CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 March 2017

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The hero is the villain

MANILA (SE): “The hero is now the villain,” Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in lamenting what he termed the new spirit of a now splintered EDSA Remembrance Day.

“History books are rewritten. Historical memory is revised. The hero is the villain. The plunderers are now the heroes,” he said in pointing out that the real spirit of what was a bloodless coup just 31 years ago has evaporated into a relentless killing spree of the poor in the name of change.

Archbishop Villegas said that it is a national tragedy that the very one who was deposed during the four glorious days of People Power that culminated with the dictator being bundled onto a military helicopter of the United States of America on 24 February 1986, is now the one being honoured.

He said that this has been demonstrated by the reburial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Heroes Cemetery, a place that used to be reserved for those who fought for the welfare of the people that has now also become a resting place for those who murder, plunder and repress.

Nevertheless, the president of the bishops’ conference said that despite attempts to prostitute what was arguably the most glorious day in Philippine history, there are still reasons to celebrate, as EDSA Day is not about the enemies of peace and democracy, but the faith and the bravery of the Filipino people, or “those who called upon the Lord in their distress and whose cry the Lord has heard from heaven.”

He stressed, “EDSA is our people’s cry and our loving God’s reply. The spirit of EDSA is worth celebrating always. It is the people who have raped it.”

As those for the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, and those against him held their own rallies and gatherings, the man who was the president this time last year and used the day in a last ditch reelection bid flooding Manila in a sea of yellow, Noynoy Aquino, joined thousands rallying near police headquarters at Camp Crame, in a cry against the relentless murder of the poor of the land.

Duterte supporters gloried in the blood-letting separately, but where they came face to face sparks flew.

Playwright, Bonifacio Illagan, warned the massed crowds against the reemergence of martial law, which Duterte often mutters about, to remember what EDSA stood for and the demand of the people for justice, which continues to allude them.

However, the spirit of EDSA has been dying a slow and neglected death for some years, as the collective amnesia of the people has left its memorial an almost empty shell on previous anniversaries.

Archbishop Villegas said in 2014 that in forgetting, the people are claiming an honour for themselves that really belongs to God.

“I plead with you on bended knees, do not forget the rosaries you prayed; do not forget the image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart that we put on top of the tanks. Do not forget the bibles that we read. Do not forget the concrete pavements that we knelt on, through midnight and into the morning, praying the rosary for deliverance from slavery. There can be no EDSA story without God,” the archbishop told the few people who troubled themselves to turn up that year.

The nation may have failed to heed his call to tell their children and their children’s children that EDSA is holy and it is the people who must keep it holy, so it has degenerated into a demonstration of the splintered nation The Philippines has become, demanding an even louder voice to ask the Lord to “heal our land.”

In what is an unprecedented move, the archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle, called on all parishes to hold an EDSA Remembrance Day memorial service on the anniversary.

He asked for an examination of personal and communal conscience, an invitation to further formation of consciences and pointed out the need for repentance for the support that the people in the streets have given to the mass murder campaign of the current government.

Cardinal Tagle described EDSA as a remembering of the people relying on faith to enact a social transformation of society.

He added that 31 years ago the Filipino people thanked God for the gift of faith, but today the need is to ask for pardon for both personal and communal failure in the living out of that faith in justice, peace and love.

In reflecting that the villain becoming the hero makes EDSA a sad day on the national calendar, Archbishop Villegas said, “This land may be ruled by tyrants and killers, murderers may win in elections, plunderers may grin at the ignorant voters they have cheated, trolls may keep hurling invectives at their peace loving countrymen, commanders may prostitute the meaning of EDSA… but we will still celebrate.”

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