What, if any, is the Christian perspective on the current P10-billion pork barrel scandal allegedly involving opposition senators as well as House representatives? The quick stock answer is that kickbacks on congressional development projects violate the Seventh Commandment against stealing, a sin made even worse by the harm done to poor beneficiaries who are denied badly needed goods and services due to graft.
But Jesus Christ’s preaching invariably went beyond the simple application of Mosaic law and morals. When asked whether a woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death as Moses had decreed, the Lord told the crowd of men already holding rocks: “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.” Plainly, God judges human affairs differently than humans do.
So in the ongoing headline stories about the National Bureau of Investigation probe of a reported syndicate of dubious non-government organizations, the followers of Jesus would at least not be so quick to judge and jail the accused. And Christians who know their Gospels should also show a bit of the Savior’s wariness over the motives of those in authority hurling accusations and posing questions. Too often, they have ulterior political agenda to get Jesus in trouble with the Roman rulers or the Jewish people.
Could there be an agenda among the authorities and their allies in politics and media driving the NBI inquiry into pseudo-NGOs? While Filipinos hope there isn’t, the politically informed cannot but wonder why only opposition senators are implicated in the alleged scams. And those with long memories may also ask what’s happening to cases in the Sandiganbayan court against such administration worthies as Environment Adviser Neric Acosta, Election Commissioner Grace Padaca, and House of Representatives lead impeachment prosecutor Neil Tupas Jr. and his father.
The pork barrel news timing may also raise questions. The front-page expose sweeps into oblivion recent reports of a Transparency International survey in which nearly two-thirds of respondents felt that corruption stayed the same or got worse under President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Also off the leading print and broadcast media are reports of attempted influence peddling over a commuter train contract allegedly by a group that included a sister and a brother-in-law of the President.
So Christians well versed in Jesus’s words and ways would be sure to avoid swift condemnation and unquestioning acceptance of official assertions. And those attentive to last Sunday’s mass reading and homily on the Good Samaritan may also look beyond the accusatory finger-pointing and zero in on what really matters to the Lord.
In explaining the two greatest commandments, He did not call for grand campaigns to uncover sleaze and punish grafters. Rather, Christ stressed loving God above all, and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Especially the unfortunate.
Hence, in addressing the longstanding and widespread problem of pork barrel kickbacks, which is never a monopoly of any one political faction, devout believers true to the evangelical tenets must necessarily give highest priority and attention to the plight of the poor and powerless, rather than the culpability of the rich and powerful.
What must be done to ensure that the needy get the fullness of assistance and empowerment for them to achieve dignity, productivity, freedom and full human development? That is the primary question.
Sure, grafters should be exposed and punished, but what seems far more necessary and effective in helping the poor and enforcing honesty is the scrapping or overhaul of the pork barrel system and its utter lack of real accountability. Not the politically driven investigation of opponents and, worse, the exploitation of fund releases to pressure legislators toward the administration line.
Ditto with the reported resignation of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David over anomalies in his bureau. Good to see accountability at the top of one agency, but if there is no change in the abusive procedures that make sleaze easy or unavoidable, it will only continue under the next chief. Just see what has happened in the two years since the leadership change at the Bureau of Customs.
Much as the Christian seeking the betterment of the less fortunate would push for structural revamp, he or she also knows that no system change will work if there is no inner reform. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” says the Lord. Plainly, the path to establishing heaven’s justice and rule on earth for the happiness of all is the divine humanity as personified and lived by the Son of God.
And the core and epitome of Christ’s being is the Cross. Those who mean to be Christians “must take up his cross and follow Me.” No ifs, buts or maybes. No grand philosophies or ideologies. No white papers and fundamental laws. Just the unequivocal example of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity scourged and thorned, stripped and nailed, speared and buried for the salvation of the world.
So in the ups and downs of political controversies and conflicts, the Christian’s constant standard for goodness and right is the Cross. If one truly wishes to serve the Lord and the least of His brethren, then one must be wary of Porsche sportscars and BMW SUVs, monthly junkets and lofty titles, fawning media and flattering staff, among other trappings of power and wealth.
No, the Christian knows that advancing goodness and right and the welfare of one’s neighbor, the path forward must needs go toward Golgotha, marked with frustration, recrimination, opposition, and obstruction, not to mention failure, defeat and even death, with no illusions about instant redemption in the change of a leader or the unmasking of one dishonest crew. So it will be with the latest twist in the Tuwid na Daan.
Let there be cheering if sleaze truly bites the dust. But even in these triumphs, the Christian, in carrying the cross behind Jesus, knows that there will always be pain, failure, powerlessness, and sacrifice in the struggle for justice, truth, peace and charity; never comfortable with the way things are, even in the midst of good’s victories; always striving for a better tomorrow, even a seemingly impossible one. So help us God.