21 September, Ateneo de Naga University – Here the Bishop of Kalookan Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio ‘Ambo’ S. David, D.D. gave his assessment of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s promise of change as translated into his anti-drug and criminality policy, and its implications on human dignity and life.
With more than 400 ADNU students, employees and Jesuits in attendance at the Fr. Godofredo Alingal, S.J. Multipurpose Hall, Bishop David was the resource speaker in the talk, “The Atenean in the Time of Duterte’s Change: Re-examining Compassion and Conscience”.
“Compassionate commitment to change” and “conscience” are two of the 4Cs in the Profile of the ADNU Student/Graduate, which Jesuit-educated Bishop David offered as basis to re-examining President Duterte’s change agenda.
Based on the 4Cs, he asked the audience to reflect on four questions. “Does he (President Duterte) care for person?” “Does he have compassion?” “Does he have a functional conscience?” “Is he committed, and does he have the will to pursue the dictate of his conscience?”
“Change has indeed come. But is it the kind of change that we wish for our country?” the bishop further asked.
Bishop David cited the “bloody war against illegal drugs” to be the most notable change in the current administration, sharing the experience in Caloocan, which is one of the cities in the country with the highest number of drug-related killings. He said that the administration’s labelling of drug-related personalities, whether they are suspects, users or pushers, as the same kind of criminals gave rise to the culture of impunity and violence, marked by warrantless searches and arrests, illegal detention, and summary executions justified as “nanlaban.”
In the talk, which coincided with the 46th anniversary of Martial Law declaration in the country, the bishop drew parallelism between the crimes of the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos and the issues in Duterte administration. For one, he cited the similarities of change-driven slogans of Presidents Marcos (“Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan”) and Duterte (“Tapang at malasakit. Tunay na Pagbabago”), and their translations into their respective main platform of government, policies and leadership style.
In his reaction to Bishop David’s talk, Dr. Stephen Henry S. Totanes, who is assisting ADNU in its planned Martial Law Museum, pointed out that the country is virtually under Martial Law, even without President Duterte’s formal declaration, mentioning cases of illegal detention and extrajudicial killing. He then echoed the popular anti-dictatorship catchphrase, Never again, which was repeated by many in the audience.
During the forum, Bishop David urged the students “to be participants, never onlookers or fence sitters.” With the rising tide of EJKs, and the climate of impunity and violence, he said that “if you don’t see anything wrong, something has gone wrong.”
He encouraged the students then to take advantage of Ignatian education in learning the art and discipline of discernment. Stressing that conscience has to be functional, he warned the students that a strong political “will detached from conscience is dangerous” as it is one that will pursue its own agenda no matter what the means and consequences are.
When asked for advice by a student on how to deal with a person with a dysfunctional conscience, Bishop David cautioned not to judge the person, but rather understand where he/she is coming from, and help expose him/her to the truth.
“When you see in a victim someone who is no longer ‘other,’ gumigising iyon. Ang konsensya ay nagsisimula sa pag-gising ng malasakit sa kapwa. Pwede palang anak ko ‘yan. Pwede palang kapatid o tatay ko ‘yan. Sa bawat pagpatay ng isang biktima, may nabyuda at mayroong naulila.”
The activity was organized by ADNU’s Office of Student Affairs, with the support of the Office of the President, and the Office of Mission and Identity. It was part of this year’s Ateneo Leadership Development Program for student leaders and organizations, popularly called as Thematic Sessions, a regular activity per semester every school year.
– by Rodolfo SB. Virtus Jr.