From our “remote” world of Cotabato, “far from the madding crowd” of “imperial” Manila, Manila with its peculiar concerns seems to be in another planet.
The people in the former “empire” province of Cotabato are daily generally concerned about violence, armed skirmishes, the security of the highways, floods, and the miserable plight of “bakwits”, families displaced from their homes because of armed encounters between government troops and various rebel groups, prices of basic commodities—i.e, basic necessities—the very first rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Manila and our honorable legislators, as the media blare out regularly on their first pages or at prime time, are concerned about “nagbabagang balita.” Such as impeachment of the President, charter change, and senate investigations of various so called “scams.”
There is something really sad and tragic about all this. The following are some personal theses, personal thoughts really, that do not claim to reflect the opinion of the CBCP.
Thesis 1: That the House of Representatives continue to push Con Ass is truly incredible. Some would say asinine. I would tend to agree. Our Congressmen are pushing this agendum for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time. They are out of touch with their own constituents. On this important matter, they no longer represent the people but only themselves. Wrong reasons, because their motivations are not clear and transparent and people simply conclude, rightly I think, that our “representatives” only want extension of terms. Wrong time, because today the whole country and particularly the poor are facing far more urgent concerns. Our legislators need to seriously consider, for instance, the impact of economic globalization and the global financial meltdown, the growing divide between the government and the Bangsamoro, and the undeclared but continuing “war” in the Cotabato areas.
Thesis 2: The Cha Cha brouhaha is even more amusing and exasperating than the Senate investigations to “search for the truth” and the House of Representatives’ yearly attempts to impeach the President. Except for the case against former President Estrada where witnesses who were directly involved bravely came out to testify to what they saw with their own eyes in the jueteng anomaly and regarding the Velarde account, Senate investigation of various “scams” generally is a “road to nowhere.” The Senate has not been the right place to search for the truth. The process undertaken reflects an identity crisis. It is neither in “aid of legislation” nor a process of legal investigation where truth is exposed through declaration and refutation. As a result, no change in belief takes place. Anti-Gloria people remain anti-Gloria and pro-Gloria people remain pro-Gloria. But it does make the “scam” even more public without really proving that it is, indeed, a scam. But perhaps that is the agenda? Thus witnesses are said to be lying when their testimonies do not agree with what Senators may already have believed to be the truth. This is why they would want “more witnesses” to come out. The bottom line seems to be that Senate “investigations” do not really bring out the truth. They belong to the entertainment genre. But the Cha Cha brouhaha takes the cake. In this case, amusement turns to exasperation. Why, oh, why should the Lower House continue to push a concern that seems to be so self-serving and so unpopular? It pushes credibility to its lower depths. Sometimes I wonder what “Lower House” really means.
Thesis 3: Reactions in Manila to its “burning concerns” are usually exaggerated overkill or are meant to overkill. Thus the Cha Cha protest rally of yesterday. Trumpeted one newspaper, “Rage vs GMA, Con Ass.” One would think that the whole country was in rage. But only about 7,000 people led by the same names and same faces (Left, Right, and Center) with the same well known anti-Gloria agenda, showed up for the rally. If it were a Church-sponsored prayer rally for cha cha, the headline would have scoffed at the poor showing. Yet the media keeps dancing to the tune of the same crowd, same names, same faces. These keep appearing in different fora. The forum could be interfaith. It could be a political alliance activity masquerading as a prayer rally. Yearly impeachments, investigations, rallies – why, oh why do they continue? The Lozada “truth” tour fizzled out for lack of public acceptance. Rallies that pre-claim to gather 150,000 to 500,000 can only gather 15,000. The peak of protests was when Susan Roces and Cory Aquino withtheir supporters collaborated with the political opposition and the Left. They could muster only about 50,000 people. These activities are meant to dramatize what they have been trying to push forward since 2001? That Gloria stole the presidency? That everything about Gloria, what she is and what she does is “evil”? The rallies are simply overkill, a hyperbolic reaction to what is perceived as truth. Is it possible that as long as the same faces and alliances with their own questionable varying vested agenda are there, there would be no “tipping point”? Are they perhaps the wrong names, the wrong faces and the wrong groups to call people to action? Are their varying vested agenda perhaps the wrong credentials? And so they ask the Bishops of the Philippines to help them. But is the situation really a matter of “searching for the truth” as the Bishops have consistently urged? Or is it for these groups a matter of the truth already incontrovertibly arrived at?
Thesis 4: My personal position on Cha Cha is the following –
a. No process of charter change should be allowed that intends to extend terms of office;
b. The elections in 2010 must proceed;
c. If charter change is to proceed it must not be by constituent assembly but by constitutional convention;
d. I have a personal conviction about two provisions: a new constitution must not do away with the pro-life and pro-poor provisions of the present Constitution; it must also provide a constitutional basis for Moro self-determination, without violating national sovereignty and territorial integrity;
e. There must be widespread people consultation regarding what needs to be changed in the Constitution;
f. The whole process must be imbued with integrity and transparency;
g. The bottom line is this: this is not the time for a constitutional change; the Bishops of the Philippines have, since the time of President Ramos, repeatedly said that if constitutional change is, indeed, necessary it should be at a time of social serenity, with no polarizing political divisions, with widespread people participation, and through a constitutional convention.
Thesis 5: I base the above position not on any political reason but on the social moral teachings of the Church. I cite particularly the principles of the common good, social justice and truth, freedom and self-determination, participation, integral human development including cultural, and the proper role of political authority. These, I believe, might be the moral bases of any statement that the CBCP could issue on the subject of the cha cha brouhaha.
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
December 14, 2008