Bishop David slams red-tagging of truth guardians

Lian Buan
Bishop David slams red-tagging of truth guardians

GOOD FRIDAY. Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David leads the Good Friday veneration of the cross at the San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan on April 15, 2022.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

'Marytrdom is about witnessing – pagpapatotoo, pagsaksi sa totoo kahit ipagdusa mo pa o ikamatay ito,' says CBCP president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David in his Good Friday homily
Bishop David slams red-tagging of truth guardians

MANILA, Philippines – Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David on Good Friday, April 15, slammed the vicious red-tagging of what he called the guardians of truth, while urging Filipinos not to be blinded by money and to see the truth.

Delikado naman talaga ang maging alagad ng katotohanan. Kaya sa kasaysayan ng pananampalatayang Kristiyano, hindi ‘nyo mabilang-bilang ang mga martyr na pinagsusuot natin ng pula kapag sila’y ginugunita because red means martyrdom,” David said in his homily as he led the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday.

(It’s really dangerous to be a guardian of truth. In the history of the Christian faith, you will lose count of the number of martyrs we commemorated by wearing red because red means martyrdom.)

Red-tagging is the act of linking someone to the armed communist rebels – an act not strictly criminalized by existing laws. There is also no law criminalizing membership in the communist party, but red-tagging is feared to be a weapon for legal warfare, particularly under the anti-terror law, and worse, that it may be used as justification for executions.

David likened Jesus to the red-tagged activists, saying Jesus was crucified because of false accusations that he was out to bring down the Roman Empire, like how human rights defenders are being linked to armed rebel communists whose intent is to overthrow the civil government.

David mentioned the rural physician Natividad Castro, who was red-tagged by authorities but was cleared by a court recently.

“Porke nagse-serve sa mga dukha, komunista kaagad? Hindi ba puwedeng Kristiyano muna? Ganyan din ang pang-re-red-tag na ginawa kay Hesus…at take note, related siya sa isang kilalang aktibistang propeta na ang pangalan ay John the Baptist na kapag nagsalita ay maaanghang din ang salita. Ayun, subersibo daw. Subversion po ang krimeng ikinamatay ni Hesus,” said David.

(Because she serves the poor, she’s a communist? Couldn’t she simply be a Christian? That’s also the red-tagging done to Jesus…and take note, he was related to a known activist prophet called John the Baptist, who, when he spokes, also spoke strongly. He was called a subversive. Subversion was the crime that led to Jesus’ death.)

David has always been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, a campaign that has killed around 27,000 people under its mantle and is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity.

David said like Jesus, who also had a cardboard calling him King of the Jews when he was crucified, the killed drug suspects were also found with cardboards calling them addicts.

David has a message to Filipinos who condone the brutal act of killing: “‘Yung mga nanonood, magbubulungan, sasabihin nila, ‘Addict naman pala eh, siguro okay lang, tutal salot naman ng lipunan ang pinapatay.’ At saka ka lang magre-react kung anak mo na ang pinatay.

(Those who see this would whisper and say, ‘Oh, it’s okay to kill addicts because they are a plague to society.’ You will react only when it’s your child they kill.)

To illustrate his point about the rapid spread of fake news, David said INRI, the acronym of the Latin term written on the cardboard above Jesus’ head at the cross, does not stand for Ilocos Norte Region I, a reference to the hometown of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the current survey frontrunner to become president.

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‘Martyrdom is spreading truth’

David said Jesus was well aware of the danger of the truth he was professing, but the bishop said martyrdom should not always be about sacrificing one’s life.

Ang martyrdom, hindi ‘yan tungkol sa pagpapakamata. Marytrdom is about witnessing – pagpapatotoo, pagsaksi sa totoo kahit ipagdusa mo pa o ikamatay ito,” David said.

(Martyrdom is not about dying. It’s about witnessing and spreading the truth even if you suffer or die as a result.)

David said fake news travels fast because it is viral. He also used biblical references about how money and power could corrupt people into destroying what the truth is, even using as an example the Russian propaganda about their invasion of Ukraine.

In the end, David said, “Ang katotohanan ay parang barya rin: hindi nakikita ng nabubulagan pero naipapakita ng Diyos sa takdang panahon.

(Truth is like a couple of coins: it cannot be seen by those who are blinded but will be shown by the Lord in his time.)

David offered prayers for the people of Ukraine, for global peace – including the end of the COVID-19 pandemic – and for the May 9 Philippine elections, saying bad politics killed Jesus – but politics is an integral part of society if used for the common good.

Ang pulitika ay iyong kaloob sa amin, isang paanyaya na maglingkod sa iba at lumago sa kabanalan. Gabayan mo po ang pulitika sa aming bansa, gaya ng pag-gabay mo sa amin. Nawa ang aming pulitikal na pakikilahok – para sa mga botante at kandidato – ay magdulot ng kaluwalhatian sa iyong mahal na ngalan at matulungan kaming yumabong sa kabutihan ngayon at magpasawalang hanggan,” David said in his prayer.

(Politics is your gift to us, an invitation to serve others and grow in holiness. Please guide our country’s politics like how you guide us. May our political participation – both for voters and candidates – bring glory to your name and help us be good now and forever.)

Campaigning was banned by the Commission on Elections for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Political activities may resume on Saturday, April 16. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.