Senators divided over ‘death bill’

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday the Philippine National Police might as well forget reviving the capital punishment if it would insist on meting out the death penalty to those found in possession of 50 grams of illegal drugs.

He stood his ground that the death penalty, if revived, should only be imposed on big-time drug traffickers, disagreeing with PNP Chief Archie Gamboa’s position that the possession of 50 grams of illegal drugs should warrant the death penalty.

He says it is easy to plant 50 grams of marijuana, and that current laws allow a drug suspect to post bail when caught with up to 200 grams of illegal drugs.

Senator Christopher Go says the re-imposition of the death penalty could be a strong deterrent to the commission of other heinous crimes.

“In effect, if we can stop crimes from happening, the unfortunate encounters in police operations will also be avoided and the lives of both police and the public can be protected,” Go said.

Senator Nancy Binay questioned the timing of the President’s call on lawmakers to re-impose the death penalty when the people were struggling to survive in the midst of the pandemic.

She says unless the justice system is reformed, the poor will be in a pitiful situation because they cannot afford the best lawyers. Only the wealthy defendants can afford the best defense lawyers to get a lighter sentence or escape conviction.

Senator Sonny Angara says he needs to see “compelling evidence” that the death penalty will effectively deter crime and that the “miscarriage of justice” will not be committed.

“I need to see compelling evidence that it will be effective. That we won’t be prosecuting, killing the wrong people. You might have miscarriages of justice. I don’t want that to happen,” Angara said.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic should be the government’s top priority, but this should not stop the Senate from tackling other measures like the 10 death penalty bills filed in the Senate.

He said COVID-19 had killed almost 2,000 Filipinos and infected more than 85,000, but the drug problem could also be considered a pandemic.

But Senator Francis Pangilinan pressed Dela Rosa to explain how the re-imposition of the death penalty could help solve the unemployment problem and address COVID-19.

Dela Rosa slammed Pangilinan, saying “we just voted yesterday after the third hearing on Bayanihan 2. If you really want to help our people recover from this pandemic that we are facing now, everybody should have voted for the Bayanihan Act 2 because the real purpose of this Bayanihan 2 is the economic recovery of the Philippines.”

In objecting to Bayanihan Act 2, Pangilinan noted that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III should be fired for his failure to stop the coronavirus infection, flatten the curve and stem the widespread corruption and prevent the misuse of public funds meant to address the pandemic.

According to Dela Rosa, drug trafficking in the country will not stop if the capital punishment is not revived.

The former Bureau of Corrections director said that, based on his encounters with some convicted drug lords, it was much easier for them to carry out their drug operations in the Philippines due to the absence of death penalty.

“They want it here in the Philippines because they’re enjoying it here—no death penalty,” Dela Rosa said.

Topics: Vicente Sotto III , Philippine National Police , illegal drugs , death penalty
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