Corruption is the one nationwide scourge impacting major tenets and goals of Christianity in the Philippines. Hence, it is respectfully proposed that fighting graft be the leading social issue for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Plenary held yesterday to Monday. Here are big reasons why:
First, sleaze undermines honesty, justice and integrity, which Christianity espouses as reflections of God’s truth and righteousness. Grafters employing connections, bribes and favors subvert the rule of law for personal gain, getting around the DOs and DON’Ts everyone should follow.
If what’s right and just isn’t universally enforced, as the CBCP lamented in deploring “selective prosecution” of pork barrel anomalies, then the Kingdom of God is undermined. Rather than divine justice for all, self-serving influence peddling reigns.
Second, as Pope Francis repeatedly admonishes, corruption robs the poor of resources they need. Or worse: as the horrible Metro Rail Transit maintenance contract demonstrates, anomalies hurt ordinary folk, including penny-pinching workers and students, with immense pains and even life-threatening perils.
The latest headline-making scheme exploiting and endangering the needy are the fraudulent claims for some P2 billion in Philhealth funding purportedly for medical treatment of the indigent.
As victims told senators, unscrupulous clinics and doctors prescribed and performed eye operations on low-income patients covered by Philhealth, which may not have been necessary and were done with substandard and unsanitary facilities. The sad results: infections, vision impairment and even blindness.
Plainly, corruption leads to un-Christian rule, which disadvantage “the least of your brethren,” with whom Christ identified Himself, and favor the moneyed and influential. In this Year of the Poor, fighting graft has to be a centerpiece intiative in making the Church’s preferential option for the poor more widely realized and felt in the nation.
Graft wrecks morality, harmony and ecology
Third, graft weakens law enforcement and enables crime, vice, abuse, and immorality to take root and take over swathes of the country. Then drugs proliferate and destroy lives, prostitution and gambling flourish and break up families, petty thieves prey on defenseless folk, and human traffickers turn innocents into sex slaves and narcotics mules. Those resisting are maimed or murdered.
If crime syndicates spawning these enormities are to be stopped, the criminal justice system, from police and detectives to prosecutors and judges, must be rid of corruption. Otherwise, these scourges will keep eroding law and order, public morals, and family life, despite all the priestly preaching and Christian charity.
Fourth, corruption undermines peace and harmony in society, core elements of the Kingdom of God on earth. In the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, these goals are incorporated into the tenets of solidarity and subsidiarity.
The former trait calls for cooperation and unity for the common good, and compassion for one another. And under subsidiarity, the dignity, rights and welfare of individuals and small groups are safeguarded and advanced, not sacrificed for the many.
Self-serving corruption, however, spawns ruthless competition for connections and clout, bereft of harmony and collaboration, with no concern for the poor and powerless who lose out in the scramble for advantage and gain.
In sum, sleaze kills Christian charity, solidarity, and concern for every human being. Nowhere is this lamentable state more dishearteningly depicted than in the wholesale bribery of lawmakers to railroad legislation, setting aside the national good as well as the interests and even the lives of the weak and helpless, including the unborn.
Fifth, corruption has also allowed the wanton despoilation of nature, another silent victim like aborted children, as the Holy Father’s new encyclical, Laudato Si, decried. Among several passages lamenting how graft blocks environmental protection, Pope Francis declared:
“Because the enforcement of laws is at times inadequate due to corruption, public pressure has to be exerted in order to bring about decisive political action. Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.”
In protecting the planet entrusted by God for the benefit of all creatures, past, present and future, corruption is as much the enemy as pollution and avaricious exploitation.
Mammon dethrones God
The last reason for the CBCP to give top priority to anti-corruption strikes at the very core of what being Christian is all about. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained in his writings over the decades, every believer is called to evangelize the world — himself, his loved ones, his fellowmen, and the community, institutions, and society he belongs to.
Jesus Christ and His Gospel must be imparted to all, so that everyone shall have the chance to respond to God’s Word and embrace His Way, His Truth and His Life. And among the biggest obstacles to this call to faith, hope and charity is the public’s shrugging acceptance of graft.
When man sees a pernicious sin like corruption as something to be tolerated or even celebrated, then clearly, his conscience — the voice of God within him — has been stilled, if not supplanted by the devil’s unscrupulous promptings. And most tragically, countless Filipinos have learned to accept corruption as normal and necessary.
Thus, we go to mass and receive communion, then proceed to take or pay bribes, without even a pinprick of guilt. What’s worse, this perverted ethics is passed on to family, friends, and populace. In effect, the Kingdom of God ends where personal expediency and material wishes begin.
Beloved Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, we must restore the revulsion toward graft, which so many of the faithful have lost, dethroning God and establishing the rule of mammon in our hearts. Let a resolute nationwide battle against corruption in our society and within our souls be a paramount goal for the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. So help us God.