When Pope Francis was being maligned by some church people in September of 2018, he remained silent. Silence and prayer were his answer at that time. (He spoke out nine months later.) He knew the accusations were baseless. It was heroic on his part. He was the one being accused, but he preferred to suffer silently at that moment.

This is a good way to respond to personal attacks, but when the attacks are being done against others unjustly, silence is not an option. To keep silent is to allow the aggressor to bully the innocent victims. The victims needed to be protected and defended against unjust attacks by others. If we keep silent, we side with the aggressors. We give them the liberty to continue with their assault and their lies.

Since we allow them the liberty to do wrong to this one, they would not hesitate do it again to another one, and then to another. Our silence has emboldened them. But if people immediately react at the first instance of aggression, and strongly denounce it, they will think twice before continuing it or doing it again.

Victims have been killed in the War on Drugs at the mere suspicion of being addicts. This was done in Manila, Caloocan, Pasay and other Metro Manila cities. There was no general outcry from the public and even from the Church and civic authorities, except from some bishops and religious whose flock were directly affected.

So the killings continued, now in Bulacan and in some neighboring provinces. Then the killings jumped to Cebu, and still the people kept silent. If from the beginning the denunciations happened from all quarters, since injustice in some areas is injustice to all, many lives could have been spared.

In the name of quelling rebellion from the left, lumad leaders were red-tagged and killed in Mindanao. Not much reaction from the people. It has spread to Negros island.

Since Duterte came to power three years ago about 90 people – farmer leaders, human rights advocates, lawyers and even from the police – have been killed. There are outcries from the four Catholic bishops and other bishops of other Christian groups in Negros to stop this endless shedding of blood. But why are bishops of other dioceses silent? Is it just the problem of Negros? Do we have to wait for the killings to spread to other dioceses?  Injustice in one area is injustice to all, like a wound in a part of the body makes the whole body sick.

Four Catholic bishops, three priests and 31 perceived critics of the government are wrongfully accused of sedition. We all know that the accusation is without basis. We all know that it is legal harassment. We all know that it is a ploy to frighten the critics of the government. Why the silence of other church leaders, the academe, and the lay faithful in general?

Do we have to wait until the same form of harassment comes to us? Silence is not an option. We have to speak – and now! Defend the innocent. Denounce the aggression. Call the accusations for what they are – lies!