MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday, September 5, pushed for the abolition of the pork barrel, and called all Filipinos to task for this “worsening social cancer.”
In its first statement on the recent pork barrel controversy, the CBCP denounced the pork barrel as "fertile ground for graft and corruption." It said: "Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency, and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice."
In the pastoral statement signed by its president, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, the CBCP said the pork barrel controversy is not merely a sociopolitical issue, but “an offense against God.”
“Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated, or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this,” the CBCP said.
It added: “Therefore, our first response to the pork barrel issue must be not protest but contrition. We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer – through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.”
The CBCP then called for a “day of atonement” on Saturday, September 7, the same day designated by Pope Francis to pray and fast for Syria.
It is, in recent history, one of the CBCP's strongest statements against corruption in government.
The conference had generally shied away from denouncing corruption under the Arroyo administration, amid reports that bishops close to the administration curried certain favors. Later, in the first years of the Aquino administration, the CBCP was most vocal against the reproductive health law.
Before this pastoral statement, however, top Church leaders have individually spoken out against the pork barrel scam, which involves the alleged misuse of funds meant for development projects.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who attended the protest against the pork barrel on August 26, has condemned the pride and greed that led the Philippines to its current “crisis.” (Watch more in the video below.)
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the CBCP's incoming president, has also criticized the pork barrel. Villegas, currently the CBCP's vice president, said it “has served to strengthen the clutch of politicians to power.”
Corruption is 'terrorism'
In its pastoral statement, the CBCP condemned government corruption as “an act of terrorism against our poor and our children.”
The CBCP listed 6 points as part of its moral stand:
1. "Integrity must be restored in the conduct of public office. Every government official from the rank and file to the highest executive must prove themselves worthy of the title 'Honorable';"
2. "According to our moral judgment, the present pork barrel practice in government is fertile ground for graft and corruption. Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency, and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice;"
3. "The wheels of law and justice must roll swiftly so that we can immediately punish the errant, restore what has been stolen and return to moral conduct. 'Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…;'" (Amos 5,15)
4. "We call on our pastors of souls to educate our people in their political duties as good citizens. We cannot be good Christians if we are not good citizens, and good citizenship in a democracy calls for participation and vigilance. This we do not only during elections but all the time. It is but right that citizens demand accountability and transparency;"
5. "We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity. Prayer will make us humble and open; solidarity will make us strong;" and
6. "Stewardship is greatly wanting in our country. Positions in the country are public trusts for the service of the common good. As stewards of the people, leaders should be transparent to them and should be open to be held accountable. A crisis is an opportunity. The political crisis we are facing now is an opportunity for our leaders to show that they are ready to be investigated, to set up radical changes for better governance, and to seek for the good that would benefit all, especially the poor and those who suffer."
The CBCP said: “Let us not allow this opportunity of graced renewal of our country to pass us by. Be concerned! Be discerning! Be involved!” – 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.