Philippine house passes death penalty bill

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

President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in June last year, has pushed for the reimposition of the capital punishment, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to Duterte, it is an effective deterrent against heinous crimes such as drug-related offences.

The approval came on third and final reading, much to the displeasure of those opposing the measure.

A total of 216 voted in favour, 54 against and one abstained, approving the bill eight months after it was filed.

From an initial list of 21 crimes that included rape, treason and plunder, the House leadership decided to limit death penalty to drug-related crimes and offences.

“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.

The proposed law will now be transmitted to the Senate where it is expected to face tougher opposition.

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

Other congressmen opposed to the measure were representatives Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list, Tom Villarin of Akbayan and Raul Daza of Northern Samar.

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