By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
This early, Senate leaders are already expecting tedious debates to be waged over proposals to revive death penalty in the country.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said that while he cannot assure the passage of the proposed reimposition of capital punishment, the Upper Chamber is expected to prioritize its discussion in the coming days.
The first regular session of 18th Congress formally opened on Monday morning, July 22, ahead of President Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA). Sotto earlier told the Manila Bulletin that he expects Duterte to mention death penalty in his speech.
“Perhaps, it is a priority to debate on it. I would rather say that instead of saying that it is a priority measure kasi it is one issue that is very divisive. So we’d like to perhaps start [to] debate on it,” Sotto told reporters in an interview before the Senate’s first session.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, for his part, said he sees “exciting” debates on death penalty as more senators are now backing the measure.
“I’m sure magkakaroon ng bakbakan (there will be a battle on) sa death penalty issue because we have a lot of death penalty proponents so it’s going to be very interesting and exciting 18th Congress,” Zubiri said.
“But we always have the people’s hearts and minds first in the policies that we will craft,” he assured.
At least five bills seeking to restore death penalty for various crimes have been filed in Senate ahead of the opening of the 18th Congress.
Several senators who are allied with the President Duterte have already expressed their backing for the measure.
Sotto said he was looking forward to “healthy debates” on the matter. But he reiterated his belief that it stands a better chance of passage if imposed only against high-level drug trafficking.
Aside from death penalty, Sotto said the Senate will continue other unfinished business during the previous Congress.
“More or less the amendments to the Human Security Act which eventually be called the Anti-Terrorism Act is going to be a priority, and then the amendments also to the Public Service Act and the Foreign Investments Act. These were some of the bills that I know were left from the 17th Congress that we wanted to prioritize, but for lack of time,” he said.
Zubiri added that the Palace “is asking us to pass a lot of tax reforms and revenue measures.”