Legislative battle on Death Penalty begins

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The debate on the controversial death penalty bill takes center stage in the House of Representatives as Congress resumes session.

The House leadership said they intend to vote on the bill after 30 session days of debate.

But for such a controversial measure, its fate lies on public support and, eventually, on the number of votes it can gain from lawmakers.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez could only bank on the majority coalition to get the green light for the death penalty bill. He says he's confident it would pass the debates.

"Meron tayong coalition, meron tayong supermajority. Kung meron mang lilihis doon siguro mga 5 or 10," Alvarez said. [We have a coalition, we have a supermajority. If there will be some who will take a different direction, there's only about 5 or 10.]

Equally confident is the House Minority bloc - which believes the bill won't make it in Congress.

They claim they have the numbers to block it's approval.

"Conscience vote, tiyak panalo kami and it will be a wide margin pero kung party vote, panalo parin kami but by a slim margin," Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said.

Lagman claims a number of members from the super majority, including allies of President Duterte are now rethinking their support for death penalty.

Among them, PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles. In a text message to CNN Philippines, Nograles explained, while he is pro-administration, he is also pro-life.

"I cannot support the death [p]enalty bill. I believe that Congress must prioritize legislation increasing the number of courts, prosecutors, and public attorneys so we can speed up the judicial process from the average of 7 years for the first decision down to hopefully less than a year trial," Nograles said.

"It is my duty to play an active role in the debates and I hope that the debates will be factual," he added.

Alvarez said he expects the bill would be voted on after a month of debates, but Lagman thinks it will take longer than that.

Also read: Pacquiao: Death penalty will help curb drug problem

Lagman said at least 50 congressmen have signified their intent to ask questions about the bill.

He recalled it took him and then Cebu Representative Pablo Gacia about three weeks during the 13th Congress to finish their questions during debates on the abolition of the death penalty.

For his part, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said the leadership should make sure there is quorum during the debates.

"When we start the debates, kung matagal yung interpellation, pag wala ng quorum, titigil din 'yung debate," Baguilat pointed out. [When we start the debates, if the interpellation will take long and there would be no quorum, the debates will cease.]

Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin also said the church, civil society groups, and even international parliamentarians are ready to go all out against the reimposition of death penalty.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.

Also read: Archbishop Socrates Villegas urges Filipinos to oppose death penalty