End Impunity


MARCOS IS BURIED and there are suddenly scads of forgiving people around me. I’m surprised I never saw them before. They are not only visible now, they are preaching. Imagine that.

I post #neveragain #neverforget and the comments come flying in. They tell me to “move on,” to “forgive and forget and be blessed,” that “Christ even prayed for the ones who crucified Him,” that people are so consumed with “hatred” and thoughts of “vengeance” that the Philippines cannot move forward in peace.

I’ve patiently explained that remembering is not hating and desiring justice is not wanting revenge. I too want to move on but it is impossible until the perpetrators admit their crimes. The biblical teaching is that we must be ready to forgive – as I am – but we can only do so when the offenders exhibit accountability and remorse. Even God requires realization from sinners: though He is willing to forgive and has made reconciliation possible through Jesus, who paid for our sins on the cross, we must recognize that “we have all fallen short” and should humbly seek His mercy. Repentance is necessary for forgiveness to take place.

The Marcoses have not repented nor confessed nor displayed any shame for their inestimable abuse of the Filipino people. They have never apologized nor atoned for any of their crimes.


A worker who died at the Manila Film Center construction site when a floor gave way and buried 168 workers in rubble and cement. Rushing to meet her Film Festival deadline, Imelda Marcos decided it would take too long to retrieve the bodies and ordered them to be buried where they lay, in concrete. November 17, 1981. (photo: pinoyexchange.com)

Not only have they consistently denied their plunder and human rights violations despite hills of evidence, they have further challenged us to prove it, brazenly assuming a credibility they do not have. With their bottomless coffers they have purchased a semblance of legitimacy, respectability, and political viability, convincing the young and their unthinking loyalists that it is they who have been wronged. And yet they are magnanimously ready to make peace and “move on,” unlike their petty detractors who are lamentably fixated on the past.


photo: rogue.ph

I understand now. What used to be murky to me is now crystal. The problem that has kept us mired for decades is not just drugs nor corruption nor Leila de Lima (for everything is her fault now, says the government) – it’s the culture of impunity that infests society and has infected Filipinos from the Palace to our commonplace homes.

Among wrongdoers, very few are willing to own up to their sins; very few are ready to apologize. Society considers “wais” or “madiskarte” those people who can get away with misdemeanors and bending the rules. Really now, should you pay taxes when the government doesn’t work for you? Should you remit the fine for that petty traffic violation? Should you report your boss for cooking the books when he hosts fantastic dinners and is backing you for promotion? Is it worth it to rock the boat?

We turn a blind eye so often, saying “no biggy” to what we consider mere infractions of rules and regulations, that we condition ourselves to ignore grosser violations of the law. Yet we know these are wrong; in our heart, in our mind, we feel the throbbing conviction that something must be done to correct it. But we quietly hope and are ecstatic when someone else does the doing for us. Let them get in trouble. Iwas gulo. 

So the culture of impunity has engendered a culture of silence, a culture of inaction, a culture of blindness. Then we wonder why the drug problem is a menace, and why many police officers are also killers, and why politicians are invariably corrupt. We know what they do but we do not hold them to account. We desist because we are generally unwilling to become accountable ourselves.

It is easier to watch from the sidelines and “hold your peace.” It is better to be quiet and not draw fire. It is safer to go under the radar than to stand up and be counted.

When we fail to call out the sin that we see, we become complicit to it. When we refrain from reporting a wrong we personally know about, we condone it. When we enjoy stolen fruit, we share the guilt of its harvesters.

We were recently subjected to the spectacle of fatuous congressmen posing questions about the love life of Leila de Lima in aid of titillation. Thereafter, with full velocity, they cast hefty stones at the “adulterous woman” from the lofty brow of their high horse, demanding her expulsion from the Senate and, it seems, her banishment from the face of the earth. Nothing less will suffice. How incredibly hypocritical.

But I am not surprised. It is preferable to magnify someone else’s appearance of guilt than to focus on one’s own manifest culpability.


57 people were viciously slain and brought to this killing field, including 34 journalists. The alleged masterminds are members of the powerful Ampatuan clan that was politically allied to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They have yet to be convicted of this crime. November 23, 2009 (photo: themediaproject.org)

It’s been seven years since the Maguindanao Massacre. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was president then, was charged with corruption and later exonerated, as was Joseph Estrada before her, and now Ferdinand Marcos too. It has been more than 30 years since the families of the estimated 3,240 killed, more than 70,000 detained and over 30,000 tortured during Martial Law began demanding reparation from the Marcos regime. Yet today, he is implicitly hailed a hero and we are asked to forgive and forget.

What is it about the Filipino that causes us to rewrite history rather than confront it? We cannot keep asking the victims of abuse and heinous crime to mutely carry the burden of grief so we can pretend it does not exist. That is neither merciful nor just.

This is our national sin and one we should repent of in tears and ashes, as the Bible says.  To atone, we must make their plight ours and raise our voices for those now silent as they lie restive in anonymous graves. We must make up for our indifference and demand accountability from the criminals who inflicted this pain on them and upon us. To do less than this and worse, to do nothing at all, makes us witting accomplices to their perfidy.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Bookmark and Share

Spread the word. Share this post!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *