Young Filipinos opposed to the US war on Iraq

Still, God

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine daily Inquirer
October 1, 2003

I don’t know if you believe in signs. But at the very time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo went to Rome to seek enlightenment, the whole place was plunged into darkness. According to reports, the blackout paralyzed the city-state, freezing transportation and communication, and throwing Ms Macapagal-Arroyo’s schedule into disarray. It messed up as well the lives of journalists, who could not send stories to their home offices. For once though, the Filipinos in Rome found their cell phones useful in more ways than to send text jokes with. The fuzzy light the phones emitted was enough to help them wind their way in their hotel rooms, or wherever they were when the power outage struck.

Even Rome, the Eternal City, can sometimes be made to feel temporal. Indeed, old and weary. But if you’re a believer, you’re bound to think God is sending a message to someone who keeps invoking His name for not very godly ends. Someone who keeps refusing to hear what he has to say. In this digital age, blackouts may be the physical equivalent of lightning bolts.

Shortly before the blackout, Ms Macapagal-Arroyo had just announced that the Pope had blessed the Philippines through her. I leave the more theologically qualified to argue cause and effect. “We want to pursue our goals for the country in ways that we perceive more akin to how God would want us to do it. That’s the greater conviction I received after meeting again with his Holiness.” The Pope, she added, “is a very inspiring presence in our life, in my personal life and in the life of our nation.”

Well, it’s good to know that a Filipino who is not a priest or nun can feel the divine electricity surging through her and thence to her nation in 10 minutes of being with the Pope. The Pope met longer with incoming Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales, and several Filipino bishops who have helped build a “Church of the Poor” in this country, but none of them reported to have been similarly energized, enough to send the juices flowing to their bishoprics back home. Such was the electricity surging through Ms Macapagal-Arroyo it seemed to have drained not just the heavenly supply but the earthly one.

That is one explanation for the blackout. The other is that God was pushed too far and took exception to the blasphemy. Macapagal-Arroyo said that the Pope has been a very inspiring presence “in our life, in my personal life and in the life of the nation,” but there is no evidence, earthly or divine, for it. The most inspiring presence in our life, in Ms Macapagal-Arroyo’s personal life, and in the life of the nation in fact is not Pope John Paul II, it is George Bush II. It is not John Paul II that Ms Macapagal-Arroyo takes to be God’s direct representative on earth, it is George Bush II. It is not the Burning Bush that Ms Macapagal-Arroyo takes to be the Mosaic oracle, it is the Torching Bush.

If the Pope has been very firm on something, it is that George Bush’s war on Iraq is wrong. It is that George Bush’s version of “war against terror” is wrong. It is that plunging the world into Armageddon, arraying the forces of Good vs. Evil into the US and allies vs. everybody else, you are with me or against me, is wrong. It is that unsheathing the sword for ungodly ends is wrong. It is that embracing the ways of war rather than of peace is wrong. It is that George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their ilk are wrong. It is that the “coalition of the conscripted” is wrong.

Morally, ethically, damnably wrong. If this is a battle of Good vs. Evil, the Good won’t be found in the Bush camp. God won’t be found in the Bush camp. That is the camp to which Ms Macapagal-Arroyo belongs. So how in God’s name — never has that phrase been more apt — can the Pope be a most inspiring presence in our life, in Ms Macapagal-Arroyo’s personal life, in the life of the nation she has led?

Not quite incidentally, the Pope is in front running for the Nobel Peace Prize. If he wins, it will be two in a row for the Peace Prize to go to someone opposed to Bush’s view of Pax Americana. The last winner was Jimmy Carter, who also spoke bitterly against it.

There is one other thing the Pope has been very firm about. It is that the WTO-GATT version of “globalization” (truly, this in an age that does violence not just to people but to language!) is wrong. It is that the new siphoning of wealth by the North from the South as a result of it is wrong. It is that new inequality in the world economic order it is producing is wrong. It is that the poverty and ignorance the people of the South countries have been plunged into is wrong. It is that destruction of the industries and livelihood of South countries is wrong. It is that the joblessness and despair among the poor is wrong. It is that the WTO and IMF and GATT are wrong.

Morally, ethically, damnably wrong. That is why the Pope made it a point to draw attention to the plight of the poor by meeting with the Filipino bishops who have devoted their lives to building a church for them. Same question: How in God’s good name can the Pope be a most inspiring presence in our life, in Ms Macapagal-Arroyo’s personal life, in the life of the nation she has led?

Of course Ms Macapagal-Arroyo was among the first to hail the results of the world trade meeting in Cancun, which led to the South countries blocking the spurious liberalization proposed by the WTO. Well, she also hailed peace in the UN as the right path to take, when surrounded by a world that demanded it. Yet she was the most ardent espouser of the WTO-GATT, being its main proponent in the GATT debate of 1995, evoking a paradise to come from the passage of the treaty. Just as she has been the most aggressive warmonger in Asia, calling on her neighbors to unite behind the Christian jihad.

The Pope is enfeebled only in body, not in mind. That is all it takes to hear God’s voice, a clear mind.

And, well, a clean heart.