CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

Print Version    Email to Friend
Who remembers what the pope said?

The Philippines seems to be off the international comment agenda of late. Even Pope Francis seems to have forgotten about its existence since his triumphant Palm Sunday-like entrance into Manila in 2015.
 
Papal condolences have been sent to France, Egypt and England on more than one occasion in recent days, but after a catastrophe in a Manila resort, a besieged city and declaration of martial law, as well as a kidnapped priest and people, some in The Philippines must be wondering what more they have to do to do to rate a papal mention.
 
Although the pope’s message of mercy seems to have been forgotten in the bloodlust of the past 18 months, there are those who still remember and need the comfort of an international leader to support their cries into the wilderness.
 
But the pope is not the only one who is mum on The Philippines.
 
While the tough on drugs campaign, which may be better described as tough on misery of the erratic president, Rodrigo Duterte, has won plaudits, his encouragement of rape among his soldiers in the martial law campaign in Mindanao did not do quite so well.
 
“For this martial law and the consequences of martial law and the ramifications of martial law, I and I alone would be responsible. Just do your work. I will handle the rest,” he said. “I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it,” he told soldiers in clear encouragement to get out there and get into it.
 
While some thought he was joking, he has assured them that he is not and his words are obviously targeting Muslim women in his warning, “If you marry four, son of a whore you will be beaten up.”
 
This is a clear reference to Sharia Law which allows such marriages and is intended to be offensive.
 
As the commander-in-chief of his forces it is also an invitation to soldiers, who often do not need much encouragement to rape anyway, to use rape as a weapon, which is banned by every international convention on war the country has signed.
 
Writing in the Inquirer on June 6, Anne Marie Goetz says, “When a commander-in-chief signals to active combat forces that they can commit human rights abuses with impunity, he is putting them and himself in line for international prosecution for war crimes. The Geneva Conventions clearly prohibit targeting of civilians in wartime and yet Duterte’s statement does this.”
 
This augurs a repeat of the martial law of a previous era. Testimony given in the Supreme Court last year revealed about attacks on women occurred to a far greater extent than previously thought.
 
Duterte’s remarks are also a clear indication of his true purpose in Mindanao—to fan the flames of violent extremism, rather than build relationships of reconciliation and peace between the Muslim and Christian community.
 
Duterte has received the approbation of another macho president, Donald Trump, but a breaking of the silence by leaders in the United Nations and the international community would be welcomed at least by those who still remember the pope’s words.