Philippine house passes death penalty bill

Indo Asian News Service

Manila, March 7 (IANS) The Philippine House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a controversial bill that restores the death penalty in the country.

The House approved the bill, which seeks to reimpose capital punishment for drug-related crimes, on third and final reading with 216 affirmative votes, Xinhua news agency reported.

Fifty-four lawmakers voted against the measure and one abstained, the Philippine Star reported.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June last year, has vigorously pushed for the reimposition of capital punishment, saying it is an effective deterrent against heinous crimes.

The bill seeks to punish the perpetrators of eight drug offences with either life imprisonment or death.

Its original draft included 21 heinous crimes, including plunder, rape and treason.

However, the number of crimes was lowered after a house caucus agreed to remove plunder, rape and treason from the list, and then limited only to drug-related crimes.

"We agreed the bill will only be limited to drug-related heinous crimes," Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, chair of the House Justice committee, said last week.

However, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez did not discount the possibility that the crimes originally stipulated in the bill he proposed months ago could be restored in the bill in the bicameral conference committee.

According to the Philippines Star, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, one of the fiercest opponents of the measure, criticised the majority for its rush to pass the bill.

Amnesty International expressed its concern with members of the house, saying many of them refused to hear arguments against the measure.

The bill will be transmitted to the Senate for deliberations by the senators. It becomes law when Duterte finally signs the bill.

Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty in 2006.

The death penalty was abolished under the 1987 Constitution after Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in February 1987.

The Philippines then became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

All death sentences were reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.

In 1993, the then administration of President Fidel Ramos reimposed the death penalty to address the rising criminality and incidence of heinous crimes.

In 1999, then President Joseph Estrada issued a de facto moratorium on executions in the face of church-led campaigns to abolish the death penalty.

--IANS

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