The supplication of the faithful as they invoke the mercy and grace of God has been violated by many political regimes. The Philippines, as is the case of many countries, is not exempt from this political plague.
Ora pro nobis used to be a phrase that summed up the prayerful disposition of the believers to ask for a transcending and abiding succor so that this earth becomes a glimpse of the promised heaven. Today, the phrase has been bastardized to mean that a reigning ruler—legitimate or not—has some kind of a “life line” to heaven as if political administration is a game of “Who wants to be a millionaire”.
Now, ora pro nobis spells the frustrations and disappointments of people as they watch helplessly the rapacity of government leaders. The trouble is that ora pro nobis has become a formula to justify government incompetence. It is conditioning people to keep on praying while playacting leaders prey on the people’s hopes and dreams.
The phrases used to rationalize incompetence can run from the gamut of “hearing voices from the heavens” to “having received a mandate from God.” We include here the notion that one has been the “anointed”—as many of our politicians in the House, the Senate, and the Palace would want us to believe.
This illogical play of language in these phrases is instructive; the phrases inaugurate a jugular and tragic return of the churchy excesses of medieval rule and the colloquialism of conquest during the period of the early Roman Empire that pushed for the mainstreaming—and the eventual world domination—of the Christian faith.
In the film Oropronobis—one of the more powerful aesthetic rendering of the abuses and atrocities of the Marcos regime and then, eventually, the Cory Aquino administration, Kumander Contra, among others, is a trope of the merciful murderer. He frees those whom he accuses of conniving with the revolutionaries only to pump them with bullets as they run for their lives.
Kumander Contra is the one terrorist who has that surprising capacity to put side by side the pictures of The Terminator—with the bandoliers X-ing on his chest, his machine gun on the ready—and those of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
The kumander derides contrary opinion and shows absolute vehemence of the rebels he calls agents of the devil. This means that no one has the right to neither protest nor gather in a peaceful assembly in order to voice out his view on matters concerning the life of the country.
You gather in the name of the constitutional right to demand that the government deliver the basic services to the people and you are tagged as co-conspirator with those who are plotting to overthrow the government.
There is something bothersome in this disposition to sow fear and terror in order to make people toe the line.
This simply does not work in a democracy—this killing of contrary opinion and dissent.
While we acknowledge the right and duty of government to control and manage social chaos, that right and duty are not at the expense of the basic human rights enshrined in the fundamental law of the land.
We sow terror and we shall have citizens cowering in fear and unable to even utter the salving “Ora pro nobis.”
We have a terrorized citizenry and the nation becomes sick in the soul—and in the head.
We have a nation sick in the soul and in the head and we end up with robots, kibitzers, zombies, and phantoms. In the end, we become a nation of the haunted—and a haunted nation.
We need to redeem ourselves from all of these—away from the orapronobis-like mentality of the small and gigantic Kumander Contra in the corridors of power.
Published, INQ, V1N16 Oct 2005