Last Tuesday, September 13, 2005, the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines headed by the CBCP President, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, issued a statement on the present political situation. Media interpreted the statement differently by giving a variety of focus. Some emphasized the search for truth. Others the economic problem of the country.
The variety of emphasis in media reveals the lack of standard and objective perspective. Each newspaper, radio station, and television network had its own perspective. This perspective may have depended on their varied position regarding the situation. In correctly reporting the Bishops’ Statement, the CBCP perspective should be used. May I offer a personal interpretation of the statement and its perspective. A simple question and answer primer should provide a better understanding.
What is the Bishops’ core message?
The core message is this: While the search for truth must continue, the main problem that now faces the greatest majority of our people is economic survival. All politicians have to face this problem squarely. They have to act together to resolve the problem. To do this they have to stop their political bickering and division.
Why do the Bishops say that the economic problem is now the main problem?
The Bishops know this firsthand from their pastoral experience and also from what people in the town and barrios of their dioceses tell the. The Bishops themselves see the problem as a fact. The problem in the provinces is the rising cost of basic commodities, the lack of adequate income, the inadequate delivery of basic services, the poverty and hunger of people. In short, the main problem is economic survival. Their people complain that instead of focusing on the economic problem politicians are busy arguing with each other about “the truth” they are “weary and tired” of all the politicking that is going on. They fear that continuing the debate about the truth in Congress or in the streets will simply worsen the economic situation.
So, what do the Bishops recommend?
All of us are indeed accountable to the truth. The truth has to be pursued. But we are also accountable to the poor. This accountability to the poor has to be demonstrated in our full concern for the economic hardships of our people. This is the more immediate and more urgent problem facing the whole nation. Full and undivided focus on the economic problem that requires the total cooperation of all our political leaders and representatives is the main recommendation of the Bishops. Media has not generally picked up this message. Instead some of the media focused more on the bishops’ position to pursue the truth.
With regard to this search for truth what do the Bishops believe?
The constitutional and legal processes have to continue even as our legislators must tackle as a first priority the more urgent problem of the economy. To search for the truth “in the streets” or through the so-called “people’s court” seems to be mere political and even ideological ploy. The many failed efforts to get people out into the streets demonstrate the weariness of people regarding the mixed political and ideological agenda of organizers and sponsors. People are indifferent and do not respond to the call of the opposition to go out into the streets. Their indifference may also mean that they may not totally believe in the so-called “truth” presented by the opposition. Hence, Bishops would rather urge that legal and constitutional luminaries come together and reflect on possible but creative ways by which the search for truth could be pursued in accordance with the rule of law and the constitution.
Do the bishops endorse People Power?
No, the bishops do not encourage people power. Archbishop Capalla commended that People Power is the people’s prerogative. But he neither encouraged nor endorsed it as the proper course of action in the present circumstances. His comment was simply a statement of fact. But the perspective of the Bishops’ statement is that further attempts to “induce” people power would simple worsen the economic situation.
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
September 14, 2005