Saturday, September 22, 2018
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At Large

No rush to judgment

To handcuff or not to handcuff, that seems to be one of the questions foremost in the minds of those aspiring to arrest the three senators charged with complicity in the pork barrel scam.

There’s even a game of one-upmanship evident between the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), with each asserting their right and power to arrest and detain the three, and some 50 other accused. Seems so typically Filipino, this very public and embarrassing dispute played out in the media when it could very well have been settled behind closed doors and with all sides cooperating and coordinating their efforts.

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Well, it’s no puzzle, really. There’s certainly a lot of prestige and bragging rights involved in the arrest of three senators (with more legislators in waiting), the alleged “mastermind” and assorted accomplices in one of the biggest crimes committed in our history.

But why, despite the “rush to arrest,” are both the NBI and the PNP apparently leery of handcuffing the accused? True, I don’t think Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada or Juan Ponce Enrile is even thinking of fleeing from their captors. Even if Revilla and Estrada might be mulling their past personas as action stars. And the thought of Enrile hobbling on his 90-year-old legs away from the arresting officers is merely comical.

Still, there is a reason for this wariness about the handcuffs, and for law enforcers to bend over backwards to treat the senators with what they deem as appropriate dignity.

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PERHAPS still in the back of the mind of law enforcement officials and even Interior Secretary Mar Roxas are images of the arrest of former President Erap, his processing and the taking of his mug shot so incensing his followers that they launched an Edsa protest and marched to Malacañang.

Of course, no one wants to see dignitaries like senators subjected to the indignities of arrest—indignities to which common criminals are not spared. But I wonder: Would not the sight of dignitaries clad in orange jumpsuits and shuffling their way to their holding cells send an even more powerful message than any number of commentaries and editorials?

At the very least, it could convey the message that power does not exempt anyone from a rightful punishment. That guilt or moral responsibility is every man’s (and woman’s) burden, one that should be punished under the rule of law.

Certainly, there is no rush to judgment here, given the amount of time that has passed since charges were filed. What we’re seeing instead is a rush to arrest (and grab credit), and a strange reluctance to embarrass—this, even if the personages involved had sold whatever respect they deserved in exchange for easy money, in other words, corruption.

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A RUSH to judgment is however what seems to have been the case at the Diocese of Pasig.

Upon the request of many patients and their families, Dr. Charity Charisse Viado-Gorospe, head of the Cancer Institute of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City, decided to invite healing priest

Fr. Fernando Suarez to celebrate a Healing Mass at the St. Luke’s auditorium on July 19. Doctor Gorospe had witnessed Father Suarez conduct a healing session previously and was convinced that at the very least the hope and joy provided by Father Suarez would give her patients and their families the morale boost they needed.

But when one of Doctor Gorospe’s staff called the offices of the Diocese of Pasig to ask where they could send a letter of request for permission to hold the Healing Mass, the nun who took the call said outright that the diocese would not allow Father Suarez to hold a Healing Mass or session anywhere within its territory.

The nun, whose name the staffer failed to take down, said this was upon the order of Pasig Bishop-emeritus Francisco San Diego, which policy was being maintained by the current Pasig Bishop Mylo Vergara. Asked what the diocese had against the healing priest, the nun simply said: “Because he has a case.”

But a spokeswoman for Father Suarez makes clear that so far there is no court case, or even an administrative case, that has been filed against Father Suarez. True, the priest had figured in a controversy recently when San Miguel Corp., which had earlier donated a site for a shrine where Father Suarez could hold his healing sessions, decided to rescind its donation. The reason: the failure of a foundation to raise the funds necessary to start constructing the shrine within an agreed-upon period.

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BUT the controversy seems to have settled down, with the foundation stating that if San Miguel wished to have the property back, then they would pose no objections, even if they had already begun initial preparations on the site.

Meantime, even if media reports had sought to paint Father Suarez in a grossly negative light, the priest himself faces no personal cases and is now “incardinated” or registered with the Diocese of Mindoro.

Still, it’s no secret that Father Suarez is not universally loved among other priests and bishops in the country. The informal “ban” on his activities in Pasig also holds true in other parishes and dioceses, which is why his supporters were not surprised when they heard of the Pasig diocese’s reaction.

But Doctor Gorospe, who is not even Catholic, could not help expressing dismay at the attitude other bishops and priests have toward a priest granted the gift of healing. “So many of my patients were looking forward to this, what will happen to them now?” she asks.

You may or may not believe in the healing powers of the “healing priest,” but surely you believe in the power of faith and hope, which Father Suarez, for good or ill, holds out to people in desperate straits. Why deny them even this sliver of comfort?

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, Cancer Institute of St. Luke Medical Center, Dr. Charity Charisse Viado-Gorospe, Fr. Fernando Suarez, Global City, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, National Bureau of Investigation, NBI, Philippine National Police, pork barrel scam
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