Francis lifted us up, Aquino let us down

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Let’s get our perspectives straight, as we strive to assess in the aftermath of the unforgettable papal visit given us what it is that we can truly harvest, and what it is that we still have to sow.

Both Pope Francis and President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd are heads of state in their own right, the one, as Supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church,  and head of the Holy See, is  head of the Vatican City state; and the other as president of the Republic of the Philippines.

Each has his own domain and  his own constituency—with Francis representing 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, and Aquino representing  over 100 million Filipinos (of whom about 80-85 million are Catholics).

Filipino Catholics, including yours truly, belong simultaneously to both these constituencies. We are part of the Pope’s constituency and ecclesiastical jurisdiction because we are members of the Roman Catholic Church. And we belong to President Aquino’s jurisdiction because we are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines.


In his pastoral visit to our country, when his Holiness spoke, he spoke for the Church and all the faithful. And what he did during his visit was in representation of the Church and all the faithful.

Similarly, when President Aquino spoke, he spoke for our Republic and all the people of the Philippines. And what he did during the visit of his Holiness  was in representation of our republic and all our people.

Between the Philippines and the Holy See, there are over four hundred years of working and living together. That shared history reaches across the division of domains and bids us to celebrate together worthy achievements and endeavors for all mankind.

That experience in sharing is not only in the past; it is also in the future. There is a common vision at the heart of this relationship.

Is Aquino a foxhole Catholic?

In  the context of a state visit, words spoken and exchanged  have weight and are laden with meaning. They are more than the ephemera that comes out of our mouth every day.

The consternation and dismay that has followed President Aquino’s speech at the Palace welcome and courtesy call of Pope Francis arise because  they breached the formalities and courtesies of an otherwise routine occasion. He sought to convey a personal angst that strayed well beyond his role as our  representative and messenger.

He was disrespectful when he should have been gracious towards a guest of the nation. He was arrogant where he should have been humble and solicitous towards a visiting dignitary. He was too full of himself when he should have been self-effacing. He spoke lengthily where he should have been brief.

We do not know whether Aquino is a serious Catholic or he is what is known as a “foxhole Catholic,” a creature who comes out of his foxhole to profess the faith when it is personally advantageous to do so, and retreats to his hole when there are no spoils to take away and it is inconvenient to be bound by the faith.

It may be that at the palace reception Aquino was trying in his usually awkward way to secede from the Church and its teachings, and to proclaim to all that he has exchanged his faith for his ego.

From his remarks it is plain that he becomes an ardent Catholic only when the Church and its leaders serve him and his family. When this service is absent he withdraws to his foxhole.

Aquino’s speech contained only a shallow understanding of the Church in the Philippines, and a jangle of complaints against local church leaders for perceived slights and unfilled expectations, and he all but demanded that his Holiness rein them in so he can have an easier time.

This stance was chilling to behold because it did not square with our people’s eagerness and joy in welcoming and embracing the Holy Father. It is athwart with our protocols and traditions in receiving guests of the nation. Instead of representing us at our best, he showed us at our worst. It was unFilipino.

This dismaying breach became embarrassing as the visit unfolded because the Holy Father was unsparing in sharing himself with our people – with our families, our youth, our leaders, our pastors, even our disabled, and he roused from our people an overflowing of affection that surprised many of us. His words, spoken from the heart, were uplifting and inspirational.

Pope Francis was everything that we hoped the supreme Pontiff would be, and more.

In stark and sad contrast, there was our President  — whining like a child, invincible in his ignorance, wrapped up in himself, unloved by the very people he was supposed to represent.

What happened during the papal visit was a vivid contrast of two leaders. Pope Francis lifted us up to the possibilities of our lives and our nation by speaking to us as grownup persons. President Aquino let us down, by showing up before his Holiness at his worst. And his worst, given his lack of a real education, breeding and professional training, is very bad indeed.

Aquino should get over himself

We should be thankful that the Pope’s schedule did not provide an opportunity for Aquino to speak again, because he absolutely does not know what to say on stately occasions or to such a leader like Pope Francis.

He does not know of the critical role that speechmaking plays in a serious presidency, that words are the coin of leadership. Because he imagines himself a great writer and communicator, he boasts about writing his speeches himself and makes a show of discarding  prepared remarks. When his exertions fall flat, he looks around vainly for someone to blame— this is one failing he cannot lay on poor President Arroyo.  This cannot be fixed by a commissioned Pulse Asia and SWS survey

From his manner and the glint in his eye, it is plain that Aquino believes himself to be a great leader like those superlative eminences from North Korea. He probably thinks that since he was briefly educated in a Jesuit school, he is equal in learning as the Holy Father, who is a member of the Society of Jesus.

In the best and most successful sports teams like the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, coaches have a rule for  new recruits and upstarts with large egos. They tell them at the start: “Get over yourself.” If they can’t, they are waived from the team.

Our problem as a nation today is that an incompetent upstart with a huge ego is the captain of our team. We cannot perform at our best with Aquino leading the charge.
My colleague Kit Tatad and certain bishops of the Church may be right. It’s time to waive BS Aquino from Team Philippines. Let him depart from his foxhole and find his own level and flock.

Maybe he can start his own born-again congregation. Butch Abad will be his acolyte. This way there will be room for their swarms of relatives.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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16 Comments

  1. pati ba naman buhok, binanggit pa, people of the philippines, stop expecting so much from the president dahil wala, wala, wala!

  2. magdalena lauron on

    Puro na lang batikos. Negativism will bring a person nowhere. Especially yong mga matataaas na tao na may mataas na pinagaralan! Bakit hindi na lang kayo tumulong sa gobyerno. Be more of help than a hindrance!!!!

  3. I’d like the President he has the guts to tell about the corruption within the catholic church!!
    About the remarks “rabbits” made by the Pope on PH population explosion who cares. It’s true!

  4. emmanuel mallari on

    Yes, he is just being consistent……consistent of being dumb and being dumber as he nears the end of his term

  5. I am an ordinaryFilipino, not rich and not as intelligent as many other Filipinos. But I am edukado at may magandang asal…unlike PNOY. Indeed, the second worst president we ever had…

  6. Vicente Penetrante on

    Yes, indeed! The “foxhole” President should “get over himself.”
    What we’ve heard so far from the good orator is the repetitious blame the past administration, stop criticizing him, and keep listening to his brag of ‘daang matuwid.’

  7. Aquino is so self-centered that he can only talk about himself. He is the worse example of a Filipino we can have talk to anyone.

  8. Superbly written. BS Aquino behaves like a boy with down syndrome and he must be surrounded by fawning nincompoops who don’t know any better. Why must he recite his biography that is of no interest to anyone but himself? He was completely irrelevant and out of order but then he was just his usual self. PeNoy (pronounced with a long e) lang siya kasi, balut na nabugok.

    Yen, can you write about the most important message of the Pope to his audience of high-ranking officiials: Reject corruption and don’t take the money for the poor. This jibes perfectly with PeNoy’s slogan about corruption and the poor that he himself does not believe in. Can you write why he coddles who is probably the most corrupt Filipino ever in his cabinet? Looking forward to it.

  9. “Breed like rabbits!!!” A controversy seems to have erupted about Pope Francis again and his trip to Pilipinas. Pinoys/Pinays of Pilipinas really don’t care about this issue — all most want is to have 4 to 6 children, “rabbits/hens…cows…they don’t care”.
    “Rabbits” and the press (printed and television) making misquotes of a bishop of the church points to what President Noynoy can do to help. CENSORSHIP!! Censorship is needed before things get distributed onto print or television. President Noynoy can get this power, and give Supremo-right to an imam, or to a Mormon- or even to a Pinas Aglipayan or Iglesia-religious.

  10. A beautiful, excellent article. PNoy is full of himself believing that he is a messiah and can do no wrong. This will be devouring him for a lifetime because we know that that he is not what he believes he is. Some person must tell PNoy that folks from the outside is a better judge that those from the inside.

  11. I have been saying this all along. That the abnoy absolutely does not know what to say on stately occasions. We need no further proof of this. We only need to recall what he said in the US, to Obama, to the Japanese Premier, to the European Leaders. He was oogled on by the international community to ascertain his “true state of mind”. Because every one here and abroad knows him to be a certified looney.

    He will always be an embarrassment to us . Never before has this country ever had a pseudo leader who is mentally incompetent yet who thinks himself as superior to A GREAT LEADER LIKE POPE FRANCIS.

  12. Someone, maybe, is missing the point: Pres. B. S. Aquino is just being true to himself by being “consistent”! What’s new?