Statement on the Killing
by Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz
We, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, condemn the slaying of our esteemed colleague, Bishop Benjamin D. de Jesus, OMI, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo. We mourn deeply his death while finding comfort in our faith in God who gives us the promise of eternal life.
Bishop de Jesus was a man of God, a man of peace. He embraced his vocation with zealousness and dedication, devoting himself to a place of diverse beliefs fired up with a desire to bring about peace and harmony. He ardently promoted dialogue not only of minds and hearts, but also of lives, weaving his own life in profound understanding of the life, not only of the Catholics, but most importantly, of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The tragedy is that death should come to this beloved man of the cloth through the hands of the ungodly, men with obvious evil in their hearts. What is the message behind this? When will such acts of inexplicable and deliberate violence stop?
This sacrifice of life by this man of peace should open our eyes, should rouse our society and our country to the bitter, dark hatred residing in men which threatens to erupt into senseless violence. It must move us to exert greater effort at bringing about peace, at making alive the witness of love and compassion that Jesus Christ taught us by his life. It must make us realize that the work of peace is not the task of one man, but of all men of good will and love for God and country.
Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics
Pope John Paul II has spoken of a new springtime of Christian life which will occur in the third millennium if we Christians become docile to the action of the Holy Spirit (TMA, no. 18). Looking ahead to the 2000th anniversary of our Lord’s birth–the Great Jubilee–he calls for conversion, for renewal in the Gospel, for all of us. It is his prayer that God’s abundant grace will be poured out on the world, come the Great Jubilee, and so he asks that we prepare ourselves for the hoped-for outpouring of His salvific love.
To help us on the way of conversion and renewal, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have decided to issue each year, starting this year, a special full-length pastoral letter dealing with an aspect of Philippine life which in their view urgently needs change and renewal according to the Gospel.
This year the CBCP chose to dwell on the way we conduct politics in our country.
Since 1945, when the CBCP itself started functioning as a Conference, more than half of its pastoral letters and statements have dealt with political questions (see PL). In 1991, the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) devoted a good amount of time and space in its final document to the discussion of the role of the Church in politics (see PCP-II, par. 330-53). Why has the Church been unusually pro-active in addressing the subject of politics since the end of World War II and especially since the Martial Law years and the restoration of our democracry in 1986?
There is one main reason: Philippine politics–the way it is practiced–has been most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.
But why is this so?
A. THE POLITICAL SCENE
Politics is–or ought to be–the art of government and public service. But sadly, in the Philippines, it has degenerated into an arena where the interests of the powerful and rich few are pitted against those of the weak and poor many. It interferes with the administration of justice and the equal application of the law, heavily weighted as it most patently is on the side of the politically connected. Political debts are paid with appointments to high offices of those to whom elected officials are indebted, blind loyalty counting as the most important criterion in the selection of public officials–even for government agencies mandated to be independent by the Constitution. The bureaucracy is packed with political proteges, many of whom do nothing except to collect their salaries on the middle and end of each month. Thus the well-intentioned among career officials and employees in government become demoralized early or withdraw into silence or resign altogether. And those who opt to continue despite disillusionment are only too often harassed or eventually coopted into the system.
The constitutional principles of separation of powers and of checks and balances among the three departments of government are, on the one hand, abused to create deadlock for political mileage; and, on the other hand, conveniently set aside on occasion for reciprocal advantage. Thus, for example, to entrench themselves in office or to promote their political future, those in the Executive Department cooperate with Congress in padding the government budget with all kinds of pork barrel items–the Countrywide Development Funds, for example, congressional insertions, the special funds in the public works bills–for the disposition of politicians and the discretionary funds of the President. On top of these, the resources or facilities of specialized or autonomous organizations where there is little or no public accountability–such as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Organization (PCSO), the Bases Conversion and Development Agency (BCDA) or sequestered companies–are made to be easily accessible for political ends. The system is shot through and through with opportunities for corruption, influence-peddling and the indiscriminate use of public funds for partisan or personal purposes.
When it comes to elections, the electoral process has been systematically subverted with increasingly sophisticated methods of tilting the playing field or committing fraud with the result that elections are in danger of losing their credibility as a reliable means for effecting change. The machinery for cheating is planned well in advance starting with the appointment of loyal lieutenants to sensitive agencies and positions that have to do with elections the audit of government funds or the enforcement of the Ethics Law. This is combined with an elaborate propaganda machine, including government-controlled media, the purpose of which is to destroy the reputation of critics and political opponents. The is also to manipulate public perceptions of government performance or to simply promote the interests of those in power and of their political proteges.
People have become so cynical of government, of Congress and of the electoral process itself, that often they lose sight of the relevance of their vote to their life or future and sell it for momentary financial gain. Thus, despite the pleas of the Church and other responsible groups, election after election, for citizens to be vigilant fiscalizers of government expenditures, many have become indifferent to corruption or themselves want to have “a piece of the action.” Despite too the guidelines regularly issued for the principled choice of candidates, many an undeserving man or woman still, just as regularly, gets voted into office.
If we are what we are today–a country with a very great number of poor and powerless people–one reason is the way we have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the low level it is in now. What we have said so far above about politics in our country does not by any means exhaust all we can say about it. We need to have a closer look then at our political culture in order to be able to do something constructive with it by way of the renewal and conversion we seek in preparation for the Great Jubilee.
B. OUR POLITICAL CULTURE
Let us begin with a typical politician’s concept of public office. And even as we speak here of “a typical politician”, we should soberly ask ourselves if the ideas and values, motives and acts, that we attribute to him may not be, if we are honest with ourselves, not too different from our own. . .
Our Constitution describes public office as a public trust meant for the good of civil society at large. Yet many a politician looks at it as a means of enrichment and a source of influence and power for self- and family-enlargement. It hence easily becomes considered and actually treated as some sort of private property to be passed on from one generation to another in the manner of a feudal title–the perpetuation of power that is at the base of so-called “family dynasties.” In this manner no distinction is made between public funds and private money.
What accounts for this sad state of things, for the degeneration unto evil, if we may put it as starkly as we can, rather than the transformation unto good of a person who is interested in a political career? What kind of political system have we created where base power and greed, not lofty principles of self-sacrificing service, are all too often the operative norms of conduct of public officials? For some of the answers, it would be of help to scrutinize a little more intensely one aspect of our politics: the election process. We choose to focus on it if only for the fact that it is at election time that the worst flaws of our political system and culture glaringly show themselves in their most degrading forms.
Pre-Election Day Activities . In the campaign period, the first focus of attention is on getting oneself chosen as the candidate of a party. Very early on, a candidate seeking support from the “kingmakers” is advised that he must learn to deal with “political reality” and he is supposed to do this by adopting the traditional method of political horsetrading, of promising patronage to financial supporters, of buying the loyalty of local traders. Soon enough he becomes adept in the ways of self-serving opportunism and he looks for a party that can help him fulfill his ambitions without regard to ideology and platform. Thus it is commonplace to see or hear of disappointed candidates switching party affiliations or founding their own parties. There is no difficulty whatsoever for an office-aspirant to be sworn into one party after another, no real stigma being attached to “turn-coatism”.
Prospective candidates make sure they get plenty of public exposure. To have this they cultivate media people assiduously and resort to bribing journalists to make sure they land in the news. At this stage they already incur huge expenses even as they breed corruption in the media. In turn those already in government who become afflicted with the election bug use public funds to finance “public service” messages or institutional ads that trumpet their accomplishments. With the use of government facilities, public money and the bureaucracy itself, they also jump the gun on election campaigning by organizing “inspection trips” to the most far-flung areas–with media people in tow. One cannot but wonder at the degree of moral erosion candidates must already be suffering at this point in their career.
When convention time comes, delegates are “wined, dined and womened”–as the gross but only too accurate expression cynically puts it–in order to win their votes. Here at the convention level alone, election spending gets even more heavy. If candidates spend enormous amounts of money freely in the election campaign period, everybody knows they do so in the certainty that they will be able to recoup every single item of expense and more when they assume office; and that if they eventually manage by whatever devious means to become themselves “kingpins” in their own right, they will be more than compensated for by national candidates who need the support of their political machinery.
The campaign period turns the Philippine scene into a mad circus, a vast entertainment plaza. Candidates will, during this period, do whatever their audience bids them to do–in sharp contrast to their deafness to the same people’s cries for attention once they are in office. They will dance, clown, kick-box, sing, use gutter language–anything to sell themselves and heighten “name recall.” In short, they do everything except educate the electorate on issues. They hire expensive advertizing agencies to polish up their image, often without regard to the truth, and to produce sound-bites and one-liners that will go over well in political rallies and quick interviews on radio and television. All of which only serve to worsen our personality-oriented brand of politics.
People take advantage of the campaign period to ask donations for every conceivable “project” from the candidates who are pressured to give under pain of losing valuable votes. This in turn forces candidates to solicit or accept contributions from vested interests who expect a return after the elections. The same goes with the party in power: It misuses government funds and other resources for electioneering purposes. When later those guilty become vulnerable to prosecution, they whitewash investigations with the help of proteges previously deployed in strategic agencies, even go to the extent of legislating amendments to “decriminalize” their violations.
“Dirty tricks, black propaganda, mudslinging”–anything to weaken or destroy the opposition –these are liberally resorted to. In short, the laws of ordinary morality are suspended during the campaign period in favor of office seekers and their supporters.
Election Day Activities . Winning at any cost and by any means–this has become the paramount principle governing candidates and parties in their election bid. This translates on election day itself into vote-buying, the use of “flying voters”, the intimidation of voters for the opposition, violence, even murder; and, for turning already cast votes in one’s favor, into bribery of election officials, deliberate miscounting of votes, tampering with ballots and election results. The genius and imagination required for cheating are truly stupendous and are exercised to the full–one would only wish they were used for more noble purposes than achieving undeserved victories for undeserving candidates.
While election day violence has considerably diminished, there are still many places where voters are scared off by threats of violence, where voters’ lists and even voting paraphernalia are purposely made unavailable in the precincts. Even in areas where the polls seem to be peaceful, there often is a strong undercurrent of tension because of a pervasive sense among the people that if candidates and their followers–and election officials themselves–are not watched closely, something not quite above board is going to happen. The monitoring by citizens’ groups of election day activities thus becomes a necessity, even if at times highly hazardous.
Except at the barangay level, it is not unusual for election results–even for local contests–not to be known at the end of election day. The slow tabulation of final results is one clear evil of our electoral process that somehow to date continues to be unaccepting of corrective measures.
The Post-Election Period . Confusion is the order of the day in many a community. And it has to be with the final canvassing of election results and the proclamation of winners, as has already been said, taking an unduly long time to happen. Every loser cries “foul!”, declares himself cheated, and election results are not accepted. The COMELEC takes its own sweet time deciding on election protests so that when initial verdicts are finally overturned, cheating anomalies corrected, those belatedly declared winners are barely able to assume their seats before the new election takes place.
What follows is the whole tissue of evils in our way of conducting politics that we started detailing in the earlier parts of this letter. Thus election winners, once in, use their office for gain and the shoring up of their power. Paying political debts, recouping election expenses, making fat profits for themselves–these cannot be done without resorting to all kinds of corrupt practices. “Kick-backs” (amounting sometimes to as much as 40% of the cost of a project), rigged contract biddings for public constructions, padding of expense accounts and payrolls, nepotism, the misuse of pork barrel funds, influence peddling–all kinds of other unimaginable malpractices which often go undetected and unpunished–are spawned and proliferate egregiously.
We spoke above of the whole election process taking on the trappings of a mega-entertainment circus for the public. Yet even while it dazzles and titillates, it already starts producing the tragic fruits that make our country one of the worst in the world in terms of skewed income distribution and among the most corrupt–these two facts are unfortunately intimately related like night to day.
The worst part of the bad scene we have been looking at is that we, the people, even if cynically, seem to accept them as inevitable and ordinary modes of proceeding of elected officials. And we have to ask what we asked above, namely, if what we described as the typical politician’s mindset is not perchance–deep down– somehow ours too.
We reiterate what we have already noted about the place of faith in our political culture: It is systematically excluded. The prime values of our faith–charity, justice, honesty, truth–these are of little or no consequence at all when it come to our practice of politics in or out of election time. True, religion is made use of: Candidates pay ostentatious courtesy calls on Churchmen; political conventions and other official gatherings are incomplete without prayers of invocation. But these are more instances of religion being used for political purposes than of religion influencing politics.
But why should this be so in a nation where the vast majority of the people are Catholic and Christian? Our faith in God has played a key role in major events of our history–even in a decidely political matter like the People Power Revolution of EDSA. Yet politics as a whole has been, strangely, largely impervious to the Gospel. Our political culture denies, to our shame, our proud claim to the name Christian.
C. SIGNS OF HOPE
While the foregoing is an unflattering description of the dominant character of our politics, and it seems unrelievedly black, still, there have been shining moments in our political life that give us reason to hope–and the motivation to work even harder together–for the renewal of our life as Christians and as Filipinos for the creation of a new political order.
We look at our history and we note that the Philippine electorate have more frequently removed rather than retained administration candidates and have had their judgment respected by losing candidates. We saw in the 1978 elections during Martial Law how people took the risk of speaking out with a noise barrage against the excesses and abuses of the regime.
In 1984 and 1986, volunteer citizen groups in massive numbers, unmindful of danger to themselves, courageously safeguarded the ballot against a seemingly invincible government machinery bent on thwarting the people’s will. At EDSA, in the storied People Power Revolution, ordinary citizens succesfully ended an entrenched authoritarian regime and restored lost democratic freedoms in a non-violent rebellion that has had repercussions all over the world for people seeking an end to oppressive governments.
We experienced the peaceful transfer of power in 1992, the first in 27 years, because of the example of a president who chose to step down graciously from power and because of the unprecedented cooperation in the conduct of the election between a revitalized COMELEC and its deputies on the one hand, and on the other, citizens’ arms like NGOs (non-government organizations) and POs (people’s organizations), Church groups and the media.
We have seen, in the aftermath of the 1995 elections and allegations of dagdag-bawas , members of the Board of Canvassers of a province (Bataan) publicly attesting through affidavits to the fraudulent acts of election officials. We have also seen the examples of (a) lowly bureaucrats in the Health Department exposing the corruption of an appointee to the Cabinet and helping put pressure on the President to finally withdraw his nomination; (b) senior COMELEC officials risking retaliation by making public inefficiencies and irregularities in their offices; (c) government officials responsibly discharging their duties by calling attention to environmental degradation in our midst; and (d) a presidential commission braving the ire of Congress by releasing for the information of the public their analysis of how the people’s money is wasted and pocketed by elected officials.
Some voting patterns of recent elections also give us a glimpse of what is possible: people beginning to vote more intelligently and not allowing themselves to be discouraged even when those they thought worthy turn out to be otherwise; voters choosing non-politicians over “traditional” ones, electing younger and presumably more idealistic candidates over those with money; or going for candidates of known probity and good performance instead of those supported by the usual power brokers. Many new and young faces are entering politics at the barangay and local levels and winning over very wealthy opponents and members of political clans whose heavy election spending for once is rendered futile.
We cannot discount or ignore these and many other positive developments in the nation’s political life, few and far between though they may be in the face of the many negative facts we saw above. It is all the more reason then why we must treasure them and hold them up as examples to be emulated and replicated again and again, why we must engage ourselves totally against the forces that stand in the way of reform and systemic change, why we must encourage and support one another in what should be a common and concerted striving to create a less hurtful and more humane political order.
The urgent need then is for us as Christians and as Church to evangelize politics, to become involved in politics in the way of the Gospel.
D. GOD’S CALL TO MISSION IN POLITICS
Any serious believer in God cannot allow the state of our our national politics as we have been speaking of above to persist. And in fact there is a duty for the Christian Catholic to transform politics by the Gospel. The Church, God’s people, must evangelize politics. God’s call to the Church is to preach the integral Gospel, the Gospel with all its social dimensions. The Gospel must influence every phase of life, every stratum of society, and “restore all things under Christ” (Eph. 1:10).
Strangely, there are not a few people, even within the Church, who do not believe that to renew politics is part of the Church’s mission. When Church officials praise government policies, government officials welcome such support warmly and are only too happy. But when Church officials criticise and denounce government policies, the same people immediately cry out: “Violation of the separation of Church and State! Church meddling in politics! Let the Church stick to religion!” They cite the words of Christ: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21). They say that the Church should have nothing to do with politics because Christ said to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this earth!” (Jn. 18:36). They therefore conclude that the Church should not say anything about politics and politicians.
How wrongly they interpret Scriptures and the doctrine of separation of Church and State! Quite unjustly they selectively level this charge of interference in politics against the Catholic Church, even while some other sects may be loudly intervening in the political process especially during elections.
E. THE BASIS OF THE CHURCH’S MISSION IN POLITICS
Politics Has a Religious and Moral Dimension–this is the general principle we start with. Every informed Catholic should be aware of this simple incontrovertible truth: Our Catholic faith is concerned with the religious and moral dimension of life; but every human activity that flows from the normal processes of intellect and will has a religious and moral dimension, since it may either lead to grace or to sin. Or, as we said in the beginning, it may hurt or benefit people, it may upbuild or destroy them. Being a human activity politics has, therefore, a religious and moral dimension which our Catholic faith simply cannot ignore.
There are at least five bases for the Church’s mission which explicitate the above general principle.
Moreover, salvation is concerned not only with the individual but also with the community, for personal salvation depends on God’s grace acting not only directly on an individual but also through a community. This is a necessary and unavoidable implication of the believing community as the Body of Christ, “a holy nation.” We therefore believe that the Church is God’s sign and instrument of salvation. As a consequence, the Church has to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the political community. If only for the fact that politics has such a decisive influence on the total good of human beings.
The clear teaching and example of Christ is for every Christian believer to be pro-poor and for the Church to have an option for the poor (PCP-II, 312-14; see CFC, 1187-89). To realize this Gospel imperative of option for the poor, the Church must labor to try evangelizing and transforming our country’s politics, its institutions, relationships, values and behavior so that politics will work preferentially for the poor.
The above considerations ground the Church’s involvement in politics. Flowing from the Gospel, they are simple basic truths of our Catholic faith. When the Church denounces political attitudes, behavior or structures that are counter to the Gospel and to the Reign of God and militate against the integral salvation of the human person, especially of the poor, why would some, even well educated Catholics, condemn the Church for “political interference”? And why is it that no similar outcry is heard when the Church supports or praises government initiatives? To support is not interference while to denounce is? A very strange logic, indeed! We can only conclude that the basic reason is a poor understanding of the Church’s mission.
F. MORAL AND RELIGIOUS TRUTHS GUIDING POLITICS
If the Church does intervene in politics on the moral and religious bases presented above, it exercises this right and duty in various ways, above all by teaching moral and religious truths that should guide and transform politics according to the Gospel. The Scriptures, the moral and social teachings of the Church supply us with these valuable principles (see CFC, 1162-63, 1193).
Politics must respect and promote human dignity and the fundamental human rights that flow from such dignity. When politicians exploit their fellow citizens and deny their will in electoral processes through fraud and violence, when they promote their own vested interests through any means, fair or foul, because of greed for power or possessions at the expense of others, they thereby brazenly dismiss the human dignity of their fellow human beings.
The equal dignity of all human beings bring them into mutual solidarity. By solidarity they are brought together not through superficial human sentiments or vague feelings of the unity of humankind but through active bonds of mutual respect, love, and service. Solidarity is a “firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, i.e., to the good of all and of each individual because we are really responsible for all” (SRS, 38). Solidarity is destroyed by the selfish competition and greedy ambitioning for power that characterizes our political culture. Is this not happening even today because of the ill-advised and divisive move to extend terms of political office by changing the Constitution? The common good is invoked for such a move. This would perhaps be a bit credible were the politicians behind such a move known to be great champions of the common good rather than officials perceived popularly as trapos–the very kind of politicians from whose clutches the enlightened citizenry has been trying to liberate the nation.
When legitimately constituted authority is exercised within the limits of its competence and in accord with the moral law, it must be respected and obeyed. But when it is used contrary to the moral law, the will of God is violated and authority would loses its right to be obeyed. Clearly, no citizen is obliged to obey a command to do what is morally wrong. In fact, all citizens are obliged to resist the wrong use of authority and to declare: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Vatican II reiterates this scriptural teaching: “It is legitimate for them (citizens) to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against abuses of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the law of the Gospel” (GS, 74). This is the principle that impelled the Filipino people to achieve the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.
But the collaboration of the Church is given through critical discernment. The higher law of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God remains the fundamental norm of the Church’s collaboration. By reason of this norm the Church cannot be identified with any political community, political party or ideology. Nor can the Church canonize any one form of political regime. “The choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the decisions of citizens” (GS, 74), guided by the principle presented above. But clearly the Church cannot accept a political regime that is contrary to the Gospel. Moreover, the Church “cannot encourage the formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State for individual interests or for ideological ends” (CA, 46).
G. THE SPECIFIC MISSION OF THE CHURCH IN POLITICS
In the light of the above, what then is the specific mission of the Church in the political order? The answer lies in the insight of the 1971 Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appears to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel”. From this insight flow a number of important corollaries.
Vatican II states: “The Church praises and esteems those who devote themselves to the public good for the service of all and take upon themselves the burdens of public office” (GS, 75). It also adds this encouragement: “Those with talent for the difficult and noble art of politics, or whose talents in this matter can be developed, should prepare themselves for it, and forgetting their own convenience and material interests, they should engage in political activity” (Ibid.).
It is along these same lines that PCP-II states: “In the Philippines today, given the general perception that politics has become an obstacle to integral development, the urgent necessity is for the lay faithful to participate more actively, with singular competence and integrity, in political affairs” (PCP-II, 348). PCP-II strongly urged that competent and conscientious persons of integrity should become political candidates. And the laity must “help form the civic conscience of the voting population and work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office” (PCP-II, Art. 8, #1).
PCP-II underlined the following truths to guide the participation of Catholics in political life:
We draw conclusions from the above for Catholic/politicians: they are to decide and act in public life according to the principles of Catholic faith and morality; they should not separate their religion from the exercise of their public office; and while respecting the religious freedom of others, they must not be afraid to act in public life in accordance with their faith and in true witnessing to the Gospel.
Given a plurality of possible options consistent with the Gospel, freedom of choice has to be a right we must especially value in a democracy. A particular political option becomes obligatory to Catholics only when it is clearly the only one demanded by the Gospel, even more so when it is clarified and taught authoritatively by the magisterium.
Above we referred to what PCP-II says about the laity’s responsibility to “work to explicitly promote the election of leaders of true integrity to public office.” This is not at all a call to form a “Catholic Party” or to have a slate of “Catholic Candidates” that must be supported by all but an encouragement for all to be more discerning in their choice among candidates for office and to work actively for their election. It is a call for political partisanship, yes, but for partisanship that must be exercised “cleanly”–which is to say, in a way that is the direct opposite of all that we mean by the term “dirty politics”. And this includes not using the Church for grossly partisan ends. This is what it is to concretely and practically evangelize politics.
H. PASTORAL ACTION TO TRANSFORM POLITICS
How do we go about changing the way politics is done in the Philippines so that, instead of being a stumbling block, it positively contributes to integral development, including the spiritual growth, of our people? How renew politics so that it becomes a channel for our people’s well being and growth in the life of grace? How ensure that the truths about faith and politics we have presented above do not remain unattainable ideals but become reality?
But catechesis on politics cannot have any lasting effect if done only on the occasion of elections. It should be done as part and parcel of regular catechesis in the family, in schools, in Basic Ecclesial Communities, covenant communities of lay people, religious organizations –”in season, out of season,” or as the PPC-RV slogan has it, “panghabang panahon”. Through catechesis on politics, people should be led to see the vital link between their life of faith and their political activity. They should be taught how to evaluate their options in politics to see whether or not they are in accord with the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. Catechesis should enable them to express their faith and be guided by their faith in their politics.
Political education includes increased awareness of guidelines to help people make the right choices, based on a properly formed conscience, in the election of candidates. This is the reason why, as we adverted to in the beginning, in the 50 years of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the Philippine Bishops have been providing such guidelines almost as a matter course everytime national elections come. Church instrumentalities at the national level, such as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPC-RV) and NASSA-VOTE CARE, have also disseminated similar guidelines. We urge everyone to be more aware of the guidelines, reflect on them, discuss them with others, and seriously follow them on the basis of their faith commitment, their religious and moral sense, in judging the qualities or competences of candidates for office.
Possible political leaders should be schooled in the principles and practice of doing politics in a Christian way, in accord with the Gospels, the values of the Kingdom of God, the moral teachings of the Church, especially its social teachings. An implication of PCP-II’s stand urging persons in responsible positions to promote actively the election of worthy candidates is the necessity of preparing these candidates for public office. If economic managers are schooled in their field, political leaders should also be formed so that they may discharge the burdens of public office with competence and integrity.
We need to change all this. Conversion to new values is the most basic of pastoral action. Again this points to the need for, as a first step, catechesis on politics, the need for political re-education at all levels of society and the Church, laity, religious, priests and bishops. It is noteworthy that at the level of grassroots Basic Ecclesial Communities, such a political re-education is taking place quite effectively.
At the level of Church leaders–whether clerical or lay–conversion is also imperative. By accepting special gifts and privileges from so-called trapos, by allowing them or their immediate relatives to take positions of authority in religious organizations, we are abetting their deeds of dishonesty and fraud, graft and corruption, and helping them maintain their power. By such conduct we allow our prophetic denunciation of political evils to lose its sharpness and credibility. We need to change our ways and be true prophets in our day.
However, such heroic efforts are not enough. The whole citizenry must awaken to the fact that the Filipino religious and moral sense is being destroyed by many factors, one of the most significant being politics. A general movement of civil society must take place to renew politics and rid it of its evil dimensions. Civic organizations, peoples’ organizations, associations of lay people and religious, school associations, etc.–all have to band together in true and active solidarity for the sake of the country.
The Church is committed towards such solidarity by helping create awareness of our social ills and by conducting values education in politics through its own network of resources and means of social communications; and beyond awareness and values, by encouraging and supporting action for change.
It is a Christian task to work for laws that will bring about genuine prosperity, more equitable distribution of income and wealth, the promotion of the rights of the poor and of indigenous peoples. It is a Christian task to lobby for electoral reforms so that the people’s will may not be subverted.
Such active advocacy and lobbying requires a long and tedious process such as research, group organizing, participation in congressional hearings, and using various media to make the people know what is being done or not done in Congress regarding their destiny. Hence, civil society must have a strong sense of purpose, coordinated solidarity, tenacity and perseverance.
The tasks of the PPC-RV–the organizing of independent poll watchers for election day itself is one of its most important responsibilities–are quite clear from past experience. But for VOTE-CARE there will be need to get the dioceses acting in more programmatic fashion through their Social Action Centers not only for a more systematic and concerted conscientization effort at raising awareness and concern about political (and economic) problems but also for action on monitoring post-election graft-and-corruption practices at barangay, municipal and provincial levels and, as well, the performance of elected officials.
We trust these two Church bodies will become in every diocese the effective cutting edge of our efforts at doing something positive about the reform and renewal in the Gospel of our much debased political order.
We are saddened that religious sects and well-intentioned people as well as the principles of democracry have been exploited to promote the efforts to revise the Constitution. The end result has been disastrous: the worst of traditional politics has brazenly flaunted itself, an economic crisis has been aggravated, trust and credibility in government have been broken, and people feel deceived and manipulated. There is great and righteous anger among our people.
The attempts at constitutional change demonstrate the evils of politics that we have been talking of here–deviousness, double talk, deception, manipulation, lack of transparency, the use of power to promote self-interests. All these are values that are anti-Gospel and anti-Kingdom of God. We cannot ignore these. We must move against them.
We believe that the way to unity is to unconditionally, unequivocally and irrevocably terminate all attempts to revise the Constitution at this time. When the time does come, let it be done with widespread participation and a unity of vision, with total transparency and serenity, with reasons unarguably directed to the common good rather than to the self-serving interests of politicians. All elected officials looking for an extension of terms must categorically state now that they will not under any circumstance accept any further nominations for office.
The task now is to rebuild trust and confidence. It will be a painstaking chore. But rebuilding trust and confidence as well as transforming politics into what is pleasing to God can surely be done–by us, the People of God.
At one point of our history, we badly needed change and we got it–through People Power, without violence, at the EDSA Revolution. What we did in 1986 is an unfinished revolution. The reform of political life and processes is a necessary complement to the 1986 EDSA event. The odds we faced then were greater but we prevailed. The odds we face now are likewise formidable, but we can prevail.
We invite all of you, our Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, to join us in a common resolve to clean up and to renew what we have seen is one of the most harmful aspects of our national life–today’s kind of politics.
As at EDSA in 1986, so today: We must reason together for the common good, we must pray together and act together to transform politics into a means of national renewal, a means of just and integral development for every Filipino and for all Filipinos.
As at EDSA, so today: We do not work alone. As the Psalmist reminds us: “Unless the Lord build the house they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). The work of conversion and renewal is indeed the work of God and He calls us to work with Him. This is the reason for our hope and our confidence — the grace of Almighty God. May Mary, the Mother of the Lord and of our beloved country, obtain for us from the Lord Jesus the graces we need for this momentous mission so vital for our future as a nation.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
16 September 1997
TMA - Tertio Millennio Adveniente
PL - Pastoral Letters 1945-1995
PCP-II - Acts and Decrees of Second Plenary Council of the Philippines
AA - Acta Apostolica
CFC - Catechism for Filipino Catholics
SRS - Sollicitudo Rei Socialis
RH - Redemptor Hominis
CA - Centesimus Annus
GS - Gaudium et Spes
“I was Homeless and You Took Me In”
A Pastoral Statement on the Homeless
Pope John Paul II has called the attention of governments and of peoples to the plight of the homeless in his Lenten message for this year (l997). He reminds us that “the right to housing belongs not only to the individual as such, but also to the family made up of several individuals.” He stresses that “the family, as the basic cell of society, has a full right to housing adequate to its needs, so that it can develop a genuine domestic communion.” (L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, N. 6; 5 February 1997, p.1).
This message of the Pontiff comes at a very opportune time for us here in the Philippines. It directs our attention to Christ-like solidarity with a large section of the poor in our country as we prepare for the Great Jubilee. In our country, millions of people have no home to call their own, and thousands of shanties have been demolished, while many more are being threatened with the same gloomy prospect in the near future. These demolitions have caused untold anguish and suffering to the people affected. Especially sad has been the effect of such demolitions on women and children.
Some demolitions have been done to carry out court orders or to remove dwellings from danger zones. Others have been done for cosmetic purposes, to remove or hide ugly sights from the eyes of foreign visitors. Still others are carried out to make way for recreational facilities for the rich. Most are done in the name of development, which however often turns out to be soulless.
The World Conference on Human Settlements, Habitat II, held in Istanbul in June, 1996 focused humanity’s attention on the need to seek an ever better harmony of development and economic progress with solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. And the Pope, as though speaking directly to our Philippine situation says, “It is not right for anyone–still less for public authorities responsible for the common good–to disregard the tragic situation of so many individuals and entire families forced to live on the street or to be content with inhospitable, makeshift shelters.” He adds, “Ensuring a suitable habitat for everyone is demanded by the respect owed to every human being and, therefore, is a measure of civilization and the condition for a peaceful, fraternal society.” (Pope John Paul II’s Angelus address on June l6, 1996, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, N. 25; 19 June 1996, p.1).
In the light of these words of the Pope, we appeal to the government to make sure that evictions are carried out in a truly humane manner and with adequate provision for suitable relocation. Many demolitions conducted supposedly to remove squatters from danger areas only move them to even more dangerous areas, and expose them to the elements. The affected people cry out that they are being transferred from danger zones to death zones.
It must be acknowledged that the government has at times responded with compassion to the situation of affected persons and groups. But often also, it is perceived to act without sufficient sensitivity to the plight of the poor, especially when the demolitions come without sufficient warning, without provision for adequate relocation sites, and with brutality.
We ask the people in government to scrupulously follow the provisions of law in the matter of demolitions. When relocation is necessary, let the evicted be relocated, whenever possible, in places near their sources of livelihood. Or, let the government with the help of private business and other concerned groups make provisions for employment and livelihood of those relocated. The government should also provide basic services in relocation places.
Our plea for the humane treatment and humane relocation of those evicted does not signify disregard for the property rights of others. We are aware of the unjust encroachment of these property rights by professional squatters and criminal syndicates who set up structures and lease land to others to the prejudice of rightful land owners. Such violators must be dealt with strictly, according to the law. But those who are forced by necessity to build temporary dwellings on government land or on the properties of others should be treated with greater consideration in view of the fact that God made the earth and everything in it for the use of all persons and families, and the right to use takes precedence over the right of private ownership (Laborem Exercens, no. 14, and Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, par. 301).
Closely connected with the problem of demolitions is the need for adequate housing. We recognize that providing adequate housing for every person and family is not the responsibility only of government but of the whole community. The Church itself has sought to do its share and provide low-cost housing for the poor according to its capability.
We wish to make a call to those who are in a position to supply low-cost housing to do so, or to continue doing so without, however, putting the price of houses beyond the reach of the people they are intended to help. For this reason we also appeal to the consciences of those in government and business to refrain from the giving and taking of bribes and from other corrupt deeds that increase the price of housing for the low-income groups and effectively deprive many of needed housing. Such acts of corruption certainly merit the condemnation of the Lord because they rob the public coffers and oppress the poor.
The task of providing adequate housing for all families is a long process. The poor themselves must take their part responsibly and not alienate, for example, the land or housing given to them. The conflicts spawned by the clashes of interests cannot be remedied by legal solutions alone. Other non-legal solutions which involve consultation and dialogue are also necessary and should be explored. We ask the government to find out and address the causes of homelessness, such as the centralization of business and livelihood opportunities in the cities, and the conversion of agricultural lands for recreational and business purposes. We propose that the government, the Church, poor people, NGO’s helping the homeless, agree to form a study body that will make a thorough analysis of the problems of homelessness, land and land use, eviction and resettlement, and recommend concrete solutions. The chairperson of this body should be acceptable to the government, the Church, the poor people affected, and the NGO’s.
We thank in the name of the Lord all those who have truly made efforts to help their homeless brothers and sisters, and we encourage them to continue their noble and praiseworthy work. Theirs will be the reward of the Lord, who will say to them, “Come, O blessed of my Father, for I was homeless and you took me in” (cf. Mt. 25:34-35).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
10 July 1997
A Pastoral Letter on the Drug Crisis
Beloved People of God:
Today never has our country been menaced so dangerously and seriously by a health and moral crisis since AIDS exploded into our national consciousness. And the name of the crisis is Drugs, dangerous illegal, addictive drugs.
A Crisis Situation
Already more than 1.5 million Filipinos are users of illegal drugs. The youth are specially hard hit. They are the greatest number of drug users. Among them are more than 350,000 high school students, at the most impressionable period of their lives, threatened by an addiction the horrendous consequences of which they seem to ignore — until life itself is endangered.
Reports state that, next to Mexico, the Philippines has become the second largest exporter of marijuana and is fast becoming one of the major points for transhipping illegal drugs in Asia.
Dangerous illegal drugs have spawned a shadowy subculture in our communities, barraged and battered as they already are by various forms of vice and violence, injustice and criminality. It is a subculture that is constituted by a web of illicit relationships involving: at the surface level, curious, docile and gullible thrill seeking users and their silent, fearful accomplice-friends; at a deeper level, aggressive pushers, smugglers, and violent protectors; and at the deepest level of the evil gutter, faceless criminal drug syndicates of financiers, producers, and secret sources — bereft of moral conscience, seeking only their criminal profits at the expense of a victim’s humanity.
The street value of illegal drugs is reported to be more than half of our national budget. Such huge amounts of unaccountable funds can surely reach and influence the highest levels of government. Drug lords are some of the most powerful in our land and can even make or unmake political careers. No wonder that many law enforcement agents, who should be protecting the people against dangerous drugs, are so easily tempted and become, as newspaper reports indicate, protectors of this criminal industry.
In the process, every drug bust, every arrest of a pusher or a user becomes, it would seem, an exercise of pseudo-justice, since powerful tentacles always reach out to protect the drug subculture from exposure to the light of righteousness. Justice has reached no further than the surface level of the subculture whose deeper levels seem untouchable. But Jesus has this to say to them: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Mt. 18:7).
Thus the drug problem is a tragedy of terrifying proportions. Lives, values, relationships, and the processes of justice are brutally sacrificed before the idol of dangerous drugs.
A Crisis Against Human Life and Dignity
Using dangerous illegal drugs is against life. It dehumanizes. It debases human dignity. It weakens and injures the God-given faculties of intellect and will, disables judgment, causes irrational impulses and unpredictable mood changes. As human beings we do not have the right nor the freedom to take such drugs. God did not give us the right to harm ourselves, despite what some current false morality might say about not interfering with, or setting moral norms about, what we can do with our own bodies. Human life and personal dignity are God-given and we cannot abdicate our responsibility to protect and promote them. We are but stewards of these precious gifts.
From the experiences of victims, we know that those who take illegal drugs have little understanding about the meaning of life. They think of life as adventuring, as getting high, as escaping from responsibility, as seeking sensual, emotional and psychological thrills and pleasure. Not finding these and facing the reality of life’s ordinariness, drudgery and depression, they seek physical total oblivion through overdose. Many deaths from overdose are voluntary suicides — yet another proof of the anti-life character of illegal drugs.
In the teaching of the Church, using dangerous illegal drugs “is always illicit, because it implies an unjustified and irrational refusal to think, will and act as free persons” (John Paul II, To the Participants at the International Conference on Drugs and Alcohol , November 23, 1991). Clearly is this dramatized by the phenomenon of drug dependency, when “an individual feels an uncontrollable need” for drugs, “the privation of which can cause him psycho-physical disorders” (Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Workers, Charter for Health Care Workers, 1994, no. 90).
But even more culpable are the drug dealers, pushers, protectors, financiers and producers who “for the sake of money, care nothing about drawing others, especially innocent youth, into addictive dependency that ruins their very lives” (Catechism for Filipino Catholics, no. 1036; see also PCP II, no. 381).
Addressing the Root Causes of the Crisis
At the very root of the crisis is the lack of appreciation of the God-given meaning of human life and dignity. As in the days of the Old Testament, so today we are asked to choose between life and death. “I have set before you life and death… Choose life… by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Dt. 30:19-20). To choose life is to live the newness of life in Christ such as integrity, justice, love, and fidelity to his commandments. To choose death is to choose sin, vice, crime and all death-dealing values and behavior; it is to ignore the meaning of life in Christ.
It is, therefore, for reasons of the call to human life in its very depths that we all need to address the root causes that drive people to use drugs. Among these causes are peer pressure, the negative quality of relationships within the family, the rigidity or laxity of home discipline, ignorance or apathy, a lack of self-esteem, the influence of hedonism through mass media, and laxity of law enforcement at various levels.
Information about illegal drugs and their deleterious effects is necessary. But even more imperative is religious and value formation that should be given within the family, by schools, and by churches. A holistic strategy involving all sectors of society is indispensable to respond effectively to the drug crisis.
While we should “punish the pusher”, we must “save the user.” We do not condone the possible fault of the drug dependent person. But we must assist the liberation and reintegration of the individual.
Reintegration means more than medical treatment. It requires pastoral care. As an integral human process, the rehabilitation of an individual addicted to drugs requires getting “to know the individual and to understand his inner world; to bring him to discovery or rediscovery of his dignity as a person, to help him to reawaken and develop… those personal resources, which the use of drugs has suppressed” (John Paul II, To the Participants at the VII World Congress of Therapeutic Communities, September 7, 1984; cited in Charter for Health Care Workers , no. 95). Such process needs the services of skilled and compassionate physicians, psychologists, social workers, guidance and spiritual counselors — acting in the manner of Jesus, the Compassionate Healer.
Urgent Measures to Respond to the Crisis
We, therefore, urge the government to expand its social services on behalf of drug victims so that rehabilitation may be done expeditiously, with compassion, care and dignity.
In no uncertain terms, we strongly condemn the drug subculture and the clandestine producing, smuggling and trafficking of illegal drugs. We likewise strongly denounce the relative inaction, the apparently token anti-drug campaigns, and the reported complicity of many law enforcers in this criminal industry.
Lawmakers should re-examine our present laws and see if they actually embolden rather than deter criminals; stiffer laws with stiffer penalties should be enacted.
We urge government authorities and courts of justice to faithfully and zealously perform their task of promoting law and order and eradicating this scourge of drugs. They must seek to identify the leaders of the drug subculture, pursue them and bring them to justice, irrespective of power, class, status, family connections, and without palakasan or paki-usap.
They must ferret out the reported syndicates among law and order officers that are allegedly raking in millions of pesos by framing up local and foreign businessmen on drug charges. All scalawags in uniform involved in the drug business have to be weeded out and punished with the full force of the law. They stain the official uniform which so many others wear with justifiable pride and integrity.
We urge parents to provide the necessary loving and caring environment, where the young can grow in responsibility and discipline, imbued with a vibrant sense of personal dignity, and deeply convinced of the moral and religious meaning of life.
We appeal to educators who act in the place of parents to provide a similar environment and formation. They must concientiously fulfill the law which prescribes the integration of drug education into the curriculum. They must also ensure that drug pushers do not gain entry into the school community.
The death of a victim or the brutal murder of an anti-drug crusader, such as a beloved young priest in Cavite, should evoke not only community abhorence but community solidarity. The community must take concrete united action, within the law, to rid itself of any drug pusher or dealer.
We commit ourselves to direct the pastoral ministry of the Church towards a deeper awareness and concern with regard to the drug crisis, a more active role in value formation in the light of the Gospel, and a more extensive compassionate care of drug victims. We hereby direct Church instrumentalities to cooperate with government agencies and NGO’s in the campaign against drugs. Wherever possible and necessary, dioceses should set up referral centers to help drug victims.
In this holy crusade, prayerfully do we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Life, that the saving grace and power of her Son, Jesus the Compassionate and Divine Healer, accompany our efforts to promote life in its fullness.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
10 July 1997
Pastoral Statement on Charter Change
Dear People of God in the Philippines
Greetings of peace in the Lord!
The Supreme Court has decided to nullify recent moves to effect changes in our Constitution through a people’s initiative. We are happy with this development. But we deem it still necessary in the exercise of our pastoral office to express our mind on these moves especially in view of the persistence of those who are working for the removal of the term limits for elective officials, with special focus on the removal of the term limit for the president. In these confusing times, we must be wise as serpents (Mt. 10:16), for there may be people “who come to you in sheep’s clothing but underneath are wolves on the prowl” (Mt. 7:15).
It is clear from the main advocates for the removal of the term limit of the President that they want to see President Ramos get elected again as President, or at least to give him a chance to run again for President. The advocates insist on pushing through with the agendum despite the repeated protestations of President Ramos himself that he does not desire to run again for President and that this is his only term of office. This situation has led many to believe that President Ramos himself is behind the moves to remove the presidential term limit, or that he has at least indicated in private to the advocates for the removal of term limits that he would be prevailed upon to run for office if they succeed in getting their proposal approved in a plebiscite. This in turn has led to fears that President Ramos will perpetuate himself in office, and that he will have recourse finally to authoritarian rule.
We wish to state our corporate stand as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine. While individual bishops and archbishops have articulated their positions on the matter, especially as it affects the President of the Republic, we wish now to articulate the thinking of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
First of all, we note that our present Constitution does not allow the incumbent president to run for re-election (Art. VII, sec. 4). It allows only three consecutive terms for members of the House of Representatives (Art. VI, sec. 7), two consecutive terms for members of the Senate (Art. VI, sec. 4), and three consecutive terms for local elective officials, except baranggay chairpersons (Art. X, sec. 8). This setting of term limits for said officials of the land was a distinct departure from the practice allowed by the previous Constitutions. The term limits for said officials were a novel and important feature of the Constitution which our people overwhelmingly approved in the 1987 plebiscite.
The people approved these as provisions of the Constitution which should enjoy a certain stability and not be subject to change for transient considerations such as the success or lack of success of one person in office.
We have been able to test the term limit of the President. President Corazon C. Aquino, the incumbent President during the 1992 elections did not run for re-election. She was succeeded by President Fidel Ramos. It is accepted by many that during the incumbency of President Ramos many things have improved for our nation. In fact, those who want to see him President again after 1998 are claiming that he has done a better job than his predecessor. This is tantamount to saying that the no-re-election provision with regard to the President has worked well for our country thus far.
The question thus immediately comes to mind: If this provision setting only one term for the President has worked well and to the advantage of our country in our only experience of its implementation, why seek to change it now?
The inadvisability of seeking to change this provision of our Constitution is re-inforced when we consider that in the only instance when a president of the Republic ran for re-election and was elected, the only president so re-elected ended up by prolonging indefinitely his stay in office and would not have stepped down had he not been forced to do so by the February 1986 revolution.
As regards the term limits of the other public officials, we say only this: Why change provisions of the Constitution that have been overwhelmingly approved and have not yet been tried? Should we not at least give them a try so that our decision will have a basis in our experience, just as the decision to impose term limits was made on the basis of previous experience?
At any rate, we see no urgency in making charter amendments, especially regarding the term limits of our public officials, just now. This is a most inopportune time for such decision-making, given the suspicions and acrimony which the issue has already generated. The pursuit of charter changes at this time, especially with regard to the term limit of the President will only generate more politically destabilizing argumentation, debate and demonstrations that will hinder and perhaps halt the momentum towards economic progress which we are now beginning to experience. Only those who believe the present President is indispensable have reason to press for charter changes before the 1998 election. But is the present President indeed indispensable? Have we become so poor and so dependent on one man that we can no longer continue with our progress unless he remains as President? The President himself, by signifying his willingness to step down in 1998 has shown his own correct belief that he is not indispensable to the further growth of our country. Indeed, the Bible tells us, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes”. (Ps. 118:9)
Dear fellow countrymen and countrywomen, we are opposed to the holding of a plebiscite before the 1998 elections, and to the so-called people’s initiative pushing for such a plebiscite. Our opposition is not due to a belief that the 1987 Constitution can no longer be improved, nor is it because of a belief that people have no right to call for a plebiscite through a people’s initiative. Our opposition is based on our assessment of inopportuneness of such a move at present and of its grave adverse effects on our political and economic situation coupled with our conviction that the people’s money and energy are better devoted at this time to other more pressing needs. Given also our experience of the not so distant past, and the many shadowy elements involved in these present moves to remove or change term limits, we have reason to be wary of signature campaigns to obtain a plebiscite.
We ask you to also assess prayerfully the situation. And if you agree with us, let us in no uncertain terms make known our united opposition to a move which will seriously endanger our nation’s gains.
May the Lord Jesus Christ bless us all, and may Mary His Mother pray for us.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
20 March 1997
The Advent Season Before the Great Jubilee
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We are providentially in the last three years of the Second Millennium. In his very first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (1979) our Holy Father, John Paul II, announced: “This time which God in his hidden design has entrusted to me, is already very close to the year 2000. For the Church, it will be the year of a Great Jubilee” (RH 1).
And now in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente , the Pope speaks of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of our Redemption as “a hermeneutical key” of his Pontificate (TMA 23) and the time leading to it as “a new advent”, “an extended advent season” (TMA 23) to “renew our hope in the definitive coming of the kingdom of God” (TMA 46).
The Holy Father calls on all of us in the local churches to prepare and celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s incarnation and of our redemption “as it involves a special grace for the whole of humanity” (TMA 46). It is, therefore, a great opportunity for us to proclaim with our lips and with our deeds our faith in the one mediator between God and Men, “Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13/8), “the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, to whom all time belongs, all ages, all glory and power” (Easter Vigil).
I. PRIMARY OBJECTIVE OF THE JUBILEE
We highly recommend the reading and rereading of the text Tertio Millennio Adveniente as it concretely contains the master plan of the Holy Father for the next three years. What is the primary objective of the Great Jubilee? The primary objective of the Jubilee is “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians. It is, therefore, necessary to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of even more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbor, especially the most needy” (TMA 42).
The strengthening of faith and of witness cannot be achieved without personal conversion and renewal, through intense prayer and witnessing service as well as “a personal acceptance of the person of Jesus as Lord and Saviour” (cf PCP-II 64, 73-79). This advent season for the Great Jubilee, this time of grace and the Lord’s visitation, will be to some extent “a three-year retreat” with the three persons of the Blessed Trinity as our focus and with Mary as our companion and guide. But our prayer must also resonate with our growing in solidarity with one another, especially with the most needy through our recommitment to the message of salvation and liberation as we have announced in our Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.
To celebrate “the new springtime of Christian life” (TMA 18), we all need purification and examination of conscience. The joy of the Great Jubilee must be based on the forgiveness of sins, on penance and reconciliation. We cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium, the Holy Father tells us, without purifying ourselves, through repentance, of past errors and infidelity, of inconsistency and slowness to act, of being the cause of division, intolerance and violence (cf. TMA 33-35). In this respect, the celebration of the Great Jubilee of Redemption will be both a personal and social event. Society will be transformed to the extent that we individually and personally are converted and reconciled.
II. THE PATH FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS
Following Vatican II’s path of renewal and revitalization of Christian Life (cf. TMA 19), we celebrated in 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, formulated in 1992 our CBCP Vision and Mission Statement, and approved in 1993 our National Pastoral Plan. We can appropriately say that PCP-II was for the Church in the Philippines a “providential event” for the immediate preparation of the Great Jubilee in the year 2000, as Vatican II was for the Universal Church.
Already in PCP-II (87) we grappled with the question: “What kind of Church must we be to meet the challenge of our society as we enter the Third Millennium?” What is our path for the next three years? The answer of PCP-II is summarized in our National Pastoral Plan (4) as follows: “Given the stark reality of the country, its widespread poverty and tainted structural and cultural systems, PCP-II adopted the Community of Disciple as its primary model. A special attribute of this church that the Council emphatically stated was its option to be a Church of the Poor… The conciliar thrust to be a Community of Disciples where the poor have preferential and participative functions, generated the motive to engage in a renewed integral evangelization with its dual message of salvation and liberation”.
Impelled by the spirit of Vatican II and the challenges of PCP-II, local churches have held or started to prepare their respective diocesan synods or pastoral assemblies. Considering the complimentariness and basic commonalities of the thrusts of Vatican II, the PCP-II, the TMA and our respective Provincial Councils or Diocesan Synods and Pastoral Assemblies, we recommend in the implementation thereof a convergence of key elements, stressing the Trinitarian Focus of Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
What we have broadly traced for more specific and concrete planning in the diocesan levels are three interdependent and interconnected paths, like three tributaries pouring their water into a single river.
In the journey toward the Third Millennium, Mary, our Blessed Mother will accompany us, as our model, our guide, and above all, as our Mother. In Tertio Millennio Adveniente , we are provided a precise Marian Itinerary. We will contemplate Mary in her triple role as mother of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as the handmaid docile to the Holy Spirit, and as the beloved daughter of the Father. Mary will be for us in the way to the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium the star which safely guides our path to the Lord (cf. TMA 63).
III. SOME PASTORAL INDICATIONS
In Tertio Millennio Adveniente we are enjoined to prepare and celebrate the Great Jubilee both locally in our respective dioceses and universally in union with the whole church. The jubilee of our local churches and the remembrance of the men and women responsible for the implantation and growth of our faith-life will reveal to us the historical paths of our individual churches forming the mosaic of 2000 years of journey of the Church.
To achieve the main objective of the Jubilee which is the “strengthening of our faith and witness” (cf. TMA 42) we recommend the following pastoral indications and specific proposals:
In this time of the “new advent”, we look forward to the approach of the Third Millennium with anticipated joy knowing that the gift of Redemption has already been given to us. We look forward to the year 2000 with deep gratitude for the outpouring of the fullness of grace and life. We look forward to the year 2000 with enthusiastic eagerness and readiness for what it will reveal to us, as we generously open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our collaborators in the ministry: as we exhort you to be one with us in the preparation and celebration of the year 2000 as a year of the Blessed Trinity, to whom all power, honor and glory belong, we make as our own the following exhortation of Pope John Paul II:
We entrust ourselves and our celebration of the Great Jubilee to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, Queen of all Nations. May she accompany us in our “walking in the new life with Christ” (1997 Theme).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
January 22, 1997
Journeying Towards the Third Millenium
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: You have been told earlier that the approaching Year 2000 will be a very special year. The Holy Father has announced that it will be a year of Great Jubilee. In his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente , Pope John Paul II calls on all of us in the local churches to prepare and celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s incarnation and of our redemption “as it involves a special grace for the whole of humanity” (TMA 46).
This Great Jubilee will lead to some kind of “recapitulation”, “fulfillment” or renewed fervor for “the new springtime of Christian life” (TMA 18) the series of apostolic endeavours and activities that we in the Church have been doing both in the local and universal level.
The primary objective of the Great Jubilee is “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians ” (TMA 42). In order to achieve this, the Holy Father tells us, we must have “a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of even more intense prayer and of solidarity with (our) neighbor, especially the most needy”. We cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without purifying ourselves of past errors and infidelity, of inconsistency and slowness to act, of being the cause of division, intolerance and violence (cf. TMA 33-35). Society will be transformed only to the extent that we individually and personally are converted and reconciled.
Vatican II was a “providential event” that prepared the Universal Church for the Great Jubilee. We can also appropriately say that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, our response to Vatican II, and thereafter our Local Councils, Synods and Pastoral Assemblies are similarly “providential events” preparing us for the Great Jubilee. Considering the complimentariness and basic commonalities of these ecclesial events, we recommend in the implementation thereof a CONVERGENCE of their key elements, stressing the Trinitarian Focus of Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
Let us recall PCP-II. At that time we asked: “What kind of Church must we be to meet the challenges of our society as we enter the Third Millennium? ” (PCP-II 87) What will be our path for the next three years? We will be tracing three interdependent and interconnected paths, like three tributaries pouring their water into a single river, the river that leads to the year 2000.
The first is the path of radical discipleship . 1997 is the year of JESUS CHRIST, Son of God made-man, the only Saviour of mankind, who conquered death and sin. In this year we are challenged to re-discover Jesus Christ, to re-tell his story, and celebrate our discipleship in all its radicality. We are called upon to a renewed appreciation of our Baptism, especially as the basis of Christian Unity and Ecumenism, which the Holy Father enjoins us to foster during this celebration. The Basic Ecclesial Communities which are a “pastoral priority” of the Philippine Church (PCP-II 140), must become Communities of Disciples of the Lord, where the Gospel and the Social Teachings shall bear fruits in the renewal of the moral and spiritual order.
The second is the path of renewed integral evangelization with its dual message of salvation and liberation. This will be the subject of our re-commitment for 1998, the year focused on the HOLY SPIRIT, “the principal agent of evangelization”. The path of the Holy Spirit leads us to the promotion of post-Vatican II ecclesiology and the appreciation of our Confirmation as impelling us to the Apostolate of the Laity. To hasten the advent of the Kingdom in our midst, the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in poverty alleviation, environmental concerns, cooperative development as well as socio-economic and political reforms.
Lastly, the path of “a Church of the Poor” . The focus for 1999 will be GOD THE FATHER, rich in mercy and compassion,the beginning and destiny of our earthly journey. In the spirit of our common heritage as children of one heavenly Father, two commitments should characterize this year: the first is meeting the challenge of inter-religious dialogue towards a culture of peace with our brothers and sisters of different faiths (TMA 53; PCP-II 111); the second, greater preferential option for the poor (TMA 51; PCP-II 125f). To be “a Church of the Poor” is a radical decision that is urgently demanded “in our country where a very great number of our people wallow in abject poverty and misery, while the tremendous social privileges and deferences are accorded the rich and powerful” (PCP-II 312). We are, therefore, enjoined to a greater solidarity with the poor through commitment to justice and peace as a necessary condition for the celebration of the Jubilee. We must lend our voices and hands on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and violated in every way, by bridging and helping eliminate the great gap that divide the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless in our so-called Christian society.
In our journey towards the Third Millennium, Mary, our Blessed Mother will accompany us in her triple role as Mother of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as the handmaid docile to the Holy Spirit, and as the beloved daughter of the Father. Mary will be for us our model in discipleship, the Star of Evangelization.
The Pope enjoins us to prepare and celebrate the Great Jubilee locally in our respective Dioceses and collectively in union with the whole Church. To achieve the objective of the Jubilee, which is “the strengthening of our faith and witness” we recommend the following pastoral indications and specific proposals:
In this time of the “new advent”, we look forward to the approach of the Third Millennium with anticipated joy knowing that the gift of Redemption has already been given to us. We look forward to the year 2000 with deep gratitude for the outpouring of the fullness of grace and life. We look forward to it with enthusiastic eagerness and readiness for what it will reveal to us, as we generously open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: we invite you to journey with us to the Third Millennium, “walking in the new life with Christ”. May the year 2000 be not merely the recurrence of an anniversary in time, but a providential and once-in-a-life-time opportunity to celebrate a Great Jubilee. May our Blessed Mother lead us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly” into the new springtime of Christian life, — “Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever”. (Heb. 13/8)
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
January 22, 1997
Maglakbay Tayo Tungo sa Ikatlong Milenyo
Mga minamahal na kapatid kay Kristo: Sinabi sa inyo noon na ang dumarating na taong 2000 ay isang taon ng Dakilang Hubileo. Sa kanyang liham apostoliko Tertio Millennio Adveniente nananawagan si Papa Juan Pablo II sa ating lahat sa mga Iglesyang lokal na paghandaan at ipagdiwang ang ika-dalawanlibong taon ng pagiging-tao ni Kristo at ng ating katubusan “sapagkat kalakip nito ang isang natatanging biyaya para sa buong sangkatauhan” (TMA 46).
Ang dakilang Hubileong ito ay magbubunga ng isang uri ng “pagpapanibagong-lagom,” “kaganapan” o panibagong sigla para sa “isang bagong tagsibol ng buhay-Kristiyano (TMA 18) sa pamamagitan ng mga apostolikong pagpupunyagi at gawain na ginagawa natin sa Iglesya lokal at pandaigdig.
Ang pangunahing layunin ng Dakilang Hubileo ay “ang pagpapatatag ng pananampalataya at ng pagpapatotoo ng mga Kristiyano” (TMA 42). Upang matamo ito, sinasabi sa atin ng Banal na Papa, kinakailangang taglayin natin “ang isang tunay na paghahangad na maging banal at ang isang marubdob na pagnanasa na magbalikloob at magbago ng personal na pamumuhay sa bisa ng higit na mataimtim na pananalangin at ng pakikipagdamayan sa ating mga kapwa, lalo na ang mga lalong higit ay sa mga nangangailangan.” Hindi natin mapapasok ang pintuan ng bagong milenyo nang hindi natin dinadalisay ang ating mga sarili mula sa mga nagdaang kamalian at pagkakanulo, mula sa kakulangan ng pagiging makatotohanan at pagiging mabagal sa pagkilos, mula sa pagiging sanhi ng pagkakahiwa-hiwalay; kawalang-pang-unawa at karahasan (tingnan TMA 33-35). Ang lipunan ay magbabagong-anyo lamang batay sa pagbabalik-loob at pakikipagkasundo ng bawat isa sa atin.
Ang Ikalawang Konsilyo Vaticano ay isang “pangyayaring itinadhana ng Panginoon” upang ihanda ang Buong Iglesya para sa Dakilang Hubileo. Masasabi rin natin na ang Ikalawang Konsilyo Plenaryo ng Pilipinas, ang ating pagtugon sa Vaticano II, at ang mga sumusunod na mga Konsilyo Lokal, mga Sinodo, mga Asambleang Pastoral ay mga pangyayaring itinadhana rin ng Panginoon upang ihanda tayo para sa Dakilang Hubileo. Sa pagtunghay sa pagkakaangkop-angkop at batayang sangkap mungkahi namin na sa pagbibigay katuparan sa mga ito pag-ugmain natin ang mga pangunahing sangkap; at dito bigyandiin natin ang pagkatuon-pansin ng Tertio Millennio Adveniente sa Banal na Santatlo.
Balikan natin ang PCP-II. Noong itinanong natin: “Anong uri ng Iglesya dapat natin pagsumikapan na maging, upang maharap ang mga hamon ng ating lipunan sa ating pagdating sa Ikatlong Milenyo?” (PCP-II 87). Ano ang landas na dapat nating tahakin sa susunod na tatlong taon? Tatahakin natin ang tatlong sapa na umagos sa iisang ilog, ang ilog na hahantong sa taon 2000.
Ang una ay ang landas ng sagarang pagiging alagad. Ang 1997 ay taon ni HESU-KRISTO, ang Anak ng Diyos na naging tao, ang iisang Tagapagligtas ng sangkatauhan, na lumupig sa kamatayan at kasalanan. Sa loob ng sangkatauhan, na lumupig sa kamatayan at kasalanan. Sa loob ng taong ito hinahamon tayo na tuklasin si Hesu-Kristo, na muling isalaysay ang Kanyang kasaysayan, at ipagdiwang ang ating pagiging alagad sa sagad na kahulugan nito. Tinatawagan tayo na bigyan ng ibayong pagpapahalaga ang ating bautismo, lalong-lalo na bilang batayan ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Kristiyano at Ekumenismo, na iniuutos ng ating Banal na Santo Papa na itaguyod natin sa pagdiriwang na ito. Ang mga Batayang Pamayanan sa Iglesya na pangunahing pinagtutuunang pastoral ng Iglesya sa Pilipinas (PCP-II 140) ay dapat na maging mga Pamayanan ng mga Alagad ng Panginoon kung saan ang Mabuting Balita at ang mga Turo ng Iglesya hinggil sa kaayusan ng lipunan ay mabisang nadarama sa pagpapanibagong sigla sa larangang moral at ispirituwal.
Ang ikalawa ay ang landas ng pinasiglang pagpapahayag ng kabuuan ng Mabuting Balita na naghahayag ng kaligtasan at paglaya. Ito ang magiging paksa ng ating panibagong pagkatalaga ng sarili sa 1998, ang taong nakatuon sa BANAL NA ESPIRITU, “ang pangunahing tagapagpaganap ng pagpahayag ng Mabuting Balita.” Ang landas ng Banal na Espiritu ay nagdadala sa ating sa pagtataguyod ng aral pagkatapos ng Vaticano II hinggil sa Iglesya at ng ating Kumpil na nagbubunsod sa atin sa Apostolado ng Laiko. Upang mabilisan ang pagdatal ng paghahari ng Panginoon sa ating madla, kinakailangang mamalas ang mga bunga at mga kaloob ng Banal na Espiritu sa pagbaka sa karukhaan, sa mga ginagawa kaugnay ng kalikasan, sa sama-samang pag-unlad, at sa mga pagbabago sa larangang panlipunan, pangkabuhayan at pulitikal.
At sa wakas, ang landas ng “isang Iglesya ng mga Dukha”: Ang pagtutuunan sa 1999 ay ang DIYOS AMA, mayaman sa habag at pakikiramay, ang pinanggalingan at patutunguhan ng ating paglalakbay rito sa lupa. Sa diwa ng ating pagiging mga anak ng iisang Ama sa langit, ang taong ito ay dapat kakitaan ng dalawang natatanging pagpupunyagi: una ay ang pagharap sa hamon ng pakikipagtalakayan sa mga di-Kristyano (inter-religious dialogue) tungo sa isang kultura ng kapayapaan kasama ng ating mga kapatid sa iba’t-ibang pananalig (TMA 53; PCP-II 111); pangalawa, ang higit na pagtatangi sa mga dukha (TMA 51; PCP-II 125 at sumusunod).
Ang maging “isang Iglesya ng mga Dukha” ay isang sagad na pasiya na kagyat na kinakailangan “sa ating bansa kung saan ang napakalaking bilang ng ating mga mamamayan ay nakasadlak sa matinding karukhaan at paghihirap, samantalang labis ang mga pribilehiyo at pagpapahalaga ay iniuukol sa mga mayayaman at makapangyarihan” (PCP-II 312). Kaya nga, tayo ay inaatasang makiisa nag higit sa mga dukha sa pamamagitan ng pakikisangkot sa katarungan at kapayapaan bilang mga kinakailangang pasubali para sa pagdiriwang ng Hubileo.
Sa ating paglalakbay tungo sa Ikatlong Milenyo, sasamahan tayo ng Mahal ng Birheng Maria sa kanyang tatlong gampanin bilang Ina ng Manunubos na si Hesu-kristo, bilang masunuring lingkod ng Banal na Espirit, at bilang minamahal ng anak ng Ama. Si Maria ang ating uliran sa pagiging alagad, ang tala ng Paghahayag ng Mabuting Balita.
Inaatasan tayo ng Santo Papa na paghandaan at ipagdiriwang ang Dakilang Hubileo sa ating mga Diyosesis at makisa ng buong Iglesya. Upang matamo ang nilalayon ng Hubileo, na walang iba kundi ang “pagpapatatag ng ating pananampalataya at pagpapatotoo” iminumungkahi namin ang mga sumusunod na mga palatandaang pastoral ng mga tiyak na gawain:
Sa panahong ito ng “bagong adbiyento,” itinutuon natin ang ating tanaw sa pagdating ng Ikatlong Milenyo nang may pananabik at galak: batid natin na ang biyaya ng katubusan ay ipinagkaloob na sa atin. Itinutuon natin ang ating tanaw nang may sigla at kahandaan sa mga isisiwalat pa sa ating pagbubukas ng ating loob sa mga pahiwatig ng Banal na Espiritu.
Mga kapatid kay Kristo: inaanyayahan namin kayong sumama sa paglalakbay tungod sa Ikatlong Milenyo, “na tumatahak sa bagong buhay kaisa ni Kristo.” Nawa ang taong 2000 ay hindi lamang maging pagdating ng isang anibersaryo, kundi isang pagkakataon na itinadhana ng Panginoon at totoong katangi-tangi upang ipagdiwang ang isang Dakilang Hubileo. Pangunahan nawa tayo ng Mahal na Birheng Ina “na makilala si Hesus nang higit na mabuti, mahalin siya nang higit na maalab at sumunod sa kanya nang higit na masinop” sa isang bagong tagsibol ng pamumuhay bilang mga kristiyano – si Hesukristo, na siya rin kahapon, ngayon at magpakaylan pa man.” (Heb. 13:8).
Para sa Kapulungan na mga Obispong Katoliko ng Pilipinas,
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.