Negros bishops tell Duterte: Don't rush federalism
MANILA, Philippines – The 4 bishops of Negros Island urged President Rodrigo Duterte not to rush the shift to a federal system of government as they called on their flock to form "circles of discernment" to discuss this "very serious matter."
"We urge the President and legislators not to rush the shift to federalism because what is at stake here is not only the present generation of Filipinos, but the future generations as well," the 4 bishops of Negros said in a statement issued on Palm Sunday, March 25.
"We insist, 'in season or out of season' (2 Timothy 4:2), that the voice of the people and not that of self-serving politicians be reflected in any constitutional change! May our merciful God guide us in these trying times," the bishops added.
The statement was signed by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon, Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortez, and Kabankalan Bishop-Elect Louie Galbines.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier criticized the proposal to allow Congress, sitting as a Constituent Assembly, to revise the 1987 Constitution.
The CBCP also voiced its fears of a "creeping dictatorship" in the face of "self-serving" motives for Charter Change.
While the CBCP already spoke out on this in January, the 4 bishops of Negros said they "feel the need to make a statement of our own in Negros because of the present apathy we sadly see among our people and maybe even in the Church."
They said they hope their statement "will add to the collective voice we need so badly to awaken the conscience of the nation."
Read the Negros bishops' statement below:
It is a fact that there is widespread poverty, inequality, and violence in our country. Our people have been longing and clamoring for change. Today, the biggest proposal to bring about change is the revision of our 1987 Constitution, by changing our form of government from unitary to federal system. This is a major change which poses a challenge to every Filipino citizen, and hence, to every Filipino Catholic.
From the moral standpoint, the Church expresses concern whether the proposed change would lead us to the attainment of the common good. The Church expresses concern whether it would be for the better or for the worse. In 1986, when the final draft of the 1987 Constitution was released to the public, the CBCP made a moral judgment that, though imperfect, its provisions were consistent with the Gospel.
In all previous attempts to amend or revise our present Constitution, the CBCP had consistently taken the following moral stand: "Amending the fundamental law of the land, so carefully crafted for the common good after years of dictatorship, requires widespread peoples' participation and consultation, unity of vision, transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate."
As your Bishops in Negros, it is our duty to provide pastoral guidance supportive of the CBCP recent pastoral guidelines on the moral dimension of the administration's proposal to rewrite or revise our Constitution by shifting to a federal form of government.
"The Church is called to contribute to the purification of reason," as exhorted by Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est.
As your pastors of a listening Church acting in unity, we also feel the need to make a statement of our own in Negros because of the present apathy we sadly see among our people and maybe even in the Church, and we hope our own statement will add to the collective voice we need so badly to awaken the conscience of the nation. This is the time to strengthen our weakening sense of belonging to one human family and fight the "globalization of indifference." For as Saint Paul aptly puts it: "If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26).
The proposal to revise our Constitution by changing the form of our government to federal system is a very serious matter in the life of our nation. Hence, we encourage our people in our dioceses and parishes up to the level of our basic ecclesial communities to form "circles of discernment" as recommended by CBCP and to reflect on, discuss, debate, and discern on some of the questions we proposed together with this statement in order to read the situation correctly.
We urge our people to find answers to these questions truthfully and conscientiously as we urge them to get involved and influence their respective district representative on what position to take on this issue. We urge all groups and organizations, faith-based and non-faith-based, to help in the promotion of awareness and education of our people on this issue.
We urge the Consultative Committee – created by the President to review the 1987 Constitution, to study and hold consultations towards Federalism – to be always guided by the principle of the common good in their deliberations and resolutions.
We urge the President and legislators NOT to rush the shift to Federalism because what is at stake here is not only the present generation of Filipinos, but the future generations as well.
We insist, "in season or out of season" (2 Timothy 4: 2), that the voice of the people and NOT that of self-serving politicians be reflected in any constitutional change! May our merciful God guide us in these trying times.
May Mama Mary, Mother of Jesus, intercede for us as a people. Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018.
MOST REV. GERARDO A. ALMINAZA
Bishop of San Carlos
MOST REV. PATRICIO A. BUZON, SDB
Bishop of Bacolod
MOST REV. JULITO B. CORTES
Bishop of Dumaguete
MOST REV. LOUIE P. GALBINES
Bishop-Elect of Kabankalan