VIGAN City, August 31, 2013—Following recent developments in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scandal, a high-ranking church official urged the Catholic faithful on Wednesday to transform the country’s political landscape by becoming “faithful Christian witnesses” in their day-to-day living.
In a pastoral statement titled “Stewardship and Christian Witness”, Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado called on the people to examine themselves and assess on how they were able to contribute to the perpetration of questionable political practices in the country.
“While we look at the flaws of our political culture, government, and some politicians, let us also look at ourselves, as individual Christians, as laity, religious, priests and bishops, and as the Church and examine to how we have contributed to the perpetration of flawed political systems, of vicious cycles of corruption and exploitation, by our apathy, complacency, and even complicity,” Salgado said.
The prelate also reminded the people not to solicit donations from politicians, prepare parish financial reports honestly and promptly, and be responsible and accountable stewards of the temporal goods of the church.
Reiterating the decrees cited in the Nueva Segovia Pastoral Assembly, Salgado stressed the need for more formation activities for people in business, politics, and government “so that they can truly witness to their Catholic faith and be agents of renewal in their fields.”
He also noted the need to include value education with emphasis to Filipino values and culture as well as the social teachings of the church to all formation programs of the church to facilitate renewal in the political perspective of Catholic individuals.
“Let us be people of faith. Let us seek and remain in God. Let us seek the values of God, and glory in the virtues. Let us be untiring in our proclamation of Truth, and in our pursuit of righteousness,” Salgado said.
Joining the call
The archdiocese also joined the public clamor for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more commonly known as the pork barrel, as well as the discretionary fund of the chief executive to totally avoid instances of corruption and patronage politics in the government.
He added, these funds “have fallen prey to a system gravely lacking in transparency and accountability, and appallingly steep in corruption. We reject attempts to rename and repackage the same corrupted system.”
However, Salgado noted that the abolition of the pork barrel scheme is inadequate as far as reforming the Philippine political order is concerned. What must be done, he said, is the “radical rethinking and reform of systems and procedures in government.”
“The abolition will not once and for all solve the problem of corruption. Investigation of the pork barrel scam and prosecution of and restitution from errant officials and their accomplices should follow,” Salgado said.
“The system of corruption needs to be uprooted. The baneful political culture needs to be converted,” he added.
The call of bishops
Echoing the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in its pastoral statement “Certain Social Issues of Today”, Salgado criticized political corruption as a serious deformity to a democratic system as it “rejects moral norms and undermines social justice.”
He also denounced the preponderance of political dynasties in the country, noting that political authority exists for the common good and must not to be exercised merely for the fulfillment of an individual or group’s personalistic agenda.
Salgado called for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill as it promotes the much-needed “integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order.”
“We, as citizens, have the right, and indeed obligation to hold the government and its people accountable. It is our prerogative, right and duty to demand that our government, its systems and arms, as well as its officials and employees serve the people,” he said. (Jennifer Orillaza)