Given the events of the last three months, this question becomes particularly compelling for us Filipinos, who are mostly Catholic Christians, as Holy Week begins. In mid-January, six million of us gathered at Manila’s Rizal Park to show Pope Francis our deepest affection as he poured himself out in a great apostolic act of mercy, compassion and hope for the poor. Sin and crime appeared to have fled to some distant corner, overwhelmed by the piety and goodness that one could almost touch. We had become a holy people. And yet before January ended, evil reclaimed its space and threatened to cancel all the goodness that had transformed our God-fearing nation. The Mamasapano massacre and all the official lying about it happened.
How does one explain this apparent disconnect? Is it part of the good to force evil from the depths into the open so that the forces of good may subdue it, as when Christ told the Tempter that even the Devil was supposed to submit to God. Or do good and evil normally alternate, each to its own season, as in Ecclesiastes? This is a matter for deep theological reflection, which I am not competent to handle. But with all my limitations, I would like to venture some practical considerations.
The January 25 massacre of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force commandos, in the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao,while on a lawful mission to “neutralize” three international terrorists believed to be being sheltered by the MILF, with whom the government was supposed to have a ceasefire and a peace agreement, has presented one serious question. How do we respond as a predominantly Catholic Christian nation? Or, put it another way, what kind of response would show that we are, as we claim to be, a truly Catholic Christian nation?
So far we have not responded in this manner. The Aquino government’s response has not shown any Catholic Christian element in it: it has made a mockery of the truth which Jesus our Lord says shall set us free. Whenever the truth is perverted, the Church cannot have several ways of reacting to it. But she has not responded as a Church. Some bishops have responded admirably according to the teaching of the Church, but some others have been rather slow in seeing that justice requires PNoy to answer for his evident and undeniable culpability.
In most civilized countries, as we have pointed out in this space several times before, the death of 44 law enforcers after their intended reinforcement had been ordered to stand down would have prompted the head of government to automatically step down, without waiting for a single widow or orphan to call for it. He would most probably have submitted to a trial under the Articles of War too. And every moral or religious leader worth their salt, whatever their confession, would have supported such “resignation,” as the only right thing to do to help bind the nation’s wounds, and salvage whatever is left of the government’s honor, or the president’s own.
Ironically, the view from one of our most eminent Catholic clerics, while Aquino was being comforted by some Protestant politico-religious leaders in Malacañang, was that there is no need for him to step down to assume even the mere moral responsibility for the tragedy. In his view, the country should simply wait for the 2016 presidential election, without regard to PNoy’s mental condition and the fact that the next election promises to merely replicate the 2010 and 2013 elections, which Smartmatic, the Venezuelan private election provider, conducted on behalf of the Comelec, using the PCOS voting machine after it had been divested of all security features and accuracy mechanisms, contrary to law.
From his “kindred spirit,” as Aquino referred to our episcopal friend during the Pope’s call at Malacañang last January, the beleaguered President received a long-distance episcopal absolution without need of an actual confession, penance or restitution, despite his having made the only unprovoked toxic remark against the Church as a whole and against some unnamed Churchmen during that visit.
That 44 commandos were massacred after they had been denied reinforcement by the commander who did not have to command the operation, is but the first question. The real question, which far outweighs the first, is whether the entire Aquino officialdom, with virtually no exception, needed to tell all those lies just to try to absolve Aquino of any accountability for the massacre. Should the Truth and the honor of the nation be sacrificed for one man’s ego, hubris, megalomania or possible psychological disorder?
This tells us whether or not we have it in ourselves to act as a truly Catholic Christian nation. Lying has never been a Catholic Christian virtue, and Catholics know Satan as “the father of all lies. ” Yet we have allowed ourselves to be “led” (at least in theory) by a pagan “leader” who has lied and encouraged others to lie just to evade criminal responsibility. This has made a complete lie of the Aquino presidency.
But this has not happened overnight; it has its own sordid history.
In 2012, Aquino used the notorious pork barrel system to bribe the corrupt members of Congress not only to impeach and remove the sitting Chief Justice, but also to force the enactment of a constitutionally infirm anti-Catholic Reproductive Health Law that puts the state in control of the procreative faculties of married (and even unmarried) individuals and couples.
Today, Aquino’s puppets in Congress are trying to railroad, without any noteworthy public participation, the backdoor legalization of same-sex “unions” and divorce, and the decriminalization of adultery, while public attention is focused on Mamasapano. One wonders how long will it take, if Aquino stays longer in office, before he calls for the criminalization of virginity, chastity and natural (heterosexual) marriage. Or advances any other heathen proposal meant to offend and scandalize the moral majority. He has taken a madman’s delight in having been able to impose a wretched RH law on all Filipinos, against the Constitution, against their customs and consciences, and against the valid objections of the Catholic Church. And now he relishes telling the nation a new set of reinforced lies each time he speaks about Mamasapano and pins his own accountability on his favored scapegoat.
Upon assuming the presidency, the late Czech playwright Vaclac Havel told his people, “I hope you did not propose me for this office so that I could lie to you. ” Aquino is the exact opposite of that. He lies quite openly. He has made mendacity the defining principle of his rule from Day One. And this has grown to epic proportions with Mamasapano. While refusing the House invitation to appear in its hearing after Easter, he has not hesitated to give public speeches on the same subject where no one could tell him his story just can’t stand.
In fairness to all concerned, no one has accused Aquino of having sent the 44 SAF commandos to Mamasapano purposely to get wiped out. Before the official lies ran out of control, critics simply accused him of having converted a legitimate police operation into a personal adventure, where he took certain officials out of the PNP chain of command and inserted an illegal personality (the suspended PNP chief) in their place, and of having denied reinforcement to the ill-starred commandos. His deed was not as dark as that of King David, who sent Uriah the Hittite to get killed at the front so that he could have the beautiful Bathsheba all to himself upon her husband’s death. But while David repented his unspeakable deed, as Psalm 50 (the Miserere) shows us, Aquino would rather excoriate his chosen scapegoat than apologize to the nation or the victims’ families for his excess.
The attempt to cover up has far exceeded his original offense, as in Richard Nixon’s Watergate, for which the US president was forced to quit, to avoid impeachment.
This does not befit the leader of any country, much less a predominantly Catholic one. Neither does it justify any Catholic Christian cleric or layman simply looking the other way while the most brazen lies are being flung around, all over the place. As the first and final defender of Truth, the Church cannot afford to see the truth being jettisoned in favor of the most terrible lies for the most appalling ends.
The Church needs to make a stand. It is sad that she has not. This cannot be good for anyone. The Church hierarchy must act as one and declare that it cannot continue supporting a government that is built on lies. Unless it did this soon, many might be tempted to believe our nation is not Catholic enough.