EDITORIAL: 5 true Bicolano lawmakers
WITH great pride, we take our hats off to the five Bicolano members of the House of Representatives who voted against the re-imposition of death penalty in our justice system. Despite the overwhelming odds where the House majority threw their principles out of the window to please a blood-thirsty chief executive, these five men and women courageously held on the non-negotiable belief that sentencing someone to death denies him/her the right to life as enshrined in both our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We salute Bicolano Reps. Gabriel Bordado, Jr. (3rd district, CamSur), Evelina Escudero (1st district, Sorsogon), Salvio Fortuno (5th district, CamSur), Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay), and Marisol Panotes (2nd District, Camarines Norte) for their uynwavering stand against death penalty. We are so proud that we want their photos embedded on this editorial page – a most important page of every newspaper. These men and women are Bicol’s latest pride, aside from VP Leni Robredo, Leila de Lima, and Antonio Trillanes, among others, who continue to play their indomitable roles as guardians of our democratic principles, particularly in this period of hate and violence, political patronage, treasonous actions, graft, and excessive use of dirty words. We also commend the young students of the Universidad de Sta. Isabel, Ateneo de Naga University, Naga Parochial School, and the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary for holding a noise barrage to express their opposition to the return of death penalty at the time of the voting in the Lower House. Together, we firmly argued that, among other reasons, the death penalty is anti-poor and that punitive justice system will never resolve structural social problems. Further, researches have proven that mistakes happen in meting out death as a sentence. The risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. An argument in court underscored the fact that 7 out of 10 death sentences handled by the lower courts were wrongfully prosecuted. During the time of Bicolano Sen. Raul S. Roco, as chair then of the Senate Justice Committee, he sent his staff to do research in archives, police HQs, and libraries about contemporary accounts of criminals sent to the death row and see how crimes went high or low after each execution. As presented to him, the number of crimes did not go down after the notorious hired killer and gangster Baby Ama was executed in the 1960s, or when three of the four rapists (the fourth died in prison) of actress Maggie de la Riva, also almost during that same period, were burned in the electric chair. As a result of the Bicolano senator’s eloquent sponsorship speech before the plenary hall of the Senate, the death penalty was eventually disallowed in our justice system. As it is now, it took a former mayor from Mindanao, where human life seems to be so cheap, to summon his underlings to re-impose what has been banned. Our next battle is in the Senate before the House measure is finally enacted. Let’s not forget that Nietzche gave us this fair warning: When fighting monsters, you must take care not to become one yourself. Killing by the state is wrong as well, potentially even worse than killing by an individual.