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    Run after the guilty

It is not for nothing that President Benigno Aquino chose the creation of the Truth Commission to be the subject of his very first Executive Order upon assuming office last June 30. Having been elected on the basis of his promise to rid the government of graft and corruption, he had made a contract with the people to not let the sins of the previous administration go unpunished. Clearly, that was what the people wanted and Mr. Aquino responded by putting in place a body and a mechanism to pursue those who had plundered the country’s coffers for almost a decade.

It is thus that the Supreme Court’s ruling that EO No. 1 was unconstitutional is being met with dismay. Observers have taken to saying that the high court had effectively shielded former President Gloria Arroyo from prosecution – some even going so far as insinuating that since the court is peopled mostly by appointees of the former president, it will seek to protect her, as she had intended. At the very least, the Supreme Court’s ruling is giving people pause. If government cannot investigate wrongdoing, then how can it prevent similar atrocities from being committed in the future?

We must, of course, also look at where the Aquino administration may have gone wrong. The Supreme Court has said EO No. 1 is a violation of equal protection since it was targeting only one person, and this must be taken seriously. Equal protection is not there to allow the guilty go scot-free but to make sure the innocent are not wrongly prosecuted. It is a part of the law we must accept, one that applies to the lowliest citizen and to the highest official of the land.

So where does that leave us? The administration has time to file a motion for reconsideration, but given the Supreme Court’s reluctance to reverse itself, government may have to search for other ways to run after the guilty. It is not undoable, and it is what the citizenry expects.

Christmas is one of the few times in which it should be easier for a worship leader like me to pick out songs for congregational singing. I mean, with hundreds of songs about the birth of Christ at our disposal, it would be a cinch to create a lineup of songs that would be both worshipful and Christmassy at the same time, right? Wrong. First of all, a quick Google search will reveal that there are not hundreds of church-appropriate Christmas songs but only a few dozens; secondly, most of the songs that can be sung at church are old hymns that do not necessarily match with contemporary Christian music and are thus difficult to insert in a praise and worship lineup.

What one does find in a Google search for Christmas songs are ones that sing not about Jesus but about winter, parties, gifts, Santa Claus, even of grandmas getting run over by reindeer. Most songs about Christmas talk not of Christ but of the celebration itself, as if the festivities exist by themselves, out of a vacuum, without rhyme or reason.

Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani was right: Santa Claus has stolen Christmas, and even in the Philippines where the jolly elf, dressed in red coat, would wither and die in the heat and humidity, Santa has overtaken Jesus as the centre of the celebration. The evidence is not just in the malls and in the media where Santa’s image is more prominent than the nativity; ask any child about Christmas and you are more likely to hear references to Santa Claus than to Jesus. Sure they know it’s Jesus’ birthday, but that’s the extent of it. A lot of Filipino kids nowadays believe that the one who gives them gifts on Christmas is Santa, not Jesus – or their parents.

I don’t want to be a Scrooge about this, but I believe we are missing out on a lot of things if we focus on the sideshows of Christmas instead of the main event: Christmas is about God putting in motion His plan for salvation, and we celebrate it not because we get gifts but because the greatest gift, eternal life, has been made available for us.

Jon Joaquin is the managing editor of the largest circulation newspaper in Mindanao, the Mindanao Daily Mirror in Davao City.

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