Sotto sees opening for death penalty revival in next Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — With more candidates backing the restoration of the death penalty seen entering the next Senate, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III sees a stronger possibility of restoring capital punishment in the 18th Congress.

“In the new Senate, there’s a possibility of 13 [votes for death penalty] for high-level drug trafficking alone,” Sotto said during a Kapihan sa Senado forum on Thursday.

However, Sotto said restoring the death penalty for other heinous crimes may not flourish.

Allies of the Duterte administration, which has pushed for the revival of the death penalty, have dominated the partial, official tally of votes — and 10 of them favor the return of capital punishment.

Senators Cynthia Villar, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III are all in favor of death penalty, but only for high-level drug trafficking.

Former senators Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Ramon Bong Revilla also back the reimposition of capital punishment.

Duterte’s men who are likely heading to the Senate, Christopher “Bong” Go, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino, are also supportive of death penalty. Another Duterte ally, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, has also expressed support for capital punishment.

Senator Nancy Binay, who is ahead of her fellow reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito by just around 200,000 votes, is against death penalty. Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, favored death penalty when she ran for president in 2016, but reversed her position in 2017.

A measure only needs 13 votes to be passed in the Senate. Among the senators who will remain in the 18th Congress who want death penalty returned are Sotto, Manny Pacquiao and Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian.

While Sotto said death penalty will not be a Senate priority as long as he heads the chamber, other senators can push otherwise.

However, he said the measure will go through intense debate in the Senate.

The House of Representatives passed a bill restoring death penalty in 2017, but a counterpart measures was stalled in the Senate.

With the 17th Congress adjourning in three weeks, Sotto said the death penalty bill will likely be archived.

Death penalty was abolished under the 1986 Constitution, but the Charter gave Congress the power to reinstate it for heinous crimes. Capital punishment returned under the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits countries to abolish death penalty.