What About Justice?
Compiled and edited by OMF Literature Inc.
Copyright © 2017 by OMF Literature Inc.
(Authors hold copyright to individual chapters)
Melba P. Maggay, “Healing the Wound of the People Lightly” was originally published in Philippine Daily Inquirer Opinion section on December 9, 2016.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, “The Rule of Law and the Rule of Hope” is an abridged version of the speech given on March 24, 2017 at the 16th National Convention of Lawyers.
Romel Regalado Bagares, “The State, the Task of Justice, and Duterte’s ‘Drug War’” — portions of this essay appeared on the author’s blog post “Akbayan Rep. Bello on Janus-faced State,” and in a conference paper entitled “Coercion, Justice, Democracy, and Legitimacy: Re-Making the Dooyeweerdian State?” read by the author at the Kuyper Public Theology Conference 2012 at the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Amsterdam Kuyper Conference (2013) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Published (2017) in the Philippines by
OMF Literature Inc.
776 Boni Avenue
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
Cover design by Trixie Dela Peña
Page design by Amor Aurelio B. Alvarez
Printed in the Philippines
Note from the Publisher
Kabataang Pinoy para sa Katarungang Panlipunan
Kuya Ronald Molmisa encourages Pinoy Millennials to take a closer look at the original “Panatang Makabayan” in the light of current events affecting them today.
The Rule of Law and the Law of Hope
Chief Justice Sereno’s moving speech at the 16th National Convention of Lawyers urges members of the Bar to keep on fighting the good fight despite the real dangers in today’s political climate.
Healing the Wound of the people Lightly
Dr. Melba Maggay challenges the message of the Marcoses to “move on” on from the atrocities of the Martial Law and clarifies the relationship between justice and forgiveness.
Before We Get Overwhelmed by the Issue of Justice
What does the Golden Rule have to do with Justice? According to Pastor Jun Gonzaga, everything.
The State, the Task of Justice, and Duterte’s “Drug War”
Atty. Romel Bagares navigates the intricacies of the of our Christian confession and the call for justice from The State, even as Christians are not united in how justice is being done by the government today.
Journeying for Justice with the Urban Poor
Professor Mary Racelis shares the insights she has learned from living and working with the urban poor, and how important it is to let them speak for themselves rather than others speaking for them.
An Everyday Believer’s Thoughts on Justice
Atty. Lawrence Aritao of International Justice Mission brings the concept of justice even closer to home.
Executing the Death Penalty
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo explores both sides of the argument for and against death penalty.
For the Children
In a conversation about the bill proposing that the age of criminal responsibility for children be lowered to nine years old from fifteen, Fe Foronda shares her views on why she thinks this is not the way to save our children from crime and criminality.
Seeking Justice Together with the God of Justice
Pastor Joey Umali offers his reflections on how the followers of Christ have to be involved in the pursuit of Justice.
The Plumb Line of God
Atty. Raineer Chu reminds Christians that the Bible must be read from the perspective of the poor, and it must show in our treatment of them.
Voices on Faith, Justice, and Love of Country
We posted a question on social media: “What do you feel strongly about justice here in the Philippines?” and here are the excerpts of the replies we have received.
There’s still a lot to talk about!
We would love to hear from you!
[_“He has showed you, O man, what is good. _
_And what does the LORD require of you? _
_To act justly and to love mercy _
and to walk humbly with your God.”]
Note from the Publisher
It cannot be overstated: Justice is a vital matter, especially for committed followers of Jesus Christ. To turn a blind eye to injustice is to deny our Savior. In this third offering in OMF Literature’s What About series — following What About Same-Sex Marriage? (March 2015) and What About Philippine Politics? (May 2016) — we take readers to the intersection of justice and the Christian faith in the Philippines today.
For many Filipino believers these days, that point of intersection is not a comfortable place to be. The dividing lines created by last year’s presidential elections have since been etched more deeply, even within the Christian community. Issues of justice are inevitably linked to governance, so many believers feel the tension of faith and politics as these relate to their views on justice. What About Justice? seeks to engage Christians by challenging us to resist apathy or resignation in the midst of today’s burning issues, and helping us to find solid ground for engagement based on God’s Word through the witness of fellow believers who are at the forefront of pursuing justice.
The campaign period leading up to last year’s presidential elections introduced even more Filipinos to the power of social media. Pundits have observed that now-President Rodrigo Duterte, who had been a city mayor from the south with relative little experience on the national political stage, was carried to the land’s highest executive seat on the wings of his massive online campaign. Just within his new administration’s first year, justice issues like so-called extrajudicial killings, reinstatement of capital punishment, hero’s burial for a dictator, lowering of age of criminality, apparent disregard for due process have become very hot topics online. OMF Literature is releasing What About Justice? as an ebook in an effort to contribute to the ongoing conversations about justice taking place in the digital space. At a time when strong opinions are formed and fought for in the arena of social media at the speed of memes, impassioned rants, fake news, and volatile comments sections, we offer this ebook as a sober companion for believers eager to walk the path of obedience to their True Sovereign.
An honest reflection on one’s Christian faith vis-a-vis strongly-held positions on justice and politics requires humility. In that same spirit of humility we offer this book and enjoin you, our readers, to interact with the words of the men and women whom we have invited to articulate their views in the chapters of this book. I would like to suggest that you begin with the chapter that you feel resonates with you the most, and then move on from there. The entire book can be finished in one sitting, but I hope that the reflections, prayers, and conversations that ensue will have long-lasting impact. Let me introduce you briefly to the contributors and their respective chapters:
Together with the OMF Literature project team, composed of Stef Juan as project editor; Michellan Alagao and Ian Magallona as copy editors; Amor Alvarez and Trixie dela Peña as designers; Ida Torres as marketing lead; and Yna Reyes as Publishing Director, a team whose passion for justice is ever-burning, I wholeheartedly thank the chapter contributors to What About Justice?
We all pray that this little book will minister to you. After you have finished reading this book, please join the online conversation at our OMF Lit Facebook page. Details are provided at the end of the book. You may also email us your reactions at [email protected] On social media, please use the hashtag #whataboutjustice.
One day while going through my social media feeds, a quote caught my attention. I have since learned that it was a version of a famous quotation attributed to a German minister. On display in the Permanent Exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., are these words of Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
[_Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— _]
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
[_Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— _]
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892 – 1984)
Reverend Niemöller was a popular Protestant minister in Germany who turned from being a Nazi supporter into one of Adolf Hitler’s most outspoken critics. He paid the price of this vigorous dissent with his liberty, having spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps.
OMF Literature’s publication of this book at such a time as this in the Philippines is one way of speaking out. May this modest digital publication help many readers find their own voice in upholding justice in Jesus’ name.
CEO, OMF Literature
Kabataang Pinoy para sa Katarungang Panlipunan
by Ronald Molmisa
[Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas
Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan
Ito ang tahanan ng aking lahi
Ako’y kanyang kinukupkop at tinutulungan
Upang maging malakas, maligaya at kapakipakinabang
Bilang ganti, diringgin ko ang payo ng aking mga magulang
Susundin ko ang mga tuntunin ng aking paaralan
Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin ng isang mamamayang makabayan at masunurin sa batas
Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan nang walang pag-iimbot at nang buong katapatan
Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.]
_Panatang Makabayan _
Minamahal kong Pinoy Millenials,
Iyan ang Panatang Makabayan ng aking kabataan. Old school. Hindi ko alam kung mas OK sa inyo iyan. Iyan pa rin kasi ang nakatatak sa aking isipan. Mahigit sampung taon kong sinambit iyan tuwing flag ceremony, pero mas naintindihan ko na hindi madaling isabuhay ang diwa niyan noong ako’y nagka-edad na.
May tatlong bahagi ang Panata—ang pagkalinga ng bayan, ang magagawa mo para sa bayan at ang pangakong maging huwarang mamamayan. Bago pa tayo ipanganak, nariyan na ang bayang kumupkop sa atin upang magkaroon tayo ng pagkakakilanlan. Marami tayong puwedeng gawin bilang ganti sa kontribusyon ng bayan sa ating pagkatao. Kailangan din tayong magsikap upang maging mabuting mamamayan.
Hindi tayo iniluwal sa mundo na may ugali at damdaming makabayan. Kailangan tayong turuan ukol sa bagay na iyan. Paano natin ngayon sisimulan na mahalin ang ating bayan? May suggestion ako: isulong natin ang katarungang panlipunan. Social justice. Big word ba? Maaaring mabigat na konsepto ’yan para sa iyo dahil hiwalay pa sa inyong karanasan. Ito ang tamang panahon para pag-usapan natin nang masinsinan ang bagay na iyan. Kapag tumanda ka at hindi mo nakasanayang tumulong sa iba, mas mahihirapan kang unawain kung bakit kailangan itong gawin.
Social Justice 101
Define muna natin ang konsepto. Nagsimula ang salitang katarungan sa Visayan word na “tarong” na ang ibig sabihin ay tuwid, tama at wasto. Nagmula naman ang “karapatan” sa salitang “dapat.” Ang ating kasaysayan ay isang walang-hanggang struggle o paglalakbay tungo sa isang makatarungang lipunan (a just and humane society). Iyan ang dahilan kung bakit hindi matapos-tapos ang mga demonstration at rally sa lansangan na humihiling ng atensiyon ng pamahalaan para sa mga nagdarahop at nangangailangan. Kung naaasar ka sa kanila dahil nagdudulot sila ng matinding trapiko, at ang iba sa kanila ay may pagka-rowdy at unruly, isipin mo rin na ang ilan sa pagkilos na iyan ang dahilan kung bakit hindi tumataas ang tuition fee sa maraming universities at napoprotektahan ang karapatan ng maraming manggagawa at mahihirap. We would be worse off if they have not fought for people’s rights.
Sa kaniyang akdang The Republic, ipinaliwanag ni Plato, isang Greek philosopher, na ang katarungan ay hindi ayon sa mga panlabas na batayan o konsiderasyon kundi nagsisimula sa panloob na kalikasan ng sinuman. Ang katarungan ay hindi nakabase sa kung ikaw ay mahina o may kapangyarihan. Might does not make right. Hindi rin iyan dapat tingnan na ganti-gantihan lang. Kung ganiyan ang kalakaran, hindi mo tutulungan ang iyong mortal na kaaway. Paano kung manggagamot ka, pipiliin mo lang ang iyong gagamutin? Para kay Plato, kailangang maisaayos ang ating isipan, espiritu, at katawan. Ang makatarungang pagkatao ay iyong kayang kontrolin ang hilig ng laman (temperance) at nagbibigay-lugod sa lipunan.1 Kung hindi ka marunong magtimpi sa iyong sarili, gagawin mo ang gusto mong gawin kahit sa ikakapahamak ng iba. Huwag naman.
Bigyan ko kayo ng simpleng halimbawa. Kapag oras na ng recess, bukasan na ng lunch box iyan. Iba-iba ang baon. May itlog, hotdog, ham, kanin, ulam at iba pa. May ibinebenta rin mula sa canteen. Mangangamoy carinderia sa loob ng kuwarto. Pero hindi lahat ay nagbubukas ng lunch box dahil wala silang lunch box at wala din silang baon. Ano ngayon ang gagawin natin para magkaroon ng “katarungang panlipunan” sa loob ng classroom? Siguraduhin nating kakain ang hindi makakain. Kailangang may gawin tayo. Puwedeng bigyan siya ng kahit tigka-kaunting pagkain mula sa lahat ng may baon. Walang maiiwan at walang magugutom. Ang saya noon ’di ba?
Nakatuntong ang “katarungang panlipunan” sa ideya na ang lahat ay may pantay-pantay na karapatan sa yaman ng lipunan—pagkain, trabaho, pampublikong serbisyo at iba pa — para maging maayos ang ating buhay. Ang kahirapan ay hindi lang kasalatan sa kayamanan kundi kakulangan din sa pagkakataon o oportunidad upang paunlarin ang sarili. Minsang sinabi ni dating Pangulong Ramon Magsaysay: “Those who have less in life should have more in law.” Dapat lamang na protektahan ng batas ang mga walang boses at madalas nabibiktima ng mas mayaman at makapangyarihan.
Magandang basahin mo ang Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Pandaigdig na Pagpapahayag ng Karapatang Pantao) para mas maunawaan mo ang bagay na ito. May tatlumpung artikulo iyan na tumatalakay sa karapatan ng lahat ng tao sa mundo. “Universal” iyan o pangkalahatan dahil hindi iyan nagtatangi ng sinuman, ayon sa “lahi, kulay, kasarian, wika, relihiyon, kuro-kurong pampulitika, pinagmulang bansa o lipunan, ari-arian, kapanganakan o iba pang katayuan.2
Minsan, tinanong ko ang mga kabataan kung ano ang inililigtas ng Panginoon kapag tinanggap natin Siya sa ating buhay. Ang kalimitang bulalas nila ay “kaluluwa.” Ang aking pangalawang tanong: kung kaluluwa lang ang iniligtas ng Panginoon, ayos lang ba ang magkasakit at maghirap sa mundong ibabaw? Tahimik na sila.
Nang sabihin ng Panginoon sa Kanyang mga disipulo na ipanalangin nila na “pagharian” sila ng Diyos, na ang kalooban ng Diyos ay maganap, hindi lamang sa langit kundi sa lupa, ipinapahayag ni Cristo na maaari nating maranasan ang biyaya ng kalangitan kahit tayo ay narito pa sa mundong ibabaw. Kaya nating maging mga daluyan o instrumento ng Kanyang pagpapala para sa iba.
Sino Ba Ang Ating “Kapwa”?
Sa ating Pinoy, napakalawak ng sakop ng ating pagtulong dahil hindi natin kayang ihiwalay ang ating sarili sa ating mga mahal sa buhay, mga kapitbahay at lahat ng nakakasalamuha natin sa bawat araw. Mahalaga sa atin hindi lang ang pakikisama kundi ang _pakikipagkapwa_.3
Nang sabihin ni Lord na mahalin natin ang isa’t isa (Mateo 22:38–39), tinutukoy Niya ang sinasabi sa Lumang Tipan (Levitico 19:9–18). Sinabi doon na ang yaman ng mundo ay hindi lang para sa may-ari ng bukirin kundi maging sa mahihirap. Kaya huwag pipitasin at aanihin ang lahat ng bunga ng lupain. Iwan na ang iba para sa mga mahihirap at dayuhan. Ipinagbawal rin ang pagnanakaw at pandaraya. Kasama diyan ang tamang pasuweldo sa mga manggagawa. Hindi mo puwedeng kunin na lang ang pinaghirapan nila. Dapat din nating alagaan ang mga bulag, pipi, at may kapansanan. Kailangang humatol nang may buong katarungan. Pantay sa batas ang mahirap at mayaman. Matindi rin ang babala sa mga mapanirang-puri, mapaghiganti, at nagtatanim ng galit sa kapwa. Lahat ng ito ay papunta sa isang layunin — mahalin natin ang isa’t isa at huwag manlalamang sa kapwa. Kung ano ang ating ginagawa sa ating kapwa ay siya ring ginagawa natin sa Panginoon.4
Sa Lucas 10, isang isang matalinong tao ang nagtanong sa Panginoon kung paano makapasok sa kaharian ng langit. Alam niya ang sinasabi ng Kasulatan pero hirap siyang makuha ang sagot sa tanong na: “Sino ang aking kapwa?” Doon ipinahayag ng Panginoon ang kuwento ng Mabuting Samaritano. May dakilang mensahe ang talinghaga—huwag nating limitahan ang ating ideya ng “kapwa” sa mga tao lamang na kaya nating tulungan at mahalin. Ipinakita sa kuwento na kung sino pa ang hindi mo inaasahang tutulong sa kaniyang kapwa ay siya pang nagpakita ng kabutihan ng kalooban. Hindi sinabi sa istorya kung Hudyo o Samaritano rin ang nabiktima. Para sa mabuting Samaritano, hindi mahalaga kung ano ang lahi mo. Lahat ng lipunan ay may potensiyal na magtayo ng pader na maghihiwalay ng kaniyang sarili sa iba — us versus others. Ito ang gustong basagin ng Panginoon sa talinghaga.
May tatlong posibleng dahilan kung bakit ang lakas makaiwas ng pari at Levita, ang dalawang religious personalities sa istorya. Una, pinagbabawal sa kanila ang dumikit sa mga maruruming bagay. Kung inakala nilang patay na ang nasa daan, hindi nila ito puwedeng hawakan.5 Ituturing silang marumi sa loob ng pitong araw, at matinding abala ito sa kanila!
Pangalawa, maaaring naunahan sila ng takot. Sa isip nila: baka nagpapanggap lang na patay iyon pero may kasama pa palang iba na tatambangan sila. Nag-iingat lang ba. At pangatlo na dahilan din ng marami sa atin, ay baka sadyang busy lang talaga. Baka late na sa priestly duties dahil kailangang maaga sila sa templo. Anupaman ang dahilan ng pari at Levita, isa lang ang lumutang na larawan sa eksena. Mas natuon sila sa kung ano ang negatibong epekto ng pakikialam nila kaysa kung ano ang kahihinatnan ng biktima.
Mas “concerned” si Lord sa motibasyon ng ating puso, higit sa ating panlabas na gawain at imahe.6 Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit minsang nagmatyag Siya sa templo at nakumpara kung paano nagbibigay ng tira-tira ang mayayaman at ang buong-pusong pagkakaloob ng balong matanda.7 Mas nakita ng Panginoon ang mas maayos na pagpapahalaga ni Maria kaysa ni Marta ukol sa paglilingkod sa Kanya.8 Mas mahalaga tayo sa Diyos kaysa ang magagawa natin para sa Kanya.
Mahalin ang Nagdarahop na Kababayan
[_“Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas. Ito ang aking lupang sinilangan. Ito ang tahanan ng aking lahi. _
Ako’y kanyang kinukupkop at tinutulungan.”]
Nakatira tayo sa isang bansang mahigit 20% ng pamilya sa buong bansa ay mahirap.9 Marami pa rin ang hindi kumakain nang tatlong beses sa isang araw at hindi naaabot ng pampublikong serbisyo. May apat na kalimitang dahilan kung bakit nananatiling mahirap ang marami.10 Una, bunga ng mga hindi maiiwasang trahedya.11 Sa isang bansang wagas kung bisitahin ng mga bagyo at iba’t ibang kalamidad, nahihirapang bumangon ang masa. Pangalawa, dahil sa kagagawan ng ibang tao na umaalipin at nang-aabuso sa kanila.12 Many to mention. Ganundin, may naghihirap dahil sa mga maling desisyon sa buhay at masasamang bisyo at gawi (tulad ng alak at sugal).13 At pang-apat, maraming bagay sa lipunan na pumipigil sa kanila para umunlad. Kasama na diyan ang lagay ng ekonomiya at mga hindi epektibong polisiya ng pamahalaan.
Hindi tayo puwedeng magbulag-bulagan sa pinagdaraanan ng mahihirap nating kababayan.14 Huhusgahan tayo ng Panginoon sa kung paano natin sila pinapakitunguhan.15 Hindi natin masasabing mahal natin si Lord na hindi natin nakikita, kung iyon ngang nakikita natin sa araw-araw ay hindi natin kayang arugain.16 Ang pagmamahal sa Diyos at sa kapwa ay hindi maaaring paghiwalayin. Two sides of the same coin iyan.
Paano mo mapapataas ang pagmamahal mo sa kanila? Kung hindi ka pa nakaka-relate sa kanilang pagdurusa, makakatulong na manood ka ng mga documentaries o pelikulang nagpapakita ng tunay na mukha ng kahirapan. This is to cultivate your “compassion awareness.” Damang-dama ko ang katotohanang iyan nang magmisyon kami sa Zamboanga del Sur. Matinding hiking exercise. Tatlong bundok ang aming tinawid at naglakad sa loob ng dalawa’t kalahating oras non-stop. Nang makita ko ang mukha ng kahirapan sa kabundukan, doon ko nasabing sobrang pinagpala pa ang mga urban poor sa siyudad kaysa mga kababayan nating Subanen. Nakakawala ng pagod nang makita namin ang ngiti sa mukha ng mga bata sa pagtanggap nila ng school supplies. Marami sa kanila ay walang tsinelas at naglalakad nang kilo-kilometro papunta sa eskwelahan. Tapos, dito sa Maynila, kaunting ambon lang ayaw nang pumasok ang iba? Imba.17
Hindi mo kailangang lumayo. Just follow the principle of “moral proximity.” Unahin mong kalingain ang mas malapit sa kinalalagyan mo. Nangunguna diyan ang iyong pamilya. Kasama sa utos ni Lord na unahin nating alagaan ang ating mga magulang.18 Sa bahay dapat magsimula ang pagtulong sa kapwa. Ang pagsunod at paggalang sa iyong magulang ay tanda ng pagmamahal mo sa Panginoon.19 Idamay mo rin ang iyong mga kamag-anak. Maaari ka ring mag-survey kung may mga kabataan o matatanda na wala nang kumakalinga. Bahagi ng ating responsibilidad na tulungan sila.20
But take note of this: unang hakbang lang ang short-term aid. We must aim at eliminating poverty than just relieving it for a season. Ang mas gusto natin ay matutunan ng mga mahihirap na tulungan ang kanilang sarili (long-term goal). Kailangang matigil ang siklo ng panlilimos at pag-asa sa iba (dependency). Walang maghihirap kung magtutulungan.21
Maging Matinong Anak, Estudyante, at Mamamayan
[“Bilang ganti, diringgin ko ang payo ng aking mga magulang.
Susundin ko ang mga tuntunin ng aking paaralan.”]
Kapag hindi maayos ang iyong ugali at asal, paano ka magiging “asset” ng bayan? Ang tunay na “pag-asa ng bayan” nagtitino sa kanilang pag-aaral at marunong sumunod sa magulang. Kapag mabuti kang anak at estudyante, hindi ka na dadagdag sa mga pasaway sa lipunan. Mangangarap ka hindi lamang para sa iyong sarili kundi para sa iyong mga mahal sa buhay at kababayan.
Great “equalizer” ang edukasyon. Kapag aral ka, hindi ka madaling lokohin ng iba. Mas malaki ang potensiyal na makahanap ka ng mas matinong trabaho. Simulan ang pagbabago sa study habits ninyo. Kapag lagi kayong free rider o hindi tumutulong sa mga group report/projects, hindi ninyo tinuturuan ang inyong sarili upang maging disiplinado. Kapag nasanay kayong nangongopya sa exam, madadala ninyo iyan hanggang sa inyong pagtanda. Kapag lagi kayong “late” sa klase, hindi ninyo sinasanay ang inyong sarili na maging seryoso sa trabaho.
Kayo ang tinatawag na “Internet” o “online” generation. Sa halip na ubusin mo ang iyong oras sa pagpo-post lang ng mga rants at selfies, bakit hindi mo rin gamitin iyan para tumulong sa iba? Ilang beses ko nang nagamit iyan para mag-fund raising para sa mga nangangailangan. May mga “crowdsourcing” at “crowdfounding” online facilities para makalikom ka ng pondo for charity projects (tulad ng GoFundMe). You can make your own documentary and featured post to highlight people who need assistance. Masarap sa feeling kapag nakikita mo ang iyong post na nagva-viral for a great purpose.
“Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin ng isang mamamayang makabayan at masunurin sa batas.”
Minsang sinabi ng former US president na si John Adams: “We are a nation of laws and not of men.” May mga batas na naipasa na kailangang sundin dahil nagpapatatag ang mga ito ng ating bansa. Kapag hindi na iginagalang ang batas, anarchy ang labas niyan. Kaguluhan at karahasan.
We obey laws so that other people can also enjoy the fruits of a just society. Nakakalungkot lang na kayang lusutan ng maraming mayaman sa lipunan ang kanilang mga kaso. Sad life. Linawin ko lang ha: hindi lahat ng mayaman ay abusado. Pero kalimitan sa mga nang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan ay mayaman. Sa ganitong kalakaran, dapat matutunan ng mga kabataang manindigan sa kung ano ang tama at makatwiran. Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.22
Maging makatarungan sa iba. Balik tayo sa social media life ninyo. Huwag masyadong gullible. Huwag post nang post ng kung ano-anong online articles kahit hindi verified ang information. Parte ng inyong commitment sa bayan ang magsabi ng katotohanan. Educate yourself about social media ethics. Kung paano kayo nagbe-behave nang maayos sa school, church, at bahay, sana ganoon din online. Kapag nag-share kayo ng mga maling impormasyon, maaaring sirain ninyo ang reputasyon ng mga tao. Mahirap nang buuin ang nasirang pangalan. Pakitandaan: Mayroon nang batas tayo ukol sa online libel sa Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Increase your IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) pagdating sa bagay na iyan. Think before you click and share.
Bayan Muna Bago ang Sarili
“Paglilingkuran ko ang aking bayan nang walang pag-iimbot at nang buong katapatan.”
Ang salitang “pag-iimbot” ay nangangahulugang paghahangad o pagiging sakim. Para matigil ang ugaling iyan, dapat matutunan ninyong magbigay nang bukal sa inyong puso. Giving produces a great legacy. Your legacy shall be all the people who would be touched by your love.23 Laging may mahirap tayong makakasama kaya dapat handa tayong tumulong sa kanila.24 We are called to be a river of blessings. Kailangang umanod sa susunod na henerasyon ang lahat ng magagandang bagay na naganap sa iyong buhay. It is always better to give than to receive.25
Mabuhay nang simple. Ito ang tinuro ni Lord sa kaniyang mga apostol nang sabihin Niyang hindi puwedeng magsabay ang kanilang pagmamahal sa Diyos at pagmamahal sa salapi.26 Ito ang dahilan kung bakit nagawa ng unang mga mananampalataya na ibigay ang kanilang ari-arian para sa ikabubuti ng lahat.27 Hindi masamang yumaman pero huwag maging dahilan ang inyong pagyaman sa pagkalimot sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan. Kung paano kayo pinagpapala, ganundin sana ang pagtaas ng level ng iyong pagbibigay para tulungan ang iba.
“Sisikapin kong maging isang tunay na Pilipino sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.”
Ang tunay na pag-ibig, hindi napapagod. Sa biyaya at habag ng Panginoon, na Siyang kikilos sa ating buhay,28 magagawa nating pababain ang antas ng kahirapan sa bansa. Hindi convenient ang tumulong pero it is all worth it. Marami pa sa ating mga kababayan ay hirap tulungan ang kanilang sarili. Hindi kaya ng pamahalaan na abutin lahat sila. Matagal-tagal pa bago sila makaagapay sa buhay. Sino ngayon ang tutulong sa kanila? Tumingin ka sa salamin. So, alam mo na, ha? Now, do what you need to do.
Kasama ninyong naglilingkod sa Diyos at sa bayan,
Mahigit dalawampung taon nang naglilingkod si Kuya Ronald Molmisa sa ministeryo. Nagtapos siya ng BA Public Administration at Master in International Studies (major in Political Science) sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas-Diliman. Nagturo siya sa loob ng pitong taon sa tatlong nangungunang unibersidad sa bansa — blue, green, at maroon —bago tuluyang ituon nang buo ang kaniyang buhay sa ministeryo. Kasalukuyan siyang abala bilang Head Pastor ng Generation 3:16 Ministries, isang ministeryong nakatuon sa pag-abot sa kabataan at pamilyang Pinoy. Siya ang tagapagtaguyod ng Lovestruck Movement, isang samahan ng mga taong naniniwala sa tatlong simple subalit seryosong utos ng Panginoon: Love God. Love People. Disciple. Maari ninyo siyang i-email sa [email protected] at bisitahin ang official website ng kaniyang ministeryo: www.lovestruckmovement.org.
1Plato. (n.d.) The Republic. Available at http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.html (accessd June 21, 2017)
2Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Filipino Translation). (n.d.). Available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Pages/Language.aspx?LangID=tgl (accessed June 21, 2017)
3Enriquez, V. (1978). Kapwa: A Core Concept in Filipino Social Psychology. Philippine Social Science and Humanities Review, vol. XLII nos. 1-4, January-December, 1978.
5Bilang 19:11, Levitico 21:11
61 Samuel 6:7
7Marcos 2:41-44, Lucas 21:1-4
9National Anti Poverty Commision. (2016). Poverty Incidence Infographics. Available at http://www.napc.gov.ph/resources/infographics?page=1&throbber=1 (accessed June 20, 2017)
10Kotter, D. (2014). Remember the Poor: A New Testament Perspective on the Problems of Poverty, Riches and Redistribution _]in Bradley, A. & Lindsey A. (eds.) [_For the Least of These (A Biblical Answer to Poverty). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. p. 57-78.
12Santiago 5:1-4, Marcos 12:40, Mateo 23:25, Lucas 16:19-21
13Lucas 15:11-24, 1 Tesalonica 4:11-12, 5:14, 2 Tesalonica 3:11, Efeso 4:28, Tito 1:12-13
161 Juan 4:20
17Galing sa salitang “Imbalance” na ginagamit ng mga computer gamers sa tuwing may nakikita silang game character, weapon, race o online role o job, na “masyadong malakas” o “masyadong mahina” na kailangang balansehin.
18Marcos 7:9-13, 1 Timoteo 5:4
19Efeso 6:1-2, Colosas 3:20
23Santiago 2:15-16, 1 Juan 3:17
24Mateo 26:11, Marcos 14:7
28Filipos 2:13, Efeso 2:10
The Rule of Law and the Law of Hope
by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno
This is an abridged version of the speech by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when she addressed the members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines last March 24, 2017, at the 16th National Convention of Lawyers in Marriott Manila, Pasay City. The theme of the conference was Global and Regional Integration of Legal Services: Challenging the Philippine Status Quo.
Public interest lawyers, especially defenders of human rights, have been under increasing attack. I was surprised that there is no investigation on the total number of public interest lawyers killed in connection with their work worldwide. One estimate claims that up to four hundred lawyers have been killed in Colombia since 1991. In the Philippines, it has been reported that eighty-three lawyers have been violently killed from 1999 to 2014. Add to this number the three lawyers who were murdered from 2015 to the present.
As a result of the assassinations of lawyers and their clients, members of the Bar, and even an IBP chapter, have publicly articulated their fears — to the extent that that IBP chapter has stopped defending certain types of clients. I will not detail for you the risks our judges and prosecutors face as that will require another speech. I will just relay the concern of some experts on judiciaries, who agree that reports from around the globe demonstrate that judges are also under increasing attack — from the Brexit decision, to the United States Supreme Court, in Pakistan, and some may add, in the Philippines as well.
From your conference’s theme, “Global and Regional Integration of Legal Services: Challenging the Philippine Status Quo,” I think you already understand that international norms will be the standard for global legal practice. This implies that if Philippine lawyers want to practice their profession beyond the country’s borders, they must understand the norms of the profession as they have developed internationally, including ethical norms, public interest advocacy and defense norms, and the norms of the Rule of Law. This will be the milieu in which discussions on legal practice will take place.
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon once stated that the Rule of Law is the world’s best hope for building peaceful and prosperous societies. This theme was taken up in 2012 when the General Assembly took up the Rule of Law regarding conflict situations. In the ensuing discussions, they recognized the work that had been built up in many areas of the world as to form a consensus on the need for the Rule of Law as the baseline for development. Inevitably, the discussions highlighted the need for transparent legal systems and the role of lawyers. Now, if hope, the Rule of Law, and lawyers have been increasingly included in discussions on development, then the Philippine Bar must engage in this communal self-reflection.
I want us all, therefore, to pause for a moment to ponder the meaning of our life’s work as lawyers. In the midst of all that we are experiencing as a country, what can lawyers do to bring hope to our people? This question comes to mind as I reflect on the increasingly violent times that we find ourselves in and the role that lawyers play, or need to play, in promoting, maintaining, and nurturing the Rule of Law.
The Rule of Law is the governance principle holding all persons, institutions and entities — public and private — including the State itself, accountable to laws and rules that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated upon, and are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. The World Justice Project, which publishes a yearly Rule of Law Index, defines the Rule of Law as a system in which the following universal principles are upheld:
Additionally, I would propose the following operational components where the judiciary and the legal profession are concerned:
Incidentally, it may interest you to know that in the World Justice Project’s 2016 Rule of Law Index, the Philippines dropped nine spots to 70th, even as the East Asia and Pacific region was the second-ranked region in Rule of Law, behind Western Europe and North America. In this region, New Zealand and Singapore are the top performers , ranking 8th and 9th respectively out of 113 countries worldwide; the biggest mover was Vietnam, rising seven positions to 67th globally, higher than the Philippines’ ranking.
Whichever way we understand the Rule of Law, it cannot be reconciled with a system that allows for undue immunities from these processes and outcomes due to considerations that are political or pecuniary or both. The notion of a Rule of Law holds these truths to be self-evident — that no one is immune from accountability simply because he or she is powerful, rich, or both powerful and rich. The contrary view to this is impunity and it is loathsome to the Rule of Law.2
Impunity represents a breakdown, in part or in whole, of governance. In its most recognizable form, it is the impossibility of enforcing accountability, in whatever form, against offenders, by reason of the unavailability or futility of: Existing proceedings and processes, means and methods to effect an effective and meaningful investigation, charge, arrest, trial, judgment, sentence or service of sentence. Where an offender is unduly protected from accountability through external conditions such as policy, politics or pecuniary interests, then impunity has set in and the Rule of Law is diminished.3
Impunity sows seeds of hopelessness. If we are not careful, those seeds will take root and bear fruit.
In light of this, addressing impunity becomes the shared burden of those of us in the judiciary and the legal profession. It is within this context that I pose my question to all of us: In view of the creeping impunity that we once again find ourselves in, how should we understand the role of lawyers in promoting the Rule of Law and the law of hope?
Let me propose an answer to this by suggesting to all of us that we should situate ourselves once again in the nobility of our profession and in the best, not the worst, that it has to offer our many publics: Our clients, our people, and our country.
We have been parodied enough in crude lawyer jokes and we instinctively join in the laughter. However, it is time that we no longer see those jokes as funny. When cracked, we should no longer find lawyer jokes amusing, especially not when our fellow lawyers are being killed for their beliefs and their work.
An environment of fear and violence is anathematic to the Rule of Law and contributes to impunity. To preserve the Rule of Law, lawyers must steel themselves and, to a certain degree, develop a level of indifference to the ambient noise and discharge their duties to the best of their abilities as their conscience dictates. Good lawyers must swim against whatever tide meets them.
When judges and lawyers hesitate to do the right thing for fear of being derogated for the company they keep, or when they respond to vilification, threats, and actual violence with surrender and capitulation, the Rule of Law is shoved out and impunity steps in.
The reality of the violent times we find ourselves in should make us — we, in the judiciary, and you, in the practicing Bar — all too aware of our role in combating impunity and promoting the Rule of Law and the law of hope.
The courts are the refuge, often the final refuge, for those who seek to hold offenders — public and private, highly-ranked or of common station — accountable for their acts of violence. The long arm of the law often finds a face in our courts, yet it has been my experience that the long arm of the law often has a very short reach; before the courts can act, controversies must be investigated, and cases must be filed and prosecuted. You, as practicing lawyers and members of the Bar, are part of the long arm of the law. Please do not limit the reach of the law by inaction, or worse, active collaboration with those who would seek to promote impunity and diminish the Rule of Law.
Many of our people, including some among our ranks, have been desensitized or rendered numb by violence. Desensitization is the first step toward hopelessness and an uncritical embrace of the status quo. Our role as lawyers is not to simply embrace uncritically the status quo. Our role is to provide a voice for those rendered voiceless; to bring up causes that would otherwise not be heard; to provide hope in the midst of impunity.
Concretely, what can lawyers do to combat impunity, uphold the Rule of Law, and promote the law of hope? I would propose four very practicable things.
First, let us all take our Oath to heart and grow in character.
All of us have, at different times, taken the Lawyer’s Oath. For most, it was probably the first and only time that the Oath was personally pronounced. For many, the words of the Oath have long been forgotten. For some, and I hope this is an exceedingly small number, they may have long been broken. The Lawyer’s Oath is no ordinary canonical incantation or routinary legal requirement. The Oath, far from being a sterile collection of words, gives us the roadmap to action as lawyers and defines us as a profession. In a very real sense, it is a definition of who we are and to what we have been called.
There is a story about a lawyer who chose not to take an oath of loyalty to the king that would compromise the very core of what he believed in. But in choosing to do so, he placed himself at great personal peril. When confronted about this refusal by his distraught daughter who offers him what, to her, seems a reasonable compromise — take the oath, save yourself, and simply break your oath — the lawyer responds with a surprising rebuke: His word is his bond. When the daughter persists with the reasonable reply that “No one would know,” the lawyer retorts, “I would know.”
The situation I have described is portrayed in a film about a great lawyer and a good judge: A Man for All Seasons. The man described is Sir Thomas More. The film shows us what character is and what it can do. More embodies what the late Justice Florentino Feliciano has described as a “good judge,” where character is not only internalized but also manifested. Three simple words: “I would know.” Those words demonstrate an internalization of character and an external manifestation of that character.
Character is who we are when no one is watching. It is holding on to one’s principles even when doing so isn’t convenient, fashionable or comfortable. It is refusing to compromise even when one is told that “no one would know” because “I would know.” It is standing up for what is right, even when no one else is standing up for it. It is making each word in our Oath mean everything even when everyone else is doing the opposite.
By way of a reminder and maybe as a form of re-commitment, may I request all of us to stand in place, please, raise your hands and recite these words again with whole sincerity:
[_ I___________ of ___________ do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey its laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly nor willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So he lp me God._]
Remember the values ingrained in the Oath: Fidelity, commitment, integrity, and courage. Fidelity to the flag of the Republic, to its Constitution, its laws, and its duly constituted authorities. Commitment to the law and the values it seeks to uphold. Integrity to practice law in an ethical manner, encompassing also self-restraint in not performing acts proscribed, and the active witness of carrying out affirmatively the acts required. Finally, courage for all of us to be able to carry out all of these things faithfully and well.
Taking our Oath seriously is the first step in understanding our role as lawyers in ensuring that the Rule of Law is maintained and impunity prevented. It tells us that, in the face of misinformation and confusion, we have a duty to always be candid and truthful not only to the courts but also to our clients and the public. It tells us that, in the face of clear and patent injustices, we have an affirmative duty to not turn a blind eye but to do what we can to help. It tells us that, in the midst of impunity and a rising tide of hopelessness about the Rule of Law, we are called to bring hope to our people.
Second, sign up to help.
There are so many ways to help. If you find yourself in a position to help those who seek to bring suit to protect their rights, then by all means do so. Just be mindful of the admonition in the Oath as to groundless suits and our intolerance to those.
If you find yourself in a position to help people understand how the law or the courts work, then by all means do so. In a world where “alternative facts” and “hyperbole” are fast blurring the lines between truth and lies, a lawyer who can help the courts, clients, and the public sift truth from lies performs a valuable service.
If you find yourself in a position to right a wrong, please do so. If you find yourself in a position where you need to decide between a status quo that is convenient and standing up for principle, our oath requires that we take the principled stand. If you find yourself in a position to give voice to those who find themselves voiceless, speak out.
It is in so doing that we recall the nobility of our profession; that we vindicate the original purpose of the legal profession as the last obstacle against lawlessness and as the bringer of hope.
If you are not in any position to do any of these, you can still help by living out the Oath we all have taken. Become a good lawyer, where “good” is not measured just by proficiency or efficiency but by character and integrity. More importantly, hopefully, we can become not only good lawyers — magagaling na abogado — but also good persons, mabubuting tao. Becoming a good lawyer means that your name will not be added to the dockets of lawyers that the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline will forward to the Supreme Court for administrative sanction. In so doing, you would help the Court out tremendously and, in the process, also strengthen the legal profession.
Third, go against the grain; do not take the path of least resistance.
Your theme for this Convention speaks of challenging the status quo. That is a great challenge to all us who work within one of the most conservative and tradition-bound professions that there is.
Challenging the status quo means being unafraid to go against the grain, to take the path least trod, and to break new trails. Challenging the status quo means that we must occasionally confront traditions that may have taken root through inertia and, if necessary, create new traditions.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, and Robert F. Kennedy loved to paraphrase, “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” Challenging the status quo means being unafraid to ask the occasional “why” but also the all-important “why not?” Be the lawyers who choose to do something noble, something good, something righteous, something different.
Fourth, continue this conversation we just started tonight.
You, through the IBP, can be heard in the various Sub-Committees of the Court’s Committee on Continuing Legal Education and Bar Matters. Allow me to add that other committees in the Court, especially those that are studying revisions and crafting of procedural rules, inevitably end up drafting experts from among your ranks to help improve those rules and the overall administration of justice. Our judicial reform programs also routinely include the IBP in consultations, whether it is the work of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council, electronic courts, automated hearings, Justice Zones, the overall automation plan, and others. There is also the Philippine Judicial Academy to which you have made tremendous contributions. Please continue to help improve the administration of justice.
To end, let me emphasize that we are not fighting against a person or against an establishment; rather, we are fighting against a culture, a way of thinking, of seeing and thus, of acting or not acting. It is a culture that is ingrained and deeply rooted. It is a culture that began when people started to look the other way; a culture that thrived when people stopped caring; a culture that prevailed when people stopped hoping. The only way to fight against a culture is to be counter-cultural — stand up for truth and right even when others choose to keep silent or to spread lies; encourage action when others are apathetic; dare to hope even when others have given up.
Allow me to share with you a personal tool that has helped me through many struggles, including against apathy and self-centered pragmatism. It helps me to remember the important things, in fact, the only things that count for eternity. It is a tool that helps me live out the lawyers’ oath. It is a tool from the words of St. Paul, a refocusing of the mind to look at the horizon of hope, and the posterity that is before us. He says: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4: 8).
The IBP must stand up for what is true, what is honorable, what is right, what is pure, what is of good repute, and what is excellent and worthy of praise. This is the transcendent essence of the lawyers’ oath. As judges and lawyers, this is our common cause, our shared burden, our one hope.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal Sereno is the second youngest and the first woman to head the judiciary as the 24th and current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. She earned her bachelors degree in Economics from the Ateneo de Manila University, and her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law where she graduated as class valedictorian in 1984. She also has a Master of Laws from the University of Michigan Law School. When she was appointed as Chief Justice by the President Benigno Aquino III, she was Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center. She has also been the president of Accesslaw Inc., a professor at the UP College of Law for 19 years, and has served as a consultant for the United Nations, World Bank, and US Agency for International Development.
1The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index (2016), p. 9.
2Adapted from The Culture Of Impunity And The Counter-Culture Of Hope, Keynote Remarks at the Journalism Asia Forum, November 23, 2014.
3Adapted from The Culture Of Impunity And The Counter-Culture Of Hope, Keynote Remarks at the Journalism Asia Forum, November 23, 2014.
Healing the Wound of the people Lightly
by Dr. Melba Maggay
“Moving on” has been the mantra of the Marcoses since they put into motion a shrewdly orchestrated bid to return to power.
The first piece in this plot was to find a willing accomplice whose narrow loyalties and shallow sense of history would likely turn, once in power, toward the rehabilitation of the Marcos legacy and set the stage for a stunning comeback. Rodrigo Duterte, it turns out, is such an instrument.
Mr. Duterte has not only proven to be a reliable ally with emotional ties to the old Marcos regime, but he also has the right combination of pragmatism wedded to a dulled moral and historical sense. This makes him see the Marcos burial issue as merely a question of burying a former soldier and president, or simply a dynastic political contest between the Aquinos and the Marcoses.
Such reductionism typifies those who tend to treat politics in this country as mere family business. It is also the kind of thinking that lies behind the blithe dismissal of the burial issue as “much ado over nothing,” unable to comprehend that symbols — like a plot of ground hallowed by a people’s memory — are cultural markers of what this country values and honors.
More deeply, there is the larger canvas of right and wrong, that cosmic sense in all of us that in spite of the horrors of our time, this is a moral universe. Wrongdoing cannot be left unpunished, much less honored. The thing that rankles, that stands between victim and victimizer, between the aggrieved and the offender, must be confronted and given due justice.
Until there is an acknowledgment of the truth of what happened, of what Ferdinand Marcos actually did and did not do, forgiveness from those who suffered during this dark period of our history cannot be given. Reconciliation is premised on mutual acknowledgment of the truth and a fair measure of what exactly each party is accountable for.
This is why in other countries that went through troubled times, like South Africa, the first move taken toward unity and healing was establishing the truth and pinning down accountability through investigations conducted by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Unfortunately, because of our culture of awa, we tend to set aside the tortuous task of pursuing accountability. There is the pressure to smoothen interpersonal relations, especially when the balance of power is asymmetrical and we are forced to mask our extreme discomfort over injury that has not been redressed. Grimly, we stifle protest and bottle up our inner rage as we get bulldozed by siren calls to “move on” and show goodwill and bonhomie.
Our own nature tells us that there is this iron nexus of sin and penalty, crime and punishment. Buddhists call this karma. Eventually, we reap what we sow, as when the prophet Jeremiah foresaw the sacking of Jerusalem, exile and subsequent diaspora as the inevitable and irrevocable consequence of the idolatry and rife injustice in ancient Israel. As in our time, there were those dream merchants who denied the prospect of national disaster. Prophets and priests — those tasked with discerning and interpreting the times — assured the people that Yahweh would intervene to save the city from the iron hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Wasn’t the temple — the symbol of God’s presence — in their midst?
God himself denounced this as cheap optimism: “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Unless and until we see signs of repentance on the part of the Marcoses, retribution in behalf of the victims of the Martial Law, and restitution for the plundered wealth that has impoverished our people, there can only be unrest.
The Marcos burial issue has opened unhealed wounds and exposed the depths of the fissures that divide this nation. Once again, rage erupts into the only tool we have at hand — “people power.” Outside analysts and local pundits framed by them call this useless anarchy; we call this direct democracy, our last resort when our institutions fail us.
This article was first published in Philippine Daily Inquirer Opinion section on December 9, 2016.
Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D. is a writer and social anthropologist. She is a sought-after international speaker and consultant on culture and social development issues, particularly at the interface of religion, culture and development. A specialist in intercultural communication, she was research fellow on the subject at the University of Cambridge in the UK under the auspices of Tyndale House, applying it to the question of culture and theology. She has lectured on this and other cross-cultural issues worldwide. As a development specialist and practitioner, she has initiated and supervised fresh research projects and groundbreaking grassroots work as president of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC), a research and training organization engaged in development, missiology, and cross-cultural studies aimed at social transformation.
Before We Get Overwhelmed by the Issue of Justice
by Jun Gonzaga
The word “Justice” is a big word for most of us Christians these days, especially when it refers to social justice. Words like “social sin,” “social injustices,” “structural evil,” “powers and principalities,” and similar terms or catchphrases that usually accompany the discussions over this issue don’t really explain Justice in a way that resonates with our physical and spiritual reality. At times, the issue is too big and encompassing, and we can’t wrap our mind around it, let alone do something about it.
And so most of us go back to just minding our personal ethics or living out the Golden Rule in our lives. And that is fine because the Golden Rule is really about justice! Let us take a closer look at the way Jesus framed this in His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, and in its context in Matthew 7:6–12 (ESV):
6 Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Ask, and It Will Be Given
[_7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! _]
The Golden Rule
_12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. _
First, let’s take note of the way the passage is usually interpreted because this is often reflected in the way our present Bible translations divide it. Usually verses 7–11 are presented as one paragraph which would lend itself to being interpreted as a teaching on prayer, “Ask, and it will be given” (ESV). Verse 6 is a stand-alone passage and so is verse 12. Of these two verses, verse 6 is the most difficult to translate while verse 12 has endeared itself to believers as the Golden Rule: a guide to personal ethics and good advice even to non-Christians, to make for a better life and society. There is actually a negative form of the Golden Rule attributed to Confucius, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” But which is a better saying? I believe that the positive form of the Golden Rule is better but that is for another discussion. So what is the meaning of the Golden Rule as intended in the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount?
The Golden Rule starts with “so” or “therefore,” so it is connected to the passage that immediately precedes it (verse 11). At the very least, we need to interpret both passages (verses 11 and 12) together. The Golden Rule encourages us to put ourselves in the position of the one who is in need, “whatever you wish others would do to you.” It is this position of need that is graphically portrayed in the asking, seeking, and knocking in verses 7–10. The good news is that, in this position of need, Jesus emphatically showed that we have our Father in heaven who is more than willing to give to those who ask Him: “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (verse 11). But the Golden Rule does not end here, which is good news for us, His children. It continues, “do also to them.” Yes, we can rely on our Father in heaven for the things that we need which we often ask and seek from others, but His rule for us is to be a channel of His blessings to others, “do also to others!” This is actually Jesus’ commission to His disciples when He sent them out, “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
If we understand the Golden Rule in this way: “Put yourselves in the position of those who are in need and remember how in the time of your need your Father in heaven provided for you. Now do likewise,” then this is already transformative understanding. But there is more to the Golden Rule when we look at the rest of the passage.
The pejorative use of the terms “dogs” and “pigs” in the Bible and in the context of 1st century AD generally points to those who don’t belong to the covenant, such as the Gentiles, enemies (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 15:26) and more particularly, the Roman occupying forces. (There is a subtle reference to Roman pigs in Mark 5:9-13; the parallel account of the Golden Rule in Luke 6:30–31 connects it with the Roman occupation realities.) Thus, the first part of verse 6 can be rendered, “Do not give the temple (what is holy) to the Romans (dogs).” This is probably a saying, or even a slogan, of those who oppose the Roman occupation. Jesus does not oppose this sentiment but he gave a deeper analysis of the problem, “…and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
The Greek word that we translate as “throw” here is the same word that is translated as “invest” in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:27, “you ought to have invested my money with the bankers.” And given the context of the patronage system in the 1st century — graphically described in the reference to asking, seeking, and knocking — Jesus’ choice of words shows that the deeper problem is that the Jews are investing their treasures in the patronage system, which is the foundation of the Roman occupation and even Jewish society — whether they are for the system or not.1 The Jews were warned that taking part in the system would result not only in the loss of their integrity (as the people of God), but even more tragically, in them being trampled upon by the Romans. This was literally fulfilled during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
What does Jesus prescribe to this problem? He tells them to turn to the only true patron, their Father in heaven! “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”
To paraphrase the passage, “Do not give the temple (what is holy) to the Roman dogs, and do not invest your treasure to gain the favor and have good standing with the Roman pigs, nor follow in their ways (the use of violence), for the Roman soldiers will trample you under their feet and they will turn to attack you (as in break your walls and compromise your integrity). Instead, turn to your Father in heaven. Ask, seek, and knock at His door. He hears, He reveals Himself, He opens His door and gives to those who ask Him.”
12 “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Our Lord, through the Golden Rule lived out by His followers, desires to turn the patronage system, and whatever worldly system that oppresses the people, upside down!
Think about it. The systems of the world and the patronage system are just examples. Just like a pyramid with the powerless and needy at the bottom and the few who are powerful and who have the means (i.e. patrons) at the top. If we lived out the Golden Rule, we would be brokers of our true Patron, our Father in heaven, seeking for those who are needy, who the Father desires to bless through us. We would be, in a sense, inverting the pyramid! This is how we can deal with the oppressive social structure, and that is justice!
Thus, before you are overwhelmed by the issue of justice, think and obey the Golden Rule. That is doing justice!
Jun Gonzaga is a voracious reader and listener. He is in “surprise mode” whenever he reads the Word of God, while reading materials to help him enjoy the Bible even more. He was a pastor at the Kamuning Bible Christian Fellowship for 22 years, and is currently a consultant for the Center for Community Transformation.
1This is true as well among the religious as they show themselves as patrons able to dispense and mediate the favor of God! Cf. Matthew 6:1ff; 23:1-12
The State, the Task of Justice, and Duterte’s “Drug War”
by Atty. Romel Regalado Bagares
I belong to a small evangelical congregation of no more than thirty people. If I must confess, it is one perennially on the verge of dissolution. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, every Sunday, we manage to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. After we have partaken together the bread and wine, our senior minister, Rev. Winston Pinzon, beckons to us with the words: “Let us now proclaim the mystery of the Christian faith.”
Together, we intone: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”
Pastor Winston then recites the Prayer after Communion, which ends with this poetic and prophetic plea:
[_Lord of all life, _
help us to work together for that day
when your kingdom comes
and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.]
I’ve been a Christian since my high school years, but it was only recently that I have come to realize the significance of these creedal affirmations to political life.
Confession and Political Action
The importance of these words: “Christ, the true Lord, is Risen as the True Sovereign and one day, every pretender to power, every ruler who has set himself up with the power to decide over life and death, every corrupt and immoral leader, will be exposed and judged by the One who comes to claim the world as His own, rightful kingdom,” breaks through the boundaries of history and shapes its direction.
This all ties up with our confession that “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” as the book of Psalms says. In the language of the Nicene’s Creed, God is the “Maker of heaven and earth.” All authority in heaven and on earth — in the sheer diversity of the institutions and responsibilities established for such authority — come from Him and are now given to the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.
Really, whenever Christians — no matter how small and weak they may be — gather around bread and wine, they bear witness to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and of the promise of eternal life to an unbelieving world until He comes again.
There is an inner connection between our being gathered as a people around Word and Sacrament, and our public witness. Our public witness cannot be separated from our communal worship. Our worship itself – including our liturgical practices – should shape us into persons with hearts oriented to justice. We draw the strength to do justice from our being a people gathered around Word and Sacrament. Our public witness must always be in His account, in His name. This is what the Beatitudes itself proclaims.1
We do not witness to the world, that is, work for justice, for its own sake. The calling to do justice is always a response to being called in His name. We respond to the call to justice because we are a people who worship the God of justice. Our confession is: Doing justice is something that our Lord wants us to do; we do it in His name.
We understand the call to justice to be normative; that is, justice is rooted in God’s creational design and the standard obligations that come with nurturing institutions, societal structures, and personal and social relationships for human flourishing. Following our biblical and confessional commitments, social and political institutions are never mere human constructs. We recognize them to be our God-given responsibilities, to be developed as offices exercised according to a particular God-ordained telos (end) unique to each institution and relation.
Creation and the created order are always true to, and illuminated by, Scripture. As Albert Wolters argues in his book Creation Regained — an intellectual work that has shaped much of my own thinking — “Human civilization is normed throughout.” What does he mean by this? “There is nothing in human life that does not belong to the created order,” he writes. “Everything we are and do is thoroughly creaturely.”
The demands of justice, normative as they are, are always differentiated according to the diversified creational nature of institutions, societal structures, and personal and social relationships. Thus, justice for us is not some idealized, ideological, or wholly secular concept of our state of affairs. Justice is what Scripture proclaims to be the heart of God for creational and human flourishing.
And so we confess, there is a particular God-ordained structure particular to, and which holds for, institutions, societal structures, and social relationships. However, human sinfulness distorts such a structure and takes it to an apostate or perverted direction.
Throughout history, we have seen how kings and emperors and dictators sought to define the public interest or raison d’etat (reason of state) according to the swing of these two tendencies: structure and direction. The Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd thus reminds us that:
For the sake of the public interest, Plato and Fichte defended the withdrawal of the children from their parents and wanted their education to be entrusted to the body politic. With an appeal to the public interest, Plato wanted to abolish marriage and private property as far as the ruling classes of his ideal State were concerned. Aristotle wanted education to be made uniform in “the public interest;” on the same ground Rousseau wished to destroy all the particular associations intervening between the State and the individual citizen….
The slogan of the public interest was the instrument for the destruction of the most firmly established liberties because it lacked any juridical delimitation. The terrible threat of Leviathan is audible in this word as long as it is used in a juridically unlimited sense. The universalistic political theories could conceive of the relation between the State and the non-political societal structures only in the schema of the whole and its parts. This is why they could not delimit the idea of “the public.”
Defining the terms
Christians need to define the very term at the center of the question of just governing and governance: The State. Not too long ago, I heard prominent sociologist and then-member of the House of Representatives Walden Bello speak at a gathering of human rights defenders. He talked about a Janus-faced State with “hard” and “soft” faces, by which he apparently meant that the State has some sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde nature.
One part of the state is good but there is that part, represented by the security forces, that does evil. Which is why, according to him, we need human rights laws to rein in the apparently inherently evil part of the State. Subsequently, Mr. Bello’s essay on the same question appeared on his online column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (“Restraining Leviathan” 9/4/13 – whose title, I hasten to add, echoed a leading work of a philosopher of absolute power, the Englishman Thomas Hobbes).
Neither Mr. Bello’s talk nor his column mentioned any reference, but he might have drawn his theory of a dual-faced State from the work of the German political theorist Ernst Fraenkel, who fled from Nazism to the US in 1939.
In 1941, Fraenkel came out with the book The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship, where he described two contradictory features of Hitler’s government: A “Normative State” characterized by the existence of formal constitutional norms for civil and political rights, and a “Prerogative State,” defined as a State with a predilection for arbitrary and unchecked exercise of power. Curiously, the Prerogative State echoes the definition given by the acknowledged chief architect of Nazi constitutional thought, Carl Schmitt. He defined the true sovereign as someone who has the sole prerogative to decide what the exception is.
In any case, Mr. Bello’s dualistic conception of the State raises key theoretical and practical problems. I mention here only three of several possible points.
First, in both constitutional law and international law, the State is understood to be composed of an alliance of both people and government, regardless of its particular form (Let us remember that according to the Montevideo Convention, the elements of a state are government, people, territory, and capacity to enter into international relations).
This gives rise to the question: So which part here answers to the soft side and which one answers to the hard part, if the state is one such accord?
Second, he seems to define evil chiefly in terms of human rights violations. What about graft and corruption that seem to plague all sectors of society, not just government? It is obvious that other branches of government are afflicted with this societal/cultural disease, and not just the security sector. In the Napoles pork barrel scam, we have seen an entirely different and particularly pernicious type of Public-Private Partnership.
Third, he speaks of a hard face of the state as if it were something that is already a given, or inherent.
In political theory, this third point has a long and distinguished history, beginning with the first Anarchists, the Anabaptists (the Christian predecessors of today’s Mennonites). The Anabaptistic line in the Christian tradition rejected the state as an institution of the Devil, and such is continued in some secularized way by contemporary Marxists and Anarchists who speak in varying ways of the “overcoming of The State.”
State and statecraft: traditions of Christian reflection
There too are the debates between the Roman Catholic Thomists and the Protestant Augustinians: The former taught that the State is part of the natural order of things, given the social nature of human beings; in opposition to the former, the latter believed that the power of the sword — the very thing the Anabaptists considered to be evil — was an essential part of the state’s structure from creation (now, would that make Mr. Bello some sort of a secular Augustinian?). Nevertheless, both the Thomists and the Augustinians recognize the State as a divine institution.
I consider myself part of one wing of the Augustinian tradition inaugurated by the Protestant Dutch Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. He rejects dualistic views of the State and insists that the State organizes within its territory a typical, legally qualified, public community — a public, legal community of government and subjects — in a unity of power and justice. In this view, power is foundational to state creation. The monopoly of the sword, or the exercise of law enforcement and police power, is necessary for the enforcement of public law.
Without such power, ensuring even a modicum of public order is impossible. Public laws that lay down the rules of integration of society into a public legal community will remain laws on paper, and civil law cannot be established and sustained. Yet there is an unbreakable coherence between power and the State’s normative task expressed in norms of public justice. In other words: Power, while foundational to the State, may not be exercised arbitrarily by the State.
This particular Christian tradition in political thought professes that there is a God-designed structure for the State, but human acting and willing determine the direction it will take — for or against the side of justice.
Further, while agreeing that the State’s duty is toward the whole society, Dooyeweerd restricts state power not by some supposedly external limit set by another institution — as in the case of human rights laws — but by the God-ordered nature of the State itself, which is a unity of power and justice.
The State’s intrinsic purpose is expressed through norms of public justice, which is shorthand for those norms that pertain to the common good, and the various collective, communal and logistical interests that the State has to balance.
The State’s law enforcement and prosecutorial arms, for protecting and promoting public justice and the common good in the domestic legal order (its “normative peculiarity”, as philosophers would say), sets it apart from other societal institutions. Only the State is the immediate institution in the domestic sphere entrusted with the legal duty — backed up with the force of arms — to protect and promote the Rule of Law. For the government to be “under law” in this way means that it is not authorized to do whatever it wishes; instead, it may exercise its power only within the boundaries of the political community’s constitution, laws, and court rulings.
All of this sounds highly theoretical but they have real-life implications.
By this confessional commitment, we know that state and statecraft cannot be an all-embracing reality, absorbing every other institution and relation. Yet, since the 19th century, the idea of the state has been dominated by political theories that elevated the state over every other institution and relation in society. This, to me, is contrary to the biblical witness.
If justice — and statecraft (the art and science of just governing) — is a biblically normative calling, neither can we abide by the idea of a government that is “instrumentalist” or “absolutist.” The instrumentalist treats statecraft as no more than a pursuit of ends by whatever means necessary. The absolutist transforms state and statecraft into no more than an exercise of naked, unbridled power. But they are really related. The absolutist is almost always an instrumentalist (that is, he will do everything to achieve his purposes, no matter what the cost, and without recognizing legal limits), because he can, with all the means and power at his disposal.
If statecraft is biblically normative, we cannot abide by a leader who claims he alone has the discretion to say who is a friend and who is an enemy; what is law and what is not; when there is a state of emergency and when there is a normal state of political affairs; or worse, who is human and who is not.
In the historical development of states, the idea of “constitutionalism” and the “Rule of Law” has much to commend itself to Christians. Any proper study of the history of these principles cannot be separated from the immense contribution of Christianity to Western civilization, to which we are heirs.
When we hear leaders say that in order to uphold the law, it becomes necessary to break it, we should immediately jump on our feet and raise a howl of protest.
The bloody drug war launched by President Duterte — which has already claimed thousands of lives since it was launched in July last year — should give much pause to Christians serious about their confessional and biblical commitments.
Filipino evangelicals remain the poorer because of their blissful ignorance that they belong to a rich tradition of theological and political reflection on state and statecraft. Perhaps, on the occasion of the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year, it is high time that they take the lessons the Reformation offers seriously.
State responsibility and international law
In the international legal system, the State is the primary domestic institution charged with the task of ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights. This is because states are the principal parties to human rights instruments as well as to international humanitarian law conventions, and are therefore the principal actors charged with their implementation.
As early as 1928 in the Las Palmas arbitration, international law has always recognized that states, in the grant given by the international legal system of sovereign and territorial rights to them, have concomitant obligations to the protection of human rights. As held by the lone arbitrator Max Huber: “Territorial sovereignty, involves the exclusive right to display the activities of a state. This right has a corollary, a duty: the obligation to protect within the territory the rights of other states, in particular their right to integrity and inviolability in peace and in war, together with the rights which each state may claim for its nationals in foreign territory.”
International and transnational justice
It is true that there are now various international mechanisms to hold perpetrators of international crimes responsible for their actions. For the most part, however, it is the institution of the State as a public legal community that takes the lead in ensuring that public justice and the common good are served within its jurisdiction.
The fact that states — especially the most powerful states — are generally unwilling to cede some of their autonomy to help create necessary international and transnational institutions does not prove the invalidity or meaninglessness of transnational norms of justice. Where states fail to discharge their task of normative statecraft, there is a need for better and newer forms of governance that transcend the limits of the states. Normative statecraft is built by the gradual efforts of states and other institutions to act in a normative fashion to achieve just governance, as the Christian political philosopher James W. Skillen argues in his book, America, With or Against the World (2011).
Today, in the complexities of a globalized order, justice for upholding the common good of the international public order requires the building of international and transnational governance capabilities that improve the quality of state responsibilities, while also building out beyond state sovereignty.
Thus, we need to recognize the role of the State in building real governing institutions that answer to the demands of justice both on the domestic and international level. Thus, the State is accountable first of all to its own citizens; yet it must also answer to the commitments it had undertaken to fulfill to international and transnational mechanisms for public justice and the common good.
Hope and inescapable normativity
One of the implications of the Christian confession that God originated and sustains creation is that despite the perversions of humanity, political tyranny cannot wipe out the divinely ordained character of the State. The God-ordained structure is never entirely obliterated by the (mis)direction of human hearts.
As Albert Wolters says, “Hope is grounded in the constant availability and the insistent presence of the good creation, even in those situations in which it is being terribly violated.” The normativity of the created order remains valid, and the creational norms God has designed for our flourishing affect us creaturely subjects. The call for justice in the face of tyranny confirms that. Indeed, God presses His claim upon us in the structure of His creation, regardless of our direction.
The philosopher-theologian Richard Mouw illustrates this nicely in an essay on the legacies of the Dutch Protestant theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper, a tradition that Dooyeweerd himself follows. He writes that in the 1970s, at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, activists routinely flailed the American government for having turned itself over to the “way of death.” Yet he says that this depiction wasn’t entirely true in his personal experience.
At that time, a son of his had just started kindergarten and he would walk him past several inner city blocks to school on certain mornings. On one such walk, he overheard two teachers talk about a fire-safety inspection that the Fire Department had conducted the day before.
Later, as he drove to work, he saw at another school a uniformed guard assist students in crossing the street. It is important, according to Mouw, to recognize the fallenness of Creation; yet Christians must ever be on the lookout for signs that “God has not given up on restoring the purposes that were at work in His initial creating activity.” “To do so,” he continues, “Christians must actively work together as agents of this restorative program that encompasses the whole range of cultural involvement.” Institutions and structures are not so utterly fallen that we are left helpless and hopeless.
In our own context, corruption and acts of death may have become so pervasive in our political system, but because we confess the sovereignty of God in all spheres of life, we also know that, at the very least, there are pockets of resistance in every level of government and every sphere of society. Courts still function. Government hospitals and their dedicated medical staff continue to provide health services, despite the lack of resources. The government colleges and universities are still open. The police, albeit it may very well be corruption-ridden, must still discharge its functions. The legislature still passes many good laws. There are still many good men and women in the civil service who, in their own little way, preserve and exemplify decency and dignity in government service.
It is these pockets of resistance and markers of “faithful presence” that Christians must engage and enlarge as part of our common work in anticipation of that day when His Kingdom comes and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.
Atty. Romel Regalado Bagares attends the Christ Our Life Fellowship, a small Christian and Missionary Alliance of the Philippines congregation that meets at the F. Benitez Memorial Hall on UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City. He has communication and law degrees from the University of the Philippines, and an MA in social and political theory (2007, cum laude) from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is also one of the select few Filipino recipients of the prestigious French Foreign Ministry’s “Programme d’invitation des personnalité d’avenir” (Invitation Program for Personalities of the Future), which allows an awardee to explore his fields of interest in a short study trip to Paris. He is the Executive Director of the Center for International Law, a Philippine NGO engaged in training, advocacy, and strategic litigation. In late January of this year, he led the filing of a Writ of Amparo petition on behalf of the families of victims of a tokhang operation in Payatas, Quezon City — the very first successful legal challenge against the drug war of the Duterte administration.
NOTE: Portions of this essay appeared in an earlier form on the author’s blog post: Romel R. Bagares, Akbayan Rep. Bello on the Janus-faced State, September 21, 2013, https://enkapsis.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/akbayan-rep-walden-bello-on-the-janus-faced-state/ accessed April 18, 2017, and in a conference paper entitled, Coercion, Justice, Democracy and Legitimacy: Re-Making the Dooyeweerdian State? read by the author at the Kuyper Public Theology Conference (2012) at the Princeton Theological Seminary and the Amsterdam Kuyper Conference (2013) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Dooyeweerd, Herman. A New Critique of Theoretical Thought: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy, Volume 3. Edwin Mellen, 1997.
“Island of Palmas”. April 4, 1928. Reports of International Arbitral Awards, http://legal.un.org/riaa/cases/vol_II/829-871.pdf accessed April 18, 2017.
Wolters, Albert M. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985.
1I am grateful to our church elder, Atty. Jun Eslao, former New Testament professor at the Alliance Graduate School, for this insight he shared in a series of sermons he preached on the Beatitudes.
Academic Activism: Journeying for Justice with the Urban Poor
by Mary Racelis
“What does peace mean to me?” repeated a mother in the Pikit, Cotabato Peace Zone when I asked her that question. “Peace,” she replied, “means I can send my five-year-old daughter across the road in the morning to buy five centavos worth of salt without fearing she will be shot.”
Now that this mother’s village has established itself as a peace zone, she related how determined the community is to keep it that way. Weapons are no longer tolerated in their village. Military personnel and police who wish to enter have to leave their arms outside the village like everyone else. With peace — although in a still-precarious state — a reality, she and her family are happily cultivating the land once more and revisiting wistful memories of pre-war years. People can again chat in leisurely fashion with their neighbors, take naps in the afternoon, pray at the mosque, attend local celebrations, and watch their children grow into a better future.
In Filipino, katarungan is translated as “justice” or “equity” and closely linked to fairness (pagkamakatarungan). For the Maguindanawon mother explaining what it meant to return to her community after years as a beleaguered bakwit (displaced evacuee), she expresses her relief at reclaiming “the good life.” By implication she is saying, “This is life as it should be.” Sociologist-historian Filomeno Aguilar Jr. found the same aspiration among Batangas families of overseas migrant workers as they struggled to re-organize their dislocated lives back into “maalwang buhay,” or “the good life.”1
Poets speak of justice in a more lyrical mode, as this partially quoted poem illustrates:2
[_Ano nga ba ang katarungan? _]
[What is justice really?
_Is it actually for everyone _
or only for the rich?
I want to know, I want to learn why
all of us have rights
and yet powerful people
not content with what they have
still steal from others.
Oh you people! Why are you like that?]
An Academic Learns about Katarungan from the Urban Poor
How can someone like me, privileged to have escaped the many injustices inflicted upon those in poverty, presume to portray injustice?
Let me try to convey my sense of what is just and unjust by drawing upon what I have learned from the poor people who I have become friends with over the past 50 years — the urban informal settlers in Metro Manila.
It all started during the 1960s in Tondo, Manila, where I was doing research on regular low-income neighborhoods. I was soon publishing a number of articles on poor people’s lives in the city — their behavior, values, and world views — highlighting the strong sense of community and interpersonal sharing that prevailed in their communities, much of which Western urban literature in the United States denied.
One day, my community organizer friends who were working in the adjacent Foreshore area, where informal settlers were being targeted for eviction, approached me. “Mary, we recognize that you empathize a lot with the urban poor and write favorably about them,” one of them said. “And we appreciate your positive views. But really, it’s not you who should represent the people in the wider society; the people should represent themselves!”
Taken aback, I asked what I should do instead. “Just spend time in our communities and join our meetings and activities. Help us enable people to speak for themselves, to act confidently on their own behalf, to defend their rights and challenge the Establishment!” I was overwhelmed at the prospect of taking on roles unfamiliar to the academic enterprise, but nonetheless agreed.
That “Yes” changed my life. It has been a commitment of over 50 years that I have never regretted.
Becoming a Partner of Urban Poor Communities
I soon became part of the community organizers’ drive to help poor people overcome the culture of silence that accompanies powerlessness. Organizing themselves into groups to make their voices heard through collective action enabled the people to analyze their issues and determine how best to proceed. The organizing process challenged the sense of inferiority (hiya) displayed by many of the poor when in the company of wealthier and more educated people, an orientation internalized from childhood.
With many planning sessions reinforced by group mobilizing to make demands of the authorities, the results brought both small and large victories. They ranged from getting more water taps installed in their neighborhood to the government’s releasing onsite or adjacent land for their secure occupancy. Organized efforts like these centering on specific issues and demands identified the kinds of injustices and inequities they were no longer willing to tolerate. They might be poor, but they had come to realize that they had a right to katarungan.
How inspiring it was to see once passively acquiescent people assert their equal status as human beings and as citizens with a right to speak and act in the corridors of power! I watched with awe the emergence of a collective self-confidence that rejected a begging approach or meek requests to the authorities in favor of firm and justified demands. I applauded their insistence that they had a right to live in the city. These lessons learned early in my professional career incorporated admiration and a lifelong commitment to be of service as an engaged anthropologist. I celebrated with them their successes while sharing their frustrations at the inertia of government bureaucracies, coupled with the uncaring, even vindictive, attitudes of far too many officials.
“How,” I kept asking myself, “could I support them in ways that would further dignify their efforts?”
I started by linking up with NGO community organizers helping to create People’s Organizations (POs), which were crucial to the empowerment process. Disadvantaged urbanites, with assistance from NGO partners, learned how to develop carefully-thought-out strategies and plans, present them as demands to the authorities, and follow-up unrelentingly.
With a growing sense of self-confidence, courage and capacity, the POs have gradually shifted away from dependency postures like “Sana…” (“If only…”) to increasing self-realization with “Dapat…” (“This should be…”), eventually graduating to demand or “Karapatan namin…!” (It is our right…!”).
Organized urban groups have achieved hard-won victories in obtaining secure tenure with onsite or nearby housing, basic services and livelihood opportunities, and recognition as valid stakeholders — the result of countless meetings and struggles with the authorities. They have taken an active part in formulating and revising the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (RA 7279). These milestones have built up their capacities to define injustices in ordinary, everyday circumstances that need attention and correction. This has allowed their expanded and clearer framing of what has to be done.
Katarungan as Expressed in the 2017 Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Taga-lungsod
This broadened spectrum of awareness and action is exemplified by the Statement of the Urban Poor given on April 11 at the Kalbaryo ng Maralitang Taga-lungsod, or the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ in the Way of the Cross. In preparing their 2017 PAHAYAG NG MGA ISYU, the POs held several consultations. Focusing on recent laments with an underlying conviction of “hindi tama iyan,” (that’s not right), they identified seven key unjust and unconscionable issues affecting them. Re-enacting the Passion via a march-procession from Plaza Miranda to Mendiola, near Malacañang, seven men and women hauled seven crosses, each dramatizing one issue.
A number of distinctive words used in the original statement in Filipino highlight aspects of injustice and inequity, like kawalan ng katarungan or kalikuan (lack of righteousness), and kaapihan (persecution). These underpinned the seven mobilizing issues:
Even as they denounced the violence and blood flowing in their streets as a result of the extrajudicial killings running rampant in urban poor neighborhoods, injustice in their eyes stemmed from the government’s failure to investigate the killings and bring justice for the victims. Suspicion and fear have taken over, they protested, destroying family life and the once normal efforts of neighbors to help one another.
Injustice also looms large in the proposed death penalty3 and reduction of the minimum age of criminal responsibility to nine years old4. Kalbaryo penitents denounced the victimization of the poor, both old and young. Unlike some similarly accused rich, they asserted, the poor cannot afford to hire good lawyers to defend themselves, nor will rich children from nine to fifteen years old who are in conflict with the law be arrested and imprisoned as adults, or wealthy adult criminals face a death penalty. It is the poor who will suffer from unjust legislation.
Large proportions of these urban poor populations live in informal settlements where uncertainty and the fear of eviction dominate their lives. Official figures of their numbers vary widely from 250,000 families5 or 1,250,000 people, to 600,000 families6 or 3,000,000 people. The urban poor protest as unjust the misinformation and flooding excuse used by the government to evict poor but striving families to distant off-city resettlement sites, where their poverty worsens. Health, sanitation, education and other basic services remain in short supply. Some 40-90% of the employed resettlers cope by maintaining their work in the urban centers from which they were originally evicted.7 Yet, daily transport back to the far-away city is expensive and time-consuming and often results in a weekly commute for the breadwinners that splits families and possibly leads to eventual abandonment. Should the resettlers falter in paying their housing installments, eviction once again threatens. Little wonder that many households, according to residents, have returned to the city, surreptitiously selling their units to better off families.
Some of the resettlers nonetheless remain, finding ways of coping with disrupted lives and increased poverty. Those who move back to the city to retrieve a more hopeful future find themselves automatically labeled as “professional squatters,” in effect, criminals. Yet, as these relocated families frequently point out, it was the government that initiated their move from “danger zones” along the waterways to “death zones” in unlivable settlements. The failure or unwillingness of those in power to grasp urban poor people’s logic in resisting evictions to off-city sites becomes another form of injustice.
People’s Organizations are further assaulted by the government’s use of environmental issues to justify forcing out poor people living along waterways. POs protest that holding them responsible for the massive Ondoy flooding of 2010, for example, is not only inaccurate but totally unjust. The burden of guilt lies rather, they insist, in discharges from factories (as well as wealthy households) into the rivers, in the water hyacinth build-ups that government authorities ignore until it is too late, in upstream silt run-off and garbage dumping that clog esteros and drainage canals, and in the sudden release of excess rainwater from overflowing dams serving the metropolis.
Communities cite ample evidence of their contributions to mitigating local climate change threats. All have avidly supported community disaster risk management training, installed local warning systems against impending calamities, organized orderly evacuations during floods, earthquakes, and fires, and addressed seashore vulnerability by planting mangrove clusters along the edges. Yet, they complain, their contributions go unrecognized in the government’s continuing inability or unwillingness to offer onsite or in-city security of tenure and decent housing for their permanent stay in the city.
Instead, poor urbanites have had to fend for themselves in finding employment or ways of earning in the informal sector, paving their own muddy walkways, setting up potable water systems in their neighborhoods, and attending to public safety surveillance. They have willingly moved back from the five-meter easements along waterways to safer adjacent or nearby spaces once the government makes these available. The evidence is clear that once informal settlers gain secure tenure onsite and improve their earning levels, their housing stock and attention to community needs to improve correspondingly. After all, as homeowners they now have a legal stake in their neighborhood’s environment.
Injustice is again cited in the ways in which women are regarded by the Duterte Administration. The Statement underlines the double standard that treats women as commodities. This becomes glaringly evident to most onlookers when the Speaker of the House and the President himself show no hesitation in admitting to their mistresses, even as they roundly condemn the now incarcerated Senator Leila de Lima for her already-ended affair. The blatant misogyny in their various references to women becomes particularly reprehensible to the striving urban poor, given that the majority of their leaders and their NGO partners are women.
The decreasing space for people to express concerns contrary to the statements of people in power is also tagged as a key issue posted on one of the Kalbaryo crosses. Public participation and the freedom to speak one’s mind are what democracy is about, contend the urban poor. To move toward strongman rule and coerce people into agreeing means an end to democracy and the complete repression of people’s wishes. These are the ultimate injustices referred to in the concepts of kalikuan, kaapihan and kawalan ng katarungan. In place of the usual INRI tacked onto the cross, Christ’s Kalbaryo cross features, “Nanlaban” (the term that Drug War supporters use for resistant drug-users who the police justify shooting in so-called self-defense).
Katarungan as Achieved Justice for, with, and by the Poor
How can civil society groups counter this kind of oppression of the poor? Here are some of the actions I have taken which may prove useful to others.
Forge partnerships with the urban poor for people’s empowerment through community organization. Assist them directly as POs or through their NGO partners in their struggles to acquire decent housing and secure tenure, employment and income, basic services and a voice in decisions affecting them. This is done by building on people’s strengths at family and community levels, enabling them to create and utilize networks and institutional links present within and outside the community.
Support poor people’s peaceful mobilizations to make the government and the larger society more responsive to their needs. That includes: Linking them with key contacts; participating in their planning sessions; assisting with documentation and information dissemination; joining mass mobilizations, like their annual Panunuluyan or Kalbaryo events; sitting on the boards of their NGO partners; linking them with students and faculty for service outreach; finding out who among those in power are eager to get to know the community and enable them to learn firsthand about people’s lives and aspirations; advocating poor people’s interests and facilitating contacts with local and international donors; and making public presentations aimed at changing negative stereotypes among middle- and upper-class groups about the urban poor. All this and more have been crucial ingredients in sustaining my passion to rectify injustice wh ere I can.
Enable women to take on full leadership and participatory roles. This includes getting better education and access to financing, for increasingly productive involvement in the economy with significant benefits to household and community. Women’s roles in inculcating moral values and spiritual concerns emerge as crucial for people’s well-being and families’ peace of mind.
Serve community information needs through data-gathering, focusing on people’s concerns. Preferably, the people themselves will be doing the data-gathering, with the assistance of and in partnership with external specialists. Follow this through with formal documentation and publications that they can use in promoting their demands.
Final Reflections of an Engaged Academic
The mutual trust that was built over many decades through direct contact with the struggles and achievements of urban poor communities and active partner NGOs has brought me enormous benefits. My classroom teaching, research, personal convictions and professional strengths have been greatly enriched by my urban poor friends, their People’s Organizations and partner NGOs, along with sympathetic government personnel. This long partnership has enabled me to write with their support for and about urban poor partners with greater empathy and increased understanding of their situations and aspirations. In turn, I hope that they have benefited from my being part of their lives.
Most recently, the continuing poverty of so many has led me to re-examine theoretical frameworks of society and culture that continue to favor an unrestricted market economy despite growing disparities. In order to affect social transformation in a globalizing world, we need new ways of thinking and acting, built on people-generated theories of change.
This search for new theoretical outlooks in social transformation, a kind of insurgent scholarship that works for ordinary people, has become part of my Christian commitment to enabling urban poor Filipinos to forge a life of dignity, fairness and justice. This I know they can do through effective organization combined with spiritual wholeness. But structures of society also need to change. To demand justice for the poor means walking with them as companions in that journey of struggle. Maybe then we can together, confidently and correctly, answer at last the question, “Ano nga ba ang katarungan?”
Mary Racelis is the first woman professor in Ateneo de Manila when she joined the faculty in June 1960. When Fr. Frank Lynch, S.J. started the Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology (DSA), he invited Prof. Racelis to be among his first staff members. She graduated in Sociology and Anthropology from Cornell University in New York and completed her M.A. in Sociology at the University of the Philippines. De La Salle University awarded her a Doctorate in Social Sciences, honoris causa in 1975 and in 2003, Ateneo de Manila University awarded her a Doctorate in Humanities, honoris causa as well. She teaches at the Institute of Philippine Culture Department of Sociology and Anthropology in Ateneo de Manila University.
1Aguilar, Jr, Filomeno V. et al, Maalawang Buhay; Family, Overseas Migration and Cultures of Relatedness in Barangay Paraiso. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2009.
2Junashen Satoshi. Katarungan… Paano makakamtan? https://www.wattpad.com/22031068-katarungan-paano-makakamtan Accessed April 18, 2017. English translation from the original Tagalog is the author’s.
3As of April 26, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was cited in local newspapers as saying that he does not see the Senate passing a bill to reimpose the death penalty during the 17th Congress. The Senate is set to convene its 18th Congress in July.
4 According to a Pulse Asia nationwide survey held last March, 55% of Filipinos believe that the lowest age of criminal liability in the Philippines should be kept at 15 years old.
52010 Census of Population and Housing and 2012 Family Income and Expenditures Survey.
6Guarano, MariaTanya B. 2011 Metro Manila City Report. In Magnitude and Location of Informal Settlers in the Philippines: Compilation and Secondary Data Analysis Report prepared for the Department of Interior and Local Government.
7Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, Revisiting the Resettlement Programme to Uphold Rights to Adequate Housing and Consultation. Policy note prepared for the National Housing Summit by the Informal Settlers Unit, Second Draft, 17 May 2016. World Bank, Australian Aid, Senate of the Philippines, Congress of the Philippines, National Housing and Urban Development Summit: Closing the Gap in Affordable Housing in the Philippines, 2016.
An Everyday Believer’s Thoughts on Justice
by Atty. Lawrence Aritao
Justice matters. In everyday life, we have an inner alarm alerting us to injustice: A stolen parking spot, a stranger cutting in line, a child begging in the streets, a loved one victimized by abuse. Justice is a lot like oxygen — cut off the supply and everyone notices; give it amply, and people are free to enjoy the sunshine. I’d like to share some thoughts on justice as a father and a believer.
We learn to judge (and need) fairness automatically
Children are automatically outspoken judges of fairness. Parents know too well how an unfairly sliced cake is a doorway to chaos. The instinctive desire for fairness echoes through every corridor of human life.
Everywhere, little kids look to their parents to give them what is due. My son, at just two years old, expects his share of Christmas gifts or the pasalubong I, or my wife, bring home from a day out. In my son’s mind, if his big sister receives presents, he should too. It’s only fair.
Not surprisingly, giving every person what is due is a classical definition of justice. We can all understand why it matters — genuine care cannot co-exist with injustice or unfairness.
We don’t outgrow our desire for justice.
The desire for justice we felt as children stays with us permanently. It’s hardwired into our souls. At work, we feel nurtured in environments with clear policies, rules, and rewards. We feel unloved and unsafe when rules or policies appear arbitrary.
If you are an adult in the marketplace, you have probably witnessed good people leaving lucrative jobs because of unfair treatment or discrimination. You probably know friends who stay in jobs with moderate pay because they feel valued and loved. We flourish under just and fair systems, while unjust systems diminish and weaken us.
If you’ve faced injustice firsthand — such as gender discrimination or racism — you know how much it hurts. Monetary losses and inconveniences are easy to recover from. An affront to your dignity leaves much deeper wounds.
Justice allows the best human qualities to come forward
From a biblical perspective, government systems cannot allow discrimination or unfairness. God values and loves every person who bears His image. Any system we build, as believers, must reflect the inherent worth God ascribes to every human being.
Even in modern secular systems, such as governments, the consensus is that humans possess dignity — independent of anything they possess or accomplish. Our own Constitution, the highest law of our land, has a bill of rights that applies to everyone and protects all of us equally.
Whether you believe in a biblical or a secular framework, human history illustrates how just and fair systems allow the best human qualities to come forward. Compassion, kindness, and love are most attainable when we build communities that value human life and dignity.
Justice and love are in the character of God. The Cross reveals His heart.
[_“Righteousness and justice are the foundations of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You.” _
_Psalm 89:14, NASB _]
The Bible reveals the King of Creation ruling from a foundation of justice. He sends out His decrees from a throne built upon life-giving principles. How did this King react to the injustice and wickedness of the world? He left His throne to reach the Cross.
In every just system, perpetrators must face punishment for the damage they have done to society. In the Bible’s framework, sin entered all human life, by human choice. This made our entire race guilty of breaking divine law and harming all of creation. The Bible records murder, genocide, slavery, and war as part of sin’s corrupt fruits. And the penalty for sin is spiritual death — absolute separation from God.
But God, who sits on a throne built on justice, also identifies Himself as Love. Scripture tells us plainly that those who belong to God are marked by love. “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love” (1 John 4:8, NIV).
God’s redemption plan would satisfy His divine quality of justice and His declared identity as Love. He left His throne and journeyed to the Cross. There, Christ removed our iniquities so completely that the Bible says He “became sin for us” (See 2 Corinthians 5:21).
By punishing sin, God did perfect justice. By paying the penalty Himself, He showed supreme love. As believers, our redemption story begins where justice and love are most real: in the person of Christ.
Justice is a language of faith.
For over nine years, I have represented child survivors of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Often, at the opposing end of a child’s pain is a human being profiting from evil. Even on the secular level, this conduct is heinous. Through biblical lens, it is proof of sin’s presence and power in the world. Contesting this dominance is the salt and light of God’s Kingdom. In meat, salt fights deterioration. In darkness, light shows the way forward. As subjects of our King, we are meant to do that in practical ways.
At International Justice Mission (IJM), we believe that “God works His miracles of transformation through miraculously transformed people.” The Bible likens the effect of such persons to yeast. Yeast needs not be plentiful, but it must be alive. If alive, a small amount of yeast can enter and affect the entire batch of dough.
We know the yeast is alive when the bread rises. I know that the body of Christ is awake and alive because of its effect on communities: They rise against societal deterioration; they fight to shine the way forward in the dark.
Justice is a language of hope.
IJM’s Philippine program supports law enforcement efforts against the online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). Our goals are to rescue victims, hold criminals accountable, restore survivors to safety and strength, and help local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. Our hope is to see the prevalence of OSEC decrease greatly as the Philippine justice system rises to do its work. With some victims younger than one year old, the stakes are high.
In the criminal situations we encounter, many times it is a parent or loved one who sells their child to foreign pedophiles online. Parents that facilitate this crime often groom their children and subject them to horrendous sexual abuses in exchange for money. If we give misplaced mercy to parents by not holding them accountable, we sacrifice the long-term health of both the child and the family.
If we apply the law justly, the children are brought to safety while perpetrating parents are arrested. They are then given the opportunity to admit guilt and face shorter prison times. The foreign perpetrators are also apprehended through international law enforcement partnerships.
Our country experienced dramatic decreases in child sex trafficking after a few years of consistent anti-trafficking law enforcement in specific areas within Metro Cebu, Angeles City, and Metro Manila. In those target areas, the prevalence of children being sold in commercial sex decreased by an average of eighty percent. This means that today, compared to 2009, there are significantly fewer children being victimized in those locations as a result of the justice system rising up to combat child sex trafficking. In the Philippine story, delivering justice not only protected the hundreds of children rescued, but the thousands of others who will never be abused. Justice opened the door to recovery, family healing, crime prevention, and hope.
Justice is a language of love.
The reality of Christ at the Cross inspires my work as a child protection lawyer. Christ at His lowest, weakest, and most vulnerable point is also Christ near to me: Accessible, transformative, and glorious. Even after a triumphant resurrection, He chooses to bear the scars of His earthly journey that point to the Cross. Perfection and glory in His mind is to be marked by the love He gave and the scars He wears for all eternity.
This scarred, perfect Christ of Calvary is also Christ our Good Shepherd: The one who searched for us until He found us. The one that never gave up on a fallen world. At the other side of meeting Him, I, as a believer and a lawyer, see in faith those who will never know His love unless they too are found and rescued. I make the choice to act as the Good Shepherd would — to search until the lost are found. I know from experience that freedom is the first true step in God’s redemption process for many victims. For them, justice is the language of love. It gives the Gospel wings.
Lawrence Aritao is a husband, father, and a human rights lawyer with the International Justice Mission.
Executing the Death Penalty
by Rei Lemuel Crizaldo
Are you for or against the death penalty?
In what could possibly be a rarity in the deliberations at the halls of Congress, I heard Bible verses being invoked by supporters from opposite sides of the issue. The most notable one was Senator Manny Pacquiao. I curiously watched how the boxing champ-turned-senator strongly pressed for the legitimacy of re-imposing the death penalty. He cited several Bible verses and argued his position in front of Congress saying, “God allows governments to use capital punishment. Even Jesus Christ was sentenced to death because the government imposed the rule then.”1
As illustrated by Senator Pacquiao, one of the vocal voices in the debate on death penalty is from the religious sector. However, I don’t think the view of the world boxing champion-turned-senator captures the complexity of the religious argument on the matter. As with many other public issues, churches do not have a unanimous position on the issue of capital punishment — there are pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty camps within the Christian community.
For example, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has argued that, “In Genesis 9:6, God told Noah that the penalty for intentional murder should be death. The one who intentionally takes life by murder forfeits the right to his own life.” On the other hand, popular Christian activist Shane Claiborne states in his new book, Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus, that the death penalty promotes the irony, “We can kill those who kill to show that killing is wrong.” Still, in the midst of the debates, many of my friends, some even atheists, are curious and interested in what the Bible says on the topic. Thus, I feel that Christians are called to heed the reminder of Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “accurately handle the Word of truth” as they construct their respective arguments on the issue.
Notes on Arguing from the Bible
I often observed people who justify capital punishment refer to the fact that God Himself unleashes and authorizes executions to punish human wickedness. But the careful reader of the Bible may well remember the considerable distance and disparity in time, culture, social development, and justice systems between the era in which Bible passages were written (particularly in the Old Testament) and our contemporary times. And yes, that includes even the authority to make the “sword” fall on heads of wrongdoers as invoked in the New Testament (Romans 13:4).
From what I learned in hermeneutics class, the interpretation and application of Scriptures always call for a proper recognition of a passage’s given historical context. This is why I often make a note to myself that we no longer live in the times of an empire where people’s right to life, liberty, and happiness are at the whims and mercy of an emperor. Many things done then may not be applicable today. That the death penalty was showcased in the Bible as part of ancient justice system does not warrant making it a normative biblical practice today. One may consider, as well, that the Philippines was the first country in Asia to abolish capital punishment and joined the ranks of countries with a modernized justice system.
The writers of the Bible seem to recognize that earthly governments run their affairs regardless of whether their programs are contrary to God’s better design for the world or not. On many occasions, the New Testament writers exhort believers to live within the system and social arrangement of the State they find themselves in. Without endorsing slavery, they admonished the Ephesian slaves to obey their rightful masters. Without giving the empire a stamp of approval for its use of force and terror to subjugate its constituents, the early church leaders told the Roman believers to subject themselves to authorities.2 We have to note that practices of good citizenship articulated by Apostle Paul were also echoed by Apostle Peter himself, “Submit yourselves for the Lordʼs sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14, NIV).
While arguments could be made that Paul (and Peter, too) may be laying down the normative functions of government (which shall include the use of the “sword” for those who do wrong and serving as an “avenger” for those who are wronged), we can also construe it as merely being descriptive. It could be that the Bible merely portrayed how governments functioned back then. This may not mean, however, that the Bible also sanctioned the death penalty as an essential feature of its God-instituted mandate in society.
On the other hand, I have also observed how those who oppose the death penalty often cite the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not kill” (Protestant version of the order3). The problem with this argument is that the Hebrew word used in the passage is not the general word for killing other people harag, but the more specific word for homicide ratsah. Ratsah is the violent killing of a personal enemy — its gravity captured in its English translation, “murder.”4 But the idea behind ratsah does not include killing animals (Genesis 9:3), acts of self-defense (Exodus 22:2), accidental killings (Deuteronomy 19:5), and state execution of criminals or capital punishment (Genesis 9:6). Hence, this verse cannot easily be brought into discussions opposing the death penalty.5
This is why Bible scholars say that the popular translation of the passage is unfortunate. A more accurate rendition would be “Thou shall not murder.”6 This restricts its meaning and provides room for what Jonathan Burnside called “proportionate retaliation,” to be carried out in exacting justice for wrongdoers.7 Otherwise, even Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, etc. would be guilty of infringement by sentencing to death violators of the Mosaic Law and the Divine Will. Obviously, they worked within the conventions of the prevailing justice system of their time. The way that the sixth commandment is worded seems to allow a distinction between a lawful and unlawful taking of a person’s life.
While I am convinced that Christians should be more careful in how they handle the appropriate texts of the Bible as they argue among themselves on the issue of the death penalty, I do believe that we also need to reflect on how insights from the Bible can contribute to public discourse. Other people, non-theists in particular, will not be swayed by religious arguments, especially if the sole support of such is a mere citation of a passage from a holy book. In situations like this, I remind myself that the Scriptures have to be handled with care, and in a way that deepens and broadens the flow of the discussion, rather than becoming a conversation-stopper. Perhaps a good place to start is to note that Jesus himself was a victim of the death penalty dispensed by a broken, and therefore untrustworthy, justice system in His time. We have to ask ourselves if we wish for more of such unhappy executions to still occur today.
The Limits of Religious Arguments
The deeper problem with the heated debates among Christians on the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines is that the issue cannot be settled using religious grounds.
From the vantage point of theology, the Philippine church is fragmented on the issue. The country’s Roman Catholic Church leadership, represented by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is steadfast with its pro-life stance, opposing the death penalty.8 On the other hand, we see the leadership of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), with significant qualifications, re-affirming its conviction that “the death penalty and the sanctity of human life are not contradictory.”9 Of the death penalty, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) said, “It violates the right to life and is an ultimate, cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.”10
Despite their diverse theological orientations, the representative councils of the three major strands of Christianity in the Philippines (the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Christians, and the ecumenical Protestants) are all in opposition to the Duterte administration’s push of reinstating capital punishment for drug-related crimes. The PCEC, for that matter, despite saying that death penalty is biblically-grounded, maintained that the timing of the proposed reinstatement of capital punishment is unfortunate. Given the “glaring fallibility and weaknesses of our country’s criminal justice system,” the council concluded that it is unwise for such legal apparatus to be placed in the hands of the current government.11
Nonetheless, not even such conciliar consensus among the major networks of Christian churches would suffice as necessary grounds for the government to abandon its plan to re-impose the death penalty. And this brings us to a second concern: The death penalty belongs to the realm of state policy. While the Philippines remains staunchly rooted in and dominated by Christianity, we need to remember that our country has enacted for itself the doctrine of separation of Church and State since its very first constitution. This comes with some serious implications.12
Surely it is favorable for the government to listen to and respect the voice of Christians. But it is also fair to consider the voice of other religious groups in the Philippines. For one, Islamic law (Shar-iah) has provisions for the fulfillment of the requirements of Lex Talionis, the principle of eye for an eye, life for life.13 To this day, rido (periodic outbursts of revenge-related conflict between families, clans and communities) is a deeply-rooted phenomenon in the cultural consciousness of certain areas in Mindanao.14 We have to understand how a government that maintains formal separation of Church and State has to give equal hearing to the distinct stone tablets of public justice held by our Muslim kababayans, despite their being a minority.
In a context wherein one religion sees capital punishment as a key component of ensuring social order and public justice, and another religion thinks that the death penalty is contrary to the character of God Himself, it is not difficult to realize why the State cannot be expected to make theological dogma the central basis for its policies. Christians who live by the principle of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self should be the first people to understand the balancing act required of the State, especially in light of the competing perspectives among the religious sector itself.
Secular or Neutral State?
I am convinced that Christians can strive to contribute in shaping public opinion and influencing government officials to enact policies that are consistent with God’s good intent for the world.15 However, I recognize as well that legislating moral standards spelled out in the Bible may incur certain difficulties.
Unless one believes that governments should be effectively “Catholicized,” “Protestantized,” or “Evangelicalized,” and turned into a form of modern-day “Christendom,” the rule of the day for contemporary society’s current pluralistic configuration would preferably be one of inclusivity and neutrality.16 This considers, most especially, the diverse make-up of today’s nation-states wherein religious movements from all over the world have started to co-exist with one another, each trying to assert its moral voice in the public square.
The consequence of such social diversity is quite obvious. To avoid what could be an ugly slugfest, wherein religious champions would try to knock out one another, I think that whatever a particular faith community would want to claim for itself, it should be ready to extend to others. Should a religious group want its position on death penalty to be respected, it has to extend to the positions of other religious groups as well.
In cases wherein religions agree on their insights for ensuring social order, the State would be freed from the difficult task of balancing competing interests seeking to mold public policies. But in cases wherein religious groups disagree among themselves, such as in the case of the death penalty, the somewhat detached yet mediating role of the government comes to the fore and is of utmost importance.
An ‘Open’ Ending
In any case, the State is well within its jurisdiction to anchor its policies on what ultimately promotes the common good of all its citizens. But I hope it does not allow itself to be misconstrued as securing unjust favor and making unfair preference for one particular religion.
One should note that this line of thinking is not necessarily an argument to make and keep the State “secular” or “free from religion.” It could simply be an argument for the State to practice what is called “principled pluralism.”17 I am persuaded that this kind of social arrangement, wherein every belief system is assured of its due space in the public square and given a proper hearing (even by the government itself), is what the pluralistic Filipino society (especially the rather rabid combatants in social media) has to explore and consider. Reflecting on the aftermath of modernity, contemporary philosopher John Caputo asks, “does not postmodernism argue that God’s point of view is reserved for God, while the human standpoint is immersed in the multiplicity of angles?”18
May the Christian community, in our public discussion of the fortunes and misfortunes of the death penalty, take to heart the challenge of James McClendon: To ever be hungry in our journey towards a way for us to be a people, among all earth’s people, without subtracting from the significance of others’ peoplehood, their own stories, their own lives.19
Rei Lemuel Crizaldo serves in the faculty of the Master in Social Work (MSW) Department of the Asian Seminary of Christian Ministries (ASCM) in Makati and as a volunteer facilitator/trainor for the Christian Convergence for Good Governance (CCGG). He holds degrees in theology, education, and mass communication. His MA is from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He co-authored the books BOBOto Ba Ako: How to Think Smart and Vote Right?, Pinoy Big Values, and contributed a chapter in the book Signs of Hope in the City. You can hear him at 702 DZAS’ weekly segment Biblia at Balita, find his blog on public theology entitled Every Square Inch Ph in Facebook, and read his weekly opinion column Pananaw Pinoy at People’s Tonite.
1From Senator Manny Pacquiao’s privilege speech at the Philippine Congress on January 17, 2017.
2See Romans 13:1-4. Commenting on this passage, John Howard Yoder in his book The Politics of Jesus distinguished between “subjection” and “obedience.” He argues that putting one’s self under an authority of a leader does not call for absolute obedience. The Christians’ “subjection” could be rendered “subversive” especially in cases wherein his or her faith in God is put to compromise. The same could be observed of Daniel and his friends while serving as royal officials in the courts of Babylon. They were men of the king, Nebuchadnezzar, but they readily disobeyed him when their Jewish faith was violated by his decrees.
3The Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments puts it as the fifth.
4Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Exodus, p. 159-160.
5The IVP Bible Background Commentary, John Walton, Victor Matthews, Mark Chavalas, eds., (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2000) p. 96.
6The popular King James Version rendered it as “kill” but newer translations such as NASB, NIV, and ESV translated the word as “murder.”
7Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 20101) p. 282.
8CBCP Pastoral Statement on Death Penalty, Mar 19, 2017 in http://cbcpnews.net/cbcpnews/cbcp-pastoral-statement-on-death-penalty/ (accessed May 3, 2016)
9In a recent statement on the Death Penalty by the PCEC released on February 22, 2017, it affirmed its commitment to previous statements made by the council. In 1999, the PCEC’s position paper stated, “We uphold the principle of lex talionis or life for life. The punishment must fit the crime. The penalty must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense. Petty theft is punished with a short prison term. Armed robbery with a longer term. The massacre of civilians must be punishable by death. Capital crimes — those that lead to loss of other lives — deserve capital punishment. A man who takes the life of another forfeits his own.”
10From the NCCP Statement released February 13, 2017 in http://nccphilippines.org/blog/2017/02/13/restoring-the-death-penalty-is-missing-the-point/ The ecumenical churches find itself in a curious position wherein it rejects the death penalty for hardened criminals in general, yet a resilient wing of its member bodies sanctions a line of theologizing that justifies the use of violent armed struggle to achieve genuine liberation for the Filipino people (see Levi Oracion, “Human Rights and Powerlessness” in In the Image of God… We Are Created. Quezon City: National Council of Churches in the Philippines, 2012, p. 3).
11“If such an imperfect system would be armed with the power to impose death on alleged and actual offenders, it would likely bring about terrible miscarriages of justice in which the poor would often be the victims. The present state of the justice system then makes it difficult to guarantee that the government’s duty to wield the sword would be upheld with full integrity. Thus, PCEC cannot support the present call to re-impose capital punishment in our country.”
12Ma. Lourdes Genato Rebullida, “Religion, Church, and Politics in the Philippines,” in Philippine Politics and Governance: Challenges to Democratization and Development, Teresa Tadem and Noel Morada, eds. Diliman Quezon City: Department of Political Science, CSSP, University of the Philippines, 2006.
13 The Latin phrase means “Law of Retaliation” (also expressed in Exodus 21:24 of the Bible). Islamic countries believe that capital punishment is a most severe sentence but one that may be commanded by a court for crimes of suitable severity. “...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom.” -Qur’an 6:151
14Wilfredo Torres III, Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao (Quezon City: Ateneo De Manila University Press, 2014
15Ron Sider argues that as the state pursues its role of promoting the common good, it could either become helpful or harmful. It must be constantly reminded of its due limitations, which for the Christian is anchored on the claim that “…all state authority flows from God. And God insists that all state action conform to the divine standards of justice.” See Ron Sider, Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2012). p. 62.
16It would, indeed, be a curious position to claim the right to push for a Christian government and yet deny the right of Muslims to press for an Islamic state.
17Stephen Monsma explains, “Principled pluralism rejects both the attempt to Christianize the public square and the attempt to secularize the public square. Instead, it favors a pluralistic public square” wherein “we must learn anew to live together with our differences. We need to learn a tolerance and forbearance that is reflected in our public policies.” In “Neither a Christian Nor A Secular Nation,” The Center for Public Justice at https://cpjustice.org/public/capital_commentary/article/1296.
18John Caputo, Philosophy and Theology. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006, p. 50.
19James McClendon, Ethics: Systematic Theology, Volume I. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986, p. 356.
For the Children
A Conversation on the Rights of Children with Fe Foronda, Director of the Philippine Children’s Ministry Network
by Stef Juan
“Whenever someone asks me, ‘How can you endure?’ I say, this is not my work, this is my calling,” Fe Foronda, director of the Philippine Children’s Ministry Network (PCMN) says, after sharing the dizzying scope of the work that PCMN and its partner ministries do for at-risk children all over the Philippines. She has seen her share of tragedies from individual cases to widespread disasters, like the one in Samar in the aftermath of the super typhoon Yolanda.
PCMN functions as a hub for more than 48 Christian organizations all over the Philippines. They provide capacity building, study materials, and training on children’s issues and how to respond to them better. They provide the venue where all these churches and organizations could work together to respond to a certain issue. They also build networks in places where they are not available — in Davao City, eastern Samar, northern Samar, and Bacolod City. Here in Manila, PCMN focuses on three cities: Manila, Caloocan, and Quezon City. “The way we do it is we work together, so more voices, more hands, more heads working towards an issue would produce more results.”
Considering her expertise and experience in championing for the rights of children, OMF Lit approached Fe Foronda for her views on House Bill No. 2, or the “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act” authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro1. The bill seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 by lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine years old. The following is our conversation about the subject of children’s issues, the work being done for them, and why the Philippine justice system should work for the children instead of against them.
You have been working with NGOs for twenty years now. In your perspective, what are the biggest issues that we must address regarding children?
One of the big issues that we deal with is child labor. There are still a lot of child laborers because of poverty. There’s still an issue of children working in sugarcane plantations and farms. Most of the time, it’s family-based labor. The parents who work in the farm bring their children with them, especially those who work in commercial plantations like pineapple, and industrial crops like sugarcane. There are a lot of cases like this in Mindanao. There are many children working in open pit mining because they are small and can fit in tighter spaces. And children are cheap labor.
The incidence of child labor is still very high. Before, there were five million child laborers in the country, according to a survey done by the International Project of Elimination of Child Labor in 2010. Now they are pegging it to three million because they have differentiated children’s work from child labor. Work that helps in the development of the child, like household chores, small entrepreneurial activities, are classified as developmental activity that benefits the child. Child labor is the classification for children made to work in hazardous situations like factory, mining, agriculture, and domestic work.
Then there are children displaced by war and disasters. And there are still a lot, especially in Mindanao. There are internally displaced people in the region because of the fighting between the government forces and the Muslim insurgents— especially now that we don’t have a standing peace agreement with them. We don’t have it with the MILF, MNLF, Bangsamoro, even the NPA. Now, there is the siege in Marawi by the Maute group and thousands of families are affected by the on-going war.
Our country is also very prone to disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. When there is a disaster, the most vulnerable in the community suffers. The children become doubly vulnerable because all the mechanisms that protect them are affected by the disaster too — their family, the government, and the law. People who should be protecting them are temporarily lost. The role of the churches, the NGOs, and the government is to restore the community system so the children will be protected. This is the work of the PCMN — to help these institutions protect the children.
However since I have started working with NGOs for children, the biggest issue affecting children has always been child sexual abuse. In a recent National Baseline Survey on Violence Against Children that was conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children in partnership with UNICEF, they found out that one in every five children has been sexually abused.
Child sexual abuse has progressed in a very different form these days. Before, the abuse is in physical form, like inappropriate touching, molestation, and rape, but now, it has taken on a new form — online child pornography, and it’s very widespread. It’s very rampant because it’s a form of sexual abuse where the perpetrator could do it safely at home without having to go near a child. The predators from around the world don’t have to come into our country to molest children anymore. They could just do it from the comfort of their home and wire the money to pay for them through our many wire transfer services all over the Philippines.
But the issue here is also the home, the relatives who victimize the children. The most difficult part is the children think that the abuse is normal because they are groomed into it. They are still very young and they are made to do those things, so they think it’s normal. And this is the most difficult part of rescuing them: How do you rehabilitate and restore the minds of the children when they are taught by people in authority — their parents, titos and titas — to do these sexual acts in front of the webcam? They grow up thinking that this is normal. Imagine how the minds of these children would be skewed when they grow up? They would eventually become abusers themselves in the future! But then, the parents would say that there is no abuse happening because there is no touching, they just show themselves and do things to their own bodies! The protectors become the abusers — their own parents become the abusers.
Sometimes I think about where we failed in this. The parents say, “We need to earn money for our family.” But what happened to their values? Child abuse is more blatant now than ever before. Perpetrators of child abuse used to be more discreet, but now they don’t even bother hiding it.
This development on online child sexual abuse blew up on our faces. We were caught unawares by this issue — even the government was surprised by it! They don’t know how to respond, they told us they don’t even have trained IT personnel to track the IP addresses. We don’t even have the appropriate technology to run after these perpetrators!
Child sexual abuse is a very difficult issue, especially among churches because it’s a taboo. When there is someone who has committed a crime like that, they just cover it, because the church will be divided and there would be a mess if the news goes out to the congregation. So we increase the awareness in the church that we should side with the children, we shouldn’t side with the perpetrator. It’s a difficult uphill battle for the church, but once they learn it, they embrace it. They become very aware.
These issues plague mostly the Catholic Church because it’s made public by the press.
That’s right. That’s why we want to work with them. They’re already working on anti-human trafficking, but PCMN wants to work with them for the anti-child sexual abuse, capacitating their youth to make them peer mentors on developing protective behavior among children and youth against sexual abuse.
There are techniques and technology that we can transfer to the youth so they can protect themselves because the adults won’t be there all the time to protect them. They can be able to stand their ground and protect themselves, to run away from the situation, and know when to do it.
There are only three steps to follow to be safe from sexual abuse:
But it’s difficult for children to say “No.” So, children are taught how to say “No” and how to know if the situations they find themselves in are already abusive. Children are taught to be sensitive in their bodies, so when they are touched, they would be able to tell if it’s a bad touch, a confusing touch, or a safe touch. We teach the children the touch continuum: When it’s good or safe, it’s a touch for love and for caring; it’s bad when she becomes very uncomfortable, because the body sends signals that this is very dangerous. If she feels uncomfortable, and thinks this is wrong, then RUN, run! A child can’t fight an adult. They are taught to run away, and then tell a trusted adult like a parent, a teacher, or someone else they could trust.
So those three techniques teach the child what to do and how to know if it is an abuse.
However, the process of prosecuting child abuse offenders is very slow.
Yes, because it’s a long process. Because even if the child experienced the abuse, she would not speak up because she is being threatened or she doesn’t know if people would believe her if she tells them — especially if the abuser is a father or someone she and the family knows. So she won’t speak, she will endure it until it is discovered by others. In PCMN, we teach the child to speak up about the abuse, how to build up confidence in herself, and how to disclose it to the authorities.
The process of disclosure is very long, even if the child has been in a long-term abuse already, she would not talk about it. Once she discloses, the process of the prosecution will still take a long time. The family would have to endure it too. That’s why some drop out of a case and there are very few successful prosecutions.
Sometimes it feels like you have to outlast the process in order to get any justice from our justice system.
Yes. Most of the time, the parents are bought by the perpetrator. They execute an affidavit of desistance. It means that the victim is no longer pursuing the case, she is no longer interested, she is dropping out of it, and there is monetary settlement. Of course the parents would agree to it, but the child would be left out, feeling that she hasn’t attained any justice at all. If the child feels that she did not get justice, this becomes problematic. The child’s behavior changes because of that. It’s one of the reasons why a child becomes one of the children in conflict with the law.
It seems that we have failed these children in so many ways.
If you look at the bigger picture, it’s the failure of the adults to protect the children, that’s why they become involve in crimes. That’s the shorter explanation.
You have heard of the bill that proposes lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 15 years old to nine?
It is a crazy bill. This contradicts our law, which is RA 9344 — it is known as the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006. We haven’t even completely implemented it, and now we’re trying to change the age of criminal responsibility to nine years old! It’s too young. Nine years old is third grade elementary school. They’re not yet in the age of discernment!
In the law for sexual abuse, it’s an automatic life sentence for a perpetrator if the victim is 12 years old and below. Before, it’s the death penalty. Our law recognizes that the age of discernment of a child is at 12, but then, children advocates would want it to be even higher — 15 or 16. As it is stated in RA 9344 (the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006), 15 years old is the age of discernment: When children can tell if something is bad or not right. Even the international law — the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children defines children as individuals below 18 years of age. That’s why the RA 9344 observes the international standards. I don’t know why our congressmen, especially Alvarez, would want it lowered because of a very very small percentage of indication that they are used for criminality by syndicates. If you look at it, it’s not the fault of the child, it’s the fault of the adults.
It’s just addressing the symptoms of something deeper.
Yes. Poverty. And also, we have a broken justice system. The sentencing takes a long time. A child sexual abuse case takes two years before a sentence is passed. That’s the experience in social work, when you file a case, you have to wait for another two years before it’s prosecuted! This is why many children would lose interest and drop out. It’s so hard to prosecute the abuses of children, and it’s hard to prove! There a lot of benefits for children stated in our laws, but because of our justice system, it’s still slow and only a few cases are won. There is a high rate of reporting in anti child-trafficking, but there are fewer cases filed, and even fewer cases won. But anyway, I’m against that law of lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
I haven’t met anybody, or read any opinion stating their support for this bill.
I don’t know why they would be for it anyway. It’s against the grain, it’s against humanity, against the design of God for children, against international standards. We are signatories to all of these conventions — the convention on human rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. We treat children as children, not as adults.
The bill is not researched-based, it’s not even evidence-based. The research says, it’s just a very small percentage of children who become criminals that are being used by syndicates. Very small! And now they’re going to pass a law that will criminalize these young children.
I think every human being, every Filipino who is in his right mind would not agree with this.
But as an alternative what can be done for these children involved in criminal activity?
What we have now, is what they call a diversion program. Instead of putting them in jail, we make them useful in the community. There are community services, and they — the 15-18 year old children in conflict with the law— are put in a place they take part in a diversion program. It’s not to penalize them but to provide them an avenue or opportunity to heal and also to be restored wholly as an individual. It’s a combination of community service, counseling, and rehabilitation programs for them. They are taught life skills. I think that’s a better way of dealing with children who were involved in criminal activities.
But does the government have these institutions in place, or are they usually NGOs?
Most of those programs are non-government organizations (NGOs), but our government also has that. It’s called Bahay Pag-asa. These are rehabilitation centers for children who have committed crime. Of course, we will always hear that the government services aren’t enough. All of the programs for children would say that they’re not enough. But the government is trying. Social workers have told me that we do have programs, maybe not as wholistic as they should be, but they are also working with churches, faith-based groups, and NGOs to help them. There are NGOs that are focused on responding to the needs of children who have committed crime.
Family is key to the response to children. 31-33% of our population is in poverty. Because of the lack of services for children, the children commit crime because of poverty, lack of opportunities for education, and neglect of parents. The neglect of parents is a huge factor in why children turn to crime. That’s why one of the services and programs of the PCMN in the coming five years is family strengthening.
We have been so focused on children and we realize last 2015 that we also have to focus on families, because they are the immediate environment of the child. And the child thrives in a healthy family. If the family is healthy, the child is healthy spiritually, physically, and mentally. The church has a very strategic role in strengthening the families. Because whatever you do, even if you keep on protecting children, to be more pro-active, you have to strengthen the environment of the child, coupled with strengthening the child protection mechanism by the government. This is why home-based protection, community protection are important.
I think everyone understands that the family and the village (or the barangay) are the keys to protecting children.
There’s a story I heard to illustrate the importance of family in saving children. There was a man who saw children drowning in the river calling for help. He jumped into the water and rescued the drowning children, but there seems to be no end to the children calling for his help. He ran upstream and saw that someone was throwing children into the river. So, even if you keep on giving services to the children, but you don’t go and confront the source of the problem, it’s never going to the end. We have go to the root of the problem and confront it, advocate against it. Stop people from throwing children into the river. It’s a picture of how things should be done.
1This interview took place before the the Congress rejected the bill in May 2017.
Seeking Justice Together with the God of Justice
by Rev. Jose “Joey” C. Umali, Jr.
The testimony of Nina, a fragile 8-year-old girl who was rescued from a prostitution den in Ermita, Manila, brought me to tears. She was forced to have sex with no less than eight men every night. She was totally robbed of the joy of childhood. I remember my own grandchild who is just as old as Nina. While my grandchild enjoys playing games with other children, Nina was forced to have sex with men bereft of all conscience and decency.
Nina is just one child among countless others who have been victims of the $150 billion illicit human trafficking industry.1 Human trafficking is defined as the illegal trade in persons through the use of force, deception, violence, or similar means, for the purpose of exploitation. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world today and is currently tied with the illegal arms trade, as the second largest criminal industry.”2
In the Philippines, child sex trafficking remains a pervasive problem, with victims getting younger and the number of child sex tourists increasing.3 These thousands of children have heartbreaking stories to tell about how human trafficking has robbed them of their dignity as human beings created in the very image of God. After hearing Nina’s testimony, I was tempted to ask, “Where is God when all of these things happen?” In one of my Bible readings, I came across the same question in Psalm 10: 1 — “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
Does God really care about justice? I wanted to get an accurate answer, so I took to my Bible. My discovery? Yes, God does care seriously about justice. The question in Psalm 10:1 is addressed by other Biblical passages showing God’s passion for justice. Here are some:
And in Matthew 23:23, Jesus, in one of his harshest rebukes against the Pharisees, said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hyprocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness…”.
My initial search about the God of justice led from one verse Bible to another. I discovered that God’s passion for justice can be found in the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. However, my initial question also led to another: Can the Almighty God fight injustice alone? Yes, He can, right? However, I am very much convinced that God does not do this alone. He wants to do it together with His people.
When God performs miracles, He wants to do so together with believers. One classic example was the feeding of the multitude. Thousands of people who had gathered to listen to Jesus teach were growing hungry. Jesus told the disciples to feed them. But the disciples knew there was not enough food to provide for everyone. Jesus simply asked, “What do you have?”
What did the disciples have? They had nothing. Luckily, they found a boy who had two fish and five loaves. The crowd was estimated to be in the vicinity of 5,000, excluding children and women. Easily, there might have been as many as 10,000 people there. It was indeed impossible to feed the multitude with just five loaves and two fish. But Jesus told the disciples, “Give me what you’ve got.” They obeyed and when they did, the miracle happened — the five loaves and two fish multiplied until all were truly satisfied. There were even twelve baskets of leftovers.
When we, together with God, seek justice for those victimized by grave injustices such as human trafficking, we give Jesus our five loaves and two fish. When we simply bring to Jesus what we have and trust Him completely, He moves in ways beyond our imagination. Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” These are God’s Great Requirements.
To act justly is to make things right. Therefore, to do justice is to make life right. God wants us not just to give relief to victims of injustice, but to make their lives right.
To love mercy is to create conditions that will bring about new life and new hope. The root of the Hebrew word for mercy can also be used for uterus. A uterus is where life is borne. In mercy, life itself is restored. To love mercy is not just about giving charity: it is about giving a person a chance at a new life.
In justice and mercy, we allow God to use us as instruments of giving hope to the hopeless and powerless.
To walk humbly with God is to put our feet firmly on the ground. The word humility shares the same root as the word humus—soil. We must recognize that we are on the same level as others. For we were made from dust, and to dust we will return.
Thousands of young girls and boys in the country are in a situation similar to what Nina experienced. But unlike Nina, they have not been rescued – yet. Their only hope is for God to perform miracles through the help of people, churches, and groups with passion for justice. God’s strategy has not changed. He is the one performing miracles, but He only does that with people’s help.
We are God’s hands and feet. People experience the love of God through us. Jesus elucidated this when he said in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Collectively, we followers of Christ must be the salt and light of the world. We must be God’s agents of spiritual and social transformation.
Our power as Christians emanates from our consistent witness of Jesus Christ by words, deeds, and signs. We should have a serving heart, rather than a self-serving heart. This is the real essence of religion as James 1:27 explains, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Together with one another, we can be instruments of justice of the God of Justice. All we have to do is offer to God whatever it is we have. God is the one who performs the miracle, but He needs our help too. In the story of the feeding of the multitude, help even came from a child. With God’s blessing, we all have the ability and capacity to contribute to the rescue and restoration of thousands of victims like Nina in our midst.
Pastor Joey Umali, Jr. was a newspaper reporter and editor before he became an ordained pastor of the United Methodist Church and an on-the-air preacher of 702 DZAS’s early morning devotion and prayer program Hardin ng Panalangin from Monday to Saturday. He is also a church mobilization consultant for the International Justice Mission.
1See the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report introduction at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf Accessed on May 5, 2017.
2See the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape 2012 Assisting Trafficking Victims: A Guide for Victim Advocates at http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_guides_human-trafficking-victim-advocates.pdf Accessed on May 5, 2017.
3See the Philippines Country Narrative in the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf Accessed on May 5, 2017.
The Plumb Line of God
by Atty. Raineer Chu
The rich have hijacked the Bible.
Today, Christians look up to rich people and look down on the poor. We can no longer say it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, or say that the poor are rich in faith.
We have learned to read the Bible from the perspective of the rich, to favor the rich. We read the Bible today from the perspective of power and wealth. For justice to reign, the Church must learn to read the Bible from the perspective of the poor, as it was originally read before it was hijacked by the rich.
The premium today is clearly on material wealth. We equate riches with righteousness and curses with poverty — an age-old superstition. We believe that if we have many material blessings, we must surely be right with God, and we suspect that those who are lacking materially must not be right with God. It was the common belief in Jesus’ time (suspended only briefly in the first 300 years after the Resurrection) that the poor had no share in the gospel, and did not need to be saved nor evangelized.
Jesus went against this belief in His ministry. He went to the poor. He taught that the Gospel must be preached to the poor. He was mobbed by the unwashed masses, and his audience were almost always poor — except for the young rich ruler who went away disappointed by Jesus’ answer to his query, and a distinguished man who went to meet Him under the cover of darkness, Nicodemus.
Jesus said, in the end, He would divide the sheep from the goats. The sheep were those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, protected the oppressed, and visited the prisoners. His most scathing remark about the rich was that they would have a hard time entering the Kingdom of Heaven, like a camel trying to enter the eye of a needle. But it seems that we have done away with these teachings of Jesus. It’s as though we don’t believe in them anymore.
The common belief among Christians now is that when James wrote in his letter to the church that the poor are rich in faith1, he was not referring to the literal poor; rather, he was referring to the figurative or symbolic “poor.” This interpretation nullifies the true meaning of the passage, rendering it meaningless today. In truth, the “poor” that James was referring to is the literal poor.
However, God is not biased toward poverty. He is biased toward justice. Both the poor and the rich are the same in that both are sinners. But on the material and economic sphere, justice works uniquely. Many Christians think that the body is not important, only the spirit, so helping the poor or giving food to the hungry is secondary only to sharing the Gospel so that the poor and hungry are saved and go to heaven. This kind of thinking extends to the socio-economic and socio-political spheres, affecting the poor’s access to justice. This is why it is important to declare that the physical and spiritual spheres are vitally intertwined, meaning, the spiritual realm cannot function outside of the physical realm. Man needs to be an embodied complete being, soul, spirit and body.
We cannot just tell a poor, hungry man, “God bless you.” Our spirituality must work itself out on the physical realm. What is true internally must be true externally. How we treat those who are in need or who are subordinate to us shows what kind of spirituality we really have.
Also, we cannot be spiritual without being just. God made this point clear in Isaiah. He said fasting should not just be about grief, or wearing sackcloth and throwing ashes on our heads. True fasting is also about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, protecting the oppressed, and opening our homes to the strangers.2
Reading God’s Word Right-Side-Up
We must learn to read God’s Word from the perspective of weakness and poverty. Most of the people in the church today come from the poor, and yet we always teach and look from the perspective of the rich.
Because we read the Bible from the top of the social strata to the bottom, we think that what Jesus meant about the poor being always with us was that it is useless to help the poor, because there are just too many of them; and that helping them won’t make a difference anymore.
The real meaning in Deuteronomy 15 is that the poor will always be with us because we don’t share. We are greedy. When we assume that there is not enough food or resources for everyone, then we will arrive at that interpretation. But if we assume there is enough for everyone, then we will arrive at the correct conclusion: That the poor will always be with us because we do not share generously, even though God has bet his entire reputation and all his wealth and blessings on us.
We have marginalized the poor, including the poor believers who are our brothers and sisters. We have separated the rich from the poor so that the rich worship in Forbes Park and the poor worship in Payatas. But the true church, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, must be composed of both. Having the poor and rich together is a sign that the Kingdom works.
In churches to day, when the rich give a million pesos, we honor them by making them elders even though that one million pesos represents only one percent of their income. But when the poor give a hundred pesos, we look down on them even though what they gave is already 60% of their income.
I find it problematic for rich Christians to have house helpers. For if we are to take seriously this teaching that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we should treat our house helpers like family. They must sleep in beds similar to ours and eat food like ours. If possible, they must always eat with us, because that is what brothers or sisters do.
We must learn to identify our biases. We are all ideologically biased. We each have a way of seeing the world. The first step is to confess this ideological bias. No one is ideologically free or neutral.
Often we are not aware that instead of discipling people to be Christ-followers, we are making them more westernized or more materialistic. The prosperity gospel is clearly capitalistic and its proof-texting works toward encouraging people to embrace the status quo even more.
However, it is this status quo — composed of rules, laws and values that protect the wealth and power of the upper class — that is oppressive to the poor. The Gospel certainly addresses this; it wants to change the status quo. NT Wright emphasizes the use of overarching themes to cure the proof-texting habits of Christians; thus, we can consider the twin themes of Creation and Covenant.
Creation looks to the calling of Christians to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it, which ultimately translates to the redemption and deliverance of all creation. Creation is referred to mostly as the fallen world that groans because it is in bondage to sin. When we are saved, we are not just going to heaven; we are going to bring all of creation with us.
Ephesians 2:2 uses the word cosmos to delineate this work, “You used to walk in the ways of the world (cosmos) but now…”. From a big picture perspective, the status quo, or cosmos, will need to change. From a micro-perspective, the Sermon on the Mount as interpreted by Bonhoeffer provides an illustration about how the Gospel will change the world. In a succinct way, the Gospel tells the rich that they cannot just spend their money the way they want. Christian spirituality is not about enhancing our comfort zones more; it is about leaving our comfort zones to become radically conformed to Jesus.
We must learn to measure our wealth not in terms of how much we possess or own, but in terms of how much we have given away. We are not to be conformed to this world because the world’s inclination is always against the poor.
The world’s trends are three-fold: The world is getting smaller (globalization); everyone is going to the cities (urbanization); and as these happen, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (marginalization).
The world is also becoming more individualistic. We are breaking down community, but this is the biggest single asset of the poor — that they have friends, relatives, and neighbors.
All these trends are influencing the way we read Scripture. Some of us have an individualistic and reductionist gospel which is anti-poor. It is not enough to say we are saved by Jesus for our own benefit . We are actually saved by Jesus to be a part of the Body of Christ — the Body is not optional. It is also individualistic because we say to the new convert, now that you are saved, go your way and leave me alone. My food is my food, my house is my house. We hold this individualistic value higher than Scripture.
God’s Plumb Line
God has made the poor His plumb line — the true measure of being upright people of God.
In the Old Testament, God used the poor — the widows, orphans, and aliens — as His plumb line3. Whenever God would castigate His people, He would refer to the poor among them, and how the Israelites were oppressing or neglecting them. When He expressed His appreciation or admiration for the Israelites, He would recount how they had treated the widows, orphans, and aliens well.
Jesus, at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, reminded us about visiting prisoners. In Jesus’ time, once someone went to prison, getting released was difficult. Most of the prisoners of Jesus’ time were poor, as they were debtors who could not pay back their debt. It was the law that if one could not pay, even his household was included in the sentence. The debtor and his wife, his children, and even his slaves were sent to jail.
The Early Church imitated Jesus, but only for the first three centuries, and then things degenerated. When we analyze the historical progression, we see that the Gospel was not the only good news: The Church was also good news. The Early Church created the most profound revolution in our history when Paul declared that in the Body of Christ there was no longer male or female, Jew or Gentile; for we are all one in Christ Jesus4. Paul was not just announcing a new spiritual era, he was declaring a new reign of justice.
God’s new reign is to be a reign of justice, equality, and liberty. Salvation has always had concrete and material effects. When God reigns, things are made right and upright, like a plumb line.
Raineer Q. Chu, L.L.B., D. Min., is a lawyer and a missionary who has been working with the urban poor in Metro Manila since 1979. He is a lecturer at Asian Theological Seminary on Urban Poor Spirituality and Church Planting in the Slums.
1“Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5)
3Amos, 7:7–9; 2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 28:17. The New Compact Bible Dictionary, 1967, Zondervan Publishing House.
Voices on Faith, Justice, and Love of Country
It has been a year since the big Change has come in the form of a new administration in our country. Immediately, the government’s war on drugs hit the streets and thousands of people are dead. The death penalty is closer to being reinstated. Now, more than ever, the concept of crime and punishment is up for debate. Questions on justice and due process are at the forefront of heated discussions between critics and supporters of the administration’s brutal crusade. There are many voices making themselves heard in the discussions online, so we posted this question: “What do you feel strongly about justice here in the Philippines?” The following are excerpts of the replies we have received:
A response to Senator Manny Pacquaio’s privileged speech in favor of the death penalty
Candy Cruz Datu
No, Senator Pacquiao, the Bible does not endorse the death penalty.
The passages that mention the death penalty involve historico-cultural contexts that should be considered with proper interpretation. They must also be read against other texts that shed light on God’s will on this issue. We who teach the sacred Word are mandated to “declare the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). So we must look at verses such as the following:
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die? (Ezekiel 33:11, NLT).
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12, ESV).
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, ESV).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible pours forth life. Jesus died that we should experience life in abundance (John 10:10). As the ultimate goal and gift of God, we are promised eternal life (John 3:16). Thus we, as Christ’s followers, should fight for life and do our utmost to protect it. In God’s view, there is always hope for those who submit to Him.
The grace of God provides for repentance; indeed, the Scriptures attest that transformation is possible. We are mandated to share this good news with the world and not gleefully consign to death those who fail this government’s standards. This (and any) government derives its authority from God and does not take God’s place — though Duterte and his minions often sound like they have assumed divinity.
We humans are imperfect arbiters of morality and guilt. “For everyone has sinned;” the apostle Paul observed, “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Though we hastily adjudge and condemn others, we might one day find ourselves in the dock, desiring fairness and the latitude of a second chance. The laws must be framed in the light of God’s justice, true —also with His grace! — and not with the literal legalism of the Pharisees. Those who call themselves Christians in the legislature should understand this, and more so, those among them who undertake to preach God’s word.
Hustisya para sa mga Katutubo
Sinubukan mo na ba minsan ang umupo sa isang sulok at magmasid lang sa iyong paligid? Sa ingay ng busina’t bulyawan ng siyudad, may napansin ka bang mahinang tinig na umaasang may, kahit isa man lang sa atin, ang makarinig? Umaasa na sa pagbulong na ito ay may pagbabagong mangyayari sa kanilang kasalukuyang sitwasyon sa bansa natin na unti-unting napupuno ng kasakiman? Umaasa na sa paglipas ng ilang henerasyon ay may isa man lang sa kanila na makakaranas ng hustisya at pantay na pagtingin mula sa iba. Ang mga katutubong Mangyan ay Pilipino rin naman, pero parang naaalala lang natin sa expression na, “Ay! Ang mangyan mo naman!” tuwing may mga bagay tayong nagagawa na hindi tama o may bagay na hindi natin maintindihan. Madalas na gawing pang-asar para sa antas ng ating talino at ng ating kakayahan.
Oo, karamihan sa mga Mangyan ay tila napag-iwanan na ng panahon, teknolohiya, edukasyon, at kaukulang benepisyo mula sa gobyerno na sana’y natatanggap nila. Pero paano natin sila maririnig kung ang bawat isa sa atin ay walang kapagod-pagod sa pagtatalo para sa sariling kagustuhan, kung tayo mismo ay hindi natin aabutin ang mga katutubong ito? Hindi lang ito para sa mga Mangyan, kundi para rin sa iba pang katutubo sa ating bansa. Sigaw na parang hangin lamang ang nakaririnig. Sigaw na para sila’y isalba; pati kultura at paniniwala na siyang yaman ng ating bansa.
Sa 24 na taon ko sa bansang ito, simula nang ako’y magkaisip, ang akala ko’y ito na ang hustisya; bulyawan, welga, barilan at marami pang iba. Pero nang makilala at makasalamuha ko ang mga Mangyan, nalaman ko na sila rin ay nangangailangan ng hustisya. Karapatan nila na i-trato bilang tao, at hindi paupuin, lalo na kung sila ay uugod-ugod na, sa bubungan ng van o pampublikong sasakyan dahil lang sa kanilang anyo. Hindi nararapat na hindi sila pasakayin sa bus o jeep dahil tingin ng iba ay wala silang pambayad kung kaya’t napipilitan silang maglakad, kahit na may bitbit silang pananim at mga bata. Karapatan nila na hindi matakot sa haplos ng iba dahil nasanay na sila na layuan o iwasan ng mga tao sa kanilang paligid. Karapatan nila na hindi tignan mula ulo hanggang paa dahil hindi nakakasabay sa usong pananamit. Karapatan nila na matanggap ng kapwa nilang Pilipino at hindi pagtawanan dahil sila ay katutubo.
Tayo mismo ay nakakatanggap ng kaunting hustisya, ngunit paano sila na walang boses sa ating lipunan? Mapalad pa tayo sa ating estado ngayon, ngunit heto tayo at puro sarili lang ang iniisip. Nais nating makakita ng pagbabago pero alam nating hindi ito mangyayari kung tayo mismo ay walang gagawin. Kung meron man akong nais hilingin mula sa kapwa ko, ito ay na minsan tayo ay tumahimik, pakinggan ang kanilang tinig, at isipin, “Paano ko ba sila mabibigyan ng hustisya?”
Tayo ang gagawa ng panibagong simula para sa mga katutubo.
Justice and Non Violence
“Oplan Tokhang” revealed how unprepared people in authority were in handling such power, misusing and abusing it for their benefit. Killings, extortions, and even kidnap-for-ransom were happening. Truly, power without character corrupts people. The problem is more complicated than it seems. How can one implement justice if the one in charge is only interested in exploiting it? These experiences shed light on what my mentor, Dave Magalong, Jr., pointed out.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian Nobel prize winner, said, “Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle.” Interestingly, Mahatma Gandhi who led a non-violent revolution said, “Non-violence and truth are inseparable and presuppose one another.” Violence and injustice are like Siamese twins; they are inseparable. In the Old Testment, Simeon and Levi used deceit and slaughtered a whole town for the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34). They were later on cursed because of what they had done (Genesis 49:5-7). Non-violence for justice is still the better option.
But we say that non-violence is only appropriate for individual cases and not for a nationwide problem. But consider Mahatma Gandhi, who achieved equal rights for his country and influenced the world through non-violence.
Today, my view about justice shifted from “justice can only be served through violence” to “justice through non-violence.” It changed when I met my mentor and pursued graduate studies in Manila. There, my worldview widened, my compassion deepened and my perspective changed. I learned to weigh and evaluate concepts and ideas and not merely accept beliefs or principles without carefully studying them. In my experience, the Aristotlean theory of education rings true: Education is the foundation of all the virtues.
How do you feel about the current state of justice in the Philippines?
Sayang lang ang panahon… ito ang nasabi ko 22 years ago, nang personal kong naranasan ang maging complainant sa kasong frustrated murder at physical injury. Marami akong nakasama sa laban na aking hinarap, una na ang aking pamilya at mga kaibigan, pero habang nagtagal ay unti-unti silang nawala bunga na din ng tagal ng kaso. Ang karaniwang dahilan ay di nakarating ang abogado o ang judge mismo ang wala, kaya ang resulta ay re-schedule. Malakas ang kaso ko; patunay nito ay ang pag-areglo ng mga taong akusado. Malaki ang gastos ko sa attorney’s fee, pamasahe at pagkain tuwing hearing, idagdag pa ang di-maipaliwanag na epektong psychological at emotional dahil na rin sa di mo alam kung saan hahantong ang kasong ito. Kaya isang araw ay pumayag na akong makipag-areglo. Nagkaroon na ako ng sarili kong pamilya matapos ng ilang taon, at mas pinili kong magkaroon ng tahimik na pamumuhay….
Hangad ko na dumating ang araw na mas maraming judge ang tapat at mataas ang moralidad, mga judge na masipag na nagtatrabaho at hindi nag-iipon ng kaso sa kanilang lamesa. Kung ang mga law professor ay mas palalalimin ang dedikasyon sa pagtuturo sa mga law students ay siguradong dadami ang magagaling at masisipag na mga lawyers. Kung ang anumang natutunan ay siya namang ina-apply sa actual scenario sa loob ng hukuman, malamang ay mas gagaan ang takbo ng bawat kaso. Mahaba-habang proseso ito, pero kung ang bawat isa ay tatanggapin ang hamon na maging bahagi siya ng pagbabago, naniniwala akong tataas ang antas ng justice system ng ating bansa. Makakasiguro tayong manunumbalik ang tiwala at respeto ng mamamayan sa ating judiciary. Lahat ng ito ay balewala lang kapag mananatiling kundisyon lang ng ating puso ang pagbabasehan; dapat nang simulan… gawing makakatohanan… ngayon na!
Sino ang Tunay na Nagmamahal sa Pilipinas?
Melinda Karla Ramo
“Sino nga ba ang tunay na nagmamahal sa Pilipinas?”
Matagal ko nang tanong ito. Nakita ko ang front page ng isang diyaryo noong EDSA Revolution Anniversary. Pula sa Luneta. Dilaw daw sa EDSA. Sa pagitan nila, isang malalim na buntong hininga. Haay. Isang klarong paalala ng pagkakawatak-watak ng Pilipinas.
Hindi ako eksperto at wala akong masasabi. Isa lang akong miyembro ng makulay na mundo ng media (sa pinakamagulong eskinita nito na “social media”).
Sinubukan kong magsalita, pero nangyari rin na napagkatuwaan ang aking pagiging “makabayan.” Sinabihan na rin kaming mag-ingat sa pagbitaw ng opinyon. Mahirap maging media na may kinikilingan, lalo na sa pulitika.
Pinigilan ko na ang sarili ko.
Kaya ngayon, ito ako: nananahimik. Pinigilan ko nang magsalita. Pinigilan ko nang makipagtalo at mamilit sa mga tao na pumanig sa opinyon ko. OK na ako sa “quiet grieving” sa cubicle ko tuwing may pasabog ulit sa balita.
Pero may isang bagay na hindi pwedeng ipagkait sa akin at hindi ko maitatanggi: malungkot ako. Hindi na importante kung “yellowtard” o “dutertard” ako (Wala sa dalawa BTW). Pilipino ako. At malungkot ako.
Malungkot ako na kailangan nating mag-away-away. Wasak-wasak. Watak-watak. Malungkot ako dahil alam kong bawat panig ay pareho ang dahilan kung kaya sila lumalaban: Pareho nilang mahal ang Pilipinas.
Nagkakaiba lang sa paraan ng pagpapakita ng pagmamahal na iyon. Ang isa, mahal ang Pilipinas kaya ipagtatanggol ito sa isang pamumuno. Ang isa naman, mahal ang Pilipinas kaya ipagtatanggol nila ang pinuno.
Ang iba’y sumuko na lang magmahal. Ang mga dating #ProudToBePinoy nang manalo si Pia o si Pacman, napalitan ng mga tanong na “Paano ba mag-migrate sa Canada?” (Hindi ko rin sila masisisi, hottie talaga si Trudeau). Ang iba, wala naman talagang pakialam. Ang iba, gaya ko. Mahal ko ang Pilipinas. Pero sa nangyayari ngayon, paano?
Mahal ko ba talaga ang Pilipinas? O darating ang panahon na susuko na lang rin ako? Kasi sa totoo lang, nakakapagod din pala.
_Ronald Patrocinio _
“Asan ang hustisya,” we ask in jest; but like most jokes, the question is half-true. Where, indeed, is justice? In a world struggling to determine what they believe is right or wrong, are we simply imposing on each other our own sense of justice or are we all truly striving to find our way back to what justice should be?
Is it just enough to think about it? Is it okay to simply let things be? Are we really concerned about these things — or is it just for today, just for the moment, just for now? And in the end, when the emotional dust has settled from our verbal battles, what are we willing and ready to do about it?
Or should we just sit back, leave everything to God, and simply look forward to a future where He will show His justice? Should we resign ourselves into accepting that this is just how things are in this current world we live in, and just wait and live and enjoy what is good and right within our reach? Are we just trying to prove something?
Are we still driven by Him who has proven Himself just?
There’s still a lot to talk about!
Join us on social media as we engage in an open and safe conversation about this burning topic!
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At a time when strong opinions are formed and fought for on social media, and spread with the click of a mouse through memes, impassioned posts, fake news, and volatile comments, OMF Literature offers the 3rd book in the What About series: What About Justice? In this compelling collection of essays written by lawyers, pastors, theologians, development workers and social activists, the issue of justice is examined under the light of the Christian faith and an important question is raised: What does our relationship with the God of Justice have to do with social justice in the Philippines? We invite you, our readers, to reflect and respond to the words of fellow Christians from different walks of life, as they share their views in this exciting new book. We also urge you to take part in the ongoing work and conversation aimed toward achieving social justice for everyone in our country.