CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 10 November 2018

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Bishops told to speak up and speak loud

MANILA (SE): An uncharacteristic hush has come over the normally garrulous Philippine bishops since the president-elect, Rodrigo Duterte, launched a stinging attack on several of their members and the Church in general in mid-May.

The Mouth from the South referred to the bishops as sons of bitches and called the Church the most hypocritical of all institutions, as well as threatening to name those who have children or a few skeletons stored in their cupboards.

A suggestion from the president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, to start naming names and showing a few cards brought an abrupt, “Shut up!” from the former gun-toting mayor of Davao City.

A former senator from Mindanao, Aquilino Pimentel, says that the worry of the matter is that Archbishop Villegas seems to have done just that, as the bishops have said little to nothing since.

In fact, Archbishop José Palma, from Cebu, made a public statement that the bishops would not speak again until after Duterte is sworn in as president on June 30.

But Pimentel was reported by UCAN as saying that the nation’s bishops should not stay silent, but on the contrary speak up and speak loud.

Although Pimentel’s party backed Duterte in his bid for Malacañang, he expressed concerns over his anti-life policies, especially the reintroduction of the death penalty.

“Speak up, it is your right,” Pimentel told the Church leaders, adding that both the public and the Church have the right both to speak freely and hear others speak freely.

“While we still have the right, I am urging people to stand up for it, especially the Church,” the former senator said.

“Capital punishment affects the life of the people and the Church has an obligation to protect life,” Pimentel continued.

The babbling president-elect has also claimed that the election was a standoff between himself and the Catholic Church, and he is using his honeymoon period, which runs up to his swearing in, to talk tough, as his predecessors in the top job have done before him.

But he has had a hard time putting together an administration, with at least one experienced finance minister turning him down, and he has been forced to appoint a foreign minister with no experience to face the intricacies of the South China Sea issue.

But other nominations are enjoying the heat of the moment as well, adding to the constant barrage of the big hourly promises. Incoming labour secretary, Silvestre Bello, is going to clean up the recruitment agency business and has reintroduced the modern day heroes jargon to give credence to his claim.

The promise to get things done was sufficient to lure a population weary of dysfunctional police and legal systems, spiralling costs and an economic miracle that could not find a way to lighten the burden on the bulk of the population, to give him their vote.

He promised peace to strife-torn Mindanao by giving members of the Communist Party government posts, but has been turned down by exiled leader, José Sison, in much the same way that former president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was when she tried the same stunt.

He has brought his police chief from Davao to head the national force, but he comes with a few skeletons in his closet and a reputation slurred by his officers’ involvement in the death squads that have picked off a few petty criminals, but not gone near any big crime bosses.

But to date, the Duterte tactic of rushing so many issues an hour onto the agenda that there is no time to analyse them, has worked.

Bishop Pabillo is suggesting that he is starting at the wrong end, as the real problem does not lie with the petty criminals, but in the law enforcement system itself. He believes that without attacking the legal system, nothing much will change for the better.

UCAN quoted the auxiliary bishop of Manila as saying, “The police can easily be bought and in many cases they are the ones behind drug syndicates.”

He added, “The death penalty is not a deterrent. Big criminals will not be afraid of the death penalty, as they can buy themselves out of trouble.”

While Duterte comes to Manila with a big reputation for cleaning up Davao City, it still boasts the highest homicide rate in The Philippines and is still infested with armed hit men on motorcycles, drug traffickers and sophisticated crime syndicates.

No doubt many small time criminals took Duterte’s advice and left the area, but he is going to have a harder time convincing every small time criminal in the country to leave The Philippines.

However, talk is cheap and Duterte’s is no more expensive than anyone else’s. In all probability he will continue and even strengthen the policies of his predecessor that support the poor and not worry foreign businesses.

To date, talk is his greatest achievement and outlining policies is his weak point. Only time will unravel the real meaning of the jumbled words.

But for now, noise is the name of the game and Pimentel believes that the bishops should make as much of it as the Mouth from the South.

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