Fr. Soc’s political pastoral letter

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


I read and reread the pastoral letter written by Archbishop Socrates Villegas on May 24, and I could not find a single line that preached Jesus’ discipleship. The letter even ignored Mark 12:17:Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ And they were amazed at him.”

Then, how else can anyone read his closing statement: “Hindi ba sobra na? Hindi pa ba tayo maninindigan? Kung hindi ngayon kailan pa? Turn to Mary Help of Christians and let her send you forth in battle for her Son. Mag-isip. Manalangin. Kumilos nang sama-sama.”?

If it isn’t a call to people power duplicating its 1986 edition, I don’t know what is.

In sharp contrast, an excerpt from Pope Francis’ book “Joy of the Gospel” (contributed by Jess de la Fuente, a fellow Jesuit-schooled and a well-respected business leader) speaks of how Jesus’ disciples should carry on.

“100. Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. But if they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy, and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?”

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FR. SOC AS A POLITICO. There’s no denying that the points Fr. Soc raised in his pastoral letter are valid serious concerns by others, particularly those critical of the Duterte administration.

Foremost, that Mr. Duterte has a foul mouth is a fact that he has not denied.

“The smoke of graft and corruption keeps going with no one to snuff out the fire from where the smoke comes. Politicians are abundant while statesmen have gone scarce. Constitutional rights are violated and legal processes are ignored.” Fr. Soc wrote.

Yet, these are no different from the incessant and already trite claims of Senators Sonny Trillanes, Risa Hontiveros and Bam Aquino; Congs. Gary Alejano and Edcel Lagman, and recently ex CJ Lourdes Sereno. But none have dared call for people power against the Duterte government.

But here comes Fr. Soc who dares say “Mag-isip. Manalangin. Kumilos nang sama-sama.” Does he believe for one moment that if he makes the call like a politician, the response will be a resounding “yes”? His friends among the rabid anti-Du30 politicos know too well that they could be charged for sedition, worse, they will not get pubic support, if they did.

So was Fr. Soc simply baiting government to arrest him so he can claim to be a martyr? Tsk-tsk. Wrong cause, wrong timing, misplaced hopes.

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POPE FRANCIS’ PRAYER? So I wrote an appeal to Fr. Soc in my FB account to be the religious, not political, leader that his flock needs. Somehow, that appeal prompted our amiable friend, the former PNP chief Art Lomibao to leave a comment: “Ermin, your appeal to Archbishop Soc sounded like a prayer from Pope Francis!!! So I just made some changes and this is how I think it would look like, coming from the Holy Father:

“I call upon our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, for a month of national prayer to end divisiveness and hatred in their country, to find common noble purpose to make them proud as a nation and to have faith in God’s plan for them.

“I pray to Mama Mary for her help and intercession that they may be more tolerant and forgiving of each other as I enjoin all our Filipino brothers and sisters to pray for the enlightenment of their religious, political, civic and professional leaders that they may all lead them to a better life, that they may learn to agree to disagree respectfully, and to be stronger in their faith, whether as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.

“Mary Help of Christians, pray for them.”

Indeed, I sure wish Pope Francis could show Fr. Soc how he should pray instead. (Thanks Art!).

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SOTTO’S FIRST MISSION. I am heartened by Senate President Tito Sotto’s declaration that he will pursue the passage of his bill seeking the reimposition of the death penalty on high level drug trafficking. (Note that it is a position that is directly opposed this time to the position of the Catholic Church which was his closest ally in his campaign vs. the RH Law.) So, to those who had thought he was the church’s lackey, they are gravely mistaken. I am.

His position and commitment, I believe, was deepened by his appointment as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board in 2008. (He was later succeeded by Sec. Bebot Villar, our former columnist.)

Like the passage of the national ID system after more than a decade of getting it passed by Sen. Ping Lacson, the time for Sotto’s bill seeking the reimposition of death penalty has come.

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PH AS HAVEN FOR DRUG LORDS. The Philippines is the only country among ASEAN member nations that refuses to consider drug trafficking as a heinous crime. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. impose the death penalty for drug trafficking. African states impose capital punishment as well.

So wonder no more why major and notorious drug traffickers across the globe consider Philippines as a haven and an ideal transshipment point for illegal drugs.

Even the convicted and jailed drug lords for life continue to operate their drug network with impunity because they know that the worse that can happen to them is to be meted another life sentence. The longer the jail sentence, the better. For where else can they think of becoming richer and more influential from their drug deals than from being inside Bilibid under the watchful eyes of our jailers who are mandated to protect their lives while inside their cells?

In this country, being hauled to jail for life is no deterrent to drug lords and pushers. Drug dealing is so lucrative that it actually pays. One can continue to sell drugs inside our jails with protection of corrupt jailers and prosecutors to boot.

And if they are killed for protecting their trade, they promptly get justice by being labeled as “helpless” victims of extra judicial killings by “abusive” law enforcement operatives.

In the same vein, let it not be said that death penalty is not a deterrent. The contrary has been proven to be true by the war on drugs. The threat of Mr. Duterte that drug dealers face imminent death if they resist arrest violently, resulted in the mass surrender of over a million drug lords, dealers and users overnight. It was the fear of being caught and killed that made them come forward. If Mr. Duterte had not threatened death when he launched his war on drugs, the drug lords and pushers would not have taken him seriously. They knew too well that the prospect of being killed by law enforcers, or vigilantes or by competitors, became all too real.

Sure, nobody disagrees that the death penalty cannot ever completely stop drug trafficking but it not only will saves thousand of present and would be drug dealers from imminent death but millions of families from the clutches of drug syndicates.

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OUR CONDOLENCES. Our sincerest condolence to our Manay Gina de Venecia over the passing of his brother, Pepito Vera Perez, after 5 years of difficult living as a result of series of strokes. Her brother’s wake is at the Arlington Memorial in Quezon City, with the interment set for June 2. We request our pious readers to pray for the repose of Pepito’s soul. Baby boomers will remember that Pepito was once a movie star under the Sampaguita Pictures brand.

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