"The mayor is so mad at you, you'd better watch out he might order his death squads to go after you." This is what my friend told me over the phone this morning. I thanked her for her concern but I told her that this is the risk that I have taken as I continue to exercise my prophetic vocation in a society dominated by the culture of death.
For the last eight years, over 500 people have been killed by the DDS -- the Davao Death Squad. Most of those murdered were suspected criminals involved in drug addiction and pushing, and in petty theft. Some were human rights activists. As a member of the Council of Leaders of the Coalition Against Summary Execution, I have condemned these killings in my sermons, Radio and TV interviews. I also echoed the allegations that the mayor of this city is either tolerating, encouraging or even supporting these killings. I also publicly accused the members and the sponsors of the DDS as criminals. The message that I proclaim: "Life is sacred, and no one has the right to arrogate to himself the power of life and death over other people." This is most likely the reason why the mayor is so mad at me.
Four years ago, Jun Pala, a radio commentator, accused the mayor of being behind the death squads. The mayor got so mad at him and warned him. Jun Pala was assassinated by the DDS.
Will I have the same fate?
I want to live up to a hundred. I want to grow old and celebrate the golden jubilee of my ordination to the priesthood. But I choose not to be silent, I choose to speak up and denounce evil in our midst. If it means been picked up, imprisoned or gunned down, so be it. I am not afraid to suffer, I am not afraid to die.
I am not a stranger to violence. Thirty-three years ago, a year after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, I was picked up, tortured and imprisoned for seven months. I thought I would die, when my torturer put the barrel of the pistol in my mouth and cocked it.
Twenty-two years ago, I saw my mother gasped her last breath after being shot in the head by a gang composed of military men. After going through these, I am no longer afraid of anyone. I am no longer afraid of suffering or of death.
What is happening nowadays is reminiscent of the situation under martial law. We have national and local leaders who are ruthless and power-hungry, who are corrupt, who do not respect life and the basic human rights. I was hoping that things would be better after the EDSA People Power uprising that ousted the Marcos regime. Now we face the same evil. And I will not sit still or remain silent, even if it means giving up my life. This is the risk I have to take to live out my prophetic vocation.