Reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines moved closer on Wednesday as the Philippine House of Representatives approved a president-backed bill on the second reading.
In a voice vote, the opponents were drowned out by those advocating for the measure, and efforts by opposition leaders to move to a nominal vote were quelched with immediate adjournment following the Bill’s approval.
One of the opposition members said, “This is a chamber of puppets and bullies. In the history of Congress … I have not experienced this inordinate muzzling of members of the House.”
Prior to the vote, the House Speaker, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, openly threatened to remove House leaders from their posts had they decided to vote against the Bill.
The proposal to reinstate the death penalty has been a key policy for Duterte as part of his crackdown on crime and corruption, which already has been marked by nearly 8,000 extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers or users. Critics fear it will give rise to state-sanctioned killings.
The Bill has received significant opposition from a number of senators, the Catholic Church, and human rights experts. A rally against it drew 50,000 people.
The Philippines has a complicated history with the death penalty, which began in the late 1800s when Spanish colonizers used it to quash uprisings. From 1965 to 1986 the American puppet Ferdinand Marcos used it to instill fear during his rule. It was abolished immediately following Marco’s overthrow, making the Philippines the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty. Reinstated in 1993 by President Fidel Ramos as a crime control measure, it was abolished again by President Gloria Macapaga-Arroyo. Under pressure from the Catholic Church the last execution was in 2000. Since Duterte came to power lawmakers have been under increasing pressure to reinstate it.