Sotto: Death penalty has ‘good chance’ of passing Senate
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for the reimposition of the death penalty “stands a good chance” in the Senate if it would only cover big-time narcotics trading, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.
Sotto also said he saw no reason for him and his colleagues not to include plunder among the crimes punishable by death.
“It could be a squeaker, but it could pass in the Senate,” he told reporters.
“Because of the [President’s] mention of plunder, it will not look good if senators and congressmen will not agree to include it [as punishable by death]. That should be included. Otherwise, it could mean that we’re afraid [to include] plunder,” Sotto said.
Senators Manny Pacquiao, Ronald dela Rosa, Panfilo Lacson and Bong Go filed separate bills to restore capital punishment when the 18th Congress opened earlier this month.
Pacquiao’s Senate Bill No. 189 would impose the death penalty on illegal drug traffickers and manufacturers, plus a fine ranging from P1 million to P10 million on people who import, sell, distribute, manufacture, possess illegal drugs, cultivate or culture plants classified as dangerous drugs, and maintain a drug den, dive or resort.
Lacson’s SB 27 covers a broad range of crimes, including terrorism, plunder, treason, qualified piracy, murder, rape, kidnapping and destructive arson, drug trafficking, human trafficking and arms smuggling. It also prescribes the use of lethal injection.
Go’s SB 207 is for plunderers and those who commit heinous crimes involving illegal drugs. Dela Rosa’s SB 226 targets drug traffickers and manufacturers. The former Philippine National Police chief wants them executed by firing squad.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they believed the death penalty could still deter crime.
Guevarra said “ordinary human behavior” would lead criminals to think twice before committing a crime if they knew they could be executed if caught.
“I believe that the imposition of the death penalty may somehow deter the commission of serious crimes,” he said.
“Indeed it is difficult to measure or prove a negative proposition; who will ever know how many crimes did not happen because of the fear of the death penalty?” he added.
Albayalde said “the deterrent effect of the certainty of punishment will be a game changer” in the campaign against illegal drugs, heinous crime and corruption.
“What is important here is that we convict those people who are really guilty,” Albayalde said, adding that loopholes in the judicial system needed to be plugged to ensure that only the guilty are convicted and meted the capital punishment.
Death by firing squad
Pacquiao, fresh from his victory over American Keith Thurman, wanted people convicted of drug trafficking to be executed in public by firing squad “to set an example to the people.” Convicted plunderers could be executed the same way or by lethal injection, he said.
He said capital punishment would not be against his religious beliefs. “No,” he said. “I can [justify] that biblically and also constitutionally.”
Pacquiao said he was willing to lead the Senate hearing on the measure as Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate justice committee, had earlier declined to preside over it.
Go thanked the President for mentioning the importance of reviving the death penalty in his annual speech before Congress. “I may have only one vote. It could not pass [in the Senate]. But I will fight for its passage,” he said.
But Senators Joel Villanueva, also a Christian pastor, and Risa Hontiveros argued that the government should first improve the country’s justice system before meting out death for convicted criminals.
Reforming justice system
“The sustainable solution lies in reforming our justice system to ensure that the rights of every individual are protected, to promote social justice and guarantee that the law will be applied swiftly and evenly,” Hontiveros said.
“On the part of the Senate minority, we will reach out to our colleagues and form an issue-based alliance to stop the reimposition of the death penalty law,” she added. —WITH REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND INQUIRER RESEARCH
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