Pope Francis, during his Philippine visit, wants to listen to the stories of suffering and want. He has expressed preference for visits to devastated villages, hamlets of poverty and the ancient institutions that have been the keeper of the Catholic faith. Progressive and trailblazing in his economic ideas, he is steering the work of the Church to serve the constituencies mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest speech delivered, bar none.
He is called the “ Pope of the Slums” because he is more concerned about wretched and brutalized lives than schmoozing with the religious and political royalty and the business elite. I do not know how he would react to the stories of Filipino priests who sucked up to Janet Napoles, the same priests who have been passionately defended by the Church leadership.
In so many words, he also named specifically the kind of people who should not hang around him during his visit: politicians, VIPs, the moneyed elite. The kind of people he is wary of. The kind of people whose core beliefs, guiding principles in governing and ideals are diametrically opposed to his own beliefs and ideals.
Does he have a prior knowledge that most political apparatchiks make it their business to brutalize already wretched lives on a daily basis?
Does he know of the rank elitism and anti-poor bias of most Filipino leaders? Does he know that the social and economic cancer he often talks about—inequality—is not even considered an issue – or is practically non-existent—in the view of the top political leadership?
Does he know that when Filipino leaders speak in nebulous terms about “inclusive growth,” it is mostly in Orwellian speak? Or, at best, it is about improving growth rates in impoverished areas and not really about lifting human lives?
I think he knows.
In contrast, Filipino leaders are entirely clueless on what Pope Francis stands for and his ideals on what the leader should be. This is the reason why they are swaggering around as if “without sin.” Man, for your information, this are the ideals of a true leader and servant according to Pope Francis. He stated this forcefully on Sept. 16, 2013 in a homily that touched on public servant and public service. He said:
“A leader who doesn’t love cannot govern. At best they can discipline, they can give a little bit of order, but they can’t govern. You can’t govern without loving the people and without humility.”
Taking stock of the beaten lives of the poor, who fits this mold? On a smaller stage, the answer is easy: Francis Tolentino of the MMDA.
This is the official whose brutality toward the poor is hared-core. His stock-in-trade is his anti-poor bias, his utter hatred of commuters, his elitist policies and disdain for anything that smells of poverty.
Tolentino has this passion for delivering his version of order and discipline in Metro Manila but at the expense of one sector, the sector Pope Francis loves – the daily commuters. Pope Francis, during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was a joyful, daily bus commuter.
Anything that looks and rides like a PUV, or anything that looks like a truck on the streets of Metro Manila raises the blood pressure of Tolentino. He gets away with it—and he gets the approbation of his bosses in Malacañang— because truck and bus bans are popular with the media and the punditry—who obviously want their cars and SUVs to have first lien on the roads. At the expense of the suffering masses, who are the preferred flock of Pope Francis. Only in the Philippines is the traffic management skewed toward cars and private vehicles.
Commuters are praying for one thing, that during the papal visit Tolentino would, under the guise of traffic management, ban buses and PUVs from major roads so Pope Francis would have a traffic-free commute. The kind of reaction that he will get from the Pope for banning buses and PUVs is predictable. Who is this anti-poor jerk?
On a bigger stage, the Pope’s Sept. 16, 2013 sermon was also referring to President Aquino. While Mr. Aquino is not brutal toward the poor on a personal level as Tolentino has been, his cold and heartless technocracy makes improving the lives of the underclass a peripheral concern.
He has dedicated all his more than four years in power to raising the GDP, striving for credit-rating upgrades, getting the praise of the multilateral institutions and foreign chambers of commerce. He believes that empowering the rich and growing the economy would be the best way to ease massive poverty. Pope Francis believes that trickle-down is bunk and unalloyed free markets fail to lift the lives of the underclass and is exploitative.
Pope Francis says inequality is a global cancer. President Aquino’s keyboards, as we have repeatedly said, cannot even type the word inequality.
Also, as we remembered Ninoy Aquino and his humanity, his compassion toward the unfortunate, we cannot help but be saddened by his son’s cold technocracy.