House opposition: Pointless to push for death penalty if Senate rejects it

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers advised the House leadership to "pause and think" given that a majority of senators are not keen on passing the controversial death penalty bill.

In a press conference on Tuesday, February 14, Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza cited a resolution passed by 14 senators declaring that the Senate has a say in the termination of any treaty or international agreement. 

During the Senate's first hearing on the proposed revival of capital punishment, anti-death penalty Senator Franklin Drilon forced a government lawyer to admit that restoring the death penalty is illegal under an international treaty that the Philippines ratified in 2007. (READ: Senate poised to kill death penalty

The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bans states party to it from reimposing capital punishment. 

"So this raises a prejudicial question: Should the House now proceed on HB 4727 given that the Senate or a majority of the Senate has already put in writing their sentiment that we should not tamper with our treaty obligations without first according to the Senate due respect to look at how the bill will affect a treaty that has been ratified by it?" asked Daza. 

He said that if the Senate ultimately decides to block the passage of the death penalty bill, all the efforts of the House leadership to push for the measure will be "moot and academic."

"I think the House leadership, given this new development, should pause and think. Because in the event that the Senate asserts its authority and expresses its sentiment to uphold and restate our treaty commitments under the protocol, which is that we committed not to reimpose the death penalty, the House bill now becomes moot and academic," said Daza.  

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is bent on ending the plenary debates on the death penalty by March 8. He had already warned congressmen that he would strip them of their leadership titles if they vote against HB 4727. 

The Speaker also said he "does not care" if the Senate ends up blocking the bill so long as it is passed in the House. But Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman disagrees with Alvarez. 

"This is a bicameral legislature. No one acts solely and independently of the other. So kailangan mangialam (you need to care) because of the bilateral nature of the Congress of the Philippines," said Lagman.

He also urged the House and Senate leadership to meet and iron out the differences in their approach to the reimposition of the death penalty. 

"Otherwise, we in the House will be engaged in an exercise of futility if after all, the Senate will not approve any measure reimposing the death penalty," said Lagman. – 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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