Sandbagging the Pope

In contrast to the coverage in Catholic media (see reports in Catholic World News and, local coverage of the President’s audience with the Pope has been… gooey. The Catholic news media paid attention to nuances in Vatican diplomatic terminology (which, as befits an ancient and experienced institution, is nuanced and punctilious) which was totally ignored and abandoned by the President on down.

An equally gooey Inquirer report quotes the President, who cleverly claimed Divine Blessings as having showered upon her:

Ms Arroyo emerged from her 20-minute talk with the Pope claiming that she had virtually gotten his blessing for the way she ran the government and for pursuing policies in line with Catholic teachings.

“The Pope is very supportive and encouraging,” she said, adding that a big part of the talk was about the situation in the Philippines.

“He loves the Philippines and is happy about our policies, which are attuned to the teachings of the Church,” Ms Arroyo said in an interview with government television station NBN 4.

She said these policies included the abolition of the death penalty law, the non-passage of the divorce law, and the preferential option for the poor.

Ms Arroyo noted that the Pope led their conversation and that he was very knowledgeable about and interested in what was happening in the Philippines…

“I’m encouraged by his comments. He knows about issues in the country. It’s very inspiring and he’s very supportive of our policies and our work for the poor,” the President said as she revealed that she had invited the Pope to visit the country.

The Pope does not look kindly on the alleged meddling of the Church in Philippine affairs, said Ms Arroyo, who has been the target of criticisms from certain Filipino bishops.

She said she got this impression after she received a copy of an encyclical on the Church and justice which, according to her, spoke of “the role of the Church in the search for justice.”

It also “clearly proposes a good relationship between the Church and State,” she said…

The encyclical clearly stated that the “Church should avoid politicking in its actions. It should help uplift the plight of the poor and eradicate poverty,” the President said.

Ms Arroyo said the government was already helping the Church accomplish its “preferential option for the poor.”

Let’s take a look at a sample of what the Pope has to say about politics and the Catholic Church, just last March in a speech, Church Speaks Up for “Promotion of Dignity of the Person”: note that nowhere does he put a premium on “a good relationship,” but rather, he proposes one that must necessarily be combative at times:

Above all, I trust that the effective and correct implementation of this relationship will start now, with the cooperation of all political movements irrespective of party alignments. It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or an interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest.

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable.

Insofar as the President’s claims go, it would be correct to state that the Pope would be pleased with the non-passage of a divorce law, the repeal of the death penalty, and of course a preferential option for the poor.

But as to her divining a papal preferences for smooth relations, that’s a stretch. And as for her putting words in the Pope’s mouth: support, specifically, for her government, the totality of her policies (and not just those specifics, which the Pope in his speech said is the guide for Catholic intervention in political affairs, and that includes “the dignity of the person” which means human rights, for an administration questioned on its human rights record!), seems even more of a stretch. As does her claiming the Pope, through her, has basically frowned on the CBCP’s misgivings on Charter Change. If the Pope felt it to be an important and publicly-acceptable message, it would have been part of the official Vatican statement; but the official statement made no mention of criticizing the Catholic hierarchy or endorsing specific political programs such as constitutional amendments.

Bottom line: the President knows that diplomatic practice prohibits the Vatican from belying whatever she says, even if it might be patently untrue, or a distortion of what took place.

What else is wrong with this picture (and the caption)?

PGMA RECEIVES POPE’S BLESSINGS — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo kneels while kissing the ring of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during her audience with the Holy Pontiff Monday noon (June 26 –6:00 p.m. Manila time) at the Papal Library in the Vatican. (Marcelino Pascua — OPS-NIB Photo)

First, what is going on in the picture? A president paying obeisance to a Pope, and not in a manner called for by the President’s position as head of state of a secular republic. In this day and age, heads of state shake hands, and what is appropriate for a Catholic private citizen is not correct for a President, whether or not she’s a Catholic. Second, no blessing is taking place in the photo. Third, the terminology is all wrong: there is no such thing as the “Holy Pontiff” in the terminology of governments. The Pope’s title is “Holy Father,” he can be referred to as the Roman Pontiff, but “Holy Pontiff” is a misleading mismatch of bits and pieces (then again whoever writes these captions demoted the King of Spain to a prince, so go figure).

Lito Banayo takes a playful look at what he thinks should have transpired in Rome. Philippine Commentary points to what the President’s trying to defuse: Church opposition to Charter Change.
Reports in The Daily Tribune, and Malaya, on the impeachment complaint.

Read the full impeachment complaint:

You can also find out details and updates in Bantay Impeachment 2.

(Full disclosure: the Black & White Movement, as a group, is a signatory to the impeachment complaint, and I am one of the convenors of the Black & White Movement).

Kiko Pangilinan resigned to a parliamentary system? Tell me it ain’t so.

Mahathir as one-man opposition: so what’s the difference between his fiscalizing and what politicians here at home do? And Thaksin continues to be a wriggly one.

Tony Abaya has a bone to pick with One Voice. A critical look also from Upoytaoism.

Connie Veneracion has a bone to pick with government’s helping to promote the certification of Kosher foods (it’s a market, waiting to be taken advantage of; and how companies wanting to tap this export market could separate costs for Kosher certification from costs passed on to all consumers is beyond me; neither doesher nit-picking on what Kosher certification is, philosophically speaking, nor why it would be wrong for government to support any means to expand the market for Philippine-produced foodstuffs) .

Comelec AKO has a list of questions to start asking re: candidates.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

29 thoughts on “Sandbagging the Pope

  1. one more thing wrong about the caption: it says “kneels.” we all know her lack of height. she couldn’t have been kneeling in this pic.

  2. the black and white movement can certainly adopt the pic to demonstrate the dichotomy between good and evil.

  3. But MLQ3, Gloria is a true social and political parvenu.

    What can one expect of Gloria?

    The picture of a president, albeit so-called, of an independent, sovereign republic in awed and bowed earnest to the Pontiff is a little shocking.

    If you notice, the left hand of Pope Benedict was poised to lift the Bansot by her wrist from her kneeling position because, if you notice again, he seemed a teeny weeny bit embarassed by the woman’s ignorance of protocol.

    But then what do you expect? She’s all that is wrong in this nation of ours: a social and political parvenu through and through.

    At least, we didn’t hear her announce that the Pope TOLD her that she should quash the impeachment bid. I was frankly waiting for her to tell tall tales after that meeting…

  4. They should juxtapose that picture with a picture of arroyo joining a pro-death penalty rally published on the front page of the philippine daily inquirer a few weeks ago.

  5. It’s sad that those who talk of social change & all the change bs won’t lose any oppurtunity to make fun of the others.
    I was thought in a catholic school that God’s love shines on both the good & the bad & that it’s wrong to judge the others.
    It reminds me about the pharasis who thought they where better then the others.
    But then again since we pinoys unfortunatly can really be so mababaw to feast on a picture & give it a thousand meanings.
    I guess it only shows so much weakness – if you can’t beat her then make fun out of her – perhaps it only proves how weak we are in facing issues.
    anyway, ok ok I know already what you people will say…but I really can’t do much about it.
    anyway, Abayas article today was very intersting.
    I think it’s really true that the so called one voice is making a class division.
    It seems they where even very carefull about their ‘power” line up, complete w/ church people to give an impression but only an impression that there is the blessing from somewhere above, from mars perhaps.
    the only thing is one voice is nothing but just the same ol characters – the oust gma gang.
    In one of their so called proposals, I find them to be dishonest.
    I find it so selfish to connect not voting directly for the president as taking away a right.
    As if they are attempting to plant stupid concepts in peoples minds.
    I think voting is a right.
    But just because one does not vote for the president ones right is taken away is really such a chip gimmick.
    therefore all parlamentary forms of goverments around the world have less rights & freedoms!!!
    anyway one voice is just like another elite group no different from the senators in particular that just like always want to lord it over those w/ less sophistication in words & w/ no influencial backers.
    persoanly, I think, the very “burgis” composition is a plus factor for the people to support chacha. insted of One B Voice.

  6. certainly, she’s not kneeling…she’s also not kissing (the pope’s ring). she’s doing a “mano po, pope.”

    mlq3, what else is wrong with the picture? will the practice of illuminism answer this further?

  7. joselu, where did a people who once had the right to vote for their head of government, give up that right and delegate it to others? that is, other than where a democracy was replaced with a dictatorship? parliamenary government is usually an organic development, as is the development and adoption of the presidential system.

  8. I do not think she was there to work for the sainthoods of “relatives.” I think it is more for the meddling of the religious people in politics and government affairs, especially the bishops. The pope can always instruct the Catholic Church in the Philippines to avoid involvement in the campaigns for her ouster.

  9. It’s uncanny how Tony Abaya’s ‘revolutionary government’ approach is a mirror image of that advocated by his adversaries on the left. Maybe they should get together and form their own ‘One Voice’.

  10. I am supporting One Voice for a few reasons but two stand out strategical and are the most valid reasons for doing so:

    1. For as long as we believe that we have a few remaining democratic fibers binding our nation together, it is imperative that the so-called elite should not be cast away. No “revolution”, no overthrow of an existing corrupt government has been effective and worthwhile without the participation of the so-called elite class. They have the means, they have the education, they have the drive and the intellectual skills not only to potentially lead a democratic uprising but also to participate hugely in the process of injecting changes.

    2. Let us not beat around the bush. One Voice is one of the most important opportunities for the most politicised opposition to increase its influence. We are speaking here of battling with the current Malacanang usurpers and we need the numbers to be heard and to influence the outcome of our bid for democratic changes. Opposition to Gloria must grow in number because ultimately if we are to achieve democratic changes.

    I do see the validity of the points of view of some commenters of the commenters but I am not prepared to cast “good” people away and refuse to believe that the people of One Voice do not have the same aspirations of a bona-fide citizen of the Republic. We all have learned our lessons from the past and the one thing that all of us desire today is to be able to move on in the same direction: PROGRESS in the most noble meaning of the word. To my mind, this cannot be achieved by sitting on the wayside. I also don’t believe that taking up arms against the Republic and stir fratricide is the right course of action.

    The enemies of the Republic are Gloria and her cohorts. We mustn’t play into their hands and allow them to drag PROGRESS from within our reach. We can beat her at her own game but we must remain focus. If we remain focus, we shall be able to weed out the bad from the good, yes, even in ONE VOICE.

  11. jhay, actually, that’s protocol. in fact what’s interesting is that she didn’t have to wear a veil, which the present pope seems to have dispensed with as a protocular requirement for women visiting the pope. the only two females permitted to wear anything but black are the queens of spain and belgium, who have the “privilege of white,” that is, they can wear white in the presence of the pope. all other women (at least catholic women) wear black.

  12. MLQ,
    This answers your question about Mahathir.

    “If he is genuine…definitely we would welcome it and even allow him to lead the opposition, but the problem is that he is only focusing on his own interests,” said Lim, secretary-general of the main opposition Democratic Action Party.

    The argument between Mahathir and Badawi is not over fighting corruption and/or good governance. They are fighting over how to go about corruption. Mahathir favors the old method of farming out big government projects, quotas and subsidies for his cronies. Badawi favorsthe same things but for his friends.

  13. This suggestion from Tony Abaya is worse than burgis. It’s stupid and undemocratic.

    “There should also be qualifying exams for all candidates for all elective offices, so that stupid and ignorant people are prevented from entering politics, no matter how popular they may be.”

    Democracy is about the people’s choice. The election is the qualifying exam. Once you approve of using criteria other then age, residency , and citizenship then you open the floodgates to other criteria like there should be a sanity test so that people no matter how intelligent and popular they are cannot run for the Senate if they’re crazy. Or a poor man cannot represent Makati and a rich man cannot represent a poor district. We elect representatives right? Well now that Gloria is stuffing 50 kids to a classroom, we will end up with a lot of stupid people. Who will represent the stupids? And this idea of Abaya which is a rehash of a proposal By Miriam Santiago is driving me nuts. Who will represent me? Oops I forgot Miriam is already representing me.

  14. since when has the philippines ever had an organically developed government? hasn’t every form of government we ever had been imposed upon us?

  15. antonio, interesting you mention that. i just came back from dinner with my Malaysian colleagues over here in KL where they mentioned that they didn’t like sitting through their history classes because Malaysian history is ‘short’ and ‘boring’. In contrast, our story is mainly about the powerful few trying to impose its will over the rest and the struggles that come after that. I guess that’s what ‘organic’ means in our setting.

  16. cvj,

    At the risk of oversimplifying your simple explanation – malaysian history is about sultans imposing their will over the rest and then evolving into the Barisan Nacional, led by UMNO, imposing its will over the rest since day one of their independence. There have been no significant struggles since the ethnic chinese communist insurgency was crushed. that’s why those students are bored.

    We, on the other hand, have been struggling since day one of colonization. Magellan died here. We have experienced different forms of government from before the arrival of the Spanish until the departure of Marcos. Whatever government we have now and in the future, unless we are physically occupied by a foreign power again, can be deemed organically grown . Even Frankensteins evolve. Once they turn on their maker they show a movement or a growth from their original state and that growth can be comsidered organic since it came from the monster himself.Whether the evolution came from the external or not is immaterial because the reaction th the stimuli is what’s considered organic or the unique response of the organism to outside stimuli.

  17. mb, you’re right, reciting the list of Sultans is one part of the lesson they particularly did not like. i agree with what you say. Maturana and Varela generalized from their study of biology (frogs’ eyes) and coined the term ‘autopoiesis’ (self-organization). an organism is a ‘system’ and the goal of a system is to reproduce itself. you’re right to point out that it’s immaterial whether evolution comes from the outside because a system does *not* have an outside. it is basically self-contained and adapts itself to be able to survive in its environment to which it is ‘structurally coupled’. in the case of a political or social system, its environment is made up of individuals and their actions (or inaction).

  18. Yan na naman kayo! Puro na lang deprensya ni ate glo. Kesyo ganyan, kesyo ganito. Ano ba naman gusto niyo, perfect na tao? Mahirap talaga talunan. Lol, kayo kayo na rin nag aaway away. Ito lang sa akin ha, lalo na diyan sa mga magagaling magsalita: JUST TO IT BRO! Para kayong me period na matandang dalaga.

    btw. kahit makaglo at korni ako, agree ako kay mr. buencamino sa kuro niya. Democracy is about the people’s choice. At si Miriam naman, kahit na balimbing at parang si donya victorina sa libro ni bayani Jose, ay ehemplo ng nakaka 100 sa exam na sinasabi ni Tonyo.

    Elementary naman yan di ba. Si Sherlock na nga nagsabi, elementary my dear watson, elementary. Para walang gulo, hindi elementary school ibig sabihin niyan.

  19. “Whatever government we have now and in the future, unless we are physically occupied by a foreign power again, can be deemed organically grown.” So does this mean that we can consider a shift to a parliamentary form of government an organic development? Or, since the shift is not popularly considered as an authentic expression of the people, we can consider it analogous to being occupied by a foreign power – foreign, i guess, in the sense that the proponents no longer represent the filipino people?

  20. Organically speaking, a unicameral-parliamentary system would be a good environment for the trapos and traditional elites to thrive. I don’t think it would be a hospitable one for the rest.

  21. i would agree cvj. that’s exactly what i said to philconsa when they tried to pitch the idea at my school a long time ago.

  22. “There should also be qualifying exams for all candidates for all elective offices, so that stupid and ignorant people are prevented from entering politics, no matter how popular they may be”.

    The above statement by writer Tony Abaya is Equally Stupid as voters who elect ignorant and stupid candidates into office.
    And if you look at who are the elected current officials, considering the record of their services, can majority of them passed the requied Abaya’s Candidate qualifying Exams? I’ve heard some of them have stint of tenure at some Ivy League instituions. Some the products of the country foremost universities. Listen to them debating or arguing, you might think you are at the Mensa club. But are the worth the office they’re holding now?
    To Mr. Abaya, here is one good for you.
    “To qualify to run for Candidate in any elected office in any riding within the Country, one must be a qualified voter at Election day and is not a convicted person, or not being dishcarge from bankcruptcy, or prohibited by law to run (such as the members of Election Canada)”. Qualifying Exams, my foot…

  23. my mistake, a convicted person can not run while serving sentence, (for obvious reason) and may after. So stupid and ignorant may run, anyways that our Rights to Equality is For..

  24. mlq3,so your saying we must stick it out w/ a system that has not brough us any prosperity.your actually closing the door to everything else.
    A system change is a change or are you just to attached to a “form”.
    You really just want more of the same.
    You actually still want people to continue w/ the “politics of personalities”.
    I still think it’s dishonest to plant in the peoples mind that something is being taken away from them in changing the system.
    So why don’t you just say it stright that by not electing a president directly it is no democracy at all.
    The Right will always be there,”the people” will still & always elect their leaders.The people tis time will be directed to the importance of the party.There will be a greater choice of leaders to chose from.Issues can be stettled in a more localized manner insted of pulling the entire nation down.
    I think we must be couragous enough to get out of a system where the sysbol of the “president” has become a very personal matter.
    what will the country be missing.The fiesta atmosphere of presidential elections where there are goodies for everybody.favors counter favors that are all the small seed of corruption.

  25. What’s wrong with that picture and the caption:

    1. The caption says she’s kneeling when she’s clearly not.
    2. There doesn’t seem to be any blessing going on in that picture, just Arroyo merely greeting and bowing respectfully to the pope.

    It’s disgusting how she claimed to have “virtually gotten” the Pope’s blessing. Who knows for sure what they even talked about, and if he did disapprove of anything she’s been doing, she’s definitely going to say anything about it. I’d like to see a news report on TRUTHFUL things Arroyo actually said.

  26. Antonio,
    “a shift to a parliamentary form of government an organic development?”

    Yes, in the same way that cancerous tumor is organic, growths out of illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic processes are malignant. GMA’s presidency is organic but its illegitimacy is a malignancy, it debilitates and damages other organic democratic institutions corrupted by it.

    One Voice advocates adherence to democratic constitutional processes as antidote to GMA’s malignant illegitimacy, to arrest the break down of social and political institutions, to reverse the culture of impunity and to contribute to a milieu conducive for benevolent organic growth and strengthening of our democratic institutions.

    Democracy is antidote to GMA’s autocracy. What kind of democracy are the times calling for? Popular democracy? nationalist-socialist-militant democracy? Democratic citizenship? Citizens who are committed to their duties and responsibilities in a democracy?

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