A moral accountability, not just a legal issue
This refers to a news item about a group within the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), which called on its leadership to withdraw from the lawsuit filed against former President Gloria Arroyo for various human rights violations. (Inquirer, 6/26/11)
To set the record straight, the UCCP leadership, headed by Bishop Reuel Marigza, was only implementing a decision made last October 2010 at the UCCP National Council Meeting.
The complaint holds Ms Arroyo liable for damage done to the UCCP and to the victims and their families—by virtue of her command responsibility as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and for her failure, by commission or omission, to fulfill her sworn duties as president who had pledged “to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws, and do justice to every man.”
The lawsuit cites her not only for her legal but also for her clear moral and ethical accountability before the people and, most of all, before God.
As a community of faith, the UCCP is guided in all its actions by the divine imperatives we discern right from the Scripture. “To do justice to every man” is precisely what a president has sworn to do while in office. This is in keeping with the biblical mandate in itself. (e.g., Psalms 72:1-4) But if a president, instead, becomes the source or becomes tolerant of a policy that results in so much injustice against a great number of her own people, she must be called to account for her actions.
When she takes her oath, a president does not only have a social contract with the people; she actually enters also into a sacred covenant with God. This is an act that cannot be trifled with or simply ignored as a matter of ceremonial formality. From this sacred covenant springs the authority for her to rule. From this covenant founded upon the sacred documents of the Scripture and the Constitution spring her accountability and the clear limits to her own power.
After hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings, abductions, illegal arrests, tortures and disappearances had taken place, when not one case had been resolved, or a suspect arrested, brought to court, convicted and jailed—clearly indicating a clear breakdown of justice and the rise of a culture of impunity—there can be no other recourse for the church which professes faithfulness and loyalty to God who is righteous and just.
Hence, this act of the church certainly is not just a matter of politics; it is a matter of faith that needs to be acted out, an imperative of faith to which the UCCP cannot turn its back on without compromising its own calling and loyalty to its crucified and risen Lord.
For all those who had taken the ultimate sacrifice in giving witness to the kind of faith being proclaimed and confessed by the church itself in its own Statement of Faith, this is the least the UCCP can do for them.
—REV. NORIEL CAPULONG Th.D., chair, Faith and Order Commission, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, [email protected]
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