Some of the talk among religious types last week, coming after the Papal visit and the second Maguindanao massacre, this time of elite police troops, was whether President Benigno Aquino 3rd has brought the wrath of God upon himself and his rule.
The devotees divining heavenly messages in earthly events wonder whether Aquino’s untruthful attack on Catholic bishops in his welcome message to Pope Francis at the Palace on January 16 has incited the Almighty to bring him down (see the Jan 17 column, “After cheering Pope Francis, will we crucify him?”).
“It’s karma,” said one lady who regularly attends Tuesday night prayers with a group. “You reap what you sow.”
Besides the sacrilegious falsehood against the bishops told to the Holy Father himself, the talk about divine retribution also cited the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s round-up of about 500 indigents from the Roxas Boulevard area, which kept them away from the sight of the Pope who journeyed from across the globe to be with the poor.
The wages of sin
These offenses are on top of past actions of the President and the government, which would certainly disturb devout Catholics (see the Nov 8, 2013 article, “Aquino’s troubles and the wages of sin”).
Very early in his rule, his handpicked chairperson of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Margaret Juico, maligned eight Catholic prelates with the canard that they received luxury sport utility vehicles from the PCSO during the past administration. In truth, the agency’s assistance for the bishops’ charity work was used to purchase vans and pickup trucks, many of them second-hand.
Yet Aquino and his government never apologized for the sacrilegious lie, and in the Pope’s face two weeks ago, told another untruth about the bishops.
Even more appalling was the use of pork barrel to sway legislators in passing the Reproductive Health Bill in December 2012.
After Aquino himself called for a “conscience vote” on RH, the pork was laid out to ensure the enactment of the contraceptive law. Since conscience is the voice of God in our hearts, Aquino used the legislative largesse against that divine counsel.
Those looking for heavenly retribution might well believe they saw it in Juico’s unceremonious ouster from her cushy PCSO seat last year. Plus, in the Supreme Court’s twin rulings declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the two main pork sources.
As architects of the DAP, moreover, Aquino and his budget secretary, Florencio Abad, will surely face a host of malversation cases for disbursing funds for expenditures not appropriated by law, if not now, certainly after his immunity from suit ends in mid-2016.
Chastised yet unrepentant
Not that Aquino needs to see the inside of a jail cell for him to think hard about divine displeasure. Back in 2013, after Catholic bishops consecrated the country to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in June of that year, the Administration suffered one debacle after another — more than enough to make any believer shudder at God’s wrath (see the July 9, 2014 column, “A nation consecrated to Mary: Upheaval again?”).
In July 2013, the month after the Marian consecration, two scandals erupted: the $30 million Inekon bribery attempt, which tarred presidential sister Ballsy Cruz and top transport officials; and the pork barrel expose on PDAF operator Janet Lim Napoles. That triggered the biggest protest under Aquino, decrying the pork barrel scandal on August 27, the National Heroes Day.
The following month, DAP hit the headlines. In response to the expose by opposition Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla about pork inducements during the 2012 Senate trial of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, Abad identified DAP as the source of tens of millions of pesos disbursed to senators on top of their PDAF pork.
In September, Moro National Liberation Front fighters lay siege to parts of Zamboanga City, in anger over the government’s move to diminish the MNLF’s clout and stature in the future Bangsamoro entity envisioned to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was to be abolished if and when the peace agreement with the MNLF splinter group – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – is implemented.
Two more disasters followed in two months: the Bohol earthquake caused the collapse of centuries-old churches in October 2013, and the Yolanda Super Typhoon killed more than 7,000 people and devastated vast areas of the Visayas in November.
Despite Aquino’s claim of vessels, aircraft and relief goods in place, there was nil government response for days after Yolanda inundated Tacloban.
If that wasn’t enough to bring religion to Malacañang, there were the PDAF ruling in December 2013 and the DAP decision last July. And in between – the surge in consumer prices amid port congestion and the mounting woes of Metro Rail Transit commuters.
Despite all that, however, Aquino is unrepentant. His budget contains about P20 billion in disguised pork barrel. The Commission on Elections has railroaded a $300-million contract with automated election supplier Smartmatic, raising fears that poll anomalies in 2010 and 2013 would repeat next year.
The commuting public, weary of Metro Rail Transit queues created by its anomalous maintenance deal, face hefty fare hikes. When the nation hosted Pope Francis, Aquino falsely accused Filipino bishops of silence about issues in the past government. And with utter imprudence, if not recklessness, he and his suspended police chief have reportedly mounted an ill-conceived operation outside the chain of command, costing life and limb among dozens of troopers.
So is God out to oust the President? In fact, having angered the Church, the poor, the commuters, and now the security forces, Aquino doesn’t need divine intervention to undermine his rule. He’s doing it all by himself.
For the nation’s sake, may God grant him the grace to see the light and mend his ways.