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COMMENTARY

The church bells are pealing

05:07 AM September 05, 2017

The bells of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart were pealing on an ordinary weekday night, and those of us who live nearby wondered what it was all about the first time we heard them. We were afraid that there was an impending earthquake, and so I sent someone to ask the church guard why the bells were pealing. The guard said it was to remind people, especially the police, to stop the daily killings.

And then I remembered Kian delos Santos and the many other victims of extrajudicial killings. Then in my head I heard “Blowin’ in the Wind,” with Bob Dylan singing his own lyrics: “Yes, how many times can a man turn his head/ Pretending he just doesn’t see?/ … Yes, how many ears must one man have/ Before he can hear people cry?/ … Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows/ That too many people have died?/ The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind/ The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

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Indeed, too many people have died, but it is sad to note that many among us are largely unaffected, and sadder still is the fact that they approve of these deaths. Hopefully they hear the pealing of the bells and remember to at least empathize with the grieving families of those who have been killed.

The death of Kian delos Santos has affected a number of Filipinos, but for many others it seems that everything is just “blowin’ in the wind.” Some condone the extrajudicial killings and shrug off due process and human rights, saying it is better to do away with all the suspected drug users and pushers. We have become a very callous society and just let government thugs rule our lives. Consider the police officers who dragged the young Kian to a pigsty and killed him without any remorse. Why, oh, why? we ask. It looks like the police will kill anyone just to be able to fill their quota for the day. Is it that easy to kill now? What has become of our Christian beliefs and values?

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The pealing of the church bells also reminds me of John Donne’s poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” It was written in the 17th century but it marks something very important in our lives as Christians of the present century: “No man is an island/ Entire of itself/ Each is a piece of the continent/ A part of the main/ … Each man’s death diminishes me/ For I am involved in mankind/ Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls/ It tolls for thee.” Yes, I sent someone to know for whom the bells were tolling, and now I know it was for me to understand the deeper meaning of life.

When Donne mentioned the tolling of the bells, he meant funeral bells. Yes, we should be reminded of our own funeral bells and not be unmindful of other people around us dying without rhyme or reason. People are dying without knowing why they were being killed and with no government institutions lifting a hand to give them the benefits of justice and the law. And many among us go about their daily lives unperturbed, not the least bit bothered that other people are getting killed in the streets. The police have allowed themselves to be instruments of death. Are there rewards and promotions awaiting them? Most of us do not know the answers. Someday these empowered policemen might kill any of us, too, because they are ordered to kill, kill, kill.

We used to be afraid of criminals entering our homes or accosting us in the streets. But now we are scared that policemen will barge into our homes or freely shoot us down outdoors. What has happened to us as a people? How have we come to this state of affairs?

Bob Dylan sings in my head again: “Yes, how many years can some people exist/ Before they’re allowed to be free?/ … The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind/ The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

* * *

Sylvia Europa-Pinca has retired as president of Europa Public Relations.

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TAGS: extrajudicial killings, Inquirer Comentary, Kian delos Santos, Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Sylvia Europa-Pinca, war on drugs
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