We celebrate today the Philippine Independence Day with gratitude for everything that has been in our history. We honor the heroes big and small, known and unknown, who have worked for our liberation as a nation.
But while we succeeded in breaking the yoke and chain of Spanish, Japanese and American colonizers, are we succeeding in breaking the yoke and chain of fellow Filipinos? Ang masakit na karanasan ng mga Filipino ngayon ay bagamat nakalaya na tayo sa pang-aalipin ng mga banyaga, ay mayroon namang mga kapwa Filipino na umaalipin sa kanilang kapwa Filipino.
Gathered in the atmosphere of prayer, we invite ourselves to pray that we may be delivered from the many “unfreedoms” that we are experiencing.
In 1998 during the Centennial Celebration of our Independence, the CBCP already stated that “our liberty is eroded not so much by foreign invaders, as by inequality and lack of participation, injustice and exploitation, deficient cultural values and mindset, destruction of the ecosystem, and deterioration of peace and order.” Alas, what we said then we can say again.
We have freed ourselves from the punishment of death penalty. But we still have to free ourselves from drug addiction and drug lords, from jueteng addiction and jueteng lords, from the temptation to extort and to bribe, from exploitation of women and children, from the killings of militants, labor leaders and journalists without the benefit of just trial, from torture and maltreatment of every kind, from graft and corruption and subtle dictatorship. Without these the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day in this Year of Social Concerns would be more meaningful.
Civil society is moving on with a growing social consciousness for what is truly good and just for the nation. We recall what Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est wrote: “The formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason.”
What is the duty of the Church? “The Church has an indirect duty (says Benedict XVI), in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of the moral forces.” What is the duty of the civil society? “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, the Pope says, “they are called to take part in the public life in a personal capacity… in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas…for the common good.”
The CBCP has already expressed in former Pastoral Exhortations (“Building a Civilization of Love” and “Renewing Our Public Life”) its recommendations which I now briefly summarize as follows: 1) that the reform and modernization of our electoral process be continued; 2) that the election of 2007 be pursued in order to offer our country a new breed and brand of leaders; 3) that if charter change is to be pursued, it should be through a Constitutional Convention, whose delegates are elected by the people. We are not against charter-change per se; but we are against charter-change by the present congress converting itself into a Constituent Assembly. From history we learn that dictators are products of and supported by parliamentary forms of government.
Philippine Independence Day is an occasion to promote “a spirituality of citizenship” which fosters a sense of patriotism and of being responsible for our country. “It develops Filipinos into becoming active and constructive participants in social and political life. It enables the laity to take their rightful leadership role in the social transformation of our country” (CBCP Pastoral Exhortation, “Building a Civilization of Love”).
Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
June 12, 2006