MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Opposition lawmakers in the House independent minority bloc said they could rally at least 50 congressmen to oppose the death penalty bill once the debate on the plenary floor begins.
"Well, the debates are going to be very extensive, particularly from those who plan to interpellate. I think we can produce even 50 interpellators," said Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman in a press conference on Tuesday, January 17.
He, however, refused to say how many congressmen exactly will oppose the return of the capital punishment.
"That question we'll always refuse to answer because we don't want the proponents to know the superiority of our numbers, the superiority of our arguments," said Lagman.
House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali said he wants the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes to be passed on 3rd and final reading by the end of the first regular session in June.
Lagman said most of the anti-death penalty congressmen come from the majority bloc allied with President Rodrigo Duterte, who supports the capital punishment out of "retribution" for victims. (READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a 'flawed, corrupt' justice system)
"But the classic examples of members of the supermajority who are against the reimposition of the death penalty are the Nograles brothers, Koko and Karlo. They are so much aligned with the administration, but they are strongly advocating a stand against the reimposition of the death penalty," said Lagman.
He was referring to Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, appropriations committee chairperson, and Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Representative Jericho "Koko" Nograles.
Jericho pro-life, Karlo still undecided
Jericho confirmed that he is against reimposing the capital punishment, telling Rappler in a text message: "That is correct. I cannot support the death penalty."
"The Nograles family is pro-admin. However, we are also pro-life," said Jericho.
"As for myself, I believe we must prioritize legislation increasing the number of courts, prosecutors, and public attorneys so we can speed up the judicial process from the average of 7 years for the first decision down to hopefully less than a year trial," he added.
Lagman has already asked Jericho to become one of the interpellators, but the party-list lawmaker said his decision would depend on how the debates would go.
"Debates on the bill should be very factual. The public deserves to see that Congress can make informed decisions," he said.
His brother Karlo, however, said he will come up with a stand on the death penalty "when the time comes."
He also hit Lagman for attempting to speak for him and his brother.
"Congressman Edcel Lagman does not speak for me or for my brother Koko. I don't even speak for my brother. Si Manong Edcel naman, during the admin of PNoy (former President Benigno Aquino III), he was pro-RH (reproductive health), ngayon sa admin ni (now in the administration of) President Duterte, he is anti-death penalty," said Karlo in a text message.
"He never put words in my mouth before. What should he start now?" he added.
The Nograles brothers are nephews of Duterte, who is the cousin of their mother Rhodora Bendigo.
The family patriarch, former Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr, used to be a longtime political rival of the Duterte family. In two of the elder Nograles’ 3 failed bids for Davao City mayor, he lost to a Duterte – first to Rodrigo and then to his daughter, Sara.