FAST BACKWARD: ‘Voice of God’

Fresh from his official visit to Japan in October 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte, former Davao City mayor, revealed an incident that took place while flying home when he heard the ‘voice of God’ threatening to bring down the place if he did not stop swearing, or using his ‘colorful language.’

Adding drama to his disclosure, he said: “I was looking at the skies as I was coming over here. And I… everybody was asleep snoring. A voice said that you know ‘If you don’t stop (inaudible), I will bring this plane down now.’ And I said, who is this? Of course, it’s God. Oh, OK. So, I promised God not to express slang, cuss words.”

As if on cue, Davao-based televangelist and presidential friend Apollo Quiboloy, who claims to be the ‘Appointed Son of God,’ owned and seconded the claim, saying: “My voice can travel in quantum waves and particles to communicate orders from God. This is actually made easier for me because of my personal relationship with Mayor Digong. He is my homeboy.”

But the truth is that it was not God’s or Quiboloy’s; it was the pilot’s voice.

Philippine Air Lines pilot-in-command Capt. Jean-Luc Piccard admitted he was the voice the president heard, saying he did not introduced himself by including usual spiel ‘this is your captain speaking,’ adding he did not impersonate God.

He said: “Yes, it was me. I thought that it was a long shot and I never imagined it to work. Everybody was asleep and snoring when I decided to try something drastic,” narrated the pilot. “I started talking on the microphone and told him that he needs to stop… It was only the president who assumed that he was talking to God.”

The Catholic Church, for her part, said it was the President’s conscience that bothered him because only the saintly could have direct access to the God Almighty.

Be that as it may, this incident reminds us of two historical accounts where divine intervention, in relation to the Philippines, was pointed out. After the American takeover from Spain, which propagated Catholicism in the country, the Protestant missionaries arrive on Philippine soil to introduce their own brand of Christianity.

Arthur Judson Brown, in The New Era in the Philippines (1904), citing a passage from a denominational publication, The Interior, said:

“The possession of the Philippines has signaled the hour for a new realignment of the Christian forces of the country. The character of its churches and other Christian organizations is being tested as never before. It is a wise church which knows the time. Any Christian life in high or in humble place will not be endowed with telling power, ‘age on ages telling,’ which shall be quick to fall into line with the Divine timeliness as to the next things to be done.”

Meanwhile, US President Theodore Roosevelt, in an August 9, 1906 letter to author Frederick Scott Oliver, wrote:

“Nobody knows better than I that a democracy may go very indeed, and I loathe the kind of demagoguery which finds expression in such statements as ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’; but in my own experience it has certainly been true, and if I read history aright it was true both before and at the time of the Civil War, that the highly cultivated classes, who tend to become either cynically worldly-wise or to develop along the lines of the Eighteenth Century philosophers and the moneyed classes, especially those of large fortune, whose ideal tends to the mere money, are not fitted for any predominant guidance in a really great nation.”

In Latin, ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’ is translated into the much abused, much cited ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei’ maxim the lawyers want to cite in their discussions.

The phrase actually was the title of a radical 1709 Whig tract—the same leaflet that led to the hanging of painter Johnny Matthews—which evolved into ‘The Judgment of the Whole Kingdoms and Nations,’ written by an anonymous author. In its 1710 version, the pamphlet, quoted in Wikipedia, read:

“There being no natural or divine Law for any Form of Government, or that one Person rather than another should have the sovereign Administration of Affairs, or have Power over many thousand different Families, who are by Nature all equal, being of the same Rank, promiscuously born to the same Advantages of Nature, and to the Use of the same common Faculties; therefore Mankind is at Liberty to chuse [choose] what Form of Government they like best.”

But the earliest use of ‘vox populi, vox Dei’, as cited in Philip Hamburger’s Law and Judicial Duty (2009), can be traced to the 1327 sermon of the archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds who brought charge against King Edward II, which goes:

“At the meeting of this high court early in 1327, Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against the king, … homage to the prince, and Archbishop Reynolds — the son of a baker — preached on the text Vox populi, vox Dei.”

In retrospect, in 2012, when asked by co-host lawyer-journalist Geraldine Tiu in ‘Para sa Masa, Alang sa Masa’ television program over ABS-CBN in Davao City, former mayor Duterte, in reaction to a local survey favoring the return of the dreaded Davao Death Squad (DDS), told listeners, as paraphrased, that ‘if the voice of the people is the voice of God, then the vote of the Dabawenyos for the return of the DDS is the will of God.’

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