‘House of Death’
For two months now we have been trooping to the House of Representatives—mothers, daughters, workers, community leaders, NGO advocates, the religious sector—in protest of the restoration of the death penalty. Almost every day we marched into Congress with this message: Legislators should pay attention to providing jobs to our families, to protecting our daily livelihood and our lives; and they should reject the Duterte administration’s priority bill that seeks to reimpose the death penalty in the country.
Protesters included many from the poorest sector of our society, and they had every reason to be there. From their ranks came the more than 7,000 casualties in the government’s bloody war on drugs. From their ranks will come the three million more that President Duterte promised to exterminate up to the end of his term.
Each day’s mobilization was an exercise in dread and exhaustion—dread that our voices would fall on deaf ears, dread of an unexpected voting, dread that so few would be allowed inside.
While observing the deliberations, with nothing to eat from afternoon till the early evening, we were already exhausted by the time every plenary session was adjourned. All our energy, all our time wasting away, when we could be making better use of our days. Why? Because we were trying to stop lethal injection, the rope, the electric chair from coming back as the ultimate penalty.
But isn’t that what Congress is supposed to be doing—to uphold the highest standards of life for the Filipino people? In these august halls of history, should we not be marching with our heads held high, proud to be watching our representatives fight for our best ideals? Should we not be looking forward to witnessing the top minds in the country work, and to actually learning something? Instead we got to see just how empty Congress is— devoid of brilliance, dignity, courage. What we saw strutting around were figures of false pride, corrupt self-importance, displays of wealth amassed from our taxes.
Where we sought passionate debates, we only saw lazy silence; where we sought intelligent arguments, we found insults; where we sought compassion, we found callousness and brutes. We were embarrassed for our people. It is unthinkable to continue engaging in this same system of electoral politics over and over, and breed this kind of legislature for future generations. If the law is where social order springs from, and if these are the lawmakers expected to enact them, then we have been doomed from the start. Indeed we need a system change—not simply a change in representatives—in what is now a House of Death.
NIZA CONCEPCION, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement
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