Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sorrow and shame

THE issue of pedophilia or the sexual abuses of the clergy is old.  But the discovery of widespread cover up is recent.  People were shocked, angered and devastated by the recent revelations concerning former Cardinal and retired Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick.  How the story was buried under the rug for a long time is the overarching issue. As if that horrific blow was not enough, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother this August, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury released its report on clergy sex abuses in six dioceses of Pennsylvania, covering seven decades.

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston Archdiocese calls it a moral failure.   Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample names it by the tail:  institutional failure—in the sense that a cleric, as in the case of Cardinal McCarrick, known with the problem of active homosexuality even as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York could rise to highest stature in Catholic Church unimpeded and without being challenged or held accountable.  Sordid stories of people and priests who as seminarians were victims of McCarrick are recently reported by Catholic News Agency (CNA) and by no less than the USCCB’s Catholic News Service (CNS). 
The culture of cover up and the customary hiding of sexual and, worse, monetary abuses of clerics under the rug are not only true in the US.  They may also be true in other countries.   It is told that when a book was published in the Philippines about clerical abuses, a high ranking church official, or so goes the story, asked that the books be bought so as not to get them circulated widely.  The mentality to kill the story before a scandal escalates, instead of confronting the abuser or punishing the predator, is common even among church leaders.  In many circles, the scandal seems to be a bigger concern than the pitiable suffering of abuse victims.
In his letter addressed “to the people God” and released on August 20, 2018, Pope Francis points out that the outcry of abuse victims is more powerful than the efforts to silence them.  He says, “The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced…But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence them.”  The pope is aware how widespread the abuse is:  “I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.”
In the same letter, the Holy Father says that “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up.” He asks everyone to go on prayer and penance—and also dismantle the entrenched clericalism in the Church that lurks at the very root of this crisis.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Peaceful elections

THE recently concluded Barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan Elections have been generally peaceful.  This was the official statement of PNP chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde: “The election was generally peaceful nationwide. There were some reports of shooting incidents today… but nobody was hurt in these incidents.”
Nobody will refute that.  This was the general observation substantiated by statistics and even by media reportage.   But only if peace is seen as the absence of violence and when nobody gets hurt—physically, that is.   When one looks at elections from a larger perspective, things turn out differently.   Take vote-buying, for instance. The “hurt” and “violence” that it has impacted on Philippine society is undeniably tremendous for many decades now.   It begets corruption to astronomic proportions in all branches and levels of government.  Hordes of goons and thieves are catapulted into powerful government offices because they are the most moneyed and always the highest bidder in the buying of votes.
This is one of the backdrops when Catholic bishops commented in their Pastoral Exhortation on Philippines Politics (1996), thus: “Philippine politics—the way it is practiced—has been most hurtful of us as a people.  It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.”
Vote-buying being so common and comfortably embedded already into the Filipino psyche, has become socially acceptable and, therefore, remorseless.   Although a criminal act and, probably a sin, nobody thinks about it that way.   According to Section 261 (a) of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines (Batas Pambansa Blg. 881), vote-buying and vote-selling are among the prohibited acts which are punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six year, or with disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage, among  others.   In May 2013 National Elections, the Comelec issued Resolution No. 9688, which provides the warrantless citizens arrest of persons engaged in vote buying or selling.  It is amusing and even funny how some laws are too stringent but toothless in implementation.
Seriously, there can never be peaceful elections where there is vote buying and selling.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Will federalism bring about change?

THE answer is yes!  Or so say the incumbent administration and the Duterte sympathizers.  The problems of poverty, inequality and violence, among others, had been getting worse, despite optimistic rhetoric every time a new tenant occupies MalacaƱang.  The current president seem so convinced that only a federal form of government could bring lasting peace and progress to the entire country, but especially in Mindanao.  But will changing the form of government be the magic wand that will transform the country into a never-never land of utopian peace and prosperity?
President Ferdinand E. Marcos was more believably equipped with both rhyme and reason when he presented his “new-society” ideology which was guaranteed with his battle cry that “this country can be great again.”  That, of course, did not happen. Instead, the Philippines became fractured into penury, human rights violations and plunder after about 14 years of dictatorship.
But while Marcos had logic and a first presidential term to backup a track record, Duterte only has rhetoric that still need a good deal of substantiating.  His one-track view of bringing about change is the revision of the 1987 Constitution by changing the form of government from unitary to federal system.   But there are neither guarantees nor empirical data to prove his claim, only thug-talk laced with expletives and profanities.  The lengthening list of unfulfilled promises that were enumerated at his first State of the Nation Address makes the building blocks for change even more doubtful—despite changing the fundamental law of the land.
In a joint pastoral guidelines issued by the four Diocese of Negros, the bishops expressed the Church’s concern “whether the proposed change would lead us to the attainment of the common good” or “whether it would be for the better or for the worse.”
One can only pray that changing the form of government or the Constitution will succeed in transforming the country into better one. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A way of undermining the Constitution

THERE are individuals and groups who for reasons, motives, or causes of their own, are bent on subverting the intrinsic nature and trivializing the essential finalities  of marriage—in addition to undermining the core significance and inherent consequence of marriage in terms of the formation, care and affirmation of the family.   

In its substantive understanding and ontological consequences, marriage is not only a consummate union between a man and a woman but also a sanguine community between them and their children.  So it is that in clear and succinct language, honest-to-goodness marriage equals unity and indissolubility between an husband and a wife—until death does them part, with or without having co-created a family of their own.  This is the nature and substance, the connotations and consequences of marriage.

But for different personal reasons of their own, the aforesaid individuals and groups appear decided to change the nature and  significance, the finalities and consequences of marriage.  In essence, they want marriage to be not simply divisible but also soluble for personal causes they have, for individual options they make.  Why do they hate marriage for what it really is?  Why do they abhor marriage for what it truly is?  Why do they want to substitute marriage for something it is not?  Why do they want “Soluble Marriage” on account of this or that personal reason or cause? 

Is it because they are the pitiful products of failed marriages?  Is it because their own marriages are wrecks?  Is it because after all is said and done, they are in effect personally incapable of entering into  insoluble conjugal unions?  Is it because neither marriage nullity nor marriage annulment as provided by the Family Code of Philippines is enough for them in case of marriage failure on account of a given personality liability?  Is it because after all is said and done, what they in fact and in truth really desire is the institution of divorce in the Philippines.  Hence, more questions: 

What are the grounds for divorce?  Infidelity:  So a spouse commits it on purpose to get a divorce.  Violence:  So the husband or the wife kicks the other to obtain a divorce.  Abandonment:  So the husband or wife abandons the other to have a divorce.  And how many divorces may a husband or wife have, how many re-marriages may either or both of them enter into and break, and how many children will they hurt and/or make them hate their mothers and fathers?  So it is that in the USA, there is a well-known woman who had no less than nine divorces. Will Filipinos eventually break the record?

So categorically and officially provides nothing less than the Constitution of the Philippines:  “The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the Nation.  Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.”  (Art. XV, Sec. 1).  “Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.”  (Art. XV, Sec. 2).

Those in favor of the institution of divorce in the country should likewise have to undermine no less than the Philippine Constitution. (State Policies, Sec. 12)

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Could this Cha-Cha be worst?

AS the conversation gets louder on proposed changing of the Philippine Constitution as a way to adopt Federalism as a new form of government, real issues, some disturbing ones,come to fore.  Retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., calls the bold move “a lethal experiment, a fatal leap, a plunge to death, a leap to hell.”  That may sound an overstatement, but Davide raises valid arguments that call for more and deeper discussion, beyond the haphazard and careless threats of the Speaker of the House and the President.
A former party-list congressman, NeriColmenares said in a recent forum that “This is the worst cha-cha ever.  This is the only cha-cha with pork barrel enshrined in the Constitution.”  He also raised fears that charter change may lead to a much too powerful president, “It centralizes repressive powers in President Duterte.”
The Council of the Laity of the Philippines, which is the umbrella organization of major lay Catholic organizations in the country, thinks that the Duterte cha-cha is “a threat to our democratic system and our aspirations as a free and progressive nation.”  In a statement they further said, “We are disturbed that this exercise is being viewed by many as something that we cannot freely argue about anymore, because doing so will put the lives and well-being of those resisting this initiative, at risk…We are disturbed that instead of implementing the excellent provisions of the current Constitution, majority of our legislators appear to be in a hurry to supercede these, with an agenda that will disregard the hard-earned gains of the Filipino, such as social justice, human rights and democracy.”
The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) called on their members and all concerned Filipinos to discern well in face of this impending political exercise because “reckless decisions will surely lead our nation into chaos and a bleak future.  In a recent statement, they said, “We are deeply bothered by the partisanship that has not taken over the reins of charter change and federalism.  A shameless proposal to extend terms of office has been inserted to the legislative draft at the lower house. Threats have been lured at local government units who will not toe the line. This does not augur well for a free and informed discussion on the issue at hand.”

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines during the plenary assembly held in Cebu in January 2018, did not categorically state their stand on charter change and federalism.  But one can easily infer that they too are disturbed.  Coming up with pastoral guidelines for discerning the moral dimension on the moves for Charter change is obviously not a simple lecture to a congregation on an ordinary Sunday.  It is a careful selection of fundamental moral principles that are at risk in the way this Charter change issue is unfolding. 

The building blocks that this Administration has constructed leading to the Charter Change is not very encouraging, nay impressive.  Some are suspicious, others are getting chilling signals.  Are we heading for the worse?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Shall we leave it to congress?


THE Constitution being the basic law of the land is the bases of all consequent laws that will be passed by Congress. Changing it therefore is so consequential.  Is this present congress up to the task of coming up with a new one?  

De facto, congressmen are not representatives of the people or at least the good majority of them. Many of them belong to political dynasties and they got elected not because they represent the will of the people but because of political machinations—and vote buying. Observably, the way congress as a whole behaves show that they not only represent their own families and political ambitions but they mostly kowtow the wishes of whoever is in power.  As in the past, the majority of the present legislators jumped to the ship of PDP-Laban when Duterte became president.  This is clearly shown in the maneuverings whenever bills are deliberated and ultimately passed according to the agenda and design of MalacaƱang.  The swift extension of the Martial Law in Mindanao is one of those instances when one does not see any substantial debate in the floor.

The arguments presented for the change of the Constitution are flimsy. They just mouth slogans, like federalism, which they do not even examine deeply enough. It is not even known if they have consulted their own constituents on the matter. Being the Basic Law the change in the Constitution deserves more enlightened discussions among the people. It is not something to be railroaded. Their agenda is to submit the “New Constitution” to the people in the May 2018 Barangay elections. Will the people vote intelligently if even up to now we do not know what the relevant issues are that would warrant the change.

And how can intelligent discussions be had when the leadership of the present congress, and of the present government, are not mature enough to accept and respect any opposition? There is no democracy if there is no strong opposition because the truth and the good of the people can only be ferreted out by mature discussions and deliberations. But if any opposition is tagged as destabilizers, how can any mature deliberations be done? If the opposition is being punished for not towing the line, like not giving them any budget or “project” at all, how can one voice out his mind, especially if it is against the official party line.

The con-ass (constitutional assembly) is not the correct mode for changing the constitution at the moment even if it be claimed to be legal. This present Congress cannot be trusted with this important task. Besides, there is no need to hurry up the process. There is no deadline to meet, except the deadline set by interested parties for the purpose of controlling the people. Even expense is not a reason. Even if the Constitutional Convention (con-con) mode be more expensive, it is worth it that the people choose the right people just for the sole purpose of studying and changing the Constitutions, if there really is such a need. This present congress is not up to this task! It is not far-fetched to think that they are rushing this up again because they are towing the line of a few whose main interests may not be those of the people!