contributed by Agnes Mendoza Gupana
Reclaiming Our Humanity
Mass for Jun Lozada
La Salle Gymnasium, Greenhills
17 February 2008
On this Second Sunday of Lent, during which we are asked to reflect on the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, I wish to touch on three themes that have to do with our moral transformation as a people: first, Ascertaining Credibility; second, Rediscovering our Humanity; and third, Witnessing to the Truth. In so doing, I hope to invite all of you to reflect more deeply on how we, as a nation, might respond to the present political crisis in which our identity and ethos, our convictions and integrity, in fact, who we are as a people, are at stake.
I. ASCERTAINING CREDIBILITY
Jun, as Sen. Miriam Santiago has grilled you to ascertain your credibility (or was it to undermine your credibility?), allow me to raise some important questions to consider in the very process of discerning your credibility. Allow me to do so by drawing on my own counseling experience.
Very often, a young rape victim initially suppresses his or her awful and painful story, indeed wills to forget it, in the hope that by forgetting, he or she can pretend it never happened. But very often, too, there comes a point when concealing the truth becomes unbearable, and the desperate attempts to supposedly preserve life and sanity become increasingly untenable.
At this point the victim of abuse decides to seek help. But even after having taken this step, the victim, devastated and confused, will tell his or her story with much hesitation and trepidation. It should be easy to imagine why. In telling the truth, one risks casting shame on himself or herself, subjecting oneself to intense scrutiny and skepticism, and jeopardizing one’s safety and those of his or her loved ones, especially when one dares to go up against an older or more powerful person.
Similarly, it is easy to imagine why Jun would initially refuse to challenge the might of Malacanang. Who in his or her right mind would accuse Malacanang of crimes against our people and implicate the First Family in a sordid tale of greed and corruption, knowing that by doing so, one endangers one’s life and the lives of his or her loved ones? We are, after all, living in dangerous times, where the government has not hesitated to use everything in its power to keep itself in power, where it has yet to explain and solve the numerous cases of extra-judicial killings.
But Jun is in his right mind. His story rings true especially in the face of the perils that he has had to face. And by his courage, Jun has also shown that it is not only that he is in his right mind; his heart is also in the right place.
Hence, my personal verdict: Jun, I believe that you are a credible witness. And if hundreds have gathered here this morning, it is probably because they also believe in you. Mga kapatid, naniniwala ba kayo kay Jun Lozada? Naniniwala ba kayo sa kanyang testimonya? Kung gayon, palakpakan po natin ang Probinsyanong Intsik, si Mr. Jun Lozada.
Jun, we hope that by our presence here, you may find some consolation. Pope Benedict XVI writes that “con-solatio” or consolation means “being with the other in his or her solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude.” Jun, be assured that your solitude is no longer isolation as we profess our solidarity with you. Hindi ka nag-iisa. We are committed to stay the course and to do our best to protect you and your family and the truth you have proclaimed.
II. REDISCOVERING OUR HUMANITY
What makes Jun a credible witness to us?
I think Jun is credible not simply by virtue of his being an eyewitness to the unmitigated greed of some of our public officials. Perhaps more importantly, Jun is credible because he has witnessed to us what it means to be truly human.
Which leads me to my second theme: What does it mean to be human? How might we rediscover our humanity?
Allow me to quote Pope Benedict XVI, who in his latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, has written: “the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life becomes a lie. . . For this … we need witnesses—martyrs …. We need them if we are to prefer goodness to comfort, even in the little choices we face each day.”
Our Holy Father concludes, “the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity.”
Isn’t this the reason we emulate our martyrs: Jose Rizal, Gomburza, Evelio Javier, Macli-ing Dulag, Cesar Climaco and Ninoy Aquino? They have borne witness for us what it means to be truly human—to be able to suffer for the sake of others and for the sake of the truth.
I remember Cory recalling a conversation she had with Ninoy while they were in exile in Boston. Cory asked Ninoy what he thought might happen to him once he set foot in Manila. Ninoy said there were three possibilities: one, that he would be rearrested and detained once more in Fort Bonifacio; two, that he would be held under house arrest; and three, that he would be assassinated.
“Then why go home?” Cory asked.
To which Ninoy answered: “Because I cannot allow myself to die a senseless death, such as being run over by a taxi cab in New York. I have to go home and convince Ferdinand Marcos to set our people free.”
Witnessing to one’s deepest convictions, notwithstanding the consequences, is the measure of our humanity. Proclaiming the truth to others, whatever the cost, is the mark of authentic humanity.
Jun, we know you have feared for your life and continue to do so. But in transcending your fears for yourself and your family, you have reclaimed your humanity. And your courage and humility, despite harassment and calumniation by government forces, embolden us to retrieve and reclaim our humanity tarnished by our cowardice and complicity with sin in the world. You have inspired us to be true to ourselves and to submit to and serve the truth that transcends all of us.
III. WITNESSING TO THE TRUTH
This leads us to our third and last theme: witnessing to the truth. In his encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII exhorts that it is the fundamental duty of the government to uphold the truth: “A political society is to be considered well-ordered, beneficial and in keeping with human dignity if it grounded on truth.” Moreover, the encyclical explains that unless a society is anchored on the truth, there can be no authentic justice, charity and freedom.
Every government is therefore obliged to serve the truth if it is to truly serve the people. Its moral credibility and authority over a people is based on the extent of its defense of and submission to the truth. Insofar as a government is remiss in upholding the truth, insofar as a government actively suppresses the truth, it loses its authority vested upon it by the people.
At this juncture, allow me to raise a delicate question: At what point does an administration lose its moral authority over its constituents?
First, a clear tipping point is the surfacing of hard evidence signifying undeniable complicity of certain government officials in corruption and injustice, evidence that can be substantiated in court.
Hence, during the Marcos Regime, the manipulation of Snap Election results as attested to by the tabulators who walked out of the PICC was clear evidence of the administration’s disregard for and manipulation of the collective will of the people in order to remain in power..
During the Erap Administration, the testimony of Clarissa Ocampo, claiming that Pres. Erap had falsified Equitable Bank documents by signing as Jose Velarde, was the smoking gun that triggered the rage of our people.
Allow me to respond to the same question by pursue an alternative track of argument: an administration loses it moral authority over its people when it fails in its fundamental duty to uphold the truth, when it is constituted by an ethos of falsehood. When a pattern of negligence in investigating the truth, suppressing the truth and harassing those who proclaim the truth is reasonably established, then a government, in principle, loses its right to rule over and represent the people.
Regarding negligence: Do the unresolved cases, such as the the failed automation of the national elections, the fertilizer scam, the extra-judicial killings, and the “Hello, Garci” scandal, constitute negligence on the part of the GMA Administration to probe and ferret out the truth?
Regarding covering-up the truth: Does the abduction of Jun Lozada and the twisting and manipulation of his narrative by Malacanang’s minions constitute concealment of the truth? Was the padlocking of the office of Asst. Gov’t Counsel Gonzales who testified before the Senate regarding the North Rail project anomaly an instance of covering-up the truth?
Regarding the suppression of the truth: Does the issuance and implementation of E.O. 464, which prevents government officials from testifying in Senate hearings without Malacanang’s permission, constitute suppression of the truth? Was the prevention of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Senga and six other officers from testifying before the Senate with regard the “Hello, Garci” scandal tantamount to a suppression of the truth? Was disallowing Brig. Gen. Quevedo, Lt. Col Capuyan and Lt. Col. Sumayo from appearing before the Lower House an instance of hindering the truth from surfacing?
And regarding harassment of those who proclaim the truth: Are the abduction of Jun Lozada and the decision to court-marshall Gen. Gudani and Col. Balutan for disregarding Malacanang’s order not to testify before the Senate examples of punishing those who come forth to tell the truth?
By conflating one’s responses to all these questions does one arrive not at hard evidence showing culpability on the part of some government officials, but a gestalt, an image which nonetheless demands our assessment and judgment. I invite all of you then to consider these two methods of evaluating and judging the moral credibility of any government, the moral credibility of our present government.
Allow me to end with a few words about an Ignatian virtue, familiaritas cum Deo. To become familiar with God involves the illumination of the intellect, coming to know who God is and what God wills. But it also involves the conversion of the affect, the reconfiguration of the heart. Becoming familiar with God entails transforming and conforming my thinking, my feeling and my doing in accordance to the Lord’s, which can only be the work of grace.
Familiarity with God thus entail rejoicing in what God delights—the truth; abhorring what God detests—falsehood; being pained by what breaks the heart of God—the persecution of truth-seekers. Familiarity with God means sharing the passion of God for the truth and the pathos of God whenever the truth and the bearers of truth are overcome by the forces of the lie.
On this Second Sunday of Lent, as we contemplate the transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Horeb, we pray that our hearts and minds be so transfigured and so conformed to the mind, heart and will of the Jesus, our way, our life, and our truth.
May the Lord bless and protect you, Jun, and your family. May the Lord bless and guide us all into the way of truth. Amen.
— Fr. Manoling Francisco, S.J.
IN OPUS MINISTERII
San Jose Major Seminary Alumni Association
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
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