Bishops’ recommendation “hardly mentioned by the media”

In a commentary on the Bishops’ Statement dated March 4, 2008, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said this “communal action” was “hardly mentioned by the media, although it was emphasized at the press conference.”

“This communal process/action focuses on the issues of truth and integrity facing us today, including their causes and remedies. The Bishops believe that from such circles of prayer, discernment and action at the grassroots a culture of truth and integrity will emerge and spread. It is people power at and from the grassroots. Concretely it would require of each diocese a pastoral program of moral conscientization,” he said.

“From reports in the media, it seems that the prayer rally in Zamboanga calls for action along this line,” he said.

During the nationwide interfaith prayer assembly last Friday, Father Antonio Moreno, SJ, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, also president of the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi Association of Private Schools (Zambasultaps), told students gathered at the ADZU campus to “watch, pray and engage” – the three action worlds “that need to be done in the wake of the National Broadband Network-ZTE expose.”

At least a thousand students from about 10 schools and universities and members of interfaith groups in Zamboanga City.
“Our course of action should not be driven by impulse or rage, but through careful and peaceful engagement,” said Fr. Moreno.

In his commentary, Quevedo also said that the alleged “divided hierarchy” among the Bishops “is false.”

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is made up of 115 Bishops. Of these, 100 are active voting members. Less than 10 of the Bishops are ‘pro-resign.’ Such numbers do not make a ‘divided’ CBCP. The unity of the Bishops has always been there even when they issued their statement on July 10, 2005 that they were not demanding the resignation of the President,” Quevedo said.

“The image of a divided hierarchy could be a media creation. Four or five Bishops with a contrary opinion receive a lot of disproportionate media exposure and mileage. If one studies newspaper reports and interviews, their names appear again and again. Yet Bishops with this contrary opinion constitute less than 10% of the whole hierarchy,” he said.

In the February 26 pastoral letter on “seeking the truth and restoring integrity,” the CBCP’s sixth call was on media “to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts.”

Quevedo said the Bishops’ suggestion that the President and all the branches of government should lead in combating corruption from top to bottom “may not be as bizarre or as weird as it seems.”

“Even today people, including some of our present senators, keep telling the President to do something about corruption in the different branches of government. The President should do this or do that, they say. In other words, she should take the lead. And yet many of these would say that the President is Ali Baba herself.  But should we not also wonder who should clean up corruption regarding the use of Pork Barrel given to the Senators and Congressmen. Should it be the Senate? The House? Strangely, it seems that the Senate Ethics Committee has made some inquiries into allegations regarding certain alleged corrupt practices within their ranks but we have not seen any reports on these inquiries. So who should take the lead? Or maybe there is no corruption regarding the Pork Barrel?” Quevedo asked.

In their statement, “the Bishops go on official record that the President and all the branches of government must take the lead.”

“If nothing is done, there would really be no one else to blame,” he said.

“Perhaps when all is said and done, despite the weirdness of the suggestion, the Bishops and ordinary people could be right. The President does have some role – other than herself being investigated, and every government official should be when charged – in rooting out corruption (if at all possible) in government. If not she, then who? Civil society? The Church? A junta? The military? The people? All of us together?” Quevedo asked.

“Is the Bishops’ statement political or moral?,” he asked.

His answer:  “From the very beginning, we all knew that we had to take a stand from the moral point of view. The reasoning for our stand must be on moral grounds. That is why we insisted on the Gospel moral values of truth and integrity. But we also knew that from one united moral stand, varying political options could flow.

“Let me present, for instance, a rhetorical moral argument. Corruption at the highest level is to be unequivocally morally condemned. But there is, indeed, corruption at the highest level. Therefore, it is to be unequivocally morally condemned. Let us also presume that the second premise is solidly supported.  

“The conclusion is a moral statement that is dependent on the usual circumstances (who, what, when, where, why, how, etc). It has political implications. Some will demand resignation. Others will demand impeachment. Still others will require the legal processes to proceed. Some will wait for 2010 to give their political response. Etc., etc. It is quite clear that one moral statement does not peremptorily demand only one political option. This reality flows both from the nature of the given moral statement and from the contingent, relative nature of political decisions. This is why continuing discernment is necessary to arrive at the truth. From a dialogue both of thought and action one united political stand might prudentially emerge,” he said. (MindaNews)