Pope Francis’ statement in Malacanang last January reverberated anew in Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
In his interview by the intrepid Tonette Orejas at the sidelines of the Obra Sagrada ecclesiastical art exhibit at SM City Clark last Saturday and published in Sunday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, the prelate renewed the Church’s call for the electorate not to vote for candidates tainted with corruption.
Quoted the Inquirer of Villegas: “Sinners can be forgiven but you cannot forgive the corrupt because they do not ask for forgiveness. They are not bothered by their actions. Let’s try to keep the Pope’s message in mind…
“If we say that corruption is one of our nation’s deepest scars and heaviest cross, and if candidates already have a history of corruption, let’s think twice, thrice, a hundred times before voting for them.”
Surveying the field of presumptive and prospective candidates from Villegas’ perspective, we are moved to ask: Who then can we vote for?
Aye, the archbishop’s sermon veritably takes off from last Sunday’s gospel centered on Matthew 19:24-25: “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard this, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’”
Continued the prelate: “To win is easy. The questions are, ‘Will this bring me close to God? Is this for the sake of the country?’”
Readily comes to mind here the epistle of Dolphy to his fellow actors and celebrities: “Hindi problema ang tumakbo. Hindi problema ang manalo. Kaso kapag nanalo ako ano ang gagawin ko? (Running is not a problem. Winning is not a problem. But if I win, what will I do?)”
The Catholic Church will not endorse any candidates, so stressed Villegas, defining the role of the Church thus: “The Church is not a political troublemaker. The Church is not a social troublemaker. The Church is a conscience troublemaker. The role of the Church is not to disturb society, not to disturb politics. The role of the Church is to disturb the conscience so that a disturbed conscience that is attuned to the norms of the Lord will be able to improve
society. Change begins with the transformation of conscience.”
The impact of the archbishop’s words on the candidates is too early to tell. Immediate though is the effect on Ms. Tonette: that “conscience troublemaker” bit most pronounced in his Inquirer story the next day. So I deem.
Headlined Lapid won’t challenge Pineda in Pampanga, the story implies some timidity, if not cowardice, on the part of Sen. Lito Lapid in avoiding a face-off with Gov. Lilia G. Pineda.
Even as it expressly states Lapid’s failings as governor – his son Mark’s too – in the quarry collection, to wit: P115.6 million in 11 years of their administrations, as against Among Ed Panlilio’s P611.1 million in his three years at the post, and Pineda’s P799.2 million in only her first term. Still eight months to the end of her second term, the Nanay has already turned in some P1.6 billion from Pinatubo’s vomit.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see corruption and smell graft in the Lapids’ numbers. Still, so kind of Ms. Tonette to skip mention of Lapid’s distinction, er, infamy, of being the only Pampanga governor ever to have been suspended on graft and corruption charges rising out of the quarry scam. That was in 1999.
As to the Lapid son, I can only wonder how Liberal Party-Pampanga chair Among Ed took Mark’s being official senatorial bet of LP’s Daang Matuwid Coalition. Given that the once-Reverend Governor initiated graft charges against his predecessor precisely for the incredibly low quarry collections.
Of Lapid’s Senate stay, Ms. Tonette’s story carries the decision of the Ombudsman recommending the filing of a graft case against him in connection with the overpricing of P5- million worth of fertilizers, pointing out that “The money came from a P728-million fertilizer project that turned out to be a scam during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
Stressing: “This was the eighth graft case filed in the Ombudsman against Lapid since 1995 and the second case to reach the Sandiganbayan.”
No tumbling for the Bida out of the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF web. Reported Ms. Tonette:
“Whistle-blower Benhur Luy had said his files contained entries for Lapid’s cash advances worth P1,132,500 on Dec. 20, 2002; March 23, 2003; and May 7, 2003.”
Cited too: “An Inquirer report in July 2013 said P20 million from Lapid’s Priority Development Assistance Fund also went to the towns of Teresa, Baras and Pililla in Rizal province.”
All in the Lapid family now, with wife Marissa, serving three years of probation for cash smuggling and reporting violations in the United States. “The sentence came 15 months after the Department of Homeland Security found $40,000 more in her luggage when she entered Nevada in November 2011.”
In effect, Ms. Tonette’s story makes both bold strokes and fine lines on the portraiture of the candidate Archbishop Villegas warned the electorate against.
Still, as I have been repeating in every election: E mu tatasan ing camulalan da ring Capampangan.