Bishop fights poverty, bad politics

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The newly-installed president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the faithful to take action and help end the twin problems of poverty and bad politics.

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Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas made the call as he lamented that the country’s wealth “remained woefully maldistributed.”

Villegas said that one of the problems that the Church and the laity should resolve is poverty, which he noted is “a social and spiritual problem.”

“A great percentage of our people live below the poverty line. They do not even have the necessities for decent human living. It is estimated that 12 million of our people have gone to foreign countries in their search for adequate income to support their families’ needs,” Villegas said. “Though there have been significant economic gains, the same percentage of our people have remained mired in poverty over the past 12 years.”

“This endemic poverty is gravely contrary to the will of Go,” he noted.

Aside from poverty, the prelate said that the people should also start working with the Church in solving the “problem of politics.”

“We say problem of politics because as we have repeatedly pointed out, politics as it is practiced in our country is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to our integral development as a nation,” he said.

The bishop advised the people to search for the causes of corruption and poverty which he described as the “real and great evils”.

“Recent developments have highlighted the corruption connected with the pork barrel which those in power are loath to give up despite their blatant misuse for political patronage. It is now clear that our people are poor because our leaders have kept them poor by their greed for money and power,” he said.

“We know that our tax collecting agencies are notorious for their extortionary practices.

Corrupt tax collectors of course imply business people who cooperate in their corrupt activities either to survive in business or to reap bigger profits. It is also known that too many of our tax payers do not pay the correct taxes, while the taxes that are collected are often misspent in over-priced or ghost projects. Corruption in business leads to the further impoverishment of the poor and the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor,” Villegas said.

“Our culture has been contaminated by the twofold greed for money and power that has characterized much of the modern world,” he added.

“The greed for power is the twin brother of greed for money. Those who have money easily get into power, and when they are in power, they can protect and increase their acquisitions. In our country, winning a government position is often the passport to affluence. Politics in the Philippines is a business proposition.”

He said that a return to truthfulness and fostering common good is the only way to a national transformation.

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