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Monday, July 16, 2012

Piety As A Weapon

In this country, it is used as much for offense as it is for defense. How scintillating (I had other adjectives in mind, this seemed to be the "safest") that a recent blow-up in the local entertainment scene should showcase this spectacularly.

Truly, we fashion the concept of God after our own desires and biases.

After the death of Dolphy, the most controversial news adjacent to the event was the ruckus caused by feisty talent manager Annabelle Rama at a wake/dinner where the King of Comedy was being remembered. Claiming that she was "provoked" by showbiz reporter Chito Alcid, she was caught on video trying to raise a stick-apparatus (some say it was a cane, others say it was a mic stand) in an apparent attempt to hit on the said "provocative" party.

She prayed for everyone.
(Courtesy of

Probably hearing the backlash from everyone castigating her for this incident that can be diplomatically described as "tasteless", Rama has since apologized to the Quizon family for her actions.

Knowing Rama, you know that isn't the end of it. (Her numerous libel cases will testify that words are her Waterloo.)

A news item at ABS-CBN News caught my eye regarding this brouhaha and her involvement in it.

(See for full story.)

What struck me the most was the ease that both parties invoked God into their motivations and actions.

"Sa lahat ng concern sa akin, ipinagdarasal ko kayo. Sa lahat naman ng mga komokontra, ipinagdarasal ko rin kayo na mabuksan isipan nyo..." (To those concerned for me, I prayed for you. To those who oppose me, I also prayed for you so your minds will be open.)

A cursory reading of this has a part that is glaring: God must be on Annabelle's side. A statement like hers is clearly meant to enforce the notion that she is on a path that is righteous, such that she expects her prayers to be answered positively. (No one goes into prayer hoping for a 'No', do they?)

It also has a veneer of compassion, the way zealots like to sarcastically say "I'll pray for you", but the real message being "You're a filthy sinner and you should get down on your knees and thank me that I am spreading news to save you!" In short, people who do this tactic are actually condescending while appearing compassionate.

And appearances matter a whole lot for a country like ours. Who cares if we blow out the college fund, we should feed our guests well during the town fiesta.

Not to be outdone is the reporter Annabelle is trading barbs with - blows if she wasn't physically stopped as shown in the video - who also made the following statement:

"No, hindi ko siya pinrovoke...mayroon siyang Eddie Gutierrez na matangkad, mayroon syang bodyguard na nandoon sa tabi niya. So how can I provoke, alam ng Panginoon yan." (No, I never provoked her...she has a tall Eddie Gutierrez and a bodyguard beside her. So how can I provoke, God knows that.)

Translation: my word is as good as gold, as solid as steel...I have the backing of God. To challenge my statement is to challenge God as my you dare?!?

Ever since a once-young actress remarked "God was with us" (I'm sure we all know who this is) when asked about her child out of wedlock, I have known from an early age how the name of God has been bandied around, sometimes innocently, sometimes quite forcefully, as being "behind" one's thoughts, words and actions, thereby giving the person saying this a free pass for most anything. To cast doubt on something approved by God would be heretical, right?

Just recently, impeached Chief Justice Corona authorized the holding of masses within the Supreme Court grounds - I am a non-lawyer but the word "unconstitutional" keep flashing before me - even getting media mileage for being deep in prayer with an equally controversial priest, the photo splashed all over the dailies and online. Read: I can't be on the wrong side, I'm a warrior for God and here's a cleric to lend ecclesiastical weight to that pride-less claim.

I guess God doesn't take sides then, since He is on everyone's side.

Excuse me while I go back to the real world, where I expect people to be personally responsible for their thoughts, words and actions.

It reeks to be a secularist in a country that thinks one's religion is a license to be free from criticism and debate, with a card that erroneously gives its bearer an inflated - and false - sense of moral superiority.

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