Lower House eyes approval of death penalty by Christmas

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House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — House Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez said he's confident the death penalty will be approved by the Lower House by Christmas.

"Hopefully puwede nang dalhin sa plenary iyon, as soon as i-recommend na ng committee mismo," Alvarez told The Source on Wednesday.

[Translation: Hopefully it can be brought to plenary as soon as the committee recommends it.]

When asked about support for the measure in Congress, Alvarez said, "Wala namang problema [it's no problem], we have the majority."

Alvarez is the co-author of House Bill 01, which seeks to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes. His is just one of seven bills on the issue.

The bill defines heinous crimes to include treason, piracy, qualified bribery, murder, robbery with violence, plunder, and drug-related crimes.

Read: Senators seek death penalty for terrorists, plunderers, rapists, drug pushers

However, some members of the House are opting to restrict the crimes that merit death penalty to drug-related ones.

The revival of capital punishment was initiated by President Rodrigo Duterte after he endorsed it as a measure fight the war on drugs.

Read: Duterte: Death penalty is for retribution

House Bill 01 endorses any of the following methods of execution: by hanging, through a firing squad or lethal injection.

"I would rather let the executive branch decide kung paano yung [how to go about] execution," said Alvarez. "Sa akin, parehong patay yan e... Kahit ano [For me, it's all death anyway.. anything will do]."

After the bills will be deliberated on at the Committee on Justice, the consolidated version will be brought to the plenary for debates.

The bill must pass the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the President.

Similar measures have been filed by Senators Tito Sotto, Panfilo Lacson, and Manny Pacquiao at the Upper House.

 

The death penalty was reinstated in 1993, only to be abolished again in 2006 after then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed a law reducing maximum punishment to life imprisonment.

A statement from Senior Deputy Minority Leader Lito Atienza attributed the abolition to "mounting flaws, including the belated discovery of the wrongful execution of Leo Echegaray."

Echegaray was convicted for raping his stepdaughter, but maintained his innocence until he was sentenced to death in 1999.

Atienza warned that the Philippines would "swim against global tide with death penalty," and that it is actually not an effective deterrent against crime.

Free Legal Assistance Group Secretary-General Cookie Diokno noted that crime rates actually increased in the period that execution was implemented, as presented in the House sub-committee hearing last week.

Another critic, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, also slammed House leaders for "railroading" the passage last week.

Alvarez is also pushing for the lowering of the age for criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old through the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act.

He said that he hopes the measure will also be passed before the Christmas break.

CNN Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.