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Disturbing moral issues on a candidacy

Nonpartisan, but not neutral…” has been the stance of many church leaders during this electoral period. Nonpartisan because bishops and priests, as institutional leaders of the church, are pastors of a community that is open to all, sinners and saints, and should not be divided by political affiliations. On the other hand, religious leaders cannot be neutral when the issues involve a moral dimension.

It is in this light that the prophetic role of church leaders must be heard. The candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for president, in particular, has raised a number of moral issues. The comments of knowledgeable observers articulate these concerns.

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Plunder and corruption charges“$683 Million (or P34 billion) worth of Marcos assets in various Swiss banks were declared as ill-gotten wealth, based on a July 2003 Supreme Court decision.” (Inquirer.net)

“In 1991, the (Bureau of Internal Revenue) assessed the amount of P23.3 billion in estate taxes on the estate left by the dictator Marcos. Bongbong is the administrator of the estate of his father. (He has) ignored the collection notices since then. The total now due of the estate taxes and the interest and surcharges thereon is P203.8 billion.” (Ret. Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.)

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Tax evasion and moral turpitude“I find that the Respondent’s repeated and persistent non-filing of income tax returns in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985, which resulted in his conviction, constitutes an offense involving moral turpitude; … the fact that these omissions were repeated, persistent and consistent, is reflective already of a conscious design and intent to avoid a positive duty under the law and intent to evade the taxes due.” (Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon)

“The election of Bongbong would be the installation of a President who is a confirmed tax evader. He will serve as a model for, and protector of, present-day and future tax evaders … As a tax evader, Bongbong has shown that he has no respect for our laws.” (CJ H. Davide)

Re-interpreting the iniquities of martial law“Bongbong has shown no remorse for all the atrocities, evils, and iniquities his father committed during the Martial Law years. He repeatedly said that he will not apologize for these because he was still very young then to know them. This is not true. Upon the proclamation of Martial Law, he was already a bright man of 15 years.” (CJ H. Davide)

“He has never recognized the wrongdoing that took place under the Marcos watch, has never apologized for it, sought pardon, nor provided restitution to countless victims and their loved ones whose lives had been shattered.” (Prof. Ed Garcia, Constitutional Convention delegate, 1987)

Deliberate and widespread disinformation“We are appalled by the blatant and subtle distortion, manipulation, cover-up, repression, and abuse of the truth, like: historical revisionism, the proliferation of fake news and false stories; disinformation.” (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)

“We vehemently reject the candidates who run under this platform of lies and historical distortion—disseminated in social media by massively financed trolls—particularly the brazen presentation of the Marcos dictatorship and Martial Law as benevolent regimes in our political history.” (Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines)

“He has engaged the services of consultants and social media experts on the ‘brand rehabilitation’ of the Marcos name. Aided by an army of paid trolls, he has conducted his electoral campaign, in large part, on a strategy of misinformation that seeks to mislead rather than clarify.” (Prof. E. Garcia)

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These, then, are major moral issues that should be discussed in our circles of discernment—plunder; tax evasion; silence with regard to the iniquities of martial law, and widespread disinformation used in the electoral campaign. Church leaders have raised their voices in denouncing these malpractices that undermine our democratic way of life. For Pope Francis, “corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope.” But for the youth and for everyone else, honest and meaningful elections can open that window to the future.

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The Most Reverend Antonio J. Ledesma is the archbishop emeritus of Cagayan de Oro. He served as archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro from 2006 to 2020.

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TAGS: Elections, marcos, moral, Religion
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