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God knows Hudas

/ 09:06 AM April 16, 2019

As in other languages steeped in Christian culture, Judas in Filipino means the betrayer. It’s the same in some other Philippine languages, too, like Binisaya. Judas is traydor, taksil, hudas.

That iconic sign inside the jeepney is both expression and commentary: “God knows Hudas not pay” is a warning, to those passengers who may be thinking of not paying the fare, and at the same time a winking denunciation of those who do not pay the right fare as cheats, traitors of a social contract, Judases.

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And the pun is just the right touch of obvious. Often, the word as printed or embroidered is capitalized, so that its point is not lost: “God knows HUDAS not pay.”

The way the story of Judas Iscariot is part of the everyday reality in the Philippines, we can almost make a case that the least of the apostles must have been Filipino. Not only is his name part of the language; his basic and most base act, the betrayal of Jesus, seems to be a daily burden.

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At least this is what runs through my mind, when I see (or read about) audiences that still laugh at President Duterte’s ugly, offensive jokes; about women he lusts for, journalists and human rights advocates and lawyers he detests, the Christian faith he mocks. It may be too much to expect members of the audience, especially officials of the government he leads, to walk out of the room—there is the possibility of being manhandled, or worse, by his security aides. But surely it is within the realm of the doable not to laugh, when the President makes yet another rape joke, or throws yet another crude insult, or launches yet another attack on the Church.

The surveys showed that a majority of Filipinos thought President Duterte was being vulgar when he called priests names and described the Christian God as “stupid.” But we wouldn’t have known it if we had judged only from the audience response at the time he spoke. If, as seems only likely, the audiences he spoke to reflected the national sentiment, but those same audiences still laughed at the “jokes” and applauded at the lines — then many in those audiences, sitting there before the President, must have betrayed their own sense of right and wrong.

When we act as the President’s enablers, we too are Judases. We are traitors to ourselves.

Who are the Judases of Philippine politics?

These days, when the talk turns to treason, the focus often falls on the Duterte administration’s abject failure to stand up to Beijing. It is not so much the cowardice that is galling; rather, it is the craven calculation of the powers-that-be that offends public opinion.

The President and his administration are quick to hurl insults at their perceived enemies: human rights monitors, members of the press, Western allies, the political opposition. But let China flex its muscles inside Philippine territory — and nothing, or next to nothing. What was it the former vice presidential candidate and foreign secretary said? We complain too much about China — exactly what an enabler, or a codependent, would say of an abusive relationship.

To be sure, betrayal of the public interest is not the monopoly of a government that seeks to change Philippine society on a fundamental level. But surely it is worth reflecting on, that when talk today turns to betrayals, to acts of treason, many Filipinos think of the Duterte administration’s seeming complicity with Beijing.

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Those who live by the survey, die by the survey. The same polls that show high public support for the President also show high (and since 2012, constant) support for a tougher Philippine stance against China. As far as the West Philippine Sea goes, a majority of Filipinos think the administration is not serving the public interest. The continuing “invasion” of Chinese workers into the Philippines—something even Senators Joel Villanueva and Nancy Binay have alerted the public to—will only deepen public dissatisfaction over China.

God knows HUDAS not follow the Constitution.

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand, email: jnery@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: john Nery, Judas, Newsstand, Rodrigo Duterte, traitors
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