AFTER that very courageous post-election statement of Philippine Catholic Bishops in February of 1986, many more pastoral statements followed denouncing bad governance and the way politics is done in the country. In that statement, the one-liner that has launched a thousand courageous moves seems to be this: “Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be.”
The removal of the dictator appeared to have been the “correction”—or at least as long as the “yellow euphoria” lasted (which maybe said to be lingering still today with the reappearance of “yellow candidates” though without much credentials to speak of beyond sentimentalities.) But, truth to tell, nothing much has really changed. The collars have been gaily changing, but the dogs are substantially the same. The killings and disappearances, the corruption and name it during the dictatorship are really not foreign today.
Which is why in 1997, or eleven years after the exile of the conjugal dictatorship, the crispiest verbiage came with the Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics that goes “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 the full human development.”
And now the Holy Father takes the stage. During the presentation of the Letter of Credence by the new Philippines Ambassador to the Vatican, Mercedes Arrasitia Tuason last October 2, the Pope retorted: “The struggle against poverty in the Philippines calls for honesty, integrity and an unwavering fidelity to the principles of justice, especially on the part of those entrusted with positions of governance and public administration.”
Protocol-wise, such events are usually occasions for affirmation of friendship and goodwill between nations. But this time the pope, who may have been shown the real plight of Filipinos, wrapped in the rather dirty hands of their political leaders, had to go beyond the ordinary call of diplomacy. Ironically, he actually showed true friendship and goodwill by playing the child, as in the old fable, to be able to tell that the king has no clothes.
Now, it’s the Pope saying. The Philippine needs honest political leaders.