A bicameral conference committee has just reconciled conflicting provisions in the Senate and House bills repealing the death penalty. That means that the repeal is only days away.
A bicameral committee approved a consolidated bill by the Senate and the House of Representatives calling for the repeal of a 1993 law that brought back capital punishment and a subsequent law that prescribed lethal injection as punishment, Representative Edcel Lagman said.
I must say that I did not expect Congress to act this swiftly. Less than two months ago, the President made her startling announcement, commuting all capital sentences to life imprisonment. I thought then (and wrote as much) that the commutation would be undermined by the fact that the death penalty would remain in the statute books; obviously, I did not think that Congress could muster the political will to pass any repeal. Well, I was wrong. The other night, both chambers passed their versions of the repeal. Less than 24 hours later, and contrary to the reservations aired by Majority Leader Prospero Nograles and opposition Rep. Roilo Golez, the bicam committee met and speedily approved the final version.
Is the President’s forthcoming visit to the Vatican the reason for the unusual speed? It does seem likely, at least at first blush, but on closer look we are left with rather more difficult questions: Was the recalcitrant Senate in on the plan to give Pope Benedict VXI a substantial pasalubong? Are administration congressmen, many of whom have tough-on-crime reputations, unafraid of the backlash from anti-crime groups?
I welcome the repeal, but as yet I do not fully understand how it came to pass.