Priests in Politics

Editorial, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:49:00 01/09/2008

Bishop Leonardo Medroso Of Tagbilaran did right in cautioning other priests against doing a Gov. Ed Panlilio. “To those contemplating to follow the steps of Father Panlilio, I will advise them not to enter politics anymore. There’s no more need to enter politics,” the chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Canon Law said the other day.

His advice, however, is incomplete. Priests (and even bishops too) wouldn’t be tempted to enter politics if they did their part to make the laity they shepherd more politically responsible.

Reached for comment, Panlilio said much the same thing. “I agree that priests should not run but they have to really prepare their lay persons for responsible politics.” The question is: What kind of preparation is necessary? And who defines responsibility? We suspect the bishop and the governor would have different answers.

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Foundations from which Philippine politics evolved

From "The Arroyo Imbroglio In The Philippines"
By Paul D. Hutchcroft
Source Link: The Daily PCIJ

No country in Asia has more experience with democratic institutions than the Philippines, dating back to the fledgling Assembly created by the revolutionary republic that declared independence in 1898, after more than three centuries of Spanish rule. The United States’ rapid defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War led to a protracted colonial conquest of the Philippines, in the wake of which the United States embarked on its first major overseas experiment in “nation-building.” Elections proceeded from the municipal level to the provincial level to the October 1907 convening of a Philippine National Assembly, bringing together prominent elites from throughout the lowland Christian Philippines.

Several key elements of Philippine democracy can be traced to the U.S.-colonial era. The first is patronage-infested political parties that rely heavily on pork-barrel public-works projects run through national legislators. Under U.S. governor-general William Howard Taft’s “policy of attraction,” which was intended to woo the landlord class away from the revolutionary struggle and toward collaboration with the United States, the economic elite of the Spanish-colonial era was transformed into a political-economic elite that continues to wield power today. Because representative institutions in the Philippines emerged before the creation of strong bureaucratic institutions, it was easy for patronage- hungry politicos to overwhelm the nascent administrative agencies of the colonial state. Taft liked to evoke images of New England–style deliberative democracy, but the end result is better thought of as a Philippine version of Tammany Hall.

Second, the colonial political system ensured exclusion of the masses and control by a national oligarchy nurtured by U.S. rule. The franchise was limited to a tiny electorate and did not begin to expand substantially until the late-colonial and early-postcolonial years. By this time, the dominance of the national oligarchy was so well-entrenched that challenges from below faced monumental odds.

A third major legacy is the provincial basis of national politics, as influential provincial elites thrived in the national arenas established by U.S. officials. Finally, the strong presidency of the modern Philippines began with the emergence of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935, when President Manuel L. Quezon presided over a weak National Assembly and enjoyed largely uncontested executive authority.

These legacies were the foundations from which Philippine politics evolved after independence in 1946.

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Paul D. Hutchcroft, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has written extensively on Philippine politics. He is author of Booty Capitalism: The Politics of Banking in the Philippines (1998), and is completing a book on patronage structures and territorial politics in the twentieth-century Philippines.


Cha-cha for a Federal State?

By Mon Casiple
Mon Casiple’s Weblog on Philippine Politics

Here we go again with another excuse for the “Cha-Cha” train! Can we blame ourselves for being too skeptical about charter change 2 years before the end of Gloria’s term in 2010? There are rumors that the proposed charter change is the president’s scheme to extend her term and stay in power... more like a last gasp of breath in a political deathbed! -The Equalizer-

Two, the attempt to require the charter change as a condition or even as a precondition for an agreement with the MILF puts the cart before the horse. The constitution provides the fundamental guide for state policy–it cannot be put on the line as a negotiating chip without risking its violation by government negotiators. The risk of the charge of treason against them for proposing to dismember the Philippine territory is present in the current negotiations. The GMA government has to come clean first on what it really promised the MILF in the controversial issue of “ancestral domain.”

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On National ID System

Of course, in this modern age of information and technology, such an ID system will be of great help in both business and government transactions -- but maybe it is not yet indispensable (had it not for the global war on terror, or something else?).

Are only those with something to hide ought to be apprehensive of this ID system? Should not the innocent ordinary citizens be also having some degree of prudence or even a healthy cynicsm concerning this matter?

Every security system always has weaknesses (especially in its first few phases of the implementation where most of the actual operational flaws will occurr), and it is just a matter of time before some persistent and determined breachers or intruders will discover and exploit those weaknesses. And usually the breach or intrusion is not noticed soon enough that it is already too late to take counter actions to prevent any possibility of damages that the breach or intrusion may cause. It would only take one instance of a "good" breach or intrusion, and a considerable amount of information will be in the hands of who knows who will have them.

Once the more sensitive information stored in a "secured" database is breached or intruded, possibilities are almost limitless as to what one with a malicious intent could do with all of those millions of personal information. And once a person's identity and personal information is known or revealed, there is no way it can be undone. And if a particular person is a target of some sinister or malicious intention by some criminal elements or groups who secured the information from some commercial professional hackers, that person's life (and also possibly the lives of his family and friends) could hang by a thread.

Safeguards? No amount of safeguards will ever deter anyone who intends to commit a crime -- just as no amount of hell will prevent anyone from commiting sin. A criminal never thinks of being caught; a sinner never believes of going to hell.

What's with wealth, and what's with identity? If someone steals all your wealth, you could become poor. But if someone steals your full identity, not only that he could easily steal your wealth, he could also steal your life -- or he could even take it with considerable ease.

If the present government must implement their version of a national ID system, they should not be surprised if it will be met with strong opposition by majority of its ordinary citizens whose only primary transaction with the government is to pay their neck-deep taxes.

So, anyone care to dance the ChaCha while wearing an ID?


In defense of Our Priests and Bishops

By Asuncion David Maramba
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In a letter to the editor, Francisco Alcuaz lamented the “lack of activism” of Catholic Church leaders. The last quarter of the year carried around half a dozen such reactions and an editorial (Nov. 28) chiding the Church for ambivalence, extreme caution, confounding tolerance, stasis, etc; inviting almost irreverent remarks like “the sheep ain’t lost, the shepherds are” and “out-of-this world Church leaders.” Especially grating to reactors was the “No” of 18 bishops from Mindanao to question Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s moral ascendancy to remain in office.

But let’s look more kindly at the situation and give credit where it is due. Many priests and bishops realize that the landscape has changed. There is little of the aura suggested by words like bucolic, simple or tranquil. Our land is being ravaged by corruption, poverty, inequity and waves of violence.

Now and henceforth, prelates know that the call of the hour is works of justice -- difficult, risky, controversial, susceptible to miscalculations, with little visible or immediate results; so unlike feel-good works of charity which reap praise and gratitude. Love and more love may be the never-ending admonition of the Church but justice is love incarnate.

Gather any clutch of newspapers during crisis times under Ferdinand Marcos, of which Jaime Cardinal Sin’s intervention was the pinnacle; under Cory Aquino, under subsequent presidencies and under President Arroyo and you will read of priests and bishops taking a stand on justice and justice-related issues: elections, gambling, land reform, human rights, the pardon of prisoners, mining, education, environment, the Commission on Elections, press freedom, etc. It has been this way since the 1970s and way, way back with Father Hogan, S.J., and Ateneo de Manila University’s best students on the labor front.

But you ask; why do most of them balk before “activism” and why don’t they heave all-together-now with an “official” Church stand? There may be three reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church as a rule is “hanggang sulat at dasal” [limited to writing and praying]. There will be pastoral letter after pastoral letter and calls for moral change and prayer. “Pray for the poor.” “Pray for our leaders.” “Pray for peace.” “Bishops are limited to articulations. They can encourage people to move but they will not move because this is no longer their line.” They are advocates -- of justice, truth, virtues, faith, morality -- and may not move from letter to action. Unfortunately, without active and assiduous follow-through, ecclesiastical exhortations have short lives and no bite.

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Civic duty and national renewal

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Civic duty in our time, I submit, consists mainly of three tasks. The first is to seek to understand the demands of a modern society and to participate responsibly in its collective life. The second is to help lessen the suffering of others in our midst. And the third is to make accountable those who make decisions in our name.

These three elements of civic duty are interrelated. Our ability to make others accountable for the decisions they make in our name depends very much on the extent of our own fidelity to our obligations as members of society. We would be deterred from demanding of others what we ourselves fail to practice in daily life. We would feel compromised and ethically disabled. In like manner, we may be so engrossed in our personal lives that we fail to connect to the life of the community in any positive way.

When the philosopher Richard Rorty wrote about the quest for social solidarity in our time, he was referring not to the ritualistic charities that define our futile attempts at redressing inequality, but to our gradual awakening as human beings to the reality of our own unwitting participation in the oppression and exploitation of others. Such an awakening shifts our attention from the limited mortals that we are to the kind of society we have created for ourselves.

To be able to watch ourselves collectively as a nation -- that is the mark of a modern society. But to be able to revise our notions of who we are and what we can be -- that is the quality of a great people.

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People’s hand needed to solve country’s ills


MANILA, 3 January 2008— CBCP President and Jaro (Iloilo) Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said the solution to the country’s problems would depend on the people’s response and resolve to cooperate, help one another and recognize each other’s responsibility.

Speaking over Veritas 846 Wednesday morning, Archbishop Lagdameo said there are no problems too difficult to solve. He explained the Church teaches everyone God will help solve problems provided we help those in need most specially.

“Feeding the hungry is one way of helping the country solve its problems,” the prelate said.

He said non-government organizations such as Gawad Kalinga has provided the homeless with decent homes. “They need all our support, especially those in need of formal and non-formal education, employment and efforts to reduce the cost of medicines,” he added.

He stressed being able to address these basic concerns would bring hope to most Filipinos this year.

In a related development, Archbishop Lagdameo said Pope Benedict XVI’s New Year’s message was quite appropriate as it recognized the role of the family in achieving peace. “Within the family, its members get to know the meaning of peace,” he explained.

Peace is founded on one’s knowledge of respect, justice and love. “Parents become role models for their children and as such, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace,” Archbishop Lagdameo said. (CBCPNews)