Fariñas mulls caucus to end debates, put death penalty bill to a vote

MANILA — House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas is cracking the whip as anti-death penalty lawmakers continue to stall plenary debates on the contentious measure reinstating capital punishment with quorum woes.

Fariñas has announced his plan to seek consensus among members of the House majority by holding a caucus meeting with regard to closing the period of deliberations on the death penalty bill.

Fariñas, who chairs the powerful House committee on rules, confirmed in a text message on Thursday that the majority caucus is set on Monday, 1:30 p.m..

The House leader displayed his firmness during Wednesday night’s plenary session as he threatened to close the debates earlier than the target date of March 8.

This after Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman questioned the existence of a quorum prior to the interpellation of Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin, the fifth among the first 25 interpellators.

“We are accommodating them to speak, but when they speak they demand that at least 51 percent should be present here… That’s the problem, no one wants to listen to you,” Fariñas said.

“As chairman of the committee on rules, we will now force to vote on the measure and we will now close the period of debates,” he added.

Fariñas further said he will call a majority caucus to decide if they will push through with the debates or start voting on the measure.

Fariñas based his threat to close the debates on Section 54 of Rule X which provides: “A motion to close the debate on a measure shall be in order after three speeches, in favor and two against, or after only one speech in favor and none against: Provided, That within the last 15 days before adjournment, a motion to close debate on a measure shall be in order after two speeches in favor and one against, or after only one speech in favor and none against.”

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is targeting to put the controversial bill to a vote on second reading on March 8, and on third reading on March 15.

Lagman, in a separate statement on Thursday, slammed the “unwarranted railroading” of the bill’s passage, saying that the House leadership subjectively uses the House rules to “gag” interpellators.

“Past Congresses did not gag Members who wished to interpellate just like in the debates of the bills on the comprehensive agrarian reform program, reimposition of the death penalty, abolition of the death penalty and the reproductive health bill, among others,” he added.

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