Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always. … the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
— The Gospel of Saint John, 14:15-16, 26
JUDGING from their pronouncements before last week’s polls, Catholic prelates might not see much of the Holy Spirit in the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President.
How in heaven could the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity be instrumental in the triumph of “one whose thoughts, speech and demeanor are diametrically opposed to the demands of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” God’s Second Person, to quote the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines?
On the other hand, as the saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines.
Is there divine inspiration in the nation’s choice of Davao’s gun-toting, rapid-cussing mayor as the next President? Let’s go figure.
As the above Sunday mass reading says, the Holy Spirit reminds the faithful of all that Jesus Christ conveyed in His teachings and His life, death and resurrection. Those messages are summed up in one declaration about Himself, His mission, and His gift to the world, from the Gospel of Saint John, 11 verses before the above lines:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As expounded in volumes of theology and exegesis, Jesus affirmed that He alone brings salvation—faith in Him and fidelity to His way of thinking, living and loving.
Christ’s coming to earth and His preaching, acts and sacrifice also convey the fundamental truth about the universe: everything is created, sustained and loved by God, Who sent His Son to bring all creation to perfection in Him.
Finally, Jesus Christ is the primal source and ultimate end—Alpha and Omega—of all that are. We exist through Him as the creative Word of God, and our final goal is eternal life with Him, through Him and in Him.
Okay, so what has all that to do with Mr. Duterte going from maybe candidate to landslide victor in the elections. Well, as the Lord said, come along and see.
The ugly truth
If the Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ’s message as The Way, The Truth and The Life, perhaps those inspired words can help us divine what the Spirit may be hinting in the polls.
First, the truth. Public and media have largely swallowed the line that President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration has been a resounding success in its avowed goals of fighting corruption and alleviating poverty. Indeed, its presidential and vice-presidential candidates, banking on Daang Matuwid’s appeal, even added those words to their names in the ballot.
But the Duterte landslide belies the claims of Aquino-era gains; so does the strong showing of Sen. Bongbong Marcos in the VP race marred by cheating allegations (see Rigoberto Tiglao’s column yesterday, at http://www.manilatimes.net/plan-b-yellows-throw-roxas-under-the-bus-again-so-robredo-becomes-vp/261705/).
“Duterte’s win is an indictment of the administration’s failure,” said a key figure in the mayor’s camp. For while economic growth has accelerated since 2010, helped by the preceding decade of unbroken expansion, public works, and fiscal reform, millions of Filipinos reaped nil palpable benefits, with poverty hardly changed, crime and smuggling at record levels, and ordinary folk burdened by sleaze at the capital’s trains and airport.
Thus, the Descent of the Holy Spirit celebrated in churches today may have also happened in our land this past week, with Duterte’s victory making plain the ugly truth: For all the hype about Daang Matuwid, things have not improved much for the poor, and they have gotten worse for millions hurt by crime, drugs and graft.
Losing the way
What about the way? Well, as CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas rightly laments after Duterte called Pope Francis’s mother a whore in anger over the horrendous traffic during the papal visit, “When a revered and loved and admired man like Pope Francis is cursed by a political candidate and the audience laugh, I can only bow my head and grieve in great shame. My countrymen have gone to the dregs.”
Amen, Your Grace, many of us faithful have indeed lost Christ’s way in our thinking, living and laughing. That may be the second election message from the Holy Spirit: Asia’s Christian-majority nation has lost sight of the very basic Christian tenets, to the point that we can laugh about cussing the Holy Father and wishing to be first in line to rape a missionary violated and killed in a prison riot.
Worse, 15 million-plus elected a leader “who has openly declared indifference if not dislike and disregard for the Church specially her moral teachings,” as the CBCP admonished.
Never mind disdain for the Sixth Commandment. It is the Fifth that Duterte’s methods may wantonly break, with 1,424 deaths allegedly at the hands of the so-called Davao Death Squad, and his threat of 100,000 hoods dumped into Manila Bay.
Some excuse off-color cheers as part of rowdy politicking; others blame the tripling of crimes to more than a million a year for the public’s applause for extreme measures violating Christian teachings.
Still, the Church and other moral authorities must admit failure in instilling in believers fundamental values and tenets upholding life, marriage, and respect for sacred personages and institutions.
The last message about life is partly in the Spirit’s warning that millions of us may have been departing from Christ’s way of upholding life above all.
Besides that, the Spirit cannot but remind us always that Christ is the sole source and end of life and all that makes it good.
So when things start going less divine than many hoped while shading their ballots, the Spirit reminds us that it was not Jesus we voted for.
If we want life in its fullness, it is He who must rule us. Amen.