Thursday, December 24, 2009

Can heaven and nature sing?

Philippind Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
HAVE A QUIET and truly meaningful celebration of Christmas. And please pause and remember those who cannot celebrate because they are in deep pain and sorrow.
Yesterday, two days before Christmas Day, journalists led a nationwide candle vigil for justice to mark the first month of the unspeakable crime that gave the Philippines the infamous reputation as the most dangerous place on earth for journalists. That now sounds cliché. But unspeakable grief is never cliché.
Here in Metro Manila vigils were held in media offices, the Inquirer among them, and at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.
The vigil was not just to remember the 57 victims of the massacre that included 30 journalists but to also remind that we must continue to demand justice so that justice is served soonest and that we must be watchful of the prosecution of the cases. Lawyers and advocates assisting the victims’ families gave updates. Journalists who cover the Maguindanao situation were also invited.

As I ponder over the gruesome fate of the 57 who were murdered one by one last Nov. 23 in Maguindanao, I cannot get myself to relish fully the joy of Christmas. I imagine the families, the children especially, who lost the persons most dear to them and whom they need most in their lives.

We didn’t even have to imagine, we saw photographs and moving images of the bereaved prostrate and inconsolable in their grief. They will carry the pain of loss all their lives. They will never be the same again.

When Mayor Andal Mapatuan Jr., the principal suspect and brains was mobbed by irate journalists (mostly photojournalists with their “deadly weapons”) covering the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice last week, he got a few blows. They were not deliberate, we were told, but they might as well be. The invectives from the raging public were.

Human Rights commissioner Leila de Lima instantly warned against violent intents against Ampatuan Jr. and that was to be expected. But, come on, there had to be at least some display of public outrage, particularly from the media, personally directed at Ampatuan Jr. right there as he walked manacled, wearing a bullet proof vest and heavily guarded and protected.

That surely must have been the first time Ampatuan Jr. ever faced a crowd so angry at him. Nobody and nobody in the past had dared cross his path.

And when, on Nov. 23, a group tried in the proper and official way to contest his authority through the electoral process, he used guns, goons, backhoes and everything in his power to eliminate all of them in one full sweep, accompanying journalists and lawyers included. So it was but right that at the DOJ, Ampatuan Jr. got a taste of the wrath of the public that could not even match the wrath he reserves for those who dare challenge him in his Maguindanao turf.

So, take that, and that and that. What’s a little shove? That was fine by me. Just please don’t kill him or allow him to kill himself. I want to see him being read his sentence.

Too bad he won’t fry. He will not hang or be killed by lethal injection as the death penalty has been outlawed. But if it were not, I would probably not write a word to say he should live. I think I remember Pope John Paul II say that death penalty might allowed but only in very rare and extreme cases. Maybe for the Hannibal Lecters of this world which the brains of the Nov. 23 massacre could be compared to.

I have watched a convict (who had raped several of his daughters repeatedly) die by lethal injection when capital punishment was briefly revived during the Estrada administration. Believe me, it is something I will never forget.

I do not apologize for writing about a gruesome subject on the eve of Christmas. If the families of the victims of the Nov. 23 massacre are reading this, I would like them to know that the joy in my Christmas, has also been diminished. But only diminished, I must say, if compared to theirs that has been totally snuffed out. I cannot fathom their grief, I cannot measure their pain.

Last year, my Christmas column was “And heaven and nature sing”, a line from the famous carol “Joy to the world” written in 1719 by Isaac Watts. That line goes with the blast of trumpets that breaks open the skies and makes the earth heave. Now my Christmas column is asking, can heaven and nature sing?

Indeed, can heaven and nature sing after the tragedies that recently visited us. Can heaven and nature sing after huge climate change conference in Copenhagen ended last week?

Better than nothing was the common refrain. Meaning, the Copenhagen Accord left much to be desired. Here are excerpts from the statement of Eco-waste Coalition, a network of some 85 civil society groups, on the “disappointing” accord:

“It is truly regrettable that our leaders failed to fulfill their historic and moral duty to craft an ambitious treaty to address the climate crisis with clear and specific greenhouse emission reduction targets and adequate financing mechanism to help developing countries grapple with the effects of climate change and enable their transition to a low carbon development pathway. They could have done better than condemn us and future generations to climate hell.”

“We urge politicians as well as citizens and institutions across the globe to insist on a just, ambitious and legally-binding deal in 2010 to avert the climate crisis from escalating further and causing massive hardship on poor and marginalized communities who will bear the brunt of Copenhagen’s dismal failure.”

Still, have a truly green Christmas!