Wednesday, February 27

Are Some of Our Bishops Complicating the Simple?



I still have vivid memories of my childhood introduction towards recognizing what is MORALLY right or wrong from the Catholic Christian point of view. These memories are mostly associated with “Mother” Gratia my Kindergarten class teacher at St. Scholastica’s College, there at the end of the former Pennsylvania Street in the old Singalong area near Taft Avenue.

What “Mother Gratia inculcated in me some 68 years ago was pretty simple, thus easy to remember up to now. As children of God, His ten basic commandments spelled out what we were supposed to do and not to do. Period!

Among the most basic and easiest to understand and to remember as to its universality and absoluteness, was that of always telling the Truth and NEVER to tell a LIE! And NOT TO STEAL nor KILL…

There was no excuse at all for disobeying such basic commandments.

Since then I have not heard nor read from nor found in any of the thousands of Catholic books and teachings and homilies on Catholic moral theology, any teaching or principle contrary to “Mother” Gratia’s simple and basic kindergarten moral theology.

Regardless of the consequences therefore, no one is allowed to lie, to cheat, to steal or to kill, except for valid self defense or as a soldier during a legitimate war.

If so, no one who violates these strictures whether under the laws of the land or of God’s commandments, is immune to secular penalties and/or moral condemnation, especially when the violations are serious, repeated, even habitual and have already inflicted great injustice on numerous innocent victims, and the “penalty” is a mere APPEAL for resignation from high office.

Regardless of the consequences therefore especially if merely imagined or speculative ones, the application of such penalties is rigid and universal. And so the Catholic Magisterium and Papal teachings have consistently rejected circumstancial and/or consequential excuses or exemptions from these Divine commandments. The Catholic Catechism is in fact very precise.

No. 1756 There are acts which in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions are always gravely illicit by reason of their object, such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it. (emphasis added)

THEREFORE: even our Bishops, here or anywhere else, may not refuse to condemn or seem to tolerate such evil practices especially if repeatedly perpetrated by the most powerful and known officials and families of this nation, just because it may (SPECULATIVELY!) lead to the emergence of a Filipino Pol Pot, or another evil-doing leader, or civil war or what have you!

The facts have been clear as far back as four years ago when our Bishops issued their first Pastoral Letter warning GMA et al soon after the Hello Garci! revelations. The facts are even much clearer now to all of them as to the “corruption from top to bottom” of our political ladder, as mentioned in their latest announcement.

Article 2269 of the Catholic Cathechism moreover has this to say about those responsible even if only INDIRECTLY, for the following : “Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethen in the human family, indirectly commit HOMICIDE, which is imputatable to them” (emphasis added)

A hundred million U.S. Dollars stolen from our national treasury would certainly lead to the death and hunger of thousands of our Filipino brethren.

Tuesday, February 26

Mene! Tekel! Parsin!



Just like loyal the courtiers as well as critics and enemies of their inordinately proud and corrupt Chaldean King Belshazzar who inherited the throne from his father Nebuchadnezzar, GMA’s own loyal retinue of courtiers and persistently contentious critics are now trying to interpret similar on-going mystical writings-on-the-walls.

These dire latter day warnings are not just on the walls of Malacañang so to speak, but are now in fact spreading throughout Metro Manila, the provinces and even in big cities abroad where our OFWs abound.

The warnings are in fact everywhere -- not just in the conference halls of the Senate, or in the offices of the Department of In-Justice or of the Ombudslady-in-waiting, but also in the streets, the market places, among the very young in our schools and universities, in Rome, New York, Hongkong, the Middle East, London, and in Cyberspace especially.

The prophet Daniel’s interpretation as spelled out in Scriptures for those direst of dire warnings which soon came true against King Belshazzar must be well-known somehow, at least in its general sense, to most of those who will read this piece. And so I believe that practically every prominent political foe of GMA as well as some of her sympathizers, have the same general interpretation vis-à-vis our present national signs of the times. And that would be consisting mostly of an impending political disaster for GMA, for her family and her allies.

I dare say that such an exclusively political and anti-GMA interpretation is at best half-baked! And so despite my being a consistent critic of GMA for the last ten (10) years, I must state what I truly believe in -- that these present-day dire warnings are not just political nor for GMA exclusively. These are in fact all addressed to and meant explicitly for EVERYBODY including all of her enemies and critics as well, including yours truly; And its sunstance is for more encompassing in their ramifications.

For if we look back at the sad distant as well as recent history of the remains of Belshazzar’s Babylon of some 2,700 years ago and subsequent to Daniel’s prophetic warnings and viewed, particularly in the light of the Iraqis’ 20th and 21st century history, Daniel’s prophetic interpretations must have been meant for and addressed to all of Iraq’s men, women and children, particularly with respect to the present inhabitants of Iraq now hopelessly divided by hate and ravaged by war.

It was the same for the French people for many years, starting from the gathering storms of civil unrest just before the Napoleonic wars and the French revolution. So too with the Americans of the mid-19th century; and the Germans and Italians prior to World War I and World War II. All of them had their own evil and shameless Rogues Gallery of political, business and religious leaders as well.

The central fact I wish to bring out therefore, is that it was not just those big bad tyrants and evil-prone leaders like Saddam Hussein, Hitler and Mussolini who suffered ignominious fates. Abraham Lincoln, who may have been a saint, (relatively at least, in comparison with his successors!) was for a while also widely maligned and eventually assassinated.

But more significantly however, in all the above historical cases, the people suffered much longer and far more acutely than their deposed leaders.

For that is exactly what I am truly afraid of for us Filipinos today! Unless we listen more humbly and more discerningly to the dire warning signs of the times and handwritings on our walls, the aftermath of EDSA One and EDSA Two, could be a mere walk-in-the-park compared to what is in store for the Philippines these coming years.

And so in the spirit of real humility, personal contrition and honest facing of the painful truth about ourselves above all, I believe that we the supposedly elite and better educated but certainly more materially well-off and socially better positioned, must accept the major portion of the blame as to why the Marcoses, the Erap Estradas and the Macapagal-Arroyos have not been prevented from pillaging and despoiling our nation’s material and moral heritage. Truth to tell, many of us even among GMA’s present-day critics, have knowingly conspired and have unduly benefited from such pillaging and despoiling of our nation. If once again today, we feign innocence and reject such a call coming from many of our Church leaders, for humbling contrition and moral restitution, I am afraid that the Marian prophecies and similar apocalyptic warnings from Direction For Our Times, both of which are consistent with those in Matthew 24 and Zechariah 13 particularly for these our present times, might also soon come true just like Daniel’s judgment and prophecy were imposed on the Babylonian empire’s people up to this day.

For could it be that our own short remaining days are already numbered (Mene!)?Or that we have been weighed as a people and found wanting (Tekel!); and the impending dismemberment of our nation and division by political dissension and civil war is at hand (Parsin!).

Sunday, February 17

Someone is Truly-in-Charge


I received a flurry of e-mailed comments on my last blog article a week ago entitled “In Bad Faith and in BAD, BAD company!”

The comments and suggestions ranged from that of a layman apostle of Jesus Christ the Returning King, who prefers to leave the matter of our national travails to God’s Divine Providence who “at the appointed time… will tell us exactly what to do”, and another religious inclined young lady who said that “change may be improbable or impossible but with the Lord’s grace, it may take time but it will definitely happen.

At the other end of the opinion spectrum was a 4-page account (apparently from the Romulo Neri which was obtained through his Black-and-White Movement convenor-friend) with its detailed rationalizations as to why and how useless or in vain Neri’s sacrifice as a whistle-blower/witness against PGMA, would merely become, despite full public disclosure by Neri of the incriminating Malacañang secrets behind the NBN-ZTE scandal.

After reading these and other comments, I was left with the same nagging yet ambivalent impression I have lately been absorbing by reading our newspapers or listening to the most recent Senate hearings on the botched NBN-ZTE contract and related developments.

My impression is that we are a people still sorely confused and deeply divided, but with quite a number of highly encouraging signs of hope for our national redemption. Yet it seems every new major scandal or controversy such as this latest one over the botched witness abduction masquerading as “witness protection” and subsequent “true confessions” of Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, further widens the confusion and deepens the level of dissension among mutually hostile sectors of our society, and sparks fresh animosities even among hitherto allied groups and institutions.

I have thought long and hard as to why our people seem to be speaking in a thousand different tongues unintelligible except to a few, thereby creating even more confusion and hostility among those who do not understand much less agree with one another’s disparate opinions.

To theorize and ascribe our national disunity to a particular Pinoy cultural flaw or to a prevailing absence of sound and consistent episcopal moral/ spiritual leadership, would merely contribute to more hostilities among ourselves perhaps even among hitherto natural and fraternal allies.

And so after several days of my not knowing what to entitle nor how to proceed with this piece after its opening paragraphs were composed, I am now led to rely on the truly consoling (ever since my jailbird years!) and surely solid theological notion vis-a-vis our on-going national moral purgation and looming catharsis. Thus this piece is addressed mainly to my fellow Christian believers who sincerely accept and regularly recite the most profound basic truths of our common Faith as expressed in that universal Christian prayer addressed to “Our Father.”

And so I now proceed on the premise and belief that God our Father, sovereign Lord of all of mankind’s history from the beginning of Time itself and even beyond, is still definitely yet lovingly in charge and in sovereign control of the Filipino nation, as with all other nations.

Whether we know it or not, or can explain it logically or not, as sovereign Lord and creator of the whole world and cosmos, “Our Father” is knowingly in charge and in control over the fate of each and everyone of us. And that includes particularly at this time, PGMA, FGMA, Ben Abalos, Romulo Neri, Jun Lozada, Joker Arroyo, Lito Atienza or anybody else including my own self of course, but without violating anyone’s Free Will! Otherwise, we would all be non-independent automatons shorn of any moral responsibilities, whether of guilt and much less of merit.

That being the case, I can NOT nor can anybody else, change nor improve by one whit, the absolute correctness of the timing, nor degree of punishment, or vindication, or fullness of justice or depth of mercy that Our Father will surely and eventually impose on me and/or on PGMA, FGMA, Ben Abalos, Romulo Neri, Jun Lozada and everybody else. And such Divine judgment will be in perfect accordance with God’s perfect justice and infinite mercy as applied to each and everyone of us at any given time.

Having said that, I also firmly believe that free-willed as we all are but endowed with a God-given conscience, and through prayers and good will, with unimpeded access to His superabundant supernatural Grace, we all therefore ought to know, AT LEAST the basics of what are obviously MORALLY right or wrong vis-à-vis lying, stealing and killing etc., especially if we claim to know and believe in God’s ten basic commandments. And more so if the early years of our education and conscience formation were spent in the most reputable Catholic schools.

Thus for example, common sense and a modicum of a clear conscience should lead most every reasonable Christian to arrive at a reasoned judgment that:

  1. Joc-Joc Bolante and his associates and superiors in government who have been accused of facilitating the squandering of huge sums of our people’s money, and who have refused to face the bar of justice so as to explain or exonerate themselves, have done a serious injustice to our people. Thus our people’s protests against such continuing mockeries of our justice system should not be blithely dismissed as supposedly “mere political NOISE”.

  1. Either Benjamin Abalos or if not, Romulo Neri is guilty of blatant perjury and other high crimes, considering that under oath Neri has publicly accused Abalos of masterminding a P200 Million bribe offer to facilitate the NBN-ZTE transaction, and Abalos on the other hand has denied it categorically thereby and thereafter accusing Neri of gross perjury. For our national leaders to dismiss such serious accusations and counter-accusations among top level government officials, as well as denigrating its continuing Senate investigation as mere “political grandstanding”, is certainly another mockery of their moral and legal accountability as public servants, to us the sovereign people of this nation.

  1. The harassment of vital witnesses and dire threats to their very lives, thus preventing the full disclosure and investigation of alleged high crimes, and the summary dismissal of such allegations of high crimes on the part of top government officials, particularly in the case of the abduction of witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, are obvious and gross violations of our laws, as well as God’s 5th and 8th commandments as well. That these gross violations have become so blatantly and brazenly done, and yet have been ignored or even justified by reasonable but supposedly apolitical Christian citizens many of whom are friends of ours, are clear contradictions of their own Christian vocation.

Therefore we who claim to be adult Christian citizens of this nation have the clear moral as well as civic duty to “observe, judge and act” according to good reason, upright conscience and established legal and religious norms, with respect to the MORALITY or IMMORALITY as the case may be of our public officials’ conduct as servants of the people subject to our laws and in the light of God’s Ten Commandments. This duty to observe, judge and act may not be evaded or postponed especially if the alleged violations of the law seriously affect the whole nation, regardless of whether or not the accusers or the accused are our friends, loved ones, or enemies – politically or otherwise!.

And as a Catholic Christian, I also believe that such a process of observing, judging and acting especially on serious moral issues and matters affecting our nation, will be much more effective with respect to the true and correct Common Good -- which is/Who is, Jesus Christ Himself, the Way, the Truth and Life itself, if done prayerfully, humbly and contritely, and while conscious of our own past and present shortcomings.

And lastly I also believe that habitual resort to personal private prayerfulness which we all owe to our Creator, does not however mean that we will have an exclusive, private and unerring instruction from God Himself as to what to do. Although such private revelations may in fact have been granted and will still be granted to a few privileged souls, most of the time however, God’s Will for us on what to do even vis-à-vis basic national moral issues, will be discovered mostly STILL through common sense, and the simple yet logical application of our fundamental laws and God’s Ten Commandments.

As to Romulo Neri’s rationalizations on the supposed impracticability and uselessness of a morally correct course of action just because of the anticipated morally evil counter-actions by the enemy, these are nothing but a confused soul’s last efforts to wiggle out of a morally correct but painful decision. Moreover, such temptations are as usual, at the instance of S.A.Tan, the Evil Father of all lies and false rationalizations.

The latest up-to-the-minute developments shown on TV, on the NBN-ZTE/Lozada/Neri imbroglio, whether at the La Salle campus or at the Senate and elsewhere, are proof enough to me that Divine Providence is still and truly in charge, despite all the intricate obfuscations high crimes and detestable lies of mice and men.


Tuesday, February 12

In Bad Faith and in BAD, BAD Company…



Yesterday, the 11th of February and 71st birthday of our youngest sibling Sister Joseph Mary of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, was a thoroughly bad day for both Sister Joseph and myself.

For more than ten hours we had to endure almost the same moral and spiritual sufferings of NBN-ZTE scandal witness Jun Lozada. In fact I may have suffered nearly as acutely as Mr. Lozada, considering that two of my very few surviving friends and comrades during our crusade against the Marcos Martial Law tyranny, were inexplicably but obviously ringleaders in a conspiracy to discredit Mr. Lozada.

I am intimately familiar with the Lozadas’ hometown of Ligao City in Albay province. Many of its “native” families have been wellknown to me and my sister because we have deep parental and social roots in the adjacent town of Guinobatan, a mere ten kilometers from Ligao. And during our adolescent years, native Bicolanos whether from Camarines Sur, Albay or Sorsogon, knew practically everybody who was somebody.

And so whether in the one-horse and “anti-Intsik Baao hometown of Joker Arroyo and the Bernas brothers, or in the 2-horse poblaciones of Ligao and Guinobatan, we knew more or less at what particular social, intellectual and moral levels prominent Bicolanos were situated. Incidentally up to this day, there is no “Intsik” business establishment that has ever thrived or even survived for long in Baao! If Francis Garchitorena were alive, he and Joaquin Bernas’ younger sibling Justino, would be spending endless hours tracing the whys and wherefores behind Joker Arroyo’s running wild against Ligao’s surprisingly intellectual and courageous whistleblower.

But my instant intellectual and moral admiration for Jun Lozada was not because of, but perhaps even inspite of his Ligao Chinese ancestry.

For Heaven knows that up and coming intellectual muchless moral giants of AT LEAST POSSIBLY of the same mold as Jaime Cardinal Sin, Lorenzo Tañada Sr., and Ninoy Aquino, are now widely presumed to have vanished from our shores particularly in Bicolandia, given the nauseating moral and intellectual STENCH exhuded by a number of its most egregiously TRAPO local politicians.

And so I am sure that yesterday, wherever they were, these three aforementioned dear departed friends and crusading associates of mine, together with Soc Rodrigo and Bicolanos Ramon Diaz, Raul Roco, Francis Garchitorena and my own late Jesuit sibling, Fr. Toti Olaguer, must have all been cheering and praying for the vindication of Jun Lozada, and for the immediate moral conversion of Joker Arroyo and Lito Atienza.

For surely, on the basis of my departed friends’ ultimately authoritative moral dictionary, these latter two erstwhile moral lumimaries, have unfortunately been mired deep in muck far, far worse than bad faith. And thus Joker and Lito are now IN BED with and entrapped in BAD, BAD company….

Friday, February 8




How much more stupid and brazen can GMA’s stooges and lackeys be?

Worse, these imbeciles/hoodlums seem to presume that the IQ level of the citizenry, ourselves and our Catholic bishops too, are even lower than their own. So much lower, that they think they can fool us by simply lying to our faces, no matter how outlandishly tall their tales.

I do not know whether I had more feelings of pity or more of horror listening to DENR Secretary Lito Atienza during the Malacañang press conference yesterday (February 7, 2008). I never imagined he could sink to the same depths of mendacious incredibility as that so-called police general. For they both seemed to presume that the Filipino people are naive enough to believe that their government “blackguards” were doing Jun Lozada a favor by NOT identifying themselves and NOT bringing him safely straight home to his family. And instead they kept him incommunicado and fearful for his life for more than 12 hours up to early morning of Wednesday.

Secretary Atienza, mouthpiece Bunye and policeman Razon, all sang the same crazy tune – these “blackguards” were supposedly doing their duty of providing security for Mr. Lozada, but against his will!

Thus I now have found reason to echo though belatedly the same deep sense of disappointment, which the authors of the two following articles, (re-produced hereunder), express vis-à-vis our Catholic Bishops’ most recent joint Pastoral Statement. Their protest is against the latter’s kidgloves handling of this benighted GMA administration’s repeated and gross transgressions of God’s commandments, particularly the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th.

Yes indeed as our Bishops have called for, we should “Reform Ourselves/Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel!”. But better yet I believe, is for many, many more of these highranking church leaders to lead us by clear example, especially in terms of prayer, penance, humility and moral courage as prophetic witnesses for the truth and against rank injustice! For without these pre-requisites for demonstrated sincerity, our bishops’ proforma appeal for nationwide discernment of the common good, will be morally and spiritually impossible. In fact, if it remains merely proforma, it could even be hypocrisy and a mockery of the Holy Spirit.

Rumors or facts?

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted 01:17:00 02/05/2008

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a statement issued at the close of its plenary session last week said that the basic fault in the country’s political culture is the subordination of the common good to the private good. But the CBCP places most of the blame for the failure to promote the common good on the people. It did not even so much as slap the wrist of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration for its failure to lead in the effort to promote the common good.

The CBCP did not call the administration to account for the many “sins” that have been imputed to it. On the contrary, it called the many problems of the country “simply rumors, fears, suspicions, imagined wrongs.” “Because these are reported in the newspapers, we begin to believe that they are true.”

Corruption in government is part of the “rumors, fears, suspicions”? Have the bishops not heard or read about the $329-million National Broadband Network deal with ZTE Corp. of China in which hundreds of millions of pesos were given or offered as bribes to certain key officials? Have they not read or heard about the diversion of the P728-million fertilizer fund and the anomalous P1.3-billion poll computerization deal?

The CBCP at least lamented the “inexplicable lack of action” on the extrajudicial killings (881 by the count of the rights group Karapatan; 300 by the Inquirer’s) “despite strong suspicions about their perpetrators in the military establishment.” But will it use its moral influence to pressure the administration to put a stop to these killings and arrest, prosecute and jail the people responsible for them?

The CBCP made no mention in its statement of the deteriorating crime situation. Neither did it mention the problem of poverty which is resulting in the death of thousands of children and is plunging hundreds of thousands of people into the depths of misery, hopelessness and despair. Or perhaps it considered these just “rumors, fears, suspicions” spread by the media?

It is true, as the CBCP has said, that the key to the problems of the nation has its roots in the “subordination of the common good to the private good.” But who should take the lead in promoting the common good? True, change must start with individuals. But the government should set the example in subordinating private interest to the common good. And the Catholic Church, like a good, solicitous parent, has to guide the government toward the right path, toward the path of morality and ethical conduct.

The bishops, between center and periphery

By John Nery
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Catholic bishops’ latest pastoral statement held no surprises; indeed, it said things that needed to be said. And yet this loyal son of the Catholic Church, who eagerly awaited the statement’s release, must confess to a deep sense of disappointment.

I feel let down, not because of what the statement did not say (it did not, for example, call the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to account for any specific allegation but that was to be expected); I was disappointed because of how it said the things it did say.

I winced, for example, when the bishops attempted a blithe contrast between the country’s problems as perceived in Manila and the problems as perceived everywhere else. They listed five issues -- corruption now allegedly at its worst, the possible return of military rule, renewed attempts to change the Constitution, “extra-judicial” killings, the imminent implementation of a national ID system -- and then pronounced them Manila-centric. “The above are more or less the problems of the nation as seen from the center that is Manila.”

They then made another list, including the “depreciation” in the value of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) income remittances, continuing problems in land reform, “unabated fighting -- or the threat of it” in certain areas, frustrated election reform, the promotion of mining and the abuse of natural resources and, not least, the continued flourishing of political dynasties, and concluded: “What emerge from the periphery -- the provinces -- are concerns quite different from the above.”

I’m afraid the bishops have been less than intellectually honest. The problems they place in the box labeled Manila are in fact nationwide in scope. Let me cite just one instance; most of the politically motivated killings took place outside Metro Manila. In other words, the blood of hundreds of victims watered the countryside, not the capital. Indeed, as the Alston final report indicated, the large cities of Davao and Cebu have also been stained by the blood of victims, killed extra-judicially. These two cities, under Rodrigo Duterte and Tomas Osmeña, are the center of major archdioceses too, under the pastoral care of two of the country’s most influential prelates. The last time I looked, neither city was part of Manila.

The problems the bishops privilege as emerging exclusively from the provinces can be found in Metro Manila’s all-too-convenient box too. Let me cite just two instances. The deep longing for election reform is not unknown in the national capital. (Unsatisfied for so long, it almost approximates our spiritual thirst; it too is like a deer that yearns for running streams.) And the unfortunate effect of a strong peso on a remittance-fueled economy is felt as keenly in Metro Manila as it is in the provinces. Why, are there no OFW families in the capital?

Perhaps I am wrong; perhaps mental dishonesty is imprecise. Perhaps what our bishops were trying to do was indulge a quasi-Kantian rage for symmetry. First this, then that. There is the center, and there is the periphery. In doing so, however, in making a false distinction between the signs of the times in Metro Manila and in the rest of the country, the bishops of my own Church, I fear, have slighted truth itself.

I am also somewhat bothered by the difference in language used. The appeal for closure to long-running controversies (the content of many news stories) is couched diffidently, in the language of qualification. “Today we often hear that ‘closure’ has to be made to various issues ranging from the elections of 2004 to present charges of corruption in high places.” When we parse this passage, we see that the bishops are not directly saying closure is needed; they have merely acknowledged that the call for closure is often heard.

Contrast this with the stirring language of assertion in the latter passages, with, say, their (profound) analysis of the root cause of our many ills. “We zero in on what we say is the basic fault in our communities’ political and social life: the subordinating of the common good to private good. We see how this flaw in our national character evinces itself in our community life. We need to seek ways and means of correcting it in whatever way we can ... We have to form ourselves into real communities of faith-discernment and -action.”

Perhaps qualification was needed to arrive at a consensus among shepherds. (Another example: “For we live today as a people almost without hope, it would seem.”) But it is the language of assertion that guides the sheep.

CBCP Statement : “Reform Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel!” (Mark 1:15)

printable page

Beloved People of God:

Our Holy Father in his most recent letter to us reminds us of the gift of faith and hope: that when we believe, we hope; and that when we hope, we live differently (see Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, November 30, 2007, no. 2). These convictions on faith and hope set the tone of our own letter to you in the present pastoral situation.

The Darkness of Our Situation—the Common Good Subordinated

For we live today as a people almost without hope, it would seem. We look at our landscape and see darkness everywhere. Many of us are more than aware that many problems are simply rumors, fears, suspicions, imagined wrongs. Because these are reported in the newspapers, we begin to believe that they are true.

In such a pastoral situation we are being asked again for guidance on various specific problems currently bothering us. The following have been brought to our attention:

(a) the perception that corruption in government is at its worst, fraudulent projects going on unchecked despite the bad publicity given them in the media, investigations into the truth of allegations of bribery often stymied or their results unreported;

(b) the suspicion that martial law will be imposed as a response to the likelihood that destabilizing coups against the government are still being planned by disgruntled elements of the military allegedly with some civilian support;

(c) the constant talk about plans and moves for Charter change being made by politicians which to all intents and purposes appear to be nothing but a ploy for the sole purpose of their staying on in power—not the kind and method of making the right kind of change in the nation’s basic law;

(d) the “extra-judicial” killing of suspected leftists and their sympathizers, as well as media men, and the inexplicable lack of action on them despite strong suspicions about their perpetrators in the military establishment;

(e) the imminence of a law establishing a national ID system and the fear of some that this is being pushed simply for easier control of socially active elements of the general population.

The above are more or less the problems of the nation as seen from the center that is Manila. They are by no means universal as far as the entirety of our people is concerned. What emerge from the periphery—the provinces—are concerns quite different from the above. The following were brought to our attention by many of our people:

(a) the appreciation of the peso against the dollar resulting in the depreciation of OFWs’ remittances, contributing not a little to the continuance and exacerbation of the endemic poverty of the countryside;

(b) the lack of support for the improvement of the general welfare of rural folk, the slow progress especially of the land-reform program which is due to end this year unsatisfactorily funded and implemented;

(c) the bad peace and order situation obtaining in areas where the unabated fighting—or the threat of it—between the military and the NPA and the MILF/MNLF continues to cause unrest;

(d) the long-awaited and fought over reform of COMELEC which up to now has not been enacted;

(e) the pushing of mining concerns against the best interests of our people, especially of indigenous groups in disregard of the provisions in their behalf that the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act guarantees;

(f) the continuing abuse of our natural resources, of forest and marine life in particular, and the corruption in agencies that are meant to protect these resources; and

(g) the growth and proliferation of family political dynasties in many provinces and cities which only serve to institutionalize more intensely the concentration of power and unsavory economic opportunity in the hands of the few.

In the two sets of problems that have been listed above, for all their apparent differences, we see nothing new. They are the same old problems, or variations of them, which have been plaguing our nation for years on end, through successive political administrations. Nothing or very little seems to have been done about them.

In them all we see the all too patent subordination of the common good to private good.

This is the basic fault in our country’s political culture that the Church in its preaching of Christ’s Gospel of social justice and charity has been bringing to our attention all these years and asking us and our communities to respond to as effectively as we can. It is the reason we make concern for the common good a crucial criterion for the choice of public officials. The persistence of that deep-seated fault pushes us to conclude in sorrow that we as a people are still devoid of a real social conscience.

Today we often hear that “closure” has to be made to various issues ranging from the elections of 2004 to present charges of corruption in high places. That the political order is accused too often with moral bankruptcy with nary an exception is a sad sign of the general cynicism and frustration of our people. Most unfortunately there does not seem to be any way of achieving closure. For the process and results of standard democratic inquiries, sometimes including those by the Supreme Court, are received with skepticism and cynicism, given political interests, alliances, and allegiances.

And we hear the general cry from the periphery: “Enough of the paralyzing divisions in the body politic. Bring issues to the courts and trust them to do their jobs. And help us get on with our lives, with our concern for livelihood.”

In the Darkness, Light

In such a pastoral situation of frustration, cynicism and apparent hopelessness, we need to be aware of the deep resources of our faith in the Lord for whom all things are possible. We take our faith for granted in daily life. Often we act and behave contrary to faith. We resort to faith as a last resort and not as a daily catalyst.

Yet it is only from the perspective of faith and hope that we are able to see light in the darkness, liberation from darkness.

So if what we have brought to your attention seems to be only the dark side of our national situation, we should be able in the same faith and hope to see glimmers of light shining through—glimmers that must be of our own creation. But not entirely: for despite the prevailing darkness, we see everything is not thoroughly evil. There is good everywhere, even in those we often criticize, and it is our task to critically collaborate with them even as we critically oppose the not too good. This is integral to the challenge being put to us.

Journey to the Light—Start with Ourselves

If you agree with what we said above that the lack of a social conscience is, indeed, our common sin, is there anything we can do about it?

To journey to the light, we need first to realize that we have contributed not a little to the common malaise—because of decisions we have made, decisions that flowed from what we have become and because of our unconcern, inaction, apathy, often thinking only of our interests. And so with little sense of the future of our country, we vote for people we should not vote for.

Therefore, in the much needed regeneration of our politics and social life, this is where we have to start: with ourselves, as individuals, families, communities.

We have always put the blame on people we have chosen to govern us. Today we have become more aware that despite efforts, successful or not, to remove the incompetent or corrupt, our problems have remained. We have looked at the enemy as only outside of us.

But now we ask: In the face of the many persistent and unresolved crises of today can we together make a determined start, by making a conscious effort at changing our mind-sets towards a greater and more efficacious concern for the good of the nation?

Personal and Communal Conversion towards a Social Conscience

We are asking you, our beloved people, to be with us in the moral-spiritual reform of our nation by beginning with ourselves. This is what we need—conversion, real conversion, to put it in terms of our faith, for all of us to deliberately, consciously develop that social conscience that we say we sorely lack and to begin subordinating our private interests to the common good. This conversion is for all of us: laity, religious, priests, bishops.

But we have to go about it not only as individuals but just as importantly as whole communities. We have to face a common problem and map out deliberately and communally how to go about the work of self-reform. It is nothing less than what St. Paul speaks about: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and pleasing to him and is perfect” (Rom. 12: 2).

Renewal of Faith-Communities, Civil Society, Political Leaders

We have to come together then as communities of faith, as we your Bishops said back in 1986 after the Snap Elections of that year, to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together,” form groups of thinking and praying people—in our schools, seminaries, parishes, mandated organizations, lay movements, social action groups, most especially in basic ecclesial communities which the Rural Congress we will be holding this year looks to as a crucial instrument in the forbidding task of rural development.

We zero in on what we say is the basic fault in our communities’ political and social life: the subordinating of the common good to private good. We see how this flaw in our national character evinces itself in our community life. We need to seek ways and mean of correcting it in whatever way we can—but always according to the principles of active-non violence—together, creatively and imaginatively, as we bishops exhorted in 1986. We have to form ourselves into real communities of faith-discernment and -action.

We ask this of explicitly Church groups. But we will ask it too of all citizens who have a concern for the nation’s good, especially those who hold the reins of power, from Malacañang on to Congress, provincial and municipal governments, all the way down to barangay councils. People in government—and as well as all other civic and business groupings—can they too reflect together in all manner of associations and look into themselves to see if, in all their actuations, the demands of the common good are in fact captive to merely personal and selfish interests? And if they are, can they rise up to the challenge and decide themselves to contribute to the general effort?

This must sound like a preposterous request, but we make it anyway for we believe that what it seeks is the critical need of the moment. Already it is being responded to here and there by various concerned groups such as those that have been organized and trained to fight corruption. So we seek a wider response from all our faithful towards a more vigorous work for good governance and a more active promotion of responsible citizenship in our society in the light of the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church.

If in your minds, corruption—the worst offender against our common good—is rampant today, sparing no level of social and political life, and most glaringly and reportedly so in the various corridors of power, we have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people. But if it goes on unhindered, it is because, as we have had occasion to point out in the past, we all too often condone it as part of the perquisites of power and public office.

Lent—the Time to Journey Together toward Transformation

Lent will soon be upon us, a time of penance, of sorrow for sin, of self-reform. Soon we shall hear again the clarion call of the Lord Jesus: “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!” (Mk 1: 15). This season is the appropriate beginning for profound reform and conversion. It is the time for a spiritual combat against the enemy within, our pride and greed, our lust for power and wealth, etc.

And so we exhort you, our beloved people: As a special project for this year’s Lenten observance and in the spirit of penance, let us come together in little groups of reflection and discernment. In these groups we look seriously at our part in the many evils of our day—as individuals, as families, as communities—and discern what action we can do together.

Alay Kapwa is our traditional Lenten Program of sharing time, treasure and talent for evangelization. This Lent, without forgetting the treasure part, we zero in, in a very special way, on time and talent, asking what we can offer of these for the common effort towards the correction of our social ills. These would be evangelization of the most authentic kind. For it means a real acceptance of the Lord’s mandate to us as Christians to be concerned about one another, to go beyond ourselves and reach out to others. This attitude in the pattern of Christ himself is at the heart of Christian identity.

Hence other already existing movements and efforts (like the Pondo ng Pinoy) aimed at the transformation of Filipino culture through little acts of kindness for the neighbor and motivated only by the love of God—these too must be intensified as essential to our Lenten program of reform.

In our coming together, in our exchanging of ideas and discerning on them, in our praying and acting together, we bring hope to our despairing land—the hope that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, says in his most recent encyclical is the great need of our modern world.

With Mary, Mother of Hope, on the Journey of Renewal

We beg Mary to intercede for us with her Son Jesus. In the midst of the disciples who hoped for the renewal of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, she stood as their Mother, our Mother, of hope. Mary, Star of the Sea, guide us on our journey of renewal that we may more faithfully follow your Son Jesus in his loving care of all our brothers and sisters.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
January 27, 2008