|House of Representatives, Manila, Philippines|
The execution of the 1st convict may not happen in the next 4 to 5 years under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte even if the death penalty bill is passed by Congress and becomes law, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas said.
"Even with the reimposition of the death penalty you cannot expect an execution in the next 4 or 5 years," he said in an interview, adding that it would take time to go through the processes of the courts before the final conviction is handed.
"It would already take take long time at the investigation stage, then this would go to the prosecutor and would be filed before the judge. There would still be a trial and an appeal," he added.
Asked if this meant that there would be no execution under the Duterte administration, Farinas said, "It's possible, because the President has about 5 years and 4 months left, so just think how long the gestation period of a death penalty case is. It will really take time."
Farinas also stressed that the law does not have a retroactive effect on offenses committed before its passage.
Debates on House Bill No. 4727 would resume on Tuesday but the House leader warned that it could be terminated if those opposed to the measure would continue to question the quorum.
After the termination of the debates, there will be a period of amendments, in which the lawmakers can introduce their proposed changes. Voting on 2nd reading is tentatively scheduled on February 28.
From 21 heinous crimes, the list was down to four punishable by the death penalty, as agreed upon by the members of the majority bloc during an earlier caucus - plunder, drug-related crimes, treason and rape.
Farinas earlier said that rape was no longer included, but clarified that it would now be punishable by death penalty.
The mode of execution would be lethal injection, firing squad, and hanging. It would be up to the judge to determine the mode of execution, Farinas said.
He said House members would also introduce several safeguards in the bill such as requiring the Public Attorneys' Office and the Office of the Solicitor General to assign senior lawyers to death penalty cases.
Farinas said a provision to be added would also require the fiscal to furnish the files and information of the case to religious and civic organizations, human rights groups, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Free Legal Assistance Group to assist the accused.
Source: interaksyon.com, February 20, 2017
'Death penalty revival efforts in House useless'
Critics on Wednesday said efforts at the House of Representatives to revive the death penalty may become futile if the Senate won't act on its counterpart measure.
While the supermajority at the lower chamber is perceived to be backing the bill, the Senate seems to be divided on the proposed measure.
Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza also called on the majority not to railroad the bill by skipping the debates. "Why are you rushing it?" Atienza said. "There are about 20 members still wanting to participate and interpellate. Why would you now deprive these 20 members to be satisfied with the exchanges in the interpellation?"
Atienza believes the absence of a quorum is proof that a majority of the lawmakers at the lower chamber actually reject the bill.
"That's one way of looking at it but I think the main reason there is no quorum is the lack of interest on the part of the general membership, especially the majority," he said.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, meanwhile, admitted that the death penalty bill will face rough sailing in the Senate.
PH TO LOSE TRADE BENEFITS
Separately, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin in a statement said that the Philippines risks losing over $12 billion in trade benefits and over 200,000 jobs if it reimposes the death penalty.
Villarin said if the Philippines revives the death penalty, it will lose zero tariffs privilege for its exports to European Union countries.
"Why will we let go of such gains when the perceived benefits of reimposing the death penalty are non-existent?" he said.
The Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) allows the Philippines to export to the EU without duties or with reduced tariffs.
The GSP+ is based on ratification and compliance with international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environment and good governance.
The Philippines was given preferential status under the European Union-GSP+ in December 2014, allowing the duty-free export of about 6,274 Philippine products exported to EU countries.
"It will only worsen the peace and order situation in Mindanao, which will be greatly affected by such policy. Death penalty will kill industries, jobs, and livelihoods of the poorest people in our country--a tragic irony of unfathomed proportions," Villarin said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that in 2014, the year the Philippines signed the GSP+ trade agreement, tariff-free exports amounted to $6.73 billion.
It rose to $7.17 billion in 2015 and will eventually cover the total trade to EU which comprises around 12% of our country's exports.
EXPAND PUBLIC ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
CIBAC party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, meanwhile, proposed the expansion of the Public Attorney's Office in case the death penalty bill is approved.
"We would like to make sure that those who are accused who are poor will not be prejudiced. Free legal assistance should be extended to those who belong to those who are poor," the party-list group said.
The party-list group said PAO needs more budget to address the need for more lawyers, especially those who will assist the underprivileged allegedly involved in heinous crimes punishable by death penalty.
CIBAC Party-List calls for the creation of a special division in PAO which will handle cases of poor defendants who may be penalized with death penalty.
"It is of prime importance that the state guarantees that nobody gets wrongfully convicted due to failure to obtain adequate legal aid," the group said.
Source: abs-cbn.com, February 21, 2017
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