CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 September 2017

Print Version    Email to Friend
The good the ugly and the uglier

MANILA (SE): After a week when over 90 people died in the ongoing purge of the poor orchestrated by the president of The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, many more people began questioning the true intention of his so-called war on drugs.
 
“But if it has done nothing else, it has shown every Filipino up for what they are,” lay missionary, John Ding, told the Sunday Examiner on August 18, two days after a 17-year-old student, Kian delos Santos, was shot in the back, even though police claim he was killed in self-defence.
 
Ding said that every Filipino must react to the widespread slaughter of the poor in some way or other, showing each one up for what they are; the good, the ugly and the uglier.
 
But over the past 12 months, it has mostly been the ugly face of The Philippines that has been on display for the whole world to see and as time marches on, that face is becoming uglier and uglier.
 
In addition, little has happened to challenge this image, as Duterte continues his murderous campaign with the support of a large percentage of the population.
 
However, the death of Delos Santos has raised suspicions in the minds of even some of the most bloodthirsty and hardened of them.
 
Police claims about Delos Santos are highly suspicious. His body was found with a gun in his left hand, but eyewitnesses say that it was the police who placed it there.
 
His mother, who is a migrant worker in the Middle East, said that her son is right-handed and that even if he did have a gun, which she does not believe, she asked why he would have it in his left hand.
 
His family is also positive that he had nothing to do with drugs and police even admitted that he was not on their list of suspects, which as his death indicates, means little.
 
The family has now filed murder charges against the police.
 
The death of the young student, combined with the fact that his mother is a migrant worker, prompted at lease one group in Hong Kong to raise a voice of protest at the Philippine Consulate General to Hong Kong on August 24.
 
Speaking on behalf of UNIFIL, Dolores Balladares said, “As a mother, it is heartbreaking to go home to see your child in a glass and wood box, seemingly near, yet out of reach. And what of your efforts to work abroad to be able to afford his daily sustenance? It has come to nothing, because a murderous state, led by Duterte, took him away!”
 
While Filipinos may have become a little hardened to the sight of a battered migrant worker’s body being brought back to The Philippines in a wooden box, the thought of returning to a murdered child is an experience that can be much harder to stomach, especially when they have died extra-judicially at the hands of the state.
 
However, Balladares’ voice is not the first to be raised in Hong Kong. A small band of Filipinos has been working quietly for a long time visiting Filipinos and people from other nationalities who are in prison in Hong Kong, mostly on drug trafficking charges.
 
A group of some eight to nine from the Migrant Lay Missionaries visits the prisons every Saturday morning, openly embracing those who have dabbled in drugs and accompanying them on the road to repentance, forgiveness and healing, rather than condemning them as non-human vermin.
 
The witness the group gives is an important one and although it mostly goes unseen to the public eye, carries a profound value in its own right, as it is a witness to a belief that no one stands beyond the reach of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ.
 
Theirs is a voice that is beginning to be heard in The Philippines as well. 
 
For many months the Philippine Church was silent, as the bishops mostly pottered around the periphery talking contradictory riddles about human rights, and it was left to the laity and religious congregations to begin a grassroots movement to reflect the ugly face of The Philippines to the majority of bedazzled Filipinos.
 
The group that ventured to the consulate on August 24 to express its disgust with its own government has shown great courage in front of its own country people, as showing the ugly face is often deemed an even uglier act.
 
In pre-Duterte days, Filipinos in Hong Kong rallied several times a year against the frequent murders in the Pearl of the Orient Seas of human rights advocates, journalists, indigenous community leaders and political rivals and, although the frequency of these killings has not subsided, objecting has become a political no-no.
 
But as the nation struggles to recognise the good from the ugly and the uglier, Balladares points out, “Thousands have died because of this war against the poor. And thousands more will die if we continue to support this war.”
 
She adds, “Duterte’s war on drugs does not bring justice to the victims of crimes allegedly committed by drug users. Worse, it perpetuates the injustice to the innocent and tramples on the basic right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.”
 
While violence perpetuates more violence, the little witness given by those who embrace the guilty and accompany them on the road to healing can guide a nation towards treading the salvific path to healing the ugly scars that mar its face on the world stage.
 
Then the nation may be embraced more readily by people other than those led by thugs who, like the Philippine leader, regard human rights and the presence of the poor among their populations as an impediment to progress.
 
In this context, the voice of the migrant population is an important one, as it has the power to tell a different story to the world about The Philippines than the one emanating from the country itself.

More from this section