INC, Grace Poe, and other graceless spectacles

And those who are salivating after Grace’s political potential need to ask her to spell out how a former American will embody and act on the Philippines’ sovereign interests, without going back to the 1950’s Sampaguita Pictures all-too-American perspective of the world.

The victim position suits INC at the moment, facilitating its projection in the public mind of an authoritarian State that will not allow them religious freedom. Demanding that the principle of separation of church and state be interpreted as protection from criminal investigation and possible prosecution, INC refuses to acknowledge its location in a secular state. 

Ang mga taong yan, ang dinedepensahan ay kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin ‘yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang karapatan,” asserts Poe.

(Those people are only defending their faith. We respect that, and we should also respect their rights.)

But the INC is defending the belief — kanilang paniniwala — that matters internal to the Church should be beyond the law.

How can a senator of the land “respect” the right to be beyond the law? This is the transactional reasoning of a woman who thinks citizenship is a dress to be put on or discarded according to opportunity.

The postcolonial choice to have multiple allegiances and identities belongs to those who will not seek to be top leader of a nation. Top positions require a lifetime of unwavering commitment to that nation. Thus, the constitutional provisos on residency for candidates for public office — provisos which were written not merely as technical hoops but as expression of a political ethos that defines the nation. 

INC may well be a solid, sensible church. Poe may well be a solid, sensible leader. But neither is allowed disrespect for the political ethos enshrined in the Constitution. 

Neither gets a free pass out of demonstrating faith in a precise moral compass, guiding their actions. They are not allowed to dodge serious questions about how they interpret the Constitution. 

The twisting of reason for political effect is the province of spin doctors. Stepping up to the light of the highest ethical standards is the domain of leaders of the separate domains of church and state. 

The separation of church and state, which was in place in the 1898 Philippine Constitution, and which has thus made the Philippines the earliest social experiment in democracy in Asia, is not to be worn as though a dress to be put on or discarded, inside-out or outside-in according to opportunity.

Opportunism —especially for the purpose of rabble rousing — is not acceptable.

To submit to criminal investigation and possible prosecution by the Department of Justice (DOJ) IS the expression of separation of Church and State. Otherwise it is Fundamentalism.

To submit to a public call for evidence of ethical political thought that reasons ably about the role of citizenship in the quest for the presidency, IS the question to be answered. Otherwise it is showbiz. -  

Marian Pastor Roces is a Cultural Studies scholar, an institutional critic, and curator.