I notice many Facebook friends changing their profile picture. Actually, there is no picture or image at all, just black or total darkness. What does it express? For some it could just be an expression of protest. It could be an expression of grief, a sense of hopelessness and despair. It does symbolize our present situation -- the darkness that we once again find ourselves in. Indeed, we are living in another dark period of our country when evil appears to reign.
Every day as we watch TV and read the newspapers we are confronted with gruesome news and images of those killed – mostly poor -- by the death squads and police. Almost 6,000 killed in six months. The president is promising more deaths while absolving the police of murder. He threatened to kill human rights advocates and lawyers. And there’s congress trying to railroad a bill that will restore the death penalty. The senate has come up with a report denying the reality of extrajudicial killings and the existence of death squads. With a judiciary and legislative branches that seems to be controlled and bullied by the executive branch, the system of check and balance is disappearing. So if the trend continues, we can expect the casualties in the so-called war on drugs to exceed 70,000 by the end of six years when Duterte’s term ends. He said he would be happy to kill 3 million addicts following the example of his idol – Adolf Hitler. We see a deeply divided society – with many who have dulled conscience or no conscience at all - approving and applauding what’s going on. On the other hand, there is a growing number who are speaking out and protesting against the hero’s burial of a corrupt dictator and the killings. Meanwhile, the bigger problems such as poverty and corruption continue and are not being seriously addressed. An economic crisis is not farfetched. We are indeed amidst darkness. Is there hope?
I know how it feels to celebrate a bleak Christmas in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. During the early years of martial law, I spent Christmas in prison -- on hunger strike with other political detainees to protest the maltreatment that we received from the minions of the dictator. In December 1985, two months before EDSA, our family was in grief after my mother was killed by a gang composed of PC (Philippine Constabulary) soldiers. A few months earlier, my Redemptorist confrere --Fr. Rudy Romano -- was abducted by military intelligence agents and made to disappear. Around the same time, a pastoral worker that we have trained was killed by a paramilitary unit - the CHDF. During that dark period there seemed no end in sight for the reign of evil.
Looking back and remembering the subsequent events, I can say that in the darkest moment there is always light. After two EDSA people power events I no longer doubt. In a seemingly hopeless situation, there is always hope. This is what the light of Christ symbolizes. The God who never abandoned His people in the past will not abandon us now. Evil will not reign forever and ever. This too will pass. As Mary’s song – the Magnificat – assures us: The proud and the mighty will be deposed from their thrones. I firmly believe that a time will come when decent Filipinos with awakened conscience will overcome their fear and rise to the occasion. I have witnessed miraculous events in the past, I expect another one soon. It may not be the same as the previous ones but it will once again the demonstrate the triumph of light over darkness. I hope my FB friends will change their profile picture with a lighted candle – the Christmas candle. This is the Good News of Christmas – the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil.