After mass this morning, I went mountain-biking for seven hours. Upon reaching Lomondao - a village up in the mountain along the highway towards Bukidnon - I saw many people gathering in the basketball court. They were watching the body of a teen-ager who had just been shot. A woman asked me if I met five men on a couple of motorbikes as I was ascending toward their village. I told her that I saw them. She said they were most likely the death squad that shot the fellow. She told me the victim was a drug addict who had been accused of stealing cell phones. She commented that the mayor had already warned the addicts and thieves in his TV program that he will go after them even in broad day light. She finally said that the victim deserved to die because he was a thief and an addict.
It saddens me to realize that a lot of ordinary people applaud what the DDS is doing. They think that the DDS are doing a service to the community by eliminating these juvenile delinquents and petty criminals.
And to think that this morning this is what I talked about in my homily on the prodigal son (Lk 15:1-36). How do we deal with those who have gone astray and who have sinned - with juvenile delinquents, addicts, and young people in trouble with the law? Apparently, many people - including government officials - think that they should be punished. That is why the DDS have been let loosed to go after them and eliminate them. Many also think that God is like some of these government officials. But the God that Jesus proclaimed is a God who seeks the lost, who gives them a chance to change, and who forgives them.
This systematic elimination young people who have gone astray is not the solution to this social problem. Most often, it is young people from the lower class who are the targets. There are criminals who occupy high positions in government, who have stolen millions of public funds and they are scot free.
Everyone has a right to life and they do not lose this right even when they sin or commit wrong-doing. Even criminals who have been judged guilty in the judicial process retain their right to life. That is why capital punishment has been abolished. Yet there are people in high places who think they are above the law and they act as judge and executioners. They are the real criminals.
And to think that we are no longer living under martial law and the dictator is long dead. This is is a mockery of democracy.
Here's a report of the ITN about the killings in Davao that you can watch on YouTube.