Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. … I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.
— The Book of Jeremiah, 23:1-2
I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the haughtiness of the ruthless.
— The Book of Isaiah, 13:11
In pondering why his government is suddenly beset by troubles, from unprecedented unrest over corruption to the Zamboanga siege, rising poverty, and new problems in Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, President Benigno Aquino 3rd may wish to visit the Palace chapel, assuming it is still there on one side of the main entrance lobby before the stairs to the Aguinaldo State Dining Room and the Rizal Ceremonial Hall.
Before the altar and perhaps with his spiritual adviser by his side, the nation’s leader could ask the Lord if there was anything he had done against God’s law and for which, as the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah had warned, there is “woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” and “an end to the pride of the arrogant.”
In this soul searching and governance gauging, there is no use or need for the perennial claims of unblemished integrity and righteous indignation against the corrupt. This is the all-knowing God one is talking with. He knows everything and is not swayed by fawning media and glib claims. And He forgives all failings and sins once the transgressor atones, seeks forgiveness, and makes amends.
So in seeking discernment about possible transgressions with the guidance of a spiritual adviser covered by confidentiality of privileged communication, nothing but the unadulterated truth of governance actions should be presented for assessment in the light of God’s law and word. And here are some of the questions that may be posed and pondered in the Palace chapel.
Pity the least of His brethren
Was it a grave violation of divine edict, especially our Lord’s admonition to love one another and serve Him in the least of our brethren, to have weakened the government campaign against smuggling and jueteng by not empowering two of the country’s leading crusaders against those scourges, which harm the poor most of all?
The widespread and fraud-ridden numbers game preys on the indigent desperate to augment their meager earnings through gambling. The late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo stamped it out in his many years as Naga mayor.
But instead of letting him directly oversee the Philippine National Police, as his Cabinet post entails, the PNP was put under Aquino’s shooting buddy, Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, who was accused by anti-gambling crusader Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz for being ultimate recipient of jueteng payoffs.
Smuggling, for its part, not only denies state coffers mammoth funds needed for social programs—P200 billion by President Aquino’s own word in his last State of the Nation Address, several times more than the annual pork barrel fund under him. The illicit trade also brings in guns and drugs, as the SONA also lambasted, while robbing peasants and workers of income through the flood of untaxed imports.
Hence, was it a grave act especially against the poor to have declined to appoint former customs and revenue commissioner Guillermo Parayno, who computerized and cleaned up the Bureau of Customs during the Ramos administration, and was hired by the International Monetary Fund to advice other countries in customs reform?
President Aquino interviewed Parayno for the post, but never put him in charge at the ports despite his stellar credentials and the dismal performance of two commissioners appointed instead of him. Thus, like pork barrel, smuggling trebled in this administration, as measured by IMF data, with dire, even deadly consequences for ordinary Filipinos.
Falsehood and sacrilege
Another possible mega culpa is the false accusation hurled in national media against eight Catholic prelates, who were sacrilegiously labeled “Pajero bishops” for purportedly receiving luxury sports utility vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during the past administration. President Aquino never restrained his alter ego at the
PCSO, chairperson Margarito Juico, in her unjust and untruthful charges.
Violating the Eighth Commandment by bearing false witness against one’s neighbor is an assault on God as truth. To combine that sin with a direct attack on innocent leaders of His Church, cannot but bring divine justice and retribution upon the perpetrators. Among actions that displease the Almighty, it would be hard to top the maligning of bishops, who never received fancy SUVs, but used PCSO assistance to purchase jeeps, vans and pickup trucks, some of them second-hand, for hinterland charity work.
Despicable as those lies against the bishops were, there may be an even graver sin to ponder in the Malacañang chapel, one that lies at the very core of the blazing controversy over the graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund and the patently unconstitional Disbursement Acceleration Program: the bribing of legislators to pass favored bills and impeach independent officials.
Stifling the voice of God
This writer’s December 12, 2012, article, “Forgive Us Our Sins and Those Who Make Us Sin,” prayed: “We implore Your divine forgiveness, therefore, for the diabolical schemes … interposing the bait of earthly gains between Your heavenly voice of conscience and the unforced choice of souls. In months past, that lure of lucre was wielded to expedite budgets and laws, and oust constitutionally independent officials. But now, the budgetary leverage aims to silence not human voices, but Your own voice in the human heart.
“ ‘Temptations to sin are bound to happen,’ You warned in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘but how terrible it will be for that person who causes someone to sin!’ The President supposedly called for a conscience vote in meeting representatives two weeks ago, allowing them to follow Your voice in their hearts on the [Reproductive Health] Bill. But threats of impounding development funds for legislators belied the reported presidential leniency.”
To battle divine promptings in lawmakers’ consciences, and on top of that, to employ this corrupting tactic for a measure that threatens the unborn, heaps sin upon unconscionable sin. It is hard to imagine that heaven is happy with a leader and a government that commits such enormities, along with the smuggling, jueteng, and “Pajero bishops” affronts to divine admonitions.
Between his sorties across the archipelago to defend DAP, we pray the President finds time to visit his private chapel for a dialogue that may help him and his regime far more.