By: Elizabeth Angsioco
Published in Manila Standard Today
Dated November 27, 2010
‘Satan, get out!’ These were the words of Pro-Life Philippines President, Eric Manalang as he repeatedly shouted while driving away the reproductive health advocates from the vicinity of the Manila Cathedral last 20 November.
The group was composed of mostly urban poor, practicing Catholic mothers with five to 10 children who responded to the public invitation to a meeting and mass to discern the controversial RH bill. The vicious insults continued with shouts of “Tell your mother that she should have aborted you!” even as the RH advocates, escorted by police officers, were already leaving the place.
The incident’s video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qisx1yt198) continues to draw media and public interest. When interviewed, Mr. Manalang said that those words were because he thought the people were “possessed.” In short, Manalang’s excuse was that he was performing exorcism on the advocates who were possessed by Satan, the devil himself.
A background on the incident is in order.
Urban poor Catholic mothers, members of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, my organization, were joined by some Filipino Freethinkers to the event to know what would be said on the RH bill. In the interest of being honest about their position and because they knew they would not have the opportunity to speak in the event, they wore Damaso shirts with “pass the RH Bill” prints at the back. The advocates had no plans to disrupt anything. If they wanted to create trouble, they could have hidden their shirts and bared them only when inside.
Despite the public invitation, the group was denied entry to the cathedral. The women reasoned that they were Catholics and RH supporters. They were told that the organizers would consider letting them in after the ongoing mass. Not wanting to create a commotion, the RH advocates did not insist and decided instead to wait outside for the mass to end.
A few minutes later, a group led by Manalang confronted the advocates and angrily told them that they were not welcome. Several of the advocates attempted to calmly reason with Manalang but the Pro-Life president started shouting and hurling insults at them. When the anti-RH group realized that the incident was being recorded on video, they attempted to grab the cameras and began pushing the advocates which created a commotion. Police officers intervened and escorted the DSWP and FF people away for their safety. As the RH advocates walked away, Manalang and his group continued the barrage of insults.
Now, Manalang would like the public to believe that the RH advocates were possessed by Satan and that he was exorcising the devil.
According to the dictionary, exorcism is the process of driving away evil spirits by prayers, ceremonies or rituals. This was popularized by the film “The Exorcist” where a girl “possessed by the devil” was helped by an exorcist priest. The known exorcists are Catholic priests and bishops who received training on this even though the practice is said to be rooted in Christianity.
Let us analyze Manalang’s actions to see whether he was doing an exorcism or if he was calling the RH advocates Satan.
Firstly, the advocates were calm and reasonable as shown by their actions. They were not frothing in the mouth, violent or abusive like what we saw in the films or described in literature about exorcism. On the other hand, Manalang, without provocation, was out of control, vicious, violent and abusive. Is it possible that contrary to what he claims, he was the one who was possessed? By what or whom, I do not want to know.
Secondly, as a practicing Catholic, Mr. Manalang ought to know that it takes training to be an exorcist. Not all bishops or priests can exorcise. Certainly, not a lay person like himself. Is Manalang a certified exorcist? This, I would like to know.
Thirdly, exorcism, as defined is done through prayers, ceremonies or rituals. The video clearly shows that Manalang was neither praying nor doing a ceremony or ritual. He was shouting and viciously insulting people who had as much right as him to be in that public place which was OUTSIDE the church.
Lastly, the video clearly shows the sequencing of his insults. From, “‘Now please get out!” it became, “Get out now!” then, “Satan get away from us!” to “Walk out! Now!” to, “Get out! Satan get out!” and “Get out Satan!” Was he doing an exorcism? To me, it is plain that he was calling the RH advocates Satan.
Manalang’s and his companions’ actions and words were, to be kind, a disgrace to the Roman Catholic Church.
One of the mothers they drove away had this to say: “I am the only remaining Catholic in my family and I used to defend my religion because I loved my church. I was excited to go to the cathedral because it was to be my first time there. I did not know that I needed an invitation to be accepted there. I don’t know that churches turn people away. I am very angry that not only was I insulted, I was called Satan. I am a Catholic but I take pills because I used to get pregnant yearly. If I did not have miscarriages, I would already have 10 children and we are very poor. What happened taught me that the church does not care for mothers like me. Now, I don’t know anymore if I want to remain a Catholic.”
At a time when even the Vatican is showing some openness in its position on issues, the Philippine Catholic hierarchy remains highly intolerant of differing views.
We have yet to hear the bishops’ position on what transpired outside of the Manila Cathedral. Does the silence mean that the CBCP agrees with the arrogance of Manalang and company? If I were a bishop, I would exorcise Manalang and his ilk from my church.
Since I am not, I say this to them: apologize and REPENT.