Authors of bills seeking to overhaul the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 agreed Monday not to reimpose the death penalty for serious drug offenses even as this was asked for by President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address.
The consensus came after Representatives Rufus Rodriguez (Independent, Cagayan de Oro City) and Rozzano Rufino Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City) objected to the motion to choose a bill containing a death penalty provision as the ‘mother bill’ to which their legislative proposals will be consolidated to.
In a technical working group meeting chaired by Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin, the principal authors of several legislative measures agreed not to discuss any proposal to reimpose the death penalty but reached a consensus that this matter is best left for the Committee on Justice to discuss and decide upon.
Chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso III, the justice panel will meet Wednesday to start deliberations on pending measures reimposing the capital punishment.
The TWG of the Committee on Dangerous Drugs was deliberating on choosing House Bill 68 as the mother bill for the nearly a dozen legislative proposals, including those proposed by Rodriguez and Biazon, when the two solons declared their objection.
Rodriguez and Biazon said they would rather withdraw their respective bills than have it wrapped up with HB 68, a bill filed by Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, chairman of the dangerous drugs panel.
HB 68 is a re-filed bill that had already been passed on third and final reading during the 17th Congress but was not enacted into law.
Barbers stressed that what he proposed were amendments in the drug law which are vital in ensuring victory in the drug war.
He stressed that the bill does not contain a new provision proposing the death penalty for certain violations of the drug law.
“Nowhere in this bill do we propose the death penalty. Let us not discuss the death penalty in this bill,” said Barbers.
The penalty clause that included the phrase “life imprisonment to death” as the gravest penalty for drug offenses are already in the original law and was not sought to be amended.
This provision, however, was already deemed ineffective after Congress abolished the death penalty in 2006, or four years after the passage of the drugs law in 2002.
“I am not in favor of death penalty. I believe that at this time the death penalty will be very divisive and will be anti poor at this point when people are dying. Talk about the death penalty is inappropriate,” said Rodriguez as he declared the withrawal of HB 2765, a bill he authored.
Biazon told the TWG that he had filed a bill reimposing the death penalty for “high level drug trafficking.”
“But I have written the Committee on justice to have my bill excluded for certain reasons. I do not believe such divisive issue is timely,” he said.
According to Barbers the issue on the reimposition of the death sentence should be left to the justice panel.
“We are not proposing the death penalty at the moment,” he said.