House majority: Treason, plunder, rape removed from list of crimes punishable by death

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The House Majority bloc finally makes up their mind — treason, rape, and plunder will no longer be punishable by death.

This was the agreement made by the House majority bloc after its caucus on Wednesday — even after House leaders vowed to include the said offenses in the proposed measure restoring capital punishment in the country.

Bill sponsor, Justice Committee Chairman Rey Umali, said the majority has agreed to only limit the crimes punishable by death to drug-related offenses only, with the exception of possession of illegal drugs.

"'Yung problema natin sa drugs is really one compelling reason na maraming data," Umali told the media in an interview after the majority caucus on Monday. [Our problem in drugs is really one compelling reason that has a lot of data.]

Just last week, the House of Representatives approved a substitute bill naming 4 types of crimes punishable by death — treason, plunder, rape, and drug-related offenses.

Umali admits up until today, some lawmakers were hesitant about voting in favor of the measure.

He believes they finally arrived at a compromise after the caucus.

"It is more of getting the consensus of the group. It became easier when we limited it to just one crime," Umali said.

Also read: House Speaker: Death penalty bill expected to pass February 28

Asked why not include rape, Umali said that including other crimes would only make the discussion longer.

Umali recalled some lawmakers were delighted when House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez agreed to only limit the death penalty to drug-related offenses.

"Because of that, ayun na, nagsigawan na those who are having a heavy heart even if they will vote in favor, mabigat, gumaan," Umali said, describing the mood at the caucus. [Because of that, many cheered, and those voting with a heavy heart found themselves having less burden.]

Death penalty critic Albay Representative Edcel Lagman believes the bill was, as he puts it, "emasculated" to entice more members of the House to vote for the death penalty bill.

Lagman believes many congressmen remain ambivalent that's why the House leadership keep amending the measure.

"The purpose now is not to re-impose the death penalty but to support the president's deadly war against the drug menace," Lagman said.

Umali said the voting on the death penalty bill on second reading will be done on Wednesday to allow them more time to polish the final bill.

Watch: Duterte defends death penalty