Before we pray for the President
At the height of his popularity, President Duterte was both cult figure and rock star. He feared no one, spared no one from his trash talk, not even God. He called God stupid. Dismissed the Catholic Church as a lie perpetrated upon humanity. He called priests crooks and perverts. Even Jesus Christ he dubbed a wimp for supposedly having himself crucified when he could have saved himself.
Today, things have changed. The Philippines is the coronavirus capital of Southeast Asia, the worst performing economy in the region, and the victim of a P15-billion health insurance fraud at a time of a crippling public health crisis. When asked to explain how the pandemic plan was being laid out, on the assumption of course that there was one, the wisecracking President had no punchline to deliver this time, just a pitiful admission: “I have been praying to God for that vaccine every night.”
He has been name-dropping God ever since, putting the entire burden on God to answer for the sufferings of our people, to save us from the pandemic that Mr. Duterte admits he cannot tame. It’s as if he wants God to take over as President. So, from God-cursing heretic, Mr. Duterte has begun to sound like a candidate for the next Pope.
As if on cue, the DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters) have since been harping along the same line, flooding social media with calls to prayer. Posts circulating on the internet, pasted and shared ad nauseam by the DDS nation, wield the emotional gauntlet by asking suffering Filipinos to pray for the President that we already have, instead of praying for a new one.
This emotional agitation is an attempt once again to bleed softhearted Filipinos of whatever ounce of forgiveness they still might have for the gross missteps and excesses of the administration over the last four years, but especially during this pandemic.
But before people pray for the President, why don’t we pray instead for the estimated 40,000 victims of his war on drugs? Those people didn’t deserve to die without their day in court. Now that they are dead, they don’t deserve the insult of being left out of the nation’s prayers, while the public is asked to pray for the man who got them killed.
Before we pray for the President, why don’t we pray for the country, because as every Filipino should know by now, the Philippines is slowly being stripped of its dignity by China’s systematic invasion, aided by the government’s unwillingness to fight back? Apart from external threats, the country is slowly disintegrating from within. Unprecedented levels of graft and corruption are sucking the life out of the economy and society.
Before we pray for the President, why don’t we pray for those who have died of COVID-19, and of the sick people and the frontliners who got infected or are otherwise doing heroic work saving the afflicted? The gross mismanagement of the pandemic by incompetent officials is as much to blame for these people’s deaths as the lack of funds. Many lives could have been saved if the government had barred the entry of coronavirus carriers from China at the earliest sign of trouble.
Before we pray for the President, pray for our own parents, if they have passed on to the next life, and for our dead relatives and friends, too. Let’s not insult our departed loved ones by praying for the President and his government while we forget to pray for them.
Before we pray for the President, why don’t we pray for ourselves, that God save our souls from the hypocrisy of praying to forgive the unrepentant and forgo punishment for the wicked? Let’s beg for mercy, if we must, because the blood from all the killings, from all the injustices and atrocities that have taken and are taking place, has tainted our own hands, too.
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Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.”
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