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Despite Duterte push, no revival of death penalty in Senate – Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – There is still no future for the death penalty bill in the present Senate despite President Rodrigo Duterte's push in his second State of the Nation Address.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a proponent of the measure, told this to reporters on Tuesday, July 25, in reaction to Duterte's speech.

"I am an author of the death penalty bill for almost the same reasons cited by the President. Even with his prodding, however, I don't see the death penalty being revived under his watch or at least with the present composition of the Senate," Lacson said in a text message.

Lacson filed Senate Bill No. 42, which covers a wide range of heinous crimes punishable by death, including drug-related cases, plunder, rape, terrorism, treason, murder, qualified bribery, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention, among others.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also earlier said the measure is already "dead," saying at least 13 senators are likely to oppose it.

Drilon said there are only 5 senators who have so far openly expressed support for the bill – Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, and senators Manny Pacquiao, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Cynthia Villar. 

Duterte's call

In his speech on Monday, July 24, Duterte said the country must resort to the means that would eradicate the "menace of illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption."

"I therefore ask Congress to act on all pending legislations to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes – especially on the trafficking of illegal drugs," said the President.

The two highest Senate officials – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto – said the measure is not a priority in the chamber.

"I don't see that in the radars really," Recto said on Monday.

At the very least, Pimentel said they would discuss the bill as "a gesture of friendship" to the House of Representatives, which already approved it.

"As Senate President, this bill was submitted by the House so I think we owe it as a gesture of friendship to the House that since they passed it, so it means that they also want us to discuss it. Hanggang doon na lang (That's the most [we can do]). I will assure the House that we will discuss the death penalty bill," Pimentel said on Monday.

On Tuesday, Pimentel added: "De facto priority naman 'yang death penalty because parati naming pinag-uusapan 'yan. (It is a de facto priority because we always talk about it.) It will be scheduled soon." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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