Dear Senator Manny,
First, we would like to congratulate you on your victory against Jessie Vargas. Thank you for making our country proud by your achievements in boxing.
We write this letter to you as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Just like you, we believe in the power of the death and resurrection of Christ as the basis for living a new life and receiving forgiveness for our sins.
However, we are troubled by your recent statements regarding the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the LNMB, in which you appealed for the need to forgive and move on. Like you, we believe in the centrality of forgiveness in the Christian faith and life. Just as God has forgiven us, we certainly need to forgive others.
There are several reasons, however, why a blanket call for forgiveness is not appropriate in this case.
- First, forgiveness presupposes that an offense has been committed. God forgives us because we have sinned against him. You called for forgiveness but you did not name the sin. The Marcos family also did not admit any specific sin. So what is there to forgive if the offense has not been named? A call for forgiveness cannot proceed without recognition of the offense.
- Second, although God offers forgiveness to all, only those who receive this forgiveness can actually experience it. This forgiveness is costly because it is possible only through the death of Christ. Yet even though Christ has paid for our sins, receiving God’s forgiveness requires a prior act of admission of guilt and repentance. But when did the Marcoses acknowledge guilt and show remorse for the wrongdoings of the past? They say, “tao lang po, nagkakamali, hindi sinasadya.” But the sins committed are not mere acts of neglect or the ordinary failures of human beings. Hindi lang ito masakit na salita o gawa na maaaring palampasin, kundi pagpatay, pagtorture, pagkulong ng ilegal, pagnakaw ng kaban ng bayan, pagsupil sa karapatang pangtao. These inhumane atrocities and evils violate the very justice of God, and demand a serious response from the Marcoses.
- Third, true repentance means that reparation must be made. Zacchaeus returned the money he had stolen, giving four times as much and giving half of his possessions to the poor (Luke 19:8). In the Old Testament, one must not only get right with God through an offering, but must also restore whatever was taken from the person who has been defrauded (Lev 6:1-7). Yes, there is now a law that mandates compensation for human rights victims, but this money was not offered freely by the Marcoses. Rather, it was painstakingly won through many years of court cases that the Marcoses themselves strongly contested.
- Fourth, forgiveness does not eliminate the need for accountability. If somebody murders your close relative or friend, you may personally forgive that person, but that does not mean that he or she should not go to jail. Moreover, to honor the murderer would add insult to injury. When King David abused the power God had given him, sinned with Bathsheba, and murdered her husband Uriah, he showed remorse and God forgave him. However, that did not exempt him from the consequences of his own sins, so that there was murder, rape, and rebellion among his children, grieving David and dividing the whole nation (2 Samuel 11‒18).
It is important that public officials be held accountable for their public acts, in order that we do not develop a culture of impunity, where people, particularly those in power, are exempted from punishment for wrongdoing. In Old Testament Israel, the king is held to a higher standard of accountability than ordinary citizens, in the same way that church leaders have greater responsibility. Yet ordinary citizens in our country today, particularly those who are poor, are often quickly convicted of crimes and in danger of being killed, while powerful figures such as the Marcoses escape accountability for their grave deeds.
Ferdinand Marcos can no longer be convicted in a criminal court because he is dead, although his heirs are answerable for hidden wealth. And so only history can judge him. Indeed, history has judged him in the EDSA People Power revolution. But today there are those who seek to revise history on the premise of appealing for forgiveness. In the Old Testament, Israel is repeatedly admonished never to forget their history with God (Deut 4:9; 8:12-16). Forgiveness requires truthful memories. A person who lies about the past and shifts the blame to others will be denied forgiveness.
We all want healing. We all believe in reconciliation. We all need God’s forgiveness. We do not protest against the burial because we are haters of Marcos. Rather, we take the side of those who wrongly suffered during martial law and are still awaiting justice. If the Marcoses reach out to the victims in true remorse, repentance, and compassion by seeking to repair the damage that has been done, if they forsake the greed for power and wealth, and walk humbly with their fellow Filipinos, then God will indeed have mercy on them, forgive their sins, and impart to them the free gift of salvation. Then there can be healing for the wounds of the past on all sides, and our longed for reconciliation may finally be realized.
May you continue to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of God.
Christians Against the Marcos Burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayan