PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte told lawmakers visiting Davao City Saturday night that he wants the reimposition of the death penalty as a priority measure once Congress convenes on July 25.
“He [said] so many officials are involved. It’s like treason to him because they should be the ones who protect the people [from illegal drugs] yet they are the cause of its rampant spread in the country,” Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, one of the lawmakers, said.
“He’s very serious about it [the death penalty]. He believes it should be brought back,” Angara added.
Two senators, two governors, and 12 congressmen from the incoming majority bloc flew to Davao City for a five-hour meeting with the President.
Among those present were Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Angara, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption Rep. Sherwin Tugna, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Palawan 1st District Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez, and Masbate 3rd District Rep. Scott Davies Lanete.
Also present were Tarlac Gov. Susan Yap and Bataan Gov. Albert Raymond Garcia.
The lawmakers assured Duterte they would support whatever measure he submits to Congress.
“We are open to that [reinstating the death penalty)]” Angara said. “We will listen to the arguments.”
The senator added, however, that in the final vote, each lawmaker would have to vote his or her conscience.
Tugna said Duterte did not specifically request for new anti-drug laws to be passed as existing measures are already in place.
“I believe he [Duterte] has a good track record of implementing them,” he added.
Before he took his oath of office, Duterte told House leaders that he prefers to publicly hang criminals instead of killing them with a lethal injection.
After the five-hour discussion at the After Dark Resto Bar, the President gave his guests a tour of the Central 911 headquarters. They parted ways at around 3:30 a.m.
Both Angara and Tugna agreed that Duterte seemed different when he is in Davao City.
“He’s in his comfort zone in Davao. It’s better to see him in Davao,” Angara said.
“He’s more relaxed here,” Tugna added.
Lawmakers said they are glad that Duterte made time to meet informally with them.
His predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, had been criticized for not making good use of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who opposes the death penalty, said reinstating capital punishment would undermine efforts by the Philippines to save the lives of Filipinos working overseas who are on death row.
“One of the many ramifications [of the return of the death penalty] is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency—for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution,” Atienza said.
“Should Congress reinstate the cruel and inhuman punishment, it would be extremely problematic for us to plead with other governments for compassion, if we ourselves are killing own convicts here—if we ourselves do not respect the value of human life,” Atienza added.
At least 88 Filipinos are facing the death penalty abroad, mostly in Malaysia and China, for various felonies, the Department of Foreign Affairs says.
The 88 includes Mary Jane Veloso, the 31-year-old Filipino woman who was set to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia last year, but who obtained a last-minute reprieve after Manila asked Jakarta that she be first allowed to provide testimonial evidence against her alleged human trafficker in a criminal case in the Philippines.
Eight of the top 10 foreign destinations of Filipino workers overseas “are on record as subscribing to capital punishment and aggressively carrying out executions,” Atienza said.
Of the 10, Atienza said, only Canada and Hong Kong have abolished the death penalty, while the rest are actively killing convicts.