EJK and human rights PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 August 2016 11:48


The Cebu clergy had their monthly recollection the other day. The

invited guest speaker, both a lawyer and journalist, among other

things, was one known for her advocacy in human rights. We were given

a drill on human rights, rule of law, due process and other related

topics, all of them as some kind of reaction to the rise of

extra-judicial killings (EJK) that we are hearing about these days.


From where I sat, I noticed that the priests were especially

attentive, except of course for a few. There will always be

exceptions, but this time, I noticed more rapt attention. The

archbishop was around, together with the two auxiliary bishops. They

were also all ears.


I was happy to note that the talk presented the nuances of human

rights as articulated by institutions like the UN and, of course, our

constitution, and other personalities of some standing. Since the

speaker was a lawyer and not a theologian, there was hardly any

theological explanation beyond the fact that human rights spring from

man’s being the image and likeness of God.


The reaction of the priests in general was mainly that of grave

concern, since it cannot be denied that the drug problem we have is a

first-class crisis. Recent developments have lifted the lid on this

crisis whose scary dimensions are getting far worse than what are

generally suspected.


Somehow priests get to know more details about this crisis because

they preside over funerals of drug-related deaths in their parishes,

they get to receive information from their parishioners, they hear

confessions and they also are sought for some pieces of advice from

people. They are near the frontline.


They have mixed feelings about this issue. While they are somehow

happy with the current campaign against people involved in drugs, they

are also alarmed at the rise of these extra-judicial killings whose

perpetrators we cannot be sure of—whether they are done by some

vigilantes, or the police, or drug people themselves in their own

internecine conflicts.


What comes to my mind is that this development we are having at this

time, provoked by the ascendance of our new president, has good

aspects as well as poses new challenges that we have to tackle.


Definitely, the drug problem has to be tackled head-on before it gets

any worse. As it is now, it is really ugly. But we need to further

develop our systems—police, judicial, penal, medical, political,

economic, social, etc.—to cope with this highly complex problem.


Let’s hope that our lawmakers can craft better laws that are more

effective in blending our need to get the culprits as well as our need

for respect of human rights, rule of law and due process.


We obviously cannot remain at the current state of our laws that are

now found to be ineffective or lacking in something necessary. We have

to understand that our human laws need to evolve without abandoning

their essential purpose. They need to be updated to adapt to current



A more appropriate system of checks and balances among the different

branches and agencies of our government should be put in place.


This should be a serious affair that should not be trivialized by too

much politicking and grandstanding. Let’s hope that we can choose

lawmakers and public officials who are competent to carry out their



As to the clergy, a great challenge befalls us. But before we start

thinking of building rehab centers and the like, we should intensify

our spiritual and pastoral ministry. We have to keep the priority of

Mary over Martha. While the state and civil society aim at making

people responsible citizens, we in the Church have to focus on

encouraging people to be saints.


As one saint once said, today’s crises are basically a crisis of

saints. People are not praying anymore. They are simply guided by

their emotions and instincts and some questionable ideologies. There’s

a lot of doctrinal ignorance and confusion, and religious



Today’s drug problem is just a result of many previous crises that

have not been effectively resolved: corruption, deceit, infidelity,

lack of temperance, etc. There is little authentic spiritual life in

many people.


If these basic problems in people’s spiritual life are made to

persist, then we can expect graver crises after the one on drugs. In

other countries, this is what we observe. They are now into terrorism

and massacres and mindless rampage.


Everyone has to be involved, but I imagine that the clergy has to

focus more on strengthening the spiritual and moral lives of people.

These aspects are basic and indispensable.