Anti-death penalty advocates to woo senators

Anti-death penalty advocates to woo senators

Thousands of rallyists carry placards during a “Walk for Life” around the Quirino Grandstand in Manila to oppose the revival of the death penalty, Feb. 18, 2017. ROY LAGARDE

MANILA— Advocates against the capital punishment are flexing their muscles as a tough battle for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature death penalty bill moves on to the arena of the Senate.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said there is no room complacency after the measure hurdled the Lower House in an overwhelming 216-24 vote.

The prison ministry together with a coalition of various group working against the reimposition of the death penalty began mapping out ideas Wednesday on how to win the battle at the Senate.

Among the strategies is to talk to senators individually to lobby against the passage of the measure, especially to the 16 senators who were identified as either in favor or still undecided.

“We might be able to get some of them…We just need to talk and appeal to them,” Diamante said.

The Anti-Death Penalty Task Force of the Free Legal Assistance Group of the Philippines (FLAG) already listed at least eight senators who openly signified that they will oppose the bill.

The list includes senators Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Riza Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Antonio Trillanes.

On the other hand, the legislators in favor of the death penalty are Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Tito Sotto, and Joel Villanueva.

Based on the list, there are 10 lawmakers whose positions are still unknown. They are senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Diamante said the list was based only on their previous positions, votes on abolition of capital punishment, recent public pronouncements, and on the assessment of the Task Force last June 2016.

The prison ministry official, who was among those who fought for the death penalty abolition in 1996, believes that some of the 16 senators may still change their minds, especially those claiming to be pro-life.

“For example, Sen. Sotto said before that he is pro-life that’s why he is against the Reproductive Health bill. Another is Sen. Villar who is a member of the Couples for Christ,” he said.

The House of Representatives on March 7 approved the death penalty bill, although it is limited to drug-related offenses only.

But unlike in the Lower House, some senators said the measure is not their priority.

The FLAG Anti-Death Penalty Task Force argued that the country cannot revive the death penalty because it would violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR ratified by the Senate. CBCPNews