You know there’s a page in the Bible which I read almost every day.
It’s the Ecclesiastes 3. ‘There’s a time to be calm, there’s a time to
be silent, to be poignant, a time to be subdued, and a time to be
vicious. —President Rodrigo Duterte
The opening quote is proof positive that a President can paraphrase Scripture for his own purpose. Actually, Ecclesiastes does not exactly say what the President says it does, so for the record, here is what the passage does say:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap
that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time
to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
I am still waiting for the time to keep silence to arrive, but until it does, we will have to endure the bombast from Malacañang—no, wait, it’s here. The President has just said that he will keep silent on his rift with the Catholic Church, a rift which resulted from a presidential tirade calling God “stupid,” but under no circumstance is he going to apologize.
He is justified there: Ecclesiastes is completely tight-lipped about there being a time to say sorry and President Duterte is nothing if not a faithful adherent to the Text. We saw that when he defended his decision to bury Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani because the law did say that deceased presidents can be interred in its hallowed grounds. We saw it again when the administration denied that there were any extrajudicial killings in the country on the ground that none of the deaths that had happened during the implementation of Operation Tokhang met the definition of EJKs in an administrative order from Noynoy Aquino. So when the Good Book says
nothing about there being a season for apologies, then one will not be forthcoming.
But the President does raise a very interesting point. Was there any time in all eternity when God slapped His Almighty Palm against His Almighty forehead and asked Himself: what was I thinking? In all His omniscience, why create, or at the very least permit into Eden, the very thing that could jeopardize Paradise? Why not forgive original sin when He is the fount of forgiveness? Why harbor grudges and penalize generations who had nothing to do with the misdeeds of
their parents? Indeed, why?
I wish I could tell you, heck, I wish someone could tell me. The answer is beyond the human intelligence quotient, but that has not stopped Cardinal Soandso or Bishop Quelquechose from trying to decipher the Divine Will. When something is beyond the human ability to comprehend, the human impulse is to reduce the indecipherable into terms more familiar to human experience by a process of equivalency. God isn’t stupid, so we must be. It isn’t His fault, so it must be ours. Something about free will but that does not explain why He should gift us with something like free will when He knows perfectly well we’re going to mess up anyway.
The answer is: no one knows the answer. Not you, not me, not the Church, and certainly not the pottymouth in Malacañang. Criticize him all you want, but you have to admit that even if he may not be in possession of some very good answers, he does come up with very good questions. Which brings me to my point: I am in full agreement with what he is doing, which is shaking the tree from time to time.
And it’s about time that someone came along to challenge the Church’s death grip on secular affairs And while we’re at it, why not go bigger: it is about time that someone should challenge the stranglehold religions of whatever creed have on temporal matters, including matters of governance, laws, politics, matters of individual choice, in other words, things that are nobody else’ business, much less sermonizing hypocrites who lecture people to do as they say and not as they do. Rodrigo Duterte may just be the person to break that grip.
When I watch Harry Roque squirm on TV trying to rationalize his boss’ latest rant, I forgive him. When I scan Mocha Uson’s breaking fake news, I forgive her, too. When I read what Wanda Teo, Nicanor Faeldon or Cesar Montano have been up to—allegedly—I forgive them. That is what I do: I forgive people. And that is why I will forgive Rodrigo Duterte for he knows not what he is doing.