IF we think that the U.S. and Philippine elections were the worst times we as citizens of both countries would have to endure, the lowest pit our people could find ourselves in, the May 9, 2022 Philippine elections was a sober and scary reminder that the worst is upon us: the regime of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and the outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte lives on in their children at the same time, along with an ever growing list of political dynasties and convicted plunderers and abusers of power in Philippine history.
The recent election in the Philippines had left us all so exhausted and exasperated with the division we have found ourselves in – them vs us, red vs pink – which sadly made us feel, at some point, “Mahirap mahalin ang kapwa Pilipino”, “Mahirap maipagmalaki na ako ay isang Pilipino”.
But we press on, move forward, hoping against all odds that somehow the majority of us would prove that in the end we will prove them all wrong, and that majority of us will decisively choose the truth over lies, the good versus evil, the greater good of all over personal interests.
Our natural human reaction is to hate and curse those who chose the lies, the evil, and the personal interests, but then again, we needed the divine grace to realize that they, too, – most of our kababayans – were victimized and robbed of the truth and the facts they needed to make informed and conscientious decisions.
How do we heal as a nation? How do we go back to our core values and come together as one people? How do we hold on to our faith, our concept and belief of what is good and bad in us and in other people? How do we raise our children in this age of lies and disinformation when the world we are raising them in appears to reward these and demonize the truth warriors?
I want to share this Open penned by Christina Astorga, a former faculty member of Ateneo de Manila University and order chair of the Theology Department of Christian University founded on the principle espoused by St. Ignatius: to educate its students to be “Man for Others” for the “Greater Glory of God”.
May it help us all reconcile the conflicting values we now face as a nation:
A RESPONSE TO NIKKO BUENDIA’S OPEN LETTER TO THE ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY
I am a former faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, and former Chair of the Theology Department. I am not responding to you on behalf of the Ateneo de Manila University, but as a Filipino citizen and as an educator.
I would be the first one to tell my students to stand up for the truth, to speak the truth, but always in love. “Veritas in Caritate” — truth in love. And if what you said about how they behaved towards others of opposite belief is true, then I would agree that they should be reminded of speaking truth in love.
VP Leni has always reminded her supporters of relating with those with opposite belief with respect. She says that we focus on actions, not on persons. To condemn lies, defamations, fake news, but not to attack and bully persons.
If the students have failed in love, then they must be reprimanded, reminded, be told to do better next time.
But we were young once, and we know how our passions can be combustible, when our outrage can get the better of us.
But between those without any moral outrage over the Marcos atrocities, and those with moral outrage that may have gone over the top, I will go for the latter than for the former.
You have spoken about our students’ failure in love, but I speak about your failure in truth.
Your letter is a subterfuge of historical revisionism. You implied that Ateneo de Manila is teaching their own “version of truth” as if it is not the OBJECTIVE TRUTH, BASED ON EVIDENCE UPON EVIDENCE, that the Marcoses plundered the country, left it in shambles, and while they live extremely extravagant and opulent lives on STOLEN MONEY, thousands are eating “pagpag” from the garbage. We still have to recover the accumulated plunder of $10 billion (U.S. dollars) and much of that must have been used for the massive hakot and vote buying in the last election, caught and recorded in many videos.
Imelda has been convicted of 7 counts of plunder, and while she lives like a queen in her mansion, Leila de Lima, who has been proven innocent by her own accusers, is still languishing in prison.
The Marcoses have still to pay the gov’t 203 billion in estate tax debt! They regard themselves as above the law.
They steal flagrantly, tell lies to our faces, fail to pay their taxes repeatedly, violate electoral laws blatantly, because they think of themselves as the untouchables.
They are not accountable to anyone, not even to the law of the land.
The Marcoses have refused to apologize or even acknowledge the abuses against human rights during Martial law.
They, with Duterte’s approval, buried Marcos, Sr. the plunderer and human rights criminal, among our heroes, shaming our honorable past.
They are being held in contempt by a U.S. court for “contumacious conduct causing direct harm to a class of human rights victims, amounting to 353 million dollars.” Held in contempt by the court, they would be put behind bars, if they step on U.S. soil.
They have built the largest machinery of historical revisionism, fake history, and fake news to glorify the martial law regime as the golden age of the Philippines.
They used this same machinery to perpetuate fake news about VP Leni, to assassinate her character, rendering her as a victim of the largest disinformation never seen in this country.
You criticized Ateneo de Manila University for failing to stand for the weak and downtrodden. That is the last thing to say of the University, even if their students may have been intolerant of the position taken by the CDE classes, who were the easy prey of the Marcos’ machinery of lies.
But have you condemned the plunder of the Marcoses of the money that was meant for the alleviation of poverty in our country?
Have you considered that it is they who have no heart for the weak and downtrodden, who look upon them only as votes to buy to keep them in power?
And have you thought that it is you, and people like you, who support the Marcoses, who are in collusion with them, who keep our people, poor and downtrodden?
You write and I quote, “your partisan stance has encouraged young impressionable minds to blindly take your ‘cause’ against the ‘enemy’.”
History has many instances that the youth are the easiest to be molded into a terrifying mob. And it is apparent what you… along with other Catholic institutions… are building. This road will not lead to heaven.
Truth is not partisan, but it is not neutral. Neutrality in the face of truth is collusion with lies and falsehood.
The Catholic Church has taken a stance against the Marcos atrocities, for it is a stance for truth and justice; it is a stance for the poor and downtrodden, who are victims of their abuses. Had it played neutral, it could have stood against the very heart of the gospel.
The truth is under attack, now more than ever, and it is Ateneo’s obligation and that of all institutions of learning, to protect the truth. If truth is not protected, and we live on lies and falsehoods, we will not only be on the road that leads to heaven, we will create hell on earth.
I praise our young for fighting for the truth, for putting themselves on the line for what they believe; for the moral outrage they have shown against lies and injustices.
They are the warriors of truth at the frontline of the battle – brave, unyielding, indomitable. I salute them. But I exhort them once again to speak truth in love – “Veritas in Caritate.”
VP Leni has shown us what it means to fight in the spirit of radical love. In her speech in the thanksgiving rally, she said that she is launching the Angat Buhay, the largest volunteer network in the country this July.
She said that “tutulungan natin ang lahat. Wala tayong pipiliin na kulay.”
When people accuse the pink movement of self-righteousness, of the “holier-than-thou,” of the disconnect with the least in society, the best argument to that accusation is VP Leni and her embodiment of radical love for the poorest of the poor.
The image of VP Leni climbing mountains, crossing rivers, riding bancas and motorcycles, to reach our people at the laylayan, the least among us, and the opposite of the Marcoses among the elite in society, the oligarchs in their palatial homes and mansions, and at Amanpulo.
I exhort our students, to be inspired by VP Leni, and to become more and more like her, as bridges of love, solidarity, and compassion.
But radical love must be rooted in truth and justice. Love that is not rooted in truth is false sentimentalism.
Love that is not founded on justice is collusion with injustice.
I read a quote which spoke powerfully to me. “I fight against you, because I am fighting for you, and for us.”
Is this self-righteousness or holier-than-thou? It is, if it is not based on genuine truth and justice.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989. She was a news anchor, TV host and radio commentator and public service host for ABS- CBN and DZMM. She is now working on her advocacies independently, serving the Filipino audience using different media platforms. You may contact her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos. Also on Twitter, Instagram: Gel Santos Relos