Catechism on the Church and Politics
Prayer for the National Elections of May 11, 1998
O Holy Spirit,
You are in our midst, You dwell in us.
We praise and thank you.
We dedicate this year, 1998, to you
As we prepare for the Great Jubilee Year 2000.
We gratefully celebrate that fullness of time
When you came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary
And she conceived and gave birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High.
You anointed him to proclaim the Good News to the poor,
Bring liberation and healing to those in need,
And announce a year acceptable to the Lord.
O Spirit of God, the Renewing Spirit,
Lead us to Jesus our Lord in this year, 1998.
As we face national elections once again,
Fill us with the strength and courage
To liberate, to heal and renew our country.
Enlighten our minds. Fill us with wisdom
To select dedicated and competent political servant-leaders,
Filled with integrity, and committed to the good of each and of all,
Especially the poor.
Direct and lead us
That we might bear the light of Jesus our Hope
And remove the darkness of our political life.
Breathe new life into our body politic.
Eliminate all corruption and dishonesty.
Enliven us with the fire of your love,
So that with the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Our Mother and Model of Hope, we may renew
The face of our political world.
This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is a catechism on the Church and Politics. As a catechism, it does not aim to give a comprehensive explanation of Church doctrine on politics. It simply aims to provide in an easy question-and-answer format some of the more important church teachings relevant to our political situation today.
It may be used by catechists, diocesan/parish political educators, or other pastoral workers in forming the Christian political consciousness of people, especially at the grassroots level.
If necessary, elaboration of Church teachings on Politics may be obtained from the usual Catholic resources, such as Church documents, especially the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World, the social encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, especially Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and Centesimus Annus, moral theology textbooks, the Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Laity (Christifideles laici), the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, and a companion volume, the Catechism for Filipino Catholics. The other main documentary sources for this Catechism are the Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines and the 1997 CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics.
May the Holy Spirit guide the users of this brief catechism so that they may truly be of service in renewing our political culture.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Manila, February, 1998
GSGaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), 1965.
CCCCatechism of the Catholic Church, 1994.
CACentesimus Annus, 1991.
SRSSollicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987.
PCP-IIActs and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council, 1991.
PEPPCBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics, 1997.
CLChristifideles Laici, 1988.
RLHPReligious Life and Human Promotion
CATECHISM ON THE CHURCH AND POLITICS
PART I: GENERAL CONCEPTS
1 What is politics?
a) Politics in the widest sense is the dynamic organization of society for the common good. As such it calls for the responsible active participation of all citizens (cf. Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, Religious Life and Human Promotion, 1980, no. 12).
b) Politics may be described as the art of government and public service. Vatican II describes politics as a “difficult and noble art” (GS, 75). Its aim is to realize the purpose of the State.
c) Politics is also used for partisan politics, the competition to win or retain positions of governmental power. In this last sense clerics and religious are forbidden by church law to be involved in (partisan) politics.
2 What is the purpose of the State?
The purpose of the State is the protection and promotion of the common good. In general this purpose is accomplished through three tasks: (1) legislation and administration of justice, (2) promotion of the socio-economic welfare and health, and (3) care for cultural and moral concerns or the fostering of good morals (see Karl H. Peschke, S.V.D., Christian Ethics: Moral Theology in the light of Vatican II, vol. II, Special Moral Theology, 1987, pp. 267-71).
3 What is the common good?
The common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and easily” (GS, 26).
It consists of three essential elements: (a) it presupposes respect for the fundamental rights of the human person and the natural freedoms necessary for the development of the human vocation; (b) it requires the social well being and development of the group itself, i.e., whatever is needed to lead a truly human life such as food, clothing, health, work, education, and culture should be accessible to each one; (c) it requires peace, i.e., the stability and security of a just order (cf. CCC, 1907-09). These social conditions are obtained through social justice.
4 What is social justice?
Social justice is sometimes called the justice of the common good. It demands proportionate share in the fruits of economic cooperation and equitable distribution of the wealth of a nation among different social classes. It also imposes obligations of mutual relation on different social groups, e.g., the better to assist the poor so that they can live in a manner worthy of human beings. Social justice condemns such situations as “excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples” (GS, 29), the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, and excessive profits.
5 What principles are the basis for the development of the social order?
The social order and its development “must be founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love: it should grow in freedom towards a more humane equilibrium” (GS, loc. cit.). This means that individuals and groups should practice not just private morality but also social morality which governs the relationships between individuals and society. Some examples of the exercise of social morality would be the just payment of taxes, integrity and accountability in public office, rejection of graft and corruption, the care of the environment.
6 What is the political community?
The political community consists of persons, social groups and organizations, their institutions and structures that are necessary for directing or ordering society towards the common good. The common good is the full justification, meaning, and source of the political community’s specific and basic right to exist (GS, 74). Within the political community is public or political authority which “must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and directed toward the common good.”
7 What moral and religious principles guide politics?
The Bishops of the Philippines enumerated the following truths to guide politics (see PEPP, pp. 34-38): (a) human dignity and solidarity as the first principle of politics; (b) the common good as the goal of political activity; (c) authority and power as a divine trust for service; (d) autonomy and mutual collaboration between the Church and the political community.
PART II: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHURCH, STATE, AND POLITICS
8 What is the basis for the Church’s mission in politics?
The main reasons why the Church has a mission in politics are the following:
First, because politics has a moral dimension. Politics is a human activity. It may hurt or benefit people. It can lead to grace or to sin.
Second, because the Gospel and the Kingdom of God call the Church to political involvement. To proclaim the gospel to all creation necessarily includes evangelizing the political world. Moreover, at the center of Jesus’ mission is the proclaiming of the Kingdom of God. But the Kingdom of God calls us to repentance and renewal (Mk. 1:15). This call to renewal is addressed likewise to the political field.
Third, because the mission of the Church of integral salvation involves the political sphere. Integral salvation is the salvation of the total person, soul and body, spiritual and temporal. This is why Jesus not only forgave sins but also healed people from sickness. The Church must likewise bring the healing grace of salvation to the temporal, including political, sphere.
9 Are there other reasons why the Church must be involved in politics?
Yes, there are. Another reason is because salvation of the human person is from personal and social sin. We know that in the political field, social sins unfortunately abound, such as graft and corruption, “dirty politics” of “guns, goons, and gold”, deceit and unprincipled compromises, “politics of greed”. In the mind of the Church, systems where such social sins have been imbedded through constant practice are “structures of sin or structures of injustice.”
Still another reason is because the Church has an Option for the Poor. In the Philippines, politics is heavily tilted against the poor. The poor often become in a real sense voiceless and powerless. Laws are often passed that merely support vested interests rather than promote the common good of all.
Finally, because John Paul II said that the concrete human being living in history is “the way for the Church” (RH, 14; CA, 53-54). The temporal and spiritual development of the total human person is the way by which the Church accomplishes the mission to proclaim the Gospel. We know very well that politics can dehumanize the human person and entrap the person in sinful behavior or structures.
In short, politics cannot claim to be above or outside the natural law and the moral law. Politics has moral and religious dimensions. Therefore, the Church has to be involved in the political world.
10 Is not the Church’s involvement in politics “political interference”?
“Political interference” takes place when the Church involves itself in politics in a way that is not justified by her mission or when such involvement is against the Constitution. But the mission of the Church requires her, for instance, to denounce political attitudes, behavior and structures that run counter to the Gospel and to the Reign of God or that militate against the common good and the integral salvation of the human person, especially of the poor. Also in accord with her mission is for the Church to issue moral guidelines regarding the qualifications of political candidates. It would be “political interference” if the Church were to be involved in way that is not in keeping with her mission to evangelize, or if the Church were to violate the Constitutional mandate of “separation of Church and State.”
11 What does “separation of Church and State” mean?
Separation of Church and State is strictly defined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution to refer to two points: (1) that no religion may be established as the official religion of the State; and (2) that the State may not favor one religion over others. At the same time, the State shall forever allow the free exercise and enjoyment of religion and shall not require any religious test for the exercise of civil or political rights (see 1987 Philippine Constitution). The first point above is called the “non-establishment” clause.
To be noted is the fact that nowhere does the Constitution prohibit Clergy and Religious from partisan politics. What prohibits them from active involvement in partisan politics is the Church’s own laws and traditional wisdom.
12 But should not Church and State collaborate with each other?
Yes, because Church and State both work for the common good and for the good of every person. They have to respect each other’s legitimate independence or autonomy and each other’s way of achieving the common good and the total development of every human person. Precisely because of this unity of mission, Church and State have to collaborate with each other.
13 What is the mission of the Church regarding the political order?
The Church has the duty of proclaiming the Gospel “to all creation” (Mk. 16:15) and “to restore all things under Christ” (Eph. 1:10). This means that the Gospel must “influence every phase of life, every stratum of society” (PEPP, p. 26), including the political sphere. In fact it is the duty of every Christian – to transform politics by the Gospel. The relationship of the Church to the State has been described by the Philippine Bishops as one of “critical collaboration” or “critical solidarity”.
14 What is the meaning of “critical collaboration” or “critical solidarity”?
Critical collaboration or critical solidarity means that the Church is one with the State in promoting the common good. Cooperation, solidarity – positive support – has to be given by the Church to whatever the State may be doing for the common good in accordance with the Gospel. But the church must have a critical sense in providing such collaboration. It should denounce whatever is not in accord with the Gospel.
15 What vision of human dignity and solidarity does the Church contribute?
The Church contributes to the political order her vision “of the dignity of the person revealed in all its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word” (CA, 47). This vision includes the truth: that the human person has been created unto the image of God and has an eternal destiny of unending happiness with God; that, having fallen into sin, the human person has been redeemed by God and absolutely needs God’s grace for salvation; that Jesus Christ is God-made-man who shows by his human life how the human person must live and serve; that the equal dignity of all human beings brings them into solidarity in mutual love, justice, and service.
16 What does “solidarity” mean?
Solidarity is a moral and social virtue. It is not a mere spirit of camaraderie or team spirit or some vague feeling of compassion or good will. Rather, it is “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). It includes a love of preference for the poor, hence, solidarity with the poor. It is a commitment to achieve social justice, development and peace – and to achieve these by peaceful means and by respecting fundamental human rights. Solidarity extends to the level of relations between nations.
17 Must citizens obey political authority?
Every human community needs authority to govern it. It is necessary for the common good and the unity of the State. It is required by the moral order and comes from God. 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 (PEPP, p. 37). This is why the Scriptures enjoin obedience to political authority. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Rom. 13:1-2; cf. Pt. 2: 13-17).
18 Can citizens disobey political authority?
While citizens are bound in conscience to obey political authority, they are not obliged to obey commands that are morally wrong. Political authority must not be used contrary to the moral law. This is why Vatican II says: “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.” This is especially true “when citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence” (GS, 74). St. Peter himself disobeyed the order of authorities and said “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19). This is the principle that impelled the Filipino people to resist the Marcos dictatorship and achieve liberation through the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.
19 Is it true that the Church can work with any form of political regime?
The measure of the Church’s collaboration with a political regime is the higher law of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. The citizens of the State have the power of choosing the kind of political regime (e.g., democratic or authoritarian, presidential or parliamentary) they wish for themselves to attain the common good (GS, 74). In the light of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God, the Church can work with any political regime as long as her basic freedom to accomplish her divine mission and to avail of resources for this purpose are not suppressed. But 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).
20 What does the church expect of politics in view of integral development?
For the integral development of the human person and of all persons, the Church expects politics to create structures of “participation and shared responsibility” (CA, 46), where the basic freedoms and aspirations of individuals are given full scope to develop and grow. For example, the Church would expect the political community to remove or at least reduce excessive socio-economic inequalities among its citizens. The Church would also expect that electoral processes be truly democratic and fair. Politics must, therefore, not be a tool for the advancement of only a privileged few.
PART III: THE ROLE OF CLERGY, RELIGIOUS AND LAITY IN POLITICS
21 What are the roles of Clergy, Religious and laity with regard to “partisan politics”?
Traditional wisdom and general common sense, with support from Canon Law (or the Law of the Church), assign specific roles for different members of the Church. PCP-II pointed out these roles. “The Church’s competence in passing moral judgments even in matters political has been traditionally interpreted as pertaining to the clergy. Negatively put, the clergy can teach moral doctrines covering politics but cannot actively involve themselves in partisan politics. In practice, religious men and women are also included in this prohibition” (PCP-II, 340). But certainly lay people “have competence in active and direct partisan politics” (PCP-II, 341). This general rule is certainly not rigid, because lay people themselves have a teaching role regarding politics, especially in their witnessing to gospel values in the world of politics. Concretely, priests, religious men and women, and lay people, i.e., the Church “must be involved in the area of politics when Gospel values are at stake” (PCP-II, 344).
22 Why should priests, religious men and women refrain from involvement in partisan politics?
As we have seen, the prohibition is not because of any Philippine constitutional provision. But the Church prohibits Clergy and Religious from involvement in partisan politics because they are considered the symbols of unity in the Church community. For them to take an active part in partisan politics, with its wheeling and dealing, compromises, confrontational and adversarial positions, would be to weaken their teaching authority and destroy the unity they represent and protect. Still, it must be admitted that sometimes even the teaching of moral principles is actually interpreted by some as partisan politics, because of actual circumstances (PCP-II, 343-344). An example was the Bishops’ post-election statement in 1986 when they taught that a government that has assumed power by fraud had no moral right to govern. This teaching was considered partisan for the opposition presidential candidate and against the winner proclaimed by a subservient parliament.
23 What is the specific mission of the laity in politics?
The mission of the laity is the same as that of the entire Church, which is to renew the political order according to Gospel principles and values. But such renewal by the laity is through active and partisan political involvement, a role generally not allowed to priests and religious men and women. This is the reason that PCP-II urges the lay faithful not to be passive regarding political involvement but to take a leading role. In fact, 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). Moreover, 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).
24 What truths should guide the laity’s political involvement?
PCP-II underlined the following principles to guide political participation of Catholics:
a. That the basic standard for participation be the pursuit of the common good;
b. That participation be characterized by a defence and promotion of justice;
c.That participation be inspired and guided by the spirit of service;
d. That it be imbued with a love of preference for the poor; and
e. That empowering people be carried out both as a process and as a goal of political activity. (PCP-II, 351).
But more than just political involvement is the primary importance of the lay faithful being witnesses to the Gospel. John Paul II said: “The lay faithful must bear witness to those human and Gospel values that are intimately connected with political activity itself, such as liberty and justice, solidarity, faithful and unselfish dedication for the good of all, a simple lifestyle, and a preferential love for the poor and the least” (CL, 42).
25 Are there so called “Catholic candidates” or is there a “Catholic vote”?
The Gospel does not prescribe only one way of being political or only one way of political governing (such as monarchical, presidential, parliamentary, etc.), much less only one political party or even one slate of candidates. No one political option can fully carry out the Gospel mandate of renewing the political order or of serving the common good. No one political party or platform or set of candidates can exclusively claim the name Catholic. Hence to Catholics there are many political options that the Gospel does not prohibit. Therefore, there is generally no such thing as a “Catholic vote” or “the Bishops’ candidates”. This is simply a myth. The Bishops do not endorse any particular candidate or party but leave to the laity to vote according to their enlightened and formed consciences in accordance with the Gospel.
26 Is there any case when the Bishops can authoritatively order the lay faithful to vote for one particular and concrete option?
Yes, there is, and the case would certainly be extraordinary. This happens when a political option is clearly the only one demanded by the Gospel. An example is when a presidential candidate is clearly bent to destroy the Church and its mission of salvation and has all the resources to win, while hiding his malevolent intentions behind political promises. In this case the Church may authoritatively demand the faithful, even under pain of sin, to vote against this particular candidate. But such situations are understandably very rare.
27 How does the Church fulfill its mission on renewing or evangelizing politics?
a. by catechesis or Christian education in politics in order to evangelize our political culture which is characterized by a separation between faith and politics;
b. by issuing guidelines on properly choosing political officials, so that the people may have a properly formed conscience in their electoral choices;
c. by helping keep elections honest, clean, peaceful, and orderly through various church organizations, cooperating with non-government organizations;
d. by pushing for structural changes as a goal of pastoral action in the political field, such as urging for reforms in the electoral processes in order to avoid delays and ensure integrity throughout the entire electoral process from voting, to counting, to reporting, and finally to proclaiming the winners;
e. by political advocacy such as lobbying for legislation that promote the common good and against bills that promote the vested interests of the few;
f. by getting involved in a movement of civil society (civic organizations, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations, associations of lay people and religious, school associations, etc.) to change politics for the better;
g. by organizing her own network of parishes and organizations, pastoral and social centers, etc., such as NASSA VOTE-CARE and PPC-RV, to help keep elections clean, honest, peaceful and orderly.
h. by the living witness of all the Catholic faithful to Christ and to the values of the Gospel. This is the most important contribution of the Church to the evangelization of politics.
PART IV: PHILIPPINE POLITICS – SITUATION AND RENEWAL
28 Why has the Church been so actively involved in politics in the Philippines?
The main reason, the Bishops themselves said, is the following fact: “Philippine politics – the way it is practised – has been the 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 full development” (PEPP, 7). PCP-II summed up our kind of politics in this way: “Perhaps an even more fundamental aspect of our kahirapan is that poverty and inequality joined to the absence of reliable social services seem to be part of a self-perpetuating social system and political culture” (PCP-II Appendix 1, pp. 278-79)
29 What are some of the negative features our political culture?
Negatively, Philippine politics is often described as basically “patronage politics”, “a politics of personalities” and a “politics of pay-off.” PCP-II summarily described our politics in the following way: “Power and control are also elitist, lopsidedly concentrated on established families that tend to perpetuate themselves in political dynasties” (PCP-II, 24).
30 What is meant by “patronage politics”?
Deriving from the feudal system of master and servant, the politics of patronage considers the relationship between public official and ordinary citizen as that of patron (master) and client (servant). Rewards or benefits are distributed according to the loyalty of clients to their patrons. Clients or voters depend on their patrons or public officials for every development project or assistance, and solutions to community problems. Rewards or development projects are distributed, then, on the basis not of justice due to people but on the basis of the government official’s “kindness” and the loyalty of the people to the public official. Thus political leaders and followers who show support are rewarded with projects, money or jobs. Dependence and subservience, passivity and inaction on the part of citizens is characteristic of such a system. This accounts for the lack of viable political organizations among the poor on the one hand and the concentration of power in the hands of the few on the other. In addition because political positions are treated like feudal properties, public funds are used by some officials as their own, for personal or family interests. In fact a political office is often treated as some sort of a feudal title to be passed on from one generation to another. This is at the basis of so called “family dynasties.”
31 What is meant by the “politics of personalities”?
This is a system where the popularity of political candidates rather than issues count more than knowledge and competence. The popularity of personalities and the “connection” of personalities to the powers that be are more often than not the main criteria for judging who should be elected. Thus, candidates for political office who are popular in movies, sports, or are connected to powerful political families have a significant headstart in elections. Coupled with Filipino values of family-centeredness, family connections have resulted in family political dynasties. Moreover, the politics of personalities has made it possible for frequent changes in political party affiliation or political “turn-coatism”. Parties do not have political ideologies that present voters with clear cut alternatives on key social issues such as environmental protection, globalization, trade liberalization, etc. PCP-II observed that people themselves “seem to care more for the projects and gifts and less for the substantive issues on which their elected political representatives should take a stand” (PCP-II, pp. 279-80).
32 What is meant by a “politics of pay-off”?
It is a system of politics where political advantage is the reason that a politician takes one position over another with regard to issues. The political debate depends on answers to such questions as “What will you do for me if I support you on this issue”? Pay-off can be in terms of financial “commissions”, political appointments, or of better political leverage. This is sadly the belief of what goes on in the halls of Congress. It is not rare that decisions are based not on principles but on “horse trading”, vested interests and on so called “party loyalty.” Many people, therefore, believe that decisions on the government yearly budget depend very much on questions of the “pork barrel” fund. The more generous the “pork barrel” the easier other items of the budget are approved. “Politics of pay-off” also includes vote-buying.
33 Is the mentality of many politicians part of this political culture?
Yes. Undoubtedly there are many politicians who truly strive for the common good. They consider themselves public servants in the real sense and truly act as such. Unfortunately, there are also many who give politics a dirty name because of their mentality. They look at politics as a means of enrichment and a source of influence and power for self and family-interests. Thus, politics becomes a cause of greed. Principles are sacrificed. One can very well ask why so many would want to spend so much money and even cheat in order to be elected to political positions that pay relatively little.
34 Do the terms “traditional politics” and “traditional politicians” refer to the negative features mentioned?
Yes. In themselves the terms are not derogatory. But in recent years, to highlight the need of a new kind of politics and of a new breed of politicians, the terms “traditional politics” and “traditional politicians” have increasingly been understood to describe the negative features of the world of politics. This is the background of the word trapo.
35 Is this why the Bishops say that our political culture is negative?
Yes, the bishops, said that the political “system is shot through and through with opportunities for corruption, influence-peddling, and the indiscriminate use of public funds for partisan or personal purposes” (PEPP, p. 29). They also said: “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 now” (PEPP, p. 10). In fact after analyzing the very negative features of the election process, the Bishops lamented that: “The prime values of our faith – charity, justice, honesty, truth – these are of little or no consequence at all when it comes to our practice of politics in or out of election time.” (PEPP, p. 21).
36 Why? What is wrong about our election process?
The Bishops mention the following evils that are happening before elections:
37 What are the evil activities done on election day itself?
38 After the elections, what questionable or even reprehensible actions do we observe?
39 Are the people themselves responsible for this sad situation?
Certainly, at least in part, because people have become fatalistic and cynical regarding politics and have often consented to its evil features. They say that is the nature of politics and cannot be changed. People have become so accustomed to seeing the above evils in the world of politics that many seem to have surrendered to this reality. In fact many become participants by asking donations from candidates, by willingly selling their votes, by expecting to be entertained during the campaign period, by being agents in buying votes and tampering with election results, etc. This is why by participating in or tolerating the evils of the electoral process, we reap the corresponding evil of having bad people to govern us.
40 Is it alright to accept money as long as one votes according to one’s conscience?
No, it is not alright. If the source of the money is clean, accepting it without voting for the candidate who gave it makes you a liar. And if you vote for the candidate, you have actually sold your vote.
If the source of the money is not clean, then you become a cooperator in evil because you accept it.
By accepting any money from candidates, no matter from what source and with what intention, you are perpetuating a form of dirty politics which encourages graft and corruption, for today’s vote buyers are tomorrow’s grafters.
41 Are there no signs of hope that politics can change for the better?
There are many signs of change. We had the brightest example of how people acted as one to protest against the widespread fraud in the 1986 Snap Election. We saw the courage of men and women walking out of their jobs as computer personnel so that they would not be accomplices in the manipulation of election results. We saw many lay volunteers, priests, and religious men and women who guarded the polls at the risk of their lives in the 1984 and 1986 elections. And, of course, there was the 1986 People Power revolution at EDSA that successfully expelled a dictatorship and restored democratic freedoms. Since then, non-government organizations and peoples’ organizations have sprouted in great numbers to express the peoples’ desire for participation and solidarity in the socio-economic and political fields.
42 What qualifications should we look for in political candidates?
In many previous statements, the Bishops have insisted on certain qualifications that candidates must have. Among these are the following:
Those seeking public office must be pro-God (maka-Diyos) rather than materialistic and secularistic; pro-people (maka-tao) rather than pro-self; pro-nation (maka-bayan); pro-common good rather than pro-special groups; and pro-environment (maka-kalikasan) rather than ecologically insensitive.
Other qualifications are those that have been enumerated by PCP-II, namely: they must be persons who truly pursue the common good, defend and promote justice, have a spirit of service, love of preference for the poor, and are eager to empower people (see PCP-II, 351). All these have to be verified from their past histories and records.
In their pastoral exhortation on the 1998 elections, the bishops underlined the following qualifications: competence and integrity. They said that competence is the ability to do the expected work well and not necessarily to be able to speak well nor to be popular. They said that integrity means respect for the human rights of others, honesty in public office and fidelity to marital commitment (to wife or husband), and to family commitments (the loving care of the family). This means that a good moral character is fundamentally necessary in aspiring for public office. To be trusted in politics and entrusted by people with the common good, one has to be trustworthy in the moral and religious fields. These are intimately and inseparably interwined.
43 Since politics is seen as “dirty”, should not Catholic leaders stay away from politics?
No, on the contrary they should involve themselves directly in partisan politics so that they can renew it and make it work for the common good. PCP-II itself has encouraged such participation (see PCP-II, 348-50). It urged the following: “Catholics in politics have to work in favor of legislation that is imbued with these [Christian] principles. Knowing that the wrong behavior and values are often rewarded or left unpunished, Catholic politicians have to put teeth to good legislation by making certain that the correct system of rewards and punishment be strictly enforced in public life” (PCP-II, 352). Examples of criminal actions often remaining unpunished are those that are committed by powerful people, including politicians themselves.
44 In general, how should Catholics participate effectively in elections?
By volunteering to work in a non-partisan way with non-government organizations such as NAMFREL, or Church movements such as PPC-RV and NASSA VOTE-CARE in helping raise the awareness of people regarding responsible voting, and in keeping elections honest, clean, peaceful, and orderly.
By working for and joining a political party in order to get elected into public office or to support truly qualified candidates and to help ensure that the political party itself abide by the values of integrity, honesty, and issue-oriented electoral campaign.
By working for the passage and implementation of electoral laws that will help make elections honest and peaceful.
Above all, a Catholic voter must vote wisely and honestly, in accordance with a properly formed conscience and not because of monetary considerations, family connections or
utang na loob.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
February 1, 1998
CBCP Statement on the Kidnappings of Church Personnel in Mindanao
In the past, priests, religious sisters and prelates have been kidnapped by terrorists or extremists in Mindanao. More numerous are the lay people who had been kidnapped by similar groups. We are all deeply saddened and righteously angered by these criminal cases. Lay victims are even more vulnerable than priests and religious. They suffer even more pain because of their families. No amount of protest against such a terrible crime that plays games with people’s lives has been sufficient to stop the rash of cases. But to protest is necessary. And we do so strongly protest once again.
Priests, Religious Sisters and Brothers working in certain difficult areas in the Philippines are only too well aware of their vulnerability. But they are deeply convinced that their missionary witness, presence, and social development work in the context of inter-religious dialogue are necessary for the sake of the Kingdom of God despite all the difficulties, pains, and risks.
Therefore, we, the Bishops of the Philippines, openly profess admiration for their work and sacrifices to uplift the poor and needy, no matter of what faith or tribe. We also greatly respect the discernment and decisions taken by those who have opted to stay in their mission assignments and have declared their opposition to the payment of any form of ransom, as well as the decision of some to leave in order to work in places of better security.
Many extremists, terrorists, and religious fanatics claim to be Muslims while others claim to be Christians. Knowing this, we as Bishops do not hesitate to say that genuine Islam and genuine Christianity both reject any violation of human rights and other immoral actions such as kidnapping, murder, graft and corruption.
We believe that true progress and sustainable development must always serve the demands of justice, reconciliation and peace. We strongly denounce the criminal action of terrorists in kidnapping church personnel and lay people.
We vehemently urge the law enforcement agencies of government especially those of the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim in Mindanao), to provide reasonable protection for everyone not only for religious and Church personnel. We likewise urge the national government to fastrack the release of the legitimate claims of the rebel returnees.
We warmly commend and encourage the dialogues being undertaken by Muslim religious leaders, Bishops of the National Council of Churches and Catholic Bishops’ in Mindanao. Such dialogues provide what is sorely missing in the peace process now being worked out in Mindanao, namely, fraternal dialogue between peoples of different faiths towards mutual respect, solidarity, peace and harmony.
Finally, as we have stated in a previous statement in July 8, 1996 on the Mindanao Peace Process:
The journey to peace is the journey of people of different faiths, people who pray to the same Almighty God, who for the sake of peace creates in our hearts the attitude of mutual respect and trust and love for justice, truth and freedom, which are the pillars of a house of peace. To Him we pray so that… efforts for peace will be truly fruitful for all the people of Southern Philippines.
We pray that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and highly venerated in the Holy Qur’an, intercede for all of us and “guide us into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79b).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, 31 January 1998
Pastoral Exhortation on the 1998 Elections
Soon it will be election time. We shall again be choosing the people who will govern us. We shall also be choosing the kind of future we want for ourselves. For our future depends most of all on our choices, and especially on our choice of leaders.
The choices we make in this election are critically important because of the difficulties that beset us. We are undergoing a very severe economic crisis. After what many thought was an economic take-off that had brought us close to the status of a newly-industrialized country, we are experiencing an economic downturn brought about by the steep depreciation of the value of the peso in relation to the U.S. dollar. It appears that this economic crisis will be with us for some time. In the meantime thousands of our people are losing their jobs even as the prices of goods increase. All of us suffer, but most especially the poor.
Compounding our difficulties is an ecological crisis. We are suffering from the “El Niño” phenomenon. Many places lack rain so necessary for our farms. Even clean water for our domestic needs has become scarce and expensive. “La Niña” which threatens to be even more destructive is expected to follow. All of this comes in addition to the pollution of our air and rivers, and the destruction of our ecosystem.
We are also undergoing a socio-political crisis. Peace and order has deteriorated. There has been a marked increase in the number of kidnappings for ransom. Robberies both on a small and big scale and the killing of innocent victims often after they have been sexually violated are unchecked. The problem of insurgency continues to disturb the peace while the drug menace continues to spread. A most disturbing aspect of many crimes is the acknowledged fact that many of those who commit them are law enforcers. This has resulted in a serious loss of confidence in the ability of our police and military personnel to combat crime and preserve peace and order.
The words of Scripture seem to be literally realized among us: “Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor; they trap them by their cunning schemes. The wicked even boast of their greed; . . . their affairs always succeed; . . . The helpless are crushed, laid low; they fall into the power of the wicked” (Ps. 9-10: 2-3, 5, 10).
Underlying all of these crises is a moral crisis. In our society today the highest premium is given to money and power. Greed for money and power are what fuel the corruption and violence that is eating up our social fabric. Add to this the hedonism that is fostered by the mass media and the scandal that is given by prominent personalities who are able to flaunt not only the law of the land but the law of God with seeming impunity. Many of our leaders in politics, in business, and in the entertainment world seem to be guided by no other moral compass than self-interest. In the political field, especially, these words seem to apply to many leaders: “…there is no sincerity in their mouths; their hearts are corrupt. Their throats are open graves; on their tongues are subtle lies” (Ps. 5:10). No wonder, many of our youth go through life without any moral direction, and many adults suffer from cynicism. We, your pastors, have our share of fault in this moral crisis gripping our country, and we take this occasion to ask pardon from God and from you for our own offenses and omissions.
The crises that mark our times make it imperative that in these coming elections we choose the right persons to lead us and that we ensure respect for our choices. Not too long ago, we wrote a Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics. We refer you to what we said there, but in this letter we wish to underline the necessity of honest and credible elections and the correct choice of elected officials.
The Necessity of Honest and Credible Elections
In the context of the times, we must make sure first of all that those who become our leaders in government are those whom we have in fact freely chosen to lead us. We must work for HONEST ELECTIONS. We should make sure that people are able to freely vote for those whom they wish, that all forms of cheating are eliminated and that the votes are counted correctly from the precinct level to the final canvassing, so that the rightful winners are proclaimed and assume office. We should not allow candidates to steal public offices they do not deserve to occupy while depriving us of the services of those whom we have chosen to serve us. Those who steal public office will steal from public coffers. While imposing themselves upon the people they will not hesitate to lay heavy burdens on them. Cheats do not make good public servants.
It is people who cheat. The automation or computerization of the voting and counting does not guarantee honest elections. Dishonest persons can use machines to cheat. Only the correct moral formation of persons and our concerted vigilance will serve as adequate safeguards against election cheating.
We ask the public school teachers who will be drafted to work as members of the board of elections inspectors to be true to their conscience, to their profession and to their country in the performance of their duties.
We appeal to the different parties and candidates to conduct themselves with honor. Public office is a public trust. Those who wish to be leaders in the political community must behave like servants and not as thieves. To gain public office by cheating is to usurp what does not belong to you. A person who wins public office by cheating must restore that stolen public office to the rightful winner. This is not only an obligation under the law but a moral obligation in conscience before God.
We appeal to you, our countrymen and countrywomen, not to cheat or allow yourselves to be used in any way for cheating in the elections. Do not vote more than once. Do not buy votes. Do not intimidate others. Do not miscount the votes or report falsely the results of the voting. God sees what we do, even when no one else seems to know.
One form of cheating–vote-buying–is particularly revolting. It demeans both the person who buys the vote of another and the person who sells his vote. The person who sells his vote shows that his choice can be bought, and that he is willing to sell his and the country’s future to the vote-buyer. In so doing he confirms the vote-buyer’s low opinion of him. The person who buys votes makes clear that he will not hesitate to demean the dignity of the voters to obtain an elective position, and by that fact shows he does not deserve to be elected.
We must not give even the impression of condoning this immoral practice of vote-buying. Hence, we ask our voters not to accept money from those who would buy their votes, but to shame vote buyers by their outright refusal to be bought.
Another form of cheating is the use of intimidation and violence. People are forced to either not vote or to vote for a candidate who is not their choice. To prevent intimidation and violence, we urge the COMELEC to strictly enforce a total gun ban during election time as has been successfully done in the past. We exhort those deputized by the COMELEC to do their duties with conscientiousness and impartiality. Likewise, citizens should band together or join citizens’ groups like the PPC-RV, NAMFREL and VOTE-CARE in order to prevent or report instances of coercion.
Recent experience has shown that much of the cheating has been effectively done through the tampering of the vote counts. Dagdag-bawas has shown that the correct counting of votes at the precinct level does not guarantee honest election results. Votes can be added to or subtracted from the true results before they reach the final canvassing. The delay in the tallying of votes increases the likelihood of dagdag-bawas. Hence, it is necessary to count , tally and canvass the votes as fast as possible in order to prevent this pernicious form of cheating. The vigilance of citizens’ groups should be unrelenting.
Again, we repeat that at this critical point of our history, it is of paramount importance that those who get proclaimed as winners in the elections are those who in fact have won, no matter who they are. The survival of our democracy demands that the people are ruled by those whom they want to rule over them, and whom they have truly and freely voted into office. To put it bluntly, it is preferable that persons who are less qualified but voted into office in an honest election should govern our people than that supposedly more qualified men who have dishonestly won the election should govern our nation. Hence, we must give top priority to securing honest elections.
The Necessity of Voting the Right People into Office
However, it is also of the utmost importance that we vote the right people to office. But who are the right persons to vote for? Whom does God want us to designate to become bearers of that awesome authority which emanates from him (cf. Rom. 13:1)? In the past, we enumerated some guidelines to help our people make the correct choices. Those guidelines remain valid. But allow us to set forth a simplified guide for these elections.
In choosing our leaders in the political community it would be most logical to look first at the platforms and programs of the different political parties. But unfortunately in our country there are practically no differences in the platforms and programs of the different parties. Proof of this is the ease with which candidates even for the highest offices transfer parties or form alliances when their personal interests suit it. We need to focus our attention on the qualities needed by our elective public officials.
The most necessary qualification that a candidate must have is COMPETENCE in relation to the office he is seeking to be elected to. Is the candidate capable of fulfilling the duties of the office he aspires to? Does he have the physical health, mental ability, and emotional capability needed to handle the demands of his office? In other words, can the candidate do the job if elected?
An important element of this competence especially in regard to our next President and Vice-president is the candidate’s possession of that quality called LEADERSHIP. We need a President whom the people can look up to, who can inspire confidence and motivate them to unite and conspire towards the common good. Leadership is not the same as popularity or prowess in oratory. Neither is it the capacity to manipulate people towards self-serving ends. Leadership is rather a way of serving that draws people together and draws the best from them so that they dare to forge a better future together despite all obstacles.
In these critical times we need a President who has the leadership required to lead us out of the economic turmoil and to restore peace and order in our land.
The competence of a candidate is to be measured from his native qualities and his track record in serving the community. The way a person has served in the past is a better gauge of his competence than any academic credentials he may hold. Performance, not promises or popularity, is the test of competence.
The second qualification necessary is the PERSONAL INTEGRITY of the candidate. The candidate should not only be competent. He should also be God-fearing, God-loving (maka-Diyos) and moral. And morality means first of all an absolute commitment to uphold the human rights and freedom of others, and honesty in the handling of public funds. Morality also means truthfulness, and upright conduct in one’s private and family life.
Personal integrity means, finally, that while we must make allowances for human weakness and sin in our public officials, we have a right to expect them to hold on to sound moral principles and to follow those principles with consistency.
For example, we have a right to expect our public officials, but especially our President and Vice-President to uphold respect for human life from conception to its natural end, and to protect the sanctity of the family, as mandated by our Constitution, both by the measures they romote and by the example of their own lives.
A third paramount quality we should seek in candidates for public office is a proven commitment to the common good. We should elect persons who can transcend narrow self and family interests and are willing to make sacrifices for the public good. Corrupt persons do not have this commitment. Neither do those politicians whose actions are guided only by convenience or the desire to do the popular thing whether it be right or wrong. Such persons should not be voted into public office.
In sum, we ask you to vote into office, especially as President and Vice-President candidates who have exhibited COMPETENT LEADERSHIP, PERSONAL INTEGRITY and COMMITMENT TO THE COMMON GOOD.
Our Competence as Pastors and its Limits
While we as your pastors propose to you these guidelines based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., Mk. 10:35-45; Mt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30; Jn. 13:1-35) to help you in voting for the right persons, we nevertheless wish to make clear that it is not our pastoral duty, nor does it fall within our pastoral competence, to name for you the persons who meet these qualifications best. It is your task, our dear lay faithful, to inform yourselves of the qualifications of each candidate and to judge how they conform to the guidelines we have furnished. We can only tell you what kind of persons you should vote for. We are not entitled to dictate to you whom to vote for.
Encouragement to Various Groups
We wish to encourage non-partisan groups like PPC-RV, VOTE-CARE, NAMFREL, and similar organizations to carry out voter-education campaigns to inform the people of the requisite qualities for elective public officials. We also ask the candidates and their supporters to honestly present the reasons why they or their candidates merit to be voted for, without however resorting to black propaganda against rival candidates. We remind everyone that the law of God remains in force during the campaign period and election time.
We take this occasion to urge the building up of basic ecclesial communities and the formation of their members in the correct Christian participation in politics.
Elections are always a momentous event in our country. But these critical times make the forthcoming elections for President, Vice-President, and other elective officials especially important for our future. The difficulties that have befallen us are due in large measure to our disregard for God’s will in our political life as a nation. “A person will reap exactly what he plants” (Gal. 6:7). We have planted seeds of political corruption; we are reaping economic and social troubles. We have allowed ourselves to be swallowed by the culture of greed for money and power; we have gotten the leaders that we have deserved by our surrender to evil election practices. We have sold our future for short term gains; our misdeeds have produced a harvest of misery, the punishment for our national sins.
If we wish upon ourselves the blessings of the Lord and peace and prosperity, we should do his will in all things, especially in politics. We should spare no effort to make these elections honest and meaningful. Let us once and for all rid ourselves of the policy of the politics of guns, goons and gold and those who practice it. Let us make every effort to vote first of all, and to vote for the right persons to lead our country as we enter the third millennium, and let us make sure that the real winners are declared the winners. Let us vote for the right persons and let us together protect our ballot.
Since even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, we invoke upon our people the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth (cf. Ps. 104, 30), and we ask the intercession of Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother, to obtain for us through honest elections the leaders we need. In this way may our people become a people acceptable to the Lord as we approach the year of the Great Jubilee in 2000 A.D.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
31 January 1998»
A Pastoral Letter on Human Rights
To all our Catholic Faithful and all People of Good Will:
One hundred years ago, on June 12, 1898, we as a people declared our independence from three hundred years of colonial rule. Fifty years later, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience of our time” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, no. 2, New York, 5 October 1995). These two historic and momentous events most certainly have far-reaching significance to our life as a nation, contemporary and future.
How have we behaved as a nation in quest of genuine freedom, social justice and development—the basic human yearnings for which our gallant forebears fought and gave up their lives? How have we promoted the human dignity and fundamental rights of each and every Filipino?
Since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights we have gone through successive political regimes, each one promising the realization of Filipino aspirations. Yet each regime could not adequately deliver. We even agonized through the darkest political period of our history as a free people. The bitter regime of Martial Law forcibly denied us our basic human rights and freedoms and violently suppressed every significant dissenting voice with arrest without warrant, arbitrary detention, torture, and extra-judicial killing—all in the name of national security and development.
It is now twelve years since those heroic days when the non-violent force of People Power, mobilized by the prophetic calls of Church leaders, liberated us from abject inhumanity. It was a brief flash of collective brilliance by a tiny nation but it astounded a whole world and became a lesson that would be repeated in other places.
But today we ask ourselves, what have we to show to God and to the world?
The Human Person, the Image of God: the Basis of Human Rights
“So God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
In Christian reflection, the truth of the human person created in the image of God is at the basis of human dignity and of all human rights. Undeniably, “…there are indeed universal human rights, rooted in the nature of the person, rights which reflect the objective and inviolable demands of a universal moral law” (John Paul II, ibid., no. 3).
This moral principle of human dignity finds ultimate confirmation in the biblical revelation of Jesus who commanded what is seemingly a human contradiction: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk. 6:27). The simple logic of such a startling statement rests in his words: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31). But beyond the practical motive of being treated well by others is the fact that every human person is truly ennobled and loved by God: “Consider the ravens, they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (Lk. 12:24).
In a less faith-oriented statement, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights echoes this truth. It affirms “the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” It declares that the recognition of this truth “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (Preamble). Thus the very first of the 30 Articles of the Declaration states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.
The truth of human dignity and freedom is an ethical teaching common to all the great ancient religions of the world. From this common ethical basis, the Declaration presents two broad sets of human rights: (1) civil and political rights; and (2) economic, social and cultural rights. Two separate documents in 1976 would later address these rights: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both sets of rights aim to extend to all peoples “freedom from fear and want”. Further, in 1986 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development which unequivocally declares: “The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development” (Art. 2, no. 1).
The 1948 Universal Declaration ends with the warning: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act at the destruction of any of the rights and freedom set forth herein” (Article 30). It is clear that in a holistic understanding of human rights, the responsibility of protecting human rights belongs not only to the State but also to every person or group. In the recent past, some Philippine human rights groups maintained that only the State can violate human rights. This is not correct and has since been discredited. It is clear that individuals and groups other than the State, such as rebel groups, do violate human rights and have to be accountable.
The Philippine Bishops on Human Rights
In the movement of Filipinos to promote human rights in the past 30 years, we are particularly proud of and thankful for the outstanding deeds of thousands of lay people, clergy and religious. Many of them were victims of human rights abuses. To this cause of justice the Catholic bishops have made a modest contribution as Pastors of the Catholic faithful. We wrote many pastoral statements on human rights, especially during the harshest times of Martial Law. We issued statements on such issues as arbitrary arrests and detention, “liquidation and salvaging,” secret marshals, para-military forces, writ of habeas corpus , persecution of lay leaders, killings of church personnel, ministers, and journalists, the national security state ideology as well as the ideology of violence.
We presented concrete cases. We dialogued with government officials locally and nationally. Our prophetic role as pastors culminated in our 1986 pre-EDSA statement on the immorality of a government that gains power by fraudulent means. We are thankful to the loving God that this most significant statement helped mobilize many of our people to support justice and truth in the succeeding days. Many others all over the world considered the statement courageous and historic.
But we were also aware that the issue of human rights was being used to advance political and even ideological interests. We, therefore, issued a pastoral statement in 1987 denouncing the manipulative use of human rights. Today this 1987 statement continues to have value. Many governments and lobby groups use the issue of human rights as a political and ideological tool. They apply it with a double standard, making it a “conditionality” for some countries that need aid while conveniently ignoring the issue for other countries for the sake of their own national or political interests. Others inveigh against the human rights abuses of their ideological enemies, while conveniently ignoring the abuses of their own groups. But to us, truth and justice and not political or ideological interests must always be at the basis of human rights.
The Situation of Human Rights Today
We appear to have progressed significantly regarding civil and political rights since the days of Martial Law. Yet when we survey our country today we are gravely disturbed and dismayed by seemingly unending violations of human rights. It is a long litany of injustice against civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, including the right to development.
We name some major violations: kidnappings, disappearances, deep-seated and rampant corruption, electoral frauds, de facto disenfranchisement of voters, arbitrary arrests, detention in secret places, torture and other inhuman treatment, extra-judicial killings by both government and rebel forces, abuses of CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units) and other armed groups. In the judicial sphere, there are demoralizing judicial inaction and delays, denial of fair public trial due to personal and professional relationships between judges, individuals and corporations, withdrawal of key witnesses because of threats, resort to “amicable settlements” when justice could have been vigorously pursued.
Despite a negotiated cease-fire, government and MILF forces trade accusations of human rights violations. On the other hand, civilians, politicians, policemen, former members and leaders of the NPA are condemned without due process by insurgents before so-called “people’s courts” and executed. And today more than 10,000 victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime continue to wait for long-delayed indemnification.
Hundreds of families see their homes demolished because of economic projects and are not provided with substitute housing. Sexual harassment, rape of women and domestic violence are very serious recurring problems, aggravated by a “macho culture” and by a sense of shame to report incidents. When perpetrators are powerful, justice for the victims is dim. We also consider government policies regarding population control and their manner of implementation as highly objectionable in light of religious freedom and freedom of conscience. Family rights are violated as well as the rights of unborn children.
Many Overseas Filipino Workers are exploited and abused. In some countries, Filipino Christian risk severe punishment, including death, when they practice their faith in accordance with the freedom of religion. In such cases, our government is rendered helpless, and its appeal is based on humanitarian reasons rather than on the issue of justice and religious freedom, assured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ironically, a country such as ours that has restored the death penalty has to beg for mercy before the courts of other countries when our citizens are imposed a similar penalty. Those same countries serenely enjoy freedom of religion in other countries while denying it to others. It is the task of the international community to correct this egregious violation of fundamental human rights.
Poverty hinders thousands of children from going to school and forces many of them to work, thus inhibiting their proper development. Indigenous peoples face the loss of their ancestral lands and the destruction of their cultures, as projects of development aggressively attack their traditional environment. Their rights to meaningful participation and development are often ignored. They suffer greatly from lack of basic services, health, and education.
As the economic situation worsens, the rights of workers to association, to strike, to security or to bargain collectively are increasingly being restricted, legally and illegally. “Labor only” subcontracting is sometimes used by employers to evade their obligations to workers and to break unions. On the other hand it is popularly believed that many union leaders, for their own self-interests, have enriched themselves and have exploited their own members. Further, the right of farmers and other agricultural workers to development is neglected or, at best, has been subordinated to the drive toward industrialization and global economic competitiveness. Many tenants suffer, as in the case of the MAPALAD Bukidnon farmers, because of contrary claims to land by powerful people and because of massive land conversions in the name of development. In such cases, true agrarian reform is deliberately ignored. Large scale fishing, often by foreign companies, considerably deprives small fisherfolk of their only means of livelihood. Irresponsible media reporting is known to have destroyed the fundamental right of persons to their good name.
The above situation of human rights today calls for our strong moral denunciation. We call upon our government to do everything that it can legally do to bring to justice those who violate human rights, to correct the social structures that allow human rights violations to be perpetrated especially against the poor, the indigenous peoples, women and children, and to make sure that violations are not committed by our own security forces.
Meeting the Challenge of Human Rights: Convictions, Social Solidarity
Indeed, the injustices committed against human dignity and human rights today make our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights almost farcical.
Yet the situation is truly a challenge to all of us. We need to pursue the task of defending and promoting human rights with the following convictions:
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we gratefully acknowledge the heroic contribution of many individuals and groups to the cause of human rights in our country. Thousands of people, from all religious persuasions, singly or in cause-oriented organizations, church-related or otherwise, have been at the vanguard of the human rights movement in the country from the inception of Martial Law, through its dismantling, and up to the present.
Today people of good will need an even stronger solidarity with one another. The indivisibility of human rights makes the task of defending and promoting them more complex and difficult. The freedom to speak and the freedom to worship according to one’s conscience are inextricably bound up with the right to development. And so the interconnectedness of other human rights.
Moreover, the forces of manipulation and oppression are many, both local and global. We need to discern their faces more clearly. The all-pervasive process of globalization is promoting economic, political, social and cultural values that invade our consciousness subtly through mass media and other technological advances. New forms of freedom and rights without any moral moorings are being erected.
As we face the future, we humbly offer to all peoples of good will in our country a vision of society where respect for human dignity and human rights prevails: a social order “founded in truth, built on justice, and enlivened by love,” and growing “in freedom towards a more humane equilibrium” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 26).
Toward this vision, we commit ourselves and our diocesan social action centers to link hands with one and all in morally legitimate action for human dignity and human rights. We commit our parishes, Basic Ecclesial Communities, religious organizations, pastoral programs and educational institutions to do their share in educating the Filipino to justice, peace and human rights.
This we do, asking the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Lord Jesus, who demonstrated his own human dignity by the unique way in which he loved and served others, especially the downtrodden.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
December 1, 1998
Make Yourselves a New Heart and a New Spirit
A Joint Pastoral Letter on Gambling
Beloved People of God in Northern Luzon:
As a result of our pastoral reflection in Laoag City, from December 9 -11, 1993, the exhortation of St. Paul comes to our mind: “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them …” (Eph. 5:11). And so, aware of our sacred duty as your Pastors to teach and instruct on matters of faith and morals, we write you this letter on an issue of grave importance.
The issue is rampant gambling in Northern Luzon, particularly in the form of jueteng.
As we listened to reports from various northern Luzon dioceses we came to realize more than ever before how widespread and insidious rampant gambling is in our northern region.
The Situation of Gambling in the North: A Social Cancer
It is rampant not only in cities and big towns but also in the barangays and sitios of almost every province. Gambling agents are everywhere, at street corners, in front of school gates, near churches, and in markets. They go from house to house, from office to office.
People from all classes of society, from various professions, and the poorest of the poor contribute some of their income to the gambling till, for a chance at winning. Even school children with their meager daily allowance for the day are not spared from the temptations of gambling. In many places the cycle of gambling is at least 3 times a day, everyday of the year.
Its operations are managed by powerful people whose profits are untaxed. It hires thousands whose earnings are a mere pittance, compared to the gargantuan illegal profits that the operators and maintainers get. It is the way of easy money. Its clientele are thousands upon thousands of citizens, most of them very poor people, who dream of a “pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.”
Unprecedented in its frequency, widespread in its coverage, its profits are also incalculable. Popular estimates of gross income per day per province in our northern region runs into millions of pesos. Billions of pesos are lost every year by our people — and pocketed by gambling operators.
The Evils of Rampant Gambling
The moral evil of such large-scale, systematic gambling is not simply because it is illegal. It is truly immoral under the circumstances that it operates and in the evil effects that it has spawned.
Today, gambling is, indeed, a social cancer, gradually and surely destroying a great many of our positive social and moral values. It is a social scourge that is debilitating even our moral sense, our ability to distinguish right from wrong. It is deeply infecting us as a people.
Rampant gambling, particularly in its form of jueteng, has become a way of life for many. People no longer care or dare to condemn it because: (a) no effective action against gambling has ever been taken by our political and police authorities, except through some token occasional raids against small-time gambling operators; and (b) very powerful people operate gambling.
Yet, if we still have a modicum of moral sense, we have to be appalled by the callousness of big-time gambling operators, by the blatant openness with which they conduct their illegal operations, and by the shockingly huge amounts of money that are involved.
The truth is: The victims of gambling are the many thousands of credulous and generally poor people who risk their hard earned incomes to face odds that are heavily stacked against them. The situation is even aggravated, according to popular belief, by the manipulation of winning numbers — a likely possibility, given the secrecy with which winning numbers are often determined.
The whole racket constitutes a systematic fleecing of the poor. Whether the victims are willing or not, the end result is the same – objective exploitation of the poor by the powerful. As in our economic system in general, so in jueteng: the rich, powerful and apparently untouchable operators get richer while thousands of poor bettors get poorer. A situation which recalls the social evil condemned by the prophet Amos: “They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth and they force the lowly out of the way” (Am. 2:7).
For such social and moral evil to exist, can graft and corruption be far behind?
The popular belief has never been disproved that protection money is handed down in liberal proportions to police, military, and political officials. It is even said that the control and operation of gambling are in the hands of some politicians. If what many people say are true, and there seems to be no solid reason to disagree, then we have in the North a social plague of unrivalled scale.
The fact that gambling operations employ some thousands of people in the whole North has become an excuse for government officials not to abolish gambling. They stop searching for alternative and productive sources of employment.
Furthermore the popular belief remains that jueteng profits serve as bottomless “election war chests” from which unaccountable amounts of money are freely withdrawn to support political candidacies. Again, whether true or not, such a belief among ordinary people points to the values that have grown out of the vice of gambling.
Through jueteng and other forms of rampant gambling, values are distorted. Hard work, rational reflection and planning that are trademarks of responsible human work are substituted by irresponsible risk-taking. Laziness is promoted while the dream of easy money becomes an obsession. The poor are exploited. Power and money are used to protect–as well as to enforce submission to –the system. The values of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God are put aside for the sake of profit. So long have we complained about the disappearance of such values as industry, thrift, truth, honesty and integrity, and justice.
Such a terrible situation is hardly to be helped by casinos. In fact, casinos give even more occasions to lose more money. Businesses have collapsed because of casino gambling. Jobs have been lost. Families have been broken. And in some cases, deaths and suicides have resulted.
We must moreover open our eyes to the close connection between the poor values promoted by rampant gambling and the disvalues (or lack of values) in public and private lives, that have wrecked great havoc on our country. A liberal attitude towards rampant gambling is linked to a permissive attitude towards graft and corruption. Because we do not act against one social vice, we tend not to act on other vices as well.
Declarations Related to Gambling
In the light of such a deplorable social situation we recall the strong words of the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel:
Therefore, as Bishops of Northern Luzon, we jointly make the following strong declarations:
In days of old, the prophets of God in Sacred Scriptures regularly called the people and their leaders to turn away from their evil paths and unto the way of God. Today, we call the people of God to a way of renewal and conversion, of holiness and righteousness. “Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9).
May everyone hear and heed this call to renewal. “Let us not grow tired of doing good…” (Gal. 7:9). We call upon you, beloved sisters and brothers, to reflect, pray, and act together in solidarity to dismantle structures of death and build up structures of life.
May the strength, the power and love of the Lord be with us in this sacred crusade toward His kingdom of truth and justice, of peace and love.
(Sgd.)+EDMUNDO M. ABAYA, D.D.
(Sgd)+SALVADOR L. LAZO, D.D.
(Sgd.)+SOFIO G. BALCE, D.D.
(Sgd.)+MIGUEL G. PURUGGANAN, D.D.
(Sgd.)+JESUS E. CABRERA, D.D.
(Sgd.)+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
(Sgd.)+CARLITO J. CENZON, CICM, D.D.
(Sgd.)+CESAR C. RAVAL, SVD, D.D.
(Sgd.)+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
(Sgd.) JAMES RISSE, SVD
(Sgd.)+LEO M. DRONA, D.D.
(Sgd.)+ERNESTO B. SALGADO, D.D.
(Sgd.)+JESUS C. GALANG, D.D.
(Sgd.)+DIOSDADO A. TALAMAYAN, D.D.
(Sgd.)+BRIGIDO A. GALASGAS, D.D.
(Sgd.)+RAMON B. VILLENA, D.D.
Statement of Solidarity with Cardinal Sin
Recent events in connection with the problems that have beset the Monte de Piedad and Savings Bank have tended to cause anguish to the faithful in Manila and to their shepherd, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin.
The Cardinal has borne these crosses as a true pastor, concerned not for himself but for the poor among his flock. He has always stood by the truth, seeking justice yet always ready to forgive.
In this moment of trial, we the members of the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, stand in solidarity with Cardinal Sin. We hold him in fraternal esteem and affirm his personal integrity. We support him with our prayers that justice and truth will prevail.
Pastoral Statement on the
We are at present in the midst of a controversy regarding the VFA or Visiting Forces Agreement. Like all Filipinos we are concerned about this agreement for it concerns the common good toward which every member of the political community should contribute.
We wish to present here some principles which will help us towards a correct decision on this matter.
I. Pertinent Provisions
The following are the pertinent provisions of this agreement also called Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA):
II. Brief Comments
Above premises considered, the VFAas it presently stands should be rejected.
If it is going to be renegotiated, all the ambiguous details mentioned above should be clarified.
Any final agreement must have the character of a treaty made between two sovereign nations, not between a master and a lackey.
In the matter of jurisdiction over crimes committed by visiting US personnel someone should look into similar agreement between the United States and, for example, Spain, Britain, Turkey, et al.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
13 July 1998
Pastoral Exhortation on the Philippine Economy
In this time of crisis in the regional economy of East Asia, all the efforts of the government and private business are geared towards getting the economy back on track. It is a concern we all share for the simple reason that the crisis means greater hardship and suffering, for our poor most especially.
The concern is all the more intense in that in this, our Christian nation, the gap between the richest and the poorest of our people is a scandal that gets more intolerable each year. It makes us ask whether the track our economy has been on all these years is, when all is said and done, the one to be on at all.
The question is most germane to our striving for renewal against the dawning of the third millennium two years from now. And it is especially significant in this centennial year of our independence as a sovereign nation as we take stock of ourselves as a free people and look to where we are headed.
Part I: The Economic Situation
We in the Philippines, have not been hit as hard as our neighbors in the ASEAN Countries of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The causes of the financial collapse of this countries are many and varied: unhealthy banking systems, unfettered borrowing and spending, bad government financial policies. In all these countries, it is the poor who suffer the most.
Although we said we in the Philippines have escaped the worst effects of the general economic slowdown in the region, this does not mean things are all right with us. There has been some success in the past Administration’s efforts to improve the economy. But as a 1998 US State Department Report recognizes, the disparity between the government’s economic programs and its real effect on people’s lives is quite large and points out how the government’s “social reform agenda” has made little progress.
Government spending on such priority concern, as basic education and health care and low-cost water supply was low and poorly targeted. At the same time it has tolerated, even backed, “development aggression” –the kind of development that is hurtful of the environment and or our poorest sectors-indigenous peoples, for instance, and their rights to their ancestral domains and cultures, fisherfolk and their lessened control over fishing grounds, etc.
There is a financial crisis in the simple fact that the peso has been devalued in relation to the US dollar, thus making imports more expensive and our huge external debt ($42.6 billion-last year) harder to service. The OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in their remittances are the one big support of our failing economy — an ironic fact in that they are OFWs precisely because they cannot find good jobs in their own country.
Corruption in and out of government is endemic and is one main hindrance to economic growth. Billions of pesos that could well be spent on uplifting the life of our people end up in the pockets of unscrupulous government officials. The “pork-barrel” funds of Congress, for example, are accepted generally as a corruption-laden institution but to date nothing has been done about it. Most applicable to our situation is what John Paul II wrote about the evil of corruption as destructive of social and political development services essential for their development. (cf. World Day of Peace Message, 1998).
The whole world is now subject to the economic phenomenon called globalization –the widening of international flows of trade, finance and information in a single integrated market. “A liberalized national and global markets which will, it is believed, produce the best outcome for growth and human welfare.” (UNDP HDR, p. 82)
Globalization demands the liberalization and deregulation of a nation’s economy if it is to compete in the world market, share in its economic gain. But seeing the disparities that it brings about, we must seriously question the waste with which globalization has been enhanced as dogma and implemented as policy: Have not the hasty drive towards industrialization and the liberalized entry of foreign developers and investments into the country, compounded by the liberal infusion of vast amount of borrowed foreign funds into our developing economy, exacerbated, rather than eased, the economic situation? The policy, we are afraid, has resulted in an even more shabby treatment of the poor.
Part II. The Social Teachings of the Church
We look for a form of economic development with a human face one that takes the plight of the poor as a primary consideration, ensures that social justice is achieved, the benefits of development shared equitably by all, and the economic gaps and imbalances of society removed. We cannot as bishops provide the precise blueprint for that kind of economic development. But we can, in the social teachings of the Church, give “principles of reflection, criteria for judgment and directives for actions”–guidelines, that is, for moral conduct in economic questions.
We start with the centrality of the human person and human solidarity: the human person, because he is the subject of rights that no one, not even the State, can violate having been made into the image of God, having been made unto the image of God; solidarity, because people are social beings and have to strive together for the common good of all. Any economic development hence that would diminish people, that exploits and ultimately destroys them has to be resisted by all in solidary action.
Option for the poor is another principle-it is a specific form of solidarity. In the globalized economy that we have now, we see it is the poor who suffer most from its excessive profit orientation. This was what impelled John Paul II to call for globalization in solidarity and without marginalization.
The third principle is the biblical truth that God created the earth and its natural resources for the good of all, to be fairly shared and enjoyed by all. Hence we have to reject the continuing concentration of economic power in the hands of a few and its concomitant mass poverty. We look for businesses that create jobs, open to the public ownership of corporations, invest in rural areas for the sake of the poor.
The human person has the God-given vocation to work–it is through work he shares in God’s productive activity. But in today’s world, know-how, technology and skill are needed for people to engage in productive work. This requires education, and we ask that government budgets for education, basic education especially, should not be sacrificed for other services.
In the Philippines, land still is for the majority of our people the main venue of work and productivity. The government recognizes that agrarian reform is the centerpiece of the development of the nation. Its comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) must hence be strengthened and pursued more aggressively.
One of the most significant principles of the social teachings of the Church is that labor has priority over capital, workers’ rights over profit. As John Paul II puts it in his encyclical on labor, the principle means that “labor is always a primary efficient cause, while capital, the whole collection of means of production, remains a mere instrument or instrumental cause.” (LE, 12). In the light of the above, serious questions have to be raised on the basic attitudes of businesses in regard to labor unions, collective bargaining, just wages, working conditions and the like.
After the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe, the belief began to grow that the capitalism of the West with its free market system had finally emerged totally victorious and even the Pope acknowledged the fact. The truth is that he still warns against a radical capitalist ideology that is “unconcerned about marginalization and the exploitation of the weak” (CA, 42). From this we see the need for the government to dismantle all kinds of cartels, to prevent price increases, to enact laws that are truly for the common good, to stabilize the currency and act against currency speculations, etc.
International agencies, like the world bank, the international monetary fund, and the world trade organization must not be instruments of economic domination by superpowers but must help to level the playing field for all, to guarantee fairness and equity in international economic relations between developed and less developed nations. They too must have an option for the poor.
The Church has a prophetic role to play in the economic order, more so in its globalized form. The Pope’s concern for the marginalization and exploitation of the weak finds an echo in the UNDP Human Development Report of 1966 (pp. 6-7) which speaks of present world economic growth as jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless. If globalization means unadulterated laissez-faire capitalism, it is an order that the Church’s social teachings have always condemned for being too materialistic.
A caring economy — development with a human face — this is what we look for. It does present an alternative to materialistic models of development, socialist or capitalist, that obtain today. It asks that both access to and ownership of economic capital and production be dispersed, not favor entirely owners of monetary institutions, well established landlords and politicians and act responsibly in regard to national resources and the economic means of production.
Lay people whose specific vocation is the renewal of the temporal order have thus a strong prophetic role to play in the economic order. Businessmen, politicians, landlords, power-holders–if they are Christians, they must lead in working for an economic system that will truly promote the common good of all, not just theirs.
Part III. Recommendations
We leave technical solutions and the management of the present financed crisis to experts. And we ask is that the ethical and religious values we have been talking about above be in the forefront of all efforts to improve the economy. But still there are some “doables” that we can recommend.
The message that we wish to give in this critical look at our economy is this: only when economic relationships, policies, programs, and structures are thoroughly infused with moral principles that put the face of God and the many faces of the poor into the picture, only when we as a nation shall do away with greed, selfishness, unhealthy competition, and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few will true economic development take place. This should be development with a human face.
For this to be realized, solidarity must be forged among ourselves, but especially with the poor. Such solidarity must likewise be international, among First World and Third World countries. We need to recognize what globalization with solidarity ultimately means, namely, the unity under God of the one human family where there should be no exploitation, no impoverishment, and no injustice; where the goods of the earth and the benefits of development are fairly distributed. This vision is nurtured by Christian hope, which assures us that in the end good will triumph over evil, life over death, love over hatred, generosity over greed.
It is also Christian hope that convinces us that, though the years ahead will be years of the Cross, years of struggle and sacrifice, with the grace of God the Filipino shall prevail.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
12 July 1998
PART I: THE ECONOMIC SITUATION
The Asian Economic Crisis
Reviewing the Philippine Economy 1
A Period of Moderate and Weak Growth
External Debt, OFW Remittances, and Corruption
Liberalization and Deregulation
A Question of Development Models?
PART II: TOWARD DEVELOPMENT WITH A HUMAN FACE –
The Centrality of the Human Person and Human Solidarity
Option for the Poor
The Universal Purpose of Created Goods and Private Property
Work, Productivity, and Productive Efficiency
Land and Agrarian Reform
Priority of Labor over Capital, Workers Rights over Profit.
The Market System and Some Specific Tasks of the State
The Role of International Agencies
The Prophetic Role of the Church vis-à-vis Globalization
A Caring Economy – Development with a Human Face
The Prophetic Role of the Laity in the Economic Order
PART III: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONFRONTING THE SITUATION
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
July 10, 1998
PASTORAL EXHORTATION ADDRESSED TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD ON THE PHILIPPINE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
For this year, our country celebrates the Centenary of our political independence. For all of us, this has profound significance in the past, at present and for the future.
Proclaimed a hundred years ago at Kawit, Cavite, the Declaration of Philippine Independence signaled the development of Filipino consciousness and marked the culmination of years of struggle for Filipino nationhood. In that struggle, thousands of Filipino heroines and heroes, such as Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (GOMBURZA), the Fathers of Nationalism, participated to gain freedom from colonial domination.
At present, the Centennial celebration is a great occasion for us to thank our sisters and brothers who dedicated their lives, even to the point of dying, to preserve the heritage of freedom. It also stands as a reminder to examine ourselves how far we have been worthy of that heritage, and how far we have contributed in sustaining it. For our part as an institution, we apologize for the ambiguous stand some Church people held during the revolution, which partly explains the rise of the religious revolution. It is with pride to recall the EDSA defined what struggle for freedom means to a nation “colonized” by its own leaders.
For the years ahead, the Centenary serves as an inspiration to confront and shape the future of our nation vis-à-vis the political values which its defenders of freedom stood for, and as a vehicle to reawaken the spirit of nationalism and love of country.
Aware of its multifaceted significance, we, the Filipino bishops, join our people in this centennial celebration of independence. In the light of faith, we view this event as a milestone. Freedom from external domination is consistent with God’s will for us. The Lord, after all, is a God of freedom who liberates his people from hegenomy (Micah 6:4). In fact, he raises up leaders to bring them freedom (Judg 6:14), because he witnesses how much they suffer and hears their cry (Exod 3:7; Judg 4:3).
But we also wish to point out that true freedom cannot be limited to merely political independence. Truth to tell, we are still in the process of liberating ourselves. Today, our liberty is eroded not so much by foreign invaders, as by among the few, inequality and lack of participation, injustice and exploitation, deficient cultural values and mindset, destruction of the ecosystem, and deterioration of peace and order, to mention a few. True freedom demands that we, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, are liberated from these evils (cf Gal 3:25-28). It requires profound changes in our socio-economic and political structures, revolution of the heart (cf Jas 4:1), and, most important, liberation from sin (2 Chr 7:14; Rom 6:18; 1 Tim 1:15). It dictates that we ourselves shape our history.
We wish to stress that true independence is synonymous not so much with the status of a newly-industrialized country (NIC), as with integral freedom (cf Mark 2:1-12): “human dignity and solidarity are respected and promoted, moral principles prevail in socio-economic life and structures, justice, love and solidarity are the inner driving forces of development” (PCP II, 253). If we wish to rekindle as well as to remain faithful to the spirit of 1898 in the light of faith, we must continue to struggle toward total human development and liberation, going beyond the commemorative celebration. In particular, we must change the way we practice politics, which is “the biggest bane in our life as a nation, and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full human development” (CBCP, Exhortation on Philippine Politics).
It is with this spirit that we invite the people of God to participate in the celebration of the Philippine Centennial which reaches it summit on June 12th, but continues until December, 1998. For the present limited purpose, however, such participation could be realized through the following sample agenda: National: knowing Philippine history, displaying of the Philippine flag, buying Filipino products, living the Filipino bayanihan spirit, and preserving Filipino culture; Cultural: protection of unborn children, respect for the old and respect for indigenous people’s culture; Sociological : attending to the handicapped, helping the poor, arranging medical services, and visiting prisoners; Religious: ecumenical encounters for prayer and unity, interreligious dialogue, centennial eucharistic celebration, and church bell ringing on centennial day (June 12th).
These sample agenda could be attended to, within the purview of fidelity to history, through talks, conferences, seminars, workshops, programs and activities.
We wish to encourage the parish priests, the parish pastoral councils, the basic ecclesial communities (BECs), other communities of faith, and the families to celebrate this event either as a parish affair, as a small community activity, or in coordination and collaboration with the civil government in the respective localities.
May the Virgin Mary who watches with maternal care over our country obtain from her Son the grace we need to make the centennial celebration memorable and meaningful.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
March 16, 1998