I NEARLY fell out of my seat when I read Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ Lenten message. Villegas is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which posted his message in its website – dramatically titled “Meditation”.
What kind of Church leaders do we have now in someone like Villegas? Political partisans exploiting the name of God, and lusting to be the country’s second Cardinal Sin, who had a glorious crucial role in the EDSA revolt that toppled a dictator?
The title of Villegas’ meditation is shocking enough: “Edgar and Art and God’s Mercy.”
Who is Edgar? He’s Edgar Matobato, an admitted hit man, whom the Yellow Cult or probably just Senator Antonio Trillanes IV got to testify in the Senate last October not really to seek justice, but to portray in the most vivid way that President Duterte was a ruthless killer who organized the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that murdered innocent people in that city in the 1980s.
Who is Art? He is Arthur Lascañas, worse than Matobato as he was an officer of the law, a police sergeant. “Just our low-level killer we contracted at times,” Lascañas even denigrated Matobato. Lascañas in contrast was a middle-level DDS leader, who ordered men under him to kill, and who by his own admission, himself killed some 300 human beings.
That puts him in that very small group of serial killers in the modern world with that many people murdered. Matobato obviously is the Phase 2 of the Yellow Cult’s program to demonize Duterte.
How can Villegas be so naïve or gullible as to assume that these two killers repented for killing so many people? I watched so many of the TV interviews of these two killers, and endured so many hours of their testimony: Did they ever shed a tear, or become misty-eyed over their victims? Absolutely not.
Lascañas testified that he stopped killing people, not because he sympathized with his victims or their relatives, but because the Devil visited him in his dreams – which means he was simply afraid of some killer more powerful than he. (Villegas claims though that the Devil actually appeared to him.)
Killed two brothers
Ordinary people would cry and even sob uncontrollably if they had gone through and told the kind of tale that Lascañas told—that he ordered his two brothers killed because they refused to stop their involvement in illegal drugs. Lascañas, however, boasted about it, claiming that he was such a loyal member of the DDS that he did it.
Yet Villegas makes up things to portray Matobato and Lascañas as encountering God after going through their “dark nights of the soul” and repented. I very strongly suspect that Villegas plagiarized from some Catholic book on some saint, when he wrote: “Lascañas saw his life in a flash. He saw the whole mural of his life painted with the innocent blood of his victims… He was quiet and dumbfounded; speechless for days.” What garbage.
Why, even Lascañas had some respect for the truth that he didn’t even attempt to narrate that such a dramatic conversion happened to him: He simply said he had a “spiritual renewal,” a term that had obviously been fed to him to say.
Like a telenovela writer, Villegas wrote of Lascañas: “He did not give up. He returned to his knees and sobbed tears of shame and guilt. He heard a voice again ‘Do you love me? Feed my people. Feed them the food of truth. Set my people free. I will wait,’ the Lord assured Art.”
Villegas didn’t even consider the possibility, given the apparently good financial situation of the two killers, that the Liberal Party or just Trillanes may have paid them a fortune to blacken Duterte’s image, probably explaining to them that they could trigger an EDSA kind of revolution?
Villegas didn’t even consider that the institution with more expertise on worldly affairs—the Senate committee that heard the testimony of the two killers—concluded that they were liars.
The Lenten season commemorates Catholicism’s core teaching of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, an event really more mind-boggling than the Big Bang, when God entered Human History. Therefore, Lenten messages are supposed to be about transcendental ideas—who we are, our mortality, our relationship with the Infinite.
Degrades the Infinite
Yet Villegas degrades this commemoration of the Infinite to the mud of politics, about how bad this very temporary President is. He thinks he is being cute, or hoped his message would land in the newspapers’ front pages by referring to the two killers’ boss as “Superman,” which they had said in the Senate hearings was their code for Duterte.
In the Lenten messages this year of Pope Francis, and those of other Church heads around the world such as the Singapore Archbishop Goh, Brisbane Archbishop Coleridge, Melbourne Archbishop Hart, and Glasgow Archbishop Tartaglia, there is not a single word referring to a current event.
Which is as it should be, as an event as transcendental and cosmic as Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, cannot be dragged down to the mud of ephemeral politics. Doesn’t Villegas know that clerics get involved in politics only in a few Islamic countries, with the term Ayatollah even now connoting something fearful?
Why, for God’s sake, did Villegas do this?
Villegas’ motive is not really to inspire the faithful to have faith in God, to believe that their sins will be forgiven, whatever they are. That is certainly not a problem for most Catholics: it is in fact what makes this religion attractive for them.
Villegas’ motive is to revive in the public mind the testimonies of the two killers and to believe their allegations against Duterte, which have all been dismissed and forgotten, with the prevailing view being that these two are merely Trillanes’ paid minions.
Jesus Christ himself, Villegas claims, have forgiven them: “On the charge sheet for the sins of Edgar and Art, Jesus had stamped in clear words “PAID”. Therefore, believe their testimonies.
He even implies that these two murderers will go to heaven: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” So, Villegas thinks that Matobato and Lascañas are better human beings than us who have never snuffed out a human life? Bullshit.
Why is Villegas doing this? The only reason I can think of: For vainglory. In his mind, he is the political heir of Jaime Cardinal Sin, since nobody was as close to the Hero of EDSA as he.
Villegas was for 25 years the personal secretary of Sin, who intervened actively in politics in the 1980s for the emergence and victory of the EDSA revolt that overthrew the dictator Marcos. Villegas was disheartened when instead of the prime post of Manila, Pope Francis assigned him instead in 2009 to the provinces, as Archbishop of Dagupan-Pangasinan, far from the center of politics in the country. His hopes of being the new Cardinal Sin were, however, revived when he was elected CBCP president in 2013, a post his mentor had occupied in the years leading up to the EDSA uprising.
In his egotism, Villegas believes he is the Sin of this period, which requires him though to lead such a glorious event similar to EDSA that his idol did—like the overthrow of Duterte through some People Power kind of revolt. Like the Liberal Party, Leni Robredo, and Trillanes, Villegas thinks that the controversy over extra-judicial killings and the supposedly explosive revelations of the two killers would trigger such an EDSA.
Truth—and Lenten messages—are the casualties in such ambition and in such plots.