I remember the scene vividly: in the living room of our old house in Caloocan, my aunt gifts me my first Bible in celebration of my first attendance in church. I’m seven years old, and I’m still learning how to read. I could make out sounds, and I had a growing vocabulary of words outside of “Mama” and “Papa.” Everyone agreed there was no better way to train me in reading but through stories from the King James Bible itself.
Through the Bible, my parents extolled me with reminders of the virtues that pleased God: thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill. Though my parents never held any important position in the church, they grew in my young mind as exemplars of goodness. What my father said was law, and there was no better virtue than to do and say the things that pleased my mother.
But time wears away everything, and sometimes that includes the precious sheen on the idealized images of our parents we erected in our minds as kids. The recent elections have been proof of that. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator, has been chosen by the Filipino people—my parents among them—to be the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines.
I am but one of the masses of young people that have watched their parents stand vehemently for brutality and deceit. In the previous elections, they voted for a Duterte presidency, and while the police haunted the houses of the vulnerable and the poor under the flimsy excuse of a “war on drugs,” they stood on the sidelines and accepted the spilled blood as justified. They were not alone in this decision: every Sunday, while the murders ravaged family after family, our pastor, brothers, and sisters in Christ conceded the killings as unfortunate, but that it remained God’s will for us to follow our leader without complaint.
When one morning the news broke that a relative—a cousin from my father’s side—had joined the lengthening list of names claimed by Mr. Duterte’s aimless war, I thought the reckoning had come. They will wake to the truth: that murder is never justified, and though Mr. Duterte never held the gun, he remains answerable for the actions made by his police forces and his rabid followers who live by his every word.
That reckoning never arrived. Instead they turned around and praised Mr. Duterte for his achievements as president. Somehow, the blood spilled at the dawn of his term became collateral damage: the price to pay for what they claim to be progress.
This year’s election has taken that line of thinking into its extremes. I watched my parents deny documented and verified evidence of greed and corruption from the Marcos family in favor of unverified information spoon-fed to them by vlogs and rabid Facebook opinion/“news” pages. I watched them dismiss killings of students and innocent civilians during the elder Marcos’ rule under the blanket accusation that they were aggressors, that they asked for it with their rallies and their endless criticisms toward the misdeeds of those in power. And through it all, I wondered what happened to the exemplars of virtue that, in my youth, taught me to defend those who were wronged, and reminded me to never cast my lot among the wicked.
Proverbs 31:9 instructs us, “open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” But now my own father instructs me to follow meekly and to refrain from criticism. Has he forgotten that in the same book we are warned that those who stop their ears at the cry of the poor, he too will cry but will not be heard? Now I know how my relatives will feel should I die or become the victim of a violent and abusive state. They will choose to forget. No, they will praise my oppressors. They will shower laurels at his feet and proclaim him hero. Because it’s never just politics. Your vote represents a kernel of your moral code and what you will and will not stand for.
And the world stood for deceit.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims of martial law. To the kin of Liliosa Hilao, Archimedes Trajano, Jan and Ishmael Quimpo, and thousands more who suffered the brutal machinations of the elder Marcos’ regime. Old wounds are being opened, and a decades-old trauma is once again haunting the streets. The people have abandoned them. God’s own churches have forsaken them. And the best I can say is I’m sorry we let it happen.
I respect the decision of the Filipino people. I respect the democratic process that has set by the wayside two capable leaders in favor of a man with zero credentials, and a family history so stained I wouldn’t even wipe the floor with it. I have lost faith that we are being overseen by a caring and personal God. How can I believe that all things work together for good, when all the way God denies justice to the likes of Kian delos Santos and rewards a thief with a seat in government?
If God is there, then he can only either be the cruelest, or he doesn’t care at all. Regardless, I am done asking for his forgiveness. If there’s anybody who needs to atone for their sins, it’s him.
I’m sorry father, for you have sinned.