Why do we allow this?
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Renato Corona has the Iglesia ni Cristo.
Well, Arroyo had the INC, too, especially toward the end of her rule when the CBCP had a change of heart, following the change of leadership from Fernando Capalla to Angel Lagdameo, which was quite a sea change from hell to heaven. Arroyo had a change of heart, too, and turned from one Mafiosi to another. She so tried to make sipsip, or ingratiate herself, to the INC in the twilight of her rule that she even declared the day of Eraño Manalo’s death a day of mourning, a national holiday. Not unlike Ferdinand Marcos declaring Sept. 21, 1972, a day of national thanksgiving.
The INC has grown over the years to become the second biggest church in this country. You’ve got to wonder, though, what it is asking its fold to do. Over the same years it has grown, it has been trying to keep certain prominent citizens out of jail or, in the case of public officials, keeping them in power. Take Lope Jimenez, the prime suspect in the murder of his niece-in-law Ruby Rose Barrameda-Jimenez. The suspected killer pointed to him and his brother, Mariano, as the ones who had ordered him to abduct and murder Ruby Rose, and then seal her body in cement inside a metal drum. The kin of Ruby Rose allege that Lope joined the INC to begin with to protect his fishing business. Arroyo’s last justice secretary, Agnes Devanadera, dropped the case against him before she went. Leila de Lima has resurrected it.
The INC as well has tried to influence the court in Jason Ivler’s case. Ivler of course was that vicious thug who shot that young man, Renato Ebarle, in cold blood over a trifling traffic altercation. He was the same vicious thug who shot it out with cops when they discovered his hideout and arrested him. This is the guy the INC wants free to roam the same streets our kids do.
Indeed, Eraño Manalo’s INC (like Capalla’s CBCP) was hugely responsible for propping up Arroyo’s rule, particularly after the sound of Arroyo’s grating voice helloing Garci hit the airwaves.
Not too long ago, the INC made headlines by railing against the government for axing Magtanggol Gatdula, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation and an INC stalwart. P-Noy himself did the axing after finding out that Gatdula had a hand in the illegal detention of a Japanese fugitive. Despite De Lima’s strenuous attestations that the justice department did its homework before recommending Gatdula’s dismissal, the INC complained that he was not given a chance to explain.
And now Corona.
A few months ago, the INC held a political rally thinly disguised as a prayer camp-out to express support for him. And not quite incidentally to give the world to glimpse its clout, a thing especially addressed to the senators and congressmen, some of whom would be seeking a new lease on life in next year’s elections. Today, as this newspaper reported several days ago, it has been going around trying to persuade the senator-judges to find Corona innocent as grace in exchange for a boost to their political ambition. As Faustian an exchange as you could get.
All of this must make us ask: Why do we allow this?
Why do we allow the INC to begin with to interfere in elections? We know that INC members vote as a bloc for the candidates of their leaders’ choosing. We know this because that church doesn’t bother to hide it; it parades it as one of the reasons for joining it or currying its favor. At least the Catholic Church believes in giving to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God’s the things that are God’s. This one believes in socking it to Caesar, or sucking up to Caesar, in God’s name. This is out-and-out flouting of the separation of Church and State, a thing expressly forbidden in a democracy. And yet we see no law stopping it, and yet we see only politicians seeking to profit from it.
Just as well, why do we allow a church to act according to the motto, We don’t care if he’s an SOB so long as he’s our SOB? At least we howled in pain when the Catholic Church acted that way. At least we roared in anger when the bishops started saying things like, “Everybody cheats, anyway,” and “Let’s move on.” Why the silence on this one? Because they’re smaller? Because they do things more quietly, preferring the backdoor to the front one? Well, they may be smaller or quieter, but actions speak louder than words.
In the end, it’s probably poetic justice, if not providential irony, that the INC is backing Corona. It highlights yet again the importance of P-Noy’s anticorruption campaign, which is more than just a campaign to stop stealing but a campaign to stop the decay of this country’s sense of right and wrong. That law and religion, the two institutions that are supposed to serve as the moral compass of a nation, should become instead the sticky morass of the nation, that is a testament to how sick, how rotten, how corrupt we’ve become.
It’s a testament to what Arroyo, whom this government wants to bring to justice to start the cleansing, has done to us.
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