Nights in our days
On Katipunan Street in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City, close to where the street intersects with F. Llamas and Cabarrubias streets, there is a little marker to a lost missionary.
He is Father Rosaleo Romano, a member of the Redemptorist order known to his contemporaries as Father Rudy. Father was a voice on behalf of the poor and stood on the frontlines of the fight against the strongman rule of Ferdinand Marcos.
On July 11, 1985, Father Rudy was abducted on the spot where the marker stands. He was never found. He is among the thousands who were forcibly disappeared in the dark days of the dictatorship.
Whenever July 11 comes, some people still gather to commemorate Father’s disappearance and to celebrate his life.
I am glad there is another monument to Father Rudy at the churchyard of the parish of Our Mother of Perpetual Help uptown. The clergyman’s memory is better revered there.
At other times of the year, the Tisa marker is proof of our nation’s forgetfulness and underestimation of the sacrifices our forebears made so that we may enjoy what freedoms we have.
It has been some time since I last saw the Tisa marker. Whenever I did, I was always overcome by a sense of sadness. The monument was dusty. Residents pile their trash next to it for collectors to pick up. The sanitation workers do not come very often.
The mournful condition of the Tisa monument also symbolizes unfortunate developments like the Supreme Court’s decision clearing the way for for Malacañang to grant the dictator a hero’s burial.
We keep our history in the past rather than learn its lessons. We move on, only to be shocked time and again by how unchanged our lives are.
We do not realize there is no such thing as moving on without carrying with us the painful lessons of our yesteryears. There is no such thing as moving on if we treat our real heroes like bad dreams to forget instead of stars to guide our often benighted ways.
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Some people bemoaned Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ issuance of a letter decrying the Supreme Court’s decision.
To these citizens, the prelate’s letter on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which he leads, is undue ecclesiastical meddling into the affairs of state.
But being a Church official never meant abdicating one’s citizenship.
Last time I checked, one does not by becoming a clergyman or religious forfeit his freedom of speech and expression.
At the same time, whether one is among the laity or otherwise, one is called to exercise his baptismal calling to be a prophet like the Savior.
That means, among other things, speaking truth to the confusions of our time, whether inside or outside the Church.
Sadness over public acclamation of a thief is a word of truth.
Let us be careful when speaking against Church elders who comment on public affairs. In shouting them down, we denigrate our own right to speak out since most of us too are members of the Church. Church is not just its hierarchy. So when we try to silence our leaders, we are just a breath away from justifying our own silencing.
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Some lawyers and fans of the court are angry over the public outcry against the Supreme Court’s decision.
They must remember that legal decisions ought not to be immune from comment. A craftsman is accountable to one who sits on the ergonomics of a chair. In the same vein, the public’s critique of the justices and their majority decision is the people’s way of holding interpreters of the law accountable.
Legal decisions can be existentially experienced as oppressive. When this happens, it is inhuman to just say the law is hard but it is the law. Making a dogma out of that aphorism makes legalists out of lawyers and paralegal professionals and diminishes the grandeur and import of the law.
Was not the law made to be interpreted in its spirit rather than solely in its letter? Was not the law made for man rather than the other way around?
But things are upside down. Philippine jurisprudence now maintains that thievery, violence and oppression are paths to state honors.
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