MANILA — The Philippines does "not need" death penalty for high-level drug traffickers if they are transferred to regional prisons, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday after President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call for the return of capital punishment.
Sotto said he had filed a bill for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to have their own regional penitentiaries, where drug bigwigs can be transferred from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
"Para na rin death penalty iyon dahil nakahiwalay sila, and it will have the same effect. They will not be contaminating the other PDLs (persons deprived of liberty)," he told ANC.
(That's just like death penalty because they are isolated.)
"If my bill is approved and supported by government, we do not need the death penalty," he added.
The regional penitentiaries will also allow relatives to visit detainees and minimize the risk that they will join prison gangs, he said.
"How can a family from Sultan Kudarat or Negros or Mindanao visit someone in Muntinlupa if they do not have the means?" said the senator.
Duterte, during his penultimate State of the Nation Address, asked Congress to reinstate death penalty by lethal injection for crimes linked to narcotics.
"Only for high-level drug traffickers, perhaps I will support [death penalty], not just the regular drug traffickers," said Sotto.
The argument that the death penalty is anti-poor "does not work" in the case of drug lords because they are all wealthy, he said.
Sotto said he would have "difficulty counting" who among the senators are in favor of death penalty.
"Right now, siguro (maybe) 50-50 chance," he said.
-- With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News