VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Bato Dela Rosa’s shifting stance on ‘punishment’ for drug users

Bato Dela Rosa Flip flop

In a span of four years, Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa went from supporting the death penalty for all illegal drug offenders as director-general of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to proposing rehabilitation for users. Now, the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief says he has “second thoughts” about his own measure.

He was firm in his stance in 2018 to hand down the death penalty on all offenders of illegal drugs use, saying it would be an effective deterrent.

In 2022, Dela Rosa, who chairs the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs filed Senate Bill No. 202 seeking to amend the penalties for drug dependents. It proposes that for second-time offenders, the penalty should be rehabilitation instead of imprisonment for a minimum of six years.

In a hearing on the bill, Dela Rosa suggested a separate measure decriminalizing drug use to solve jail congestion, a problem he sought to solve during his six-month stint as BuCor chief.

Here’s how the former police chief’s stance on this issue evolved over time:

Bato Dela Rosa’s shifting stance on ‘punishment’ for drug users by Blanch Marie Ancla

The senator clarified that he was proposing S.B. 202 out of “pity” for persons deprived of liberty in congested jails. He explained in a radio interview:

“While we want to punish the offenders we are also after their rehabilitation and reformation, na pwede pa silang magbagong buhay. Nakikita natin na sa tagal ko sa PNP, lahat ng kulungan na napuntahan ko, times 1000% ‘yung kanilang occupancy rate. Sobrang punong-puno, hindi na makatulog.

(While we want to punish the offenders, we are also after their rehabilitation and reformation so they can turn their lives around. I’ve seen that in the long time I was with the PNP, in all the jails I’ve seen, their occupancy rate is times 1000%. It’s really congested, you can’t even sleep.)


Source: Official Youtube Channel, Dobol B TV Livestream: November 25, 2022 – Replay, Nov. 25, 2022, watch from 3:16:52 to 3:17:14


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Senate of the Philippines, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa (resume), Accessed Dec. 1, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, 19th Congress Committee Chairmanship, Sept. 14, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Bill No. 202, July 7, 2022



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)