Rappler Talk: House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler talks to Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

As Speaker of the House, Alvarez is responsible for facilitating the passage into law of priority measures under the Duterte administration. (READ: Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s lieutenant at the House)

HIGHLIGHTS

On complaints vs Senator Leila de Lima: We did not recommend any charges on the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid prisons. This case we filed is about the offense committed by Senator Leila de Lima against the House as an institution. We subpoenaed a witness which she advised to hide. Talagang ito ay pambabastos. (This is really disrespect.) There was no inter-parliamentary courtesy. Imagine, you’re a senator, yet you advised a witness to go into hiding.

On de Lima saying she’s innocent:  Senator de Lima is a very scheming person. Ngayon lang ako naka-encoutner ng ganitong tao. (I’ve never encountered the likes of her before.) ’Yung attitude na gusto n’yang baligtarin para kunwari malinis pa rin sya. (She wants to turn the tables on everyone so she comes out clean.)

On emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis: We’re still studying it. Just because the administration requested it doesn’t mean we’ll grant blanket authority. We need to find out their plans, so that what we give them is what is needed. We can’t grant them excessive power that is not aligned with their plans.

On Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s ability to solve the traffic problem: I have no doubt, he can do it. I just want to make it clear to the people, what is this emergency power for?

As a former DOTC secretary, recommendations to the DOTr: First, to rescind highly disadvantageous deals that the past administration entered into. Like the maintenance contracts for trains that, from what we saw, [these companies] had performed poorly. There were PPPs awarded that worsened the situation... They should expedite the delivery of the new coaches for the LRT & MRT. 

On the procurement law: I really discourage this.That’s were I’m thinking twice to give the power to negotiate contracts. That’s dangerous, to allow them to negotiate big ticket contracts [Q: Are you concerned about corruption?] Of course the potential is always there. I’m not saying the officers there are corrupt. The bill is okay for ordinary procurement – those that need to be replaced because of ordinary wear and tear, or parts. But to allow them to award big contracts, that won’t do, we should follow the normal course.

On taking over the DOTr post: Kwentong kutsero ‘yan. (That’s loose talk.) Why should I exchange my elective position for an appointed one? There’s no logic there. [Q: No offer from the President?] None. I’ve learned my lesson, during my first term as congressman, I was invited to join the cabinet, me the fool, I said yes, and you know, things happened. I don’t want to go back to that. In the first place, that’s a demotion for me. 

On decision to agree to the supermajority’s wish that the death penalty bill be taken up next year: We don’t want to be accused of railroading. We don’t want it to be said that we didn’t give time to those who oppose to state their position. 

On the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to the death penalty: These people that we will subject to the death penalty are people who committed heinous crimes – the most reprehensible crimes you can imagine a human being can commit. We even say that people who commit these crimes are demons. Here comes the Church who wants to protect the evil-doers. Why do you want to protect evil? Why do you want evil to triumph over good? I cannot fathom this. It’s in the Bible – Satan comes in many forms.

On arguments reimposing the death penalty is anti-poor and that it’s not a real deterrent to crime: These are old arguments. It’s not anti-poor. They should look at the record, go back to history. How many were executed? So few. What’s the reason? Past presidents didn’t have enough political will to implement the death penalty. So do not use that as argument. Because the anti-death penalty advocates were to blame for the fact that so very few were executed and thus it never became a deterrent. 

On being a signatory to an int'l covenant rejecting the death penalty and not being allowed to withdraw: Who are they to tell us what to do? We are a sovereign country. Membership is always voluntary. Look at the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world – it has the death penalty. All Asian countries have it, we are the only one foolish to not have it. Most of the countries that have no death penalty are the countries in Europe. That’s their culture, don’t impose it on us.  

On lowering the age of criminal responsibility – critics say House Bill No. 2 may eventually kill a 9 year old: Mga bugok yang mga yan e. [They’re idiots.] The proposal is to revert to the “9 years old” of the revised penal code. Was a 9 year-old child ever executed? No, that’s because when 9 to 12 year-olds are convicted, they will not be incarcerated with hardened criminals. The bill says they will be taken to the DSWD for rehabilitation, but it will be impressed on them that they have a responsibility to society.

On 21 crimes under “heinous crimes”: I also wanted just drug-related cases, but some citizens said, why should it cover just drug-related crimes? How about pyramiding scams – why not include those? 

When the death penalty will likely be passed in the House: First quarter of 2017.  – Rappler.com