PHILIPPINES: Blinding and Paralyzing Fear and Indifference — Asian Human Rights Commission

Jesus answered, ¡§Truly, I say to you, you look for me, not because you have seen through the signs, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for he is the one the Father has marked.¡¨
John 6:22-29

“Jonas Burgos was abducted by four men and a woman on April 28, 2007. He was having a snack in a fast food restaurant when four men each holding an arm or leg carried him away while a woman kept slapping his face. There were dozens looking on but no one responded. They all seemed petrified, unable to say or do something for Jonas.¡¨ This was what Mrs. Edith Burgos shared with me yesterday as she recalled the stories of witnesses. ¡§If only one of them shouted and protested, then perhaps, others would have gotten out of their petrified state and done something to save my son. But no one raised her/his voice. They just watched and followed the incident with their eyes from the restaurant to the parking lot where the get-away car waited for the kidnappers and their victim. I promised myself that if ever anything similar happens and I am present, I would shout, rush to the kidnappers and do something. If someone does something, anything, I know something good will happen,¡¨ added Mrs. Burgos.

Mrs. Burgos shared her frustration: ¡§It has been two years since Jonas disappeared. The Police have done nothing. The Military has done nothing. It is I who has been looking for my son. I was even scolded by General Geary Barrias who told me, ¡§Mrs. Burgos, it is dangerous for a woman to be walking around at night. Leave this to us. This is our job.¡¨ I told General Barrias off, ¡§If this happened to your own son, what would you have done?¡¨

Mrs. Edith Burgos is a Carmelite Tertiary. She is part of a formation team who goes and gives formation sessions to members of the Third Order Carmelites in different parts of the Philippines. She speaks about prayer and contemplation. She shared with me her passion for St. John of the Cross. I told her how St. John¡¦s Spiritual Canticle has become most relevant to my life after my two imprisonments. St. John was imprisoned by his own order because of his ideas and spirit of reform. Mrs. Reformers and revolutionaries are not esteemed and loved by those in power. Power which becomes a dangerous absolute in the hands of those with authority becomes a dangerous weapon. It can kill and destroy persons. Mrs. Burgos shared with me the details of Jonas¡¦ disappearance and how certain people and institutions are linked to his disappearance. She shared about the cost of her advocacy, how she has lost friends; how her quiet and simple life changed.

I could only listen with pain and compassion to this mother whose love for her child is truly admirable. While she continues looking for her disappeared son, she also challenges the powers that be to answer the demands of justice and truth. Many are paralyzed and blinded by fear which pervades their lives in the form of indifference. There is only one Edith Burgos. There is only one Jonas Burgos. But one brave voice speaking the truth is all we need. It is the single candle that shatters the darkness. Jonas is silent but his silence is deafening. Jonas speaks through his mother who speaks for him and the many others who are victims of this oppressive regime. Edith is one who has sought Jesus for the right reason unlike those whom Jesus criticized thus, ¡§Truly, I say to you, you look for me, not because you have seen through the signs, but because you ate bread and were satisfied.¡¨ Those eating at the restaurant where her son was abducted were too busy eating that they could not be bothered by abduction.

We need to find another kind of food. And this is the food that Edith Burgos has found. Jesus also spoke about this food, ¡§Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life.¡¨ Edith¡¦s commitment to prayer and contemplation, to the teachings of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross has led her to food that sustains her in her lonely and difficult search for Jonas, for justice and truth.

Father look at your fearful and indifferent children. Remove whatever blocks us from speaking the truth and fighting for justice in our country and our world. Give strength; deepen the faith of Edith as she likewise inspires others to draw strength from you, the source of all truth and justice. Amen.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-017-2009
Countries : Philippines,