“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”

WISE words by the great Mahatma Gandhi. He taught us that violence is not an answer to resolve conflicts but love of all living things is rather the right choice.

I deeply respect and believe Gandhi’s teachings for they are the same words that Christianity embraces. Most of us grew up listening and trying to live as good men, following the words of God written in the bible.

But at times, we are faced with the reality that there are people who still commit violence against others. And we ask why?

I grieve. Our friends too. His family the most. We condemn the act of violence committed against our dear friend, the late Angelo “Long” Melo.

No one deserves to die the way he did. He was assaulted and probably tortured, resulting to cardiac arrest. The police are now investigating the case. We pray that justice will be served.

Melo was an artist by heart and by deed. He is one of the pillars of Pampanga Arts Guild. Known for his indigenous artworks, “Sisig satellites” and live art performances, Melo is a big loss to the arts circle in Pampanga.

He was known among his colleagues in Manila, Antipolo, Los Banos, Baguio City, Batangas, Bulacan, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao as one Kapampangan visual artist who would work out of his way just to commune with other artists or to support their events.

I had the opportunity to be one of his friends and apprentices. He showed compassion and humility to the amateur artists, to the young students of Holy Angel University and to the underprivileged children of Sapang Bato in Angeles City.

Melo is well loved by many. During his last wake, Lolita Carbon of Asin was there along with many artists and close friends including Cecille Yumul, Norman Tiotuico, Guy Hilbero, Imag Pallatao, Maela Jose, Lito Jose, Hermie Puneda, Andy Ramos, Conderlos Lingat, Bong Punzalan and others.

Yes, indeed we all grieve and we are furious against the criminals who brutally harmed him.

But how do we seek justice when the arms of the law is not sufficient to stop these criminals who walk freely amongst us. And how about those who were already convicted but somehow found their way to get out of prison without fully serving their punishment?

The recent brouhaha at the Bureau of Corrections has shaken us once again, for hard core convicts and murderers like Antonio Sanchez were given release orders right under our noses. Thanks though to the vigilance of the media, Sanchez’ release was cancelled and a Senate investigation has commenced in relation to the release of at least nearly 2000 henious crime convicts since 2014. They were released under the Good Conduct Time Allowance law which is being revisited amidst the growing uproar from the families of the victims and the general public.

During the last State of the Nation Address of President Duterte, he asked the Congress to approve anew the death penalty.

The capital punishment was suspended via Republic Act No. 9346, which was signed by President Arroyo on June 24, 2006.

These issues and the opposing views on death penalty bring us back to Gandhi’s teachings and what the bible tells us. How do we reconcile loving all living things, including the perpetrators who caused the death of our friend Melo? How do we start forgiving a rapist and a murderer who willingly harmed an innocent student and her partner? How do we start loving a father who molested and raped his own daughters and killed them while being high on drugs?

I would be a hypocrite if I say that I can easily love and forgive evil persons who harm us. This is why Gandhi is indeed wise for saying that the brave forgives and the coward is incapable of exhibiting love. He knows that it is not easy to forgive and love. It takes real courage to love everyone.

I am just being human. I pray for a lot of strength.