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RESTORING TRUST: A PLEA FOR MORAL VALUES IN PHILIPPINE POLITICS
The Pastoral Situation
As a people we seem to have passed from crisis to crisis in one form or another. For many analysts, reinforcing these crises are ambivalent cultural values such as *palakasan, pakikisama, utang na loob, *and family-centeredness. As Bishops we have long contended that the crises that we have suffered are basically moral–the lack of moral values in ourselves, in our relationships, in our social structures.
Today we are beset with yet another political crisis of such magnitude as to polarize our people and attract them to various options ranging from the extreme right to the extreme left. In this grave situation, various groups take advantage of one another, manipulate situations for their own agenda and create confusion among our people sometimes by projecting speculation or suspicion as proven fact, with the aim of grabbing power.
At the center of the crisis is the issue of moral value, particularly the issue of trust. The people mistrust our economic institutions which place them under the tyranny of market forces whose lack of moral compass produces for our people a life of grinding dehumanizing poverty. They also mistrust yet another key institution – our political system. This mistrust is not recent. For a long time now, while reveling in political exercises, our people have shown a lack of trust in political personalities, practices, and processes. Elections are often presumed tainted rather than honest. Congressional and senate hearings are sometimes narrowly confined to procedural matters and often run along party lines. Politics has not effectively responded to the needs of the poor and marginalized.
This question of trust in national institutions has taken a critical urgency with the resignation of some key Cabinet members, the realignment of political parties and the creation of new alliances. Amid this realignment of forces we commend the clear official stand of our military and police authorities who reiterated their loyalty to our Constitution that forbid them from engaging in partisan politics.
Moreover with academe, business, professional and civil society varied positions have been taken with regard to President Macapagal Arroyo. Some want her to resign; others want her to go through due process. Some want a Truth Commission. Others impeachment. Some want a constitutional process and others an extra-constitutional process. On the other hand there is also a wide manifestation of support for the chief executive by a cross section of society.
Today, we ask ourselves, “As bishops what can we offer to our people? Can we provide some clarity and guidance in the present confusing situation?” We can only answer these questions from who we are. We are not politicians who are to provide a political blueprint to solve political problems. Rather we are Bishops called by the Lord to shepherds the people in the light of faith. With Pope Benedict XVI we do not believe in the “intrusion into politics on the part of the hierarchy.” But we are to interpret human activities such as economics and politics from the moral and religious point of view, from the point of view of the Gospel of Jesus end of the Kingdom of God. We are to provide moral and religious guidance to our people. This is what we offer in the present crisis. Not to do this would be an abdication of our duty.
Our Pastoral Role and Our Stand
- In the welter of conflicting opinions and positions our role is not to point out a specific political option or a package of options as the Gospel choice, especially so when an option might be grounded merely on a speculative and highly controvertible basis. In the present situation we believe that no single concrete option regarding President Macapagal Arroyo can claim to be the only one demanded by the Gospel. Therefore, in a spirit of humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision that we do not demand her resignation. Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others. For we recognize that non-violent appeals for her resignation, the demand for a Truth Commission and the filing of an impeachment case are not against the Gospel.