By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The brutal killing of a 16-year-old Christine Silawan in Cebu sparked anew calls for the reimposition of death penalty in the Philippines, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III is now convinced that murder should be part of it.
Sotto said murder, rape and other heinous crimes should be penalized by death, citing the “anger” of people over the killing of the Grade 9 student, who was found in a vacant lot Lapu-Lapu City last Monday, with face skinned to her skull and some organs already missing.
On Friday night, a person-of-interest in Silawan’s murder was arrested in Davao City.
The Senate chief was pushing the reimposition of capital punishment only for “high-level drug traffickers”, or drug lords, as he then shared the belief that such a penalty would not deter crimes and would only be perceived as anti-poor.
“But with witnessing heinous crimes like this, talagang alam mo galit ‘yong mga kababayan natin (you know that our countrymen are angry). Majority of our people want the death penalty back for heinous crimes,” Sotto claimed in an interview on CNN Philippines recently.
“High level drug trafficking lang ako dati, pero ito, rape and murder, dapat talaga isama (I was only supporting death penatly for high-level drug trafficking, but these, rape and murder, should be included),” he said, when asked to clarify his stand.
Sotto, however, was still unsure if the proposal would be supported by his colleagues and will hurdle the Senate before 17th Congress ends in June.
The House of Representatives in March 2017 passed a bill seeking to reimpose death penalty only for drug-related offenses. Last February, it approved anew another measure reimposing capital punishment for illegal drug possession, only to recall it days later.
Sotto conceded that the Senate causes the delay in the reimposition of the death penalty. This, he believed, could be considered by voters in choosing senators for the May midterm polls.
“They [House] passed it already, sa Senate ang natatagalan (but it languishes in Senate). If they are in favor of the death penalty, vote for senators who are in favor of the death penalty. If you are not in favor of the death penalty, the vote for candidates who are not in favor,” he told the public.
“It’s not ‘kailangan gamitin natin’ (we have to use it) all the time, hindi naman ganoon (not like that). There are safeguards. This will be a defense mechanism of the government. Dapat naka-amba tayo na meron kaming death penalty (It should warn them that we have death penalty),” Sotto explained.
At least nine bills on death penalty have been filed in Senate since 2016, authored by Sotto, Sens. JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Panfilo Lacson, and Emmanuel Pacquiao.
But all these remain pending at the committee level since several senators, including allies of President Duterte, appear cold to the proposed reinstatement of death penalty in the country.
Congress is now on an election break and will resume sessions on May 20. It will adjourn sine die on June 8.