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House deletes death penalty from drug bill

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By Ben Rosario

With all provisions containing the imposition of death penalty deleted, the controversial drug bill will be presented for second and third reading approval preferably before the start of congressional break. The bill was previously approved on final reading but the approval was invalidated on Monday.

(PIXABAY / MANILA BULLETIN)

(PIXABAY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said approval of House Bill No. 8909 was recalled on third and final reading and will be reverted for second reading approval as soon as it has been cleansed of all death penalty references.

Passed on final reading last Monday, HB 8909 which sought to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002 reimposed the death penalty, this time, providing for the capital punishment for persons found in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings and meetings.

“We decided to reconsider final reading approval in order to clarify provisions of the bill that refer to the death penalty. This will prevent double or multiple interpretations of the death penalty provisions that might mislead Filipinos into believing that death sentence has been restored,” explained Castro.

Castro pointed out that even if the bill is passed in its original form, the death penalty provisions will still not be implemented unless Congress passes a law that restores death as capital punishment.

According to him the bill will be substituted with another measure that contains no death penalty provision and will be presented for second reading and third reading immediately.’

“IN order to be clear, we are going to amend by substitution, erasing all provisions that refer to death penalty. We have to be categorical that the maximum penalty to be imposed is reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment,” said Castro.

Apparently oblivious that they had restored the death penalty, congressmen recalled Monday final reading approval of House Bill 8909 which proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that reimposed the capital punishment.

Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was clearly behind the recommitment of HB 8909 to the committee level, thus, invalidating its third and final reading approval on Monday.

It will be recalled that Arroyo, a fierce anti-death penalty advocate, was relieved as deputy speaker when she voted against the bill re-imposing the capital punishment in 2017, a pet measure of her predecessor, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Arroyo’s name, together with other death penalty advocates in the Lower House, was included as among those who voted to approve on final reading HB 8909 during Monday’s session.

The Monday plenary voting result was 172 affirmative and zero negative for approval of the measure on third and final reading.

Makabayan bloc leaders Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers Partylist) and Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Partylist) admitted they were not aware House Bill 8909 proposing amendments to Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 contained a provision reimposing the death sentence in the country’s penal system.

Before the motion to recommit the bill, the two opposition lawmakers said they will manifest, either on the floor or by writing the House leadership that they are against the bill if it contained the death penalty provision.

Makabayan bloc solons who are strongly opposed to the death penalty were present during the voting, indicating that they, too, were among those who registered affirmative votes for passage of HB 8909

HB 8909 that sought to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, reimposed the death penalty in the country’s penal system, this time, providing for the capital punishment on persons found in possession of dangerous drugs during parties, social gatherings and meetings.

HB 8909 consolidated many provisions of at least 15 bills seeking to amend the dangerous drugs law. Authors included Reps. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City); Winston Castelo (PDP-laban, QuezonCity); Alfredo Garbin and Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol Partylist) and former president and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, among others.

Section 13 of the bill penalizes a person found possessing any dangerous drug during a party or a social gathering or meeting attended by two or more individuals with life imprisonment or death. A fine of ranging from P5 million to P10 million regardless of the amount of seized narcotics will also be imposed.

HB 8909 seeks to further strengthen drug prevention and control by providing legal presumption on those who are considered importer, financier and protector or coddler of illegal drugs.

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