Monday, September 25, 2006

Right to kill

IRONY is a cultural trait that afflicts Filipinos.

It was just a Sunday ago that Catholics celebrated Easter and its message of the resurrected life.

Now the debate is focused on the right to take life.

But pare away all posturing. Reduce the arguments to how people really feel about the right to kill.

When President Gloria Arroyo commuted death sentences to life terms, not everyone was seized by a frisson of Lenten enlightenment.

Families of victims raged against the decision.

Some decried the miscarriage of justice: uphold the law sentencing to death those found to be guilty of heinous crimes.

Other family members were less pretentious: vengeance is ours—or at least, her rapist’s eye for my daughter’s eye, his killer’s tooth for my husband’s tooth.

I sided with the others. When the following days saw her first pushing the “urgency” of abolishing Republic Act 7659 (Death Penalty Law) and later backtracking behind a screen of “dim possibilities,” I agreed with the Easter skeptics.

Wooly moralizing can fleece bishops and the government of Spain.

But one grand schemer of a Filipina cannot all the time outscheme compatriots that now barely tolerate her.

Is Arroyo turning pro-life to court back her Church critics?

Is she playing footsie with the monsignors, over the corpses of crime victims and their families’ dashed hopes, so Catholics can forget what it is all about— legitimacy questions, call for resignation, rejection of Charter change and all that heresy?

Is Arroyo the Easter bunny we all deserve?

I would not want to think so, for the sake of innocent children who still believe that this creature hides nice surprises, not plots and Mike Arroyos.

Yet even for the higher good of ridding this world of pestilential bunnies, I do not believe that humans should exercise their right to kill.

Frustrated victims’ families threaten that the death penalty abolition will lead to a rise in vigilantism.

Is there anything less poisonous than hate? More treacherous than revenge?

If the cardinals do become the president’s strange bedfellows and frustrated Filipinos hire a mercenary or two to take out society’s garbage, I propose that:

If you believe in harvesting eyes and teeth, make this grim harvest yourself.

If you want to rid the world of a drug pusher, don’t shoot him while he’s sleeping or bending low to plot his billiard moves.

Befriend the man. Eat with his family. Sleep for a night under their roof. Shoot him the following day.

If you want to bring back a loved one, a peaceful past, the shadow-free innocence of a child before abuse, hunt down the offender.

While wringing his neck, tell him how beautiful she was as a child just learning to walk, or how folks once left their homes unlocked, or how this boy was sweeter on any grownup that offered him sweets.

In some of my bad dreams, there is a hairy creature with oversized front dentures filed to needle sharpness hopping madly in the moonlight.

In the cadence and pitch of a comedian, the nightmare squeaks out its Easter message: minimize harm, respect life, believe in second chances.

I blink and wake up. I shake off the night horror but can’t, its appeal for resurrection: how I hate these made-in-the-Philippines ironies.

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