VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Then and now: How these lawmakers stand on the death penalty

When capital punishment was abolished in the country by the 13th Congress in 2006, 10 of the current senators supported the measure and one opposed it.

The 11 were either representatives (Juan Edgardo Angara, Allan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri) or senators (Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto) at the time.

Have they stuck to or changed their stand on the death penalty since?

BACKSTORY

On June 6, 2006, the Senate and House of Representatives voted to repeal Republic Act 7659 or the Death Penalty Law and RA 8177 or the Act Designating Death by Lethal Injection.

The votes: 120-20-1 in the House and 16-0-1 in the Senate. In August that year, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the bill into RA 9346.

Zubiri, then a representative of the third district of Bukidnon, was one of the 20 House members who voted to retain the death penalty.

In explaining his vote then, he said since the death penalty law was never properly implemented, it was never tested if it could be a deterrent to crime.

But he feared without capital punishment, extrajudicial killings would continue, perpetrated by victims of heinous crimes who would take the law into their own hands.

He even expressed the belief that the death penalty could curb the rampant drug use on the streets and inside the New Bilibid Prison.

“On the drug menace alone, why are there so many Chinese drug lords plying their trade in our nation? In China, they are lined up in the auditorium and shot with AK-47s. Here, in the streets and they can do it behind the walls of Muntinlupa. They can continue to perform their illegal activities inside the jail cell. If we need to make exemptions, then so be it. But let us not remove the death penalty on the pushing of drugs or maybe even crimes of terrorism.”

(Source: Record of Plenary Proceedings No. 67, 13TH Congress, House of Representatives)

He filed a bill seeking to reinstate the death penalty in 2010.

But in 2013, in an interview with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, he said his renewed faith changed his mind: He is against capital punishment. He reiterated this when he was elected senator last year.

Escudero and Hontiveros are also against the reimposition of the death penalty, maintaining their stand when they were House members. Both belonged to the minority bloc then. In the Senate now, Hontiveros is still with the minority, while Escudero is with the majority.

Cayetano, who also opposed the death penalty in 2006 has been silent on the issue since the bill was taken up at the House.

During the 2016 election, however, as President Rodrigo Duterte’s vice presidential candidate, Cayetano said all means should be exhausted so the death penalty won’t be necessary, but he expressed support for death penalty for corrupt officials.

Angara has also softened his stand on the measure. As a neophyte senator in 2014, he was firm in his opposition.

Sa aking opinyon, tingnan muna natin ang implementasyon ng ating mga batas dahil ang mga ibang bansa ay moving toward wala nang death penalty (In my opinion, let’s focus on the implementation of the law because other countries are moving toward abolishing the death penalty).”

(Source: GMA News Online. 4 neophyte senators reject revival of death penalty. Jan. 29, 2014)

But in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel this January, he said he was open to capital punishment for heinous crimes, including drug trafficking “if there are compelling reasons” as stated in the Constitution.

In March, however, Angara said he was having second thoughts on reimposing the death penalty “due to police corruption and manipulation of the legal system.”

In yet another interview, he said he was still weighing his options, waiting to hear both sides and the sentiments of the public before he decides.

Villar has also altered her initial stand.

From 2006, when she was part of the majority in the House being a member of the Nacionalista Party headed by her husband, until 2013 when she was elected senator, Villar had consistently remained opposed to the death penalty.

In 2014, when Sotto filed a bill seeking to reinstate capital punishment, Villar continued to oppose it, saying she was “pro-life.”

“I’m a pro-life and I was surprised that Sen. Sotto filed this kind of bill because he is also a pro-life,” Villar said, referring to Sotto’s strong opposition for the passage of Reproductive Health bill.

(Source: CNN iReport. Death penalty divides Phl lawmakers. Feb. 4, 2014)

In 2016, the Nacionalista Party merged with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas Ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), endorsing the Duterte-Cayetano tandem.

During the campaign period, Villar flip-flopped and declared her support for the death penalty, but only for heinous crimes. She further revised her stand, now saying she would support the measure if it is limited to drug trafficking.

Recto also voted for the abolition of the death penalty more than a decade ago. But in January he said although he remains against capital punishment in principle, he concedes that “super heinous crimes” exist, which may be punishable by death. He mentioned the kidnap-murder case of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo as an example.

A former minority floor leader and now a member of the majority in the Senate, he said in an interview at the beginning of the 17th Congress that assuming the death penalty would be restored, he would propose that it be imposed only for six years, during the term of Duterte.

Lacson was one of 16 senators who voted to abolish the death penalty in 2006, but in June last year, he filed a bill seeking to reimpose it. He cited the surge in crime in recent years, which he said shows reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, in lieu of death penalty, “is not a deterrent to grave offenders.”

He also flip-flopped on the issue in 2008. In May that year, he said the death penalty should be discussed because of the spate of crimes happening in the country.

Dapat pag-usapan uli, dapat matalakay uli. Mukhang noon ang sentiment at the time i-abolish masyadong malakas pero ngayon maraming nangyayari siguro maging deterrent sa future heinous crimes kaya dapat pag-usapan uli (It should be discussed again. When the death penalty was abolished, that was because the sentiment was very strong against capital punishment. But with heinous crimes happening again, we need deterrents against crimes).”

(Source: GMA News Online. Solon: Revival of death penalty deserves study. May 19, 2008)

In September that year, he contradicted himself, saying the proposals to revive death penalty then were merely reactive.

Dati may death penalty inalis tapos babalik na naman para tayong nagre-react kung ano ang condition sa bansa (Before, we had the death penalty but the government repealed it. Now we are reacting again to prevailing peace-and-order conditions).”

(Source: GMA News Online. Lacson not keen on supporting death penalty revival bill. Sept. 3, 2008.)

Sources:

Record of Plenary Proceedings No. 67, 13TH Congress, House of Representatives

House Bill 4826: An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines

Senate Bill 2254: An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines

Death Penalty Act of 2016 by Senator Panfilo Lacson

Press Release: Transcript of Headstart interview with Sen. Sonny Angara. Jan. 23, 2017

GMA News Online. Sonny Angara explains stand on death penalty after drawing flak online. March 3, 2017.

ABS-CBN News. After social media flak, Sonny Angara speaks on death penalty. March 4, 2017.

Inquirer.net. Angara having second thoughts on death penalty. March 2, 2017.

Inquirer.net. Death penalty bill on slow train in Senate – Angara. March 10, 2017.

CNN Philippines. LOOK: VP candidates’ stand on death penalty for corrupt, same-sex marriage and more. April 11, 2016

Abante. VP ni Duterte ‘NO’ sa balik-bitay. Jan. 5, 2017

Manila Bulletin. Cayetano says death penalty needed to put order in society. Jan. 4, 2016

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan. General Profile of Juan Miguel Zubiri. 2013

Interaksyon. Nancy identifies 9 other senators opposing death penalty. March 8, 2017

GMA News Online. Alan Cayetano doesn’t see need for death penalty. Jan. 4, 2016

Politiko TV Channel. Death penalty pabor ako basta heinous crime. Dec. 8, 2016

CNN Philippines. Death penalty not a Senate priority. March 3, 2017

CNN iReport. Death penalty divides Phl lawmakers. Feb. 4, 2014

Pilipino Star Ngayon. Bitay kinatigan sa Senado, bill inihain ni Sotto. Jan. 29, 2014

GMA News Online. 4 neophyte senators reject revival of death penalty. Jan. 29, 2014

DZRH News. Aquino says no to death penalty. Jan. 30, 2014

The Manila Times. Senator backs limited death penalty law. March 12, 2017

Inquirer.net. Solitary confinement worse than death. June 30, 2016

PhilStar. Zubiri files bill seeking return of death penalty for certain heinous crime. May 20, 2008.

GMA News Online. Lacson not keen on supporting death penalty revival bill. Sept. 3, 2008.

GMA News Online. Solon: Revival of death penalty deserves study. May 19, 2008

Inquirer.net. Recto not closing doors on reimposing death penalty, but…. June 10, 2016

Manila Standard.net. Pro-life lawmaker supports Rody, but not death penalty. June 13, 2016

Inquirer.net. Lacson: Senate shouldn’t pass death penalty law to please Duterte. June 13, 2016

Liberal Party statement on death penalty ahead of H.O.R vote on 3rd reading, March 7, 2017

Press Release from the Office of Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto, January 19, 2017

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