Plunder out of death penalty bill again

>> Thursday, March 9, 2017


Administration lawmakers removed last week plunder, treason and rape from the list of offenses covered by a bill restoring the death penalty and retained drug-related cases as among those qualified for capital punishment.
This is the second time that House members decided to remove plunder from the bill. Drug offenses will make it easier for lawmakers to pass House Bill 4727, according to administration congressmen.
The House voted last week to terminate the period of debates and will now focus on individual amendments to the measure.
Lawmakers earlier included four offenses – plunder, treason, rape and drugs – among 21 heinous crimes to be covered by death penalty bill.
If plunder was taken out from the bill, the answer is obvious, according to political analysts, referring to wayward congressmen.
President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign to bring back the death penalty for drug-related crimes has cleared a major hurdle, with supporters backing it in congress but critics denouncing the plans as "inhumane".
The death penalty bill, along with a proposed measure to punish children as young as nine as adult criminals, are key planks of Duterte's controversial drug war that has already claimed more than 6,500 lives.
A majority of politicians in the lower house of congress passed a second reading of the bill on Wednesday night, clearing one of the biggest obstacles in proponents' plans to have make the death penalty legal by May.
A third and final reading still needs to be held next week, although with no more debates both sides agree passage is a formality. Then the Senate, which is similarly dominated by Duterte's allies, would pass a counterpart bill.
Opponents voiced anger the Philippines would bring back the death penalty, 11 years after it was revoked, highlighting among many concerns a corrupt justice system that would lead to innocent people being executed.
"The decision is inhumane, shameful and blatantly disrespectful," Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary for public affairs at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said in a press statement. "Let me reiterate this, criminals should be punished and victims should be aided, but the punishment should not be death. Due to our flawed and dysfunctional criminal justice system, there is a great chance that innocent people may become victims of wrongful convictions."
The Catholic Church, which counts 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, had led the opposition to abolish the death penalty in 2006.
Secillano and opposition lawmakers also criticized the tactics used to ensure the bill was passed, such as curtailing of debates and only allowing a vote by voice so lawmakers would not be specifically identified as having supported it.
The speaker of the house also threatened to strip lawmakers of committee leadership positions if they voted against the bill.
"This is a chamber of puppets and bullies," Rep. Edcel Lagman, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, said after his efforts to block the bill were voted down.
The bill limits the death penalty to drug-related crimes.
Possessing 500 grams of marijuana, or 10 grams of cocaine, heroin or ecstasy, would be crimes punishable by execution, as would manufacturing and selling drugs.
People who commit serious crimes such as murder and rape while under the influence of drugs could also be executed.
However committing those crimes without being under the influence of drugs would only be punishable with jail terms.
The United Nations had warned bringing back the death penalty would violate international conventions the Philippines had already ratified.
After capital punishment, another priority bill for Duterte is a companion bill lowering the age of criminal liability to as low as nine years old, from 15 currently.


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