MANILA, Dec. 4, 2013—Criticizing the country’s politics as the “biggest obstacle to our integral development as a nation,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a pastoral letter on Sunday condemned the rampant graft and corruption in the government as the primary reason behind the perennial problem of poverty hounding the country.
“Recent developments have highlighted the corruption connected with the pork barrel which those in power are loath to give up despite their blatant misuse for political patronage,” the bishops’ collegial body said in its recent pastoral exhortation signed by CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
“It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power,” it added.
Despite the significant gains that the country has acquired in the past months, the CBCP said that the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen as the “blatant misuse” of public funds has gravely affected the plight of poor Filipinos.
“Though there have been significant economic gains, the same percentage of our people have remained mired in poverty over the past several years. The wealth of our country has remained woefully mal distributed,” it said.
The 120-strong CBCP lamented over the pork barrel scam that involves the alleged channeling of public funds to dubious non-governmental organizations, noting that corruption “leads to the further impoverishment of the poor and the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.”
‘Politics as business proposition’
The bishops’ collegial body also noted that politics in the country has become a “business proposition” as the “two-fold greed for money and power” has contaminated the Filipino culture.
“The greed for power is the twin brother of greed for money. Those who have money easily get into power, and when they are in power, they can protect and increase their acquisitions,” it said. “In our country, winning a government position is often the passport to affluence.”
With the allure of money and power blinding those in authority, the CBCP said that both the truth and the common good are being sacrificed as selfish interests of abusive individuals reign over the needs of millions of Filipinos mired in poverty.
“The first casualty of such greed for money and power is the truth. To get money and power, to keep money and power, to increase their money and power, people have recourse to lies and cheating. The truth is easily disregarded and sacrificed,” it said.
“The sense and responsibility for the common good is sadly wanting in our country. The culture of greed for money and power caters to the selfish interests of individuals, families and economic and political groups,” the CBCP added.
The bishops noted: “This being closed to the common good is especially evident in our politics where political dynasties are nurtured and people vote with little consideration for the impact on the country of their votes.”
Role of the laity
In order to address graft and corrupt practices, the bishops called on the lay faithful to properly discern the individuals they will elect into government posts.
“(The) lay faithful are in the best position to creatively work our solutions which will satisfy the demands of justice and charity,” they said.
“What are you doing to create wealth, to preserve wealth, and to share wealth? Do the more prosperous among you feel the sufferings of our poor brothers and sisters, and do you think of ways and means to help alleviate their poverty, and help them towards prosperity?” the CBCP asked.
They also urged the faithful to rally against patronage politics by not engaging in corrupt practices such as vote-buying, bribery, and acceptance of kickbacks, challenging them to manifest the virtues of honesty and integrity in their day-to-day living.
“What are you doing to help get worthy people to positions of authority and power? What are you doing to get rid of the politics of patronage, violence and uneducated choices? What are you doing, our dear lay faithful to rid our country of graft and corruption?” the bishops asked the laity.
In renewing the country, they said Filipinos must “return to truthfulness and the fostering of the sense of the common good.”
“A society that is not founded on truth cannot stand, because a society not founded on truth is either founded on lies or deceit which can provide no stable basis for human relationships and a stable social order,” the CBCP said.
“We must seek the truth, speak the truth, do the truth. This means that we must seek what is right, speak what is right, and do what is right; and to do so ‘in love,’ that is, in solidarity with and service of others,” they added. (Jennifer Orillaza)