Issue of March 12, 2017
     
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Rep Mark Go’s defining moment

It is a disaster that the House of Representatives decided to restore the death penalty. It was not however unanimous. Fifty-four brave souls stood in front of the crushing House railroad and risked their political careers sustained only by their conscience, ideals, and principles. They had nothing to gain politically, but they gained the lasting gratitude and admiration not only of their constituents, but all of those who opposed state-sponsored murder. They kept their conscience and dignity intact.

We seldom find cause to hail former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former first lady Imelda Marcos. But this time we must express our thanks and gratitude for their vote against the death penalty. We must pay tribute where it is due. GMA particularly defied the threat to remove her from her position as deputy speaker and stood by her anti-death belief, that led to the abolition of the death penalty when she was still President. Thanks too to Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto and all those who sided with the “no” votes.

The big disappointment was transgender Rep. Geraldine Roman of Bataan who admitted that she sacrificed her principles for the sake of politics. Sayang, on her first term, she succumbs.

For us in the Cordillera, the bright spot was the ever-reliable Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, who stood firmly and unconditionally against the death penalty. If there is any senatorial timber from the Cordillera, he is the obvious choice.

What came as a pleasant surprise was Baguio’s very own Rep. Mark Go. He stood solid on his pro-life principles and risked political fortune and advantage to vote “No.” Political expediency, convenience and opportunism did not get in the way.

Dios ti agngina. Maraming salamat po and more power. You and Teddy Baguilat make Cordillerans proud!

Baguio did not make a mistake when they sent Go to Congress. What follows is the explanation that he gave before he cast his historic No vote:

“Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder.” These were the words of the late Coretta Scott King, civil rights activist and widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, even after her husband was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

Over the course of these past weeks, Congress has been witness to the impassioned debates on the legality of the re-imposition of the capital punishment regarding the Constitution and International Law. We have discussed how it may affect trade, industry, and even the plight of our OFWs. It is our duty as legislators to enact laws we honestly believe would create a lasting good for humanity as a whole, and to do that, it is only necessary that the laws we enact be consistent with the morals we uphold. In the sponsorship speech of Fr. Joaquin Bernas during the deliberations in the 1986 Constitutional Commission, he pointed out that life should not be destroyed just in the hope that other lives might be saved, more so that claims of deterrence had long been debunked. As Fr. Bernas said, “Assuming mastery over the life of another man is just too presumptuous for any man.”

The sanctity of human life transcends class, religion, and political affiliation, a right inherent to all through the natural law. Long before the enactment of our Constitution or the ratification of any treaty, we were already granted our right to life and dignity, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because we are humans, equal in laws of God and of man. The sanctity of human life is not shed off by any crime.

Whether it be of the philosophical theory of human life or how it evolved into our modern concept of human right jurisprudence, human life has certain sanctity that is to be preserved and protected.

We no longer live in a society ruled by a colonial power or an authoritarian regime, wherein rights are dismissed and liberties are curtailed. Rather, we live in a society where the rule of law that prevails is one that protects and promotes the inherent rights of our people. As such, I believe that we must direct our focus not on the severity but rather on the certainty of punishment as a true means of deterring crimes. From the capability and integrity of our law enforcers, to the lack of prosecutors, clogged court dockets, glaring judicial errors, and inhuman conditions, and malpractices inside our national penitentiaries, these are the defects in our criminal justice system that we have to address. While I share my colleagues’ passion and resolve in addressing criminality in this country, I am afraid that the measure this bill proposes may lead to irreversible mistakes we could not afford.

Today I vote as my conscience and morals dictate. I therefore manifest my negative vote to the proposed re-imposition of the capital punishment. I vote No to HB (House Bill) 4727.”

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