In an unprecedented move, the Catholic bishops took a collective position against the Presidential Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and unleashed criticisms against it.
In a pastoral statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the present pork barrel practice in government “is fertile ground for graft and corruption.”
“Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice,” the bishops said.
“Government corruption is an act of terrorism against our poor and our children,” they said.
Titled “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail,” the statement was issued on Thursday, following a closed-door meeting of the CBCP Permanent Council at their headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.
CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and his vice president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, led the meeting.
The church leaders said that corruption in the government is one the most pressing social ills plaguing the country.
As a result, they said, many Filipinos have died without sufficient government health care and several families remain homeless without dignified government housing aid.
“Many farmers without seeds and fertilizers remain entrenched in poverty—government stealing has kept them enchained to dehumanizing poverty,” the bishops said.
“Many children remain malnourished and stay out of school due to poverty—government stealing robs them of opportunities for the future,” they said.
As the Senate and other agencies currently investigate the alleged P10 billion scam involving the pork barrel of some senators and congressmen, the CBCP called for the restoration of integrity in government.
“Every government official from the rank and file to the highest executive must prove themselves worthy of the title ‘honorable.’”
“Positions in the country are public trusts for the service of the common good. As stewards of the people, leaders should be transparent to them and should be open to be held accountable. A crisis is an opportunity,” they added.
‘God is offended’
Saying that the pork barrel is not just a political or constitutional concern, the CBCP said the faithful must not forget that “the commandments of God are being violated.”
According to the bishops, this is “an offense against God who commanded us” not to steal.
“Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this,” they said.
But the CBCP said all the faithful also contributed to the success of the “worsening social cancer” known as government corruption.
It said this happens through the people’s “indifferent silence” and/or cooperation in exchange of the “sweet cake of graft and corruption”.
“We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity,” said the CBCP.
“Let us not allow this opportunity of graced renewal of our country to pass us by. Be concerned! Be discerning! Be involved!” it furthered.
As a start, the bishops’ collegial body is inviting all the faithful to make September 7 a “Day of Atonement” for the sins of stealing and lying in the country.
The bishops said that Pope Francis has earlier asked the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to offer prayers in atonement “for our sins against world peace” and in particular pray for the restoration of peace in Syria.
The bishops also said they are hoping that the “wheels of law and justice” will roll swiftly and punish those found to be liable of stealing public funds. (CBCPNews)