“But in our weariness the Lord comes.” That is a quote from the homily of newly installed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle DD delivered on Dec. 12 at the Manila Cathedral.
At that moment of recognition, at that moment when we finally see clearly, we gasp in awe, “It is the Lord!” Dominus est! This exclamation, Tagle reminds us, is drawn from the Risen Christ’s appearance to some of his weary disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. It is, I must say, one of the most dramatic post-Resurrection scenes in the Bible. “Dominus est!” is Tagle’s episcopal motto.
We are a long way from Eastertide. We are in the Advent season of waiting and crying out, “Maranatha!” But somehow, “Dominus est” seems apropos in this time of weary waiting.
The announcement on the papal appointment of Tagle, 54, as head of the Philippines’ most prominent archdiocese and his installation last Monday was among the few pleasant news events this Advent season. And so we gratefully say goodbye to retiring Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales who is known for his gentle leadership and love for the poor.
For weeks now we have been barraged with unsettling news that put us on edge and in near despair. Even as we embark on seeking justice for past wrongs done by the powerful, even as we long to see evildoers pay for their evil deeds, so many roadblocks are placed along the way. Will the big fish get away?
While Tagle’s homily does not allude to the recent events and the eye-popping live TV moments that showed judicial processes being carried out, I cannot help but find messages between the lines. Seven disciples of Jesus go out to sea to fish but catch nothing after a whole night’s work. And then a stranger appears from nowhere and tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Tired, despondent and half-believing, the disciples do as they are told and get the catch of their lives. “It is the Lord!” And the stranger is stranger no more.
Are we finally seeing a big catch of big fish? Are we now seeing the day when the corrupt, the cheaters and the betrayers of our trust go through the process of intense purification? They know what they have done and will be hard put justifying their deeds. Why, why the insatiable greed for power and wealth? Why couldn’t they ever have enough? Why didn’t they learn from the sorry fate of their predecessors? Did they think the power and the glory would last forever? What did they learn in kindergarten?
Tagle reminds us: “Human efforts should continue but unless the Lord directs the catch, we labor in vain. We know that the Lord guards His Church. He keeps watch with us on those long nights of confusion and helplessness in mission. When in spite of our good intentions and efforts there are still multitudes of hungry people we cannot feed, homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot protect, cases of corruption and injustice that we cannot remedy, the long night of the disciples in the middle of the sea continues in us. Then we grow in compassion toward our neighbors whose lives seem to be a never ending dark night.
“But in our weariness the Lord comes.”
The day of reckoning has come. Now that the highest court of the land is under the harsh light of scrutiny as it has never been in the past, now that the judicial system is under a cloud of doubt, we must sit tight and watch actively so that justice is not derailed. The impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, chief ally of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria M. Arroyo who is currently under hospital arrest, and the filing of charges of electoral sabotage against former Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos augur well for those of us who have long despaired over the seeming impunity of those who have wronged us and made fools of us.
If you want to better understand the workings of the Supreme Court in the shadows, a book to read (and give this Christmas) is Marites Danguilan-Vitug’s best-selling “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court” (Newsbreak, 2010).
Reveals Vitug: “When I started to report on the Philippine Supreme Court in 2007 for Newsbreak magazine, I was intrigued—and challenged—by its culture of secrecy and its strong system of hierarchy. I couldn’t know then that three years later a book I wrote to help chisel away at the Court’s wall of secrecy would confirm the Court’s formidable power and its spheres of influence when the publication and distribution of my book were halted.”
The entire judiciary, Vitug says, composed of about 2,000 judges, thousands of court personnel, and headed by the Supreme Court, is cloaked in this secretive culture. It is vastly different from its co-equal branches—the Executive Department and Congress—where Cabinet officials, senators and congressmen freely talk to the media.
“The Supreme Court is in a league of its own with justices who are unelected,” Vitug explains. “During the past administration (2001-2010) they’ve been appointed more for their loyalty to the president (Arroyo) than merit, and they serve until they reach the age of 70.
“The book I wrote, ‘Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court’, opened a window on the Supreme Court’s inner workings. It was the first of its kind in the Philippines. The investigative reporting I did to write it revealed the ethical violations of justices and the book examined politicized appointments.”
Vitug, a dear friend since the oppressive martial law years, has several libel suits filed against her by a justice of the Supreme Court. Her book is available at Fully Booked, Solidaridad and Popular Bookstore.
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