Saturday, May 21, 2016

142. Unsolicited Advice to an Incoming President #6: Remember Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora were framed.

If you remember Lapu-Lapu of March 16, 1521,  surely you'll remember February 17, 1872. Three Filipino priests, Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, were lobbying that the parishes be assigned to the seculars. Then, a revolt erupted among the workers in Fort San Felipe in Cavite, which ended in the massacre of most of the putschists by the Spanish army. To save himself from the government which was running after the perpetrators, Capt. Saldua volunteered to be a star witness against the three priests. The Spanish authorities believed everything Saldua  said and refused to allow the three to cross-examine Saldua, saying Saldua suffered from an ailment of some sort. It was a trial that thrived on rumors and happenstance. If you were a prosecutor then, you would have moved to dismiss. Yet, national security was an utmost concern; somebody had to be hanged, and the three vocal priests of the secularization movement matched the frame. On their day of execution, Zamora was driven to insanity, Burgos cried like a baby, and Gomez was resigned to his fate, saying, "Dear Father, I know very well that a leaf of a tree does not move without the Will of the Creator; inasmuch as He asks that I die in this place, may His will be done.”  Saldua, poor fellow, got hanged first. And Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora followed the same end. When they died, the heavens darkened as the people knelt and uttered the prayer for the dead. The death of the priests broke Rizal's heart and inspired him to dedicate the El Fili to the three. When Aguinaldo's army captured the towns of Cavite, they stormed the parishes seeking an affidavit from the Spanish friars to absolve the martyred priests, as if the event did not take place more than twenty years before. But such is the hunger of the people for the truth that no matter how long it had been, the memory of injustice would haunt them and embolden them to undo what was wrongly done, even with an inconsequential affidavit which had no legal bearing. Death could never quell the people's desire for the truth. Lately, you said you would bring back the death penalty by hanging. Many people would not be fine with that, but because you are the President, you can make it happen. Just remember Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora were framed. The Spanish did not get it right, they never did. And this nation, born of the blood of the three martyred priests, seeking the blood of those who disturb our peace, in spite of our learned judges, lawyers, and the men and women who work for justice, we know, we would never get it right one hundred percent of the time. No system would ever get it right all the time.  For no matter how hard we ponder and study the question -- "Should a criminal be hanged?" -- we would always miss a spot and be blind.  We would probably get it right most of the time, but in each time, an unsettling question would lurk in our hearts, are we hanging a Gomez, Burgos, or Zamora again, victims of the mob and the burning passions of their time, witnesses to the limits of our human faculties and ways, and icons of regret that would wound us for the rest of our days?

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