Lacson, Sotto reverse long-standing support for death penalty

Lacson, Sotto reverse long-standing support for death penalty
Senate President Vicente Sotto III joins Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson in a hybrid hearing on several measures on the retirement and pension of incoming military and uniformed personnel Thursday, May 20, 2021.
Alex Nueva España / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a presidential candidate, on Thursday said he and his running-mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, no longer support the death penalty after years of seeking its reimposition as lawmakers. 

"It is more important to save the life of a wrongly convicted person," Lacson said in Filipino during a press event attended by Sotto and members of the tandem's Senate slate. "So my perspective changed [and] I will withdraw the bill I filed if it is still there." 

His bill, filed in 2019, seeks to "re-impose the death penalty on certain heinous crimes." Sotto's version of the bill re-filed that same year calls for the imposition of the death penalty on high-level drug traffickers. 

Lacson says a film titled "The Life of David Gale" played a role in changing his mind. 

"[M]y eyes were opened…that it is more important to save the life of someone innocent and convicted than to execute someone who is really convicted and proven to have committed a crime." 

Sotto acknowledged that, despite his recent change of heart, he had been pushing for the reinstatement of the death penalty since he first joined the Senate in 1992.

"They were right in most of the reasonings they were using," Sotto said of the senators who have opposed the reimposition of capital punishment over the years. 

In 1993, a year after Sotto joined the Senate and filed his first death penalty bill, capital punishment was reinstated under President Fidel Ramos. It was abolished by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo 13 years later. 

'Prison reform a better solution' 

Asked about the reasoning behind his own shift in perspective, Sotto told reporters: "I found a better solution." 

He was referring to life imprisonment in regional penitentiaries created specifically for high-level drug traffickers and heinous criminals. Lacson refers to this proposal from Sotto as "prison reform," which is generally understood as an attempt to improve jail conditions and afford more rights to inmates. 

Sotto said he read studies that found that inmates become embroiled in crimes within prisons when their families stop visiting them. "But how will a [family] from Sultan Kudarat visit a [prisoner] in Muntinlupa?" he said in Filipino. 

Instead of just the notorious New Bilibid Prison, Sotto added, there should be penitentiaries in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. "If you make it regional, that's a big thing." 

Lacson chimed in to back Sotto's proposal, saying it eliminates the need for a death penalty entirely.

"[The prisoner] will suffer for the rest of his life, and he really has nothing to do there but regret." — Bella Perez-Rubio 





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