MANILA (UPDATE)- Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday said the passage of a law that would revive capital punishment in the Philippines has "better chances" after President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for the policy in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Duterte, in his SONA, urged Congress to bring back the lethal injection for convicts of drug-related crimes.
"We can try again another shot at it, especially now that the President focused only on crimes in RA 9165. Better chances," Sotto told reporters in a text message after the SONA.
Republic Act 9165 refers to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which Sotto principally authored.
Several bills seeking to revive capital punishment in the country have been filed in the Senate, but the measure has yet to hurdle the committee level as it faces strong opposition both from some legislators and the public.
But Sotto said bills on the reimposition of the death penalty were not "junked" by previous Congresses despite public outcry against the proposed policy.
"I will not use the word junk. It was simply not interpellated immediately and died with the adjournment of Congress," he said.
Sotto is one the known “pro-life” figures in the Senate. His conservative stand was even noted on the issues of reproductive health, divorce, and other issues, reflecting the Catholic Church’s stand.
But despite such a “pro-life” stand, Sotto takes a different stand when it comes to the death penalty issue, as he is the main author of Senate Bill No. 492, which seeks to impose death penalty against big-time drug traffickers.
“Kaya itong mga drug traffickers at saka itong mga manufacturers, paboriting lugar ang Pilipinas dahil dito pag nahuli sila, makakapag-operate pa sila roon sa loob eh. Hindi sila katulad ng mangyayari sa, anila, sa China patay, Indonesia patay, Malaysia patay. Halos lahat ah. Singapore lalo na, hanging. May death penalty yung paligid natin, tayo wala. Kaya tayo ang pinupuntahan at dito ang manufacturing,” he pointed out.
“Yun ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit yung high-level drug trafficking lang ang sinasabi ko na pwede. Una sa lahat, walang mahirap na high-level drug trafficker, walang mahirap na drug lord, so hindi uubra yung sinasabi nilang anti-poor,” he added.
Sotto said his pro-life stand only applies to the “unborn” children, but not on criminals.
“Meron akong dividing line. Pagdating sa mga heinous criminals, hindi ako naaawa at wala akong pagtingin, ika nga,” he said
Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who filed a death penalty bill last year, said that he is "happy" that Duterte reiterated his push for the policy in this year's SONA.
Dela Rosa's bill and other measures related to the reimposition of capital punishment have been lodged in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights since 2019.
Dela Rosa has yet to respond to queries if he would urge Senate Committee on Justice chair Sen. Richard Gordon to fasttrack the processing of the bills since it was mentioned in Duterte's SONA.
Death penalty in the Philippines was abolished in 2006 under then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but Duterte has been seeking to legalize capital punishment again, saying it can deter the narcotics business in the Philippines.--With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News