Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday that a bill seeking the reimposition of the death penalty could get the 13 votes or more that it needs if capital punishment is limited to high-level drug trafficking.
In an interview on the ANC news channel, Sotto said he would vote for such a bill, and was even willing to help Senator Manny Paquiao, who is the principal author, to sponsor it.
“I’d rather not use the words ‘actively push;’ but I’d allow it to be debated on the floor,” he told ANC’s “Headstart.”
Legislation to restore the death penalty, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, has not prospered under Sotto’s predecessor, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
Sotto said arguments that the death penalty is anti-poor or will not deter crime were “correct,” except for high-level drug trafficking.
“High level trafficking, they’re in jail and they still operate and they can do everything they want because of money...There is no drug lord who is poor so they can avail of all the best lawyers if they want,” he said.
In a forum Thursday, Sotto said there was no need to impose death penalty on a driver caught with three sticks of marijuana or a driver if the truck he was driving yielded a ton of shabu.
“You will enforce the death penalty on the driver when he was just the driver and not the operator? He wasn’t the head of the organization,” said Sotto, who is the author of the Comprehensive Drug Law.
Sotto said he was amenable to reviving discussions on a death penalty bill, but only if it were limited to high-level drug crimes.
Drug traffickers, he said, could still do damage because they operate even when they are detained.
“We have to inhibit them from doing the same crime again and that’s precisely the reason why I would support the death penalty for high-level drug trafficking,” he said.
Pacquiao has filed three separate bills seeking the death penalty for drug trafficking, kidnapping, and aggravated rape. Several other senators also filed capital punishment proposals for different crimes, but discussions on these were not given priority.
The House of Representatives last year approved on third and final reading a bill reimposing capital punishment, but only for drug-related offenses.