March 1, 2008

Whistle Blower

4th Sunday of Lent
John 9:1-41 : ““Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people to do the same”
- Nelson Mandela

One of the words we usually here nowadays is the word “whistleblower.” A whistle blower is somebody who exposes misconduct or irregularities in the government.

In our country, where graft and corruption is very rampant, it is usually the whistle blower who exposes irregularities in our government. To become a whistle blower, one must have the courage to stand in the senate and court hearings and prepare to be insulted, abused and harassed. History tells us that our past two EDSA revolutions started from an exposé from the whistleblowers. In EDSA I, we remember the brave computer encoders who decided to walk out after being ordered to tamper the number of votes in favor of President Marcos. In EDSA II, we remember Equitable Bank SVP Clarissa Ocampo who named Estrada as Jose Vellarde after Chavit Singson exposed that he had personally given President Estrada the sum of 400 million pesos as payoff from illegal gambling profits. Our present political crisis today is a result of another exposé from another whistleblower, Jun Lozada who decided to expose the irregularities of the ZTE-NBN deal that led to the demand of different sectors of our society today, including the CBCP, for truth, accountability and reform from the Arroyo Government.

In our country that is projected to lose P29.5 billion pesos from our National Budget every year to corruption, many of us feel that we need more whistle blowers to eliminate all the graft and corruptions in our government. In fact, even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in its latest pastoral letter, recommended the abolition of EO 464 (which bars officials from attending legislative hearings) so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies.” A call to all genuine whistle blowers!

But the call to fight for what is right and moral is not just for well known “star-witnesses” or whistle blowers. All of us should be “little whistle blowers” in our own right - in our own families, schools, offices, churches and circles of friends. We should have the courage to correct anybody and be corrected as well for the good of all. This is fraternal correction – to correct in the name of love and not to judge. Big sin starts from small sins. Prevention by correction is still the best cure!

Sad to say, we are hesitant to correct one another for many reasons and justifications: “Nakakahiya kay kumare, ano na lang ang sasabihin nila…Baka magalit siya kung sabihan ko…Huwag mong sabihin na ako ang nagsabi… Hayaan mo na lang… Bahala na ang Diyos sa kanila…Buhay niya iyan, ayokong makialam… Saka na lang…bakit ako? …di ko kayang sabihin dahil ayoko siyang masaktan… mahirap siyang hindian, malaki ang utang na loob ko sa kanya…baka hindi na niya ako pansinin…” We don’t want to rock the boat.

A Philippine National Police study revealed that 85% of the Filipinos prefer to seek divine intervention rather than to file a complaint against somebody or to report a crime they have witnessed. We care for another. We sympathize with the victims, but we are afraid to be involved. And to pacify our conscience for doing nothing, we promise ourselves to pray for the victims. We are afraid to rock the boat and so we keep quiet – an evil’s victory!

We are socially aware to the many irregularities in our society, but we don’t want to be socially engaged. We don’t want to rock the boat. Our “non-involvement attitude” encourages our corrupt politicians and leaders to continue their corruption and immoralities. They are not afraid. They know that nobody will dare to blow the whistle and cry “foul!” And so we fall into the common sin we Filipinos love to commit – the sin of omission. To say nothing in the midst of irregularities and corruption is also a betrayal of truth

Our gospel for today is a story of a biblical whistle blower. Jesus wants us to learn from him. It was ironic that this whistle blower was a former blind man. Without any reservation and fear, even without seeing Jesus who gave him sight, he single-handedly defended Jesus against the Jews and the Pharisees and openly showed to them their blindness to the truth. He said. “You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:31-33).

The blind man was the only character in the gospels that fought for Jesus. And yet, he was not even a disciple! In startling contrast, the disciples were not as bold as him. Peter denied Jesus thrice while the rest of the disciples, except John, disappeared during Jesus’ crucifixion. Everybody retreated to their own safe corner. In their fear, they abandoned Jesus. They abandoned the truth!
But we are no better than the disciples. We are afraid to make a stand. We don’t want to correct mistakes because we don’t want to be rejected, humiliated and persecuted for telling the truth. We don’t want to leave our secured lives for truth’s sake.

During the temple inquiry, the blinds man’s parents were summoned to testify. But unfortunately, in their fear of the Pharisees, they disengaged to their son and said, “Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (John 9:20).
But in spite of being abandoned by his parents, the blind man bravely faced the Pharisees and stood up for the truth. When the Pharisees realized that the blind man was on top of them of them, they resorted to abuse, insult, and ordered him out of their presence. These are the cost of discipleship – for being a genuine whistle blower.

The Pharisees threw the blind man out of the temple; but Jesus found him (John 9:35). Anyone who is marginalized from his fellowmen, family, officemates, and friends for condemning immoralities and corruptions, he brings himself closer to the Truth – that is Jesus. Jesus is always true to anybody who is true to himself.
Our gospel is challenging us to stand up for truth. Do not hesitate to correct one another. We are brothers and sisters keeper. We are responsible for one another.

I admire the courage of whistle blowers, but I have deeper admiration and awe to ordinary daily whistle blowers who are not afraid to correct themselves before correcting the mistakes of others.

- Fr.Wilfredo M. Samson,SJ
Ateneo de Zamboanga

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