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By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Izobelle T. Pulgo, Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag March 07,2017 - 11:10 PM



Cebu province representatives vote yes except Del Mar; Abellanosa abstains

Eight of Cebu’s ten congressional district representatives voted to reimpose the death penalty on drug-related offenses during the bill’s third and final reading at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The lower house in a session last night passed House Bill 4727 — 216 yes, 54 no and 1 abstention — seeking to reimpose capital punishment for heinous drug-related offenses.

Cebu City South District Representative Rodrigo Abellanosa was the lone abstention out of the 271 congressmen who voted.

While Cebu Representatives Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas (1st district), Wilfredo Caminero (2nd district), Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd district), Benhur Salimbangon (4th district), Ramon Durano VI (5th district), Jonas Cortes (6th district), Peter John Calderon (7th district) and Aileen Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City’s lone district joined about 70 percent of the country’s lawmakers in the vote to approve the controversial bill.

Cebu City North District Representative Raul del Mar who has always been against the death penalty stood pat on his stand to oppose it, thus becoming the lone Cebu representative to openly junk the measure despite pressure from House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to pass the bill.

Del Mar and Abellanosa

“(I voted) No because given our flawed justice system, often only the poor end up at the death row. No because errors in assigning blame for crime can happen and have happened and the death penalty is irreversible. Wrongful execution of the innocent cannot be undone,” Del Mar said in a speech to explain his vote.

He also described the methods of execution for crimes punishable by death as “cruel, inhuman, barbaric and ungodly.”

Instead, he said fighting crime is more effective through law enforcement, prosecution, trial and strengthening and removing flaws in the country’s justice system.



Del Mar also pointed out that the Philippines is among 140 countries that have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

“With the Philippines already a member of that enlightened community of nation that embrace humanity, restoring capital punishment would be a throwback and setback. We retrogress, we don’t improve. No to impracticality, inhumanity and ungodliness,” he said.

In abstaining, Abellanosa said he simply echoed the sentiments of the people in his district.

“After a thorough process of consultation with them, I am very surprised to learn that the issue on death penalty has deeply cut and divided my constituency almost to an equal degree. I am therefore constrained to abstain,” said Abellanosa, proposing that the “highly sensitive and divisive issue” be submitted to a future referendum, possibly during the upcoming barangay elections in October.

Voting “Yes”

In voting for the death penalty, Garcia, a known pro-life advocate when she was governor of Cebu years back, said she voted for the bill’s passage as a form of “retributive justice.”

“Justice to the victims of those who had committed heinous and odious crime,” she said in a text to CDN.

“We realize and we know that right now, we have a very watered-down version of the death penalty bill, which now just limits the death penalty to drug-related cases. We’re supposed to include crimes that are committed under the influence of drugs. In that case, for example, rape is committed while the offender was under the influence of drugs; that may be punishable by death penalty,” she added.

Garcia said they hope to be able to file subsequent amendments, which will include rape, murder, plunder and other heinous and odious crimes.

“I cannot speak for the Senate. I can speak for the House of Representatives, and I think the votes clearly spoke for themselves. The bill was overwhelmingly approved,” she said.

Asked if her decision has something to do with her political alignment, Garcia said she has been in favor of death penalty even before she supported President Rodrigo Duterte.

MEGA CEBU CONGRESSMAN/MARCH 17,2014:Cebu City North District Congressman Raul del Mar answer question regarding the Mega Cebu during their meeting at Plenary hall RAFI with him is Cebu City South District Congressman Rodrigo "Bebot" Abellanosa (2nd from right),1st District Congressman Gerard Anthony "Samsam" Gullas Jr.(3rd from right) and 5th District Congressman Ace Durano.(CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)


“First of all, it needs to be clarified and to be considered that I am the daughter of the principal of the reimposition of the death penalty, Pablo Garcia. Remember that the death penalty was reimposed in the 9th Congress under then president Fidel Ramos,” she said.

“I have always supported the position of my father. I am, after all, my father’s daughter. I represent, as congresswoman, I represent the third district of Cebu and I have asked my own constituents and they are overwhelmingly in favor of the reimposition of the death penalty,” she added.

Another surprise vote in favor of death penalty came from Congressman Gullas whose family has been known to be pro-life and close to the Archdiocese of Cebu.

“I join the President on his war against drugs and that’s why I voted yes earlier,” he said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.
Samsam, however, expressed disappointment on why rape was excluded from the current death penalty bill.

“I was vocal and adamant about the inclusion of rape in the bill because of the unspeakable and horrific rape of a four-month-old baby in my own district. Rape degrades the worth of a woman and mocks her value, and for rape offenders, they deserve nothing less than the capital punishment,” he said.

Samsam’s grandfather, former congressman and now Talisay City Mayor Eduardo Gullas, openly opposed the death penalty, saying there was no need for it since throughout the imposition of the law, people still committed heinous crimes.

As congressman way back in 2006, the older Gullas was among lawmakers who pushed for the removal of the death penalty.

He said he, however, respects his grandson’s views regarding death penalty.

Meanwhile, Cortes said he voted in favor of the death penalty bill hoping it will straighten out whatever is unfixed in the justice system.

“As a lawmaker, I see this as a keystone legislation that will cascade changes in our justice system, especially in our fight against illegal drugs,” he said.

Like Samsam Gullas, he said plunder, rape and other heinous crimes must be included or at least incorporated by way of amendment into the law.

“My constituents voted for me to be their representative. But they also voted for this administration. I believe that it is within my mandate to give my utmost support for the sake and aspiration of my district,” Cortes said.

Gwen Garcia

Gwen Garcia

Fighting illegal drugs

Durano, for his part, said he voted in favor of the bill as he believed it would discourage people from engaging in illegal drug activities.

“The reimposition of the death penalty might just give us that. We must give this measure a chance if only to help curb the drug problem in the country,” Durano said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.

Calderon said that while he was originally inclined to vote against the bill, he later opted to support the administration’s call to bring back the death penalty to save the country from the illegal drug menace.

“We now know how pervasive the drug problem is in our country today. With an administration seriously trying to solve and reverse the drug problem, I can do no less but support the administration. I voted yes to the bill reimposing the death penalty for drug-related crimes with the hope that it will help save this generation and future generations from the scourge of illegal drugs and prevent our country from becoming a failed narco-state,” said Calderon.

Another Cebu congressman said he had to weigh things very carefully before deciding to vote in favor of the death penalty given his spiritual upbringing.

“Coming as we do from a predominantly religious country considered to be the cradle of Christianity in Asia, it is not easy to arrive at a final position on this measure, which involves complex societal, legal and moral issues,” he told CDN.

Cebu First District representative and UV team manager Gerard Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. (CDN FILE PHOTO).


“The guidance of our spiritual leaders are most welcome and enlightening. But the social realities and grim facts showing of the gravity and enormity of the illegal drug menace are very sobering and urgent, demanding stronger action and firmer response which we, in Congress as representatives, are duty-bound to perform regardless of our personal faith, for we have a covenant with our constituents to do all we can to represent their sentiments and uphold their welfare,” Caminero added.

Representatives Salimbangon and Radaza could not be reached for comment.

Pro-life advocates and the Catholic Church have repeatedly opposed the death penalty as “inhuman and barbaric,” as it “punishes just the poor who could not afford the best lawyers, condemns the innocent to die, does not stop crimes, and against God’s law.”

Msgr. Joseph Tan, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said that following the bill’s passage in Congress, they are awaiting directives from Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma who is currently in the United States.

“Oftentimes, its victims are poor people. And what if there are wrong judgements by our courts. Death penalty just creates more problems,” Tan said in an interview.

The bill has been amended to limit its coverage to drug-related offenses in a bid to support the administration’s bloody narcotics crackdown that has claimed over 7,000 lives. It excludes plunder, rape and treason from the death sentence.

The bill will not impose a mandatory death sentence, giving the judge the leeway whether to impose life sentence or the maximum penalty of death on convicts.

The penalty will be carried out by hanging, firing squad or lethal injection.

The ball is now in the hands of the Senate where deliberations over the bill face a gridlock over discussions on the country’s treaty obligations to abolish the death sentence./with Inquirer reports

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TAGS: Cebu, Congress, death penalty, Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, Gwendolyn Garcia, Jonas Cortes, representatives, Rodrigo Abellanosa

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