Passing death penalty bill possible in 18th Congress — Sotto

Published July 23, 2019, 3:08 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola 

Passing the proposed revival of the death penalty might now be possible in the 18th-Congress with at least 13 senators supporting it, said Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday.

Senate president Vicente Sotto III  during the opening of the 18th Congress in Senate in Pasay City. (ALI VICOY/ MANILA BULLETIN
Senate President Vicente Sotto III (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sotto said President Duterte’s request for lawmakers to pass a bill imposing capital punishment for illegal drug offenses as well as plunder could be a “squeaker” but believes that it could get enough votes.

“Palagay ko squeaker pero kaya. Kumbaga sa mga 13 [to] 14, kakayanin (It could be a squeaker but I think it’s possible. Maybe we’ll have 13 to 14 senators backing it, so it’s possible),” the reelected Senate chief said.

While he maintained his position that the measure has better chances of approval if limited to high-level drug trafficking, Sotto said the Senate is open to including the crime of plunder in the death penalty proposal.

“Idadamay na ‘yon. Syempre, kung ipapasok ang plunder — at hindi naman magandang umayaw kami doon — kasama na rin sa squeaker ‘yan, mga 13, 14, baka kayanin sa Senado (We will include it. Of course if plunder will be a part of the proposal — and it would not be unpleasant if we turn it down — it will part of the squeaker. We have around 13 or 14 votes, maybe we can pass it in Senate),” he said.

Sotto said he believes the President’s appeal to include plunder in the offenses punishable by death would somehow compel lawmakers to support it.

“Pag hindi ka sumuporta diyan, parang takot ka (If you don’t support it, it would look like you are afraid of being charged with plunder),” he noted.

“Kaya kami dito sa Kongreso, pangit na umayaw kami sa plunder. Dapat isama namin sa death penalty (That’s why for us in Congress, it would not be pleasant to reject the inclusion of plunder. We should include it in the death penalty bill),” he said.

Like Sotto, Poe believes that the proposed restoration of capital punishment has a huge chance of being approved in the new Senate.

But Poe feared that the penalty would only affect the poor.

“Siguro dapat ay tingnan natin muna ang sistema ng hudikatura: na maayos natin ang hudikatura at mabigyan ng tamang suweldo ang mga judges natin; maayos ang mga korte natin, mga investigator natin, mga prosecutor natin na magkaroon ng reform bago siguro natin masabi na magka-death penalty or else baka maging biktima lang ang mga inosente (Maybe we should look first at improving our justice system and giving our judges proper wages; institute reforms in our courts, our investigators, our prosecutors, before we reimpose death penalty or else the innocent may end up as victims),” she said.

Four bills have been filed in the Senate proposing to revive the death penalty for various heinous crimes, most common of which was illegal drugs.

But of the four, only Sen. Bong Go’s bill included plunder.

Some pro-death penalty senators earlier expressed reservations about the inclusion of plunder in the crimes punishable by death. The others totally opposed it.

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., in a statement Tuesday, said he also supports the President’s call.