MANILA - Sen. Ronald dela Rosa on Wednesday said the Senate can "multi-task" to ensure that a bill reviving the death penalty is passed while the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Dela Rosa gave the statement after opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan questioned the timing of the push for death penalty, asking how the reimposition of capital punishment could help solve the Philippines' high unemployment rate and the continuous spread of COVID-19.
"Itong ating Senado ay puwede naman mag multi-tasking (Our Senate can multi-task.)... It (COVID-19) doesn't stop us from performing our mandate na gumawa ng batas pertaining to other pressing issues," Dela Rosa said in plenary.
Dela Rosa said that measures related to COVID-19 should still be the chamber's top priority, but added that the revival of death penalty - one of his and President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promises - comes second.
"When you talk about priority, number 1 priority ang COVID-19. Sa akin, baka second na lang itong bill na ito (For me, maybe this bill is second), but it does not preclude us from taking up this bill," he said.
"Itong aking issue na nire-raise ngayon (The issue I am raising now), this is also considered a global pandemic: ang drug problem," he said.
If Pangilinan is keen on helping Filipinos during the global pandemic, he should have voted in favor of the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, Dela Rosa said.
Pangilinan was the lone senator who opposed the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill on Tuesday, citing the Department of Health's failure to implement the first Bayanihan Act that focuses on providing assistance to various sectors during the pandemic.
Dela Rosa started discussions on the death penalty bills in the Senate through a privilege speech, 2 days after Duterte urged Congress to fast-track the passage of the measure.
"In the 2019 elections, I ran with a single platform: that is the reimposition of death penalty," he said.
"Hundreds of people are inquiring in my Facebook account, asking 'What happened to death penalty bakit hindi hini-hear (why isn't it being heard)?'" he said, noting 10 capital punishment bills have been languishing in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Senate Justice panel chair Sen. Richard Gordon, who is vocal about his anti-death penalty stance, said the committee would tackle the bills "at the proper time."
The death penalty was repealed in the Philippines in 2006 under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Duterte has been advocating for its revival for those convicted of drug-related crimes, saying it would help deter the proliferation of narcotics in the country.