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Gabby Bordado: Doing the Right Thing

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that Filipinos are trapped in a spacecraft in orbit, where the Command Pilot does not do anything to mitigate the risk of hitting a dangerous asteroid. And the members of his crew are too scared to question or contradict him, let alone stage a mutiny to save the spacecraft and avoid potential loss of lives.

This analogy, for me, sums up what just happened recently in the House of Representatives.

In a historic vote by the House whose outcome was fait accompli, seventy so-called representatives of the people who were members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchise voted to junk ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal. The applicant “was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise.”

Majority of the Filipinos, including journalists, lawyers, workers, Church people, students, and human rights groups, believe that ABS-CBN deserves a fresh mandate. In fact, according to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 75% percent of Filipinos agree that Congress must grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, while 56% agree that no-renewal would be a “major blow to press freedom.”

Yes, the people have spoken. And remember the Latin aphorism – vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). But the seventy lawmakers were too numb to their bones to see the light. They failed to listen to the voice of the people they represent and, more importantly, they failed to listen to the voice of God. They brazenly abandoned the people’s will for political expediency.

No one of the seventy representatives was brave enough to oppose the president whose threat to close ABS-CBN is a matter of public record.

No one of the seventy representatives was human enough to feel and empathize with the plight of 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose their jobs in this time of pandemic.

What matters most to the seventy lawmakers were their political survival and personal interest and not the survival of the 11,000 workers and their families.

With their tails in between their legs, they gave the president what he wanted in a silver platter. They proved their subservience and they did not care. They did not even realize they made a bad call – that’s how insensitive they were.

End of the story? Not really.

There were eleven principled lawmakers who stood their ground, risking political isolation and retaliation from the powers-that-be which is normal in Philippine politics.

One of them is a Bikolano. His name is Gabby Bordado and he represents the 3rd District of Camarines Sur. In his speech explaining why he voted no to the committee resolution denying the franchise application of ABS-CBN, there’s one sentence at the end of his speech that caught my attention. He said, referring to the vote that he was about to cast, “it is a decision we need to approach with empathy for the plight of the very people we represent – the Filipino people – whose voices we have vowed to articulate and whose freedom and well-being should always be the basis of our actions and decisions.”

Simply put, Bordado had in his mind the people’s interests, the people that he represents. I could sense his empathy for his constituents and his determination to base his decision on what’s good for their well-being.

As if by God’s design, Bordado’s vote catapulted him to that select group of representatives who are now known as the “Magnificent 11.” They are extolled for their courageous stand against those who wanted to bring ABS-CBS down.

For perspective, I re-read an article Bordado wrote in “Bikol Magis: Through Childhood Days and Youthful Years” – a book that chronicles the stories of some Ateneo de Naga alumni and alumnae from 1940 to 2015. In his article, “The Ateneo de Naga on My Mind,” Bordado vividly described how his father died when he was just a budding teen-ager. His mother, a public school teacher like his father, had to support seven children with her meager salary, forcing her to amortize their house. But the family’s economic status was never a hindrance to Bordado’s wish to study at the Ateneo, where he excelled as a student.

While at the Ateneo, Bordado learned to value discipline and hard work. But the greatest lesson he imbibed early on in his young life could be found in what he himself wrote: “For one, seeking first the Kingdom of God (Primum Regnum Dei), the school motto, has been my life’s veritable guidepost.”

That, I think, is Bordado’s code of honor as a politician. It comes from his faith, from his education and, I am sure, from his parents, his first teachers. No wonder he can discern what is right from wrong, what is just from unjust, and what is truth from untruth. He tries, no matter how hard it is, to live by his code of honor as he serves his fellow Bikolanos.

Unlike the seventy lawmakers, Bordado knew where his heart was when faced with the type of congressional hearing that was more of a political stunt than anything else. He knew his position in a heartbeat. And his vote followed where his heart was.

I can imagine Bordado, just like when he was in high school during an elocution contest, delivering Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” in front of the entire House of Representatives, echoing the words, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” He might not have convinced the lawmakers to swing the balance in favor of ABS-CBN, but he showed his true character and the type of a legislator he is. He deserves our respect and admiration.

Life is full of temptations. Politicians are oftentimes tempted with offers of temporary gains. I don’t know what the political repercussions are for Bordado and his constituents in the days to come because of his vote. Whatever happens, Bordado will always stand tall, much taller than the seventy carpetbaggers. His constituents should be proud of him. He has nothing to be ashamed or be afraid of. At least he did not look asinine and a puppet in front of the entire nation. History will be on his side.

By going against a strong political current, propelled by a weakened and insecure rower, Bordado showed that he is fundamentally fit for the position that he was elected to. He is not indifferent to truth because truth for him is what matters.

Doing the right thing for a politician is always a difficult task because of so many pressures from all sides. But Bordado has proven that it can be done.

Iyan an maorag.

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