Courage or calculated risk-taking?

Courage or calculated risk-taking?

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”—William Faulkner      

The VP of the country shocked both her political allies and foes by accepting the chief executive’s offer for her to co-chair the government’s anti-drug effort. So were many others who considered the whole thing a trap or a white-washed insult. As a matter of fact, the VP’s spokesman had, before the decision was made public,  more gripes than positive evaluation  of the said offer. Many observers were expecting the VP to dismiss it, as she initially did. Apparently a number of people on the chief executive’s side did not take their own leader’s gambit seriously. The anti-drug chief was not only skeptical but downright dismissive of the VP’s abilities in regard to licking the drug problem. Then later, after her public declaration of acceptance, he had to make his implied mea culpa by agreeing to share with her the powers to run the government’s anti-drug campaign. Like a twist in real-life melodrama the lead characters seem to have been put into a dominolike state of pushings and pullings. The VP’s allies are quick to hail her boldness and sincerity. Her foes, on the other hand, may be likened to a line of houses hit by a sudden onrush of a mighty wind. Though some grudgingly acknowledge her sincerity to help in the effort to resolve the drug problem, the rest are, at best, silent or, at worst, like the Speaker of the House—bitterly critical. 

In Catholic Catechism and theology courage or fortitude is one of the moral virtues a follower of Christ needs to cultivate to live the faith even in hostile circumstances, with its consequences. In particular, it strengthens the Christian internally to face up to the often anticipated difficulties, sacrifices and sufferings in the pursuit of the good. In the VP’s case, she states the good she is pursuing simply: “to seize an opportunity to save even one innocent life”. Naturally the chief executive’s allies have to re-assert time and again that the drug killings are not state-sponsored. It is hard to take this hook, line and sinker, considering the “kill, kill, kill” rhetoric in the not-so-distant past. 

But please excuse me for digressing. The point I am raising concerns the character of the VP’s decision. Was it a real act of courage? Or is she simply one very smart and deliberate political player who sees an opportunity to advance her presidential ambitions by a circuitous route? Is she far-advanced in her vision that she already sees a lot of votes coming her way even from a potentially disastrous engagement that she can easily attribute to a conspiracy by her foes, inside and outside of government, to make her fail?

There is no way anyone can look into a person’s heart, even if some pretend to see someone else’s mind. To me this is a futile exercise. Still, the VP’s announced intentions and desires to “end the killings of innocent victims”, “end tokhang” as we know it, efforts at consultations or dialogue with current leaders or actors in the drug war drama, hopefully inclusive of victims’ families and communities, etc. give us some space for hope. 

If the VP’s public pronouncement that for the sake of a good, that is, seizing an opportunity to save “even one innocent life”, she vowed, “titiisin ko (I am willing to suffer)” even a possible conspiracy by her political foes to make her fail, perhaps including the risk of losing a presidential election in 2022, an objective observer cannot but acknowledge a touch of courage there. But these words will be tested in the days, weeks and months ahead, possibly even in the remaining years of this administration. Courage includes consistency in word and action. Will consistency mark her words and actions in her current position? Only she and time will tell. 

As a citizen of the Republic, I am willing to give the VP not only a grain of salt but also a measure of trust. As a fellow Catholic Christian, I wish to applaud her courage where it is genuinely expressed. Virtue, after all, is a mark of the Christifidelis (one who is faithful to Christ), not a rarity. As a priest, I should like to remind her to keep her intention pure on the sanctity of human life and the apolitical inviolability of human rights; she must know that she always has the Church’s support where and when all anti-drug efforts are anchored not only on legal but also moral grounds (which are also in essence spiritual). But she must also expect prophetic reminders if or when she succumbs to the system’s failures to grasp the inherent inseparability of human rights from human life, of human dignity from suspects born to poverty, of moral law from the rule of law. The moral law as expressed in the Commandments best expresses the divinely ordained ways of love of God and neighbor. The rule of law must serve as its soldier, defender, enabler, actualizer. Rule of law without moral law is tyranny; moral law served by rule of law builds the ideal society. 

At times the Church is criticized for only criticizing. “Offer solutions” or even “offer better solutions,” her counter critics say, “Otherwise, shut up.” Critics forget that they too are often members of the Church and that she is a Body whose members are different parts with different functions. The ordained are tasked to provide moral and spiritual guidance even in matters political, socio-cultural or economic but based on faith and the Gospel. The non-ordained are tasked to bring the moral and spiritual values of the Gospel into their fields of competence, be it political, economic, socio-cultural.

In one of her interviews, the VP once said that one of her strong beliefs that she shared with her late husband is that, despite what may seem defeats or setbacks, “good will eventually win over evil and right will win over wrong”. This is a good overriding principle, especially if one notes that the greatest Good is God himself and right comes from him and leads to him. 

If anyone chooses his side, courage will inevitably become him or her. The psalmist’s words will become his or hers: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall be afraid?” (Ps 27:1).