When president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Catholic Church in the Philippines took a position of “critical collaboration” with the dictatorship. Looking back, I believe that the Catholic Church was remiss in its duty to give prophetic witness to social justice and to protest against the human rights violations by the military.
In World War II, when the armies of Hitler invaded the Netherlands, the Dutch bishops vehemently protested, and they refused to accept the Nazi ideology. But there was a political party which was in league with the regime of Hitler—the National Socialist Bond (NSB). We called them collaborators, and after the war they were all rounded up and court-martialed as traitors. Collaboration with the enemy is treason, even if it is “critical.”
The political activists during martial law openly protested against the regime and many of them died for doing so. One of them was Ninoy Aquino, who said the Filipino is worth dying for. How many bishops were at that time ready to die for the country? The protest eventually led to the Edsa revolution and Marcos’ ouster. Only at that hour did Jaime Cardinal Sin change his position and call the people to join the “rebel” forces of the military, who had broken away from Marcos. The Church failed to let its prophetic voice be heard. The Church was guilty all those years of the sin of omission.
As Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gringo Honasan were. These same people are now “honorable” senators of the land. But during all those years of critical collaboration with Marcos, corruption crept into the military and government institutions, and there it has been embedded—to this day. We now have in Congress a Commission on Appointments whose members are sleeping on the job, failing to confirm the appointment of highly competent people, like the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo. Which is also a form of the sin of omission.
In a way we can compare the silence of the Church during martial law to the silence of Pope Pius XII during World War II, when he failed to condemn the Holocaust as a crime against humanity.
We should clearly tell our new generations what happened during martial law. Let it not happen ever again. We, the laity in the Church today, should be vocal enough when the Church itself shows signs of Marcos’ authoritarianism. In the Church, there should be, first of all, democracy and freedom of expression, freedom to protest when the Church in its shortsightedness continues to block the passage of the
reproductive health bill.
The Edsa revolution must continue. It is a protracted struggle, not of violence but of peaceful dialogue and reconciliation, so that reasonable changes and amendments can be inserted in the proposed RH bill. It is high time that the poor had access to contraception of their own choice so that the rate of maternal deaths among poor women will be brought down drastically. It is now the time that we lay people make up for the sin of omission and demand that contractual employment be declared illegal.
—ARNOLD VAN VUGT,