Philippine bishops call for vigilance amid ‘creeping dictatorship’

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Walk for Life in Manila's Quirino Grandstand. Image: Angie de Silva/Rappler

By Paterno Esmaquel II in Manila

Bishops have called for vigilance in the face of a “creeping dictatorship,” as the Philippines marked the 32nd anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution yesterday – February 25.

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said Filipinos should “celebrate” and also “guard” the gift of democracy, which Filipinos gained after toppling dictator Ferdinand Marcos on 25 February 1986.

READ MORE: EDSA: ‘Hand of God’ seen from the House of Sin

“One of the gifts that we have received as a nation is freedom and democracy. And we tend to take that for granted,” Bishop David said in an interview after the Walk for Life staged by Catholics a day earlier on Saturday.

Asked if he agrees there is a “creeping dictatorship” in the Philippines, Bishop David said: “It will creep on if we are not vigilant.”

He added: “We must guard our democracy. We must guard our freedom as a people, our civil liberties. We must not take that for granted.”

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Bishop David, one of the bishops most outspoken against drug war killings, is also vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, former president of the CBCP, challenged Filipinos to “regain” the mission of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Story about people
“The EDSA story is about people, not personalities. It is about nationalism, not personal gain. It is about the power of prayer, not about strategies and plots. It is God guiding his people,” Villegas explained.

“It is glorious but it entrusted us with a mission. Unfortunately we basked in the glory too long. The mission was laid aside. We can still regain it if we want,” the former CBCP president said.

The CBCP, in a January 29 statement after its twice-a-year meeting, had already voiced its fears of a “creeping dictatorship” in the face of “self-serving” motives for Charter Change.

Days later, President Rodrigo Duterte said he needed to be a dictator so that he could change the country.

In a separate interview with reporters on Saturday, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also called for vigilance among Filipinos.

Pabillo earlier said the Walk for Life, an event to oppose drug war killings, the death penalty, and other anti-life measures, can be linked to the 32nd anniversary of the People Power Revolution.

“Alam naman natin ano ang resulta ng dictatorship – pag-aabuso ng human rights, pag-aabuso ng buhay. Kaya nga ayaw din natin na maulit uli ‘yung dictatorship. Kaya dapat panindigan natin at maging vigilant tayo sa mga nangyayari ngayon,” Pabillo said.

(We know the results of dictatorship – abuses of human rights, abuses of life. That’s why we don’t want dictatorship to happen again. That’s why we need to stand up and remain vigilant about the things happening today.)

About 2000 Catholics attended the Walk for Life on Saturday, according to the Philippine National Police.

Tagle stresses ‘active non-violence’
In that event, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle presided over a mass and delivered a homily on treating people as gifts, not commodities.

Hours later, Tagle presided over another Mass at EDSA Shrine, this time to mark the feast of Our Lady of EDSA, or Mary, Queen of Peace.

“Peace is not only the absence of violence,” Tagle said in his mass at EDSA Shrine.

Citing Pope Saint John XXIII, Tagle said peace could only come from justice, truth, love, and respect. “Kapag ‘yan ay itinanim at lumago, ang aanihin natin, kapayapaan,” he said. (If that is planted and then it grows, we will sow peace.)

The cardinal also emphasised the need for “active non-violence,” a message he also made during the first Walk for Life held at Quirino Grandstand in February 2017.

“Kapag napoot ka, nainis ka, sa napopoot sa iyo, lumilinaw sa kanya, ‘Talagang kaaway ako. Pinatunayan niya na kami’y magkaaway.’ Eh ‘di tuloy ang away,” Tagle said.

(If you bear a grudge, if you get angry, at the person who bears a grudge against you, it becomes clear to him, “I am really an enemy. He proved that we are really enemies.” Then you will continue fighting.)

“Pero kapag siya, galit na galit sa iyo, poot na poot sa iyo, tapos pinakita mo, kaya mong mahalin, at pinagdarasal mo pa siya, nalilito na siya: ‘Ano ba ako? Kaaway ba ako o kaibigan?’ Sa kalituhan niya, hindi niya na alam kung lalaban siya o hindi.”

(But if he is really angry at you, really furious at you, then you show that you can love him, and you’re even praying for him, he becomes confused: “What am I? Am I an enemy or a friend?” In his confusion, he no longer knows if he will fight or not.)

“Unti-unti, siya ay nababago,” Tagle said. “Kasi paano siya lalaban, wala na siyang kaaway? Nabago siya ng pagmamahal.” (Slowly he is being changed. Because how will he fight when he no longer has an enemy? He is changed by love.)

Paterno Esmaquel II is a journalist with the independent website Rappler.

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