Sotto to allow death penalty debates for 'high-level' drug trade

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2018 09:17 AM

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MANILA - Death penalty limited to "high level drug trafficking" has better chances of passing in the Senate, the chamber's leader, Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Sotto said the measure would have his vote but he would only agree if it was limited to such category.

"I’d rather not use the words 'actively push'; but I’d allow it to be debated on the floor," he told ANC's Headstart.

"I'll have Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who is the principal author of that now to sponsor it. I would probably help him sponsor it, but only up to that level," he said.

Sotto took over the Senate leadership from Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel, under whose 2-year tenure death penalty did not prosper. 

President Rodrigo Duterte promised to reimpose the death penalty during the 2016 elections as part of his anti-crime campaign.

Sotto said arguments that death penalty is anti poor or will not deter crime are "correct," except for high-level drug trafficking.

"High level trafficking, they’re in jail and they still operate and they can do everything they want because of money...There is no drug lord who is poor so they can avail of all the best lawyers if they want," he said.

The Philippines was the first Asian country to abolish death penalty in 1987, but it was reinstated under President Fidel Ramos in response to increasing crime rates. It was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006.

The House of Representatives last year approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing capital punishment, but only for drug-related offenses.

Pacquiao has filed 3 separate bills seeking the death penalty for drug trafficking, kidnapping, and aggravated rape. Several other senators also filed capital punishment proposals for different crimes, but discussions on these were not prioritized.