House approves death penalty bill on second reading

MANILA — The House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on second reading the contentious measure restoring the death penalty.

During Wednesday’s plenary session presided over by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, the lower chamber passed via viva voce voting House Bill No. 4727, or an act imposing the death penalty on certain heinous crimes.

The bill seeks to repeal Republic Act 9346 that prohibits the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines. It also seeks to further amend the Revised Penal Code and the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The House leadership is targeting to pass the bill on third and final reading on March 15, before the lower chamber goes into a congressional recess.

Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr., Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Sagip Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin, Siquijor Rep. Rav Rocamora introduced individual amendments to the bill, but Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, one of the bill’s sponsors, rejected their proposals.

Umali noted that most of their proposals to delete the penalty of death under the bill defeats the purpose of HB 4727 and only serves as a dilatory tactic. He then moved for an omnibus rejection of such proposals.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas also cracked the whip on the anti-death penalty lawmakers who stalled the proceedings, as he moved for a second roll call and would then proceed to terminate the period of amendments.

A total of 227 lawmakers responded to the second roll call.

Fariñas proposed to vote on the death penalty bill through nominal voting, but the motion was lost since only 28 lawmakers stood up in favor of his motion. One-fifth of the quorum is needed for nominal voting.

Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc moved to close the period of amendments and opened the floor to vote on the measure via viva voce voting, with ayes winning over nays.

Under the bill, the mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

The new version of the bill limits the crimes punishable by death to only drug-related offenses in a bid to strengthen the Duterte administration’s relentless war on drugs.

The substitute bill delists the crimes of plunder, rape, and treason from its coverage.

Umali explained that the Philippine drug problem provides a compelling reason as required by the Constitution for the death penalty restoration.

The bill said the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from PHP500,000 to PHP10 million shall be imposed upon any person involved in the following acts:

– importation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals;

– sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursor and essential chemicals;

– maintenance of a den, dive or resort where any dangerous drug is used or sold in any form;

– manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemical; possession of dangerous drugs;

– criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/ paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful act committed;

– criminal liability for planting evidence.

The measure also requires the Public Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Solicitor General to create a special panel composed of senior lawyers to handle the automatic review or appealed cases of the death penalty.

The bill said another amendment requires the public prosecutor to furnish copies of case information to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), and other religious and civic organizations.

Capital punishment was last suspended in 2006 by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has called for the passage of the measure to stop the proliferation of drugs and criminality. Filane Mikee Cervantes/

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