Progressives protest, House approves death penalty bill

THE government must focus on ending poverty and its roots instead of killing the poor, progressive groups said at a rally at the House of Representatives yesterday said.

The protesters, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, marched to last March 7 in protest of House Bill 4727 that seeks to re-impose death as punishment for drug-related crimes.

The Lower House nonetheless approved the bill on its third and final reading last night, with 216 congressmen voting in favor, 54 against and one abstaining.

The organizations condemned this move, calling it another form of attacks by the state against the people.

“Instead of focusing on the real issues affecting the people, the government has moved toward fascism and oppression,” League of Filipino Students spokesperson JP Rosos said.

College Editors Guild of the Philippines national chairperson Jose Mari Callueng added that the death penalty would probably be used against government critics.

“Trumped-up charges are being slapped against critics to censor, intimidate and silence them, if not murdered. Many political prisoners are languishing in jails due to baseless criminal offenses filed against them by the state,” Callueng said.

“The death penalty has no place in a civilized society. Instead, the government should prioritize bills and laws addressing the root causes of crimes which are committed out of poverty,” he said.

“Ultimately, the death penalty is simply another instrument to sow terror and silence dissent. That plunder is excluded from among those to be meted with the death penalty shows the bill is primarily directed against the poor, the dispossessed and the voiceless,” Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo, for his part, said.

The organizations called on the Filipino masses to fight the death penalty and condemn any further actions by the government against human rights, such as the proposed lowering of the age of criminal responsibility and return of mandatory ROTC, the National ID system and Philippine Constabulary.

“We will not rest until justice is served and we will oppose everything that will hinder justice. We will fight tooth and nail against the anti-poor social system that perpetuates injustices through a fascist rule,” Rosos said. (Report and photo by Abril Layad B. Ayroso)