2022 Philippine Elections

CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

NEVER AGAIN. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos plunged the Philippines into its darkest years, placing it under military rule until he was ousted on February 25, 1986.

Presidential Museum and Library

'Let us stand up for truth,' declare Catholic bishops on the 36th anniversary of the People Power revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos
CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) rejected “radical distortions” about the Marcos dictatorship as the Philippines celebrated on Friday, February 25, the 36th anniversary of the People Power revolt that toppled Ferdinand Marcos.

In a pastoral letter, the CBCP did not name any particular candidate, and acknowledged “different views” in the face of “the complexity of things.” The bishops also did not use the name “Marcos” even as it pounded on Martial Law years under the late dictator, whose son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is now leading the presidential race.

The bishops urged their flock, however, to “diligently seek the truth” as society is plagued with a “pandemic of lies” especially on social media. 

“In this letter, we favor none but the truth. We wish to warn you of the radical distortions in the history of Martial Law and the EDSA People Power Revolution,” said the CBCP in a pastoral letter signed by its president, Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.

CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

The CBCP, a collegial body made up of 127 active and retired bishops, then narrated the history of human rights abuses, corruption, and economic downturn during Martial Law. 

The CBCP, led by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal in 1986, was instrumental in the fall of Marcos in predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Less than a week after the February 7, 1986 snap elections that pitted Marcos and opposition leader Corazon Aquino, the CBCP released a post-election statement on February 13, 1986, where bishops denounced electoral fraud in favor of Marcos. In their strongest statement in Philippine history, the CBCP declared that “a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis.”

It was later that the CBCP’s most prominent member, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, called Filipinos to protect rebel soldiers in Camp Crame, prompting millions to flock to EDSA and stage the peaceful uprising of 1986.

People Power ‘not an invention’

The CBCP said on Friday: “We did not invent the historic event that happened in EDSA; it was a fruit of love of neighbor and faith. With you, we were simply part of it. You and the world witnessed the peaceful revolution, which was rightly called ‘People Power.’ The peaceful revolution was not an invention of one person, one party, or one color. It was a triumph of the entire Filipino people.”

“We are alarmed by this distortion of the truth of history and the attempt to delete or destroy our collective memory through the seeding of lies and false narratives. This is dangerous, for it poisons our collective consciousness and destroys the moral foundations of our institutions,” the CBCP added.

The bishops then warned that “neglect of truth is detrimental for all of us,” as truth is the foundation of a good society and responsible government. “Shall we allow that our children and the young be educated in lies?”

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us stand up for truth,” the CBCP said.

This pastoral letter was the first major CBCP statement signed by David, 62, since he assumed the body’s leadership in December 2021. David, an internationally trained Bible scholar, is also one of the leading voices against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In a press conference on Friday, David said the pastoral letter was unique not only due to its contents, but also the process it underwent. 

Instead of the usual practice of assigning only one bishop to draft the statement, David said the CBCP engaged in a “participatory” process that reflected a key thrust of Pope Francis toward “synodality.”

According to David, producing the statement involved focus group discussions at the regional level, a back-and-forth exchange of drafts between the regions and the drafting committee, and the final approval by all Filipino bishops through a special plenary assembly.

David said this ensured that the pastoral letter “truly represents the views of the bishops of the Philippines.”

‘Do not vote for liars’

In the same press conference, Rappler asked the CBCP about the possibility that supporters of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the late dictator, might feel that the pastoral letter is alluding to them. A synonym for the “Martial Law years,” after all, is the “Marcos dictatorship,” and only Marcos can benefit from lies involving his father’s regime.

CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

David responded, “Kung sila ay tinamaan, baka totoo (If they feel alluded to, then it might be true).”

Ang pinatatamaan lang naman natin dito, ang tinutumbok talaga natin, ay ‘yung totoong nangyari. Huwag lang nating babaluktutin ‘yung totoong nangyari,” he said. (What we’re alluding to, what we’re pointing out, is what truly happened. Let us not distort what truly happened.)

David then appealed to voters: “Panindigan naman natin ang totoo. Labanan naman natin ‘yung nagsasabi ng hindi totoo. At kung malinaw sa inyo kung sino ang hindi nagsasabi ng totoo, eh ‘di huwag iboto ‘yon. Ang iboto natin ‘yung pumapanig talaga sa totoo.”

(Let us stand for the truth. Let us fight against those who are not telling the truth. And if it is clear to you who is not telling the truth, then do not vote for that person. Let us vote those who really side with the truth.)

DICTATOR’S SON. Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, on February 14, 2022. Photo by Lisa Marie David/Reuters

The new CBCP statement comes as more Catholic bishops, priests, nuns, and lay leaders make unprecedented moves ahead of the May 9 elections. While the Church is traditionally neutral during elections, many of them have endorsed the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo, the closest rival of Marcos.

CBCP rejects lies about Marcos dictatorship ahead of 2022 polls

David, in his capacity as bishop of Kalookan, earlier gave his “blessing” to a local lay group supporting Robredo. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering 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 pat.esmaquel@rappler.com