Rudy in Rody’s Time

READER’S VIEWS (The Freeman) - July 10, 2020 - 12:00am

Thirty-five years after Fr. Rosaleo “Rudy” Romano was abducted and disappeared, questions change over decades from “Where is Fr. Rudy?” to “Why Fr. Rudy?” and today’s crises challenge us to ‘be Rudy,’ that is, to put ourselves on the side of the poor in their struggles against exploitation, oppression, and marginalization. Recently, Metro Cebu has been rocked by workers’ strikes from companies such as Coca-Cola, NutriAsia, and VECO. On top of these workers’ mobilizations are multi-sectoral assemblies protesting against outright killings, TRAIN Law, charter change, crackdown, demolition, inflation, attacks on civil liberties, and the Anti-Terror Bill. These issues bear resemblance to the problems our society faced when Fr. Rudy got himself involved in fighting against social injustices and state terrorism.

Hence, how should we respond? In one of his homilies, Fr. Rudy encouraged the flock, “We stand with Christ. We fulfill a prophetic role. We are misunderstood. Do we give up in fear, in despair, in apathy, in anger? Or do we keep ourselves strong by drinking the pure water of concern, love, justice, freedom?” Fr. Rudy showed the way to us and that is to strengthen the multi-sectoral alliance of peasants, fisherfolks, workers, students, urban poor, professionals, Church people, and independent individuals.

Fr. Rudy did provide what the president today asks: Proof of God amongst us.

Aside from social and political philosophy, the notion of being participatory has been established also by Catholic Social Teachings especially by different encyclicals of popes. In the early 1960s, Pope John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) and Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) gave directions concerning global poverty and the leading way is to get oneself involved. In 1981, Pope John Paul II, in his Laborem Exercens (On Human Work), asked us to uphold always the workers’ rights noting participation and solidarity. Until today, there is a growing need to continue Fr. Rudy’s legacy in standing with the marginalized and helping the workers in their demand for the right to form unions, to receive decent wages, and to experience humane working conditions. Worse, the COVID-19 pandemic worsens the crises. The health crisis boils down to the economic, political, existential, mental, and spiritual. These are desiderata of a new world in the post-COVID period.

Fr. Rudy often quoted the word of the 1971 Synod of Bishops in Rome: “Action on behalf of justice and transformation in the participation of the world fully appears to us as the constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.” Others may not agree with the idea of being participatory and leave everything to the authority, as the providential philosophy of history teaches, but a lady human rights lawyer once asked the critics of Fr. Rudy to dig more into the causes and roots of the social ills Fr. Rudy and friends fought: “It would be very hard to understand Fr. Romano if we do not work with the grassroots and have the opportunity to listen to their agonies.” Participatory democracy and emancipatory politics are inseparable.

Noe M. Santillan

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Social Studies

University of the Philippines Cebu


Anti-terror law

With signing of Anti-Terrorism Act, families affected by drug-related killings extremely skeptical of Duterte administration’s claim to UN that they will hold erring police accountable through credible investigations of killings

Families affected by so-called “drug war” killings express doubt on the effectiveness and intention the inter-agency task force announced by DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevara to the United Nation’s human rights council, particularly in light of President Duterte’s signing into law of the Anti-Terrorism Act on Friday evening, July 3, 2020.

“As families whose loved ones are slain, we have been stigmatized, marginalized and even threatened. Those of us who were daring enough to go request copies of police reports, blotters, autopsies, and other official documents know how much persistence and courage it took to ask for them. We were met with both disinterest and derision. With Duterte’s signing into law of the Anti-Terrorism Act, we find it hard to be hopeful that things are going to get better for human rights under this administration,” said Llore Pasco whose two sons were killed in a police operation.

At the UNHRC, DOJ Secretary Guevara announced an inter-agency panel—purported to be quietly conducting investigation into the drug-related killings. We detect fancy footwork to stave off international pressures and thwart our efforts for the world to see the travesty of death and destruction that has gripped poor communities under the drugwar. Duterte’s incitements to violence have resulted in the deaths of many. Now the Anti-Terrorism Act will allow many more to be arrested and detained.

The families of Rise Up expressed that despite their concerns, they are willing to engage available processes to attain justice and stop the killings in the Philippines.

“Though we truly wonder if this inter-agency panel would be concerned with justice for our slain family members, we will engage as long as they are on the ‘up and up’ in this endeavor. However, this cannot be considered anywhere near a comprehensive remedy on the human rights violations under the Tokhang operations of the government. By self-description, the panel will focus on the acknowledged killings by police operations. This is a fraction of the killings,” said Llore.

As human rights advocates, we also wish to make clear that the safety of the families, access to evidence and documents as well as regular updates with civil society should be assured. We also believe good faith will only be demonstrated by engaging the various UN human rights mechanisms, including allowing and inviting UN Special Rapporteurs into the Philippines. We take all of this with a grain of salt: we heard Philippine government officials threatening and lambasting the United Nations, especially officials in Human Rights capacities. Their 11th hour whisper of cooperation cannot displace the last four years of screams and hate speech. Now with the signing into law of the Anti-Terrorism Act after the announcement, we have even more concerns. Human rights victims have good basis to be skeptical.

Rise Up for Life and for Rights appealed from continuing pressure from international bodies and organizations.

We wish to express our sincere appreciation for Michelle Bachelet and all of the OHCHR who have brought attention to the plight of our families and communities. We have done our best to bring the light of truth forward and we want the world to know that we need your help. We know the fear of the ‘watch lists,’ the dread of ‘quotas,’ the seemingly dual impact of randomness and precision in so-called vigilante killings, and the dread and grief as we were rendered helpless in asserting the right to life of our loved ones.

We appeal for the UN to push forward toward an independent investigation and engage the Philippine government in other mechanisms the strengthen adherence by the Philippine government in their responsibility to uphold, respect and promote the human rights of the Filipino people. We must keep hope the that the United Nations will do their utmost for victims of human rights violations as well as capacitating and holding accountable duty bearers in fulfilling their human rights obligations. With Duterte’s signed of the Anti-Terrorism Act, human rights monitoring will be imperative.

Deaconess Rubylin Litao

Coordinator, Rise Up for Life and for Rights

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