Lagman on death penalty amendments: House leaders ignoring rules

MANILA, Philippines – Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman called out his colleagues at the House for the "flawed" way the period of amendments was carried out for the controversial death penalty bill.

"To tell you frankly, the House leadership has fed to the shredding machine the rules of the House. We don't have any rules anymore," said Lagman after the session on Tuesday, February 28, when the House of Representatives opened the period of amendments for House Bill (HB) Number 4727.

At this stage, the House plenary makes line-by-line changes to every provision of the bill on the floor. Once the period of amendments closes, the measure may already be put to a 2nd reading vote. 

During the session, however, Deputy Majority Floor Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc skipped going through every line of HB 4727 and instead made several motions to strike out the provisions on plunder, treason, and rape under the measure. 

Lagman and Buhay Representative Lito Atienza then argued that the congressmen should be going through the bill line per line.

Lagman filed a motion for the House plenary to reject Bondoc's amendments, and he was given 5 minutes by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu to explain his motion.

"Under our tradition, Mr Speaker, individual amendments should be on a per page, per line basis… Why are we entertaining only individual amendments from the majority leader? Are the members of the House not entitled to file the individual amendments?" asked Lagman.

"The procedure is completely flawed, your honor. And it is inconsistent with the tradition of the House," he added.

Bondoc moved for Lagman's objection to be put through a viva voce or an ayes and nays vote, which Lagman lost.  

Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr then stood up to propose his individual amendments for HB 4727, but he could not speak since Atienza continued to oppose the approval of the amendments. 

The Buhay representative wanted to file a motion for the House plenary to conduct a nominal voting or a roll call vote to double-check if Lagman really lost his motion.

"Mr Speaker, before we proceed, the motion for a nominal voting has not been settled. I'd like to read, I'd like to read the provision that defines the procedure to be followed for nominal voting," said Atienza, who spoke on the microphone at the same time as Andaya and Abu.

Bondoc then moved to suspend the session "to allow us to cool down a bit." Abu accepted the motion and the House plenary took a temporary break before reading other bills on the floor.

The death penalty bill is expected to be passed on 2nd reading on Wednesday, March 1. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez wants the measure passed on 3rd and final reading before Congress takes a break on March 18.  

'No rules violated'

HB 4727 principal co-author and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro said Bondoc did not violate any House rules when he introduced the amendments for the measure on the floor. 

"I do not believe there is a blatant violation of the rule. Because while it is true that the individual amendments proposed by the majority group or majority bloc was simply delivered by the acting majority leader, there is no prohibition in the rule. He can do it as representative of the individual members of the majority," said Castro.

Lagman, however, does not buy this. He warned that he may bring the alleged violation of the House rules before the Supreme Court.

"We will make everything on record that the rules have been flagrantly violated, so that once this case reaches another forum, then most probably, that would record the violations of the House with respect to the rules," he said.

But another anti-death penalty lawmaker, former prosecutor and now Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora, thinks such a case will not fly before the High Court.

"Normally, the Supreme Court will not act on it because this is just an internal rule issue. So normally, the courts will not recognize it," said Rocamora. – 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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