Senate decision on reimposition of death penalty to boil down to ‘conscience vote’ – Zubiri

Published July 24, 2019, 3:59 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Rizal Obanil

Although it seems that the proponents of the reimposition of the death penalty currently have the numbers in the Senate, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri believes that the decision on whether or not to pass the bill will boil down to a conscience vote.

Sen. Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Zubiri, the Senate Majority Floor Leader, said in an interview with ANC host Christian Esguerra, that death penalty was something that would way heavily on one’s conscience that was why he still could not make any comment on whether the death penalty bill will be passed or not.

But he also pointed out that the measure has a better chance of being passed in the 18th Congress rather than the previous one.

“In the Senate you know. In the 17th Congress we did not get to tackle it the same way that the House of Representatives did, wherein they were able to pass the death penalty measure. We have a lot more dissenters in the Senate and last 17th Congress they outnumbered those who supported it. However, this 18th Congress is different scenario. There are more members now we feel that are supportive of the death penalty,” Zubiri said when asked about the chances of the controversial bill in this year’s Senate.

When asked about his personal stand on the matter, given that he is the Majority Floor Leader Zubiri answered: “Personally, I believe that it should be a conscience vote. You know I’m allied with the President and we respect his views on the death penalty. But I am a Red Crosser. I’ve been in the Red Cross movement for the last 25 years together with Chairman Gordon. Chairman Gordon is a Chairman of the Red Cross, I’m his Vice-Chairman. You know as a Red Crosser we value all life, all kinds of life. As humanitarians we believe that under the seven principles of the Red Cross that we should help anyone and everyone that seeks the help of the Red Cross.”

Despite his personal belief, Zubiri said that he will not act as an obstructionist.

“We will not stall or delay the proceedings. If there is a committee report that’s given to us on the committee on rules we will schedule this and allow the debates in plenary because I’m sure that a lot of my colleagues would like to interpelate, ask questions and argue on their point why they are anti-death penalty proponents.

When asked whether the death penalty proponents already have the numbers he said: “What we’re doing is sort of like a headcount today. Medyo lamang ng kaunti ang proponents but some have kept their cards close to their chest, they don’t want to say whether they are pro or against.

He said that, unlike the House of Representatives, which earlier passed the measure, the Senate was a very different chamber.

He explained that, in the Lower House, what usually won was who had the upper hand in the numbers’ game. But in the Senate, the real battle was at the plenary debates, he explained.

“We’ll have to be ready for defending it against the likes of our Minority Floor Leader Senator Frank Drilon. We have strong anti-death penalty proponents like Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, some of our colleagues are also not convinced about the death penalty yet. So we would like to listen to the proponents of the re-imposition of the death penalty before we make final decisions,” he said.

When asked about Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s suggestion that the death penalty be limited only for high-level illegal trafficking, Zubiri said that they will still have to hear all the arguments first before deciding, especially after the President requested that death penalty for plunder be also included.

With this, Zubiri said some of his colleagues were in a dilemma because they see no end to the possibility of adding all other crimes as well.

There’s also the concern on the death penalty being anti-poor, as well, and the fact that it has not really been proven to be an effective deterrent to crime.

Towards the end of the interview, Zubiri said: “As Majority leader I’m just the pambansang MMDA of the Senate. I’m just a traffic enforcer. I’m just gonna make sure that the debates will follow proper procedure. Proper decorum will be followed all times.”