‘Even hardened convicts are scared of death’

‘Even hardened convicts are scared of death’

President Duterte is pushing for the death penalty, a move slammed by human rights advocates and the Catholic Church. STAR, file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Even hardened convicts are scared to die, an administration lawmaker argued in defending the proposed reimposition of the death penalty.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, one of the authors of the bill re-imposing the death penalty, cited the admission of convicted drug lord Jaybee Sebastian in a congressional inquiry that he is most afraid of dying.

Sebastian sustained several wounds in the chest and back in a recent stabbing incident in the New Bilibid Prison. He accused Sen. Leila de Lima of being behind the attempt on his life.

De Lima is being accused by President Duterte of receiving money from drug lords in exchange for protection when she was justice secretary.

Duterte is pushing for the death penalty, a move slammed by human rights advocates and the Catholic Church.

While a majority of members of the House of Representatives are leaning toward the reimposition of death penalty, the supermajority coalition have decided to hold off debates until January 2017. 

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“Speaker (Pantaleon) Alvarez agreed to pass the death penalty bill on third and final reading next year (January 2017) after a month of full-blown debates in the plenary,” Fariñas told reporters. 

Alvarez earlier hinted that the House would pass on third and final reading the bill reimposing the death penalty before Congress goes on a month-long Christmas break on Dec. 16. Pro-life legislators accused Duterte’s allies of “railroading” the death penalty bill.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said the reimposition of capital punishment must be debated extensively in the plenary.

“We must evaluate and assess the pros and the cons because we don’t want to waste the value of human life. It must be studied thoroughly,” he added.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House committee on justice, maintained that the House would fine-tune the death penalty bill.

The justice committee last week voted 12-6 with one abstention, approving the report on a substitute bill that seeks to restore the death penalty for heinous crimes like rape, murder, arson, kidnap-for-ransom.

Umali said under the bill, only those found guilty of committing grave violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act will be punished by death.

Pro-life lawmakers Edcel Lagman of Albay and Kaka Bag-ao of Dingat Islands objected to the railroading of the death penalty bill, saying there are no statistics that can be considered as “compelling reason” to revive capital punishment. 

But Umali and Compostela Valley Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga said the crime index provided by the Philippine National Police leadership to the justice committee is compelling enough reason to revive the death penalty.

Loretta Rosales, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said that the restoration of the death penalty in the country would still be a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the Philippines is a signatory.

Yesterday, thousands of Catholics held a prayer rally in Bacolod City to express strong opposition to the reimposition of the death penalty. – With Gilbert Bayoran