A mature leader welcomes criticism
What was supposed to have been an occasion filled with grace and truth turned out to be an embarrassing and distressing affair, because the President, Mr. Aquino, imprudently seized the opportunity of venting his disappointment that the Catholic hierarchy has not sided with him—in the presence of the Holy Father and of the highest-ranking ecclesiastics in the country. His reckless accusations cannot be made to pass without refutation and rebuttal.
He complains, principally, that he clergy have been silent in the face of what he characterizes as the misdeeds, the malfeasance and the misfeasance of the previous administration—referring of course to the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But that is exactly the trouble with Mr. Aquino: his lack of regard for judicial processes and his blatant disrespect of the judicial system. How can bishops and priests join in the condemnation of what has not been proven or established with certainty? We are not disposed to follow in the lead of the President’s precipitousness in condemning his predecessor. She is still being tried and, quite interestingly, so many cases against her have already been dismissed.
But it also falsifies matters to say that the CBCP was silent during the Macapagal-Arroyo years, for in the wake of different allegations, the CBCP was not remiss in its exhortations. Repeatedly, the leadership of the CBCP and the CBCP in plenum released different statements that were widely anticipated by the media. All that Mr. Aquino has to do is go over the newspapers of the period. But as soon as charges were filed against Mrs. Arroyo,we deemed it proper to leave her guilt or innocence to be determined by the courts. What is wrong with that, morally and legally? Is it not they who flaunt their disregard for the law and for the courts who should rather apologize to the nation?
He is apparently exasperated that we have not been on his side. The CBCP will use the very same riposte of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who answered: “I do not serve presidents.” Similarly, the CBCP does not serve presidents. We will address ourselves to moral issues and doctrinal concerns. On political, social and economic matters that raise moral questions, we will not be silent, and it will matter little to us whether we are on the side of government or not! Otherwise, we will not be Church, but an instrumentality of the present administration. This is the reason that we have been so firm against the passage of the RH Law that Mr. Aquino himself actively peddled—and that the Supreme Court found to transgress the Constitution in so many ways. We also condemned the misuse of funds by legislators through PDAF, and the President’s own deliberate violation of the Constitution by DAP. So, what is Mr. Aquino whining about?
A mature leader welcomes criticism and grown because of admonition and counsel. It is the worst curse ever to befall anyone in high office to trust only in the counsel of sycophants for it is these who should least be trusted. For our part, we shall continue preaching in season and out of season, siding not with the powerful and mighty—even if they may have the power to send their enemies to the slammer or to visit every kind of vicissitude on them—but the poor and the lowly, the defenseless and those who are oppressed. But in all things we shall heed the admonition of Pope Francis. Mercy and Compassion!
Most Rev. Ramon B. Villena, DD
Bishop, Diocese of Bayombong