The third way

EVERYDAY the newspapers are filled with stories of witnesses coming out to tell their “truths” which could possibly dispel the darkness that once held sway over the governmental institutions that are supposed to either protect or promote the welfare of the nation.

But in reality that is their truth and there are truths still unknown to us and probably will never see the light of day making the unity we are seeking as a nation a distant dream.

The Philippines is currently at a crossroad almost similar to what South Africa experienced immediately after the end of apartheid.

The once powerless have now become the arbiters and dispensers of political power.

Hell bent in prosecuting Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions, they are now speaking loudly exposing irregularities after irregularities that characterized her unpopular regime.

However, there are those who doubt that these revelations would truly bring closure and an end to the culture of impunity that has become so prevalent in civilian and military institutions especially during the Arroyo regime.

In fact some are even convinced that today’s recriminations are the seed for future ones.

Some readers of my column even asked me to stop writing about the controversies surrounding the previous regime for the sake of national unity.

They said political vendetta is not the way to unity.

It is interesting to know that it was this cycle of recriminations that South Africa successfully avoided when its apartheid government ended in the mid 1990’s following the election of Nelson Mandela.

Apartheid is the official policy of racial segregation involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against non-whites.

Eric H.F. Law, writing for the Grace Margin newsletter of the Kaleidoscope Institute of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, observed that South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, while working on South Africa’s Commission on Truth and Reconciliation, rejected the Nuremberg style   trials where officials responsible for apartheid would be tried and punished.

At the same time, the good bishop also rejected the giving of blanket amnesty or national amnesia for them.

According to Law, in rejec-ting these two extremes, Tutu chose a third way and that was the granting amnesty to individuals in exchange for a full disclosure relating to the crime for which amnesty is being sought.

Law wrote that the Commission set up meetings in which the experienced truth of both the victims and the victimizers where allowed to be told and exist in the same room.

In meeting after meeting, the community heard stories of atrocities by the people working for the apartheid government and the African National Congress, the militant group responsible for the end of apartheid rule in South Africa.

Bishop Tutu explained the reason for this third way of finding out the truth: “…there were in fact different orders of truth which did not necessarily mutually exclude one another.

There was what could be termed forensic factual truth – verifiable and documentable – and there was social truth, the truth of experience that is established through interaction, discussion and debate.”

“The personal truth – Judge Mahomet’s truth of wounded memories – was a healing truth, and a court of law would have left many of those who came to testify, who were frequently uneducated and unsophisticated, bewildered and even more traumatized than before, whereas many bore witness to the fact that coming to talk to the commission had had a therapeutic effect on them.”

As the victims and the victimizers shared their stories, sometimes with inconsistent information and accounts, the bigger picture of what really happened emerged.

In trusting the ambiguity of their different experienced truths, the community, the people of the new South Africa, discovered that their real enemy was the system. (To be continued)

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