[OPINION] A personal reflection: Reading Randy Ribay’s 'Patron Saints of Nothing'

This novel made me weep – a simultaneous feeling of anguish and release. In Patron Saints of Nothing, Randy Ribay has added – in his beautiful and creative way – his voice against the cruelty and inhumanity of Duterte’s war on drugs. He has rescued the story of the victims from the hands of their executioners and given it back to us with all its soul, longing, pain and humanity. 

Where facts on the so-called War on Drugs seem distant and lifeless and fall short to stir us, his novel brings them closer to us, too close that we can feel the tormenting pain and grief of having lost a loved one to this damn war. There is no dull passage and tedious chapter. It is a novel for all ages. 

I urge everyone to read this book. We must read this because it is written for us. We, too, must rescue ourselves from our stony indifference. 

This War on Drugs is an ongoing human rights and social calamity that we must speak against, for on the surface it is a societal problem, but underneath, it is a moral malaise. It is a burden of the soul. While thousands of Filipinos have been murdered with impunity, illegal drugs are still rampant and the real drug lords and protectors are gallivanting elsewhere. They are protected by their money and by people at the top – by Mr Duterte. Where is justice? What has been solved?

And another vital question: Is this really a war on drugs or a thinly veiled killing spree of the poor? We all know the answer.  

In the novel, Grace, whose older brother Jun was killed by the war on drugs, intones: “He [Jun] always said that the administration was not trying to solve the problem, but only trying to make it seem like they were solving the problem. They used the poor because the poor could not or did not know how to fight back. He told me that if the administration truly wanted to fix the drug problem, they knew what needed to be done.”

“He also said that none of these drugs could even make their way into our country to begin with if not for corrupt people in power – so they needed to be replaced, not reelected.” 

That is a pithy summation. Evocative. I have called this war myself a fake and a deadly scheme since day one. For I do not believe in any method outside the rule of law, of court, of justice in addressing social crimes. For I know that someone who rules with an iron fist is a tyrant. 

To be sure, drugs and criminality have links to politics. For what is cooked at the top is what is served on the ground. We must never again elect a leader who cooks poison – like Duterte, a self-avowed killer who kills people as if they are flies. His cruelty is painted on his face, which by the days are becoming more sepulchral.  

For personal reason, I sincerely thank Mr Ribay for citing me and my situation in the book and, in a way, making my story a part of the strand. Because here in my detention cell, it is easy to lapse in desolation that all words of encouragement and forms of support from anyone outside are truly heaven-sent. 

 Like Jay, the 17-year-old main character in the novel, who crosses oceans and sets off on his physical and spiritual journey to find out the truth and reach his moral epiphany, I hope we too will come through our own journey. – Rappler.com

Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce Duterte critic, has been detained in a facility at the Philippine National Police headquarters for nearly 3 years over what she calls trumped-up drug charges.