“We decided to reconsider final reading approval in order to clarify provisions of the bill that refer to the death penalty. This will prevent double or multiple interpretations of the death penalty provisions that might mislead Filipinos into believing that death sentence has been restored,” Castro said.
“With all provisions containing the imposition of death penalty deleted, the controversial drug bill whose final reading approval was invalidated will be presented for second and third reading approval preferably before the start of congressional break,” Castro said.
House Bill 8909, which seeks to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drug Act of 2002, was passed on final reading last Monday with a vote of 172-0.
However, it was recommitted to the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs Wednesday after one of its sections referenced a death penalty provision.
Section 13 of the proposed measure provides that “any person found possessing any dangerous drug during a party, or at a social gathering or meeting, or in the proximate company of at least two persons shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine of PHP500,000 and PHP10 million regardless of the quantity and purity of such dangerous drugs.”
Prior to its recommitment last Wednesday, former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was seen talking to Castro and other House leaders.
A staunch anti-death penalty advocate, Arroyo abolished the death penalty in 2006 during her presidency.
In 2017, she was relieved as deputy speaker when she voted against the bill re-imposing the capital punishment, which incidentally was a pet measure of her predecessor, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Arroyo’s name, together with other death penalty advocates in the lower house, was included as among those who voted to approve on final reading HB 8909 during Monday’s plenary session.
They were apparently oblivious of the death penalty provision.
Even Makabayan bloc lawmakers who were also against the death penalty admitted that they were not aware that the proposed measure contained a provision re-imposing the death sentence in the country’s penal system.
Castro pointed out that even if the bill is passed in its original form, the death penalty provisions will still not be implemented "unless Congress passes a law that restores death as capital punishment."
“We have to be categorical that the maximum penalty to be imposed is reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment,” Castro said.
HB 8909, which seeks to strengthen drug prevention and control, provides for a legal presumption of who is considered as importer, financier, and protector or coddler of illegal drugs.
The bill also provides for an amended definition of drug trafficking, which shall be “the illegal cultivation, culture, delivery, administration, dispensation, manufacture, sale, trading, transportation, distribution, importation, exportation, chemical diversion, and possession of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.”
The measure seeks to penalize exportation from the Philippines of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals. Section 4 of RA 9165, as amended, penalizes only their importation.
It also seeks to penalize negligent lessors of properties used as clandestine laboratories. Lessors of properties shall be required to submit documents to avoid their properties from being used for illegal drug purpose.
It seeks to ensure that Filipino professional and non-professional athletes, in any kind of sport, are drug-free, by providing for their mandatory drug testing twice a year.
Any athlete found positive of use of dangerous drugs shall be suspended, subject to further investigation by appropriate government agencies.