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Lagman chides Alvarez for not sacking anti-death lawmakers.

Opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Thursday chided Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for seemingly backing out of his threat to strip lawmakers who voted against the death penalty bill of key positions in the House of Representatives.

Alvarez responded that he was not backing out of his threat.

Lagman in a statement said lawmakers would no longer be intimidated by Alvarez's empty threats now that the latter backed out from stripping anti-death penalty lawmakers of their leadership and committee positions.

'After frightening and pressuring the fainthearted and ambivalent Representatives to vote for the reimposition of the death penalty, Alvarez has reportedly desisted from executing his oft-repeated threat of reprisal,' Lagman said.

Alvarez's threat against those who would not vote for House Bill 4727 seeking to reimpose capital punishment turned out to be a 'dud' meant to scare lawmakers who 'lack courage' to defy the Speaker, Lagman said.

'The threat of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to oust those who would vote against the death penalty bill from their key leadership positions has turned out to be a mere scheming braggadocio,' Lagman said.

'Who would be intimidated next time around by a leader who wields a dud?' he added.

Lagman said the House leadership failed to intimidate the 54 lawmakers voting against the death penalty bill ready to face the ire of the House leadership.

Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, a deputy speaker, led the lawmakers ready to sacrifice their posts to vote against the death penalty, which was abolished in 2006 during her term as president.

'The House leadership knew beforehand that the Speaker's intimidation and pressure could not prevent committed anti-death penalty advocates in voting against against H.B. No. 4727 as they were ready to suffer the adverse consequences of their conscience vote,' Lagman said.

Lagman also chided the 217 representatives who heeded the Speaker's threat and who lacked the courage to defy the House leadership.

'The real targets of the Speaker's intimidation were the more numerous members who lack courage and will to defy him,' Lagman said.

'Now that the House leadership has achieved its objective of pressuring most of the majority coalition members to support the administration's agenda, Alvarez has gone on a 'benevolent' retreat,' he added.

Asked for his reaction to Lagman's 'braggadocio' tag on his threat, Alvarez in a text message said that's 'too early to tell.'

But asked if he does plan to desist from his threat, Alvarez replied in an all caps 'NO.'

Speaker Alvarez earlier threatened to strip lawmakers voting no to the death penalty of their committee positions and deputy speaker posts.

The House of Representatives in a vote of 217 passed on final reading House Bill 4727 that seeks to restore the death penalty for drug-related offenses.

Fifty-four lawmakers voted against the bill.

Apart from Arroyo, some Makabayan lawmakers stood to lose their chairmanships for voting against the death penalty. These include Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, who chairs the public information committee; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate (natural resources), and Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus (poverty alleviation).

Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato were also expected to lose their key posts for voting no to the death penalty.

Santos-Recto chairs the civil service and professional regulation committee, Belmonte chairs the committee on land use, Bag-ao chairs the committee on people participation, while Sato is a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments.

Other lawmakers who voted against the death penalty and were at risk of losing their committee chairpersonships are Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero (mother of Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero) who chairs the committee on basic education and culture, Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman (wife of ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman) who chairs the committee on muslim affairs, and Buhay Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde (son of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde) who chairs the overseas workers affairs committee.

Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, the wife of former budget secretary Butch Abad, was absent from Tuesday's voting. She chairs the committee on government reorganization.

Back for her last term as congresswoman after being detained for plunder over a charity funds mess during her presidency, Arroyo is the only deputy speaker who voted against the death penalty.

It was during her term when Congress abolished the death penalty in 2006.

The other deputy speakers voted yes to the death penalty. They are Taguig Rep. and former senator Pia Cayetano, Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia; Davao city Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano; Aambis Owa Rep. Sharon Garin; Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu; Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro; Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo; Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya; Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg; South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez; Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez; and Maguindanao Rep. Bai Sandra Sema.

Deputy speaker Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson did not vote because he was then the presiding speaker.

Under House rules, a deputy speaker is an ex-officio member of all House committees. The deputy speaker is the second highest official in the House of Representatives.

Former President Arroyo won a seat in the House as Pampanga congresswoman while in detention for plunder over the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.

Arroyo walked free at 6:30 p.m. on July 22 last year, after the Supreme Court dismissed her plunder case. The High Court ruled that her approval of the P366 million intelligence fund releases were only ministerial and did not constitute an 'overt act' to commit plunder.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Mar 9, 2017
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