The Stonecasters.

‘We Are Our Own Best Enemy’ – Tony Meer, Filipino

By Frank A Hilario

February 25 – 22 years after People Power 1 drove out of this country benevolent dictator President Ferdinand E Marcos, 7 years after benevolent clown PresidentJoseph Estrada was deposed by People Power 2, many jokers and jesters are still trying to stage People Power 3 against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They are the stonecasters at the adulterous woman of biblical times. They hate the sinner, not the sin; if they hated the sin, they would have to hate themselves.

You can hate at your convenience.

I recognize GMA’s Metro Manila Dilemma yesterday, today and tomorrow – damned if you do, damned if you don’t – because of all the clamor for good governance by those who don’t recognize it when they see it. They are the blind followers of the stonecasters.

Who are those who persecute, vilify, revile the woman? They are the many churched and unchurched, private and public, literate and illiterate, rich and poor, civilized and barbarians – they masquerade as saints. They can hide their faces, but they cannot hide the facts. They too are sinners. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of good.

I ain’t a saint myself. But as a writer I must proclaim my faith in the status quo, the establishment, even as lawyer Tony Meer must state his case of his state, the Philippines. The writer must profess even as the lawyer must confess love of country especially when everybody else seems to un-love her. Patriotism is the first refuge of soldiers, the last refuge of scoundrels.

No matter what the stonecasters say, it is not Adios, patria adorada! I believe it is not Adios, beloved country. I also believe that good men should do something, should dirty their hands. I believe with Abraham Lincoln that ‘He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.’ So I want to enter politics without running for office. Politics is the first refuge of scholars, the last refuge of scoundrels.

Entering politics has now been embraced even by the Roman Catholic Church, with Fr Eddie Panlilio winning as Governor of Pampanga, the home province of GMA, and whom he has condemned as sinner in multimedia: TV, print, audio, video, Internet. Modern media have their uses.

In contrast to the big mouths in the Big City of Metro Manila, the small people in the rest of the Philippines celebrate life such as by growing the biggest squash in town, the biggest eggplant, banana, guava. ‘This is the kind of People Power that we want,’ says La Union GovernorManuel Ortega, ‘People Power that will bring our nation forward and not People Power that will drag down our country from development’ (Jun Elias, Feb 26, abs-cbnnews.com). The people have spoken. Amen!

The pie of politics is there for all to snatch slices from, or contemplate the recipe. Today, I prefer to contemplate the recipe in relation to a bigger pie: society. Her critics focus their contemplation, nay condemnation, on GMA; but she is not big enough, she is not society. GMA’s condemners do not condemn themselves as they should; they are men (embracing women) wearing masks, not unlike the Makapilis of Tony Meer’s time. If this society is being misled by Makapilis, we’re back to World War 2.

To put an out-of-the-box perspective to all the extravagant displays of statesmanship in Metro Manila, let me make a paradigm shift and refer to Nicanor ‘Nicky’ Perlas, my favorite student, who wrote an astounding book in 2000 titled Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power And Threefolding (274 pages, published in Pasig City, Philippines by CADI & GlobeNet3).

Nicky’s proposal he calls Threefolding, that is, the application of cultural power on the social forces for the good of society itself. ‘All activities in societies emanate from three separate but interacting realms,’ Nicky says. ‘These realms of society are its culture, its polity, and its economy’ (page xxi). The three forces are Civil Society, the State, and Business (180). He is like saying, if the State is in control, it’s a dictatorship; if Business is in control, it’s profiteering; if Civil Society is in control, it’s heaven. That’s the theory.

I taught Nicky in his first year at the College of Agriculture of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) in Cagayan de Oro City 40 years ago. He was good; he was the best – for his grade, I gave him a 1.0, Excellent. In those years, I was already espousing organic farming in the manner of Edward Faulkner (which is very different from the popular way of JI Rodale). Nicky got it right and then he went on to improve on the lesson and adopted biodynamic agriculture. Many, many years later, in 2003 he won the international Right Livelihood Award, which is touted as the Alternative Nobel, 3 years after the publication of Shaping Globalization. Threefolding had gotten the student very much further than the teacher.

Now, can the teacher learn from the student? Yes, if the teacher is a good learner, if the student is a good teacher. I have been trying to appreciate the award-winning thinking concept of Threefolding, and I have found it revolutionary. I look at Threefolding as the power of the intellectuals to influence both the State and Business to run their machineries for the good of all. Amen to that!

Today, February 24, I find that I must add after the Third Force not a Fourth Force but a force that gives meaning to the Three Forces – and this is the Moral Force. This is not the Truth Force, and it is not meant to set anyone free – no one can ever be free in a society. Moral yes, that is, edifying, virtuous, reputable, ethical, principled, honest, decent, proper, honorable, just, right, good.

Now, whether silent or noisy, do the Roman Catholic or Protestant clergy constitute the Moral Force? I a layman say, clergy or not clergy, you do not constitute the Moral Force if you do not preach and practice the two greatest commandments of God. And these are (Matthew 22: 35-40, New American Bible):

You shall love your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

I will grant you the first commandment – you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. Now, do you love your neighbor as yourself? If you condemn him (embracing her), the sinner, you are the opposite of the Christian, no matter what church or denomination or group you belong to. What did Jesus Christ say when the Pharisees saw him with bad people?

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ He heard this and said, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.’ Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners’ (Matthew 9: 10-13, NAB).

And John Chapter 8 tells of the time when the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to him who had been caught in adultery and they said that according to the Law of Moses, the woman was to be stoned to death. And what did Jesus say? ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’

Are you who have cast many a stone without sin?

The mass media, the columnists, the journalists, the TV broadcasters and hosts, the newspaper editorialists, individuals in government and public places, the universities and their faculty – these are those who have cast not only aspersions but stones. Are they without sin?

They are the stonecasters, the ones who dare proclaim by their acts that they are without sin. Many a columnist and journalist of a Metro Manila newspaper, many a TV broadcaster and host, many a Senator, many a blogger, many a priest, many a preacher, many a prominent citizen, even many a college student – each one of them, male or female, has been brazen enough to come out in public and throw not just one but many stones at the woman they have accused of being a big sinner. They want her to suffer the punishment for the sins of the nation. They want her as sacrifice.

I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners (Matthew 9: 13, NAB).

But nobody is listening, Lord. Everyone is speaking all at the same time, and everybody is saying the same thing: ‘I accuse!’ They will say that to anyone, to a tape recorder, especially in front of a TV camera. But they cannot say for themselves, ‘Not guilty.’

If my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land’ (2 Chronicles 7: 14, NAB).

As if to say, ‘Look who’s talking!’ Tony Meer refuses to cast the first stone, or the second, or the third, or the last. And who is Tony Meer? A billionaire, if you have to ask. A brilliant lawyer, a cum laude graduate of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, a war hero, an illustrious grandson of National Hero Miguel Malvar, the leader of the Sigma Rhoans who beat the Upsilonians in their own game of supremacy at the University of the Philippines, a Jaycee of international standing, Chairman Emeritus of the UP Law Alumni Association, and lately, a masterful painter. (More on his painting next time.)

I visited Tony Meer out of the blue on February 23 at his home-hotel suite for a historical reason. I am writing a book for Vanguards Class 58 of the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños to be published in time for the October 10 celebrations, on this the UP Centennial year. On October 10, 1911, almost the entire faculty members and students of the UP College of Agriculture (now UP Los Baños) volunteered to fight for democracy during World War 1, and that day had been honored since then as Loyalty Day. Only in the Philippines, and only in Los Baños.

Now, Class 58 have decided to raise funds for two projects: (1) a scholarship fund to encourage UP Los Baños students to take up the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), whose number is dwindling, and (2) a project to modernize the instruction equipment and improve the facilities of the Department of Military Science & Tactics of UP Los Baños. To raise funds, they have decided on another project: To show the documentary film Rescue At Dawn: The Los Baños Raidproduced by History Channel, available on DVD. The showing will be free to the public, but they were thinking of asking for voluntary donations from the viewers and their friends. (I’ve seen the docu film. What I can say here is that it’s not National Geographic.)

I prepared the flyer for the March 8 showing. Then, early morning of February 23, suddenly I remembered reading in Tony Meer’s thick 9.5x10-inch 500-page coffee-table autobiography, A Lawyer’s Fate & Faith (2003), that he was one of those who took part in the actual Los Baños rescue of 2,147 prisoners of war, on that February 23, 1945, reputedly the most successful POW rescue in history (uplbvanguardsclass58.wordpress.com), so I asked our common friend, anotherTony (Oposa), a noted surgeon, to arrange for a dinner meeting for us so I could congratulate Tony Meer heartily and interview him. Why him specially? Because, as it happens, I know he loves his country, my country, the Philippines. Through Tony O, I met him 2 years ago and I had read his big book and had been sufficiently awed (see also my ‘Remembrance, Remonstrance,’ frankahilario.wordpress.com).

I asked for another copy of his book, which he gave me; later, I checked and checked and the entry on the rescue isn’t there – instead, he must have told me in my first interview 2 years ago upon learning that I graduated from UP Los Baños. In any case, this time, he told me that he was the G-2 fellow who was with the Signal Corps man, guiding him and guarding him through the jungle of Maria Makiling to observe and report by Morse Code back to headquarters. In battle, collection of correct information from the field is vital; directional guidance is necessary for the collection of such information. With his headquarters at the base of Maria Makiling, Tony Meer knew her like he knew the palms of his hands.

FAH: Before I ask you of yours, here’s my position on what is happening in Metro Manila: We are all sinners. I don’t want GMA replaced. There will be more trouble than we can handle.

TM: Just when our economy is growing, we disturb the peace. I don’t subscribe to the Church participating in politics. I said that will divide the Church. Now they’re divided.

FAH: When Christ associated with sinners, he did not condemn them, he did not vilify them, he did not persecute them. Someone I know is very negative about GMA. Half in jest, I emailed him that I wanted to strangulate the Filipinos who were very negative about their own country. I thought he would never talk to me again.

TM: We are our own best enemy.

FAH: Best, not worst. I like that! It’s so negative and yet it’s so positive.

Worst, we go down the dustbin of history. Best, we go the way of the Promised Land. A promise is a promise – we have to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Can we depend on the raucous mass media and the boisterous politicians to lead us to the Promised Land? Not if they continue to portray the Rebel as Hero and the Government as Villain. (Read Tony Meer’s indictment of the mass media for their glorification of the Oakwood Mutineers, when TV, radio and the press reversed the roles – August 13, 2003, a full-page ad in the Philippine Star; reprinted in full on pages 474-479 in A Lawyer’s Fate & Faith.)

‘Power to the people!’ should not be ‘anarchy to the people!’ or ‘power to the media!’ Shame on you mass preachers, and shame on you mass media! You judge, you condemn, you do not pardon. You practice the exact opposite of Luke 6: 37. You do not lift up – instead, you pour into our lap a good measure, you press down, you shake all together so that everything runs all over us.

FAH: Do you know a Mariano Angeles, a UP Vanguard? You’re not a Vanguard, are you?

TM: My brother was a Vanguard, not me.

FAH: In effect, the ROTC is dead, right? I read Angeles in the Internet (‘On A Citizen Armed Forces,’ geocities.com/artesguerra). In my time, I was against the idea of being forced to take up the ROTC. After reading Angeles, now I like the idea of a citizen army, reviving the ROTC.

TM: A citizen army makes sense.

Angeles’ Vanguard’s Faith is that the ROTC is a force against elitism in the military. Not apart from that, what is My Writer’s Faith?

Oinam Anand says, ‘The chief mission of the writer is to struggle for peace and upliftment of society in which he lives. This role is determined not only by his place in literature but also by the degree of his involvement in the society’s public life’ (e-pao.net). For me, a writer’s role is a citizen’s role, but more because of his power over words, which is power to reach out with ideas. And what is the role of a citizen in a society? To love and let love. To be moral, not amoral. Morality is above all, even above the moralists.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Luke 6: 37, NAB).

My Writer’s Faith is to keep faith with the vision of my people, not with those pollsters, not with those politicians, not with those pundits of virtue, not with those prophets of doom.

Meanwhile, the media are playing their roles with gusto, even with guts and gory: opinion polls, news & columns in newspapers & magazines, as on radio & TV & in websites, including Senate inquiries ‘in aid of legislation.’ They already have their reward. 10,000 protesters (possibly including Communists and certainly including Catholics) gathered in Makati City February 15 to demand the resignation of GMA, the media reported (manilastandardtoday.com).

Tony Meer has done his part. Now, what about the rest of us, what about the best of us – what about the intellectuals?

Preachers and preached, priests and priested, rebels and rebelled, media and mediated: So far we have 10,000 stonecasters, the ones who have thrown stones at the woman brought out by the mob in public; we have 89 million Filipinos and not one Christian. Where are the Christians when you need them most!?

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