Knock, knock, who’s there? God

Fornication’s best ambassadress will have to be Janice de Belen. In 1986, when she was still in her teens, she became pregnant by Aga Muhlach who, 17 at the time, was still a minor. According to Janice, Aga had proposed to her but she had turned him down—they were too
young, she said. Good on her, I say, because it is rare to find self-possession in someone that young, and we are talking of the eighties here. Had that happened today, the news would have been greeted with nary a raised eyebrow and instead with congratulations, but back then, well, younger readers can only imagine the scandal, the furor that ensued. Strike one against the prospective parents was that both were still teenagers; strike two was that they chose not to legitimize their love child by taking a shortcut down the aisle.Strike three pertained to Janice exclusively when, on television, she announced piously that, while she and her baby-daddy were doing the nasty, “God was with us when we did it.”

It’s one thing to hint at a threesome but quite another when one claims that the third party was God Himself. In hindsight, I do not think that Janice intended any irreverence toward the Lord, which would have been blasphemy. Neither do I think that she meant Aga and she were bathed in celestial light when they were in the throes of, a benediction of sorts from on high, while they were getting to know each other in the biblical sense. She meant, I think, that their coitus was blessed by love rather than some baser urge like runaway lust. Regardless, I can remember the biddies at school cluck-clucking at the sordidness of it all, but you know what, life turned out pretty neat for Janice, who would draw on her life experience to become an award-winning actress and talk-show host; for Aga, who would transition from a teen idol to a critically-acclaimed leading man; and for Luigi, the fruit of their loins, who would train to become a chef.

I believe that the Philippine National Police under Director General Bato de la Rosa want to make the same claim as Janice when they implement the new and improved Oplan Tokhang. On the heels of unrelenting criticism of the first-gen Tokhang, Malacañang and the PNP decided to re-formulate, such that this year, 2018, new guidelines have been issued to apprehend suspected drug users and traffickers. Among the changes: Tokhang will now be implemented strictly between the hours of eight in the morning to five in the afternoon; it should be based on verified official reports; it should target only those named in an official list; operatives may not enter a suspect’s house; and most importantly, they must not engage hostile suspects.  It should go without saying that these changes are clearly intended to reduce the body count of the Oplan.

Apparently, the police can elaborate in executing the guidelines. For example, operatives in areas under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Police District plan to tote Bibles and rosaries which they will offer to drug users and pushers when the police come knocking. General de la Rosa says that this “gimmick”—my words—was resorted to make Tokhang more “appealing”—his words—to the public. EPD Director Reynaldo Biay believes that diplomacy should be employed to prevent bloody confrontations, that upon seeing the Good Book and the rosary, suspects will surrender peacefully to the authorities.

Despite what the Constitution says about the separation of Church and State, we have here an instance when the State itself is using religion to advance an exercise of police power.  Usually, it is the Church who scales the wall separating Church and State, who pokes its
fingers into the State’s pies, who wades into public policy under the guise of sermonizing, but the new Oplan Tokhang sees the situation reversed. Not surprisingly, the Church is incensed. According to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the police should not use the Bible and the rosary, that doing so would be “theatrics.”

That is a rather polite term for sacrilege, which is basically what the police would be committing if they insist in doing so. The Bible and the rosary are items that are accorded the highest respect by the faithful, so to be used for such a secular and frankly exploitative purpose understandably offends Catholic sensibilities. Not that the police mind; what they will mind probably is being made to wait outside gates clutching Bibles and rosaries like what happens to Mormons when they come visit us. They are better advised, I think, to be like Buddhists who come armed with veggie burgers; these do not carry religious undertones and can be quite scrumptious.

Janice and Aga were not mightily concerned with the state of their immortal souls when they were fornicating, and neither are the police in implementing Oplan Tokhang, but like Janice and Aga, they’d like to be able to claim that God was with them when they were doing it. G




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