By Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.
“Let us pray for our country.”
Those were the most meaningful words I heard on the airwaves following the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima at the Senate Friday last week.
In the aftermath of that incident, the airwaves and social media were filled with angry remarks – coming from both those who are for her and those who are against her. The remarks were scathing, sometimes vicious. Few of those remarks were kind. Fewer still were words that were sober and objective.
Except the words “let us pray for our country.”
It was said during an on-the-air interview with Fr. Ranhilo Aquino, a Benedictine who is currently dean of the graduate school of law of San Beda College. Before he said those relevant words, he explained briefly how our nation should view and respond to the event.
He said, “when an elected national leader is arrested, it is always a sad time for the country – whether you like or hate her (Senator De Lima)”.
Wise words from the dean.
In times like these, many of us would rather view these events from a safe distance.
These are highly emotional, politically charged events. To us, involvement would be too risky. In fact, a few friends have asked me how best to deal with a situation like this.
I confessed that I, myself, am confused.
To address my confusion, I asked some of our elders to share their view. They are retired community leaders of the province of Rizal and the city of Antipolo. They have been around for decades, and were eyewitnesses to many of the important events in our country which defined us as a nation.
What they shared were filled with simple folk wisdom. They were evidently wiser than the angry and complicated rants flooding media today.
Here are some of the words of wisdom from our elders.
First, withhold judgment.
Second, respect the principle of “presumption of innocence.”
Third, don’t fuel the flames of anger.
“We are too quick to judge,” one of our elders point out. “We tend to forget the Biblical advice, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
Besides the spiritual value of withholding judgment, it also has a practical benefit – it prevents us from acquiring a “judgmental” disposition. The term means being overcritical and condemnatory. It is a sad state of the heart and makes a person exude a negative aura. It is a cause for much unhappiness on the part of the person who is quick to judge another.
Lawyer-friends were also quick to point out that we live in a legal system where the rule is a person is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. An Order of Arrest and the carrying out of that arrest does not mean a person accused of a crime is guilty, they explained.
“The arrest is simply meant to put the person under the jurisdiction of the Court,” they pointed out.
The arrest and the subsequent trial are time-honored processes. The trial can end either in a judgment of guilty or a declaration of innocence. Until that process is completed, the person remains innocent, they added.
Finally, our elders say it is wise not to fuel the flames of public anger during highly emotional moments.
In times like these, people are not prepared to listen. Fear and anger pervade. Our job is to make sure that tempers do not flare up, and that everyone returns to a state of sobriety, they explained.
Practical things to do: do not engage in speculation; do not pass on gossip; do not “share” social media posts that multiply hate; postpone airing and posting political comments until such time that the public is more sober and willing to listen to contrary views.
“Even if the process of dispensing justice is slow, we must keep faith in the justice system,” our elders underscored.
“That may not be a perfect system but that is the only system we have which can legitimately make conclusions of guilt or innocence,” they pointed out.
One of them said, “Let us also remember to pray for our country.”
That was the same advice we got from the graduate school dean.
It looks like in times like this, prayer is our best recourse.
These are confusing, emotional times. Only the grace that comes from prayer can help us see the events from a sober, calm perspective.
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