The urgent call from the NTC [National Transformation Council] for the stepping down of the President and his cohorts resonates the general feeling of the people. His misrule clearly indicates his illegitimate claim to the position. His continuing stay endangers the lives of our people and adversely affects the moral landscape of the nation.
— National Transformation Council, February 13, 2015
While resolute action is necessary on the part of all, precipitous action and resort to extra-constitutional measures will only visit more harm and misery on our people. The CBCP cannot lend its support to any movement that may bring greater suffering to our people. — Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Feb 16, 2015
THE problem with applying morals to politics is that politics is messy and unpredictable.
Take the above Catholic Bishops ‘ Conference of the Philippines statement. The CBCP won’t back “any movement that may bring greater suffering to our people.” It seems to make sense until two truths rear their heads.
First, a movement that “may” enlarge people’s woes might instead shrink them. And second, one can’t be sure which effect it would actually have.
Back in 1986, if then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin had to be sure that urging Filipinos to surround rebel soldiers in Camps Aquinaldo and Crame, would not “bring greater suffering to our people,” he would never have broadcast the message which could have triggered a bloodbath on EDSA, but by God’s grace spawned People Power.
For its part, the National Transformation Council, which groups religious and civil society leaders, top professionals, and current and former government officials, proclaims that NTC’s “step down” demand “resonates the general feeling of the people” and Aquino’s continued rule “endangers the lives of our people and adversely affects the moral landscape of the nation.” The administration and its supporters would beg to differ, so people will need to choose which side to believe and support.
Church doctrine on resisting the State
What guidance does the Church offer on political action? At a recent Ateneo talk on the Theology of the People of God, which substantially influenced Pope Francis, a prominent lay leader asked if there were any circumstances when the Church may call for the resignation of a leader or the overthrow of a government.
Let’s look at the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, found at: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html. Paragraph 401 states:
“The Church’s social doctrine indicates the criteria for exercising the right to resistance: ‘Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave and prolonged violation of fundamental rights, 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted, 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders, 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution’.
“Recourse to arms is seen as an extreme remedy for putting an end to a ‘manifest, long-standing tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country’. The gravity of the danger that recourse to violence entails today makes it preferable in any case that passive resistance be practised, which is ‘a way more conformable to moral principles and having no less prospects for success’.”
NTC stalwarts like former defense and national security head Norberto Gonzales support People Power, but not military takeover. For now, mass protests seem unlikely, given the robust economy and the citizenry’s willingness to wait for elections. But public sentiments may change if another Mamasapano-scale debacle happens.
Some reformist elements support a coup if Aquino won’t quit. They fear his continued misrule means further crises and misgovernance, threatening more people and national interests. They also believe the administration will again use the Precinct Count Optical Scan election system for computerized fraud in 2016.
PCOS would not just undermine the basic right to suffrage; it would also block peaceful change through elections. For putschists, that’s reason enough for extra-constitutional measures, especially if they are well-situated not only to succeed, but also to avoid harming innocents.
Moral discernment for concerned citizens
So what’s a patriotic, God-fearing Filipino to do? That’s a separate article, but here are some initial pointers:
First, BE INVOLVED. Many Filipinos are not, assuming that individuals and small groups don’t matter in national events, and the issues are too complex and murky to deal with. So they just leave contentious matters to those keen to wrestle with them, who are often driven by vested, self-serving agenda.
For the nation to move forward, upright citizens must join the fray. Otherwise, as the adage goes, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Second, BE INFORMED. That means taking in various reports and perspectives on major concerns, not just those that dominate the most widely followed media.
Indeed, the administration’s failings — from crisis mismanagement and record pork barrel and smuggling, to Kaklase-Kakampi-Kabarilan cronyism and multiple transport and prison anomalies — would not have reached appalling levels if pro-Aquino media had not downplayed them for years.
Third, BE ACTIVE. After careful, informed and prayerful discernment, take a stand. This decision won’t be totally clear, certain and committed, and may entail uncomfortable compromises. But if one’s intent is truth, justice and the common good, one can be forgiven if the action proves mistaken. It would certainly be better than doing nothing for fear of making a mistake, or just not caring at all.
Be involved, informed and active. So help us God.