Easter represents for this predominantly Catholic nation a rebirth and renewal. The Passion and resurrection of Christ saves Christians from the death of sin.

The paradox of the empty tomb vivifies the eternal life promised by obedience of and fidelity to Christ’s teachings.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle writes: “Three things will last forever: faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

This line from the first of the Pauline epistles retains its timeless relevance for and challenge to a nation that must not turn its face away to ignore and avoid the unredressed search for social justice, particularly for the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and their families.

Bible scholars note that when St. Paul wrote the first letter to the church of Corinth, he had just established a Christian community in the year 51. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Corinth then was a seaport city rising as a commercial hub, a “melting pot full of devotees of various pagan cults.”

As the father of the small and young Christian community, Paul the Apostle addressed the paradox of faith facing “men and women who had accepted the good news of Christ and were now trying to realize in their lives the implications of their baptism,” notes the article on bible.usccb.org.

Much as the early Christians struggled with their new faith in Christ’s teachings and the residual but still dominant beliefs of apostasy, contemporary Christian Filipinos find themselves in a similar arena.

How can the culture of death and impunity thrive in the hearts and minds of people who consider themselves followers of Christ?

How can we utter belief in “faith, hope and love” and in the same breath, reject the human rights of others whom we deem as different, alien and threatening?

Last April 1, 2023, the Manila Bulletin reported that the Philippines’ record of “three convictions out of the 6,000 alleged cases of... EJKs...” called for “more accountability to bring justice to the victims of the drug wars.”

This was the stance taken by European Union (EU) Special Representative Eamon Gilmore, who was in the country to assess the country’s performance in the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which grants privileges, such as zero tariff on exports to the EU.

The Philippines’ GSP+ status expires by December 2023.

While the country has significant gains in 27 GSP conventions, particularly in environment, governance and social development, Gilmore assessed that the country’s institutions and leaders must address more decisively issues related to human rights.

Gilmore also called for the release of detained former senator Leila de Lima.

The Duterte administration’s war on drugs was viewed as “excellent” by 82 percent of Filipinos who welcomed the “arrest of drug suspects” and the “lessening of crime,” based on the June 2019 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

Yet, the Rappler reported that the SWS surveys conducted in December 2019 released findings that 76 percent of Filipinos saw “many violations” of human rights in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Respondents cited violations, such the authorities’ planting of evidence during raids; the killing of suspects falsely accused of resisting arrest and fighting the police (“nanlaban”); and the selling by “ninja cops” of drugs seized during police operations.

Like sin, hypocrisy continues to dog our Christian community as we justify a false sense of peace and order earned at the cost of the lives of those who deserved due processes of law.

To redeem ourselves as a nation centered on Christ, we must push for justice to overcome the culture of killings and impunity darkening our consciousness and memories.