WHATEVER happened to the proverbial Christmas spirit? Where has it gone? Before, the blatant commercialism of the holidays could at least mask its absence—materialist dissipation hiding the Yuletide’s dissolution. But nowadays even the merry ringing of cash registers in the vapid shopping malls of the Ayala’s, Sy’s and Gokongwei’s and the insipid gambling cathedrals of the Tan’s, Razon’s and Ho’s cannot conceal the deepening enervation of the spirit. Instead of a merry Christmas, a murderous malaise has set upon us.
Everyday we are treated to the stark news of people killed allegedly for their drug activities and the appalling sight of their brutalized bodies in the dark alleys and byways of urban and rural ghettoes. Reportedly shot down by motorcycle-riding assassins who style themselves as anti-crime vigilantes, the victims and their families have not been given justice, much less their cases given a proper official inquiry by the Philippine National Police. A Senate inquiry into such killings have turned the tables on its probers. Meanwhile the PNP officialdom has not arrested a single assassin. Nor has it disciplined officers and men who have figured in cases that amount to summary executions of drug suspects.
The fact that vigilante killings have taken place under the very noses of the PNP amount to PNP incompetence or corruption, take your pick. But the PNP is not alarmed by such killings; in fact it seems to take a certain satisfaction in them. At least the vigilantes are doing what the PNP has failed to do, either again because of its notorious incompetence or corruption or both, factors that have worsened the drug menace in the first place.
And the PNP couldn’t care less because it is shielded by President Duterte who has practically given it blanket authority to shoot down everyone remotely connected with illegal drugs. He has allowed a double-standard of justice by merely warning police officers involved in drug protection or trade while practically ordering that civilians and non-PNP drug suspects be shot down pronto. To date, no police officer reportedly involved in illegal drugs has been killed, much less charged. Meanwhile critics of the anti-drug campaign are regularly haranged and insulted by the President in his daily afternoon addresses that are exercises in bully-rhetoric and character assassination. On social media, his trolls have been tormenting his critics.
It was Duterte who stole the 2016 election by hedging his candidacy up to the last minute so as to avoid being grilled about his dubious political and personal record, and his shady political, financial backing. Promising “change” during the campaign to an electorate fed up with the children of elite political families and business oligarchies messing up governance, Duterte, himself coming from a political dynasty, stoked middled-class fears about the worsening drug menace and deteriorating peace and order.
A one-platform person, Duterte cannot look beyond—and into—the drug problem as a symptom of a larger malaise in society. To make up for the crudeness of his vision, he has mined the memory of his college days in Manila when he was the student of Communist leader Jose Ma. Sison and obscured his basic political illiteracy by quoting from Joma’s imaginary red (or should it be cherry or fuschia?) book. A largely moribund movement, the communists and their so-called national democratic front have gained a new vitality in recent months, much like bankrupt companies suddenly resurrecting as a result of a fresh infusion of funds by money launderers. While the Communists’ national democrats last election supported Grace Poe, who ironically faced citizenship and naturalization issues, the victory of Duterte has given them a new lease in life. In hindsight they are natural allies: Duterte with his fascist police and the communists with their “people’s army” that they call “new.” There’s nothing new however in all of these. The Nazis were socialists—they were National Socialists. Right or left, both forces rely on the force of arms, not on force of reason. If Duterte has his vigilantes, Joma and the communists have their Sparrow units. Both are fascists, statists, and terrorists.
Not surprisingly Duterte has pushed for the burial of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the national cemetery meant for former presidents, patriots and war heroes. Claiming to have been molested as a kid by a Jesuit father in Davao, he has evinced psychological trauma by conducting himself as a mysoginist, chauvinist, and even warmonger, taking after the example not only of Marcos but of populist strongmen such as Putin of Russia, Edogan of Turkey, and even the communist bosses of totalitarian Communist China. If Marcos’ initial salvo during martial law was the execution of alleged drug baron Lim Seng, Duterte has fashioned his demagoguery as to give complete authority to the state police to shoot down even drug neophytes. Meanwhile like Marcos before declaring martial law, Duterte has talked about emergency powers and suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
Popularity surveys show that Duterte’s tactics are supported by a wide segment of the population. We don’t know if the surveys have been conditioned by the sycophancy of his media partisans, trolls, and leftist supporters. But we are not impressed. Defnitely the Varsitarian is not cowed As Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and the episcopal conference have said, Filipinos should not be intimidated. Therefore the Varsitarian:
- Condemns the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani for being an act of treason against the 1987 Constitution and an act of mockery of the 1986 People Power Revolt.
- Opposes extra-judicial killings of drug suspects. The drug problem is a symptom of a deeper malaise in society that should be addressed by rehabilitative, not punitive, means.
- Condemns President Duterte for his demagoguery that rationalizes the killing of drug suspects. The Varsitarian urges Filipinos to wake up from their lethargy and false sense of comfort that the killings would result in peace and order. Especially for Christians, the issue here is fundamental: “You shall not kill” [Exodus 20:13]; “Vengeance is (not man’s, but God’s)” [Deuteronomy 52:35].
- Opposes the restoration of the death penalty and opposes all forms of cruel and inhumane punishment.
- And since the right to life is fundamental, the Varsitiarian urges the Supreme Court to maintain its restraining order against the health department’s procurement, selling, distributing, dispensing, administering and promoting of contraceptive implants. Implants can cause abortion and are therefore covered by the Supreme Court decision removing certain provisions of the Reproductive Health Act that compromise Philippine penal provisions against abortion.
It is lamentable that the state-backed anti-drug violence that has brutally killed some 4,000 persons so far should take place on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis. Nevertheless the blessings and lessons of the Jubilee should not be lost on everyone so the Varsitarian urges Filipinos to cultivate what the papal nuncio Msgr Giuseppe Pinto has called the “culture of mercy.” Fostering such a culture would mean opposing Duterte’s reign of terror. We resolve to do this starting Christmas, the Catholic celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the joyous season of life and hope.
Such resolve would need a conversion of hearts, a return to basics, a reaffirmation of the essence of Christmas and the rejection of the artifice of materialism and the shallowness of naked consumerism that has choked the celebration. It is nothing less than a resolve to uphold and foster the culture of life. Against Duterte’s culture of death, the Varsitarian urges Filipinos the culture of life—and mercy. Failing to do so would mean allowing Duterte to run away with murder.
Duterte is not only the grinch who stole Christmas; he’s the butcher who outherods Herod by a thousand and one more killings.