Overview of the Prospects of the Death Penalty Bill in the Senate

By PAKISAMA, 7 May 2017

The death penalty bill is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill reimposing the death penalty on third and final reading on March 7, 2017 by a vote of 217-54 with one abstention, senators made their fearless forecasts. Similar bills are pending before the Senate, despite the Philippines being a state party to an international treaty that commits it to the abolition of the death penalty.

The Philippines, which fully abolished the death penalty for the second time in 2006,1 has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international treaty which categorically prohibits executions and commits the country to the abolition of this punishment. The adoption of legislation to reintroduce this punishment in national law would violate the country’s obligations under this treaty and puts into question how the authorities value the Philippines’ international commitments.

On 7 March 2017 the House of Representatives adopted House Bill 472 which would make the death penalty applicable for some drug-related offences.2 The Bill was a consolidated version of several measures adopted by the Sub-Committee on Judicial Reforms of the Committee on Justice on 29 November 2016. If the Senate adopts a similar measure, the two Bills will have to be reconciled before the President can sign the reintroduction of the death penalty into law.

The Senate resumed its session on 2 May 2017 during which it is expected to consider eight separate legislative proposals that would reintroduce the death penalty for a wide range of offences. The debates on the measures by the committees on justice and human rights, and on constitutional amendments and revision of codes began in February, but were put on hold on 14 February 2017 after the Senate adopted a resolution reiterating that the termination of, or withdrawal from, international treaties can only be valid and effective with the agreement of the Senate itself. It was supported by 14 out of 24 Senators.3

As of Feb 2017, estimates of pro-death penalty Senators range from 5 (Drilon) to 10 (Gordon). Drilon’s count includes: Sotto III, Pacquiao, Ejercito, Gatchalian and Villar, while Gordon’s count includes solons who are ‘open’ like Angara, Villanueva and Ejercito.

What are the prospects of the passage death penalty bill in the Senate? Following are views publicly expressed by some Senators. Initially, at least 9 of 24 Senators have openly expressed their opposition to death penalty – 4 Liberal Party senators (Kiko, Drilon, Bam Aquino, de Lima), Hontiveros (AKBAYAN) and Trillanes who are in the minority bloc, and Recto, Gordon and Escudero who belong to the Senate majority group.

Conclusion. Senate vote can go either way. It then depends who has stronger persuasive powers. The President or the organized citizens’ opposition


Philippine Senate and House Vote Overwhelmingly to Abolish Death Penalty, June 7, 2006

Know Their Stand: Loren Legarda, Senatorial Candidate, Filipino Free Thinkers, May 4, 2013

One more bill reimposing death penalty filed in Senate, NorthBound Philippine News Online, Jan 18, 2017

Escudero vows to convince colleagues to oppose death penalty, PDI, Feb 2, 2017

9 senators express opposition to death penalty, PDI, Feb 6, 2017

10 out of 24 senators pro-death penalty–Gordon, PDI, Feb 7, 2017

Grace, Nancy air dissent vs death penalty revival, Panay News, Feb 8, 2017

Philippines: 14 senators block Palace move to withdraw from treaty vs death penalty, Death Penalty News, Feb 13, 2017

Pangilinan vows to stop death penalty bill at Senate, PDI, March 7, 2017

LOOK: List of solons who voted ‘yes’ to death penalty, ABS-CBN News, March 8, 2017

Senators divided on fate of death penalty measure, PDI, March 9, 2017

Death penalty bill on slow train in Senate – Angara, TopNewsPh, March 10, 2017 
Senator backs limited death penalty law, Manila Times, March 12, 2017

Anti-death penalty advocates to woo senators, CBCP News, March 15, 2017

Though a Duterte ally, Zubiri says no to death penalty, PDI, April 17, 2017

Death penalty bill already ‘dead’ in Senate – Drilon, Rappler, April 26, 2017


Five to six executions daily? Not likely even under death penalty in force – Honasan, Politiko, May 7, 2017

Pagdalo ni De Lima sa Senate hearings, haharangin ng DOJ, Bombo Radyo, May 7, 2017

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