QuagmireBy Juan L. Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Some Catholic bishops “flunked” President Aquino for “failing to curb poverty” even as the Philippines’ economic growth outstripped that of other Asian countries. “Growth has not trickled down to the poor,” scoffed National Secretariat for Social Action’s Bishop Broderick Pabillo. “On a scale of one to ten, I’d give Aquino a grade of three.”
All citizens have the right to speak. Did Pabillo grade all bishops in 16 archdioceses and 72 dioceses? Some, maybe? “Who made me a judge or a divider over you?” the Master replied when pestered to rule on a squabble.
“Tell the truth” in the State of the Nation Address in July, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma urged the President. Rising-GDP data are a mystery “amid hunger besetting a larger population.”
Is this a slur by imputation? That’s not the Palma we respect. The National Statistical Coordination Board, World Bank, and Standard and Poor’s have not fudged data. Quod grati asseritur, gratis negatur. “What is freely asserted can be freely denied.”
Church critics admit that Mr. Aquino heeds the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” In contrast, a former president is being tried for plunder. A chief justice was impeached for muddling tax returns. But P-Noy hasn’t curbed pork barrel excesses. Today’s Ombudsman has a backbone.
By implementing the Framework Agreement between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mr. Aquino is turning swords into ploughshares. A Conditional Cash Transfer program benefits 3.8 million of the poorest families. Still, the number of poor people hasn’t budged. Over half a million women seek underground abortionists due to patchy family planning services.
So, what’s causing the static? Among others, the bishops of Lipa and Bacolod blacklisted candidates who had backed the passage of the reproductive health bill. “Team Patay” instead coasted to decisive wins. These prelates clustered contra-RH bill legislators in “Team Buhay.” They were whipped.
“The Catholic Church would not be alive because Team Patay lost,” wrote Ateneo de Davao’s Fr. Joel Tabora. “Nor would it be dead if Team Patay won. The Church is diminished if bishops reduce it to a political party. Over-identification of the Church with particular political parties is historically inimical to the Church’s mission.”
In the polls’ aftermath, some pastors found themselves without a flock. “The sheep did not heed them… A stranger they will not follow,” said the Good Shepherd. “They will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Electioneering prelates are bogged in a quagmire and still don’t know it. That is pathetic. Instead, they inflict “flunking grades on those who, in equal good conscience, supported the law. That is tragic.”
See this controversy in the context of the G8 summit. The leaders of eight industrialized nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—will gather in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, on June 17-18 to forge ways of meeting critical problems. This is the G8’s 38th meeting since 1976.
“Enniskillen is painting fake storefronts on closed-down businesses,” the Irish Times reports. Imelda Marcos once masked slums with flimsy painted walls whenever VIPs visited. “No one is fooled,” says Phil Flanagan, former owner of a papered-over butcher shop. “It is like when your mother-in-law is coming to visit and you give the house a tidy up.”
It’s not all sham. The World Bank boosted this year’s funding for child nutrition from $230 million to $600 million. And the European Union pledged an extra $500 million for related projects. “Stunting has become the most prevalent nutritional challenge in developing nations. Worldwide, 165 million children are affected.” (In Philippine kindergarten and primary classes, 562,262 pupils are “severely wasted.”)
“An international preferential option for the poor should be part of the G8 summit conversation,” wrote the heads of national Catholic conferences of bishops from eight countries. “Your focus on agriculture and nutrition is timely in a world that has made great strides in improving food production and distribution.”
The bishops include, among others, France’s André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Leo Jun Ikenaga, SJ, archbishop of Osaka, and US Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Improve nutrition, reduce hunger and poverty, and strengthen just taxes, trade and transparency policies, the bishops urged.
“As a human family, we are only as healthy as our weakest members,” they pointed out. “[Still] far too many of God’s children go to bed hungry. Lack of nutrition is a tragedy that has lifelong consequences… By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and vulnerable, you help assure the common good of all is served.”
“Man is not in charge,” said Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome. “Today, money is in charge, money rules… God did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us…. Instead, men and women are sacrificed to idols of consumption…”
“A culture of waste has become the common mentality that infects everyone,” the Pope noted. Human life is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected, especially if poor or disabled, or if not useful, such as the unborn child and the elderly.
“Our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food,” the Pope said. “Everyone [should] reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food.” Identify ways so saving food becomes “a vehicle of solidarity” with the needy.
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