MANILA (Reuters) - Eleven Philippine legislators who voted against a bill to re-introduce capital punishment lost key posts in the country’s Congress on Wednesday, in an apparent follow through of a threat by the house speaker to purge obstacles to the draft.
Those removed as lower house committee heads included allies of President Rodrigo Duterte and all were among the 54 lawmakers who last week voted against bringing back the death penalty on drug-related offences.
With 217 votes in favor, the bill passed in the third and final reading. It requires Senate approval before being passed into law.
The legislators’ removal came just hours before Congress adjourned its session for a long summer break. A motion was presented to declare all key positions vacant, paving the way for opponents to the bill to be nudged out.
The most high profile casualty was Duterte loyalist and former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who lost her position as a deputy speaker.
Arroyo had overseen the abolition of the death penalty as president in 2006, under pressure from the church. She stood by her decision to vote against bringing it back.
“The issue of the death penalty is unlike any other, in that it touches the core of each person’s fundamental view of human life,” she said in a statement.
“I believe that the issue required a vote based solely on conscience and the deepest of personal convictions.”
Bringing back the death penalty has been a top priority for Duterte, who was swept to power on promises of a merciless war on drugs and crime. He has said he wants to execute 20 criminals a day, preferably by hanging.
The shake-up came two weeks after a similar event in the 24-seat Senate, when four legislators who supported a staunch critic of Duterte lost influential positions as committee heads, tightening the president’s grip on power.
The changes in the lower house were expected as speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had warned those planning to vote against the death penalty bill would face repercussions.
Political analysts say the removal of the 11 lawmakers from those posts was also a move by Alvarez to cement his control over the 292-seat chamber amid speculation that Arroyo was eyeing his position.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Ken Ferris