video from the CBCP website
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH has called on the Aquino government to give priority to the long-pending Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that remains snarled in the legislative mill even as the bill’s advocates wait for word on whether President Benigno S. Aquino III will finally certify the bill as urgent.
At the end of the 106th plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco Manila on Tuesday, the bishops issued a resounding call for the passage of the FOI bill, saying the continuing problem of corruption is due to “the hiding of information” from the public by government officials.
The bishops went as far as to say that the government appears to fear the FOI bill even though it claims to be “treading the daang matuwid.”
The FOI issue was one of several raised by the bishops in the pastoral statement the CBCP issued at the end of the two-day plenary assembly.
“The continuing corruption and abuse of power by public officials due to lack of information, or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public,” the pastoral statement said. “It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials. Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?”
In their pastoral satement, the bishops called political corruption as “one of the most serious deformities of the democratic system.” The best way to fight this corruption, the bishops said, is through transparency and accountability.
“We… call upon government to give due priority to the passing of the Freedom of Information Bill at the soonest possible time,” the bishops said.
FOI advocates say time has almost run out for the FOI bill under the 15th Congress, with only four days to go before Congress goes on an extended election break on Feb. 8. The proponents of the measure have been asking President Aquino to certify the bill as urgent in order to spur legislators to give the bill priority.
The entire CBCP pastoral statement follows:
PROCLAIM THE MESSAGE, IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON (cf. 2 Tim 4:2)
(A Pastoral Statement of the CBCP on Certain Social Issues of Today)
Beloved Brothers and Sisters:
Our country continues to suffer grave crises, disasters and challenges. We are reminded of the experience of the tempest at sea by the Apostles when they feared for their lives. Jesus chided them for their lack of faith. (cf. Mk 4:35-41)
Our Problems as a Nation
We have had our share of violent storms. Typhoons Sendong and Pablo inflicted horrific damage – the loss of lives, the destruction of properties, the dislocation of thousands of families, the radical disruption of human life and livelihood, and the severe trauma of survivors. We must listen to expert environmentalists who declare that much of these natural disasters are due to the destruction of our natural resources, our forests and rivers, as a result of unabated logging and mining. These must lead us to examine and question the sincerity, quality and effectiveness of the governance of our leaders.
But this is only one in a long litany of storms, not necessarily natural. We can include:
- the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity. This is due to the slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote, in spite of examples that we clearly see in the West,
- divorce, resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children,
- contraceptives, leading to more abortions,
- the use of condom, aggravating HIV-AIDS infection, and
- school sex education, bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy.
- the continuing corruption and abuse of power by public officials due to lack of information, or still worse, the possible hiding of information from the public. It is ironic that the government that prides itself of treading the daang matuwid fears the Right of Information (FOI) bill because of possible discovery of wrongdoing by public officials. Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?
- the widening practice of political dynasties. As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and offer better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude. We are aggrieved that lawmakers themselves defy the supreme law of the land by not following the mandate of our Philippine Constitution given 26 years ago to make an enabling law to ban political dynasties.
- the issues raised to the COMELEC on automated election concerns. Election is not a matter of speed but of trustworthiness and honesty. If not properly addressed the present automated election system can lead to wholesale cheating. The integrity of a pillar of our democracy – the election – is at stake.
- the inability and unwillingness of those in power to take the road of social justice. This has resulted in failure to share the resources in the country to meet basic rights of the poor, such as secure jobs, decent housing, adequate medicine, ownership of lands that they till, and quality education. New “rights” are being pushed while the most basic rights are being ignored!
- the deepening of the culture of impunity. Extrajudicial killings, unsolved crimes and kidnappings continue and the government is not able or lacks the political will to prosecute the perpetrators and touch powerful people.
- the unabated suffering of the poor in spite of bright economic ratings. Growth itself, that is, more products and more money, should not be the sole aim of development but also equity. The huge gap between the rich and the poor remains. There is little inclusive growth!
We note the above social and political storms that buffet our Filipino life because they deeply touch the experiences of our people. We speak for those who suffer. We bring these concerns to those who have responsibility and hence accountability. These stormy situations need not be so!
The Position of the Church
Our position on the above issues is based on our faith, a faith that is integral, a faith that surrenders to God in the intimacy of obedience and love. Faith is not only concerned with doctrine but applies that belief in all dimensions of life – social, political, economic, cultural, and religious. Such belief is synthesized in the social doctrine of the Church
Catholic moral and social teachings declare:
1. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC, no. 2270). The use of artificial means to prevent human life from being conceived is evil (CCC, no. 2370). Sexual acts are forbidden outside of marriage (CCC, nos. 2390-91).
- Therefore, we denounce the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, the political and financial pressures imposed on lawmakers, and the imperialism exercised by secularistic international organizations in the legislative process.
- We admire and commend the valiant efforts of lay people and lawgivers to prevent the passage of the law.
- We support the efforts of our lay people in challenging the RH Law in the Supreme Court and in other venues within the bounds of our democratic system.
- We support and encourage the participation of the laity in electing competent and morally upright candidates who are faithful to their correct and informed conscience.
- We shall be vigilant and act against moves that will be destructive of family and life.
2. Political corruption is one of the most serious deformities of the democratic system because it rejects moral norms and undermines social justice, which is the justice of the common good (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or CSDC, no. 411). Freedom of information promotes integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order (see CSDC, nos. 414 – 416).
- Therefore, we denounce the non-prosecution of alleged perpetrators of corruption and strongly call upon the government to pursue allegations and signs of corruption of power holders not only of the past but also of the present, even of friends and party mates.
- We likewise call upon government to give due priority to the passing of the Freedom of Information Bill at the soonest possible time.
3. Political authority exists for the common good. It is not to be exercised for the sake of private and family interests or simply for the interests of a political party. When political authority is exercised merely for these narrow interests, it betrays the reason for its existence. Moreover, such situation breeds corruption and inhibits general access to political power which is a fundamental mark of democracy (see Gaudium et Spes or GS, no. 74; CSDC, e.g., nos. 393, 407, 410).
- Therefore, we denounce the continued existence of family political dynasties and the continuing delay of passing a law to implement the constitutional provision banning political dynasties.
4. “Every citizen ought to be mindful of his right and duty to promote the common good by using his vote” (GS, no. 75). Such right and duty would be denied if obstructions are put in place to prevent its free and responsible exercise, such as dishonesty in elections.
- Therefore, we call upon COMELEC to adequately address the issues and respond, place corrective measures if necessary, to the studies of technical experts to the alleged deficiencies of the present system and technology of automated elections. There can be no transparency in elections if the COMELEC itself is not transparent.
5. Love of the poor who in the Gospel reflect Christ himself impels us to work for justice for the poor (see CCC, e.g., nos. 2447-48; CSDC, no. 184). This requires promotion of social justice, not by targeting the reduction of the number of poor people.
- Therefore, as Church of the Poor we direct our social action services towards the development of the poor.
- We shall provide moral guidance to the better off in our society to be in active solidarity with the poor.
- We call upon the government to be serious in implementing the asset reform laws that are in place in order to bring social justice such as CARPER for the farmers, UDHA for the urban poor, IPRA for the indigenous people and the FISHERIES CODE for the fisher folks. The end of CARPER is only 1½ years away and agrarian reform accomplishment is dismal, being bogged down by bureaucracy, legal technicalities and poor governance.
Consistently Proclaiming the Truth
As pastors we heed the urgent appeal of St. Paul:
“Proclaim the message: be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully” (2Tim 4:2-5).
We remind all the faithful that what is popular is not necessarily what is right. What is legal is not necessarily moral.
Each has to follow his/her conscience. But “conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” (CCC, no, 1783).
Faith and Hope amidst the Storms
In the midst of the country’s natural and social upheavals, we see ourselves in the boat with the Apostles buffeted by stormy waves. We are tossed about by the waves created by the secularist spirit, which continues to reduce the role and place of religious faith in the public sphere. Our cherished moral and spiritual values are at grave risk. We are overcome with fear and anxiety, perhaps also wondering if the Lord has fallen asleep, or if the Lord does not care that we are drowning (cf. Mk. 4:38).
We have to hear once again the Lord’s words: “Quiet! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39). He rebukes the winds and the storm ceases. He is the Lord who has power over sea and sky. He has power over dark spirits. It is He who poses the question to us: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mk. 4:40).
This is the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI challenges us to respond with faith to the events around us. With our eyes fixed on Jesus (cf. Mt. 14:27-31), we will not drown but even launch deep into the risky waters of modernity. We should not be afraid. Our values are those of Jesus, of His Gospel, and of the Kingdom of God.
In spite of the storms we know that the kingdom of God is already among us. The Divine Spirit continues to blow, also in our time. With the eyes of faith we thank and praise the Lord:
- for the growing consciousness among many of the lay faithful that they have to take seriously their political duties. We commend and support lay initiatives to form circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates and even to run as candidates in order to bring values of God’s kingdom in the public discourse. We will help the people to know the stance of those who run for office on important issues of the country.
- for the many programs that promote the Natural Family Planning methods. We commit ourselves to promote these programs in our local churches and to teach our people Christian values on family, marriage and the Gospel of Life.
- for efforts among the young to live chastely even in a world that does not value the sacredness of sex. We commend such movements as TRUE LOVE WAITS, LIVE PURE and similar initiatives of education to chastity. Indeed, purity attracts!
- for the courage and steadfastness of many lawgivers to resist political and monetary pressures. For those who have other opinions, we seek to understand them with patience and charity.
- for the effort and bold steps taken by the government in pursuing peace in the country. It is our hope that these peace initiatives will be matched by equally bold steps to bring about justice, for peace is the fruit of justice.
- for the great clamor among the people to do away with political dynasties. If congress is unwilling to act on this we support initiatives by the lay faithful to pass an enabling law against political dynasties through the people’s initiative which the Constitution provides.
With Jesus in the Ark of Peter we always have hope. But with faith and hope, we must have love. Buffeted by the same stormy winds are the poor with their many faces. Our pastoral statement addresses the political and social issues that bring them deeper into helplessness and hopelessness. We must voice out their concerns, be their moral guide, be with them – the unborn and “little ones,” the young, the women, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the slum dwellers, the workers, the fisher folks, the migrants. Our love has to bring them the Good News – the Gospel – with all its social, political and ethical implications.
We entrust the mission of the Church in these troubled times under the protection and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Life and Mother of the Poor. Mother Mary, pray for your children in your beloved Philippines.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ JOSE S. PALMA, D.D.
Archbishop of Cebu &
January 28, 2013