Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. File photo by Jaime T. Campos

29 January 2013, 10:08 p.m. – “What is popular is not necessarily what is right. What is legal is not necessarily moral.”

This was the reminder given by Church leaders as they called on Filipino Catholics to confront various social issues in the political area and to “examine and question the sincerity, quality and effectiveness of the governance of our leaders.”

In a pastoral letter issued at the end of its 106th Plenary Assembly last Monday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) denounced the reproductive health (RH) law promoting birth control, and called for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill to expose wrongdoing in the government. It spoke against political dynasties and aired concerns over the reliability of ballot-counting machines to be uses in the May senatorial and local elections.

The CBCP said the “inability and unwillingness of those in power to take the road of social justice” has resulted in “failure to share the resources in the country to meet basic rights of the poor, such as secure jobs, decent housing, adequate medicine, ownership of lands that they till, and quality education.”

“New ‘rights’ are being pushed while the most basic rights are being ignored!” said the pastoral letter, in reference to reproductive rights recognized by the new RH law. “Love of the poor who in the Gospel reflect Christ himself impels us to work for justice. This requires promotion of social justice, not by targeting the reduction of the number of poor people,” the CBCP said.

Natural disasters like Typhoons Sendong and Pablo brought “horrific damage” but the country suffers from a “litany of storms, not necessarily natural,” said the letter, titled “Proclaim the message, in season and out of season.” It was signed by CBCP President Jose Palma, archbishop of Cebu.

It pointed to the “promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity,” due to the “slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries.” Such measures, the CBCP said, include divorce, “resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children”; contraceptives, “leading to more abortions”; the use of condoms, “aggravating HIV-AIDS infection”; and sex education, “bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy.”

The CBCP also said corruption and abuse of power by public officials continue due to lack of information, “or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public.”

“It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials,” said the pastoral letter. “Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?”

Attacking well-entrenched political families, the CBCP said: “As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and offer better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. We are aggrieved that lawmakers themselves defy the supreme law of the land by not following the mandate of our Philippine constitution given 26 years ago to make an enabling law to ban political dynasties.”

The CBCP said the Church supports moves by lay people to challenge the RH law and the election of competent and morally upright candidates “who are faithful to their informed conscience.”

In an apparent response to dissident Catholics who had claimed their consciences as basis for supporting a contraceptive welfare program under the RH law, the CBCP said “conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened,” citing the Catechism. “A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.”

The CBCP also called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to address alleged deficiencies in the technology used for automated elections. “There can be no transparency in elections if the Comelec itself is not transparent,” the letter said.

“Every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and duty to promote the common good by using his vote,” it said, citing Vatican 2’s Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. “Such right and duty would be denied if obstructions are put in place to prevent its free and responsible exercise, such as dishonesty in elections.”

The pastoral letter also called on the government to be serious in implementing reforms to bring social justice, citing agrarian reform, the Urban Development Housing Act, the indigenous people’s act, and the fisheries code. Gervie Kay Estella


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