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Duterte’s quarrel with the church

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok January 23,2017 - 11:06 PM



A day after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte denounced the Catholic Church for criticizing extrajudicial killings related to the antidrugs war, Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella suggested that church leaders hold a dialogue with the President to open possible avenues for cooperation.

The blistering attack delivered Wednesday last week was vintage Digong. He chided priests for their luxurious lifestyle, sexual abuses and for turning a blind eye on widespread poverty around them.

I don’t know if church echelon, especially those who received luxury cars from Pagcor during the time of former Pres. Gloria Arroyo whom the President alluded to in his speech has issued a rejoinder, but the laity is generally silent on the issue. Not that they applaud Digong’s tirades or agree to his policies, but I think they know of priests who fit the President’s description of a corrupt and immoral pastor of the church.

The President’s attacks come close to Pope Francis’ anguish each time he talks about clericalism and careerism in the church, about priests who consider their calling as a profession and who are so immersed in worldly affairs that you seldom find them in the affairs of ordinary people.

Quarreling with those who disagree with state policies is one thing, but focusing on the sins of the institution is another. The church is not only composed of bad priests, it is also composed of good men and women. The sinners make up the general membership but one also finds saints in there.

The same is true with government institutions.

The most maligned agency nowadays is the Philippine National Police owing to the kidnapping and subsequent killing of a Korean executive by police operatives who committed the dastardly act inside the police headquarters in Camp Crame.

Because PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa is perceived to be ineffective in dealing with rouge cops, some people want him to step down.

This is a legitimate stance espoused by Pres. Digong’s chief Congress ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

By chiding Bato, Speaker Alvarez is calling the PNP chief to work harder and be more watchful of the criminal syndicate seemingly embedded in the police agency.

There are nuances to be had in Alvarez’s position. Perhaps he is saying that General Bato has to wean himself from his hillbilly orientation if he has to catch the crooks in uniform, mostly city cops who use their badges to extort, maim and kill. Despite the harsh tone, the message is not meant to shame

Bato but to tell him that he needs to spend more time at work. Fraternal correction always ends up in achieving the common good.

* * *

The suggestion that President Digong holds a dialogue with top echelon of the Catholic Church is on track and may yet become a reality faster than we think.

I gathered this from Fr. Edwin C. Bacaltos, a member of the Redemptorist community now assigned in Tacloban City. Fr. Edwin, who is a friend of mine, recently posted in his FB page plenty of pictures taken during a high school class reunion together with President Duterte, taken in Marco Polo Davao last January 21.

Fr. Edwin and Digong both finished secondary education in the Ateneo de Davao and graduated in 1961. Another notable classmate is Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, a true-blue Davaoeno.

Fr. Edwin told this corner that in a speech before former high school classmates, President Duterte mentioned that he will soon meet with leaders of the Catholic Church to seek their cooperation in the battle against graft and corruption. Fr. Edwin and the President are going to meet tomorrow in Cebu City before flying to Tacloban City. The former will go with the presidential entourage to Tacloban City to inspect government housing projects for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

I’m feeling positive about this development because I think Fr. Edwin Bacaltos has the ear of the President. They are not only former high school buddies but also co-workers in addressing the plight of ordinary people.

According to Fr. Edwin, when he was assigned in the Davao in the 1990s, he brought the concerns of his parishioners to then Davao City Mayor Duterte who acted on all of them.

Since President Digong is asking what the church has done to help drug dependents, I told Fr. Edwin that perhaps he’d be able to invite Digong to meet the men and women behind the drug rehabilitation program that’s earning rave reviews among drug rehab professionals.

Surrender to God or SuGod for short is a 10-day rehabilitation and renewal program led by Lito and Fe Barino assisted by program director Rene Francisco. It’s one of two drug rehab and recovery programs accredited by the Archdiocese of Cebu, the other being Lahat Bangon or Labang led by Fr. Carmelo Diola.

My beef in this article is this: The church as an institution with all its warts and defects has been a source of good for the country for more than four centuries. It will do President Duterte a lot of good if he will harness the resources that the institution has to offer, including criticism tendered with good intentions.

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TAGS: Catholic, church, Duterte, faith, Pope Francis, President, President Rodrigo Dutere, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, religious, state

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