Forgiveness does not erase the crime | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Forgiveness does not erase the crime

/ 12:24 AM December 15, 2016

For the traditional pre-Christmas simbang gabi (dawn masses, actually), the first of which is scheduled at dawn tomorrow, there will be an anticipated Mass at 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday) in front of the People Power monument on Edsa. It is dubbed “Sambayanan, simbang gabi ng siklab bayan.”  (Samba means worship, and sambayanan means people or society.)

A people in worshipful, prayerful gathering.  A people crying out to the Savior, “Maranatha!” Halina! Come! Bring candles, your aching hearts, your trembling hopes.


The gathering, sponsored by The Coalition Against the Marcos Burial at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (CAMB-LNMB), is the first of this year’s Advent dawn Masses. The Filipino Catholic practice is rich in symbolism as it prepares the faithful for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior and the Light of the world.

The gathering hopes to highlight the concerns of many, especially the “encroaching darkness in these troubled times.” The organizers stress that in view of all these, “Christmas then takes on a deeper meaning, imbuing the Filipino nation with strength and courage to band together, to seek truth and justice and the preservation of our hard-won and most cherished freedoms as symbolized in the People Power monument.”


I hope the gathering turns out to be a really solemn gathering and not an occasion for onlookers, cynics and skeptics to grouse about those who do not want to “forgive and forget” and who refuse to “move on”—that is, the victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule who insist on history being set aright, not revised or twisted for the benefit of those who had wounded and scarred this nation.

Forgive, this is what revisionists so sanctimoniously admonish those who insist on the truth and who expose the lies for the young generation to see. Forgive? Move on?

I will not tire saying this: Those who underwent horrendous sufferings during the Marcos dictatorship have long moved on with the scars, lifted up their bloody memories to the heavens, cleansed their hearts of anger for their very own sake and peace of mind. (Though some succumbed to the trauma and lived a troubled existence.) But the survivors—how to continue getting on with their lives when they are suddenly given the most painful cut of all? The tyrant and plunderer who gave them hell, dead for 27 years, was given a hero’s burial in hallowed grounds reserved for the valiant and noble. No thanks to President Duterte and nine of  the 15 Supreme Court justices.

Forgiveness does not absolve the criminal. Forgiveness does not erase the crime. Forgiveness and absolution are not for the unrepentant. So those who use the profound “F” word in vain, think again.

Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance. Meta means “after” and nous means “mind.” Metanoia requires a change in the mind or in the inner person.

Nobody from the Marcos family has sincerely shown atonement or sought forgiveness from the victims of martial rule. Is the compensation due the victims (Republic Act No. 10368) all about money? No. Above all, it is to show the Marcoses’ culpability. When the Swiss government returned the ill-gotten wealth stashed in Swiss banks, it was on condition that the Philippine government give it to the martial law victims. What better way to show there was tyranny and plunder, what better way to show there were victims?

In the case of the class suit filed in a Hawaii court and won by close to 10,000 victims/claimants (worth $2 billion), their victory was also meant to show that, indeed, there were that many victims and that much stolen wealth.


The hunt for the missing “Marcos art” worth billions of dollars is seeking fresh momentum, a New York Times report said.  Finders keepers—the Philippine government or the almost 10,000 claimants.

In this season of Advent and hopeful waiting, it behooves us to cleanse ourselves of resentment, to open ourselves to hope and gladness, but we must also be compelled to be carriers of truth and light and not pull down the shroud of darkness and untruths that would carry us back to the anni terribilis, the dreadful years when we were in shackles.

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TAGS: Christmas, gathering, Libingan, Marcos burial, opinion, Simbang Gabi
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