• Melo Acuna

The Church is Prophetic

Catholic church in the Philippines expresses alarm on latest events

MANILA – The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in its latest exhortation on the latest events in the Philippines, found it imperative to express its alarm over the rush in the approval of the Anti-Terrorism Act which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law last July 6,2020 despite more pressing concerns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP Permanent Office on Public Affairs, speaking over Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido (Virtual Edition) said the bishops were concerned with the continued detention of Senator Leila de Lima, the charges filed against several bishops and priests and now the Anti-Terror Law.

“The Catholic bishops simply reminded its faithful to remain vigilant and united, continuously help each other and pray for everyone including the country’s leaders,” Fr. Secillano said. He explained the latest pastoral letter was signed by CBCP Vice President and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David because Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles is still recovering from a recent stroke.

“Archbishop Valles was able to say Mass last July 10 and he requested Bishop David to lead the Conference momentarily while the Davao prelate is still recovering from illness,” Fr. Secillano said.

He downplayed claims by certain sectors that the Catholic church has been meddling in non-religious, non-spiritual issues. He said the Catholic church has recognized accomplishments by national and local government units.

He explained with the support of concerned Catholic faithful in the National Capital Region, through the Caritas Manila network, they were able to help people in need, even people from different faiths.

“We have not limited our activities in favor of Catholics alone, we have reached out to the others who are similarly situated,” Fr. Secillano said.

Asked about the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law, Fr. Secillano said many are concerned with its flaws and vagueness which may cause misinterpretation and result in the violation of basic Human Rights.

He explained the vagueness may also result in arbitrary and whimsical enforcement.

Sr. Nenet Daño, a community worker from the Religious of the Good Shepherd, said she organized residents in San Andres Bukid in Manila at the height of the Duterte administration’s relentless war on drugs. She said it appeared certain law enforcers have no longer valued human life and were prone to commit fatal mistakes.

Sr. Nenet said she consulted Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo about possible programs for the community and thus begun the formation and organization of ordinary citizens.

“We had engagements with two law offices who helped us filed for a Writ of Amparo with the Supreme Court of the Philippines,” she added. She explained men and women from religious congregations need to know what their respective communities need during these trying times.

Sino po ang mangunguna sa tao kung matatakot tayo?” she asked.

For Fr. Victorino Cueto, rector of the Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine in Baclaran said locally stranded individuals flocked to the church premises where they expressed hope to return to their provinces.

“Our community helped feed them through our benefactors as we coordinated with local officials from Sorsogon and Albay and the Visayas. We also touched base with national officials to facilitate the return of the LSIs to their home provinces,” Fr. Cueto said.

He said they try to help whenever they could. Asked if they simply sent LSIs to their hometowns, Fr. Cueto said they were strict with health protocols and the LSIs submitted themselves to quarantine protocols at their respective destinations.

Fr. Cueto said there is nothing wrong with helping people in need as it is an expression of one’s faith. He explained the separation of Church and State simply states the government will not recognize a state religion and neither should the government spend its resources to favor any specific religion.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza said the statement on the Anti-Terror Law should have come out earlier but he is thankful nonetheless it was released recently. He said the Catholic church has its prophetic role and would not buckle down to pressure especially when basic human rights are not respected.

“Regardless of what the people say, it is part of our responsibility to shed light, guidance and speak on matters affecting the common good, and basic Human Rights, especially when it infringes on the sacredness of human life,” Bishop Alminaza said.

Asked about his views on the controversial Anti-Terror Law, the 60-year-old bishop said coming from the faith perspective, regardless of what the government will do, whether they jail or kill church people, they will be responsible to God.

Bishop Alminaza said he will continue to dialogue with government leaders, be they military or police or local government officials as he looks forward to President Duterte’s State-Of-the-Nation Address where concrete plans and programs will be offered in order to respond to the problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Melo M. Acuña)

The Panelists: Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, CBCP Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, Sr. Nenet Dano, RGS, Fr. Victorino Cueto, CSsR and Bishop Gerry A, Alminaza. (Screen Grabs from Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido).



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