition lawmakers have already submitted 50 names of anti-death penalty congressmen who will be interpellating the sponsors of HB 4727. – 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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