Bishops urged: ‘Don’t let threats silence you’

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MANILA, Nov. 24, 2016– Bishops, priests, and the religious should not let hollow threats silence them on moral issues that are relevant to the country.

Critics tell church people to stop meddling, but the Catholic hierarchy said recent “unpleasant incidences” highlight the need for the Church to speak out on subjects politicians shy away from.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, said they are aware that many would prefer “that we desisted from public statements.”

But in these “trouble times,” he said, the Church is mandated to be “prophetic” and prophets “are not anointed to keep their peace so that they can be quiet and live undisturbed.”

“We have a Gospel to preach. We have the person of Jesus to proclaim. We will do so, in season and out of season,” said Villegas in a new pastoral letter. “We are enemies to none. We endeavor to be merciful.”

The letter, titled “Our country and our faith,” was released Nov. 22 after a recent meeting of the CBCP Permanent Council in Manila.

As a response to the country’s current socio-political landscape, the 5-page statement discussed issues on labor, poverty, pending legislative measures on family life, and the government’s “war on drugs.”

Unabated killings

Once again, the bishops scored the unabated killings related to the war on drugs of the Duterte administration and expressed alarm over the alleged involvement of top public officials in the illegal drug trade.

“The investigation must be thoroughgoing and must spare none,” said the prelate.

He reiterated that the Church is behind the government in solving the problem but said that the fight against illegal drugs must go hand-in-hand with the campaign for human rights.

According to him, the bishops remain distressed over the continued killing of drug suspects, some of which were allegedly killed by the police.

“The daily reports of suspects and detainees shot by law-enforcers supposedly because nanlaban sila or nang-agaw ng barilare very disturbing and truly distressing,” he said.

“There is no way that a government can credibly claim that it is waging a relentless war on drugs to preserve life – while in the process abetting, encouraging or fomenting the destruction of life thought – wrongly – to be unworthy,” he furthered.

The Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) said it is unacceptable that the number of killings continues to increase but that no charges against the perpetrators have been filed so far.

“In the first five months of the Duterte administration, the killings have only gotten worse, with nearly 5,000 people killed in its brutal war on drugs in that short period,” said NAKPhilippines.

“While some of these killings are being investigated both by the police and the Commission on Human Rights, no one has been charged, signalling what appears to be complete impunity,” they said.

NAKPhilippines is composed of 58 individuals and civil society organizations, including Manila auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Inclusive growth 

The bishops also called on government leaders to work for more inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.

The country recently posted the strongest economic growth in Asia at 7.1 percent, but the CBCP said poor Filipinos still need support and implementing policies to promote poverty reduction.

“Promising corporate figures must translate into fuller lives for those who live in barangays and the far-flung reaches of our Archipelago!” Villegas said.

“Inclusive economic growth is not only a charming concept. It is a moral imperative,” he said.

Proof of the continuing need for inclusive growth, according to them, is that many Filipinos are still leaving the country on a daily basis to find jobs abroad.

“We exhort Filipino businessmen as well as foreign investors to make it possible for every Filipino to aspire after a fulfilling future for herself and for her family in our own land,” said Villegas.

End labor contractualization 

The bishops commended the Duterte administration’s resolute to end labor contractualization, although it may be lenient to companies with thousands of employees.

The church leaders are now aware of the business sector’s concerns about the supposed slow-down in the economy if contractualization and out-sourcing are outlawed.

While admitting that they do not have the answers for such complicated issues, they remain sure: “There is no moral justification for the exploitation of the working Filipino, and for denying the laborer the benefits of permanent employment.”

“We urge the President, his Cabinet and the Legislature to be resolute in this respect and to side with those who have for so long labored under the exploitative conditions of contractualization,” they said. (CBCPNews) 

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