THERE is every reason to shout to the skies that a dog had been killed and cooked for a film that was meant to compete at the current Manila Film Festival. But there is greater reason to be outraged that there has been no similar outcry over the unhindered extra-judicial killings of drug suspects who, in the language of The New York Times, were being slaughtered like animals.
Not even after the recent two-and-a-half-pages spread of graphic photos of the killings in the Times. Not even after a town mayor was brutally killed inside his detention cell at four o’clockin the morning while supposedly resisting the service of a search warrant, and President Rodrigo Duterte declared that no policemen would go to jail for taking part in what the National Bureau of Investigation had called a “rubout.”
How many suspected drug users and pushers had been killed while the dog was being butchered for food and eaten on the set is worth asking. But the real question is, at what point will those who swoon whenever Bato de la Rosa strikes against these lower forms of life stamp their feet or clench their fists and shout, “Enough”? When will the killings finally stop?
Some bishops, religious congregations, Catholic parishes and universities have begun to speak out. These are drowned by DU30’s online trolls who have come to replace honest and intelligent debate with garbage. When will the Church and the nation as a whole find the courage to speak up? When the very dignity of the human person as the image of God is at stake, the Church must speak up, not as a political lobby group, but as the Church, whose authority and power and word come from God.
In search of courage
We have not always been such a cowardly people. But what happened to us? We fought the Spaniards before the Indonesians fought the Dutch, before the Indians fought the British. In Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, during the Philippine-American war, we dealt the US Army its worst defeat since the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Together with the American forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who returned to the Philippines on Oct. 20, 1944, we drove the Japanese away after we survived all these atrocities, the treason of collaborators, the shame of comfort women, the infamous Death March.
On Feb. 13, 1986—less than a week after the Feb. 7, 1986 snap presidential elections—-the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines under the presidency of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of Cebu issued the statement titled “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” It said, among others, the following:
“The people have spoken. Or have tried to. Despite the obstacles thrown in the way of their speaking freely, we, the bishops, believe that on the basis of our assessment, as pastors, of the recently concluded polls, what they attempted to say is clear enough:
“In our considered judgment, the polls were unparalleled in the fraudulence of their conduct. And we condemn especially the following modes of fraudulence and irregularities: (A long enumeration follows.) …
“According to moral principles, a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis. For such an access to power is tantamount to a forcible seizure and cannot command the allegiance of the citizenry. The most we can say then, about such a government is that it is a government in possession of power. But admitting that, we hasten to add: Because of that very fact, that same government itself has the obligation to right the wrong it is founded on. It must respect the mandate of the people. This is the precondition for any reconciliation.
“If such a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our moral obligation as a people to make it do so.
“We are not going to effect the change we seek by doing nothing, by sheer apathy. If we did nothing, we would be party to our own destruction as a people. We would be jointly guilty with the perpetrators of the wrong we want righted.
“Neither do we advocate a bloody, violent means of righting this wrong. If we did, we could be sanctioning the enormous sin of fratricidal strife. Killing to achieve justice is not within the purview of our Christian vision in our present conduct.
“The way indicated to us now is the way of nonviolent struggle for justice.
“This means active resistance of evil by peaceful means–in the name of Christ. And its end for now is that the will of the people be done through ways and means proper to the Gospel.”
This provided the moral basis of the 1986 EDSA Revolt.
How did we become cowards?
How did President Rodrigo Duterte turn us into a nation of weaklings and cowards, who hypocritically praise what we despise? In the eyes of the Western media, which Pravda and the Chinese counterpart of Time magazine are trying to balance in DU30’s favor, over 100 million Filipinos have fallen under the thumb of a dictator who has suppressed democracy, subverted the rule of law, made a mockery of human rights, and proclaimed himself better than God.
The story is known to all. But it is the foreign press that is telling our own people and the outside world about it, while our own media establishments choose to keep the narrative a tightly guarded secret. They would rather create a portable altar where they burn incense to their false god and drown him in political praise. The most passionate panegyrists try to overwhelm him with the most saucy sophistry and fallacious speeches, while taking care not to brush against any first principles or sacred text.
I am not talking here of a President who is perceived to have stolen the election—-there has since emerged a counterclaim that the unparalleled fraudulence attributed to Marcos in 1986 was, in fact, perpetrated by anti-Marcos operatives and made to appear as the handiwork of Marcos. I am talking here of a President who was elected by 38 percent of the voters, but who has in six months covered the nation with the blood and corpses of drug suspects executed without due process, and wrought unparalleled violence in a time of peace. Some columnists and editorial writers call him a “good President.”
An improbable blueprint
Not many days ago, The Manila Times floated a story, signed by no less than its chairman emeritus, Dr. Dante A. Ang, from Lisbon, about an alleged blueprint for DU30’s ouster in the next 18 months. The alleged document was attributed to the recently departed US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg. Goldberg recently left his post without any love lost for DU30, who had called him a “gay sonofabitch” after calling Barack Obama “son of a whore.” Based on the quotes from the alleged report, I thought that if Goldberg had indeed written it, it was probably an end-post report, which contained a forecast of the next 18 months, and a recommendation that the US play hardball against DU30.
I could not find any basis for calling it a blueprint for a coup, though. Not that I find the State Department incapable of such mischief, but simply because I thought it was rather naive that an alleged ouster plan would be written up in such wordy prose. If the US were to oust DU30, as alleged, I don’t believe they would discuss it in a memo of this type. It would probably be discussed in a top-secret, top-level meeting somewhere in the US, rather than along Roxas Boulevard, with a minimum of written text. Moreover, with Goldberg gone, Ambassador Sung Kim, is in charge, a Korean-American career diplomat, who seems determined and prepared to do a good job of mending frayed ties. Malacañang should be watching him rather than Goldberg, wherever he is.
What the past tells us
Over the years, through periods of domestic instability and discontent, especially during the Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo years, some people had tried to talk to US officials in Washington to help effect an urgent regime change in the Philippines. I have spoken to some of these people. And they uniformly expressed disappointment that instead of being sympathetic, the US officials uniformly told them not to drag the US government into their own problems. I don’t believe this policy or posture has changed.
Ironically, because of DU30’s increasingly despotic behavior, more and more people seem to be hoping and praying the US would somehow intervene. You hear them in coffee shops and in board rooms. They are generally naive and wishful. But even without any official foreign intervention, the international media are trying to do to DU30 what no foreign government seems inclined to do. They have become more power-driven than some governments. They run the infowars, which seem more lethal than many shooting wars. They ran much of the Arab Spring, and at this point they have made DU30 the staple of their editorial concern.
A self-confessed killer, who claims to be a former member of the notorious “Davao Death Squad,” whose story had earlier failed to sell in the Senate and in the pro-DU30 media, is now all over the foreign media and their local extension talking of how he saw DU30 execute criminals when he was still mayor of Davao City. And one Western newspaper after another throw in a caustic editorial, virtually calling DU30 a killer who should be behind bars instead of running a government or a war on drugs.
A great diversion
With every passing day, it seems to become much clearer that DU30’s war on drugs is meant to divert the nation’s attention from a much more sinister objective–the intended communization of the state through a communist-driven Revolutionary Government, the making of which DU30 has put in the hands of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., his communist-in-chief. The unhindered extra-judicial killings are but the first instruments of terror meant to silence any opposition to his descent into dictatorship. This begins with the act of making the police and the state the first instruments of death. The unthinking and the naive have welcomed the killings because they have, according to them, brought peace. Tacitus said it best, “they made a desert and called it peace.”
The communist option is DU30’s first weapon against any attempt by the Liberal Party or any local or external actor to topple his government. With the proposed RG in place, supported by a number of foreign communist parties, the line of constitutional succession is extinguished, and any attempt by any outside power to insert a new leadership risks a genuine civil war or some nasty armed conflict. But this does not define the full extent of our crisis.
The nation and the Church, above all, must see that DU30 has confected not only a political problem of the first magnitude, but above all a human problem that puts the human person and the human condition at the heart of our crisis. What Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (the future St. John Paul II) told the French Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac in 1968—-that a “degradation, indeed a pulverization, of the uniqueness of each human person” was the root of the 20th century’s grim record—-is now at the root of DU30’s own record.
We need what George Weigel calls “a theologically driven optic on the human condition” to see the human person, and the human condition, in their vast fullness. Without it, we shall forever miss the point, and continue to believe that we are confronted merely with a crisis of politics and politicians, when we actually face not just a human crisis, but a “crisis of saints.”