Commentary Editor's Pick

Why Rene Saguisag was only a 1-term senator

More than a noble light of human rights, he was today’s counter cultural hero. Very few can come close to the political example he had set. Even by any stretch of the imagination, Robin Padilla absolutely does not qualify.

As the eulogies poured in over the death of the sharply elegant Rene A. V. Saguisag, Padilla the Rodrigo Duterte and Apollo Quiboloy rights defender, butted in with another inanity: “I consider him my mentor.”

Pag siya ang nagsulat ng isang opinyon, kailangan mong basahin nang mabuti at ulit-ulitin upang masigurong tama ang iyong pagkaunawa sa kanyang akda.” Let’s put things in order and show Robin Padilla the essential Rene Saguisag that this nation has lost.

First, Saguisag did not want to go through another Iglesia Ni Cristo endorsement. Cory Aquino wanted Saguisag to succeed her (“But I would always change the subject,” he said). He was her presidential spokesperson after the Edsa revolution. She saw in Saguisag a rare gem for democracy that the post-dictatorship badly needed. She coaxed him to run for the senate in the first senatorial elections of 1987. Saguisag landed 9th place in a line of twenty-four winning senators.

Saguisag was said to frequently commute to the senate by taxi and was known to shun the free catering for senators paid for by taxpayers’ money, bringing his own lunch. When his term ended in 1992, he declined reelection.

What happened? In an interview he gave on June 1, 2016, Saguisag described himself as “an accidental public servant serving a providential president.” He gave Cory one condition: that he will step down with her in 1992. “I would not want to go through certain of the things I had to do for fear of losing, like going to the INC.”

“Lawmaking is very serious business. Ngayon may nakapasok doon kasama ng partidong pinagbili ng sukâ. Not just anybody can be sent there. The senate is not a part-time hobby.”

Second, he regrets not having ousted Rodrigo Duterte from San Beda for shooting a law school classmate. Saguisag was then a professor of law at his alma mater. “I voted to expel him but was outvoted by the priest and the dean. They felt sorry for him since he was already a senior. It was decided to just let him graduate but not allow him to march at the rites.”

Saguisag said that Duterte treated life as cheap and did not have respect for human rights and human dignity. “He probably thinks he could get away with anything. That’s what’s happening now. Thousands are being killed.” He said this incident showed early the “trigger happy” attitude of Duterte.

When Duterte’s attack dog Jose Calida who was his solicitor general said in July 2016 that police should kill more criminals, Saguisag’s was one of the contrary voices. “Do we still prove and have a trial as part of due process? Useless, it seems to me.”

Saguisag said Duterte was “not only super executive, super court, super legislature, and a one-man constitutional convention. Once he speaks, tupi lahat (everyone obeys).”

Third, Saguisag gave the most mocking commentary against Duterte for the surreptitious burial of the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The full statement reads like a declamation oratory:

“In the end there really is no one to blame but you Mr. Duterte. Your incorrigibility is your worst trait. You have yet to learn Philippine history.”

“To favor one family over thousands of martial law and human rights abuse victims is insulting to say the least to them and their families. You wouldn’t even listen to the leftists in your cabinet; they who likewise suffered immensely during those dark days. And for what? To curry favor with the Marcoses? To fulfill a campaign promise? Because your father served in the Marcos cabinet?”

“I believe your title is President, not King. You demand respect but seem to be incapable of giving any. We elected a leader, not a ruler, and you can’t seem to tell the difference. You took an oath to defend the Constitution but from your actuations since taking office you seem to be testing your new found powers, from your pronouncements about imposing martial law, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, to having to ‘innovate the law,’ what ever that means.”

“Be very careful about crossing the Filipino people sir. In millennial speak, Don’t Us! The Philippines is bigger than Davao; you cannot bully your way thru any decision you make and expect no consequences.”

“This is not an Aquino-Marcos thing as you so wrongly configure it to be. The former president has so far been quiet on the issue despite the goading and bashing of your hordes. If you have any decency left in you, listen to the people’s cry. Listen to reasonable men, not your inner circle of suck-ups and sycophants.”

“Words have consequences, and how you tread from hereon may have dire ones for you.”

Rene Saguisag’s light will never die.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.