“Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps 85, 11)
Beloved People of God:
Our mission as Church is to proclaim the Lord Jesus as our Savior. In proclaiming him we necessarily proclaim the Kingdom of God that he himself proclaimed. God’s Kingdom, St. Paul reminds us, is not a matter of drinking and eating, but a matter of justice, peace and joy (Cfr. Rom 14, 17). It is in the Kingdom of God where “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps. 85: 11). Therefore, in the light of our mission to proclaim the Reign of God in Jesus Christ we your pastors write you this urgent pastoral letter.
Recently we dedicated this year 2009-2010 in our country as the year of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is a “Year for Prayer and Work for Peace Building and Lay Participation in Social Change.” The loving oblation represented by the Hearts of Our Lord and His Mother invites us to dedicate ourselves fully to the two tasks of peace building and social change. Evidently these tasks will require the efforts of the whole Church but especially the active participation of the laity.
Indeed our present situation poses a great and urgent challenge for active lay participation in principled partisan politics.
In spite of our efforts on political education and poll watching, we continue to suffer the stranglehold of patronage politics, even of family dynasties in many cases. Our electoral processes have always been tainted with dishonesty since we became an independent nation. Vast amounts of money are spent by candidates in order to be elected with expectations that their “investment” would have unaccountable financial returns. Politics has always been a mirror of the imbalances in our society between rich and poor. Many even believe that politics as practiced in our country is a structure of evil. It is alarming that crippling apathy and cynicism has crept in even among our young. Let us renew our efforts to commit ourselves to work for change and bring hope.
Church teachings that guide us are very clear. To cite a few:
1. “Those with the talent for the difficult and noble art of politics … should prepare themselves for it, and forgetting their own convenience and material interests, they should engage in political activity” (Gaudium Spes 75).
2. “Direct participation in the political order is the special responsibility of the laity in the Church…. it is their specific task to renew the temporal order according to Gospel principles and values” (CBCP, “Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics,” 1997).
3. Recently our beloved Pope Benedict XVI reminded the lay faithful of their “direct duty to work for a just ordering of society” and “to take part in public life in a personal capacity” (Deus Caritas Est 29).
Therefore, today in the light of current political situations we have decided on the following pastoral actions:
1. We call upon those who are competent, persons of integrity, and committed to change to get involved directly in principled partisan politics, and become candidates for political election, aware that the common good is above the good of vested interests;
2. We remind the laity that it is within their right as well as their duty to campaign for candidates they believe to be competent, honest, and public-service minded in order to reform our country;
3. We enjoin all our parishes and educational institutions to cooperate closely and even volunteer to work with credible citizens’ electoral monitors such as NAMFREL and PPCRV especially in safeguarding the integrity and sacredness of the ballot;
4. We commit our church personnel to the indispensable task of raising social awareness and forming social consciences through political education. We cannot say that we have done enough to educate our people in the social teachings of the Church.
5. We call upon citizens to be vigilant and to safeguard the entire system of automated election, before, during, and after the electoral process; we strongly urge that any new electoral system ensure secret voting and open public counting;
6. We unequivocally condemn as a betrayal of public trust any attempt to abort the elections of 2010;
7. We categorically say no to any attempt by congress to convert itself into a constituent assembly (Con-Ass), and if charter change be needed, let it be after 2010 and by a mode that is credible, widely participative, transparent and not self-serving.
While we train our sight towards the 2010 elections we cannot close our eyes to the lingering problem of human rights abuses. The participation of the laity is particularly urgent in the area of pro-active peacemaking. Our situation of unpeace is not only distressing. It is also disturbing and even tragic. A culture of violence and death seems to have taken over our society! In the past year more than 50 bombings in Central and Southern Mindanao have caused senseless deaths and created insecurity, if not terror. Ambushes, kidnappings, extortions, and “revolutionary taxes” are taking place without any end in sight. Unexplained killings and disappearances of journalists, labor, peasant and political leaders, and even of petty criminals take place apparently with impunity as only few perpetrators are brought to justice. Torture and fear tactics are being perpetrated. No armed group, left, right and center, is absolved from crimes of violence. Even the law is being manipulated to harass people by filing baseless court cases esp. against the poor, and on the other hand, to let the guilty go free.
Deeply saddened and bothered by this deplorable situation we cannot remain silent. The sanctity of Life in all circumstances must be defended. “God proclaims that he is the absolute Lord of the life of man who is formed in his image and likeness. Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character…God will severely judge every violation of the commandment ‘You shall not kill.’ (Ex. 20,13)” (Evangelium Vitae 53).
The government has the primary responsibility to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights abuses from whichever sector of society they may come from. “The authority of every human institution…. is sent by God to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.” (1 Peter 2, 13-14) Hence we implore government to fulfill its obligations to its citizens.
We ask all citizens not to take violence, killings, and abuses in our society as something normal and no longer manifest indignation over abuses of the basic rights of fellow human beings.
In the light of this tragic situation of unpeace,
1. We strongly call on government to seriously heed the recommendations of investigative bodies and not dismiss them as mere propaganda or being simply misinformed.
2. We exhort the Philippine Government, the MILF and the CPP/NPA to return to the negotiating table to find solutions that would lead to lasting peace, thus preventing further violence, death and displacement of innocent people.
3. With prayer in our hearts, we appeal to the God-given humanity of death dealers from any side to listen to the voice of God in their hearts and end the taking and abuse of human life because no one is so wrong as to be judged unworthy to live.
4. As we commit ourselves to peacemaking we likewise urge all religious leaders not to cease bringing out any abuse and to untiringly teach our people about the commandments on killings, lying and stealing.
5. We strongly recommend the establishment of multi-sectoral groups at various levels to monitor the implementation of laws as well as the prevention of criminality, graft and human rights abuses.
6. Finally, we ask everyone to follow the path of peace. This means the path of dialogue and openness. This means the path of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. This means the path of development and equitable distribution of goods.
Together let us intensify the signs of hope regarding politics and peace that we observe such as: young people, members of civil society, mothers even children organizing themselves for peace; military groups participating in formation towards a culture of peace; lay organizations, faith communities, BEC’s, and NGO’s spreading the good news of principled politics and organizing themselves to reform our political culture; politicians who pursue reform. Let such signs of hope flow as streams of cleansing and renewal.
In this Year of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, let our love for Our Lord Jesus and His Blessed Mother intensify and sustain our efforts at building a just and peaceful society. Peace is both our commitment and a gift of God. Let the hope and the prayer of the Scriptures then be ours:
I will listen for the word of God; surely the LORD will proclaim peace To his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him. Near indeed is salvation for the loyal; prosperity will fill our land. Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. (Ps 85: 9-12)
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
(SGD)+ ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
July 12, 2009
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