Solon: House has 'overwhelming' support for death penalty bill

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2016 03:54 PM

MANILA- A principal author of the proposal for the reinstatement of the death penalty is optimistic they will get a majority vote from their colleagues in the Lower House.

"I am pretty sure that the majority of the members of the House of Representatives are supportive of the legislation seeking the reimposition," Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro said in an interview with ANC's Headstart Thursday.

"We are within the range of 300, and out of this 300, without exaggerating, I think we will get an overwhelming majority," he added, noting that his "gut feel" is that it will be more than 260.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has previously said the House plans to approve on third and final reading a bill that would bring back the death penalty before it goes to a Christmas break, but congressmen came forward to say they will debate in plenary when they come back in 2017.

With several solons speaking out against it, speculation rose that there was not enough support from members of the House, hence a push back on the deadline--an opinion Castro said he does not subscribe to.

"We cannot stop them from making noise, but actual vote is different from making noise in the House," he said.

Castro also asserted that they are moving the discussion of the bill at the plenary to after Christmas so it won't be interrupted by a recess. 

"I suggested that I will not subscribe for myself delivering my sponsorship speech shortly before our Christmas break because I want to maintain a continuous discussion by the people, by the media, and all stakeholders on the propriety and impropriety of reimposition of the death penalty," he said.

"I don’t want an interrupted momentum. This legislation is very important and therefore there should be continuity in the discussion and monitoring of our people on the progress of this bill in the plenary," he added.

Death penalty in the Philippines was abolished under the 1987 Constitution--the first Asian country to do so--but was reinstated under President Fidel V. Ramos in response to increasing crime rates.

It was again abolished under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, during when the harshest penalties were life imprisonment and reclusion perpetua.

In the 2016 elections, however, candidate Rodrigo Duterte was vocal about the restoration of death penalty and made it one of his priorities when he ascended to the presidency.

Among those who filed House Bill No. 1 that is seeking to restore the death penalty was Castro, who voted for its abolition in 2006.

He explained, the time then is different from the present. "Every time I watch the news in the evening, I am shocked—my conscience could not accept the way crimes are being committed in our country," he said.

He also insisted, Duterte "will have an influence over the decision-making of the members of the supermajority," but the president's support will simply be a "coincidence" since they "will follow what is dictated by [their] conscience and will follow what is good for the country."

The bill is currently being opposed by the Catholic Church, human rights groups, and even some lawmakers, who assert that death penalty is not a crime deterrent.