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I would have loved to debate the subject with Atty. Romy Capulong over grandés of caffè latte at the Starbucks nearest, before illness restricted his diet and curbed his consumption of caffeine.
As the product of unbroken education in Catholic schools, I would have been the obvious choice to take the negative position, whereas he, the proud scion of a peasant family, would have adopted the affirmative position with relish.
RTC -- in law offices, the lawyers are routinely referred to by their initials -- was never one to back away from an argument, and hypothetical questions, especially those with theoretical underpinnings, had a way of firing his imagination whose workings showcased a beautiful mind.
He was not the type to ponder in seclusion; he much preferred having a sounding board for his ideas, which meant an audience, which back in the day meant us, his associates in the Public Interest Law Center, the first law firm in the Philippines dedicated to alternative lawyering that he founded in 1989.
I would warm up to my theme by criticizing communism as a godless system of beliefs that does not recognize the existence of the human soul. Communism, I would elaborate, emphasizes materialism as its core value, with its stress on production, labor and capital, as opposed to spiritualism and its conviction that there is a Good higher than the State.
Man’s goal, I would contend, should not center on the equal distribution of material wealth, but on the salvation of his eternal soul.
I would add that God is real on the premise that the lack of evidence is no proof that something definitively does not exist. Jesus Christ, I would maintain, cannot be a communist because, as the earthly emissary of God, he is the indubitable negation of all the philosophies communism holds dear.
In finishing, I probably would not be above predicting that all those opposed to my views will suffer damnation in Hell for their heresy.
I can almost hear his rebuttal.
Jesus Christ, if I were to think about it, he would begin, was a revolutionary during his time, a firebrand who challenged conventional thinking about faith, morality and the status quo.
He championed the cause of the poor and the oppressed and scorned a prevailing religion that prioritized external ritualism over true piety.
Jesus Christ a Communist? -- I can almost picture RTC smiling at the possibility.
Atty. Capulong’s leftist leanings have never been secret -- a magazine article once referred to him as “The Communist Lawyer” -- and he saw no reason to quibble with the National Democratic Front’s 12-point program.
As he explained in the same article, “I believe there is room for debate on the means, but I cannot argue with the program. Who can argue against a genuine agrarian reform? Or nationalist industrialization? Or the kind of culture we must espouse? Cultural revolution and so on. Generally, who can argue against the nationalist democratic struggle?”
On the day RTC died, the Sunday reading came from St. James. I shall quote to you part thereof which, initially, may jar because Scripture is usually not cited in conjunction with communism, but its wisdom will become apparent.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”
Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
I caused my grandfather no small amount of grief when I joined Atty. Capulong at PILC fresh out of law school; my grandparents, catolicos cerrados, despaired that associating with leftists would cause me to become an agnostic, or worse, an atheist (I will admit to having lapsed, not because of osmosis, but because of disillusionment).
But in all the years I was privileged to work alongside Atty. Capulong, we never once discussed his personal faith.
Proof of that was negligible, but of his works there was evidence aplenty: counsel for some 10,000 victims of torture and human rights violations during martial law; counsel for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Looc; counsel for Flor Contemplacion, the Filipina whose execution in Singapore drew attention to the fate of thousands of Filipino migrant workers; counsel of Lola Rosa Henson, the first Filipino comfort woman to file a claim against the government of Japan; counsel for the families in the Payatas dumpsite tragedy; counsel for journalists in challenging the Supreme Court's proscription to the live media coverage of the Ampatuan massacre trial; the list gets longer.
I daresay that Atty. Capulong had more substance in his works than all the words uttered in praise by clergy and laity alike.
I lost my grandfather and Atty. Capulong in the space of two months to the same illness. What sustains me is that they must be continuing a debate that, I am sure, is consuming both of them.
Was Jesus Christ a Communist?