Cruelty to our fellow human beings brings pain to countless others
It was past 9pm and I was already in bed when I received a message from a lawyer friend: “Please pray for Baby River, now in ICU fighting for her life.” I jumped out of bed and knelt to pray, but before I could even start, another message came. “She is gone.”
At 3 months old, Baby River suffered violations to her rights. While in the womb of her jailed mother, Baby River was deprived of the medical care required for her pregnant mother.
When an infant is forcibly separated from her nursing, jailed mother, what do you call this?
When a very sick child in the ICU is denied by the courts the chance to be visited by its jailed mother, in spite of precedents where high-profile politicians were granted furlough to visit sick relatives or attend a daughter’s debut party, what do you call this?
And when a child dies and the mother is allowed to go to the wake and burial with handcuffs, dressed in a hazmat suit, with face shield and mask, so she could not even hug her child or wipe her tears away, what do you call this?
I can only associate these actions with one word — cruelty.
The case of Baby River and her mother Reina Mae Nasino brought back so many whys in my world as a victim of human rights violations.
I heard the testimony of Raymond Manalo in court, in the 2006 kidnapping and illegal detention case of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, which was actually one of enforced disappearance.
Raymond described how the two girls were hung upside down and subjected to indescribable and unmentionable torture.
No matter what the crime or circumstance of Sherlyn and Karen, that a whole military detachment was involved or at least witnessed the “spectacle” which they made fun of, how else can one describe this but cruelty?
Randall Echanis, a 72-year-old sick peasant leader, was found dead on Aug. 10 in his apartment. An autopsy report from the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine reads that Echanis had lacerations to the head, abrasions on his wrists, cuts to the jaw and multiple puncture wounds in his back and died from a stab wound to his aorta.
“It looks like he sustained a lot of injuries first that were not intended to kill him outright,” CNN quoted Dr. Raquel Fortun, who conducted the examination, as saying.
Granted that Echanis was a consultant of the National Democratic Front negotiation panel in the peace process in the Philippines and a long-time farmer-activist, perceived by the government as an adversary, why would the perpetrators inflict such wounds on a helpless old man? Again, I ask: Why the cruelty?
Some experts say that some people are able to be cruel and do terrible things to others when these others are dehumanised. To cite an example, the Nazis willingly exterminated the Jews because they were made to believe that the Jews were less than human and were objects without the right to freedom, dignity or life.
Or the Rohingya genocide, a series of ongoing persecutions by the Myanmar government against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, from October 2016 to January 2017 and from August 2017 to the present. And in refugee camps now where more persecutions happen.
Could it be that the killings were carried out because there is a goal to be achieved … and people are in the way, so they don’t think of them as people but objects to be done away with?
On the other hand, some psychologists believe that it is precisely that victims of cruelty are seen as moral human beings, as blameworthy, and because of what they do or believe in, they deserve the horrible cruelty.
Thus, it may be that perpetrators derive pleasure from meting out degrading and humiliating treatment because the captive deserves it. And for very insecure people, it is about the pleasure of showing dominance over another person.
Robert Burns’ Man was made to Mourn dirge is so true. “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.”
When I got the second message — “She is gone” — it was like being struck with an arrow straight in the gut. And I mourned. I mourn the cruel, degrading, inhumane treatment that the mother and child were subjected to. I mourn man’s cruelty. I mourn the way the world has become.
The mourning is a recognition of society’s poverty at not being able to prevent the death. Pneumonia was not the only cause of Baby River’s death. Absence of medical and maternal care, violence in the name of justice, hardened hearts and clouded judgments, the apathy of so many, all contributed to the death.
Entering this poverty, one realises that evil may come from ourselves or from others or from other sources. If the mourning is for the sin itself and the tarnish it imprints on the soul, then mourning becomes sincere repentance.
Honest mourning brings with it a concealed promise. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) The promise we believe would be the comfort from the Spirit.
Edita Tronqued-Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen believed to be soldiers abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing.
Reproduced with permission from La Croix International.