Death penalty: Absent, abstaining House leaders to lose posts, warns Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has put greater pressure on House leaders to vote in favor of the death penalty bill, saying they will be stripped of their leadership roles should they vote abstain or fail to show up during the session.

In an ambush interview with reporters on Monday, March 6, Alvarez said his earlier threat to replace House deputy speakers and committee chairpersons who will be voting against House Bill (HB) Number 4727 still stands. 

Asked if this will also include House leaders who will vote abstain or will be absent during the session, the Davao del Norte 1st District representative replied in the affirmative.  

Kasama ‘yung mag-aabstain… ‘Yung mag-aabsent? Kasama ‘yun, kasama ‘yun (The ones who will be abstain will be included… How about those who will be absent? They will be included also),” said Alvarez. 

The House is set to vote on the death penalty bill on Tuesday, March 7. During previous 3rd reading voting for controversial measures in the past Congresses, some lawmakers tend to either vote abstain or be absent during the proceedings to hide their true positions on certain bills.

HB 4727, a priority of President Rodrigo Duterte, gives judges the option to punish perpetrators of 8 drug offenses with either life imprisonment or death. (READ: An eye for an eye: Can the death penalty bring justice to victims?)

The House currently has 14 deputy speakers and 67 committee chairpersons, all of whom are either members of Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) or who belong to parties that have signed coalition agreements with the ruling administration party. 

According to Alvarez, House leaders who will be stripped of their titles can still stay in the majority bloc should they wish. 

Papalitan lang dun sa posisyon. Hindi tatanggalin [sa majority],” said Alvarez. (They will just be replaced on their positions. They will not be removed from the majority.)

Several House leaders who are against the death penalty already publicly declared their willingness to lose their positions for their pro-life stand.  

They include several congressmen from the Makabayan bloc and the Liberal Party, whose party stand is against the revival of the capital punishment. (READ: Will LP bolt House majority? Decision after death penalty vote)

Anti-death penalty lawmakers, the Church, and other pro-life groups have been opposing the passage of HB 4727 into law, saying the death penalty is anti-poor and is not a true deterrent to crime. (READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a 'flawed, corrupt' justice system

Opposition lawmaker and Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman says the House has turned into a “chamber of puppets and bullies” after congressmen approved HB 4727 on 2nd reading last week.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, however, said the real bullies at the House are “those who are doing everything to frustrate the will of the majority.” – 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.

image