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Speaker to solons: Vote for death penalty or lose posts

In this July 25, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte shares a light moment with (from left to right) House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez at the Batansang Pambansa. The three lawmakers support Duterte's agenda to reintroduce the death penalty. PPD/King Rodriguez, file

MANILA, Philippines — As the Lower House prepares to vote on final reading the proposal to reinstate the death penalty, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez warned lawmakers that they would be removed from their committee posts should they vote against the measure.

Alvarez issued his warning in an interview on dzMM as he also bared the House leadership's plan to reintroduce the death sentence in cases involving other crimes.

Alvarez said that they would have implement the threat after the voting on Tuesday because the proposed policy is a majority priority.

"Tuloy na tuloy 'yun. 'Yung ang naging policy natin kaya kailangan nating gawin 'yun," Alvarez said in the radio interview.

The speaker, however, clarified that only congressmen holding committee chairmanships or deputy speakership posts would be removed from their positions.

Based on the speaker's estimate, he expects more than 200 representatives to vote in favor of the death penalty bill and 30 to vote against it.

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When asked if he had the numbers, he answered: "Maraming marami na. Hindi po tayo kinakabahan d'yan."

Alvarez earlier issued his warning against members of the majority who would vote against the proposed law in an effort to avoid an embarrassing spectacle in which a good number of majority congressmen would go against the administration's agenda.

Observers say that despite the threat, the leadership is still facing substantial opposition.

The restoration of death penalty is a major plank of the anti-corruption platform of President Rodrigo Duterte last year that propelled him to the presidency.

Capital punishment was abolished in 2006 during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one of the solons facing removal because of her opposition to the administration-backed measure.

Human rights advocates, Catholic leaders, some educational institutions and other international bodies expressed opposition to the draft legislation, saying the policy has been proven as an ineffective deterrent to crime and will only work in a flawless justice system, which the Philippines does not have.

Expanded death penalty coverage

Alvarez said in the same interview that other crimes such as rape and plunder are next on their list of offenses to be covered by death penalty.

When asked if the House would file other measures that would introduce death penalty in other cases, the speaker answered in the affirmative.

Alvarez also said it is possible that other crimes might be included during the bicameral conference committee, which deliberates the versions passed in both chambers of Congress.

"Lahat po naman posibleng mangyari yan. Depende na po sa bicam yun. Halimbawa napagkasunduan dun na ibalik yung mga natanggal, depende na po sa bicam yun. Meron namang proseso para dun," he said.

The House leadership earlier limited the death penalty's coverage to drugs and drug-related crimes to make it easier for hesitant congressmen to vote in favor of the measure.

"Nagpulong po kami majority caucus at napagkasunduan na para mapabilis yung ating pagpasa nung restoration ng death penalty itong illegal drugs muna, crimes related to illegal drugs," Alvarez said.

He added: "Hindi po ito nangangahulugan na kinalimutan na namin yung iba. Isusunod po natin ito. Yung iba pong nakalista dun ay isa-isa po nating ipapasa yun. Para lang may matapos na tayo kaagad. Yun po ang intention natin dito."

 

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