The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.
— “The Second Coming,” W.B. Yeats
With the Iglesia ni Cristo deciding to support an admitted killer, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the Catholic Church and the El Shaddai charismatic group are the remaining big religious organizations that in these gloomy, confusing times could raise aloft the torch of reverence for human life. But they have to take a stronger unequivocal stand.
I am certainly a firm believer of the Constitutional tenet on the separation of State and Church. And I understand the dismay of some Sunday-mass goers over the officiating priest’s use of his pulpit to send a message, implicit or not, on which candidate the faithful should vote for.
But these are extraordinary times, and our moral compass has been lost, buried in the dirt of political warfare. Mob frenzy has broken out, making Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte the leading presidential candidate in the end. He has tapped the masses’ deep anger toward President Aquino, the exemplar of the hacendero class, and their simmering resentment against Philippine elite rule. The masses had wanted to lynch Aquino but couldn’t, and because he’s stepping down, anyway, they have instead carried the Davao Death Squad brains on their shoulders thinking they could rush to put him on the throne which Aquino is vacating.
And this is a country of unscrupulous opportunists, who would ally even with the devil, if he is popular, to remain or get into a position of power. Sad to say, even the leadership of the Iglesia ni Cristo had chosen to join the tide. Why would they support Duterte when he has demonstrated and announced his lack of reverence for life, his disregard for the rule of law, which goes against the basic tenets of Christianity?
Can’t they see that Duterte’s spiritual adviser is the cult leader, and apparently a billionaire, Apollo Quiboloy, who claims he is not just God’s sugo (messenger), but the Anointed Son of God himself?
While Duterte has captured the masses’ imagination, we cannot close our eyes to what he stands for, and we do have basic, cherished values we cannot jettison just because the masses at this political moment see him as their savior.
Never ever in our history, and even in the histories of civilized nations on earth, has there been the likes of a presidential candidate like Duterte, who boasts of killing suspected criminals with his own hands, who espouses vigilantism, and even treats corpses of suspected criminals as garbage to be disposed of quickly (“I told them to just dig a hole and bury all of them there,” he said in a speech, referring to the 16 convicts killed in the 1989 Davao hostage crisis.).
Other past so-called strong leaders in Asia had presided over mass killings of those perceived to be enemies of the state. But never ever did they brag that they themselves did the killings, nor even that they ordered such killings. When Marcos imposed Martial Law, he never announced that he was suspending the rule of law and due process, and ordering the military to kill criminals where they were found, as Duterte is espousing.
After all, we are a civilized society bonded by certain principles and values, among them, that no man has the right to take the life of another. Only in the past two decades have most nations on earth arrived at a consensus that not even the State can take the life of a human being, not even one who is convicted of the most heinous crime through a rigorous process of law.
We, Filipinos, have agreed to bond as a nation, the provisions of such agreement are contained in a document we call the Constitution. And among those provisions are: * Article II, Section 11: The State values the dignity of every person and guarantees full respect for human rights.
* Article III (Bill of Rights), Section 1: No person shall be deprived of life . . . without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
* Article III Section 11: Free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty.
* Article III Section 14. No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.
If Duterte becomes President, will he – or his audience – be smirking when after swearing by the Bible to take the presidential oath, he declares that he will “preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man”?
Do justice to every man, even suspected criminals?
For the first time ever in our history, a candidate for the presidency has declared that he does not believe in such Bill of Rights, even absurdly arguing: “Ano ang mawawala sa Pilipinas kung pagpapatayin ko lahat ng kriminal?” (“What would the Philippines lose if I killed all the criminals in this country?” (Another first time for any political leader, here or abroad to say in a speech, “Pu—ina mo Pope, umuwi ka na.”)
It is obviously beyond Duterte’s limited frontier world of Davao and beyond his comprehension that what we shall lose is not just the basic foundation of our society, the rule of law, but our very humanity. Not even crackpots who tried to run for president – “Intergalactic Earth Ambassador” Allan Carreon and “Archangel Lucifer” Nid Anima – boasted that they reject such principles.
What has happened to our country that even some of our educated elite, even veteran journalists, a few in a frenzy themselves over Duterte, those who go to Mass every day, cannot see that the Davao mayor doesn’t share our values as a nation, as Christians, or even as civilized human beings?
They don’t even try to find out: Who will the Cabinet members be if Duterte gets the mandate to run the government? In their feverish elevation of Duterte as the country’s messiah, did it not cross their minds that oligarchs from Mindanao are behind him?
A few have responded to me by claiming that I take Duterte’s statements too seriously, that he will adhere to the rule of law when he becomes President.
So he is just lying, playing to the crowd when he boasts that he directed the so-called “Davao Death Squad,” that he is responsible for more than 1,424 extrajudicial killings in Davao from 1998 to 2015, of whom 57 were women? Would Duterte have roused such a mob frenzy if he merely promised to fight crime with all the legal powers he could wield?
It is such an indictment of the opportunism of our elites that, because Duterte has maintained his lead in voter-preference surveys, they have declared their support for the Davao city mayor, and joined the mob in praising him as the leader that would turn around the country, even when they knew in their hearts that the man did not have the qualities of leadership to do so.
In any other civilized nations on earth, the elites are not only the economic-political elite but are the defenders of the cherished, basic values of their countries. These are the people who would have quickly declared Duterte as unfit to run for office because his values conflict with the nation he wants to lead. Obviously not so in this pathetic country.
In any other civilized nation on earth, there are repositories for those societies’ values – the mass media, the academe, NGOS, as well as industry and professional associations – who would not have hesitated to condemn a Duterte. Obviously not so in this country.
That leaves us with the Catholic Church, as well as the other Christian churches and religious movements, such as El Shaddai, excluding of course, the Iglesia ni Cristo.
Indeed, despite its basic reactionary character, and being an organization that has historically supported the oligarchy, the Catholic Church in 1986 maintained its moral compass, and called on its members, not to overthrow Marcos, but to revere life in the midst of political storm, and to do so, to assemble around Camp Crame to discourage Marcos’ military machines from taking lives.
Will this church sit idly by, and make only timid protests, as Duterte, who rejects the most basic Christian tenets and the core values of society, assume power?
If it doesn’t take a stronger stand against Duterte despite his popularity, the church will be abdicating its very reason for existence. It would be such a leap backward if the Right Wing, the reactionary military, and the oligarchs were the ones who acted to stop Duterte.
Aquino has made Filipinos desperate, so anguished that he and his candidate, Mar Roxas, has created the Duterte phenomenon. But perhaps once is enough. After suffering this regime as led by an incompetent megalomaniac, we as a nation may perhaps no longer be able to endure another megalomaniac, especially a violent one.
The feeling of déjà vu is unmistakable. The mob adulation of Duterte is the same kind of frenzy in 2010 over what the masses thought was their savior, the Son of the Queen of Democracy. Earlier, in 1998, the mob was for Erap Para sa Mahirap. Both of them had voter-preference ratings topping 45 percent, higher than their counterpart today, who has garnered a high of only 33 percent.