Sunday, November 15, 2015

Paris and the hypocrisy of selective humanity

When should we express sympathy for others and why? This is the question we should all ask ourselves following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France that killed at least 129 people and injured over 300.

I am asking this question amid the seemingly endless stream on my Facebook account of people changing their profile pictures into the French tricolor or Jean Julien’s now-iconic tribute to Paris (I did change my profile pic to that of the Eiffel Tower, with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.). I have nothing against people showing their sympathy for Parisians who endured this attack.

But think about it: 10 months ago, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, there was an unfortunate armed encounter between elements of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Forty-four SAF commandos died in the encounter.

18 Filipino civilians were also caught and died in the encounter.

Despite this fact, nobody from the Philippine government, or the media recognized the deaths of the 18 civilians, who were mostly Muslim. Several media entities, civic organizations, and non-government organizations organized fund raising activities, the proceeds of which went to the families of 44 fallen SAF soldiers. No such activities were organized for the 18 Muslim Filipinos mentioned.

In the aftermath of the Mamasapano Incident, Filipino netizens on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram changed their profile pictures, cover photos and status messages out of sympathy for the 44 SAF soldiers slain. No such sympathy was expressed for the 18 Muslim Filipinos mentioned.

Think about this one too: In October 2014, a Filipino transgender was brutally murdered by a visiting American soldier in Olongapo, Zambales, after discovering that she was transgender.

During her wake, many social media netizens posted nasty, homophobic comments about the victim, Jennifer Laude, citing that she deserved to die for being a transgender. Philippine president Benigno S. Aquino III refused to attend her wake, and was quoted as saying, “I don’t attend wakes of people I don’t know.” [1]

When should we express sympathy for others and why? This is the question we should all ask ourselves following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France that killed at least 129 people and injured over 300.

Nobody changed their profile pictures when Laude died. No hashtags were popularized, no fund raisers were organized for her family.

Then there’s this one too: During the 2000s, Davao City was notorious for being the hotbed of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad. DavaoeƱos describe the DDS as vigilantes out to exterminate suspected drug pushers, drug addicts and thieves, but this group has also killed journalists, human rights activists and innocent civilians.

In July 2005, at a crime summit at the Manila Hotel, then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte publicly expressed his support for extrajudicial killings and summary executions in his city. “Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs,” Duterte said. [2]

Most DavaoeƱos and Duterte supporters didn’t condemn Duterte’s open endorsement of vigilantism and extrajudicial killings. Nobody from Davao expressed their sympathies for slain journalists or human rights activists, let alone for suspected criminals who should be reformed in prison instead of being summarily executed. Today, Duterte enjoys widespread popularity among many Filipinos despite his blatant disrespect for human rights and the Constitution.

But there’s another: Who can forget the more than 10,000 students, human rights activists, political opponents and innocent Filipinos imprisoned, tortured and disappeared under the hands of the Marcos administration during the Martial Law era from 1972-1981?

While this event is already generally recognized in the Philippines, many still deny its existence, particularly throngs of Marcos Loyalists who linger in the Internet and fooling netizens with their revisionist accounts glorifying the Marcos administration. While families of these desaparecidos still await justice for their disappeared loved ones, these Marcos Loyalists led by the late strongman’s son Sen. Bongbong Marcos have not expressed sympathy to the victims or remorse for the violations committed.

Before we forget: Several farmers have been killed in recent decades for merely protesting and calling for genuine agrarian reform. These farmers were killed in clashes with security forces in Lupao, Nueva Ecija; Luisita, Tarlac; and Mendiola, Manila to the benefit of land-owning hacienderos and their interests. While there is commemoration of these farmer massacres within the left political spectrum, there wasn’t much recognition and sympathy expressed for these victims within the political center and right.

Somewhere in Syria, civilians die every day simply by being caught in the crossfire between the Islamic State, regime forces and Free Syrian Rebels. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is experiencing a resurgence, recently taking over Kunduz and subjugating its citizens. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and pro-government forces are bombing innocent Yemenis while hunting down Houthi rebels.

Sympathy, that expression of support and pity between people of common characteristics, knows no religious, racial, gender, political, geographical, economic or another other bounds.

If you have sympathy for Parisians but think of Syrians, Afghans and Yemenis as collateral damage in the War of Terror, what you have is not sympathy but a selective, discriminating mindset.

If you have sympathy for Parisians but refuse to support Filipino Muslims in their peaceful struggle for self-determination because you think they are all terrorists, what you have is not sympathy but rather indifference and prejudice.

If you have sympathy for Parisians but not for Muslims, LGBTs, human rights activists, and for humanity in general, you can’t claim benevolence.

What you have is the hypocrisy of selective humanity.

(Photo from

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