Editorial Cartoon by Jym Andalis
..."Finally, Catholic clergy collectively finds its voice"
That was the Church then—at the zenith of its power and influence in the country, looked upon as a bulwark of succor and protection against a brutal regime. But the death of the popular Sin, and the controversies in which the Church found itself in the years that followed, would steadily erode that standing. By the time of the infamous “Pajero bishops” episode during the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—who made a pointed effort to cotton up to certain bishops to get them as reliable defenders of her actions—the Church had become a joke to many, its frailties rendering it a compromised voice against iniquity in high places.
And so it appeared in the first months of Mr. Duterte’s incumbency, when the Church seemed timid and tongue-tied in the face of the alarming rise in extrajudicial killings targeting drug suspects. Mr. Duterte broke new ground by often railing against the Church, calling it corrupt and hypocritical and threatening to spill secrets about it that he claimed to know. That unprecedented bullying appears to have worked—for a time.
Now that the bishops appear to have found their voice, the same ad hominem argument is being trotted out. The churchmen are “hypocrites,” spluttered House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. “They’re out of touch,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella added.
Maybe they are—except that none of these and similar reactions to the CBCP statement address the urgent issue at hand. The bishops may be what government officials are saying they are, but that does not change one whit the stark reality against which they, and many other Filipinos, are protesting—the thousands of mostly impoverished citizens dead without due process and their kin crying for elementary justice, the “corrupt to the core” (Mr. Duterte’s own words) police force riddled with kidnappers and murderers, the environment of bloody impunity that seems to have been encouraged and abetted by this administration.
This state of affairs is wrong; the bishops are right to call it for what it is.