House panel OKs death penalty bill

MANILA — The House of Representatives justice committee on Wednesday approved for plenary deliberation a report containing the substitute bill on the restoration of the death penalty for heinous crimes.

The panel approved the report with 12 votes on the affirmative, 6 negative and one abstention.

During the committee hearing, Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao strongly opposed the proposal, noting that there is no compelling reason for the reinstatement of capital punishment as required by the Constitution.

Bag-ao cited the lack of statistics on the country’s crime rates, which are crucial in helping lawmakers judiciously decide on the measure.

The lady solon also said there is a need to propose reforms on the administration of justice.

“There is no clear evidence or study presented that would justify death penalty as an effective deterrent to crime. Even the Secretary of the Department of Justice, who attended one of the hearings, said that there are neither studies conducted nor any empirical data presented to justify the reimposition of death penalty,” Bag-ao further explained in a statement.

Meanwihle, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, justice committee vice-chair, said death penalty is necessary to scare off repeat offenders.

Furthermore, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas argued that the Constitution gives Congress the power to reinstate death penalty for heinous crimes and the compelling reasons for its reimposition can be debated once the bill is tackled at the plenary.

Under the proposed measure, the heinous crimes for which the death penalty will be imposed include trafficking in illegal drugs, arson, treason, murder, rape, kidnapping, and carnapping. The mode of capital punishment could either be through hanging, by firing squad or lethal injection.

The imposition of death penalty has been suspended since 2006 with the enactment of Republic Act No. 9346, or “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines.”

However, President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly declared that he wanted capital punishment reimposed on heinous crimes, especially on criminals involved in drug-trafficking.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, one of the authors of the consolidated death penalty bills, has vowed the passage of the measure at the House of Representatives before Congress adjourns for the Christmas break.

The death penalty bill was the first measure filed at the House of Representatives in this 17th Congress.