Fighting the wind of madness

Two days ago, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the state of the world: “. . . today a wind of madness is sweeping the globe”. I say that these words also accurately describe our country.

It is not the madness of Taal Volcano, or the nor even the Wuhan virus that I am talking about. It is the madness of a government—and I dare say a society, thus all of us are implicated—in acting as if everything is normal, as if we are not faced with disasters of magnitudes we have not seen before.

Business as normal includes denial of science in the response to the Wuhan virus crisis, divisive statements against each other and this is true for pro-Duterte and anti-Duterte factions, red tagging and other attacks against militant organizations such as the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines that have been shamelessly targeted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council and Bayan Eastern Visayas that was raided in Leyte last Thursday. In the latter, weapons and explosives have been planted again to justify illegal arrests which include UP alumni and former student leaders. As for the RMP, it is one of the most effective groups working with the poor. Freezing their assets without basis is punishing the least privileged of our people.

Business as usual means policemen favoring management in labor disputes as the Caloocan police did by arresting the Cosmic 10—union organizers and workers of Cosmic Enterprises. They were arrested by police in open defiance of the Constitution, labor laws, and the clear agreement with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice, and the Philippine National Police where the last two agencies must bow to the supremacy of DOLE in all labor disputes.

Although I have always taught my law students about the inherent injustices in our legal system, it’s different when you directly experience and see it. In this case, my son Rafa was one of the organizers arrested. Thankfully the Caloocan prosecutors clearly saw the legal infirmities of the arrest and ordered the release of the Cosmic 10 – although they still stayed in detention for 24 hours when they did not commit a crime. As for Rafa, I always tell well-meaning relatives and friends who want us to stop him from his organizing work (not that we could actually do that anyway), how could we stop him from doing what we have always taught him as the duty of a Christian and a human being—to fight for justice, to be good to one’s neighbor, and especially to be in solidarity with the disadvantaged.

Faced with this wind of madness, what must Filipinos of goodwill do?

Work for national unity. Invoke our shared humanity. Find consensus on what our common good requires.

In this regard, more than 600 religious leaders, legislators and government officials, artists, members of the academe, prominent personalities and leaders of various people’s and non-government organizations have come out once more to call on the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume the stalled peace talks.

Among the signatories to the statement “A Call for Peace” are: Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro and other Catholic and protestant bishops; Senators Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima and 64 members of the Lower House; Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno; national artists Bencab and Bienvenido Lumbera; Directors Carlos Siguion-Reyna, Joel Lamangan, and other celebrities; and prominent lawyers like Rene Saguisag. I also signed the statement which I excerpt below:

“Once more, our hopes for a peaceful resolution of the armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have sprung, with both Parties again expressing willingness to resume the stalled peace talks. 

* * *

“Today, for the sake of our people, we call on the GRP and the NDFP to go back to the negotiating table to finish what they started. We urge them to proceed from what has been previously achieved, using methods and processes that are already in place and shown to be working. We remind them that unreasonable demands and preconditions can only serve to derail the resumption of the talks.

“To the peace spoilers and saboteurs who are opposed to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, we say enough. The persistence of mass poverty, social injustice and economic underdevelopment has fueled armed conflict for decades. It is time for the two Parties to sit down once more, find ways to compromise and cooperate in addressing the roots of the armed conflict, and achieve a just and lasting peace for our people. 

“Lastly, we call on our people to persevere in the path of peace and justice. Let us support the resumption of the peace talks.”

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