I am sad that the cherished Filipino values maka-Diyos, makatao and makabayan [Godliness, humaneness, and patriotism] are slowly eroding to be replaced by an open license for cuss words, orchestrated lies, and vulgarity never heard before. …I am in this endless grief at the killings I have seen and heard. The well is running dry and I can no longer give a word of condolence to the bereaved families because I also need to be assured even a bit that things will get better and not become worse even more. — CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Like many devout Catholics and other upright Filipinos, this writer cannot but agree with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas in his statement on the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary last Friday.
In our July 10 column, “Thou shalt not kill — not even drug lords,” when the body count was not many more than 100, we urged: “Let us not silence our moral perspective, but speak up on the wrongs of denying rights and snuffing out lives. Otherwise, we help propagate the idea feeding lawlessness: that inviolable commandments, tenets and values can be violated for the ‘right’ reasons.”
Still, one has a couple of rejoinders to the good archbishop. First, while cuss words and vulgarity in public affairs may be new, orchestrated lies are not.
In the past administration, bishops themselves were victims of falsehood spread by pro-Aquino politicians and media working in tandem, along with public figures disdained by then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd, such as the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Remember the so-called “Pajero bishops,” falsely accused of receiving luxury SUVs from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, when in fact they bought vehicles for social work? And worse, President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself wrongly accusing prelates of keeping silent about his predecessor’s supposed excesses, right in Pope Francis’s face.
The forgotten victims of crime and drugs
A second caveat is the failing of most, if not all, criticisms of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign: little or no mention of and distress over the many millions of Filipinos, mostly the poor unprotected by security guards, victimized in the syndicate-driven tripling of crime under Aquino to more than one million incidents a year.
As shown in the Philippine Statistics Authority’s annual data book <https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2015%20PIF.pdf>, crime incidents tripled to more than one million a year in 2013 and 2014, from 324,083 incidents in 2010, which was down from over 500,000 in 2009. (The figures seemed to show improvement in 2011-12, until 2013 statistics were corrected after police chiefs were caught fudging data.)
Plainly, one’s moral judgment on the anti-drug killings may be skewed without fully acknowledging the magnitude of the crime problem. It would be like lambasting soldiers for widespread deaths without mentioning that the country is being invaded.
And what millions of Filipinos are suffering from the crime and drugs explosion is far greater than even an invasion. In the last three years alone, more than three million crimes have been tallied, with countless more unreported.
At a conservative estimate of 1.5 victims per crime, that’s about five million Filipinos killed, raped, robbed, assaulted, or otherwise violated. Add the million of drug addicts, plus people close to crime and narcotics victims — more than 30 million of them, assuming just five family and friends per drug addict or crime victim.
Surely, the sufferings of those tens of millions of innocents are at least as deserving of compassion and moral indignation as the 3,700-plus drug offenders reportedly killed in the anti-narcotics campaign. Those pains include nearly 10,000 murders a year, 12,000 rapes, 60,000 robberies, 170,000 thefts, and a quarter of a million assaults.
Yet hardly anyone, not even Church leaders standing up for the poor, mention the above data or speak lengthily about the sufferings of crime victims. Nor have Congress and media given them much attention. And critics never suggest measures that can cut crime by the 30 percent to 50 percent achieved by the Philippine National Police under Duterte, according to PNP Chief Rolando de la Rosa.
Isn’t this minimal attention given to crime victims a moral failing of some kind?
Duterte critics have rightly pointed out that drug killings have bloodied mainly poor users and pushers, not wealthy, powerful and well-connected narco-lords and their backers in government.
There is certainly an argument for moving more strongly and resolutely against big fish. However, a good number of narco-kings have gone abroad or into hiding as soon as Duterte’s victory was certain in May, so hunting them down is not easy.
More crucially, if the masses of users and pushers remain in place, rounding up drug lords would not stop the selling, sniffing, and shooting of drugs, since other bosses can easily take charge.
Hence, speedily dismantling the trafficking apparatus and drastically slashing drug demand are imperative to stop the illegal trade. Now, with hundreds of thousands of users and pushers off the streets, including more than 600,000 surrendered or arrested — 160 times the 3,700 killed — drug kingpins have lost vast expanses of their empires.
Surely, there is some moral good in this massive reduction in the enslaving drug trade, plus the prevention of 3,000 murders, 4,000 rapes, 20,000 robberies, 50,000 thefts, and 80,000 assaults over one year, based on the 30 percent to 50 percent drop in crime under Duterte.
The need for prayer and penance
Archbishop Villegas devoted the last part of his message to the Holy Rosary, recalling the largely forgotten message of Our Lady in her apparitions at Fatima in Portugal in 1917, a century ago next year.
As Mary urged at Fatima and countless other apparitions, Villegas declared: “Let us fight the confusion and errors, let us resist the attacks of evil by the power of the daily Rosary, the gift of daily Holy Communion and the humble Penance for sins.”
As our law enforcers mount a bloody campaign, with 3,700 casualties and rising, against the greater evil of crime and narcotics destroying millions of lives, Filipinos must atone for all these grave transgressions and pray for God’s mercy and redeeming grace.
We have truly gone astray, and we need to be saved.