Sunday, July 09, 2006

Killing Truth….

A picture desperately trying to look sad but succeeded instead to look sick, resurrected itself the other day.

In the center of the picture is a face covered with some white cloth that looked half towel and half veil. Flanking this covered face were faces looking glum and determined. They were walking for death, the death of the father of the girl with the covered face. Why? He had been found guilty by the courts for having raped her.

The caption on the picture is quite telling, “When DEATH PENALTY was POPULAR.“ You see prominent politicians with the girl. On the girl’s right is former First Lady Loi Ejercito and former Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. These two women of course will not walk together for reasons obvious enough to both elite and masses. These two women are now arch-rivals. One has taken the carrot and the other would want it back. As events begin to unfurl, people are beginning to speculate, “what if we take away the carrot from her and give it back to him?” In no small way, bits of the carrot have already been shared with him. He goes in and out of his detention cell. He is allowed to say most of what he wants to say. His trial has dragged with no promising verdict in sight.

This is expected under courts that can be calibrated to play the game of “carrot and stick” and yes, a new game, “covered heads.”
In this game some for now will be happy and of course some will be sad. Proponents of the death penalty are sad while anti-death penalty advocates are happy. Pro-death church groups are sad while anti-death church groups are happy. The former Chief Justice who affirmed the death penalty of seven doomed men is quiet, the present Chief Justice cries, “ Leo’s trial…defective.” The Senate Minority leader proposes a bill ( 5 to 10 Million pesos) to indemnify the family of the “girl with the covered face,” the girl says she’s not interested.

The other day, June 13, 2006 was the tenth anniversary of the murder of Col. Rolando Abadilla. For the last ten years 5 men have been languishing in jail for a murder that they did not commit. They are the famous “Abadilla 5.” Of course, they are happy that the Death Penalty may soon be abolished. But their happiness is obviously not complete. Len Lumanog has told me several times, “to me more important than freedom and life is truth. I might die not even in the lethal injection chamber but from complications because of my kidney transplant. I might die before the truth is given a chance to set me and my four other innocent companions free!”

The Abadilla 5 were tortured to admit to a crime they never did. Ironically, torture which Col Abadilla was quite famous for during Martial Law was still being used during the post Martial Law years under President Ramos. Torture and fall guys are part of the “carrot and stick” and “covered faces” game. The late Senator Barbers who at that time was DILG secretary had promised his boss President Ramos, “I will solve this case within 48 hours, SIR!” He kept his promise and produced the “Abadilla 5.”

Deeper than the issue of the death penalty is the issue of truth. The game of “carrot and stick” and “covered faces” are deadly games. First they spread lies and compromise. Slowly and surely they begin to kill truth. Thomas Carlyle said, “ A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.”The good thing about the games they play, the public can always join by answering a simple question, “that’s what she or he or they say but what is the real reason?”

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
June 14, 2006


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