One of the most highly-rated TV shows today is “The Walking Dead.” For what reason should the viewers salivate on a group of survivors who remain free of the infection fight their way out by shooting, hacking, stabbing, clubbing the so-called Zombies behooves me. Enjoying it means that we enjoy these types of violence regardless as to whom such is directed.
On the other hand, it could also be that the viewers look at the Zombies as a representation of their own struggles in life that they need to fight with whatever they’ve got, be it sickness, financial difficulties, poverty, unemployment, strained family relationships, or simply frustration, melancholy and alike.
And now comes the ongoing campaign of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to finally end the spate of criminality in the country especially the unabated proliferation of illegal drugs and only recently acts of terrorism. When confronted with the growing number of killed, the President said that drug lords, drug pushers, and even heavy drug users who can no longer be rehabilitated are not humans.
While such a statement elicited a plethora of violent comments and reactions, the President appears to have gained an ally in Russian President Vladimir Putin who shared the view of the fiery former Mayor of Davao City that those engaged in illegal drugs and terrorism and that human rights are for humans but not for animals as both leaders referred to drug lords, drug pushers and terrorists as animals.
So this is where we now stand and the question lingers on – is the strategy of Duterte to finally rid the Philippines of the scourge that is illegal drugs the right way and the only way? Is it also right to meet the terroristic force of the Abu Sayyaf Group with equal or superior force?
While human rights activists and even the Human Rights Watch deplore the spare of killings in the Philippines, a Pulso ng Pilipino survey conducted by the Issues and Advocacy Center from August 29 to September 4, 2016 which covers the period when the Roxas night market in Davao City was bombed that resulted in the deaths of 14 persons, President Duterte continues to enjoy a very high trust rating of +92%, the net total of 96% of the 1,200 respondents who said they still trusted the Philippine President as against only 04% who said they don’t trust Duterte.
The high rating registered by Duterte is by far the highest ever recorded by a newly-elected President. Not even then Benigno Simeon Aquino III who also won by a landslide in 2010 scored this high during his presidency. In fact, Noynoy Aquino, just like US President Barack Obama, left the presidency with as much hate on his back than accolades stemming from the public outrage at Aquino’s insensitivity over the deaths of 44 Special Action Forces in Mindanao, graft and corruption and the never-ending traffic problem in major thoroughfares in Manila.
Duterte’s rating could have also been the result of the perceptions of the respondents as to what they see and feel as the most pressing problems prevailing in the Philippines and the image of Duterte looms large as the only leader in whom they pin their hopes for a better life.
The Pulso ng Pilipino also asked the 1,200 respondents an open-ended and unaided question on what they perceive as the most serious problems in the country today and the responses were as follows: Some 44% said Criminal Acts (inclusive of Illegal Drugs, Crimes against persons and property, Killings, Acts of terrorism, rebellion.) Another 19% said Graft and Corruption (inclusive of issues on morality, unexplained wealth, bribery.) 16% said Poverty, unemployment, contractualization, low wages, unaffordable commodity prices. 13% said Social Services (inclusive of Health, Education, Basic Services.) Surprisingly, only 5% said the problem is transportation and traffic and this could mean that the people can live with it. And 3% said Environmental problems, e.g., pollution, illegal mining is a serious problem.
A rider to the Pulso ng Pilipino survey is the planned burial of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani. Notwithstanding the rallies and protests to stop the burial, some 67% said they favor the burial of the late President as ordered by President Duterte on the basis that Marcos was a former President and a soldier which are two of the requirements specified in the rules and regulations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as to who can be buried at the LNMB.
It is clear from the instruction of President Duterte who is exercising his functions as Commander In Chief of the AFP to allow the burial of the remains of the late President Marcos who was a former President, a Senator and a soldier who saw action in World War II.
The survey shows that 67% of those who were asked are IN FAVOR of the planned burial of the remains of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani and 28% says they are NOT IN FAVOR with 05% saying they DON’T KNOW.
Lost in the din of this controversy is also the fact that the decision of President Duterte to allow the burial was not because the late President Marcos was a hero but because he was a former President and a soldier and is qualified to be buried at the LNMB under the existing rules and regulations of the AFP.
While there have been numerous protest rallies and demonstrations centered in the Metro Manila by certain groups opposed to the planned burial of the late strongman, these are by no means reflective of the sentiment prevailing in other parts of the country as seen from the results of the Pulso ng Pilipino survey.
At the end of the day, what we are actually seeing in the events not only in the Philippines but elsewhere in the world including the killing of unarmed civilians is merely the result of what I may call as a declining level of spirituality. As we become so immersed with the concerns of daily living we tend to forgot that true joy lies not in the accumulation of wealth or power but in the peace offered by the One who created all things. It is probable that we have become lost in the maze of problems we face that we look for remedies elsewhere other than what God offers.
God is a God of mercy and compassion and he will not stop until all who are lost are found. This was the reason why Jesus was sent “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (LK 19:10) As Jesus searches on we must join him in this search and rescue operation to save those who are lost especially those who do not believe that we have the image and likeness of God in us. Time is of the essence and today the world has changed radically as our faith is now being challenged and we need to look for and help those who are lost and couldn’t find their way.
As disciples of Christ, this task of looking out for the lost also falls squarely on our shoulders because as disciples we must share in the mission of Christ to search for those who are lost and lead them “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead.” (Phi 3:10-11)
Many of us easily lose hope when things don’t turn out the way we expected and we sink into the pit of depression and despair and we turn to alcohol and or drugs. But in Luke’s gospel we see a God who does not lose hope or give up when we go astray and He rejoices when the Holy Spirit finds us and brings us back to our senses and leads us home.
Drug lords, drug pushers, drug users and even terrorists are among those who are lost. Maybe it is time for us to help look for those who are lost. I’m not saying that you go out into the jungles to search for the terrorists or comb the streets of Manila looking for drug pushers and drug addicts. Perhaps we can help in our own little way by going down on our knees and pray for those who are lost. And the God of Mercy and love, I’m certain, will listen and grant the prayers of the righteous.
By Ed Malay