IN his Lent message, released last Feb. 6 by the Vatican, Pope Francis talked of “false prophets” who make people’s “love of God grow cold.” And those prophets, Francis said, are snake charmers and charlatans.

The Catholic Church pontiff was not as biblically specific as President Duterte when last Friday (March 23) the Filipino leader told “lumad” (indigenous) leaders that communist rebels are like the serpent in garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve to commit the original sin.

Fraud or deceit

The season obviously influenced Pope Francis and Duterte in using figure of speech derived from Genesis. Both wanted to convey fraud by different people: to the pope, “those who manipulate human emotions and lead them where they would have them go”; to the president, the rebels who send their propagandists (“political officers”) to convince people that the president is “corrupt and autocratic” and for deliverance they must join their cause.

The two leaders suggested, if not explicitly, that those who deceive others are satanic or evil.

Use of language

Pope Francis used “snake charmer” in its second meaning, not the entertainer who controls a snake’s movement to delight an audience but the persuader who taps people’s frustration for selfish interest. Politicians vying for power exploit voters’ wrath and unsatisfied wants: they fit into that category. Who comes to mind is U.S. President Trump who exploits his political base, which disregards his demagoguery, half-truths and outright lies.

Duterte implied the fraud of communist rebels to recruit fighters and supporters, citing Adam and Eve and Eden. The analogy though might refer only to the use of alleged deceit, not to the first couple’s fall into sin.

‘Better off, worse off’

Here’s a thought that must nag many people: the deceived may be tricked to do the act desired by the deceiver but the effect is not all bad.

Adam and Eve and the men and women after them as well as the folk lured to become rebels were “both better off and worse off.”

Imagine if we were all living in paradise, not knowing what is good and evil, we would be woefully ignorant about, say, prosecutors plumbing the depths of the law to free suspected drug lords or wife killer.

The communist rebels wouldn’t have the capability to remind government that it has fallen short of removing the conditions that produce poverty and injustice.