We hear the readings proclaim: “Jesus is alive. God has raised him.” This is the apostles’ first confession of faith. Beyond all expectations, God has vindicated Jesus. He was not guilty of the crime attributed to him. “He whom you have killed by hanging him on a tree, God exalted him on his right hand” (Acts 5: 30 -31).
As we celebrate Easter, I think of the victims of the Marcos’s and Duterte’s violent regimes. I feel for those mothers and widows. I have heard their cries from the start of the War on Drugs. They want God to vindicate them.
In the meantime, however, they can only suffer in silence. I went to many of these wakes. There is one thing I noticed in all: there are small chicks on the coffins. One mother explained: “As the chicks eat the grains, their beaks also strike at the consciences of those who killed him. God shall deliver us justice.” The poor people have really nothing. They only have the “chicks” and their prayer for “poetic justice”: that God will soon vindicate them.
But little by little, the sun rises on their lives. Through the help of other people, they begin to stand up again. During the pandemic, their sewing shop gave them jobs. Some children also graduated from high school or college despite difficulties. One even got “Magna cum Laude.”
But it is just the loin cloths that they see. Not the full Risen Jesus. They heard about the coming of the International Criminal Court to investigate. They are hopeful that at last, they can now be heard. Because during the wakes of their loved ones, no one even asked them how their husbands died.
But the authorities are intent to keep the ICC at bay. You read that on the news. On the ground, a “cleaning up operation” is on the way. Some police operatives and LGU representatives are back to the victims’ houses with an invitation to fix the cases. “If you withdraw the case, there is a large amount of money that will be given to you.” That is a very strong temptation for a big family who can hardly support itself. But No. They answered them with a resounding No.
Another received a subpoena inviting her to go to the Station to “fix” the case. The police know they have “doctored” the death certificate. Instead of gunshot wounds as the cause of her husband’s death, we read “hypertension” at the official NSO death certificate. The autopsy that was later done on the remains bears three or four gunshot wounds. No, she is not going to the Station to “fix” this. There is nothing to fix. Or, better still, they already “fixed” this earlier.
Justice is not yet fully revealed. Just the loin cloths in sight. But they believe Jesus is risen. I admire their courage. They are resolved to testify at the hearings for the killing of their loved ones. All them resolved to continue surviving life despite all the obstacles along the way. They are resolved to fight for justice and live for a new tomorrow.
When the men in the company of Jesus betrayed him (Judas) or denied him (Peter) or went back home (disciples of Emmaus) or accepted defeat and refused the vision Jesus once shared with them, the women stayed on. They even stood at the foot of the cross at the time when all the rest of men went running away.
And because they stayed on, they were the first witnesses of the resurrection.
It is Easter for the victims. For God is beginning to vindicate them.
Happy Easter to all.
Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M., is a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community in the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York. The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of LiCAS News or its publishers.