It’s not madness which turns the world around; it is conscience.
Slowly, but surely, as if it were an epiphany, the holiday season makes manifest that we Filipinos are not comfortable living in a war zone or killing field. Consider:
1. Ambassador-designate Teodoro “Teddy boy” Locsin called the other day for an end to the drug killings and the withdrawal of the dreadful death penalty bill in Congress. This is quintessential Teddyboy, if I may say so (he and and I once worked together in a daily newspaper, he as publisher and me as chief editor). In any burning public issue, the time always comes, when TB sees things with what is called “moral clarity.”
2. At the 81st anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines ( AFP), even the supreme commander of the drug war, President Duterte, told all 125,000 of our men and women in uniform to respect human rights and the rule of law. He said: “As you observe this momentous occasion, may you all be reminded of your pivotal role in ensuring and sustaining the operational readiness of your units while being prudent so that your actions would strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, human rights and the rule of law.”
3. On the law and order front, at the camp of the Philippine National Police, which has 160,000 in uniform, PNP Director-General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa was suddenly moved to ask forgiveness for himself and the police corps for the killings perpetrated in the drug war by his men. He was immediately and ironically denounced by one Catholic bishop for asking to be forgiven without promising to stop the killings and make amends.
4. Even the defense of the President and the drug war put up by the Cabinet and spokesmen seem part of the tidings of the season because of their inanity. Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. slammed the call of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner for Duterte’s investigation for murder, saying that DU30’s deadly acts occurred during law enforcement operations.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella declared: “It has been under scrutiny in the past, but it has already been addressed as far as we know.” The communications secretary mercifully spared us from another nonsensical statement.
5. It’s the women who are expressing alarm about what is happening. My wife tells me about stories being told by friends and classmates, regarding how our neighborhood barangays are being harnessed for the drug war. In some neighborhoods, residents are being called to attend meetings with barangay officials and police in attendance. They are asked to sign papers attesting presumably to their innocence of drug use and drug dealing.
The inner voice of conscience
It is when conscience comes into play that I sense the tide will truly turn against the drug war. For this is the point where the rubber will meet the road.
Conscience is the aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists us in distinguishing right from wrong. Moral judgment may derive from values or norms (principles and rules). In psychological terms conscience is often described as leading to feelings of remorse when individuals commit actions that go against their moral values and to feelings of rectitude or integrity when actions conform to such norms.
Religion likewise has a major role here. Religious views of conscience see it as linked to a morality inherent in all human beings, to a beneficent universe and to divinity. Common secular or scientific views regard the capacity for conscience as probably genetically determined, as something probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.
In popular speech, we use metaphors for conscience, such as “the voice within,” or the “inner light.” Socrates said he heard the inner voice mainly whenever he was about to make a mistake.
Finally, conscience is a major concept in national and international law. It is increasingly conceived of as applying to the world as a whole, has motivated numerous notable acts for the public good, and has been the subject of many prominent examples in literature, music and film.
It is striking that the major awards of international human rights organizations speak of acts of conscience.
I surmise that Abraham Lincoln was talking of conscience when he spoke of “The better angels of our nature” in the midst of civil war.
When we allow these better angels and conscience to wash over us while looking at all the killings and the drug war, I feel confident that our people and our country will find their way and their footing once again.
Filipinos as bamboo dancers
Foreigners have endlessly been fascinated by the national dance, the “tinikling” or bamboo dance.
They marvel at how adeptly our people (male and female) can dance it, with total unconcern about having their ankles and their feet caught and crushed by the bamboos.
The dance inversely has been seen as a metaphor for some of our failings as a people – be it flightiness, obliviousness, carelessness, or superficiality.
The identification of Filipinos with tinikling suggests in this instance that as a people we are adept in tiptoeing around the toughest public issues and problems, and walling off harsh realities.
This is clearly manifest in public attitudes toward the drug war, which have swung from wild approval to serious alarm.
As the victims have mounted, and as DU30’s speech has gotten more unhinged and beyond his control, people are taking count of the bodies and evaluating the justification for all the vituperation and expletives.
They are asking: Is this really how we want to present our country and our people to the world?
Who is the politician or public official today – be he House speaker or Senate president – who will speak on record that he favors the extermination of drug suspects in the country?
Who will man the ramparts of the drug war alongside DU 30 and say or execute the word “kill”?