A Talk Delivered to Simbahang Linkod
Loyola House of Studies
Ateneo de Manila University
February 4, 2006
What I would like to share with you is the story of the two CBCP Pastoral Statements: the July 10, 2005 Statement and the January 29, 2006 Statement. Inspite of their differences, both were expressions of the bishops’ communion and collegiality. In both, the bishops spoke their minds. Like the Twelve Apostles, they shared their diversities, distinctions and differences, they argued their points passionately like Peter and Paul; but in the midst of all this, at the end of the day they would go back to the roots of their identity as bishops who are successors of the apostles. A community of brothers and servant-leaders whose passion for the Lord is greater than all the forces of division. A community of shepherds who choose to remain steadfast to the truth of their vocation and mission. Bishops who in every celebration and gathering in the Conference manifest agape and koinonia even in difficult circumstances.
The July 10, 2005 Statement “Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippines Politics” was a product of a two-day reflection-discussion of the bishops. Although the bishops were perceived and presented as divided, the Statement remained the Conference’s common position, a product of 122 interventions from the bishops. It was criticized and praised by different groups: the Pro-GMA were happy; the Anti-GMA were disappointed. What became the center piece of the statement was: “In a spirit of humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision that we do not demand her resignation. Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others.” The rest of the statement seemed to have been forgotten or ignored.
EDSA I and EDSA II People Power were peaceful, nonviolent and successful. The Bishops agreed with many people that EDSA-type of people power could not be repeated because the circumstances are different from those of EDSA I and EDSA II. There seems to be an absence of a credible alternative or rallying point that would unite the divided opposition. That was what the bishops seemed to have been looking for: that the opposition offer a credible, viable alternative through a process that would be peaceful, nonviolent and with hope of success.
In the Statement, the CBCP rejected measures that are counter-constitutional or unconstitutional, such as juntas and revolutionary councils. At the bottom of the rejected measures were questions like: will it not produce new injustices? How protracted will be the inter-regnum? Will it not result into a civil war? Admittedly the July Statement contained the desideratum for restoring moral values, but it did not elaborate the ways and means of renewing our political life. Lacking that the July Statement was centered on the merits and demerits of political strategies like the Truth Commission, the Impeachment Process and the Resignation decision.
Evaluating the response of the government and sentiments of the people, the Bishops felt that there was a need to elaborate the “plea for the moral values in Philippine Politics.” The January 29, 2006 Pastoral Statement “Renewing Our Public Life Through Moral Values” has a different story and process. The preparation for the statement included a dialogue with the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) in January 23. The following day, January 24 was assigned as A Day of Listening, during which the bishops listened to inputs given by Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ, Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Atty. Christian Monsod, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, Fr. Danny Huang, SJ, Fr. Jojo Magadia, SJ, and Mr. Ricardo Saludo (Presidential Deputy Spokesperson). We may also include in this list the input given by General Samson Tucay of PNP Values and Leadership School. The general topic of all the inputs was “How to restore or promote moral values in Philippine Political Life.”
January 25 was a Day of Discerning and Discussion. The bishops grouped themselves for either regional or metropolitan meetings during which they listened to one another, discerning and discussing their respective local situation vis-à-vis moral-political values. The whole afternoon of January 25 was devoted to discussion on the national situation vis-à-vis moral-political values. Some bishops were previously assigned to draft from the inputs and discussion a possible Pastoral Statement. They were Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Bishop Francisco Claver, Bishop Antonio Ledesma, Bishop Nerio Odchimar.
January 26 was the Day of Consolidation. For a whole day the bishops discussed the draft of the pastoral Statement which would be officially submitted to and discussed by the 92nd CBCP General Assembly. It took another two days, the 28th and 29th to discuss the draft and finally come out with what is now A Pastoral Statement: Renewing our Public Life Through Moral Values.” It is the fruit of 177 interventions from the bishops. The statement was discussed paragraph by paragraph. The story behind the making of the Pastoral Statement show the binding force of communion and collegiality among the bishops.
It follows a general outline: See, Judge, Act. In Part I, the bishops discuss the pastoral situation: what the people are saying about the political and economic crisis in the country. In Part II, they present as the root cause of the crisis: erosion of moral values. In Part III are proposed the actions and advocacies recommended. Concretely, they recommend the relentless search for truth to resolve allegations of cheating in the last election, the pursuance of electoral reforms and of the election in 2007, widespread participation of the people in “amending the Constitution” through a constitutional convention, the adoption of a more systematic program of promoting moral values, the promotion-formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities, the promotion of a spirituality of public life, integrity and stewardship, the mobilization of citizens’ groups to check graft and corruption, the observance of the year 2006 as a “Social Concerns Year”.
After EDSA People Power I and II, apparently both Church and State sat on the laurels of success. There was very little or no follow up to institute renewal of public life and public service. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal has remarked: “If there is so much incompetence in our government today, it is because people who have been successful in one field tend to think that they would be successful in all other fields. Entertainers cross-over to politics when their competence is limited only to dramatics. Politicians, on the other hand, become television and movie personalities. Basketball players make a rebound all the way to the halls of the Senate.”
To renew our public life through moral values, we need to go back to the roots of renewal as have been proposed in the 1991 Plenary Council of the Philippines, the 1993 National Pastoral Plan, and the 2001 National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal. We need to plot the journey to the future by implementing the PCP-II Vision-Mission Statement. These would have contributed to the complete success of EDSA I and II.
Initiatives for the renewal of our public life have been started. They need to be pursued with greater and greater fervor. Let me just name a few: NAMFREL, PPC-RV, Barug Pilipino, Gawag Kalinga, Citizens’ Graft Watch, Value Formation.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO
Archbishop of Jaro