RENEWING OUR PUBLIC LIFE THROUGH MORAL VALUES
Beloved People of God:
We, your bishops, have collectively discerned in the light of the Gospel what our mass media, our political leaders and, above all, you parishioners in our various dioceses have been telling us. What clearly emerges is the continued and urgent need for renewal in the public life of our country.
I. Our Pastoral Situation: What Our People are Saying
We have all observed the failure of political processes to make public servants accountable for wrongdoings. What we have seen instead are acts of evasion and obstruction of the truth, as in the case of the wiretapping and Garcillano tapes controversy. While we acknowledge that patriotic and sincere Filipinos have heeded our call in July 2005 for accountability in public office and sought means for the truth to emerge, we also witness those who seem to use "the search for truth" as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Pressure is thus brought on the ordinary citizen to take sides on the basis of speculation, whether this be with regard to destabilizing alliances, armed insurgency, or a brewing coup d' etat. Have we become a nation of rumors and untruths?
As a result of all this, there seems to be a paralyzing gridlock in the political sphere, as partisan interests prevail over the demands of the common good. Enough of this destructive politics, we hear our people declare. In this situation of widespread confusion, it is not surprising that apathy and cynicism with regard to politics have taken hold of the minds and hearts of many Filipinos. Tragically, many Filipinos have lost trust in political leaders from left, right, and center, and worse still, in the political institutions themselves which are perceived by many to be corrupted. Among an increasing number of our people, there is a sense of hopelessness about our country and the possibility of genuine reform.
While the economy at the marcro-level seems to be moving along, the benefits are not sufficiently shared by the poor. What the people in our dioceses are experiencing and saying informs us that their most immediate and urgent priority is their daily struggle to earn a livelihood. Poverty remains the heaviest burden our people bear. They wonder if the political priorities that preoccupy our leaders are merely "Manila-magnified" problems foisted upon those in the provinces. They are seriously concerned that in 2006 we shall be repeating the same kind of chaotic politics that we all suffered in 2005.
II. The Root of the Crisis: Erosion of Moral Values
As bishops, we believe that at the bottom of our political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace. Truth has become a victim of political partisanship as well as of transactional politics. Moral accountability and justice for crimes, such as the killings of journalists and labor leaders, are yet to be realized.
Because of this crisis of values in our public life, the common good and the plight of the poor are being ignored. We witness the anguish of poor farmers affected by rising prices of farm inputs and decreasing prices for their products. Indigenous people, farmers and fishermen in our dioceses are filled with anxiety about the negative effects of mining, commercial logging, illegal quarrying and fishing, and the continual threat of displacement from one's ancestral lands. More regrettable is the common knowledge that many of our politicians are behind such ventures that disregard the common good.
As Bishops, we realize that the root cause of our debilitating situation is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening preoccupation with narrow political interests, perceived in practically all branches and at all levels of government. Pope Benedict XVI cites St. Augustine's observation that "a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves." (Deus Caritas Est, 28)
But we also recognize that our situation is not one of utter darkness. We are encouraged and inspired to see so many good and decent Filipinos, of different faith traditions, working selflessly and sincerely to build up our nation. We see public servants struggling for integrity and the authentic reform of the corrupted institutions they are part of. We acknowledge groups of dedicated laity, religious and clergy, NGOs and various associations, including police and military personnel, giving of themselves to improve the governance, education, health, housing, livelihood and environmental conditions of our people. These people, united by a vision of heroic citizenship, are reasons for hope, even in the midst of the political crisis we find ourselves in.
III. What We Need to Do
The mission of the Church includes the renewal of the social order and public life through the teaching and inculcation of the values of the Gospel. Because of the moral dimensions of our political and economic life, "The Church has something to say about specific human situations, individual and communal, national and international." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 521) "Any authentic search for peace", the Holy Father stresses, "must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman." (In Truth, Peace, no. 5) Let us all therefore address the urgent issues facing our country from this moral standpoint:
We are aware that the renewal of the Philippine public life will require the transformation of cultural values and structures, and will require more intensive efforts on the part of the Church. We therefore commit ourselves to the following:
In all we have been saying here, we, your Bishops, are seeking to be faithful to the Lord's command of love, and his call to his followers to care for all peoples, especially those whom he sees as the "least of my brothers and sisters"(Mt. 25, 40). It is this Gospel mandate we wish to see making a qualitative difference in our efforts at healing and renewing our flawed political culture and corrupted public life. In doing this, we show our solidarity with the poor who suffer most from the present state of public life and politics.
May the love of God in Christ, poured out upon all of us in the Holy Spirit, give us the courage and hope to renew our public life and to build up a truly moral society. And may Mary become our guide and model in this renewed pilgrimage towards Truth, Justice, Freedom and Love—the pillars of genuine peace in our Land.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, D.D.