January 24, 2018, 9:30 am
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Is the Senate slow?

SENATORS are up in arms against the criticisms hurled recently by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against the upper chamber.

The Speaker told the Senate President that the senators are slow in acting on bills already passed by the House and needing their concurrence to become full-fledged legislation.

Alvarez must be referring to the revival of the death penalty, which is not an ordinary piece of legislation because it involves many issues and vested interests, aside from Philippine commitments to international treaties and protocols.

Senate President Koko Pimentel, to his credit, defended the work of the Senate.  He even cited the passage of the General Appropriations Act and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), which are important laws very supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

It is true that the death penalty law is one of the campaign promises aired by Duterte when he was campaigning for the presidency.  The President believes that his drive against illegal drugs will not succeed if recidivists continue to dominate the drug industry.  Ever loyal to his patron at the executive department, Speaker Alvarez even went as far as badgering the Senate to pass this bill.

As early as October, Pimentel had instructed Sen. Manny Pacquiao to conduct hearings and consultations on the death penalty bill.  Now finally, with yet another recent reminder, Senator Pacquiao is expected to move the wheel and push the bill on capital punishment nearer to completion.

The proposal is being supported by Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who said that the bill stands a good chance of getting a majority vote in the Senate if the penalty applied only to high-level drug traffickers.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan and Sen. Franklin Drilon, both of the Liberal Party, have affirmed their party stand against the death penalty.  Drilon said in no uncertain terms that the senators have their own mind about this issue and may not be pushed by Alvarez to go his way if they think otherwise.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, assures the public that if there were bills from the House pending in the Senate, he was sure “we will vote on it.”  He added that in the case of the death penalty bill, for now it appears it cannot get a majority vote.

The very reason public hearings on the death penalty bill have been frozen is to allow Malacañang to study further whether this proposal will contravene the country’s international commitments.  It seems the revival of the capital punishment would go against treaties the Philippines had earlier upheld on this matter.

The senators should therefore continue with their work, unmindful of critics whose reason for heckling is just to monopolize the good graces of President Duterte.
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