MANILA, Philippines – Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David urged Filipinos on Thursday, September 21, to stop the destruction of society due to "termites" that eat up "our collective conscience as a nation."
"Huwag po tayong magpatalo sa mga anay (Let us not be defeated by termites)," David said in a 2 pm Mass on Thursday at the historic San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.
Called the National Day of Protest, Thursday was a day of rallies to mark the 45th anniversary of Martial Law and to denounce the killings of thousands in President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
The Mass at San Agustin Church was in fact followed by a 20-minute march of Catholic laypersons, priests, and nuns to Rizal Park in Manila, where they merged with other protesters for one of the biggest rallies during Duterte's presidency.
In his homily, David explained termites infest not only houses. "Inaanay din ang lipunan natin (Our society is also infested with termites)," he said.
The bishop added: "Huwag po tayong makipagmurahan sa social media. Wala tayong kahihinatnan sa ganito. Huwag nating gantihan ng insulto ang pang-iinsulto nila sa atin. Iwaksi natin ang kalupitan. Iwaksi natin ang karahasan. Ibalik natin muli ang ating dangal bilang isang bayan."
(Let us not curse at each other on social media. We will not achieve anything with this. Let us not return insult for insult. Let us renounce cruelty. Let us renounce violence. Let us bring back our dignity as a nation.)
He then urged Catholics: "Huwag gantihan ng masama ang masama. Sa halip, pagtagumpayan natin ang kasamaan sa pamamagitan ng kabutihan." (Let us not return evil for evil. Instead, let us conquer evil with good.)
'Don't treat addicts like monsters'
David also appealed to government leaders to fight crime in a way that is legal and humane, and to crack down on illegal drugs while saving its victims.
"For God's sake, stop the killings! Start the healing," said David, the incoming vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Referring to drug addicts, he said: "Hindi kami sumasang-ayon na sila'y ituring na mistulang mga halimaw na dapat puksain na parang mga askal at pusakal. Hindi kami sumasang-ayon na wala nang pag-asang magbago ang isang taong nasangkot sa krimen."
(We disagree that we should treat them like monsters to be eliminated like stray cats and dogs. We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.)
To drive home his point, David referred to the feast of Saint Matthew, which Catholics marked on Thursday.
If people consider criminals a hopeless case, he said, then the Catholic Church would not celebrate the feast of Saint Matthew, once a reviled tax collector who later became an apostle then a martyr for the Christian faith.
"Hindi sana natin ipinagdiriwang ngayon ang kapistahan ng isang taong makasalanan, tiwali, ngunit binago ng pagtatagpo nila ni Kristo," the bishop said. (Then we would not be celebrating today the feast of a person who is sinful, corrupt, but changed by his encounter with Christ.)
In a Rappler Talk interview earlier this week, David warned against the "killing of conscience" as many Filipinos condone the killing of drug addicts.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.