IS President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs part of God’s plan?
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas, among many appalled believers, certainly sees nothing divine in the hundreds-and-rising drug suspects murdered since Duterte’s election victory in May.
Yet powerful, aggressive, or even malevolent figures have played parts in the Lord’s inscrutable plan of salvation. While men’s actions may contravene His law, they can still unwittingly advance His overarching plan.
In the Bible, Emperor Nebuchadnezzar took the ancient kingdom of Israel captive in Babylon, a 40-year exile by which God punished His Chosen People for their sins.
Nearly a century ago in 1917, Our Lady of Fatima warned of severe chastisements unless Russia was consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, including a conflict more devastating than the First World War raging then. Two decades later the Second World War engulfed humanity, ignited by the genocidal Adolf Hitler.
And heaven allowed potentates and troops of the Roman Empire to torture and kill not just Christians, but Christ Himself. Those atrocities not only strengthened and expanded the young Church, but saved humankind with Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross.
What might be God’s agenda for President Duterte, who said in his State of the Nation Address last month: “[W]hile I am a stickler for the principle of separation between Church and State, I believe quite strongly that there should never be a separation between God and State”?
Three threats to Church and State
While one cannot presume to divine Divine plans, saving the Philippines from grave perils seems well within His mercy and love for Asia’s only Christian nation, consecrated to His Immaculate Mother’s Heart in 2013. Especially if looming threats would damn millions of souls.
What devilish danger is there that God would allow the rise of a leader waging merciless bloody war against the lawless, with probably countless innocents assassinated?
Actually, three threats could wreak havoc on both State and Church. And Duterte seems well placed to deal with all of them.
One clear and present danger is the crime and drugs explosion under the Aquino administration. Crime tripled since 2010 to more than 1 million incidents a year starting 2013, with possibly 1.6 million crimes last year, based on the 50 percent surge in the first semester.
Filipinos suffered nearly 10,000 murders a year, 12,000 rapes, 60,000 robberies, 170,000 thefts, and a quarter of a million assaults, based on the government’s Philippines In Figures 2015 yearbook, which reports 2014 data. (To get the 2015 data, use Duterte’s Freedom of Information order.)
Threat No. 2 is the possible escalation in terrorist and rebel violence, including atrocities by extremists imitating the so-called Islamic State.
Aquino’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front contained provisions that could entrench terrorists in the envisioned MILF-dominated Bangsamoro region. Last year’s Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos scuppered the accord’s implementing law, but Duterte must now re-negotiate peace to block extremism.
The third danger is potential conflict with China, fearing nuclear-capable American forces now escalating rotations in the archipelago with access to five bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement affirmed by the Supreme Court.
If war breaks out between China and the US, even over flashpoints not involving our nation, there would likely be attacks on American forces in the country, plus the Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Cagayan de Oro, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija bases they would use.
Duterte’s willingness to talk with China can reduce future war risks due to the EDCA and growing frictions pitting Beijing against Washington and Tokyo.
These dangers of escalating crime and drugs, terrorist and rebel violence, and war in Asia could be devastating to the people and the Church. And the eruption of violence and conflict, including drug killings, would lead many souls to grave sin, then send them to their Maker without repentance.
Consecrated to and saved by Mary
The good news is our Blessed Mother may have been moving to protect the country whose patroness she is, especially after Catholic bishops consecrated the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in June 2013.
Since then, events have transpired to address the triple threats. All three emerged under then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd, and right after the consecration, his clout suffered one big hit after another.
The following month, the pork barrel scandal erupted, along the Metro Rail Transit scam.
The illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) made headlines in August.
Then came the Zamboanga siege in September, the Bohol earthquake in October, and Supertyphoon Hainan in November — all exposing Aquino’s governance failings. And at year’s end, the High Court unanimously declared pork barrel unconstitutional.
2014 seemed to show gains for Aquino, with the Bangsamoro pact and the EDCA signed. But his re-election moves failed, and the Supreme Court voided the DAP.
Then in January 2015, the Mamasapano massacre plunged his ratings to their lowest. He recovered later in the year, but that didn’t help his chosen successor Mar Roxas.
So instead of another Liberal Party regime staying the course that spawned the triple threats, a new adminstration is decimating crooks who flourished under Aquino, though its methods grossly violate the Fifth Commandment.
Duterte is also renegotiating peace with Muslim rebels sans constitutional infirmities, and reaching out to communists, too. And instead of parroting Washington’s adversarial
stance, he has sent former President Fidel Ramos to ease tensions with Beijing.
If all that is part of God’s plan, much as the drug killings break His law, it’s not His first intervention to save the nation.
Three decades ago, the Philippine Church declared 1985 a Marian year, the only national congregation to heed Pope Saint John Paul II’s call to do so. Soon after the special year ended in December, then-President Ferdinand Marcos called snap elections. Two months later his cruel and corrupt dictatorship ended in a miraculous bloodless uprising.
May the consecration of our motherland to the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother similarly lift the perils of crime, drugs, violence, and war facing our nation. Amen.