The CBCP nestled in the slot of the most credible institution in the country according to a survey conducted around the second quarter of 1999. Its popularity, it may be said, started mounting since February 1986 when it issued that post-election statement saying “..the people has spoken… According to moral principles, a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has not moral basis. For such an access to power is tantamount to a forcible seizure and cannot command the allegiance of the citizenry.” Those words, with the call of the late Cardinal Sin, somehow emboldened multitudes to troop to EDSA.
But its popularity grew not only with reading of pastoral letters on Sunday masses in all churches throughout the land, but more so with the establishment of a media office that became a regular and ready source of news stories bannered all over news organizations and networks. A lot of people—Catholics and not—had to wait for whatever CBCP had to say on prevailing issues and consequently influence—or evangelize, if you may—the shaping of public opinion.
While the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines of 1991 has treaded the local Church into the path of preferential option for the poor, the public perception, however, of late has accused the CBCP leadership to be walking along the corridors of the wealthy and the politically powerful. The early absolution by the CBCP Head through a paid advertisement plastered on national dailies shortly after the May 2004 national elections, did not make the elections clean to well-meaning observers or so some say. When CBCP released its pastoral statement on the occasion of its regular Plenary Assembly this July, not a few reacted with doubt and cynicism—if not frustration. “But the CBCP card turned out to be a joker not an ace,” wrote Joel Rocamora, Executive Director of the Institute for Popular Democracy.
Perception is the name of the game played by both the politicians and the business community. While it is devastating and effective, like a tsunami, it is not permanent. But this is the technique that has propped basketball players, undergrads, actors, media personalities and even thugs into prominence.
Should CBCP get bothered with perceptions the way one suspects fire whenever there is smoke? Or shouldn’t it rather concentrate on its pastoral priorities outlined at the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal in 2001