THE music of Christmas fills the air, and the nine-daydawn masses are about to end. But as the day itself nears, a young mentee who reads almost every potboiler I write asked me how he could keep his Catholic Christian faith while trying to live with the excesses of President Rodrigo Duterte. My initial response was to say that he should live his life primarily as a man, according to his relationship with God and his neighbors, rather than primarily as a political creature who derives his meaning or lack thereof from the running headlines created by DU30. He should put God in charge and in control.
Should it matter if we had a government that curses the Pope and the bishops and apparently does not believe in God? I said it shouldn’t. What’s important is that if one believes in God, one should remain firm and constant in one’s belief, and should be prepared to pay the price, any price, for it. We all need God, even if He doesn’t need us. Even the anti-Catholic Francois-Marie Arouet, famously known as Voltaire, said so. If God did not exist, he said, assuming he indeed said it, He would have had to be invented.
Aaron’s bacchanalian crowd could not wait any longer for Moses to come down from the mountain, so they chose to fashion their own molten calf. Certain monarchs and emperors, too lazy and demented to create their own gods, simply made themselves gods. Men always had a desperate need and longing for God, even if all they knew, before God revealed himself, was a false god.
St. Thomas Aquinas has demonstrated beyond doubt the existence of God in five different ways, so no rational and reasoning mind needs to fabricate its own God. God exists, and is the source of all earthly existence. But supposing man himself did not exist? Voltaire did not speculate on it, but who would have wanted man invented? The angels in Heaven? The fishes of the sea? The animals of the forest?
God created man, without any need for him to take possession of the rest of his creation, purely out of divine love. This supernatural truth offends the spirit of our age. But we must hold on to it, we cannot afford to lose it.
Aristotle was wrong
Aristotle said man is the measure of all things. He was one of antiquity’s greatest philosophers, but he was regrettably wrong. God, not man, is the measure of all things. We are never parted from this truth, but it comes most alive and evident to many of us, Catholic Christians, at Christmas and Eastertide.
The story of the Virgin birth and God made man rises to its climax when the Savior of mankind dies for the sins of fallen man and rises again; this transforms our mundane lives into the most awesome work of God. From his fallman has risen to pick up the pieces, and from the mosaic of imperfect lives God has raised so many saints.
But the struggle is far from won. From God’s preeminent defenders rose the first dissident. The shattering cry “I will not serve” came not from the least but from the brightest of the angels, and his defeat in the hands of St. Michael did not prevent him from reappearing in the desert eons later to tempt the Lord himself.
In our time, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who would eventually become Pope Pius XII, was said to have warned against the day “when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted.” In 1972, Pope Paul VI was reported to have expressed fear that the “smoke of Satan” had entered fissures within the Church.
And now we have DU30 which our predominantly Catholic Christian country must contend with.
The unhindered killing of suspected drug dealers without due process has created a yawning disconnect between the avowed desire to clean up the country of illegal drugs and the rampant violation of the rule of law and the protection of human rights. A growing number of policemen have since confessed to a crisis of conscience, as their superiors continued to require them to report more killings, to comply with the national directive to “neutralize” illegal drug personalities.
Despite DU30’s official assurances that none of them would go to jail, as dramatically highlighted by the case of those who had killed Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, whom the President later absolved of any criminal liability despite the finding by the National Bureau of Investigation that it was a “rubout,” they have begun to fear not only the legal consequences of their acts, but also the status of their souls.
DU30 and Bato unresponsive
Clearly, the nation’s moral fabric has been shattered. The lowly policemen could feel it in their bones, but neither DU30 nor the highest police officials, starting with Philippine National Police Chief Bato de la Rosa, seem to have any awareness that it is happening now, or has already happened. A couple of days ago, De la Rosa issued a statement asking to be forgiven for the killings, and DU30 said, “sorry for my bad words. I was not disciplined enough by my father and mother.”
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila was quick to denounce De la Rosa for asking to be forgiven, without promising to stop the killings and to make amends. Obviously, De la Rosa had wanted to exploit the spirit of the season, when the Church sings of love, forgiveness and peace. But he completely forgot that forgiveness is normally given to those who show sincere contrition for their sins, do penance for them, and make just restitution for the injury and damage caused by the offender.
Nothing of this was mentioned in De la Rosa’s statement. It was just a press release meant to elicit a worthless newspaper headline. The bishop, therefore, was fully justified in denouncing the PNP chief as a “hypocrite.” He has to make amends if he wants to be forgiven. He must stop the killings.
In DU30’s case, he could not have done worse had he blamed God, the Church and the neighborhood where he grew up, instead of blaming his late father and mother for his wretched behavior. The fourth commandment says, Honor thy father and thy mother. They may not have been perfect parents, but they have no need to turn in their graves just because of their son’s reproach.
Albert Camus once said that after 40, a man should be responsible for the way he looks; and he wasn’t talking of society matrons reconstructing their faces either. He was simply talking of the personality one should project into the public domain. This means that at 71, and holding the highest national office, DU30 should be fully responsible for every word he uses and every grimace he makes.
But the issue against DU30 is not just his “bad words.” It is his apparent appetite for killing—-killing criminals and suspected criminals, he says—-which has now covered the nation with corpses, without the benefit of the rule of law and due process. The ignorant, the simple-minded and the bloodthirsty will continue to applaud this, provided none of their relatives and friends are included, and they continue to hear the President say he’s doing it for “reasons of state.”
DU30 should have said sorry for the killings first, before saying sorry for his “bad words.” In the hierarchy of crimes, killing takes precedence over cuss words; “thou shalt not kill” is the fifth commandment.
UN unhelpful statement
From Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZaidRead Al Hussein has issued a statement asking Philippine authorities to investigate DU30 for “murder.” He may or may not be guilty of this crime, but who will determine it? It is rather silly for the UN High Commissioner to call on “Philippine authorities” to investigate the President, who by himself is “the Philippine authorities.” He is in control of the entire apparatus of government. If the UN knows the appropriate tribunal or forum and has the means to carry out the investigation, then it should set in motion the necessary legal process, rather than call on non-functioning local institutions to do it.
But perhaps DU30 is right–even the UN is powerless to do anything about it.
With the Church and religious sector, the legal, civic and professional organizations, the various human rights groups and international media mobilizing to monitor and protest the killings, have we seen the worst of what is to come? Is the Espinosa murder the worst we could possibly expect from this war? I wish I could say yes. But nobody knows.
Even Catanduanes is now part of the traffic
From my own province of Catanduanes, which until this week seemed to be too far away from the drug war, the first killing of a journalist under DU30’s watch was reported the other day—-and it was also related to the drug war. Larry Que, publisher of Catanduanes News Now, was reportedly shot in the head by a still unidentified gunman after writing a column criticizing the local government for failing to prevent and expose the setting up of a shabu laboratory in the province.
I did not have the good fortune of knowing Larry Que well, but I feel a deep affinity with him for professional reasons. As a young working college student, I began my journalism career by running a small provincial newspaper for the island-province, where I had my first brushes with people in power. There were no drug lords or armed insurgents on the island then, only gangsters and goons working for politicians during elections. But they sufficed to test a young man’s courage, stamina and patriotism.
The island-province has not only become part of the drug traffic, it has also claimed its first press martyr. I trust the provincial governor, the PNP Regional Director for Bicol, and the Catanduanes and Bicol clergy and studentry will leave no stone unturned until Larry Que gets the justice he died fighting for.
Have a wonderful and joyous Christmas, it’s the Lord’s gift to all!