Deputy Speaker: Amended death penalty bill getting more lawmakers' support

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Some lawmakers in the House of Representatives who were ambivalent or against the restoration of the death penallty are now in favor it, House Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez said Monday.

The amendment that changed their minds: The death penalty, once revived, will not be mandatory. Should it be passed into law, its rendering will depend on the judge handling the case.

"Instead of a hardline 'no,' a lot of them accepted. They believe that this is more palatable," Hernandez told reporters, recounting his discussion with members of the supermajority.

"I spoke to them and asked them what is their position, some said 'because of this I am open to it,'" he added.

The House leadership is doing everything it can to get the consensus of members of the majority on the controversial measure.

Last week, the PDP-Laban and the Supermajority held separate caucuses where amendments to the pending bill were considered to make it more acceptable to more congressmen.

Another amendment to the proposed measure also states, there will be no more crime which is solely punishable by death.

In one caucus, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also said that House deputy speakers and committee chairmen who are against the death penalty will be removed from their posts.

Also read: Speaker Alvarez gives ultimatum to anti-death penalty majority members

"Because of the consensus that happened last week, I can say mas lumaki laki iyong boto that will support the re-imposition [the vote for the re-imposition (of death penalty) is getting more votes and support]," Hernandez said.

House leaders also confirmed, the list of offenses punishable by death will be reduced.

thumbnail_death-penalty.jpg Initial list of offenses punishable with death based on the original proposed measure  

Speaker Alvarez and House Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali earlier said it was agreed upon in the caucus that Plunder will no longer be punishable by death.

Majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, however, clarified that it is not final yet and that they are still in the process of consensus building.

Also read: Plunder still on death penalty crime list - House majority leader

Umali also said the voting on the death penalty bill is scheduled on March 8 — and that they are expecting to have it passed before session adjourns.

Anti-death penalty lawmakers: Watered down version still a no go

But Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza — who is against the death penalty — disagrees with Hernandez's assessment.

"Kung ganoon sila ka-confident, bakit sila na-iinsecure? Bakit sila namumwersa, binabago na nila orginal version. They still do not have the numbers," Atienza said.

[If they are that confident, why do they seem insecure? Why are they forcing it, and changing the original version?]

He also argues putting the death penalty under the discretion of a judge will only benefit the rich.

"Kung mayaman akusado, may pera pambayad, magaling ang abogado. Maaring yung kanilang technicality legal maneuvers bumaba sa life sentence," Atienza pointed out.

[If the accused is rich, he has money to pay for a good lawyer. They may use technicality and legal maneuvers to take the punishment down to life sentence.]

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat insisted that the number of anti-death penalty lawmakers in the lower chamber is substantial and that they will vote against the proposed measure, even if they present a watered-down version.

Also read: Bumpy road for capital punishment: Lawmakers, government officials divided