Priest urges bishops, ulama to denounce corruption

“Corruption is violence. This is another aspect of conflict in Mindanao,” Fr. Albert Alejo, team leader of the Ehem! Anti-Corruption Movement and a board member of the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue told the 1st Mindanao Bloggers Summit at the NCCC Mall here at noon.

Alejo said other parts of Mindanao may not experience violent acts like bombing “but where everyday there is corruption, there is violence. Because in corruption, you take away food from the mouth of the people, you kill by hundreds.”

When a government official allows toxic chemicals s to spill into the river system, “you kill not only the fish but the fisherfolk.”

 “Corruption is violence when the leaders of ARMM would come to Davao and play casino bringing loads of cash. Corruption is violence when you send out cash in paper bags without receipts. That is violence. Malacanang is violent. It is violent,” Alejo said, pausing for emphasis.

Malacanang has been blamed for being the source of  what Pampanga governor Eddie Panlilio, a Catholic priest, described as “bribe money.” Panlilio was handed out a paper bag that he later found to contain  P500,000 cash, purportedly for barangay projects as he was leaving Malacanang on October 11. The League of Governors belatedly claimed the money came from the organization.

Alejo said the problem is “you have bishops-ulama forum discussing about conflict but refusing to discuss corruption. I challenge and I appeal to the religious groups that the bishops should denounce corruption and the Moro ustadz, the Muslim religious leaders should also denounce corruption among the Muslim leaders.”

“Pero (But) they won’t. Bakit? (Why?) I appeal… Teach us the strong Islamic teachings of corruption, cutting the hand of thieves… If corruption is violence, is conflict, then the Bishops-Ulama Forum should also tackle in their dialogue the issue of corruption in Mindanao and in the Philippines.”

Reacting to Alejo’s remarks, Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, a co-convenor of the BUF told MindaNews that past joint statements the organization issued “did make directly and indirectly moral judgments on many crimes including terrorism and corruption but some media and religious groups don’t read them. Why? Because our approach is not confrontational.”

Capalla said “violent outrage and vitriolic denunciations are for peace advocates, not for peacebuilders and dialogue partners.”

Alejo said bloggers can play a big role in monitoring funds because sooner or later a peace agreement will be signed  (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and with the signing of a peace agreement, a lot of money will be pouring into Mindanao again.

“What happened to the billions of money squandered” after the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) should be avoided, Alejo said.

‘We need advance knowledge of the money that will come with the peace agreement. I would imagine a website and a series of blogs which would include the amount of money to be given by funding agency and to be received by which government office on which date for the benefit of which community. And we want the bloggers to take note of this in advance so that we will know the money that will come in before it gets squandered. What happens is if there’s money, if it reaches the hands of powerful and then it gets lost and then we run after them. It’s too late,” he stressed.

“Can the bloggers and website communicators announce the coming of these funds in advance. So can the bloggers please be proactive.  This is a challenge,” he said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)