Wednesday, June 7, 2006
penalty is dead
Solons OK bill repealing capital
IN A MOVE that would benefit about 1,000 people on death row, the Senate
and the House of Representatives yesterday crossed party lines to approve
the abolition of the death penalty, weeks before President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit to the Vatican for an audience with Pope
Saying that capital punishment was cruel, anti-poor and had failed to
deter heinous crimes, the Senate approved on third and final reading -- by
a 16-0 vote with one abstention -- Senate Bill No. 2254 scrapping the
Also crossing party lines, members of the House passed their own version
by a similarly crushing vote, 119 for abolition, 20 against and one
The two chambers are expected to hammer out a common version which Ms
Arroyo, who has publicly said she favors the abolition of capital
punishment, is expected to sign into law.
The twin congressional action would repeal Republic Act No. 7659 or the
Death Penalty Law, which Congress reimposed in 1993.
It would also scrap Republic Act No. 8177, which prescribes death by
lethal injection for those convicted of heinous crimes.
Instead of death, the penalty is downgraded to reclusion perpetua or
life imprisonment without parole, under the Senate version.
The abolition would seem to serve as a good send-off gift for Ms Arroyo,
who is to go on a foreign trip from June 23 to July 2.
Palace sources said Ms Arroyo would visit
, then go to
for an expected audience with the Pontiff, before proceeding to
In April, Ms Arroyo said she would commute death sentences to life
imprisonment, drawing mixed reactions from crime victims and death penalty
opponents -- and flak from critics, who said she was only after support
from the Catholic Church.
Anticrime watchdogs, which had warned that the abolition of capital
punishment would only encourage criminals, immediately denounced the
‘Voice of victims’
“This bill is being railroaded like a bullet train,” said Dante
Jimenez, founding chair of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
“This is being railroaded so when the President goes to Europe she can
tell (Europeans) that the
no longer has this law.”
Jimenez also said: “We were never invited by Congress nor by Malacañang.
They are afraid to hear the voices of the victims ... Why weaken the law?
If you weaken the law you strengthen the criminals.”
The country’s Roman Catholic Church leaders also appeared to welcome
Asked for reaction, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the
Philippines’ media office referred reporters to an earlier statement by
CBCP president Angel Lagdameo that the Church was convinced that the death
penalty had not served its purpose since criminality and
tion were still rampant. mm
The CBCP had welcomed previous actions by both the executive and
legislative branches toward abolishing the death penalty as a
Senator Joker Arroyo, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human
rights, said senators crossed party lines to approve the measure.
Ms Arroyo had written Senate President Franklin Drilon certifying the
abolition bill as urgent. Her certification paved the way for the bill’s
approval on third reading.
Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada cast the lone abstention.
“I would like to register a vote of abstention because I am a
co-accused in a plunder case, which carries the penalty of death,” he
Jinggoy and his father, detained former President Joseph Estrada, are on
trial for plunder, an offense punishable by death.
Senator Panfilo Lacson initially opposed the abolition but withdrew his
objection at the last minute after Drilon introduced an amendment
providing for the penalty of life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua with
Senator Arroyo said abolishing the death penalty would be consistent
’ standing as a Christian country and boost its moral standing before
the world community.
When enacted into law, the abolition of the death penalty would benefit
the more than 1,000 convicts languishing on death row at the New Bilibid
, he said.
“All of them are commuted now under the Senate bill; they would no
longer suffer the penalty of death,” Arroyo said.
He said the Senate bill retained the President’s power to grant
The senators who voted for the abolition were its principal authors,
Arroyo, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Manuel Villar and
They were joined by Drilon, Lacson, Ralph Recto, Edgardo Angara, Pia
Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Maria Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, Alfredo
Lim, Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Flavier, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II,
Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Luisa “Loi” Ejercito Estrada.
Arroyo said RA 7659 should be abolished because the death penalty had
not proven to be a deterrent to crime and had become a dead-letter law.
In his sponsorship speech last week, Arroyo said the death penalty had
been a dead law because no President since the rule of Ferdinand Marcos,
wanted to carry out the death penalty law, except in two cases.
“What’s the point of having a law that has never been carried
out?” Arroyo said.
On the proposal of Caloocan Representative Luis “Baby” Asistio, the
House approved an amendment to its final version, striking out the term
“reclusion perpetua” but retaining the phrase “life imprisonment.”
“He (Asistio) argued that with respect to life imprisonment, it would
be imprisonment in perpetuity until the (natural death) of the convict
unless the President would extend clemency,” said Albay Representative
Edcel Lagman, the bill’s principal author. With
reports from Luige A. del Puerto and Jerome Aning