MANILA – Pope Francis, the third head of the Catholic Church to visit the Philippines, issued a strong political statement right inside the halls of Malacanang, Jan. 16.
As President Benigno Aquino III and his cabinet members looked on, the pontiff said it is “necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.”
The Aquino administration has been criticized for corruption issues, such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the pork barrel system.
The Pope, who declared he wanted a Church of the poor and for the poor, called on Philippine government officials “to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.”
Even as the Supreme Court declared acts under DAP as unconstitutional, the 2015 national budget is replete with lump sum allocations.
For the poor
Pope Francis noted that the bishops of the Philippines have asked that this year be set aside as the “Year of the Poor.” “The great biblical tradition enjoins on all peoples the duty to hear the voice of the poor,” he said.
He said further, “It bids us to break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities. Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart.”
The Pope reiterated that his visit is “meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda.”
He expressed admiration for the “heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others.”
The Pope also made special mention of the Filipinos of the diaspora whose contributions are “oft-neglected.”
He also spoke about peace in Mindanao, hoping that talks would result in “just solutions” and “respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”
Student groups found inspiration in the Pope’s message.
Einstein Recedes, spokesman of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) lauded and thanked Pope Francis “for speaking truth to power.”
“The Pope’s valiant move to speak to the almost-inexistent conscience of the top officials of our nation endears us even more to him. President Aquino and his Cabinet should listen and be humbled,” Recedes said.
Victor Villanueva, leader of the anti-pork barrel youth group Youth Act Now, said mthe Pope’s strong words against corruption is a“testament to how the Pope truly knows the ills of Philippine society.”
Villanueva said the president, his secretaries and all the proponents and implementers of DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) “should have melted in their seats.”
“The Pope is right, these officials, who even had the gall to kiss the Fisherman’s Ring, are one of the reasons why immediate relief and basic services are being deprived from the poorest of the poor,” Villanueva said.
Meanwhile, Anakbayan described Aquino’s speech in Malacanang as “a total disappointment and an embarrassment for the whole nation.”
Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairman, said the President’s welcome speech to the Pope, is “Aquino-Cojuangco clan-centered.”
“While the Pope minced no words to condemn what he describes as ‘scandalous’ inequality in the country, all the President had to offer were mere trifles with the clergy. While the Pope’s speech overflows with compassion to the poor, our president spoke about his baldness,” Crisostomo said. (bulatlat.com)
Pope Francis waves to the crowd as his mobile leaves Malacanang palace. (Photo by Fred Dabu/ Bulatlat.com)
Workers welcome Pope Francis with a call against corruption and greed. (Photo by Fred Dabu / Bulatlat.com)