Thursday, 02 August 2018 08:33

Bishop Pabillo on Federalism and Charter Change: July Gandang Gabi Vicariate Formation Night

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila held a talk Friday night, July 27, 2018, at the Immaculate Conception Parish Church, Tayuman, Tondo, Manila, during the monthly Gandang Gabi Vicariate Formation Night, of the Vicariate of Espiritu Santo.

Tackling “Federalism and Charter Change,” Bishop Pabillo meticulously and in full detail laid bare the dangerous provisions and repercussions of the proposed charter change and the transitioning to the federal form of government. 

His talk, which lasted for almost two hours, was taken from various statements of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and similar presentations from lawyers Neri Javier Colmenares, of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and Christian Monsod, a constitutionalist. With solid arguments and statistics, Bishop Pabillo laid the groundwork for a more inquisitive and socially aware Catholic community urging everyone to participate in the discussion, explore the issue, and proclaim their faith.

Photo by Jolo V. de Jesus

Good Christians, Good Citizens

“We cannot be good Christians, without being good citizens,” opened Bishop Pabillo, as if to answer the silent question in the audience: “Why should we care about the politics in our country?” Expounding on this premise, he then goes on to explain how one becomes a good citizen. According to Bishop Pabillo, “a good citizen now is one who is involved,” especially so because our form of government is participative-democratic. 

“Ang mabuting mamamayan ay dapat isang taong nakiki-alam, nakikisangkot, nakikiisa sa ating pamahalaan,” said Pabillo. Not to be involved in putting a stop to injustice and untruth, we are sinning by omission, and in essence, participants in the propagation of said injustice and untruth. The time for asking whether or not we as Christians should be involved has long gone. The question that remains is how should we be involved. He provided a method consisting of three parts through which Christians can get involved.

First, we should see, that is we should know and analyze the facts. In today’s age of fake news, we should have the discernment to separate false from reality, and from the verified truths identify the appropriate action. By observing our environment, we stay deeply rooted in our present realities. 

Next, we should judge said reality not through the lens of a businessman, politician, security officer or any other lens, but through the lens of a faithful. Our standard should not be the principles of the world but of our faith. In this aspect, the Holy Mother Church, with its teachings should serve as our guide.

And lastly, seeing and judging are not enough, as said earlier, it is the time to act. Action, according to Bishop Pabillo, is rooted on a decision. Given all what you have seen, and through your judgment, what have you decided to do? He also emphasized the Church’s need to network with others, as acting for the society is a societal act.

CBCP as a Guiding Voice

According to Bishop Pabillo, the CBCP, sensing the push for charter change, published a pastoral letter entitled: “CBCP Pastoral Guidelines for Discerning the Moral Dimension of the Present-Day Moves for Charter Change: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ (2 Cor. 3:17),” published January this year. Signed by CBCP President, Romulo G. Valles, Archbishop of Davao, the bishop reiterates their view, which they hold up to now, that “The move for Charter Change is and has been, the proposed vehicle to adopt Federalism as a new form of government.”

The letter is the fifth in a series of pastoral guidelines released by the CBCP tackling charter change, dating back to previous administrations as far back as Fidel V. Ramos, in his attempt for charter change he termed as CONCORD. 

The CBCP emphasized the careful crafting of the constitution as the “fundamental law of the land” has been the fruit of years of dictatorship and widespread participation from the people. According to Bishop Pabillo, similar to the partage experienced in Africa, our experience as a nation, undergoing twenty-one years of dictatorship has shaped our constitution into the progressive law it is known the world over today. As such, revising it “requires widespread peoples’ participation and consultation, a unity of vision, transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate”—factors the bishops believe the current political and social environment does not have.

Why Are We Suspicious?

Given these guiding words from the bishops, Bishop Pabillo further demonstrates why Christians should be suspicious of the present push for Charter Change. Bishop Pabillo enumerates several reasons why a healthy questioning of the motives for Charter Change is warranted.

Because of the new constitution, the president is granted new and formidable powers, which begs the question: Is Charter Change being pushed solely for the self-serving provisions that can be included in it? As Bishop Pabillo takes apart, one by one, all the changes made to the 1987 Constitution by lawmakers, it slowly becomes more and more evident safeguards to human rights, and social justice present in the current constitution are being removed or changed to fit their nefarious intention. From fisher-folks not being able to fish peacefully in their piece of sea or lake, to indigenous people being deprived of their ancestral lands, the proposed iteration of the constitution are stories too harrowing, if not too sad, to tell.

With the people’s ignorance of our current constitution, it is a small wonder why the prospect of federalism and charter change seems enticing. As Bishop Pabillo states during the talk, the Filipino people have no idea of the beauty and importance of the provisions in the Constitution, and yet these are all being taken away right from under their noses.

Federalism as a Façade

As the night wore on, so was the façade that was federalism was being torn down by Bishop Pabillo. With statistics showing that the Duterte Administration’s promise of devolving power and resources from the “Imperial Manila” to the Visayas and Mindanao is proven false as the Philippine Association for Government Budget Administration, Inc. (PAGBA) reports show increased budget allocation for NCR during the Duterte Administration compared with the Aquino administration.

Bishop Pabillo challenges everyone to take action! Echoing his opening salvo, he invites everyone not to cower and succumb in fear against the culture of violence that is the Duterte legacy. (Jose Lorenzo V. de Jesus /  Social Communications Minister, Immaculate Conception Parish)


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