Interdicts, faith, Cardinals, and morals

The Catholic Church has its system of laws, under an Apostolic Constitution known as the Code of Canon Law, and while my preference is for a society that is secular,I am not opposed, in principle, to religion, just as I am not opposed to the expression of Catholic principles in politics. Most of all, in the political sphere I do believe that Catholic principles should be understood, even by non-Catholics, so that as Catholics and non-Catholics alike work out a healthy relationship between individual faith and political action, non-Catholics or the secularly-inclined can understand where Catholics are coming from.

Catholicism is a hierarchical religion, and administratively, organized under imperial Roman lines, one of the Pope’s titles being that of Supreme Pontiff (Pontifex Maximus), one of the titles of the emperors of Rome; archbishops and bishops rule of over dioceses, a term borrowed from the administrative setup of the Roman empire. Spiritually, it is organized on both a hierarchical and collegial lines, as bishops are successors of the Apostles, of whom the first among equals was Peter:

And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock will my church be based, and the doors of hell will not overcome it.

As a religion that happens to have a government, the governing power of Catholicism is exercised by the Pope in a political sense (as sovereign of the Vatican City state), and in a spiritual sense, by the Pope together with the bishops. In matters of faith and morals, the Pope is infallible when proclaiming dogma: for example, Pius XII’s proclamation of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin as dogma; infallibility is also granted the hierarchy of the Church when they gather in Ecumenical Council for the same purpose, for example, most recently, Vatican II. Within their dioceses, bishops, too, have the supreme authority when it comes to matters of faith and morals. Much of Canon Law is devoted to maintaining the authority and privileges of hierarchy, and in enumerating both the powers and responsibilities of the governing authorities of Catholicism as well as accompanying grievance mechanisms (appeals, tribunals, punishments and so forth).

The question of Cardinal Vidal’s instructions to the clergy of his diocese, should then be viewed in the context of the Cardinal’s powers as Archbishop of Cebu, the justifications for wielding those powers, and whether they were an abuse or within his authority to order; and its implications for Catholics.

Because of the cultivation of the episcopacy by the administration (an unprecedented religious affairs office, with presidential assistants ministering to the needs of the hierarchy), a partisan and not just political dimension has emerged in the goings-on among the hierarchy. See God and Gloria in the Asia Times:

That’s in part because Arroyo has deftly played the religion card. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and senior bishops have in the past flexed their moral authority to affect political outcomes, including elections and crucial laws and legislation.
But a series of controversial incidents, many involving financial links to Arroyo’s administration, has called the clergy’s own legitimacy into question. Nueva Vizcaya Bishop Ramon Villena recently admitted in a newspaper report that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the lottery run by the Office of the President, had given him 1.6 million pesos (US$39,000) to build a hospital for the poor in his home province. However, the total assistance given to Villena’s province, according to the report, was 3.2 million pesos.
The report also showed that the Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas received more than 2 million pesos in ad placements from the PCSO, which while not necessarily a new development, represented a huge increase in the amount of government funds doled out for similar initiatives in the past.
“That gifts or money would blind the eyes of bishops and seal their lips to gross corruption when solidly proven would be a tragic contradiction to their experience as pastors at Edsa I and Edsa II,” said Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, a former CBCP president, referring to the clergy’s participation in past people’s power movements which overthrew corrupt governments.
The CBCP’s current president, Lagdameo, while quiet on previous scandals involving Arroyo and despite the issuance of carefully worded joint CBCP statements, has personally attacked the embattled premier since the ZTE scandal broke out. Two of his statements called on the people to engage in “communal action” and get involved in a “brand new people power”, which was interpreted by many as calling for a new people’s power movement. Lagdameo’s statements were strongly criticized by pro-Arroyo bishops.
Before Lagdameo took the CBCP’s helm, its previous leader, Fernando Capalla, was a personal friend to Arroyo. Church insiders say that Capalla, who also sat as one of the government’s peace negotiators in talks with Muslim secessionists, was frequently escorted by presidential guards from the airport whenever he flew into Manila.
It was thus notable, some say, that during Capalla’s tenure when explosive vote-rigging charges against Arroyo broke that the bishops did not support calls for her resignation or impeachment. When a government agent who claimed responsibility for wiretapping a conversation between Arroyo and a senior election official in 2004 in which the two appear to have predetermined vote counts for various constituencies across the country took refuge at a Manila seminary, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales ordered that he be turned over to the military.
Rosales, who is a relative to one of Arroyo’s closest aides, has admitted in press interviews that he has received a 1 million peso donation from the Presidential Palace for his various livelihood projects targeting Manila’s poor populations. As successor to the incorruptible Cardinal Sin, many Filipinos have looked on Rosales to be a strong voice against government abuse.
Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was the CBCP’s president when the clergy called for a civil disobedience campaign after Marcos rigged the results of 1986 snap elections against Corazon Aquino, has likewise shot down calls for the clergy to endorse Arroyo’s resignation. Despite his key role in orchestrating Marcos’ ouster, the senior clergyman has said a declaration against Arroyo is beyond the clergy’s authority and should be left to the political opposition.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Cebu’s moderate statements have put him in the line of fire. Cardinal Vidal faced questioning (see Vidal-GMA ‘secret meet’: Public asked not to make conclusion and Cardinal explains ‘secret meeting’) on whether he met the President at Wack-Wack and His Eminence told the press,

But in an interview with reporters yesterday, Cardinal Vidal narrated that he went to Tagaytay from a meeting in Rome. He then came home to Cebu but had to go again to Manila the following day to officiate at the marriage of “a big benefactor” of the Alliance of Two Hearts Parish.

“It just so happened that I was there. The house (I stayed in) is overlooking Wack-Wack. There’s a balcony there. While waiting for a (fellow archbishop) to join me for a mass, I was there (on the balcony). From afar, I could be seen easily but I did not notice them (the First Couple). Beyond the fence, there is a road and it seems that she (Arroyo) saw me but I didn’t see her,” said Vidal.

He added that President Arroyo, who was golfing with her husband, called the house and told him that she would be passing by to say hello.

“Imagine, the President of the Philippines visiting me. But I didn’t give her any spiritual advice. It was not the proper time to do so. She (President Arroyo) did not stay long. It was not a business meeting. Otherwise, I would not say anything about it,” the archbishop explained.

However, he did manage to grab the opportunity to tell the President about the plight of public school teachers, for fear that he might forget to do so in the future.

“I told her that I remembered she once asked me for some programs for the poor. (I told her) to please help our teachers and their transactions with the Government Service Insurance System. Do something about it so that our teachers will not be forced to moonlight. She promised she will check on it. According to her, there are half a million teachers from all over the country. Help them because they are among the poor employees of the government,” Cardinal Vidal said.

He added that cardinals also passed by Malacañang and when asked what they talked about, “We just said hi, hello and goodbye.”

The “hi, hello and goodbye” in what some prelates how come to call “The Diocese of Malacañang,” didn’t amuse bloggers like The Mount Balatucan Monitor:

First, Cardinal Vidal prohibit the priest in his diocese to join in a signature campaign by the Dilaab Foundation in search for truth. Second, after a concelebrated mass, Cardinal Vidal said Lozada is no hero. “Why do we have to make him a hero?” he said in an interview with reporters. Third, the priest who is supposed to celebrate a mass for truth for Jun Lozada in Cebu today backed out. According to Sr. Estrella Castalone, executive secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors (AMRSP), “the priest has received orders not to celebrate the Mass, so we had to resort to an interfaith prayer.” Now who ordered the priest to back out? Who is the highest Catholic Church official in the Archdiocese of Cebu where the buck would stop?

In contrast, Cardinal Vidal allowed Presidential Management Staff Chief Cerge Remonde to attend the recollection of the priest in his diocese. He even allowed Cerge to discuss the NBN/ZTE controversy during the recollection and distribute a primer on the issue. Recently, Cardinal Vidal was reported to have met with the First Couple in Wack Wack early this month…

Which brings us to the point of whether the Cardinal Archbishop of Cebu, from a Catholic point of view, was using his powers in a proper way, for the good of his flock.

Ostensibly, the concern of bishops is that the Mass is being used for partisan political purposes. A Philippine Star report puts it this way:

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radyo Veritas, Archbishop of Nueva Caceres Leonardo Legaspi said he had prohibited priests in his archdiocese from allowing churches to be used as venue for political discussions.

“I don’t have a problem if they want to stage a rally since it’s the right of every Catholic to express his or her chosen political decision,” he said.

“What I don’t want is for Masses to be used for that. I also don’t allow that here.”

Legaspi said he had issued the order to priests in the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres so they would not allow themselves to be used in political rallies.

“For me, they should not use Masses to attract crowds for their cause,” he said.

“Masses are not meant for that. You are degrading the solemnity of Masses. It’s really painful to see the Mass, priests and nuns, and even bishops being used for that.”

Legaspi said Church law prohibits the use of the Mass to attract crowds in advancing political interests.

“The level of politics is way below the reason for holding Mass,” he said. “If you allow Mass to be used in politicking, you degrade its value and solemnity.”

Legaspi said he has the prerogative to impose disciplinary action on priests and nuns who would violate his order.

“That is the prerogative of the bishop since he is the pastor of the faithful in his diocese,” he said.

As Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi goes, so goes Cardinal Archbishop Vidal: they are concerned over the “politicizing” of the Mass, and don’t shrink from exercising their pastoral authority (see Lozada runs into trouble with Catholic prelates). Except that while the worst that can be said of Legaspi is that his insistence on awaiting the truth will be an eternal one, Vidal’s non-partisanship is seriously in doubt. And there is the corresponding example of (not my favorite prelate, either)Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, who lets priests say mass for the President, her family and the Lakas-Kampi coalition, and for anyone else on the other side of the political divide. The Catholic hierarchy prefers to be nebulous rather than risk being active political players (see Patricio P. Diaz’s summary of episcopal opinions). By so doing, as Amando Doronila points out, the hierarchy makes itself vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics:

The lack of solidarity in the hierarchy and an authoritative direction from the highest ecclesiastical leadership, represented by the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Rosales, on the question of whether to support street campaigns to remove the President has allowed the government to deepen the divisions in the hierarchy to play the opposing tendencies against one another and has caused administration critics to charge the hierarchy with being soft on the government, with its series of pastoral letters straddling the fence on what political action to take on the issues raised by the corruption scandals.

But with regards to the individual decisions of individual prelates, in denying permission for Masses for Lozada, have they then imposed spiritual sanctions on Lozada and his supporters?

Oddly enough, the Vatican (and thus, definitive) online version of the Code of Canon Law has no links to the section that I believe is relevant, but another site has it, so here it is: Code of Canon Law, Book VI Part II: Penalties for Particular Offenses.

Under its provisions, the Church first of all, states it has the right to punish members of the faith who commit violations of the principles of the Church. The list of offenses is meant to serve as a deterrent to breaches of faith,and corresponding penalties for offenses as well as their remedies, to bring back erring members of the flock back into the fold.

In general, a penalty is not binding until someone actually commits a crime under Canon Law; but it is binding the moment the crime is committed, regardless of whether anyone witnesses it or states that a violation has taken place. At the same time, the Code of Canon Law is replete with exhortations to those holding authority not to be too free and easy about handing down penalties, and lists many exceptions to the rules, or what we would call mitigating circumstances that ought to be taken into account in determining the committing of crimes and corresponding punishments.

The gravest punishment under Canon Law, is excommunication, followed by interdict. An excommunication forbids the sacraments to a Catholic; an interdict can apply both to an individual or a group of Catholics.

When Nun questions priests’ refusal to celebrate Mass for Lozada, a legitimate question was being asked of the authorities. Basically, even if Canon Law isn’t being brought up, the question is whether Lozada has been effectively excommunicated or an interdict imposed on his person or wherever he may be -or when he is within the limits of a particular diocese. And then the question arises whether such sanctions have been imposed in defense of the faith or as a last ditch effort to preserve the authority of prelates whose own clergy and flocks have turned against them or stopped looking to them for guidance in terms of faith and morals.

I can think of one blogger who could give a definitive answer to these questions –Scriptorium– but alas, he is on indefinite leave from blogging. But maybe he’ll take a look at this entry and sort out the real issues from a Catholic point of view.

Let me close by republishing a recent editorial from The Forward, the school newspaper of San Jose Recoletos Cebu (I have been very impressed by these kids, as I’ve mentioned before: see my column, The future’s bright):

Young Moves?

Editorial (Edited)
FORWARD 2nd Semester 2007-2008 (released March 13)

The young are not indifferent. This is the message we can draw from the rallies of some schools in Manila (University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, etc.) in the fight against moral bankruptcy of the Philippine government. On this picture, one might ponder:are the actions of the young from Manila or Luzon enough manifestation that they are really hard at work for change?

This is no issue of regionalism but an assessment of whether or not the totality of the new breed of Filipinos has gone a notch more radical. In the EDSA 1, we witnessed (in our history books,etc.) the involvement of the young in Luzon, Visayas, or MIndanao. Notably, it was because of the shocks of the imposition of Martial Law that everyone felt curtailed and pushed to their limits.

Then, Erap’s administration came with excessive corruption and ‘ended’ with the controversial unopened during the impeachment proceeding. The young took in ferreting out the truth and had it exposed in the open.

Here in Cebu and some parts of the Visayas, there were rallies. Mindanao for sure had also echoed their cries. And as expected, EDSA 2 overtook in liberating the country again from the hands of a corrupt president. Among the frontliners in EDSA 2 were the young in Manila.

Now, it is Arroyo’s administration that is emperiled. This latest scandal hounding her administration fits well as a sequel to “Hello Garci”, “fertilizer scam”, “cash gifts” to politicians – episodes that have become box office operas on TV.

Now, public’s attention is focused on the ZTE scandal and the “heroic” end of ZTE NBN deal star witness Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada.

Lozada is well supported by the civil society, religious sectors, youth groups, etc. He was a close friend of former National Economic Development Authority Director General Romulo Neri. Neri, on the other hand, first answered the queries of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee about the ZTE scandal but the public was dismayed when he invoked Executive Order 164 (requiring “all heads of departments of the Executive Branch of the government” to “secure the consent of the President prior to appearing before House of Congress”).

With the fearless Lozada and the reserved Neri, the country – including the young – calls for a probable people power to know the truth again.

FORWARD wants to passionately reply to the query of PDI columnist Mr. Manuel L. Quezon III through SMS, regarding what the public feels and how it reacts to Lozada’s revelation. But Cebuanos seem to take on the issue in a different way.

So, we say in this piece, that the Cebuanos, particularly the young, respond through freedom of expression make manifest in the campus press, debates, and classroom discussions. But the question is: does it effect change? On the other hand, we ask: does people power really provide us a better change?

Arroyo is a by-product of people power. If she would be ousted by the same force that made her president, the message is clear: people power wields power more than the due process does. Whether this idea is something good or bad, it’s the people who must be able to figure it out.

We say the young Cebuanos’ physical silence may mean two things:they are discerning on what proper actions to take or the choose not to take part at all.

Incidentally, concerning “those who choose not to take part at all”, Thirtysomething v4.3 has an interesting entry on Dante’s Inferno, and the place in Hell reserved for those who profess neutrality “at a time of great moral decision”:

In relation to the subject, I tried to verify it it was indeed Dante who once said that “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”

I found out that it was not a direct quote, but rather, the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s interpretation of one of the passages of the “Divine Comedy.”

In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another.

They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.

This scene occurs in the third canto of the Inferno…

Contrasting views in the blogosphere: In support of Cardinal Vidal, from Lost in Oblivion and An Angel Lost in Hell. Critical commentary from Ipadayag! and After All and The Mount Balutacan Monitor. On the other hand, simply pays tribute to the alma mater.

Returning to Scriptorium, an excellent explanation of the difference between the corruption of the old days and the corruption of today (highlighted in similar terms in the Inquirer editorial Hacenderos). In 1953 when Magsaysay ran for president, his campaign song had the lyrics “no more graft or ten percent, if Magsaysay’s president!” while by 2006, the “acceptable limits” of graft, according to Romulo Neri, was twenty percent. As Scriptorium points out in Why I miss old-fashioned corruption (a Philippine satire), and which reminds readers its satirical but the best satire is built on truth (hence, a non-satirical piece but one full of truths, the supreme apologia of the pragmatic politician, George Washington Plunkitt’s explanation of the difference between Honest Graft and Dishonest Graft):

In the past month, the Philippines has been convulsed again by the scandal over the ZTE-NBN contract. The controversy has pitted the Arroyo Dictatorship against a motley alliance of the idealist intelligentsia and “reformed” sinners, with bishops uncertainly in the middle trying to counsel accountability to the former and moderation to the latter. It’s all somewhat surreal, but I think the controversy merely manifests the presence of a far more massive iceberg beneath.

That iceberg is sometimes called the collapse of public ethics in the Philippines. In some ways related to the concurrent decline of private ethics, it is characterized by the systemic removal of all the controls of decency and propriety that once held corruption in check. However, it’s not my intention here to delve into the higher ethics of the matter, but only into its lower ethical dimension of practicality; for the problem, pragmatically speaking, is the rampant inflation, even the hyperinflation, of the cost of government bribery. In short, to use Friedman’s dangerous generalizations, we are ceasing to be an “Asian-type” crony-state, and are becoming a predatory state on the “African” model.

We see this most starkly when we compare the present with the past, what we might call Contemporary and Historic Philippines.

Historic Philippines was characterized by customary controls on abuse and rapacity. No one begrudged an official the act of skimming a little money off the common weal, since a public servant deserved a little bonus for serving the common good. What’s more, his poorest constituents saw him not only as administrator but as surrogate father, the parens of their many little patriae, and they depended on him to feed their hungry and to pay for their funerals, celebrations, medical treatments, emergencies, housing and whatnot. Woe to the official who did not honor his duties as patron; and since this was a staggering personal obligation for his pocket, it was understood that he would necessarily borrow from the public treasury to thus serve the public need.

What we might now call graft and corruption was, therefore, in those days not merely inevitable, but necessary. It was also honorable, for the dominance of quasi-ethical concepts like amor proprio (personal honor), patronazgo (responsibility to the needy), delicadeza (decorum), and palabra de honor (inviolability of promises) meant that bribery had to be hidden from view, moderate in amount, stable in value, and calculated to not radically prejudice public service. Also, the formal morality that was honored by law and canonized by religion militated against selfish profit, which thus had to be moderated lest it reach scandalous proportions. This was hypocrisy as a fine art; for if it trysted with the occasional corruption, hypocrisy at least honored morality as a revered spouse, and feared social ostracism for its abandonment.

In Contemporary Philippines, on the other hand, the customary controls are lost, and the moderating influence of hypocrisy and hellfire is but a dim memory. When a certain First Lady allegedly demanded 10% for public contracts it was an earthshaking affront to the customary laws; but with today’s breathtaking 100+% kickbacks, society scarcely yawns, and feels content to buy peace by letting the bribing go on till 2010. And this is not a mere phenomenon at the summit; it rears its evil head at every level of social government, even to the barangays that will not renew a permit without compounded gifts. And the opportunities are multiplying, with the grant of massive revenue-making powers to local executives, and nullity for psychological incapacity enacted as a bonanza for judges and prosecutors.

The decay is shocking. Whereas hypocrisy once honored delicadeza by keeping bribes low and quiet, today’s corruption is garapalan, reaching dizzying heights of rates and ostentation. The idealized model of a Magsaysay, who reimbursed the government for meals served to his friends, has been replaced by that of officials serving Petrus to allies and flying their extended families on junkets to Europe; and nobody cares who notices that expensive suites are hired in Las Vegas for Manny Pacquiao’s fights by moderately paid officials and/or their spouses. On lower levels, a judge and his sheriff won’t issue TROs for less than half-a-million; and a mayor in Southern Luzon demands 20% of the gross capitalization of a project before he approves it, the good of his constituents be damned.

Gone too is hypocrisy’s respect for palabra de honor. In the good old days, officials had the decency to stay bribed, and their promises once sold were durable, but today a judge or commissioner will abandon a side in a case at the mere hint of a better offer, and the PBACs of the several agencies are become unreliable. Hence, getting contracts and favorable rulings are increasingly a matter of continuous competitive bidding, forcing the client to pay more for bribe security, which even then is rarely absolute. A member of a powerful commission changes his already sold vote upon getting a brown valise; and a prosecutor who gets a bribe for himself and his boss pockets all the money with nary a care. Such is treachery, such is dishonor!

At least in non-adversarial proceedings like those before the revenue agencies, there remains some stability: the going rate for examiners, collectors, and revenue district officers is fixed by custom, and investors in big contracts can preemptively get favorable Rulings or Orders for a mere P100,000.00. Even there, however, costs are rising, especially in licensing: The average building permit today costs twice what it did merely 10 years ago, and franchises for transport are so expensive that it’s cheaper to just go colorum (illegal) and pay off the policeman. If you’re in Manila, however, pray that it’s a policeman who arrests you: cops are reasonable and will lower their demands if you show good cause, but MMDA enforcers show little mercy, and won’t even honor the time-honored custom of haggling.

Where has decency gone? Some mayors at least still provide exemplary social services, and their old-fashioned corruption is seen as a forgivable continuation of the old ways of patronage, but many executives now treat their constituents not as clients to be cared for but as cash cows to be brutally squeezed. Few still care for the obligations of patronazgo, or for the old partnership of public good and private gain; now the Philippines is becoming an materialist-individualist paradise where religious sanction and social shame mean almost nothing. Hypocrisy for the sake of amor proprio is overthrown; our republic is now the openly rapacious kingdom of sin verguenza.

All this has resulted in a hyperinflation in the corruption market, as demand for bribes outstrips diminishing supply, forcing officials to have recourse to foreign government suppliers. The macroeconomic effects would no doubt be shocking if they are quantified. Foreign direct investment is fleeing to countries with lower corruption rates, where bribes are low enough the escape the half-lidded eye of the FCPA, and the field is left to crony capitalists insulated by their influence from the inflation, and legitimate investors and wage-earners who must bear all of the burden. The cost of business is spiking, and it may soon become so high as to make profit, and therefore salaries to proletariat and salariat alike, impossible.

The bull of the bribe market must therefore be brought under control, for it has indulged its exuberance too irrationally and too long. It is the task of leaders to regulate corruption and temper selfishness, and they must do so by restoring the customary controls. Is it any surprise that the opposition is now led by advocates of the old order of decently decorous corruption, calling on leaders to moderate their greed? A few choice convictions of dispensable allies would be a good start, provided they are not later stoppered with cynical pardons, since they would at least discourage outright pillage, and show that the customary laws are still respected. That would suffice to tell officials: No more! Too much! (I won’t add “Get out!” lest I be accused of sedition.)

But we must act soon. Let the overheated bribe market continue and it will destroy the customary controls entirely: hyperinflation destroyed the general economy of Weimar, and look what that did to the rule of law? Public ethics must be restored to its ancient equilibrium between gain and service, decency and hypocrisy, for if not, then we will see in the Philippines the same events that followed the replacement of the ancien regime and its customary controls with the all-corrupt Directory, or of the Manchus with the Kuomintang: specifically, the rule of military tyrants (as prophesied by Edmund Burke in the case of France). The freedom to bribe must therefore become once again an ordered freedom, lest all freedom be completely lost.

The thing is, I have heard similar views expressed, in all seriousness, by expats who find no difference between the cupidity of Filipino and say, Malaysian or Indonesian, Vietnamese or African officials except the lack of tidiness and predictability when it comes to the Filipino officials (except in Cebu, where the bribery is methodical: everything gets done, but your choice is whether to pay a premium to expedite the processing of licenses, etc., a system such expats hold superior to the rapaciousness and inefficiency they encounter down the line everywhere else, it seems).

Then, the Inquirer editorial today. Trivial pursuits, focuses on the Commission on Appointments and the controversies concerning its rules. As in all things, ever wondered why the phrase, “moderate the greed,” has resonated so much with people from all walks of life?

It’s the cornerstone of our traditional culture: the idea that human vices must, at least, be moderated.


Skip to comment form

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 2:09 am


    1. “fallacy: therefore, a science teacher who thinks most of his freshman students don’t understand his teaching of the theory of relativity is of an inferior mind.”

    You do not understand what I wrote at all. I said “an inferior mind always thinks most people are TOO STUPID to UNDERSTAND him

    2 “they are not rendered ineffective by their being violated.” What if people did not do the procedures or delay doing it, what then?

    3 “procedure: tape is inadmissible”. wrong. inadmissibility of wiretapped tape is SUBSTANTIVE LAW, not procedural (if you know what that means).”

    This is begging the question. I think you know what begging the question is.

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 2:11 am


    It’s only obscure to you because it’s well outside your area of expertise. Without your legal jargon, what would you be bencard? A bum?

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 2:12 am

    Sorry, above comment re this para:

    “brianb, you have posted some comments, while i was asleep, in response to mine in the preceding thread. i don’t know what you do for a living but i see you really have a talent for stating obscure nonsense posing as words of wisdom.”

    • mlq3 on March 20, 2008 at 2:17 am

    of all the organized religions, isn’t the r.c. church the least able to “deliver” votes?

    • mlq3 on March 20, 2008 at 2:22 am

    bencard, we don’t have to belabor the obvious about the role surveys play in a modern democracy.

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 3:03 am

    bum, brianb? if that is so, what does that make you? the prince of erudition? what, if anything, have you written anywhere that is so profound as to make you a “legend” outside of your own small mind?

    o.k, add the words “too stupid” to my ergo, what difference does that make to your fallacious premise?

    didn’t i say violators will be punished? a wrong decision resulting from the violation can be rectified on appeal. want more free legal education? no more, better hire yourself a law teacher.

    you use the word “procedure” in legal context without understanding it. research or consult a lawyer about the difference of procedural from substantive. then come back and debate the matter further with me, if you want. oh no, you cannot obfuscate the issue by calling it “begging the question” unless you are talking about something else irrelevant and out of context.

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 3:10 am


    begging the question: “has traditionally described a type of logical fallacy (also called petitio principii) in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises” from wikipedia.

    You assume the Garci Tape is inadmissible (because nothing there says she cheats) for “substantive” reasons and not procedural reasons (tape being taken from wire tapping).

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 3:18 am

    And, bencard, it get me why you are s exasperated with people not being able to understand legal language but you insist on using it in your comments.

    Ok, I did ask a lawyer–well, actully I googled the definition and it seems wiretapping is also under substantive law.

    Guys, read back to comment 2:09. This is how some innocent people go to jail, by using words “procedure” that lawyers think they have a monopoly over. 🙂

    • benign0 on March 20, 2008 at 3:26 am

    of all the organized religions, isn’t the r.c. church the least able to “deliver” votes? — mlq3

    Worse. They are MOST able to bring warm bodies to moronic street “revolutions”. 😀

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 3:43 am

    brianb, i assumed no such thing. the wiretapped tape is inadmissible because that is the SUBSTANTIVE LAW (i.e. statute passed by the legislature). whether the tape says that “gloria cheated”, or not, is an issue of fact that can only be determined by listening to the tape. “procedure” is irrelevant.

    it will never be presented to any legal forum, but for many of us who have heard the tape, we know that there is nothing there saying “gloria cheated”.

    this discussion is boring from the very start. enough already!

    • BrianB on March 20, 2008 at 3:49 am

    Bencard, you have no idea how boring you are. But you are the only one consistently defending Gloria and it is important to many of us here to test our opinions on a literal devil’s advocate.

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 4:02 am

    brianb, fools and wise men are often recognized through what they say or write.

    • UP n student on March 20, 2008 at 4:03 am

    to benign0 : on roman catholic political savvy and faithful showing up at rallies. It is a situational thing. What catholics 🙄 do in pinas… way different than what catholics can do in Saudi Arabia. 😐

    • grd on March 20, 2008 at 4:20 am

    But a series of controversial incidents, many involving financial links to Arroyo’s administration, has called the clergy’s own legitimacy into question. Nueva Vizcaya Bishop Ramon Villena recently admitted in a newspaper report that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the lottery run by the Office of the President, had given him 1.6 million pesos (US$39,000) to build a hospital for the poor in his home province…

    mlq3, is this bad and improper even if it’s a worthy project and benefits the poor?

    i remember the late “incorruptible” Cardinal Sin once said:

    “If Satan would appear to me and give me money, I will accept the money and spend it all for the poor. The devil remains to be my enemy but I will use his resources to feed the poor.”

    • grd on March 20, 2008 at 4:26 am


    there’s no other religion in saudi arabia other than islam.

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 4:42 am


    I have just one polite question.

    GMA already admitted to calling Garci.

    Is it proper or ethical for a candidate to call upon an election official in the middle of the count?

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 4:46 am


    “If Satan would appear to me and give me money, I will accept the money and spend it all for the poor”

    I have seen no evidence that Cardinal Sin (RIP) ever truly practiced what he preached. (He’s like Cory Aquino and her CARP.) Otherwise, there would have been at least soup kitchen in villa san miguel. (if there was then i’m sorry for jumping the gun)

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 5:03 am

    nash, my short answer is no, it’s both non-ethical and illegal. but i don’t think it is an impeachable offense.

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 5:20 am



    in my humble non legal opinion, i think GMA should resign for merely dialling that number and asking how the count was going and if our current laws say it is not an impeachable offense (i think it is under a general heading though…) then we should push for electoral reforms and it should be explicitly made impeachable.

    • UP n student on March 20, 2008 at 5:52 am

    to grd: re Islam as Saudi Arabia religion. Supports my point about behavior as situational — Roman Catholics in Saudi Arabia behave way different than how Filipinos behave. It is a constitutional thing.

    • UP n student on March 20, 2008 at 5:59 am

    Atheists in Saudi Arabia behave way different than atheists of Pinas, too. Situational.

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 6:52 am

    nash, as i said time and again, that’s her call. personally, i don’t think a minor offense (misdemeanor) should be a cause for relinquishing the presidency especially when no comfortable replacement is available.

    the thing is our republican system of constitutional government (u.s. style) doesn’t offer an easy way for removing a president involuntarily. the story might be different if we have a parliamentary system where “loss of confidence” can topple a government at any time.

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 7:39 am


    I know she will not resign because she’s not that type of person. (Insert all the insults I can think of here)

    But I will still join calls for her to do so all the way to 2010.

    She did something illegal. I expect so much more from the highest office.

    Italian PMs, Japanese PMs, British PMs who have not done anything illegal have resigned for lesser misdemeanors (if being unpopular is considered a misdemeanor). My puny little brain cannot understand why such standards of leadership should not apply to us.

    • vic on March 20, 2008 at 8:39 am

    nash, unless there was a “consideration” or Bribe to influence ‘Garci’ on that famous call caught on the TAPE, the most GMA broke was the Ethical Code of Manners expected of Elected Officials and that would have been enough for a Decent person, I meant any decent person to set aside her or his own personal interests and goals and Fade away. But it is no Longer possible to find many in a power hungry country where to be, is a sure-way ticket not only to enormous source of wealth to one’s own family but to her or his own minions and Tribes. Look at the way all the men and women around GMA will stoop down to ground level or even below and you will understand WHY…

    • benign0 on March 20, 2008 at 9:16 am

    What they want everyone to find and imbibe is THEIR truth, to which they have every right, but do we have to believe them if we want to serve God and our fellow men? — DJB

    I can’t speak for all religions but the Catholic Church certainly has a deep and EXTENSIVE track record of suppressing The Truth over the last two millenia.

    It continues to derive its power by propagating a notion that people are all a bunch of worthless scum destined for a firey oblivion unless they partake in “sacraments” that can be delivered only by its duly deputised (they call them “ordained”) lieutenants (often for a fee or some other “personal” favours). 😉

    • benign0 on March 20, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Lozada’s officially a pathetic chump:

    […]looking back, should [Lozada] really be the poster boy for “seeking the truth”? Seriously, would he really have come out in the open about the corruption in the NBN deal had it not been uncovered by Jose De Venecia III first? He’s not the whistleblower here, Jose III is. What Lozada has done is merely turn his coat after realizing he’s on the losing side. He himself admitted that had the NBN deal pushed through, he was set to gain millions. Now that the jig is up and there are no more millions to gain, he’s using his knowledge of the underhanded goings-on of the deal to highlight the blame away from himself and towards his masters, painting it as an attack of conscience. A jab of spite, more like it. I don’t know what’s worse, that dirty people like him are not prosecuted, or that there are many who would take his “repentance” at face value and literally fly his face on banners

    Full article here:

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 9:38 am


    yes, I agree. merely dialling that number should have been the end of her.

    and in my opinion, she was really trying to influence the count….

    bleh. thank god for the internet, all of these misdemeanors, great and small, will be on permanent record, a big red stain on her sad legacy, pity her great grand children who will google her name only to find a cascade of bad things about her. and rightfully so.

    • cvj on March 20, 2008 at 10:11 am

    bleh. thank god for the internet, all of these misdemeanors, great and small, will be on permanent record, a big red stain on her sad legacy, pity her great grand children who will google her name only to find a cascade of bad things about her. and rightfully so. – nash

    This further illustrates and reinforces Luhman’s theses that:

    1. “Society does not consists of people. Persons belong to the environment of society.”


    2. “Society is an autopoietic system consisting of communication and nothing else.”

    Luhman defines ‘communication‘ as the unity of ‘information, transmission, and comprehension’.

    • mlq3 on March 20, 2008 at 10:15 am

    grd, we can assume the hierarchy is supremely capable of making distinctions according to moral theology -that gifts from the state, if used for the poor, are intrinsically good things.

    but government and the clergy do not operate in a vacuum. what is licit may become illicit by the mere expedient of being unreported and only belatedly acknowledged: a donation for a clinic is only found out some time after the fact, because of reportorial sleuthing, which revealed the donations started pouring in at a time the president was politically besieged, for example.

    which only multiplies the questions: was the donation in keeping with both secular and not just religious law, was the donation suspiciously timed, was it particularly impressive in amount because of the political circumstances bothering the president, did the recipient then use his authority and prestige for the partisan defense of the president?

    all down the line, possibly perfectly legal and definitely, from the prelates’ point of view, not sinful (or venially so at most). and all justified because the faithful are not used to tithing and so, somehow, the diocese needs funds and it’s not coming from the flock.

    but in the end, it adds up to a political picture and political conclusions. one of which is that the hierarchy is far from being politically neutral.

    • mlq3 on March 20, 2008 at 10:17 am

    nash why should there be a soup kitchen in villa san miguel? and that’s what caritas manila does.

    • UP n student on March 20, 2008 at 10:24 am

    A Canadian says about Filipinos : “…it is no Longer possible to find many in a power hungry country where to be, is a sure-way ticket not only to enormous source of wealth to one’s own family but to her or his own minions and Tribes.”

    that a Filipino, given the chance to enrich self and clan, will discard Ethical Code of Conduct that white Canada (or even yellow Japan) finds as basic-minimum….

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 10:36 am


    well, another one certainly won’t hurt..i think there should be one in every bishop’s residence or seminary….and they all can certainly afford it..

    • UP n student on March 20, 2008 at 10:50 am

    For a bread-and-butter issue, start asking people about delays in their government retirement checks.

  1. Gloria knows that men in uniform and men in skirts have a price.She knows their number.

    The best example is Cardinal Vidal who is the Cardinal of the Pidals.

    • benign0 on March 20, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Picked this up from your latest column mlq3:

    But your belief in one or the other is anchored in what you believe concerning human nature: Is it generally good, or bad? Or does it lie somewhere in between, which I personally tend to believe: people are generally good, but generally bound to be bad, because, as one student told me in Cebu, “in this country it is easier to do wrong than it is to do right.” Which to my mind explains why generally good people end up doing bad things–it is simply a human failing to take the road of least resistance. — mlq3 in his latest column

    On the contrary, the problem with Pinoys’ predisposition to improper approaches it seems lies a lot deeper than the environmental factors provided by the Philippines as an environment.

    For anyone who’s had a chance to get a peek into the purplish world of Pinoy expat communities, you’ll find that they are microcosms of Pinoy national politics back in the islands — a world of intrigahan, misguided actions stemming from hear-says, and pissing contests galore.

    Kinda disturbing in light of the theory above that implicitly paints an optimistic picture of the Pinoy character as one merely set back by the environment in the islands and the Government there.

    That uniquely Pinoy dysfunction/malaise/cancer apparently lies entrenched not only in the collective national character but in the individual psyche as well and is being spread by boat and by plane all over as more Pinoys pack up and leave the islands.

    • Chabeli on March 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Like the Church, Cardinal Pidal is broken.

    • Carl on March 20, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    All this cardinal and church bashing is sour-graping. Back when Cardinal Sin aligned the Catholic Church against Erap, did anyone of you cry bloody foul on the supposed neutrality of the Church in politics? No, everyone was busy chanting the corny Vox Populi Vox Dei.

    Bishops admitted receiving jueting money as donation at a time when Erap was beleaguered. Did this prevent you from heeding Cardinal Sin’s call?

    • aurum on March 20, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    To understand how bishops think, you have to go back to how they became bishops in the first place. They were the ones who did not rock the boat, who were sipsip to their higher-ups, who raised the most funds, who got invited often to say mass for political bigwigs, who had the most number of photo-ops, who were experts in creating intrigues against their competitors, and who were obtuse yet eminently capable of appearing to be learned. Of course, there are exceptions but they are far too few in between.
    SWS should conduct a survey among priests and the religious and we will all see how poorly they think of their bishops. And we expect the bishops to lead us?

    • Chabeli on March 20, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Carl, you do have a point in your comments. In the same breath that nobody really questioned how scummy & dirty Chavit Singson was, & now the very people who “created” the Chavit Singson (the Pidals) expose are questioning the Jun Lozada.

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    “…all these misdemeanors, great and small will be on permanent record…”nash.

    not so fast, man. pgma has not been convicted yet, so presumed innocent. erap? yeah for a heinous crime. gma? no, no, no.

    caveat: be careful of what you say. libel is also a crime in the philippines, you know.

    • mang_kiko on March 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    caveat: be careful of what you say. libel is also a crime in the philippines, you know.

    bakit, bencard, sa anong bansa pa bang krimen ang Libel? Liban sa Pilipinas as sa ilang Bansa sa Africa at sa ME at sa ibang 3rd world Libel ay pagka-alam ko Civil Case lang ata o sa legal term “Tort”.

    • Bencard on March 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    mang_kiko, tama. pilipinas nga ang tinutukoy ko dahil si nash, sa tingin ko, at itong blog ni manolo, at si gma, ay nasa pilipinas lahat.

    • DuckVader on March 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Benigno writes:

    “For anyone who’s had a chance to get a peek into the purplish world of Pinoy expat communities, you’ll find that they are microcosms of Pinoy national politics back in the islands — a world of intrigahan, misguided actions stemming from hear-says, and pissing contests galore.

    Kinda disturbing in light of the theory above that implicitly paints an optimistic picture of the Pinoy character as one merely set back by the environment in the islands and the Government there.”

    Assuming this is true, does it stop Filipinos from becoming successful in their new, host countries? The answer is largely — NO! So in the proper environment, this facet of Philippine behavior that you find annoying and upon which you decide to denigrate people, is largely an irrelevant factor. Which makes your analysis wrong.

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 10:45 pm


    It doesn’t matter, it’s all on the web. Do a google search, it’s mostly negative. That’s her fault. This is 2008, this is how powerful the court of public opinion is. It’s the internets baby.

    Libel? Where? For what? She can go ahead sue me for all I care. I will have a field day representing myself in court (I know, it’s foolish) asking for evidence to the contrary that GMA is not a liar, a cheat, for turning a blind eye on extrajudicial killings, for influence peddling…

    • nash on March 20, 2008 at 10:50 pm


    It doesn’t matter, it’s all on the web. Do a google search, it’s mostly negative. That’s her fault. This is 2008, this is how powerful the court of public opinion is. It’s the internets baby.

    Libel? Where? For what? She can go ahead sue me for all I care. I will have a field day representing myself in court (I know, it’s foolish) asking for evidence to the contrary that GMA is NOT a liar, a cheat, for turning a blind eye on extrajudicial killings, for influence peddling…


    “Back when Cardinal Sin aligned the Catholic Church against Erap, did anyone of you cry bloody foul on the supposed neutrality of the Church in politics? ”

    Not everyone who went to EDSA 2 went because they could not make decisions independent of whatever Sin said ano. Yes, it’s probably true that without Sin people wouldn’t have been so brave (or misguided). The truth is universal. Erap was corrupt and had to go. Even if Joma Sison said it, he would still be correct.

    • anthony scalia on March 20, 2008 at 11:18 pm


    “Libel? Where? For what? She can go ahead sue me for all I care. I will have a field day representing myself in court (I know, it’s foolish) asking for evidence to the contrary that GMA is NOT a liar, a cheat, for turning a blind eye on extrajudicial killings, for influence peddling…”

    in libel, truth is not a defense

    • mindanaoan on March 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    aurum, i don’t know what ill-will drove you to write so disparagingly about our bishops. i suspect it has to do with some bishops refusal to be part of lozada’s road-show. or maybe you’re just a cantankerous turd. but regardless, you owe it to blog readers to put some substance into your post. even the wildest charge deserves attention if it is founded on reasonable arguments. your caricature is just plain malicious and utterly baseless.

    • jackast on March 20, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    The question of Cardinal Vidal’s instructions to the clergy of his diocese …- mlq3

    I call that the Bishops’ Gmabit, eh Manolo?

    • Bencard on March 21, 2008 at 12:03 am

    anthony, you’re right. in the philippines, i believe, truth is not a defense in libel.

    nash, i think the way it works, you – yes, YOU, have to prove that what you are saying is true i don’t know how you can do that considering that the entire anti-gma crowd has been trying to search for evidence of their “truth” that can stand up in any legal forum, and still has not succeeded. i think all that the victim of your libel has to show is you made the libelous remark maliciously knowing it’s not true. i like your bravado, but in case you get a knock at your door one of these days, good luck.

    • Bencard on March 21, 2008 at 12:08 am

    btw, nash, google entries in the internet are not evidence of “truth”. don’t be too naive.

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