Beloved People of God:
1. We, your bishops, have collectively discerned in the light of the
Gospel what our mass media, our political leaders and, above all, you
parishioners in our various dioceses have been telling us. What
clearly emerges is the continued and urgent need for renewal in the
public life of our country.
I. Our Pastoral Situation: What Our People Are Saying
2. We have all observed the failure of political processes to make
public servants accountable for wrongdoing. What we have seen instead
are acts of evasion and obstruction of the truth, as in the case of
the wiretapping and Garcillano tapes controversy. While we acknowledge
that patriotic and sincere Filipinos have heeded our call in July 2005
for accountability in public office and sought means for the truth to
emerge, we also witness those who seem to use "the search for truth"
as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Pressure is thus
brought on the ordinary citizen to take sides on the basis of
speculation, whether this be with regard to destabilizing alliances,
armed insurgency, or a brewing coup d'état. Have we become a nation of
rumors and untruths?
3. As a result of all this, there seems to be a paralyzing gridlock in
the political sphere, as partisan interests prevail over the demands
of the common good. Enough of this destructive politics, we hear our
people declare. In this situation of widespread confusion, it is not
surprising that apathy and cynicism with regard to politics have taken
hold of the minds and hearts of many Filipino. Tragically, many
Filipinos have lost trust in political leaders from left, right, and
center, and worse still, in the political institutions themselves
which are perceived by many to be corrupted. Among an increasing
number of our people, there is a sense of hopelessness about our
country and the possibility of genuine reform.
4. While the economy at the macro-level seems to be moving along, the
benefits are not sufficiently shared by the poor. What the people in
our dioceses are experiencing and saying informs us that their most
immediate and urgent priority is their daily struggle to earn a
livelihood. Poverty remains the heaviest burden our people bear. They
wonder if the political priorities that preoccupy our leaders are
merely "Manila-magnified" problems foisted upon those in the
provinces. They are seriously concerned that in 2006 we shall be
repeating the same kind of chaotic politics that we all suffered in
II. The Root of the Crisis: Erosion of Moral Values
5. As bishops, we believe that at the bottom of our political chaos is
a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and
solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace. Truth
has become a victim of political partisanship as well as of
transactional politics. Moral accountability and justice for crimes,
such as the killings of journalist and labor leaders, are yet to be
6. Because of this crisis of values in our public life, the common
good and the plight of the poor are being ignored. We witness the
anguish of poor farmers affected by rising prices of farm inputs and
decreasing prices for their products. Indigenous people, farmers and
fishermen in our diocese are filled with anxiety about the negative
effects of mining, commercial logging, illegal quarrying and fishing,
and the continual threat of displacement from one's ancestral lands.
More regrettable is the common knowledge that many of our politicians
are behind such ventures that disregard the common good.
7. As Bishops, we realize that the root cause of our debilitating
situation is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations
are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening
preoccupation with narrow political interests, perceived in
practically all branches and at all levels of government. Pope
Benedict XVI cites St. Augustine's observation that "a State which is
not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves."
(Deus Caritas Est, 28)
8. But we also recognize that our situation is not one of utter
darkness. We are encouraged and inspired to see so many good and
decent Filipinos, of different faith traditions, working selflessly
and sincerely to build up our nation. We see public servants
struggling for integrity and the authentic reform of the corrupted
institutions they are part of. We acknowledge groups of dedicated
laity, religious and clergy, NGOs and various associations, including
police and military personnel, giving of themselves to improve the
governance, education, health, housing, livelihood and environmental
conditions of our people. These people, united by a vision of heroic
citizenship, are reasons for hope, even in the midst of the political
crisis we find ourselves in.
III. What We Need to Do
9. The mission of the Church includes the renewal of the social order
and public life through the teaching and inculcation of the values of
the Gospel. Because of the moral dimensions of our political and
economic life, "The Church has something to say about specific human
situations, individual and communal, national and international."
(Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 521) "Any
authentic search for peace", the Holy Father stresses, "must begin
with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the
concern of every man and woman." (In Truth, Peace, No. 5) Let us all
therefore address the urgent issues facing our country from this moral
* We recommend that the search for truth be relentlessly pursued
through structures and processes mandated by law and our Constitution,
such as the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on
Human Rights, the Sandiganbayan, and Congress itself as well as other
citizens' groups. This requires that such bodies be led and run by
credible people, persons of integrity and probity.
* Confidence and trust in our political processes have to be restored.
As a first step we strongly urge our political leaders to undertake
electoral reforms posthaste. The Commission on Elections has to be
transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach. The
call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the
Commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral
process, including counting of votes, needs to be reformed and
modernized before the next elections.
* Elections in 2007 should not be cancelled. The Church recognizes
that in a democracy power emanates from the people - i.e., that "the
subject of political authority is the people considered in its
entirety.This people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those
whom it freely elects.but it preserves the prerogative.(of) evaluating
those charged with governing, and in replacing them when they do not
fulfill their functions satisfactorily." (Compendium of the Social
Doctrine of the Church, No. 395).
* While we agree that certain aspects of our Constitution may need
amendments and revisions, we do not support hasty efforts to change
this fundamental law of the land without the widespread discussion and
participation that such changes require. We continue to believe, as we
did in our Statement on Charter Change in 2003, that changing the
Constitution involving major shifts in the form of government requires
widespread participation, total transparency, and relative serenity
that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done
through a Constitutional Convention. The reasons for constitutional
change must be based on the common good rather than on self-serving
interests or the interests of political dynasties.
* We reiterate our stand in our July 2005 statement that we do not
condone resort to violence or counter-constitutional means in
resolving our present crisis. These measures would only bring about
new forms of injustice, more hardships, and greater harm in the
10. We are aware that the renewal of Philippine public life will
require the transformation of cultural values and structures, and will
require more intensive efforts on the part of the Church. We therefore
commit ourselves to the following:
* To adopt a more systematic program of promoting the moral values
that are indicated in seven (of the nine) pastoral priorities drawn up
at the 2001 National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal. These
are: integral faith formation; empowerment of the laity towards social
transformation; the active presence and participation of the poor in
the Church and in society; the family as the focal point of
evangelization; the building and strengthening of participatory
communities that make up the parish; integral renewal of the clergy
and religious; and our journeying with the youth.
* To continue the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities and other
faith-communities at the grassroots, towards a deeper spirituality of
heroic Christian citizenship, and towards encouraging the laudable
efforts of these communities at nation-building, such as the
monitoring of the IRA, bidding of public works projects, etc.
* To promote a spirituality of public service, integrity and
stewardship among public servants and citizens' groups alike. These
forms of social spirituality should counteract the persistent evils of
gambling, drug pushing, usury, destruction of our environment, and
corruption in public office.
* To bring together various concerned citizens' groups that are
working for good governance in order to encourage better collaboration
among them in the mobilization of the governed to check graft and
corruption and to work for better public services.
* To declare this year 2006 as a "Social Concerns Year" under the
auspices of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of
Jesus. The Social Teachings of the Church, as summarized in the
recently printed Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, may
be discussed, internalized, and acted upon in all our dioceses,
parishes and Catholic schools.
* To accompany our efforts with prayer and penance and a deep trust in
the transformative power of God's grace in the lives of individuals as
well as of societies. "Restore us to Thee, O Lord, that we may be
restored" (Lam 5:21).
11. In all we have been saying here, we, your Bishops, are seeking to
be faithful to the Lord's command of love, and his call to his
followers to care for all peoples, especially those whom he sees as
the "least of my brothers and sisters" (Mt. 25, 40). It is this Gospel
mandate we wish to see making a qualitative difference in our efforts
at healing and renewing our flawed political culture and corrupted
public life. In doing this, we show our solidarity with the poor who
suffer most from the present state of public life and politics.
12. May the love of God in Christ, poured out upon all of us in the
Holy Spirit, give us the courage and hope to renew our public life and
to build up a truly moral society. And may Mary become our guide and
model in this renewed pilgrimage towards Truth, Justice, Freedom and
Love - the pillars of genuine peace in our land.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
29 January 2006
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