Last Wednesday, 12 December 2018, the 17th Congress extended the martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2019. It was President Rodrigo Duterte who requested the legislative body to extend the military rule in our island. This means also that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in our region is suspended. The government can arrest persons of interest without a warrant. This is the current socio-political context of our peace-and-reconciliation ministry.
The experience of totalitarian rule is not just confined in Mindanao. This week, I got a series of text messages from various friends that —
- Imam Bedejim Abdullah serving the Muslim community at the Philippine Military Academy was shot dead last Thursday, 06 December 2018 at 1130H in Baguio City;
- My 67-year old friend, Rey Claro Casambre, who happens to be a consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was arrested by government authorities last Friday along with his wife, Patricia Cora Casambre, who is 72 years old;
- A statement to kill bishops was made by the President in a public speech “for dramatic impact”;
- Bong Revilla, superstar politician, was declared ‘not guilty’ and went scot-free of plunder charges but his associates were found guilty — ‘reclusión perpetua’.
Reconciliation is energized and balanced by two sets of paradoxes: truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy.
I have friends who are committed to a revolutionary movement under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). They use both armed-struggle and non-armed-struggle approaches to attain liberation. I hear them. The cry of the victims and the oppressed—for truth and justice—must be met. Now. For “justice delayed,” according to a maxim, “is justice denied.”
For the victims and the oppressed, their cries for justice are righteous, not self-righteous; for justice and righteousness are the foundations of good governance.
Those in comfortable political spaces, especially the religious ones who belong to the powerful elite are crying for mercy. They want the society to “move on” and “to let it go.” But that’s not mercy.
Mercy is the prerogative of the victim and the oppressed when they genuinely experienced justice based on truth. Mercy is never demanded.
Yet love is the framework of justice, truth, and mercy.
The pious ones from many religious sectors shout, “Embrace each other! Forgive one another!” But embrace without truth and justice, even when labeled with mercy and love, is superficial and a perpetuation of injustice.
Am I advocating armed struggle? No.
I’m advocating an active non-violent approach towards a radical transformation. Truth-and-Love. Justice-and-Mercy. These paradoxical energizers of reconciliation have to check-and-balance each other.
I’m seeking to follow the Prince of Peace as I journey through the violent contexts in our land and among our people.
I have very good friends who advocate armed struggle as “a sacred call to dedicate our lives in times like ours.” They also are seeking to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, in their respective callings in life.
I belong to this religious network called Evangelicals. Many of my colleagues here support the current administration and its implementation of Martial Law. They look at the 20,000+ who were killed in the context of this War on Drugs as inevitable collateral damage expected in times of war between good (the government installed by God) and evil (narco-politicians). They believe they are following Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
So, I’m ending this rant with a set of questions for those justice and peace advocates who claim to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace:
- How can we be real followers of the Prince of Peace when we actually prefer martial law over civilian governance to feel safe and secure?
- How can we be real justice-based peacebuilding advocates in the name of the Prince of Peace when we equate armed struggle with, if not regarding it as having primacy over, other approaches towards our liberation?