Hired and fired

Hired and fired

 “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness” (Prov 16:12)

The whole narrative sounds almost like a bad plot of a television sit-com. The Chief Executive, seemingly in a fit of pique due to the VP’s criticisms of his drug war being on the losing end, dared her to become his “drug czar”. He later modified the challenge from “drug czar” to “co-chair of the ICAD” (Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs) apparently in fear of giving the VP unbridled power. The offer shocked both his allies and critics. But everyone was shocked even more when the VP accepted the challenge, saying that the if the offer gave her a chance to “save even one innocent life”, she would endure it. Now in less than three weeks after she accepted the offer, she is being fired. Reasons given for the action range from her doing “missteps” in talking to what the spokesman termed as “enemies of the state” (US and UN officials?) to “not submitting an action program” to not seeking an audience with the chief executive on her new role (although she had said she was waiting for an invitation) to taunting and daring the chief executive to fire her. 

In response to her dismissal as co-chair of the government’s anti-drug effort, she wondered loudly whether she has become a threat to some interests and whether the administration was afraid of what she might discover.  She also declared that terminating her role as ICAD co-chair will not end her determination to help stop the drug-related killings, bring their perpetrators to justice and resolve the drug problem. She also vowed to report to the nation what she has uncovered about the pestering menace in the next few days together with her recommendations. 

While the Church in the Philippines watches all this from, as it were, the sidelines, she cannot remain indifferent. Although there has been no direct attempt to lump her among the so-called “enemies of the state” that the VP is being decried by the administration to have consulted, there have been other indicators of this government’s hostility to the Church and what she stands for. But we all know better than to just become one aggrupation connected to the political opposition. We are much, much more than that. But Vatican II’s and PCP II’s teaching of the Church’s role as a guide in matters of faith and morals also obliges her to not simply treat politics as though it is outside her turf, notwithstanding the mistaken view even of some of her sons and daughters that politics for her is a no-no. After all, the “things that are Caesar’s that are to be rendered to Caesar” (Mt 22:21) are also of God, including Caesar himself; that is to say, politics and politicians are not exempt from the moral law and the ways of the Spirit. 

Where partisan politics shows its ugly head, the Church must, as she should, refrain from taking sides. But even partisan politics must also follow the moral law; inevitably the side that stands by morality and the values of the Gospel must also be the Church’s. Unfortunately that is where lies the rub. Filipinos generally take their candidates’ side,’ as it is often said, ‘right or wrong’, and even the surveys attest to that. This compounds the difficulty of the Church’s role in saying truth to power, in insisting on the right and moral way to conduct the drug war, and  still be considered credible when she approves of certain government judgments, decisions and actions as within the moral law. As Peter the Apostle once declared: “We should rather obey God than human beings” (Acts 5:29).

From an objective perspective, the charge that the VP talked to “enemies of the state” does not ring true or right. “Enemies of the chief executive” may be more to the point. If the current dispensation already regards its critics, whether local or foreign, as “enemies of the state”, that certainly violates justice and thus also the moral law. Apart from the fact that the state cannot deny any citizen or human being his basic right to freedom of speech and expression, neither can it deny citizens that right only because he/she happens to belong to the Church.  Being critical of the drug war for its travesty of the sanctity of human life and of human rights—the two are never in opposition—does not equate, by any stretch of the imagination, to rebellion against the state or even against its leaders. 

A government that loses that pespective also loses its claim to democracy and waltzes with tyranny.