Listen to the silence

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Sometimes it is difficult to see where the Roman Catholic Church and human rights advocates are coming from. When bodies of drug pushers started turning up as obvious victims of extrajudicial killings right after the May 9 elections, not a peep was heard from either of them. Was it because it was still Noynoy Aquino who was president at the time.

As if on cue, the killings started on May 10, when it became clear that Rodrigo Duterte was going to be the next president of the Philippines. The police, and whoever else did the killings, must have wanted, for whatever reason, to get a headstart on Duterte, whose main campaign promise had been to stamp out the drug menace and kill those responsible for the scourge.

Aquino could have stopped the killings if he wanted to. After all, he was still the commander-in-chief. But Aquino looked the other way. He was the springboard from which sprung the original silence that now seems to surround all these killings. Always the favorite of the Roman Catholic Church and human rights advocates, who never seem to tire of looking at the Aquinos as paragons of everything good and right, none of them had the heart to break Aquino's silence.

And then Duterte took over. And just as the killings became more frequent and regular, so did the finger-pointing from the Church and human rights advocates, all in the direction of the new president. Now they have a target they are more willing to take aim at. But other than the Church and human rights advocates, whose belated protestations now assume the shape of pro forma, the silence from everywhere else is noticeably defeaning.

Instead of questioning the silence, maybe they should pay it more attention. Maybe they should listen to the silence more intently. What the silence is saying goes back to the presidential campaign of 2016. In that campaign, Duterte minced no words about what he is going to do if elected president. And he made himself very clear about it – if Filipinos did not have the stomach for what he intended to do, he asked them to reject him at the polls.

But of course we all know what happened next. Duterte trounced everyone at the polls. Over his closest rival Mar Roxas, the surrogate of Aquino and the one in whom the Church and human rights advocates invested their unquestioning faity and allegiance, Duterte piled up a plurality of more than six million votes, a rejection so pronounced only the most hypocritical would dare ask questions.

And so question they did – the Church and the human rights advocates. They ask, and they wonder, why is the silence so defeaning about the killings? They ask as if they do not know. Well, to humor those who pretend they do not know – the reason Filipinos are silent on the killings is because they are in silent agreement. If the hypocrites cannot believe what the silence is saying, they better go and check the poll results at Comelec.

The problem with hypocrites is they do not have their feet on the ground all the time. They only get real when they want to. But that is not the way to the truth. And that is not how to earn respect and credibility. One has to be real all the time and deal with life, warts and all, not only when it is easy and convenient to do so.

Before it became payback time for all those involved in illegal drugs, did any of the hypocrites ever raise a peep when these scourges of the earth inflicted slow death on Filipino families? Did any hearts bleed over the senseless criminal acts that snuffed out so many young dreams in an instant, and for nothing so coldly illogical than to get a high?

How can the hypocrites be so inequitable in assigning pain to their consciences? I know the answer – because they do not really feel pain, and they do not have a conscience. All they do is watch tv and read the news, which is where the killings eventually land. What do not get reported are the slow and painful living deaths caused by drugs that inflict almost every family in this country, slow and painful living deaths that, by their silence, escapes the notice of hypocrites.

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