Monday, July 16, 2018
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Commentary

Rats, roaches and heat

Accused plunderer Bong Revilla complains of rats, cockroaches and the heat in his detention cell at Camp Crame. Wait till he is in the Eighth Circle of Hell, where there are snakes and lizards instead, and the heat will not merely cause migraine.

That is, if he really plundered his Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Let us elaborate, and give those who believe he’s guilty some measure of vengeance. (Only his conviction by the Sandiganbayan will give them justice.)

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Hell as Christians know it is described by the poet Dante Alighieri in “Divine Comedy” as nine circles of suffering, the eighth of which is where those who commit fraud will spend the whole of eternity. They will be taken there by a monster with wings and three heads: one human, another a lion’s, and the third a snake’s.

That monster is a great representation of fraud (naturally, for Dante was a great poet): behind a human face hides a greedy lion and a deadly snake. Very appropriate for fraud committed by a public official, in whom the people entrust their welfare.

The Eighth Circle is divided into what Dante calls “evil pockets,” which are big holes in a mountain of stone connected by bridges. (Dante may be alluding to the fraudsters’ avaricious pockets, too.) There are 10 of them, one for each kind of fraudster.

The snakes and lizards are in the seventh pocket, the one for thieves. Let us let Dante himself describe what happens to a famous Florentine thief, in paraphrase: A serpent with six feet jumps on him, its front feet seizing his arms, its middle feet grasping his belly, and its hind feet seizing his thighs then spreading them, and, in Dante’s own words, “’twixt which the tail curl’d upon the reins behind.”

I’m not sure if Dante is referring to that part of the human anatomy “where the sun don’t shine.”

If Revilla is indeed guilty of plunder (and I don’t mean found guilty by the Sandiganbayan, since the jail guards of Hell answer to a higher authority) he will also spend time in the fifth pocket where corrupt politicians are immersed in a lake of boiling tar.

Again let’s go to Dante’s description of their suffering, again in paraphrase: From time to time to ease their pain they come to the surface with only their backs showing, like frogs that stand on the water’s edge with only their jaws showing; but the demons are always there to catch them, and peel off their skin with their claws.

Now, as if breaking our laws on theft and political corruption were not sinful enough, Revilla broke the third commandment of his (since he proclaims himself a Christian) God: “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.” He went around his province wearing Psalm 118:6 on his T-shirt: “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

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That consigns him also to the sixth evil pocket of the Eighth Circle of Hell, the one for hypocrites. But only if he really plundered his PDAF, it must be said again. If he is innocent of the charges filed against him, the Lord indeed is on his side and he indeed need not fear.

If he is guilty as charged—even if, such as our justice system is, he is eventually found not guilty as charged—he will walk among blasphemers, says Dante, wearing hoods made of lead, albeit plated with gold, and the hoods are so heavy “that Frederick’s compared to these were straw.” (Frederick was the Holy Roman emperor who wrapped his enemies in lead and threw them into a furnace.)

The Bible itself is harsher on those who break the third commandment. “He shall be surely put to death,” it says in Leviticus, “and all the congregation shall certainly stone him.” Even in its figurative sense, it is dreadful retribution for an actor like Revilla: His fans, which are his congregation, shall be the ones to “put to death” his career in the movies and in politics.

But Revilla may still escape the fate of the damned in Dante’s “Inferno,” for it is not the body but the soul that is taken there by monsters and demons, and punished forever. And if he really plundered his PDAF, we don’t know that he still has a soul. In our country, where one-third of our people live in poverty, and one-third of them in grinding poverty, any amount stolen from the “kaban ng bayan” is being stolen from the poor. And only the soulless can be so despicable he will steal from the poor.

The thing about soul is, it only matters if you have it. If you don’t, Dante’s “Inferno” will not matter to you. There’s nothing of you for the monsters and demons to mangle, or boil in tar, or shroud in lead.

Then again, Revilla must believe he still has a soul. Or if he thinks he has lost it, must be yearning to find it. Otherwise, what for was that Bible fellowship he spent with his family on his first Sunday in jail? Unless that was for show.

If it was for show, he might have also put the souls of his family at risk of being consigned to walk among the hypocrites and blasphemers for all eternity. If it was sincere, he may still have a soul—or eventually find it—for the monsters and demons to punish in the Eighth Circle of Hell.

Then one can say that God truly works in mysterious ways.

But only if he really plundered his PDAF.

Romeo D. Bohol is a retired advertising copywriter.

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TAGS: Commentary, Dante, Detention, Jail, opinion, pork barrel scam, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Romeo D. Bohol
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