Last February 28, student leaders from the University Student Government (USG) marched to the House of Representatives to lobby against the reimposition of capital punishment and the lowering of the age of criminal liability.
Various members of the USG, headed by President Zedrick Laqui and Vice President for External Affairs Reigner Sanchez, marched to Congress to issue a statement on human rights, crafted by various student councils and governments.
The statement was created during the Young Lasallians Caucus last February 15, 2017, held at De La Salle University, and attended by student leaders from various La Salle Schools. It was signed by 14 student leaders from different Lasallian universities, including representatives of the Executive Boards of the Senior High School Student Council of DLSU, the Student Government of DLSU-Science and Technology Complex, the Student Government of De La Salle Lipa, and the Central Student Government of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, among others.
The statement was further supported by the student councils of the other members of the Taft Network, including the Arellano Law Student Council and the Student Council of St. Scholastica’s College Manila.
It reads, “We, the youth leaders, representing the students of various De La Salle schools, with the mandate to give voice to our fellow students’ concerns, reaffirm our Lasallian core values of Spirit of Faith, Zeal for Service, and Communion in Mission, and so commit ourselves to creating just and humane conditions for the last, the lost, and the least.
We oppose the restoration of the Death Penalty and the Batang Bilanggo Bill. We are convinced that these measures that are currently on the agenda of the 17th Congress do not provide the long-term solutions to the problem of criminality in our country. We urge Congress to create legislation that will protect life and promote the excellence and dignity of every person.
We, the young Lasallian leaders of the Philippines, pledge our support to help create these communities where young people can discover their excellence and become a true resource for building up our nation.”
The USG pledges further efforts both inside and outside the University to ensure that students are able to participate in nation building.
Read the USG’s full statement here.
The USG’s visit and issue occurred a day before the death penalty bill was approved in the second reading, March 1. Previously, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez asserted that they were confident the bill would get passed, citing the majority support they have in Congress. According to online news platforms, the entire process of approving the bill took mere seconds, from the closure of the amendments to the passage on the second reading.
Congressmen who were against the bill did not get the chance to move for nominal voting, because the session was immediately adjourned after the bill was passed. The congressmen who were in favor of the bill, however, argued that it was not meant to railroad the passage of the bill.
The voting was originally set for March 8, but was cut short because Alvarez argued that “debating on the inclusion of treason, plunder, and rape would only prolong discussions on the bill.” Due to this, around 20 congressmen were unable to voice out their interpellations. Lawmakers have also clamored against the sudden decision and claim that discussions were being shortened to “railroad the passage of the bill.”
The bill previously included four crimes punishable by death: treason, plunder, rape, and drug-related crimes. Representative Rey Umali, however, said they are now pushing for drug-related crimes as the only crimes punishable by death. Drug-related crimes include importation, sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution, transportation, manufacture of dangerous drugs, and maintenance of a drug den. Drug possession was not included.
Ever since the campaign trail, President Rodrigo Duterte has favored capital punishment, and pushed for his allies in the House and Senate to file for its revival. Previously, Alvarez also delivered an ultimatum imposing House leaders to vote for the bill. Otherwise, the House leaders would risk losing their positions.