“Bless me, Father for I have sinned. But I do not know if I have sinned, Father,” I whispered hoarsely, in the confessional.
Is it a sin, if I got so very angry, hearing another publicly blaspheme God and attack my faith in Him? He could only speak like The Evil One when he said, “Who is this stupid God? He’s really stupid.” President Rodrigo Duterte made the statement attacking God during a speech in Davao, where he questioned God’s logic in the Biblical creation story of Adam and Eve, calling God “p_tangina” or “Son of a whore” (Rappler June 22, 2018).
Is it wrong to tremble in reverberating fear at the hollow echo of the voice of The Evil One in the country’s president self-righteously saying, “I will not apologize to God, not in a million years”?
Duterte made the statement after evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus Is Lord church called on the President to issue a public apology for insulting God (The Manila Times June 28, 2018). “Your God is not my God, because your God is stupid; mine has a lot of common sense,” he said, unremorsefully adding blasphemy upon blasphemy (BusinessWorld June 26, 2018).
Is it a sin of omission, that I, among so many Filipinos like me, allowed him so many times before to say vulgarities and curses, threats, and coercive language, double-speak and to declare the inverse of commonly known facts and truths? Have I sinned by collusion in watching silently, or worse, clapping and cheering in the perverse surrogate mischief of a hyped crowd, as he spewed venom and pranced over common decencies?
The local and foreign press has feasted on the rowdy antics of Duterte.
One foreign news recounts how Duterte, just a presidential candidate then, cursed (“p_tangina”) visiting Pope Francis for having triggered a monstrous traffic in Manila. Then he lashed the same “Son of a whore” virulence on Barack Obama (still US President then), who had raised alarm over the killings under the Duterte Drug War. (www.cbsnews.com June 25, 2018).
“It’s certainly not every day that you hear a sitting president say the words ‘son of a whore,’” The Washington Post chided (September 6, 2016). Duterte called the United Nations “p_tangina” (Philippine Star June 3, 2016) for failing peace in many troubled countries, as he told the Commission on Human Rights and the US and Australia envoys face-to-face to shut up. He picks a fight and punches everyone’s nose with “I never signed anything that says I have to behave in this manner or in that manner,” (Ibid.). He raised the dirty finger at the EU for commenting on extrajudicial killings (EJKs) related to the drug war (ABS-CBN News “F*** you, Duterte tells European Union,” Sep 20, 2016).
Is it wrong to be appalled and angry that human rights seem to have been violated in blatant end-justifying-the-means? “The former longtime city mayor has repeatedly declared he does not care about human rights and has threatened drug dealers and other criminals with death” (www.cbsnews.com June 25, 2018). From July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2017, about 7,080 were killed in the War On Drugs, based on revised Philippine National Police data (Rappler April 23, 2017). The “tokhang” or warrantless arrests of drug suspects on an ever-lengthening drug list is feared by those not aligned with the powers-that-be.
As of end June, 22,000 “tambay” (loiterers) were picked up under the two-week old anti-loitering campaign that was surprisingly immediately enforceable in slum area by the police (DZMM Teleradyo June 30, 2018).
Why not, when in September 2016, Duterte had declared “a state of lawless violence,” which increased the presence of law enforcement all over the country and gave authorities the power to impose curfews in certain areas (CNN Philippines Sept. 3, 2016). And the Philippines plans to withdraw from the International Court of Justice (Philippine Star March 20, 2018). Why?
Is it an exaggerated reaction to fear for personal safety in this environment of verbal and physical violence, even of the diminution of my rights — that can only magnify in my instinctive imagination the arrogance and impunity of those in power?
There seems to be no more checks and balance of power in our flailing democracy. The Legislature and the Judiciary are apparently controlled by the Executive — those aligned with the President even boast of their numbers.
Former Justice Secretary and elected Senator Leila de Lima, critic against Duterte’s drug war tactics, has been in detention since February 2017 for alleged drug trafficking, on the testimony of prison inmates, police officers and former prison officials at Legislative Committee hearings (ABS-CBN News March 14, 2017).
In May, the Supreme Court en banc voted 8-6 to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice, based on a quo warranto complaint filed by Duterte’s Solicitor General Jose Calida, short-cutting the more tedious Senate impeachment proceedings (ABS-CBN News May 11, 2018).
Is it wrong to be aghast and indignant about the public shaming of De Lima and Sereno, and even Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who admirably held her head high against constant attack?
Duterte says “the next Ombudsman will not be a woman” (Philippine Star May 17, 2018).
Evidently, he does not hold women in high regard. From minus-day one of Duterte as president, he has managed to insert himself in the rape of women’s dignity by his stand-up comedy public rantings of his sexual exploits and perceived macho entitlement to any woman’s body. In April, 2016, before he was yet elected president, Duterte said of a 36-year-old Australian lay minister who was held hostage, raped, had her throat slashed and was shot in 1989 — “she was so beautiful, the mayor (he, Duterte, then) should have been first. What a waste.” (www.washingtonpost.com April 25, 2016).
A few weeks ago, Duterte drew flak for kissing an overseas Filipina worker on the lips — on stage and on international TV — during a visit to South Korea (www.bbc.com/news June 4, 2018). No malice, he said and even the OFW woman said. But what was certainly malicious was that Duterte was distributing copies of Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics and Money in the Catholic Church, an exposé on alleged wrongdoings of Catholic bishops and priests. Duterte had said the Catholic Church has no moral ascendancy to lecture him on morality because some members of the clergy are also engaged in sinful acts (ABS-CBN News Jan 24, 2017). And so why were three Catholic priests mysteriously killed since December 2017, the latest, Fr. Raymond Nilo, only last June 10? (www.aljazeera.com/news June 13, 2018).
Last question, Father Confessor: Is it a sin to doubt the Catholic hierarchy for their seeming tepidity in assuaging the monstrously growing questions of right-and-wrong in the laity’s mind and souls, the fears for their mortality and survival, even?
Is it wrong to compare the present Church leadership with the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, who was the fulcrum that moved the people to the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution against the Marcos dictatorship?
Finally, Father Confessor has a chance to speak: “You have not sinned by your righteous anger. Feelings, even the strongest feelings and inclinations are neither right nor wrong. They are amoral, until these even very negative feelings — doubts, fears, disappointments — are translated into good or bad actions. Even Jesus was angry (John 2:13-25). True, there is mercy and love preached by the Catholic faith as the ultimate peace for mind, body and soul. But even Christian forgiveness is preliminarily based on Justice according to the initial vetting by human and natural laws. What is there to forgive if there was no sin?
There is a Cardinal Sin, in every Catholic Filipino. And in communion with all who believe in God, or a God powerful above all creatures, there can be no man who thinks himself the perfect God.
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.