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Death bill may doom some lawmakers

LAWMAKERS stand to lose key committee chairmanships after today’s vote on the watered down death penalty bill.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, secretary general of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said he is confident the House majority bloc will win by a huge margin in House Bill 4727, even as he reiterated his threat to boot out from the super majority coalition those who vote against the measure.

“The death penalty bill is an administration measure and we, in the House of Representatives, are merely exercising our legislative mandate [even if the Senate] will not support it,” Alvarez, the main author of th death penalty bill, said.

The House will pass the bill on second reading as the Roman Catholics observe Ash Wednesday.

Earlier, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, another author of the bill, said at least 220 out of 293 lawmakers will vote for the measure.

But those who oppose the bill, such as Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin, hit Alvarez’s “vengeful attitude” towards members who will not toe the line.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay dared Alvarez to make good on his threat and strip his party’s allies of their posts once they vote against the Palace-backed bill.

“He should make good on his threat… If he does not, who will believe in him?” Lagman said.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez
Villarin said Alvarez’s threat “will reflect badly on the leadership” which may result in the disruption of legislative work in the House.

“Many of those are senior members of the House, [and the leadership] needs such legislators to run the House,” Villarin said. “By stripping them of their positions, that would hinder the functioning of the House.”

Liberal Party congressmen who expressed readiness to lose their chairmanships for blocking the death penalty bill include Reps. Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City, House committee on land use chairman; Henedina Abad of Batanes, House committee on government reorganization chairman; Kaka Bag-ao, House committee on people participation chairman; and Josephine Ramirez-Sato, House committee on economic affairs vice chairman and member of the Commission on Appointments, Lagman said.

On Monday, Alvarez reiterated his warning against his allies who will vote against the passage of the proposal to restore capital punishment.

Alvarez said the House leadership would sanction members of the super majority who will not toe the line.

“We have laid down our policy—we have to implement it,” Alvarez told a television interview.

In a move to win more support, Alvarez allowed the removal of several offenses on the list of heinous crimes in the death penalty bill, limiting them to drug-related offenses, such as sale and trade of illicit drugs.

“We agreed that the bill be limited to drug-related heinous crimes. We removed treason, plunder and rape,” Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro told reporters.

The original proposal, penned by Alvarez, contained 22 serious crimes to be punishable with death. But these were narrowed down to three.

Umali earlier said it would be easier to pass the death penalty bill after it has been watered down.

Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law was abolished in 1986 during the term of President Corazon Aquino. It was restored by former President Fidel Ramos in 1993 and was suspended again in 2006 by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Liberal Party lawmakers allied with Alvarez’s super majority coalition said they will not abandon the ruling PDP-Laban of President Rodrigo Duterte just yet.

Reps. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao and Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City said the LP came up with the decision after the party meeting called by LP president emeritus and former President Benigno Aquino III in Quezon City on Tuesday.

“We all agreed [to] give it more time to discuss the issues at hand,” Baguilat, who attended the LP meeting, said.

Baguilat said the House had “diffrent dynamics” than the Senate, where the revamp has already been done.

A total of 27 LP lawmakers belong to Alvarez’s super majority coalition in the Lower House.

Belmonte, who was also present during LP meeting, said the priority is to allow a free exchange of ideas on issues deliberated in the House.

“It is about time the voice of the LP as a party should be heard once again,” Belmonte, House committee on land use chairman, said.

Former speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the LP titular head in the House, did not attend the LP meeting.

Topics: Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez , Death penalty bill , Rep. Fredenil Castro , Rep. Tom Villarin , Rep. Edcel Lagman
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