MANILA, Philippines – Catholic bishops challenged the Aquino administration Friday, July 4, to investigate corrupt officials within its own ranks as 3 opposition senators face plunder charges over the Philippines' biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
“A government that professes to tread the straight path must remain true to that profession and must be willing to let go of the corrupt in its own ranks! We in the Church will do the same,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a statement.
Villegas, who is associated with the family of President Benigno Aquino III, reiterated a similar message in June that justice over the so-called pork barrel controversy should not be selective.
This time, however, he became more pointblank in calling out “a government that professes to tread the straight path,” apparently referring to Aquino's slogan, “tuwid na daan” (straight path).
This statement came after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional 3 specific acts associated with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Aquino administration supports.
Critics have sought to impeach Aquino and to prosecute Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad because of the DAP, as opposition senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile face plunder charges.
'Tell us where DAP went'
With these issues hounding the country, Villegas called for accountability. (READ: 'Man does not need pork to go with bread')
“We reiterate our position that investigation and inquest cannot and must not be selective, for public perception that some are shielded while others are persecuted detracts from the confidence people must repose in their institutions,” Villegas said.
He also called on the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman “to tell the nation where the DAP funds went.”
Villegas explained: “While, indeed, in many cases, it would be impractical, unhelpful even, to undo every project funded by what the High Court has ruled to be unconstitutional means, we must nevertheless know how these monies were used, for where there was illegal and immoral application of funds, there must be restitution.”
He also pointed out that “there is no reason to direct our ire only at the 3 senators, nor at those presently accused.”
Filipinos “must humbly recognize that the propensity to make use of what is not ours to better the lives of our families or to gain access to luxuries that would otherwise be beyond us will be found in all of us.”
He said, “We are all guilty by attitude and by our disposition.” (READ: CBCP denounces pork: 'Everyone's fault')
“We renew our call for national conversion – the conversion not only of individuals but of institutions as well! It will be well for us to remember that conversion is our response to the ceaseless call of Love Incarnate, Jesus, to 'turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel,'” Villegas said.
Saying the issue involves social justice, which is the Church's concern, he also urged Filipinos to “pray together for the grace of conversion, because the prosecution and punishment of a few will not rid the nation of the propensity to corruption that is found in us all!” – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.