Friday, January 23, 2015

A Silent Church? A Response to President Noynoy Aquino

Was the Church Silent Under the Arroyo Administration?

A Response to the Welcome Address of President Noynoy Aquino

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR


In his welcome address to Pope Francis in Malacanang a week ago (Jan. 16, 2015), President Benigno Aquino III paid tribute to courage of the clergy during Martial Law and for vividly living up to the vision of "the Church of the poor and the oppressed"  that "nourished compassion, faith and courage of the Filipino people ... This allowed millions to come together as a single community of faith and make possible the miracle of the EDSA People Power Revolution." At the same time he denounced the Church for being silent in face of the abuses under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration:

"Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day.In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin. Is it any wonder then, that they see the glass not as half-full, or half-empty, but almost totally empty. Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of the facts."


The president lamented that the clergy who were silent during the previous administration are now his critics in his efforts to correct the wrongs of the past. He accuses them of rendering judgment "without an appreciation of the facts."

Many netizens and journalists criticized the President for his inappropriate remarks, lacking in delicadeza and good manners, and out of touch with the occasion. Imagine, criticizing the host - the Philippine Church - in front of the Pope. Others, praised him for speaking his mind and for telling the truth even if it was not the proper occasion. That it was inappropriate everybody can agree. But was he speaking the truth? Was the Church really silent under the Arroyo Administration?

There may have been some members of the clergy, religious and faithful who were silent. But there were also many who spoke out against the abuses of the previous administration. The facts speak for themselves. Below are some excerpts from news reports and their url links:

“On March 8, 2006 Bishop Navarra, backed by dozens of clergy and leaders of religious congregations led more than 10,000 marchers in a prayer rally at the Bacolod public plaza to denounce Macapagal-Arroyo’s state of national emergency, threats of martial law reimposition, mining expansion, and Charter change, among others.
In the program, Navarra read his pastoral letter, the main message of which is to “disturb the conscience of the leaders of this land,” and calls on the people to register their protests as Christians.
“Be more vigilant for truth, remain steadfast witnesses of the truth, because we are adrift in a turbulent sea of lies and falsehoods,” Navarra urged the marchers.
“We have to make our voices heard as we search for truth and for the redress of our human dignity impaired by machinations of people with vested and partisan interests – the very reason why as Church and concerned citizens we strongly registered our protest against the imposition of state of national emergency, albeit lifted already,” Navarra also said.
After the bishop’s message, representatives of cause-oriented organizations, civil society, media, lawyers and local government units offered their respective prayers, most of whom offered their call for more vigilance, courage, righteousness, and resoluteness in seeking the truth, removal of GMA, and “liberating the people.”  Fr. Aniceto Buenafe, director for social action of the Diocese of Bacolod, elated by the big turnout of ralliers, said: “I am so glad that people have responded positively to our call, and showed their readiness to resist the threat of martial law reimposition.”“I hope our actions and statements here will be heard in the national level, especially in Malacañang, so they would know we are disgusted with the way GMA runs our government and country.” (

In 2008, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported denunciation from CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo’s condemnation of the Arroyo administration:

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has disputed the Arroyo administration’s claim of economic progress and condemned corruption in government. “Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “ramdam ang kaunlaran (progress is felt)” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang kahirapan, ramdam ang gutom (Poverty is felt, hunger is felt),” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said Tuesday.  “The benefits of the much-proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses,” the CBCP president said in a statement which he issued jointly with three other bishops and vocal administration critic, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.  Asked by reporters later if he thought that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was corrupt, Lagdameo unhesitatingly said “yes.” Asked if the President deserved to be removed from power, he said “the answer should come from the people who see what’s happening in our country.”  Lagdameo told a press conference that the statement, which called for “immediate reforms,” was the product of “communal discernment” with Cruz, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, Banga-Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas and Legazpi Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra.  “In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. Corruption is a social and moral cancer,” said Lagdameo, who clarified that he was making the statement as the archbishop of Jaro and not as the CBCP president.  “In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now,” Lagdameo said.  “The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now.  “The time to prepare a new government is now,” he said.

Villegas stressed that they were not calling for another mass revolt.  “We are making this statement because we believe that if we had been less corrupt we would be better prepared to face the impending global crisis. The problem of the Philippines is not population, the problem is corruption,” Villegas said. “We are not social troublemakers, we are soul troublemakers. We want to disturb consciences… then the change that we want in government and society will really come from within us,” he said.   Cruz said it was the “strongest statement” that Lagdameo had made so far during his incumbency, “the most straight language written, as straight as it could be.”  The CBCP has been divided over directly challenging Ms Arroyo over allegations of corruption.  In February at the height of the scandal over the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., the CBCP called a special plenary meeting but did not ask for the President’s resignation. The CBCP instead “strongly condemned the culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political order.” (

It was not only the bishops who condemned the abuses and corruption of the Arroyo administration. Priests and religious also did so. The AMRSP (Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines) provided support and sanctuary to Jun Lozada the whistle-blower who exposed the corrupt deals of President Gloria Arroyo. In my own, way I also denounced the president. Here is a GMA news report about my Bike-Tour around the Philippines in April 2008:

Redemptorist "biking priest" Amado "Picx" Picardal arrived in Manila Sunday for the Manila and North Luzon legs of his 56-day, 4,750-kilometer bike tour for peace.  The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Monday that Picardal will deliver his letter of concern to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacañang on April 27.
"On April 27, on his way back from Northern Luzon, he will bike around Manila and deliver (his) letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," the CBCP said on its website Monday.
Picardal is expected to tour Northern Luzon then make his Malacañang delivery on his way back from the north, it said.  Earlier, Picardal said that while he does not expect President Arroyo to receive him or his letter personally, he will make its contents public once he formally submits it to the Palace.  He said his letter to Mrs Arroyo will denounce her and her government for perpetuating a "culture of death."  "Delivering a letter to Malacañang is just a side trip and I don't expect the President to meet me or to read the letter - it is just symbolic. I will make the contents of the letter public - in it I will denounce the President for perpetuating the culture of death and corruption and for being a hypocrite (she goes to Mass every day and claims that it is God's will that she is president). Although I want her to resign, I will not be demanding her resignation because I know that it will be futile - she will continue to cling to power at all cost," he said in his Web log in March.  Also, he said his letter will tell Arroyo she will face the judgment of history and of God, and her worst punishment will be to live the rest of her life in shame and disgrace.”
These news reports cited here are just examples to how that President Aquino rendered judgment on the Church "without an appreciation of the facts." He bore false witness against the Church in front of Pope Francis, the whole nation and the whole world. He was not only rude, he was also a liar. This is what made his welcome address very offensive.

The Church was not silent during the dark days of Martial law, the Church was not silent during the Arroyo administration, and the Church is not silent under Aquino’s administration. It is not his hair – or lack of it -  that has to  be admonished. It is what is lacking below his hair. He follows the neo-malthusian solution to the problem of poverty: more free condoms and birth control pills. Sure, some of his political enemies are already in prison for corruption, but what about his friends and allies. He continues to defend his PNP chief who has been charged with corruption. Pope Francis’ comment about corruption in government was in reference to the present administration. While talking about reforming the corrupt political system, President Aquino defended patronage politics and the corrupt pork-barrel system (PDAF & DAP) until these were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. While he has come up with a peace agreement with the MILF, he has not shown any interest in continuing the peace process with the NDF. This administration has not adequately responded to the disasters caused by successive typhoons and other calamities. The victims until now are still waiting for the implementation of rehabilitation program. He even snubbed the anniversary of Yolanda in Tacloban even if he was just nearby. He talks about climate change and protection of the environment while allowing mining and the construction of more coal-fired power-plants. What I find lacking is his mercy and compassion.

I supported his candidacy because I thought he is a decent man who who would continue the legacy of his parents whom I admire so much. I was mistaken. To my regret, he has turned out to be a big disappointment in the end. I wonder of his parents would b e proud of him. With all his good intentions, he is not up to the challenge of becoming a great leader like his parents. His welcome address to the Pope in Malacanang was pathetic and a monumental embarasssment to the nation. He was not just rude, he also did not speak the truth. That was un-presidential of him. This was the lowest, ugliest moment of the papal visit.

1 comment:

Terry Iral said...

you are absolutely head on...