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Filipino lawmakers water down kill bill to ensure passage

Number of offenses, including murder, cut from death penalty list

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: February 21, 2017 10:44 AM GMT

Updated: February 21, 2017 10:45 AM GMT

Filipino lawmakers water down kill bill to ensure passage

A student holds a placard to express opposition to the proposed revival of capital punishment in the country during the 'Walk for Life' in Manila on Feb. 18. (Photo by Joe Torres)


The Philippines' House of Representatives looks set to water down a bill intended to restore capital punishment to ensure its passage before the end of the month.

"We agreed to whittle [the bill] down to a minimum number of offenses," said House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas.

From the 21 offenses punishable by death, the proposed bill is to limit capital crimes to, treason, plunder and drug-related offenses. 

Oddly, murder was not included on the revised list.

Of the eight drug-related offenses included in the bill, drug possession will be struck off the list.

The method of execution could either be by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection.

Rape will not be punishable by death in the watered-down version of the proposed measure.

Farinas said legislators agreed to set the vote on the second reading of the measure for Feb. 28, one week ahead of schedule.

Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro said that at least 200 of the 293 members of the House of Representatives are expected to vote in favor of the measure.


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Church leaders to exhaust all means

Catholic Church leaders vowed that they would exhaust all legal means to stop the implementation of capital punishment if the death penalty bill is passed.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Prison and Pastoral Care of the bishops' conference, said questioning the law's constitutionality was among their options.

"We will go to the Supreme Court. We believe that it is unconstitutional. It is cruel. It is inhumane," said Diamante.

He added, however, they would have to wait for a "test case," of someone being sentenced to death.

"We can do it only when a person is convicted and sentenced," said Diamante.

Another option is for legislators who ratified the country's international treaty obligation against the death penalty to question the law.

"A senator can easily claim that he or she is affected because he or she was among those who ratified it," he said.

The church official said they would also seek the opinion of the international community on the issue.

"Let us continue to fight and not give up. I'm still fighting because right is right," he said.

Diamante said he is confident that even if the death penalty bill was passed it would later be scrapped.


Opposition in the Senate

Opposition senators, meanwhile, vowed to support all opposition against the passage of the death penalty bill.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said capital punishment has been "repeatedly proven to be ineffective."

"It is overwhelmingly inflicted on the poor and powerless, it is imposed by a fallible and flawed justice system, and it violates international laws the Philippine nation has sworn to abide by," he said.

The senator said studies conducted in various countries have established that the certainty of punishment is a more effective deterrent against crime compared to the severity of punishment. 

The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 1986. It was restored in 1993 and was suspended again in 2006.

On Feb. 18, some 20,000 Filipino Catholics joined a prayer rally dubbed "Walk for Life" to protest proposals on the revival of death penalty and the rising number of killings linked to the government's war against illegal drugs.

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