MANILA - The number of votes on the measure seeking to reinstate death penalty are "about even," Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday.
"The numbers are about even now. As majority floor leader, I will not sit on it, delay the proceedings," Zubiri told ANC's Early Edition.
"As a collegial body, even if my views are anti-death penalty, we have to respect the different chairpersons on their sponsorships of this measure at the plenary."
Administration-backed candidates dominated May's midterm elections, which could pave the way for the passage of the measure that faced heavy criticism in the 17th Congress.
Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III earlier said he expects some 13 senators to vote for the revival of the death penalty, with 4 lawmakers filing separate bills in the 18th Congress: Senators Bong Go, Manny Pacquiao, Ronald dela Rosa, and Panfilo Lacson.
Others include Sotto, Imee Marcos, Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar.
The Senate President has said he will back the death penalty for "high level drug trafficking."
Aside from Zubiri, those who oppose the measure are Senators Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, and Ralph Recto.
The passage of the death penalty bill will come down to a "conscience vote," Zubiri said.
"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’ve been in the Red Cross movement for the last 25 years. As a Red Crosser, we value all kinds of life," he said.
"The death penalty is something very heavy on one’s conscience. I may have to speak to the President one day and ask him that I can cast my vote as a conscience vote."
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address Monday, urged lawmakers to approve capital punishment for high-level drug trafficking and plunder.
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 President has been hoping to reinstate the death penalty in the Philippines, where nearly 80 percent of its population is made up of Catholics, as he wages his war on illegal drugs and pursues an anti-crime campaign.
When asked if the Senate will again look into the drug war, Zubiri said it was up to Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Blue Ribbon Committee and who will be elected as chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice.