SCRAPPING the “pork barrel” system is not enough to end the culture of corruption that has become so pervasive that it has taken root, according to Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado.
In his pastoral statement titled “Stewardship and Christian Witness,” the archbishop said abolishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork” of lawmakers and the discretionary fund of the President will not be enough to stamp out corruption and patronage politics in the government. What is needed, he noted, is a change of the political landscape and a “radical rethinking and reform of systems and procedures in government.”
He said that the pork barrel funds “have fallen prey to a system gravely lacking in transparency and accountability, and appallingly steeped in corruption.”
“The abolition will not once and for all solve the problem of corruption. The system of corruption needs to be uprooted. The baneful political culture needs to be converted Investigation of the pork barrel scam and prosecution of and restitution from errant officials and their accomplices should follow,” Salgado said.
The bishop warned the government not to “rename or repackage the same corrupted system.”
He also called on the people to examine themselves and assess how they contributed to the spread of corruption or other questionable practices in their community. The bishop said political corruption is a serious deformity to a democratic system as it “rejects moral norms and undermines social justice.”
“While we look at the flaws of our political culture, government, and some politicians, let us also look at ourselves, as individual Christians, as laity, religious, priests and bishops, and as the Church and examine to how we have contributed to the perpetration of flawed political systems, of vicious cycles of corruption and exploitation, by our apathy, complacency, and even complicity,” Salgado said.
The prelate advised his flock not to solicit donations from politicians, prepare parish financial reports honestly and promptly, and be responsible and accountable stewards
of the temporal goods of the Church.
He noted the need for moral education with emphasis on Filipino values and culture as well as the social teachings of the Church to facilitate “political” renewal.
“Let us be people of faith. Let us seek and remain in God. Let us seek the values of God, and glory in the virtues. Let us be untiring in our proclamation of Truth, and in our pursuit of righteousness,” Salgado said.
He supported calls for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, saying such law will help promote “integrity, transparency, and accountability in the political order.”
“We, as citizens, have the right, and indeed obligation to hold the government and its people accountable. It is our prerogative, right and duty to demand that our government, its systems and arms, as well as its officials and employees serve the people,” he said.
On Friday, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that the “pork barrel” anomaly not only shows the greed of some officials and private citizens but the breakdown of the country’s moral fiber.
In his letter to the clergy, the incoming president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines (CBCP) pointed out that the “pork” issue is not just about the “shameless corruption of a growing number of greedy officials in a system that has become corruption friendly, but the breakdown of morality.”
“The issue is the breakdown of our moral fiber as a Christian nation. The issue could be the diminishing relevance and eroding credibility of moral shepherds,” Villegas added in the letter that he released to celebrate his 12th anniversary as a bishop.
He laid part of the blame on priests whom he described as “pastors of the status quo.”
Villegas, who will assume the CBCP post in December, said that rejection of the politics of patronage and calls to investigate and punish those who plunder public money will not stop corruption unless the people regain their fear of God and make morality and ethics as the foundation of their actions.
“We cannot afford to be known as a Church of denunciations and prohibitions. As we denounce evil and sin, we must in the same breath propose imitating Christ as the only alternative to our social ills,” he said.
“Let the national news of the recent weeks about extensive corruption in governance make us more humble as moral guides and more zealous as lighthouses of morality in the midst of the storms besetting our boat,” the bishop said, lamenting that many priests are merely “maintaining” the Church.
“This cannot continue. We cannot be swivel chair pastors,” Villegas said. “We must get out to the barangays and public schools, visit the charity wards of hospitals, teach catechism again, visit homes again—make a ‘mess’ in society.”
The archbishop also acknowledged the Church’s failure to “evangelize” effectively and impose morality.
“The problem is not priest shortage but zeal shortage,” he said. “We brother priests have failed to inspire our people to imitate Christ. We have failed to lead them to intimacy with him.”
“Our youth complain about lifeless and uninspiring liturgies. How can we set their hearts on fire if we ourselves are not afire for God? We must prepare our homilies,” he said.
“We have taught the Christian doctrines but we have failed to connect them to life. We know the faith but we do not live it,” he added.