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Interdicts, faith, Cardinals, and morals
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on March 19, 2008 151 Comments 29 min read
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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.

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  1. @bencard

    I’m not saying they are true ano.

    All I’m saying is it’s all out their in the Public Domain, mga hinaing, suspetsa, at pagdududa ng tao kay GMA they are all in the Internet. That’s her fault, from the lying, stonewalling, mismanagement, political patronage…etc.

    Don’t blame me for what she did. 😀

    I suppose you are going to knock down my door? In true Igorot hospitality, I will slaughter one chicken and one pig for you. Unless you are vegetarian and it will be sayote and camote.


    If it were true, it cannot be libel.

  2. nash, make up your mind, will you? are you saying she did, or she did not? what do you mean by “what she did”? i thought you said they are only suspetsa, hinaing, pagdududa. if you understand the difference, stop confusing “truth” with suspicion.

  3. @Bencard

    My personal opinion is that she cheated.

    My earlier comments was on her legacy. What memory will we have of her. And too bad for her, we have lots of crap floating on the internet about her. She cannot escape that because it will stick to her like shite.

    Now incidentally, I’ve been told that as the defendant, I have to do nothing in a libel suit except to wait for the plaintiff to prove the falsity of my statement.

    So here is my statement: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo cheated in the last elections.

    Sue me please.

  4. The (mis)handlers of Mr. Lozada’s roadshow should have realized from day 1(when CBCP issued a weak call for action against GMA) that the Church is not yet convinced.

    In the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the Filipinos, the Catholic Church (survivor of two millenia of power plays) knows that its not all rational thinking in acquiring truth (the ‘logos’)that is at work. It is probable that GMA is guilty; likely in view of all the evidence.

    However, the pre-modern way, but still important method, not concerned with the rational, but with meaning(the ‘mythos’) is still essential.

    They know that the ordinary, everyday working Filipino, is still searching for meaning in all of this. So what if GMA knew and authorized the corrupt ZTE/NBN deal? What is the meaning of this in my life?

    Even Martin Luther had to be reactionary in order to espouse his revolutionary Reformation thoughts.

  5. nash, first, i have to be retained (my rates are not cheap) in order to sue in behalf of clients. second, i’m still not sure what you are saying. your first sentence says it’s your PERSONAL OPINION that she cheated. then you make a “bold” unqualified “statement that gma cheated in the last election. are you trying to have it both ways? go back to your advisor and clarify if you can do that. i think you are playing a dangerous game, man.

  6. Hello Bencard,

    Bold, personal, whatever. I said what I said. She’s a liar and a cheater. There, I said it again

    It would be unfair to drag these legal threats on Mr. Manuel Quezon III’s blog. Also, I am hardly saying anything original and this is a blog comments box. Mr. de Quiros for example writes a far more eloquent column on a broadsheet.

    In any case, should you decide to sue me please send all correspondence to

    [email protected]

    Frankly, whether you are cheap or expensive, that is not my concern. That’s for your client and I am not your client.

    Do you need a mailing address too?

  7. what de quiros do or say is his own concern. it’s not mlq3 who is doing the libeling, it’s you, in mlq3’s blog! read my lips. it’s not for me to sue you unless i’m retained for the purpose, but not by you.

  8. MLQ’s column:

    “The clarion call of our times, then, unites faith with reason. To rebuild a civic culture. To have a common ground in shared values based on a shared belief in how the system ought to work. Our particular political objectives are secondary to this. It is our generation’s mission.”

    Manolo, you know which country you’re in? A Civic culture? I’d be happy with a democratic republic. We’re a minority in the struggle for freedom from systematic corruption. A minority. Can we promise a good life to the people after we rid ourselves of a few big fishes? No. Ca we promise a better quality of living and more opportunities after the corrupt has been removed from office? Our generation? Our generation is legion in mind and attitude.

  9. Brianb,

    Trying to make leaders hold themselves accountable won’t work unless they are taught a hard lesson, and that something is done now. Gloria knows that, after making Erap pay for his sins. Her time of reckoning will come ultimately when she leaves office. She may possibly pay for her own sins now, if some pieces of the breaking system and injustice can be straightened up or made to work. But first, start with the few big fish, like Abalos, and hopefully the dominoes will fall with him. The Senate probe had already opened a can of worms.

  10. hawaiianguy,

    Not saying it is wrong. I just want to make it clear that so far we are a minority. It took a while to realize but it is true. What she has done and the reasons for her removal are not subject to a vote.

  11. Gotcha, BrianB.

    As mlq3 said, time to rebuild the civic culture. Never mind if only a few are willing join.

  12. 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 – DuckVader

    I never related this collective dysfunction of Pinoys in any country to the INDIVIDUAL achievement of Pinoys.

    The point is that when Pinoys are together, whether in the islands or in expat communities abroad, they exhibit that same collective dysfunction.

  13. @BrianB

    Oo nga eh. Miss ko na bundok.

    Itong isa namang tambay dito, mega-announce pa niya na “mamahalin” ang kanyang retainer. Hindi ko lubos maisip kung sino naman ang uto-utong magbayad ng mahal sa kalidad niya.

    I’m libeling GMA? Come get me, I’m not hiding.

  14. Benigs,your generalization about dysfunction of Pilipinos is only in your dreams. I have been here for decades, been members of different organizations, midwest and west coast. We even have members from the north, and other countries. I have never experienced what you are saying about Pilipinos. Maybe you have seen that in some organizations or groups you belong to before. I think just like other group of people,Pilipino groups are generally OK. Your group maybe different, maybe the saying …birds of a feather flock together apply to you and your group. Otherwise, you are dreaming my friend.

    Another thing Benigs, why are you calling our country islands? Don’t you have a heart to call it Republic of the Philippines or RP or maybe Pinas? Why islands? Dont’ you remember anything about Phil. history? How about the thousands of Pilipinos who died just so our country will become RP and not islands?

  15. nash,

    Yan ang tinatawag na gulpe de gulat. Pag nayanig ka sa threat (libel or anuman), kala nila magiging tameme ka na tulad ng karamihan sa pinas. kaya tuloy nasabi ni brianb na minority lang ang medyo concerned sa mga miyembro ng civic society.

  16. di ba nila na rinig yong latest pronouncement ni CJ Puno ukol sa Libel penalties na dapat iwasan nang manga Huwes ang sentensya at monetary fines lang ito pa dahil ang Libel ay sa ilalim nang Revised Penal Code kailangan na evidensya para mapatunayan ay katumbas din sa timbang nang ibang Criminal Cases, walang Duda. Iba yong sa Tort law, tulad ni OJ Simpson, nakaiwas sa Criminal Case, pero sa Civil Case sya nadali..

    Nash, sa atin Bayan di mo kailangan ang Serbisyo ni Atty. Bencard to sue in behalf of Client, kundi magcomplain ka nalang sa Fiscals natin, sila ang mag file nang Libel Charges…

  17. nash,

    the issue in libel isn’t the truthfulness of the remark/statement, but whether the remark/statement was made with malice

    whats controversial here is that a libelous remark is presumed to be uttered with malice. so the burden to show that there’s no malice is with the accused

    the real defense in libel isn’t truthfulness, but that the remark/statement wasn’t uttered with malice

  18. How many wounding headlines will it take to force the Catholic Church to permanently cure its institutional corruption?

    Millions of Catholics are faced with the decision to demand changes or deliberately look the other way.

  19. Sa mga bloggers dito, binabasa ninyo ba lahat sa taas bago kayo magcomment? Napakahaba, have no patience reading all.

  20. santaclos, depends on mlq3’s entries. If it’s an essay-type (like his entry after this), i read the whole thing (although not in one sitting). If it’s a smorgasborg-type (i.e. multiple themes and links like the above), i browse and then zoom in on the theme that is interesting to me. I click through the links selectively depending on my level interest.

  21. Mindanaoan,
    I was about to say, using your own words, that you’re the one who is a cantankerous turd but since this is Good Friday then I will just wish you well and may you continue to be a good Christian.
    Happy Easter!

  22. mindanaoan said:
    [quote]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.[/quote]

    From Cebu, I can understand where the language of aurum comes from. Listen to this explanation from Fr. Dan de los Angeles, Archdiocese of Cebu, which was published in the Cebu Daily News issue of March 20:
    [quote]The Philippine Daily Inquirer said we boycotted the gathering. I disagree. Boycott implies we were obliged to attend but did not in order to register our protest. But we were not obliged to attend Mr. Lozada’s assembly nor were we protesting his presence here in Cebu. We did not stay away. We just chose not to go for one reason or another.

    Fr. Dan is speaking not only for himself but for all the member priests of the Archdiocese of Cebu who were herded into their spiritual formation gathering the previous week to listen to Cerge Remonde on his version of truth on the NBN/ZTE deal. Remonde came to convince the prelates about the falsehoods being peddled by Lozada, not for any spiritual formation. He came complete with a pamphlet which must have been distributed to the priests in attendance (perhaps, to be read like a missal?)

    Who would believe that the priests in the Archdiocese of Cebu would (like dumb driven cattle) shy away from Lozada and listen meekly to a homily by Remonde without any order from a church leader? And whose the highest leader that can arrange for these events here in Cebu? This and the ‘hi-hello-good bye’ non-meeting at the Wackwack simply does not promote an image of a neutral NGO.

    Having ordered the priests to listen to Remonde on the NBN/ZTE scam, it would have been fair to allow the priests equal time with Lozada. As things are panning out, Cardinal Vidal and the explanations from his staff are now viewed to be in the same category as Ablos’, Gaite’s, Madriaga’s and Razon’s Senate testimonies.

  23. aurum, after your calumny, no need to show you’re nice. just add whys and because to your vituperation so we’ll have something to read.

  24. “whats controversial here is that a libelous remark is presumed to be uttered with malice. so the burden to show that there’s no malice is with the accused”

    ako naniniwala na walang malisya ang isip ni nash, galit lang talaga siya sa magnanakaw at mandaraya, lalo na kung pera nya ang na-nakaw. ang iba naman kontra sa’yo kapag galit ka sa magnanakaw at mandaraya maski ‘di naman sila ang pinagbibintangan. mahirap intindihin kung bakit kaya ganoon sila. palitan lang ito ng kuro-kuro, pero, bakit naman tayo a-angal kung ang isang tao ay nagrereklamo na siya ay nanakawan kung hindi naman tayo ang magnanakaw, ‘o defense lawyer ng taong pinagbibintangang magnanakaw?

    nash, hwag ka nang mamundok, pasyal na lang kita sa islang pinanggalingan ko, ‘di masyadong malayo sa lugar na pinanggalingan ni Bencard, baka mataon na naroon din sya. ok ba iyon, Bencard?

  25. @anthony scalia

    I have no malice when I say GMA is a cheater and a liar. It’s so plain and simple to me.

    Ikaw naman, ano pa bang malisya ang pwede mong itapon kay GMA?? She’s bottom of the cesspool already. Angela Merkel has more balls than her, mike defensor, and mike arroyo combined


    We can go back to serious issues now. Bea Ledesma has been identified as Celine Lopez’ ghostwriter. There.

  26. MrG, so you also believe aurum was driven by lozada’s experience in cebu. maybe you share his anger. now, how does that support his assertion that bishops became bishops because they are sipsip, creators of intrigue and “obtuse yet eminently capable of appearing to be learned”? where does it say he has conclusive knowledge of this denunciation?
    there’s this blog they call “hellhole”. i believe it’s the proper place for rantings.

  27. Perhaps, we have been reading too much from DJB and the others above on the matter. If that is arum’s perception of what these Church leaders have become, then, I guess he is entitled to it. Would you also have conclusive knowledge contrary to his denunciation? Your perceptions are as good as arum’s and mine.

  28. MrG, i am quite sure those are not perceptions. it’s unbelievable that he is familiar with most of the bishops to be able to say that. no, he demonized them only because he is angry. i sure doubt if he can point out one bishop who, he said, is an expert in creating intrigues and was thus promoted to become bishop. and no, to say he is entitled to his malicious and baseless caricature is to confuse reason with nonsense.

  29. Since Libel is a Criminal Offense under the Philippines Law, and under the Criminal Law the Onus is on the Prosecutors to prove the quilt, unless it is specifically a Reverse Onus on Libel and Slander Cases…

  30. “Take it from Pope Benedict XVI. He says the modern world “is losing the notion of sin.” And not just personal sins such as greed, lust or the rest of the infamous Seven Deadlies, but social sins, too, such as polluting the planet or ALLOWING INJUSTICE to flourish.”
    –USA Today

  31. am a cebuano and the way i see it they just had to make a noise and have a scapegoat–Cardinal Vidal- becoz no one came to see the clown! 🙂 sorry guys but we truly understand your frustrations becoz linangaw kayo dito 🙂 however pls dont vent your frustration and anger towards the Cardinal. am not roman catholic btw.. 🙂

  32. My, we have a libel law which is a joke. Malice is the operative word. How does one objectively judge if a statement is malicious or not? A libel law should be rather more about the veracity or the falsehood of a statement or claim. And the imputation of malice should just be secondary.

    The law belongs to the middle ages and is a more of a defense of the rich and those who are in position of public office to protect their sheninagians from being known by the public. It is a major stumbling block to accountability and responsibility that are due to public officials. It is also runs against the Constitution which says we have freedom of speech. Because of our ridiculous libel law, public officials and all those who derive their power from the public are protected and anyone who wants to say their piece about them are routinely threatened with suits. To say something against a pubic official should not burden an ordinary citizen to produce proof, it is rather that the burden of proving that the allegations are not true should rest with the acccused who hold their office via public fiat.

    Methinks we should change our libel law. It is not suited to a modern democratic society. Perhaps because of it, is an indicator that we don’t live in a real democracy. And we are still in the bondooks (the influence of the Catholic Church is partly to be blamed) regarding our legal resorts — not just because of our current libel law, but the absence of a real divorce law.

  33. madonna, one way to show malice is by proving that the perp says the defamatory words KNOWING they are not true. as anthony scalia pointed out, in philippine law, malice is presumed when a defamatory statement is made – meaning that the libeler has the first burden of showing the absence of malice.

    example: calling someone a criminal before he/she is convicted in a court of law is presumed malicious. and why should it not be?

    btw, not only the rich and powerful may become victims of libel. even an innocent poor probinsiana may be defamed when she is called a prostitute by a local gossip monger.
    in a society that has become preoccupied with gossips and malicious innuendos, e.g., the tsismisang senado, or the uncontrolled purveyors of hate in the media, libel laws need to be strengthened rather than emasculated or discarded.

  34. 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. – mlq3

    But there was of course a period of decadence in ecclesiastical hierarchy and authority when bishops, even popes, were drawn into royal service (perhaps akin to an “Archdiocese of Malacañang”) or forced to an interweaving of ecclesiastical and royal authority, or when the Church in fact witnessed its division into dioceses and individual parishes well-nigh lapsing into popular Christianity.

    More recently, there have been profound changes initiated by progressive leaders of the Roman Catholic Church weighing down on the scaffold of the Church’s culture of hierarchy that the Philippine Church (and other Catholic conservatives) might have failed to catch on.

    For example, the idea of workers empowerment has been attributed to an Englishman named Eric Trist, considered to be the “evangelist for participative management.” Challenging the conventional wisdom about the imperative for “autocracy” in business concerns, Trist suggested that giving workers complete responsibility for an entire operation could lead to job performance that is more productive. It was also a challenge directed to “scientific management” which Henry Ford perfected in the U.S. automobile factories. The concept of empowered work team, however took root in the U.S. only in the 70s and 80s, and only after the Second Vatican Council had begun preparation in 1959, the most important achievement of which could be the empowerment of the laity and the parallel cutback in the power of the clergy and maybe the magisterium itself.

    At the Second Vatican Council, among the progressive documents enacted by the fathers is the “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church” (Lumen Gentium) which, inter alia, called the lay people to share the missionary vocation of the church and described the church as the “People of God.” Another Council document, the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,” has promulgated the principle of greater participation of the laity in the celebration of the mass. The Council also enunciated the apostolate of the laity.

    The monarchical underpinnings of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) that proclaimed the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra somehow deferred, following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1865), to the increasing role of the bishops (versus the papal prerogative of infallibility) even as the textual modification of the Canon Law paved the way for the recognition of the expanding role of the laity, Chapter III of Lumen Gentium, affirming the hierarchical structure of the Church notwithstanding.

    The notion of “shared responsibility,” “co-responsible leadership,” and “decision-making by consensus,” became intertwined with the progressive construction of the Canon Law provisions, as modified by the Second Council, on “pastoral (parish) councils” long before those terminologies became fashionable in the world of business, management and political discourse.

    Pope John Paul II in Sources of Renewal, a book he wrote about his experience at the Second Vatican Council, articulated the following:

    “. . . A parish needs a council in order to insure that it is truly faithful to God’s call. Catholics have always cherished the idea of obedience and fidelity to God’s word spoken in and through the Church. It is that same Church that is calling its people now to listen for God’s words spoken not only through the leadership, but through fellow Christians as well. But to hear that word spoken through the people requires a new structure, a new way. A council united with the pastor provides by design that way, because its representative nature insures that every voice is heard, not just those that are the loudest, or the most powerful or the most traditional. ”(Italics mine.)

    Expounding on the same vein in his book, Co-responsibility in the Church, Leo Joseph Cardinal Suenens, who helped set the agenda of the Vatican II, wrote:

    “. . . The role of the one in charge is not that of making a ‘personal’ decision after taking the advice of others into account. For in that case it would still be ‘his’ decision. His role is rather to make it possible, in so far as this depends upon him, for there is to be a common decision, which commits each member to the decision, in such a way that they are solidly behind it and willing to accept all the consequences of what has been decided together.”

  35. jen, i agree with you. i’m really appalled by the way they are obviously trying to keep the dying lozada “roadshow” resuscitated. for instance, abs-cbn, which has a virtual monopoly of overseas pinoy audience, keeps replaying on prime time the korina-carandang extravaganza (called “harapan”, featuring lozada, clad in undershirt) ad nauseam. every time my wife turns the t.v. on tfc this holy week, we see the same dubious face, and hear the same questionable claims, of lozada.

    i can sense a sacrilegious attempt to portray him as some kind of “christ”. may God have mercy on us.

  36. abe, what do you think would have happened if the group comprising Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles, along with the believers that were following Him, was governed by this “shared responsibility”, or “co-responsible leadership” or “decision by consensus”?

    i understand judas iscariot entertained independent thoughts that ultimately led to his betrayal of his master. but of course, that was providential. it had to be fulfilled, lest we don’t have an easter.

    btw, throughout its 2000 years existence, the church has been battered by all sorts of heresies and apostasies. i think it’s going through a phase, but it’s alive and well.

  37. nash,

    no, im just pointing out that you cannot invoke truth as a defense in a libel case.

    ok if you said that without malice. kaso nga lang, if you are charegd with libel, the burden is on you to prove that it isn’t so

  38. Madonna,

    thats why there are moves in Congress to decriminalize libel. but until that happens, we have no choice but to live with that

    CJ Puno’s order to trial court judges just to impose a fine in libel cases is already a great improvement.

  39. vic,

    a defamatory statement is presumed to be libelous. the law prescribes that presumption

  40. anthony,

    but the crime of libel is still have to proven by whom? the accuser or that the accused is presumed guilty and the Onus is on the accused to prove his or her innocence and that would be contrary to the provision of Bill of Rights that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a fair and public trial.

    there are instances where a statute will specify a reverse onus in cases on Bail Application in specific crime, but I still have to find one on specific Crime the presumption of guilt…

  41. vic,

    all the prosecution needs to do is (1) identify the publication where the defamatory statement is printed, (2) identify who wrote the statement (included here is the writer’s editor and publisher), (3) identify the object of defamation, and (4) prove publication

    theres no violation of the constitutional presumption of innocence. take note, the accused in a libel case is still presumed innocent, its just that he has the burden of showing that his remark wasn’t made with malice. the prosecution must still prove the enumeration above, for the presumption of libel to attach. if the prosecution fails to establish the enumeration above, then the presumption of libel does not attach.

    what if there was no publication, so no third party was able to read the defamatory statement? or what if the remark was made by someone other than the accused? what if the object of the defamation was not sufficiently identified (like in blind items)? all these defeat the libel case, without the accused ever having to overturn the presumption of malice

    in short, the prosecution still has work to do.

  42. Got your points anthony, but I still believe that Libel and Slander should be taken out of the Criminal Code and place where it belongs, the Tort Law, where the case will be between the Plaintiff and the Defendant to sort out.

    One thing is that those that are in power can not abuse and utilize the office of the Public Prosecutors for other than truly a meritorious cases.

    Secondly, journalists and individuals will be very discerning as civil suit will be very expensive and may require insurance on most journalist to practise their profession. Yet, the public can trust the publication and news as mostly would carry the TRUTH as the threat of Libel would make it possible..

  43. vic,

    amending the libel law is way overdue.

    but our bright legislators have more important things to attend to. like the perpetual NBN-ZTE hearings

  44. @ discussion on libel

    I found in Chan Robles ( an SC decision that, among other things, enumerated what constitutes libel. I’m sorry if I don’t know how to manually put in the link here, but copy-paste this:

    Anyway, here’s how the decision defined malice: “There is malice when the author is prompted by personal ill will or spite and speaks not in response to a duty but merely to injure the reputation of the person who claims to have been defamed.”

    Libel also requires publication: “In libel, publication means making the defamatory matter, after it is written, known to someone other than the person against whom it has been written.”

    Those are from the SC decision itself.

    I saw a post above that insists on the Freedom of Expression as a counter to libel. I wish to remind you that Freedoms have corresponding Responsibilities.

  45. Jeg said,

    “The biggest atrocities in history have been perpetrated by people and societies who have traditionally believed in a higher power but rejected it in favor of the ultimate authority of the State.”

    u speak the truth.

  46. nash,

    lighten up. you are only judging based on what you perceive to be the Catholic Church. the pastoral care of the Roman Catholic Church is where you see the difference. if you have not tried to drive down a single nail for a GK house, just try holding back the venom until you have not actually pissed blood just so the next house will be built early enough for a family to move in.

    just try.