On Lakbay Buhay:
A rally against Death Penalty
University of Santo Tomas, Manila
21 May 2017
First of all, I thank and commend all the organizers of Lakbay Buhay for your successful cross-country tour: educating our communities about the value of human life and human dignity, and explaining to them the negative implications of reimposing death penalty in the country. Here, various groups and individuals from different sectors unite and take a collective stand against capital punishment.
Umulan man o umaraw, mahaba man o matagtag ang biyahe, sinikap po ninyong maglakbay upang ipaabot sa ating mga kababayan ang halaga ng buhay. Saludo po ako sa inyong dedikasyon at pagsisikap. Sa ganitong mga inisyatiba, lalong lumalakas ang ating panawagan na itaguyod ang ating mga karapatang pantao at katarungang panlipunan.
You’ve heard of the names of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Jose Abad Santos. These are our heroes that we look up to.
But what else do they have in common? They were also historical figures sentenced to death by the government because of their alleged crimes. And let us not forget another martyr who united the country—Ninoy Aquino. Ninoy was sentenced to death by firing squad during the Marcos regime, but was assassinated upon his return from exile before he could even set foot in the country.
We know better now than to believe the malicious allegations against these heroes. Their deaths only served as potent weapons for the powerful to wield against those they seek to oppress and silence.
The true “unforgivable crime” of these people? It was fighting for the Filipino people’s freedom.
Malinaw naman po na ang mga nabanggit ay inosente at walang kasalanan. Nabigyang hustisya ang kanilang kamatayan sa pagkalinis ng kanilang pangalan, at dinakila ang kanilang mahalagang ambag sa pagkamit ng ating kalayaan. Pero paano naman po ang mga Pilipinong hindi nailimbag ang pangalan sa pahina ng kasaysayan? Ang mga kababayan nating nasa laylayan na hanggang sa kamatayan ay hindi pa rin nakatikim ng pagkilala at pagpapahalaga? Sila na ang mga pamilya—ina, ama, anak, asawa, kapatid, ay patuloy pa ring sumisigaw at naghahanap ng hustisya?
Clearly, we cannot bring the dead back to life. We cannot atone for the wrongful deaths of those who did not even get a chance to prove their innocence. This is why I stand firm in my opposition against the death penalty. It is un-Christian, has not been shown to deter crime, and is discriminatory to the poor. Once sentenced, individuals who are poor cannot defend themselves because they have no lawyers. Yung marami sa kanila, tatanggapin na lang ang kapalaran, dahil walang pambayad ng abogado para ipagtanggol ang sarili sa hukuman.
That is why amid calls to reinstate the death penalty, I filed a bill introducing a new penalty of imprisonment, Senate Bill No. 368: qualified reclusion perpetua. This seeks to impose stiffer punishment for those convicted of heinous crimes without having to deal with the problems that beset the death penalty system. Our objective: fix our criminal justice system first to ensure swift delivery of justice.
As Pope Francis once said: “All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Tinuturo po ng Simbahan ang pagiging sagrado ng buhay ng tao—na higit sa lahat, buhay.
Every person deserves redemption. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na kung minsan kang naligaw ng landas, hindi mo na matatagpuan ang tamang direksyon para magbagong buhay, o matuto mula sa kamalian.
Death penalty is anti-poor, in the same manner that this administration’s so-called “war on drugs” is anti-poor. Sa halos siyam na libong napaslang dahil sa war on drugs na ito, halos lahat, maralita nating mga kababayan ang pinatumba at nabiktima.
This war on drugs has brought the Philippines into a crisis—a crisis of democracy where fundamental human rights are violated and where lies and misinformation are peddled as truths. There is now a discriminatory practice that unfairly targets the poor and powerless as a shortcut, a substitute to actual legitimate law enforcement activities that target big-time drug dealers and those who actually profit from the drug trade. Families of EJK victims, though determined to pursue justice, are fearing for their lives and don’t have the means to go after their loved ones’ killers.
And here’s a President who keeps on saying that he is happy to kill millions of drug addicts. He even has the gall to relentlessly attack the Catholic Church, the media, and human rights advocates who have criticized him for his war on drugs.
Noong isang araw lang, may panibago na naman siyang banta sa mga human rights defenders: Pupugutan daw niya ang mga ito ng ulo. Pambihira ang Pangulong ito kung umasta, akala niya yata, isa siyang diyos. Dahil sinabi niya, gagawin niya. Dahil gusto niya.
Anong klase ng gobyerno at konsepto ng moralidad ang ipapamana natin sa kabataan sa ganitong pamumuno? That killing is not just a solution, but actually a viable first resort in governance? That butchery is a mark of strong leadership?
If this kind of despotic rule persists, I am afraid that we will not just be dealing with a culture of violence in the present, but also a perverted sense of morality that will be planted in the minds of our children and future generations.
As the Twelfth Doctor put it, “Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.”
In our case, the case of the Filipino people, our true value, the real measure of our progress, is not how many followers or “friends” we have on twitter or facebook, or the number of “likes” or “shares” our posts garner; not how fast we get from one place to another; how friendly we get with the superpowers of the world; and not even the state of our economy. It is how we treat the lowliest of the low; the poorest of the poor; the most downtrodden; the most hopeless; those most in need of our support and understanding – that is our value.
Ano ang halaga ng isang buhay para sa iyo?
Yan rin ang halaga ng buhay mo.
For those who think that re-imposing the death penalty is the answer. Think again. We are all at risk. No one is safe.
It is the biggest of lies to think that any of us are safe in a nation where the taking of a life becomes a matter of pride or, worse, a non-event.
For that nation is not one for the living, but for the dead and the vultures that feed on them – mga corrupt na pulis at opisyal na nagsasamantala sa kapangyarihang ibinigay sa kanila upang pagkakitaan ang ating seguridad, kalayaan at ang ating buhay.
Whether or not death penalty is re-imposed, if our leaders are content to allow their agents to kill with impunity, to plant evidence with impunity, to fabricate charges and use perjured testimonies with impunity, to persecute political opponents with impunity, or in any other way to out their interests above the misery of the people with impunity – we will never be safe.
We are victims. And our death will just be another statistic to add to their “war on drugs”.
Mahalaga ang bawat buhay.
Ito pong ipinaglalaban natin ngayon ay hindi lamang laban ng ating henerasyon, kundi maging ng henerasyon ng ating mga anak, at ng kanilang mga anak. It is a fight for a identity as a people, and our individual worth as human beings.
Malayo pa man ang ating kailangang lakbayin, lahat po ng ating pagod at sakripisyo ay mapapawi, kung isang tunay na makatao at makatarungang kinabukasan naman ang ating mararating.
As long as we are the majority, as long as we fight for truth, justice and democracy, our fight is a fight worth fighting.
Maraming salamat po, at mabuhay po ang sambayanang Pilipino.