Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity

(A CBCP Pastoral Statement)

Beloved People of God:

Greetings in the peace of the Lord!

Today in the midst of restlessness and confusion, we come to you as pastors, for that is our precise role. We do not come as politicians whose vocation it is to order society towards the common good. Our message contributes to the flourishing of a democracy which must not be built only on political formulae.

We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity. These are moral values needing spiritual and moral insights.

Therefore, we address this pastoral statement to everyone particularly you our beloved people and in a special way to our political rulers and officials.

We are convinced that the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless, and that the way to truth and integrity must be untrammeled, especially at the present time when questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government are being raised.

For this reason, we strongly:

1. Condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder;

2. Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found;

3. Recommend the abolition of EO 464 so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies;

4. Ask the President to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved;

5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;

6. Call on media to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts;

For the long term we reiterate our call for “circles of discernment” at the grassroots level, in our parishes, Basic Ecclesial Communities, recognized lay organizations and movements, religious institutions, schools, seminaries and universities. It is through internal conversion into the maturity of Christ through communal and prayerful discernment and action that the roots of corruption are discovered and destroyed. We believe that such communal action will perpetuate at the grassroots level the spirit of People Power so brilliantly demonstrated to the world at EDSA I. It is People Power with a difference. From the grassroots will come out a culture of truth and integrity we so deeply seek and build. We instruct our CBCP Commissions to take active role including networking for this purpose.

May the Lord bless us in this sacred undertaking to build a new kind of Philippines and may our Blessed Mother be our companion and guide in this journey to truth and integrity.

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+Angel Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
February 26, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Discovering a new brand of people power!

February 22-24, 1986 were historic and momentous days. They ushered in the end of 14 years of Martial Rule and Dictatorship and the beginning of a new democracy. It was a peaceful and non-violent revolution by People Power, a movement “of the people, by the people and for the people” “who prayed together, reflected together, decided together and acted together”. They knew what they wanted. Cardinal Sin and the CBCP articulated their communal sentiment or collective discernment through Radio Veritas and their Pastoral Letter respectively.

Many of the participants in that decisive People Power have already died. Those who are still around are 22 years or almost a quarter of century older. Age is an important factor that comes with the cynicism, apathy and indifference for “another People Power.” Besides, are there “teach ins” for young people today on current political issues?

Came People Power II in 2001: we thought that history would automatically repeat itself. It did not. With the disappointment and doubts surrounding Election 2004, we now look at People Power II with mixed emotions and interpretations. Sadly, People Power II installed a leader who lately only has been branded as the “most corrupt” and our government is rated “among the most corrupt governments.” Is this the reason why many in civil society regard another People Power with cynicism and indifference? They are afraid another People Power might only bring the country from one frying pan to a worse frying pan.

To the disappointment of some, the CBCP recent statement did not specify what “communal action” to take. The Bishops did suggest: “pray together, reflect together, decide together and act together.” The call to communal action is a challenge to “political conscience” which would admit creative, imaginative and democratic response to political problems. Many good things have started to happen.

The Church is guided by its Social Doctrine which instructs: “The lay people (civil society) are called to identify steps that can be taken in concrete political situations in order to put into practice the principle and values proper to life in society. This calls for a method of discernment at both the personal and community levels” (no. 568).

If, according to collective discernment which can occur in unpredictable ways, the communal action is People Power, it will have to be with a different “brand.” It will not be simply a repeat of the past. What brand will it have? What is God through the signs of the times telling us? The movements of some groups for a National Campaign Against Corruption in the government may be a sign.

Imagine, with just one courageous person willing to witness to the TRUTH, some good things are already starting to happen, like the exposition of other scams, lies, deceits, “moderate and immoderate greed.” We hope and encourage that other courageous and inspired persons will emerge to tell or expose or humbly face the truth, whose concealment had made our country captive to corruption and greed of powerholders? There will be a convergence of bearers of truths saving our country.

Today, what is God telling us about expressing our highest sense of the national common good? This is the question that must be answered in all honesty, no matter how painful, by Church leaders and Church people, by civil society, the military and police, by our congressmen and barangay leaders, by our Senators, above all by the residents of MalacaƱang.

We must pray. Yes. There is a suggested Prayer of the Faithful for the nation in crisis. But we must also sacrifice for the highest national common good, inspired by “political charity” for the country, honesty and justice, guided by truth, like participating in a National Campaign Against Corruption in Government.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Truth will set our Country Free

It was courageous but damaging for two officials of government, former Speaker Jose de Venecia and Mr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, to expose questionable government deals in millions of dollars including scandalous and immoral kickbacks. It was courageous to come out in the open to “publicly confess” the high level of graft and corruption that they knew all along and “somehow” have been involved in. But it was also damaging to their political career as well as to significant others who are in high governance. Damaging also because they opened themselves to further scrutiny and inquiry. Truth hurts. Truth liberates. But the truth must be served. The truth will set our country free (cf. John 8/32)

Their public confession may be considered a providential event that may yet save our country from being hostage to scandalous and shady government deals that offend the common good and serve only personal, family and group interests. In our last CBCP Statement, the Bishops strongly lamented the absence of social conscience today. This is the root cause of our systemic graft and corruption.

We lament in this season of Lent not only that we are sinners but also that our country has too long been captive to the corruption of people in governance. “We have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people.” The call for a moral revolution has deep implication. The CRUSADE FOR TRUTH being initiated by the Religious like the AMRSP, Civil Groups and Clergy is encouraging, and must be supported by all truth-loving and freedom-loving citizens. Only the truth, not lies and deceits, will set our country free. This truth challenges us now to communal action.

We encourage the “Watch and Pray” activity that will be initiated by the Parish Pastoral Councils for Responsible Voting (PPC-RV). We can also call it PPC for Responsible Citizenship. The flame of “social consciousness and common good” must be kept alive. We suggest the prayer used by the Magnificat Movement, the MAGNIFICAT of Our Lady in Luke 1, 46-55 a prayer for social transformation.

As we said in our last CBCP Statement “let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together” “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.”

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
February 10, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lenten Message 2008

WE enter the 2008 Season of Lent again to be reminded that Jesus Christ brought us salvation by accepting our humanity which is capable of suffering with us and for us.

The season of lent is a call to compassion and consolation. We are challenged to share in the suffering of our neighbors through communion of goods. In lent we are reminded that we are not owners but rather stewards and administrators of the goods we possess.

As we said in our CBCP Statement “ Reform yourselves and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1/15), we must work for personal and communal conversion towards a social conscience, which put the common good above personal, family and group interests. Lent is a call to conversion to the common good.

Social conscience for the common good: As we said in our CBCP Statement: “ we ask this of all citizens who have a concern for the national good, especially those who hold the reins of power, from MalacaƱang on to Congress, provincial and municipal governments, all the way down to barangay councils. People in government – 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 demand of common good are in fact captive to merely personal and selfish interests?” Lent is the time to do something about it.

Fighting graft and corruption? Responding to the need for moral revolution and renewal? The challenge of Lent is “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1/15). Lent is the time to journey together toward social transformation.