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With a Simple and Humble New Pope, What Should Happen to the Philippine Catholic Hierarchy?

Celebrating his first mass as Pontiff a day after being elected, 76-year-old Pope Francis told the Pope Francisassembled cardinals to guard against “the worldliness of the Devil.” Here was a man who made it an annual practice to celebrate Holy Thursday by washing the feet of the poor, and the downtrodden of his native Argentina. Here too was a man who took the bus to and from his work despite having chauffeured vehicles available to him. He preferred living in a modest apartment, cooking his own meals despite access to the well staffed bishop’s mansion in the ritzy the suburb of Olivos where no less than the Argentine president has his summer residence. He chose the name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who though born into wealth, chose a life of poverty to live with the helpless and downtrodden.

Compare that to the past and present Philippine Catholic Church Hierarchy that live in palaces and mansions scattered throughout the archipelago. They live a life of opulence behind guarded high walls far removed from the poverty and squalor found in Philippine cities. These are prelates who consider themselves as part of the ruling gentry. They hobnob with the rich and powerful at parties and cocktails; they fly first-class when vacationing to the Americas or Europe; they wrap themselves in the trappings of power and aristocracy, just as their Spanish predecessors did going back centuries.

So when Pope Francis tells his cardinals to guard against “the worldliness of the Devil,” What exactly are the Philippine bishops and archbishops to make of that statement? In our opinion, they (beginning with the CBCP—the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) should start following his lead. It is about time these haughty church leaders got down on their knees and washed the feet of ordinary Filipinos. They can then start moving out of their palaces and mansions and into apartments on the poor side of town…and take a tricycle or jeepney to and from that never-ending conference of theirs—instead of asking for free SUVs (sports utility vehicles) paid for by the cash-strapped taxpayers of the Philippines.

Should the Philippine bishops find it impossible to follow Pope Francis’ lead, they still have another option left open to them. They can follow Pope Benedict XVI’s lead and resign. Either way, the Philippine Catholic Church will most likely be better off for it. Published 3/25/2013


RECENT EDITORIALS

Napoles PDAF/NGO Scandal: What is Ten or Fifteen Billion Pesos Really Worth?

For those who have been following the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF/NGO* scandal these past months, it is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric—the words and phrases repeated day after day. Words like "ten billion" or "fifteen billion" have turned into something akin to "gray" background noise.  Words devoid of any real meaning or significance. So let us try to put back some meaning into those trite and often-repeated phrases in order to better understand some of the far-reaching ramifications of Napoles' actions. Published 06/30/2014


How could they not have known that the Napoles NGOs were fake?

With Senator Bong Revilla already in police custody in Camp Crame and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile set to join him any day now, people need to start asking tough questions going forward. The privilege speeches of the senators along with the histrionics that accompanied them are thankfully now over so we can all address this issue more objectively. Published 06/21/2014
The Self-Perpetuating Elite of the Philippines

In an essay published in the July 1968 issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, a novice Philippine senator described his country as “a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . . . a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy… a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite…a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Published 06/14/2014
PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe

In the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual. Published 06/03/2014
Why All the Fuss? We Knew They were Corrupt Anyway!

So finally the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew they were corrupt. Published 05/17/2014
The Case of Denise Cornejo and Cedric Lee, a Litmus Test for Pnoy and Philippine Justice

Now that the star attraction in the alleged Vhong Navarro rape incident is in police custody, the upcoming trial will be a litmus test for the Aquino administration as well as the Courts. The almost universal perception is that Philippine justice is broken and does not work. Laws are applied inequitably with the wealthy and powerful living almost above the law, while the common "tao" finds himself at the losing end of cases that usually drag on for years. Published 05/06/2014
Obama's Visit a Shot in the Arm for a Struggling Ally

After essentially showing the American Military the door in the early '90s, Filipinos have of late come to the realization that they need their "Uncle Sam" more than they thought they did. And back then the United States was also more than happy to oblige as their Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission had been closing down hundreds of military installations all across the USA. Published 04/29/2014
We Treasure Our Sierra Madre

In the1948 John Houston movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, three destitute Americans working as gold prospectors mining the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico are confronted by bandits posing as mounted police (“Federales”). When they are asked to produce their badges, the chief bandit's response is classic: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” Published 04/20/2014


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