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Filipino senators give death penalty proposal thumbs down

Bill to bring back executions will likely be killed and not even pass committee stage, they say

Filipino senators give death penalty proposal thumbs down

Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes speaks to anti-death penalty protesters outside the Senate building in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Leonel Abasola, Manila
Philippines

January 12, 2018

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A proposal to restore capital punishment in the Philippines is as good as dead, according to legislators in the country’s Senate.

The majority of senators, who are supposed to look at a bill to reinstate the death penalty, have expressed doubt over whether the bill would pass.

"Based on our informal consultations, we don't have the required numbers to pass the death penalty bill in the Senate," admitted Senator Panfilo Lacson, one of the authors of the proposed law.

The legislator said it would be a waste of time to tackle a bill that will only be defeated when the time to vote comes.

He advised Senator Manny Pacquiao, chairman of a Senate subcommittee tasked with scrutinize the measure, not to rush a vote on the death penalty, saying the proposal will likely be defeated.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the proposed law is not even on the legislative agenda of the administration party.

The Senate body under Pacquiao is set to discuss the issue this month, but Drilon expressed doubt whether the bill could go to a vote even at the committee level.

The re-imposition of capital punishment was a campaign promise of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to fight the proliferation of illegal drugs and heinous crimes.

In March last year, the House of Representatives passed a measure allowing capital punishment for drug-related offenses.

Allies of Duterte in the Lower Chamber of Congress railroaded the passage of the proposal amid a howl of protests from opposition congressmen, nuns, and activists.

Under the Philippine system, a proposed bill has to pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the president.

The proposed law passed by the House lists seven drug-related crimes as punishable by death, excluding possession for personal use.

Rape and murder are not included among capital crimes.

Catholic Church leaders have been vocal in their opposition to the proposed measure, saying that capital punishment is "an additional burdensome law" that will not deter crime.

In an interview on Jan. 12, Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said church leaders "will not give up in engaging our lawmakers in working for justice that heals and respect the dignity of the human person."

"We hope and pray that the members of the Senate will vote in accordance with their conscience," he said.

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


 

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