We are a people of dialogue. As such we have the moral obligation to search for the truth in freedom, the truth about God, about life, about ourselves, our country, our society, our world and the events around us.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Message for Advent 2005

Restoring the Filipino nation with Jesus in our hearts

Advent is upon us. With this Sunday begins a season of waiting for the birth of our Savior. Far from being a period of refreshing memories of Christmases past, Advent gently reminds us that God took flesh in Jesus Christ through Mary and came to live among us humans on earth. More than just being a fact of history that is celebrated year after year, His birth is a way of salvation meant to realize God’s dream for us and the world.

Our Savior was born in the dark of night. Now, the season of waiting, we Filipinos also wait in the dark, so to speak. In this darkness, we hear strange noises and loud voices saying that our country’s situation is hopeless. We hear that we are led by blind leaders; that we are crippled by dysfunctional politics; that we are held in bondage by our materialism; that we are imprisoned in ignorance and poverty; that we are rendered Godless by our immorality. We are told that we are a hopeless case.

But are we, really? What are we called Christians for if we will accept this hopelessness without question?

Why do we light a parol, “the Star of Hope” in our homes if this can not enkindle in our hearts the hope that the coming of the Savior brings? If the star led the three hopeful wise men through the dark desert to the Child Jesus in the manger; may not our parol make us also look forward and move forward to a future made luminous by the presence of Jesus in our midst?

During Simbang Gabi, why do we wake up at dawn and brave the chill to go and hear Mass if not to fuse memory and hope in preparation for His birth? Why do we celebrate His birth if this does not lead us to desire and welcome His birth in our hearts as well?

In Advent, waiting is also welcoming. We wait and welcome God’s offer of salvation to us by preparing a room for our Savior in our hearts where the change from darkness to light begins. Jesus born and alive in our hearts is what will transform us into a people of light. Enlightened by Jesus Christ we will reconcile with God and neighbor, restore peace and order in our communities, and rebuild a nation that is free of corruption and Godlessness.

We hold on to hope, sustained by St. Paul’s words to the Colossians: “God willed to make known to them the riches and even the glory that His mysterious plan reserved for the pagan nations: Christ in you and the hope of God’s glory.” (Col. 1:27)

May Mary, a woman of hope, be our model and inspiration as we wait to welcome the arrival of Jesus our Savior in our land!

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
27 November 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How far can we go with Jesus?

It is easy to love those who are lovable, those who love us, or those who are “on our side”.
One does not have to believe or follow Jesus to be able to do that. But to love those who do not care about us, those we consider our enemy, is not an easy thing to do. One question we Filipinos might as well ask ourselves in these trying times for our country is: How far can we go with Jesus in loving for the sake of our country? Are we willing to turn the other cheek. so to speak, to love those we consider beneath us in the hope of evangelizing our fellow Filipinos?
In September, 2004, I issued a new method of evangelization. I called it “Alay Gobyerno Alay Filipino”.

As the title indicates, one can help every Filipino, especially the majority—the poor—by helping the government which at the time was experiencing fiscal crisis. The help I was proposing was a massive, nationwide self-sacrifice available to and attainable by everyone—rich and poor alike. It was a call to self-sacrifice, and I was referring to any self-sacrifice that entails pain and suffering. The objects of the self-sacrifice were the corrupt people in government so that they would be converted, changed, and transformed. It was my fervent hope that once transformed they would so run the government responsibly and effectively as to eradicate the biggest problem of the country—poverty.

How should this self-sacrifice be carried out so as to be effective? I proposed—and I was speaking to Catholic Christians—that the self-sacrifice be offered together with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, as taught by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1, verse 24. Suffering, according to Paul, acquires salvific value when joined to the sufferings of Christ.
I gave the example of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Carmelite saint, who never left the monastery, offered her sufferings and pains for the intentions and needs of specific missionaries in Vietnam who later confirmed the positive effects of the nun’s prayer accompanied by self-sacrifice. Likewise, Pope John XXIII asked certain sick and bedridden people in Europe to offer their suffering and pain for the success of the Second Vatican Council which—four decades later—continues to be seen as a shining proof of the vitality and dynamism of the Catholic Church.

Sadly, very few seemed to understand the spirit behind “Alay Gobyerno, Alay Filipino.” Many ridiculed the idea of the Cross entering social and political life in this way. Might we not rethink the matter over and ask ourselves why this kind of self-giving does not appeal to us? Have we totally lost our faith in people’s ability to change, or in the power of our sacrifice to touch sinners? Have we given up hope that the Lord will honor our self-donation, no matter how puny, and grant our aspirations for a more God-fearing country? Or do we see ourselves to be so immaculate that we think it is beneath us to go through pain for the sake of the corrupt?

Church history gleams with accounts of the wayward being saved from perdition due to the self-sacrifice of those who unconditionally love and suffer with Jesus. The unfolding social unrest and political turmoil in our country at present calls for the forgetting of the self for the sake of the common good—is this very hard to understand by a people whose faith is supposedly founded on the supreme act of self-sacrifice by one sinless man who died for all sinners? If we do not take up our Cross today when it is most needed, will we be able to bear it when it is thrust upon our shoulder tomorrow?

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hope opens human hearts to reconciliation, solidarity and peace

A telephone interview:
CBCP president Archbishop Fernando Capalla
answers media’s questions on Friday’s dispersal

We caught CBCP President Archbishop Fernando Capalla a few minutes before he was to leave Pontificio Collegio Filippino for the Synod Hall. Abp. Capalla has been in Rome since Sept. 30, as one of the three delegates representing the Philippines in the Synod of Bishops being held from October 1-23. The other two are Archbishop Carmelo Morelos of Zamboanga and Bishop Antonio Tagle of Imus.

Q: What can you say about the recent incident involving three bishops, priests and nuns in a procession that was dispersed through the use of water cannons?

A: It is very difficult to appreciate a situation from miles away; the local bishops are in a better position to take care of the flock or to air their thoughts on the incident.

Q: Well, the bishops have spoken, interviewed by media, although we have yet to hear from the local bishops—Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila (since the incident happened in Manila) and Bishop Honesto Ongtioco (since some priests and nuns supposedly come from his diocese)—but we would like to hear from you being the CBCP President.

A: First, allow me to tell you that the picture for me is rather hazy. The sessions at the Synod Hall last the whole day, and they are heavy; leaving us no time to even watch the news on TV. The only updating I get is from a handful of priests and friends, if they can catch me at all. So they told me about the incident you are referring to, and asked me if it is right that bishops, priests and nuns be there, but I understand it was a religious procession, so why should it be surprising to find them there?

Q: Yes it was supposed to be a religious procession, although some politicians were present…

A: And even if it was a political rally the nuns and priests were joining, I’m willing to believe that they were acting to the best of their understanding, out of conviction and deep faith.

Q: If that’s the case, was it right that they be dispersed as they were?

A: I am willing to believe, too, that the police were also acting out of a deep sense of duty to ensure order. Both sides want justice and peace. I am reminded of a saying that goes: “There are always three sides to an argument: your side, my side, and the side of Truth.” The fighting will never stop until we acknowledge the third side: the Truth. That is what we have to see or to look at: if we want peace, we must be ready to be peacemakers. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, called the peacemakers “blessed.” We must be willing to believe that we all want peace, whatever is our political color, because peace is everyone's responsibility which passes through the thousand little acts that make up everyday life. In the midst of armed conflict, the Bishop is a shepherd who, while exhorting his flock to assert their rights, must always remind them that Christians are obliged in all cases to reject vengeance and to be prepared to forgive and to love their enemies. There can be no justice without forgiveness. Hard as it may be to accept, for any sensible person the matter seems obvious: true peace is possible only through forgiveness. Those are not only my ideas—I am merely rephrasing from Pastores Gregis, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the Bishop as Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Q: Perhaps you can articulate your personal opinion as a bishop and CBCP President away from the homeland? What is the role of the bishop in these trying times?

A: The Bishop is a prophet, witness and servant of hope who has the duty of instilling confidence and proclaiming before all people the basis of Christian hope. Where there is no hope, people question faith and love is weakened. Especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference such as our country is in at present, the bishop is the Shepherd who reminds the flock of God’s love for His people. This God does not want us fighting; He wants salvation of all people. The bishop as shepherd leads his flock to hope in Jesus Christ—that hope will open human hearts to reconciliation, solidarity and peace.

17 October 2005

Refer to:
Teresa Tunay
CBCP Media Office

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Pedagogy of the Cross

In a previous column I wrote about the seeming absence of the Cross in our social, political, economic, cultural-even religious-life in this country. To this absence I attribute one strong reason why the process or has become ineffective. There is need therefore to begin reexamining this process.

One area to be given a through reexamination is the so-called holy reason of Lent. It is here where the values arising from the Cross abound. This period of forty days, popularly known as Cuaresma (Quadragesima in Latin), is designed to prepare Catholics for a meaningful and fruitful celebration of Semana Santa or Holy Week. It is the traditional teaching of the Church that the process of personal and social tradition happens or culminates during this week.

The correct meaning and fruitfulness of the Holy Week celebration basically focuses on the paschal mystery which is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. These divine mysteries are recalled in the sacred liturgy of the Holy Week. Because of its power to effect change in the individual person and consequently in the community, the Second Vatican Council defines Sacred Liturgy as the “source and summit of Christian life.”

In focusing then our reexamination on the Lenten observances, we should look into the four general activities which characterize this period. They are intense prayer, intense meditation/reflection on the Scriptures, fasting and abstinence, and charitable works. It might help us in this endeavor to review the ALAY KAPWA Evangelization Program which had been established and promoted nationwide since 1966 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines through the National Secretariat of Social Action, Justice and Peace under the leadership of Bishop Julio Labayen. Sadly, only the financial aspect remains while the evangelizing component of the program has been forgotten.

It is relevant and urgent that we reexamine the meaning of fasting and abstinence, the difference between fasting and hunger strike, between self-immolation and suicide bombing. In this age of social protests and terrorism the correct and clear understanding of these practices would surely benefit everyone even those not of our faith. I would add also the explanation of the difference between the Christian and Islamic teachings on fasting would certainly be of help, and between active and passive non-violence.

Another area to be looked into are the retreats, recollections, graduation Masses, and Commencement Exercises organized by our Catholic Schools, during this Lenten period. I have observed worry of these activities as not being inspired by the spirit of Lent. They are even contrary to what the Church expects of Catholic schools and institutions.

The reexamination I am explaining here is being recommended not only to my brother bishops but also to our theologians, catchiest, religious education teachers, educators, liturgists, formators, and campus ministers. I think it is possible to incorporate the values arising from the paschal mystery into the content of the educational, formative, and catechetical processes.

A pedagogy of the Cross is certainly needed, and urgently so, in our country today. This pedagogy should desire its inspiration from St. John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic, doctor of the Church, on expert in the process of conversion and union with God. The Spanish equivalent of the name Juan de la Cruz – has been used to portray the typical poor Filipino. The pedagogy of the Cross therefore should include a historical reference to the origin of the name and its deeper meaning and crucial challenge especially to the millions of Juan de la Cruz – and others who bear the name “Cruz”. Clearly understood in the light of faith and faithfully lived, this pedagogy would make a difference in any console and in those who experience excruciating pain and suffering. For, as I wrote in the previous column, nothing and no one matures to perfections without pain or something analogous to pain.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

September 4, 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005

Answers to Questions on Jueteng

CBCP President answers media questions on Archbishop Cruz’s involvement in jueteng

Q: Personally, how do you see Abp. Oscar Cruz’s involvement in the crusade against jueteng?

FRC: (Abp. Fernando R. Capalla) I wholeheartedly support Abp. Cruz’s crusade against jueteng. He is pointing out one of the ills of society, and that is part of his duties as a priest. In calling our attention to the evils of jueteng Abp. Cruz is meeting a need in the Church, the need for us bishops to fulfill our prophetic role as pastors.

Q: While many people support him, there are also others who criticize him for purportedly being too involved in the issue, as indicated by his regular appearance in televised Senate investigations and media interviews.

FRC: Too involved? What he is doing—fighting the evil in jueteng— is in accordance with Church teachings; how he does it—in other words, how he conducts his fight—is his personal responsibility. Abp. Cruz is a righteous man, guided by his conscience. Conscience is higher than the Pope; it is a matter between you and God, so how can anyone judge whether or not Abp. Cruz is already “being too involved” as you say?

Q: If Abp. Cruz’s cause is all that worthy, why is he the only bishop fighting it?

FRC: Jueteng or illegal gambling is only one of the problems in our society. Even if all of us 90 or so active bishops were assigned one evil to fight each, still we would have our hands full fighting our individual battles in addition to our responsibilities in our respective dioceses. I, for example, have my hands full with peace-building concerns and the plight of coconut farmers, plus my duties in the Archdiocese of Davao. Some of us may be occupied with problems of oppressed farm workers in their dioceses. Some may be concerned with giving land to the landless—and in many cases in our far-flung barrios even the lack of clean water and electricity would be the concern of the bishops! And although all of us bishops would be doing our part in forming future priests, some of us are called upon to focus more on that work. These are but a few issues that bishops deal with. We may not all be that interesting to media, and most of us are quiet workers who really would rather not be known or talked about, but rest assured that we are waging our own wars against problems that plague our people, and expending our energies to remain true to our calling in building God’s kingdom. So you ask me my personal opinion about a brother-bishop’s jueteng crusade? We are participating in different ways—by addressing the situations, for instance, that lead people to trust luck more than hard work. Why do people not mind losing a few pesos each day in the hope of winning easy money one day? Educating our people in the faith, forming their conscience and instilling in them sound values and attitudes—this occupies us as pastors, and if we persevere in doing this, by the grace of God, we will finally enjoy a society without jueteng.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

August 12, 2005

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Inside Story--On Hindsight

Q & A on The Making of The Pastoral Statement of 10 July 2005

A: On August 10, the historic CBCP Pastoral Statement, entitled “Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics”, issued July 10, 2005, will have been one month old. Yet, the controversial statement continues to draw varied reactions from the public. Some view it as a “pro-GMA” move; others laud it as a masterstroke coming from the country’s spiritual leaders. What really went on during its drafting? How did 85 bishops coming from various places and persuasions findally decide on what to say as a body? CBCP President Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla takes us behind the scenes as he answers questions from media.

Q: The CBCP Pastoral Statement of July 10, 2005, was a much awaited document in view of the country’s political situation then. Can you tell us something about the public’s reaction to that Statement?

A: In my 30 years as bishop and active member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, I have never seen a CBCP Pastoral Statement so closely scrutinized and analyzed, widely disseminated, profusely lauded and commented on as that one. A cross section of society—rich and poor, government and non-government personalities, professional and non-professional, Christians and Muslims, religious and non-religious, even the left-leaning Bayan, KMM, Karapatan, CNL—have registered their reactions, mostly positive, to that 3-page document. It’s nearly a month now, and headlines are focusing on different issues, but we are still receiving kudos for it.

Q: Some quarters claim that the document, although it contains nothing new, and to some it was even a disappointment, was historic. Do you agree with this?

A: In a way, yes. Actually, the main content of the Statement is nothing really new. They have been part of the ordinary teaching of the Church for many many years. In fact, our conference has already issued in the not-too-distant past a Pastoral Letter entitled Church and Politics. What made this recent Episcopal document apparently historic and memorable was the occasion that motivated it. As bishops we were confronted by the recent political crisis and the social turmoil it was, and still is, generating. The entire nation was expecting the bishops to speak out and the pressures were mounting as our Statement was being awaited.

Q: We understand there were 85 bishops present then, a good number if we may say so. How did you manage, under so much clamor from the public, to pull it together?

A: Yes, almost all active bishops were there, with the exception of a few who had previous commitments. It is not possible or necessary to retrace step by step how I presided over the assembly of 85 bishops and led them through serious discussions towards a consensus. It was a long process that started at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, before the Plenary Assembly opened. The Permanent Council and the chairmen of the different commissions met then to review important matters taken in the previous general assembly and to finalize the agenda for the present plenary. When 12 council members and 30 chairmen had gathered, I suggested that—since the times were abnormal—we dispense with the minutes of the previous meeting as well as with the plenary agenda, and start discussing the present situation instead. They all agreed.

Q: You mean the bishops were really aware that issuing a statement then was of paramount concern, even if they had been on closed retreat for days?

A. Of course. All of us were aware of what was happening outside. We knew, too, that time was of the essence, and that we had to make a statement before anarchy could erupt in the streets. Even days before the assembly I had been hounded by media already, demanding both my personal opinion and a CBCP statement on the political situation. We were so concerned that we had to make a change in our evening schedule. With so many items on the agenda omitted, we even agreed to advance the session on the political situation from Saturday to Thursday. So I assigned Archbishop Quevedo and Archbishop Legazpi to compose the drafting committee with the help of Bishop Tagle and Bishop Odchimar. Before the formal opening of the Plenary Assembly, the first draft of the Statement was ready. It is true that the Statement had to go through four drafts. Through all these there were important moments that led to that eventful afternoon of July 10 when these 85 bishops spoke with one voice to a nation anxiously looking for immediate guidance—I’m referring to the press conference when the CBCP finally came out in public with a stand, when we opened the session hall to over a hundred media people who would convey our statement to millions of our countrymen here and abroad. I am of the firm conviction that God’s gentle spirit was at work in the minds and hearts of my brother-bishops during those days.

Q: How did the bishops prepare for that session? Were they armed with data from research?

A: We must not forget that we are priests, first and foremost. Although the burning issue at hand was political, we do not approach it the way politicians or ordinary lay people do. And it’s not fair for the public or anyone to pressure us into “making a political stand.” So I must say, for the record, that I attribute the success of our deliberation to the 3-day Holy Retreat that preceded our Plenary Assembly, CBCP’s 91st which was held at the Pius XII Catholic Center. Those were three grace-filled days with the Lord. It was such a precious time when we bishops could all be together, devoting ourselves to daily mass, liturgy of the hours prayed in common, meditative talks on the Eucharist and daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. The retreat prepared and strengthened us We listened to experts. Three Jesuit priests spoke to us: Fr. Jose Magadia on the state of the economy, Fr. Joaquin Bernas on the legal aspects of the burning issues, and Fr. Daniel Huang on the moral choices. Contrary to later reports, we did not invite any other resource persons.

Q: Would you say the bishops were adequately informed prior to the deliberations?

A: Some of us were better informed about the political situation than the others, but I cannot claim that the information we had was absolutely true. As you may observe, much is clouded or distorted in media coverage. The bishops had their own personal observations to begin with, and by text messaging from friends and other contacts “outside” many bishops were further updated on some aspects of the political crisis. During our deliberation, the observations of the bishops from the countryside also proved to be an invaluable addition to our existing knowledge. If you will notice, our fellow Filipinos outside of the key cities are hardly heard from in media; so we depended on the bishops to convey to us what their people felt about the prevailing situation. Then we had an open forum which also helped us to deepen our understanding of the situation. By the afternoon of July 8, eve of the Plenary Assembly, we were ready to reflect and discuss what we must do.

Q: Shortly after the CBCP Statement was released, certain news items also said that the statement was watered down due to the “tongue-lashing” that the bishops got from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Franco. Could the bishops have taken a stronger stand for or against PGMA had the Papal Nuncio not intervened?

A: Allow me to correct that false assumption. Banking on a so-called “expose” that the Papal Nuncio had given the bishops a “tongue-lashing” before the assembly began, many news reports claimed that the Nuncio’s speech influenced the bishops to take a soft stand on the political question. This is not true. The Papal Nuncio’s address, which was the first item in the opening ceremony, was simply a confirmation and an additional reminder on the roles of the bishops and laity in political affairs as contained in conciliar and papal documents. The reference to the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was not even in the Nuncio’s address. It was in the short version of the statement by Archbishop Legazpi. I saw the need of putting it in the final draft, thus I privately requested Cardinal Vidal to make a motion to that effect—which was accepted.

Q: So the Statement was purely the product of the bishops’ deliberation? Was it really that agonizing, as the news reports said? We’d be interested to know how 85 bishops finally agreed on one statement.

A. Well, that Statement underwent close scrutiny to say the least. It is also of great importance to note, for historical reasons, that the draft which went into a third version, was finely dissected line by line and paragraph by paragraph by the assembly of 85 bishops. We had to be careful in our choice of words, for obvious reasons. For instance, the choice between the verbal expressions “cannot demand her resignation” and “do not demand her resignation” took some time to agree on. So with “options demanded by the Gospel” and “options that are not against the Gospel.” In general, the process was smooth and orderly. Contrary to media reports we did not “agonize on the deliberations” because all along we were very much aware that we were addressing the issues and the crises from “who we are”—and we are bishops, pastors, moral guides.

Q: If you had to be that careful, did that mean back-breaking seriousness?

A: Of course, there were lighter moments during our sessions, too. Human as we are, the bishops knew how to handle difficult or delicate situations with serenity and a sense of humor. During coffee breaks and mealtimes we had many opportunities to update one another, to talk about other things than the gospel or politics. We would laugh and tell jokes, even. But the most enjoyable moment was the dinner with the Nuncio in his residence. He gamely acted as our emcee, and we interspersed our meal with singing by groups according to age bracket—the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Even our 83-year old Bishop Mondejar contributed a number. It was fun, a refreshing evening for all of us.

Q: That’s nice, but let’s go back to the assembly hall. It’s a fact that prior to the plenary assembly, some bishops had been openly anti-GMA. Did this not adversely affect the process? How did you handle those bishops, considering that you yourself have been viewed by media as being pro-GMA?

A: Media, for all its power to gather and disseminate information, can only come up with part of the truth. As the wise would say, don’t believe everything you read in the papers. Some bishops may have causes to fight, and if they find friends in the media who will support them, well and good. If bishops seem very vocal about being anti-GMA or anti-administration as the news say, they must have very good reasons for taking their stand, so let’s listen to them. But no, I did not find the need to “handle” them because in the assembly hall where all of us gather, we come as bishops—pastors, not mere voters. And when we speak of truth, we mean Gospel truth; that’s the bottom line. No matter our political color, once we are asked by circumstances to speak as one, we do not forget that we are pastors, men consecrated to proclaim the Truth, and the Truth we proclaim is the Truth of Christ.

Q: Do you mean to say that those bishops did not even care to air their side? And you, too, did not find the need to defend your own stand?

A: As I said, we listen to everybody. In fact, a bishop counted 120 interventions all in all. “Those bishops” naturally spoke up, and so did the others practically unknown to media but who had very relevant inputs which, I surmise, contributed vitally to the completion of the picture. I told you earlier that I attribute the success of our assembly to our three-day closed retreat. It did us a lot of good, giving us time to reflect. All of us emerged from that more enlightened than when we came, more open-minded, more receptive to the proddings of the Holy Spirit. All of us approved that Statement, we were one, as you may have seen in the photographs subsequently published of that gathering. As for the allegations that I am “pro-GMA,” you will have to interview me again as that will be another long story.

Q: Which then would you say was the most difficult moment during the deliberation and drafting of the statement?

A: The most crucial moment was when we discussed Paragraphs 7 and 8. First, we had to agree that there were conflicting opinions and positions regarding the President, and that our role was not to point out one or the other as the Gospel choice because they were either speculative in nature or grounded on controvertible basis. Second, we agreed that no single concrete option regarding President Arroyo could claim to be the only one demanded by the Gospel. Third, we concluded by saying “Therefore, in a spirit if humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision that we do not demand her resignation. Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others. For we recognize that non-violent appeals for her resignation, the demand for a Truth Commission and the filing of an impeachment case are not against the Gospel.”

Q: There were criticisms leveled later on at CBCP for proposing the formation of a Truth Commission. Could you please comment on this?

A: First of all, we did not propose the formation of Truth Commission. In reacting to the Pastoral Statement later, some people—including newspaper readers and commentators and columnists—would conclude that the bishops were giving a “formula” like the Truth Commission first, then the impeachment. This is not correct. Again this is a case of miscommunication. After the Statement was released, media chased the bishops for comments and “inside stories”. Reporters were generally very open to any bishop (or anyone in a cassock for that matter) who would talk, because anything they said could be news then. So the impression (or misimpression) created was, the CBCP “formula” was Truth Commission and then Impeachment. This is completely erroneous. In fact, on July 19, from Lucena City where I was having a meeting with 200 coconut farmers, I would answer by text through the CBCP Media Office that “while we respect the government’s choice of this option (Truth Commission), we could not at the moment comment on its viability.” For the record, again, let me say that nowhere in our statement do we “propose” these. We merely cite them as being among the several options of the people—not our own because we do not have one—“that are not against the Gospel.”

Q: In the Statement, the bishops seem to delegate to the laity the responsibility of choosing from these options “that are not against the gospel.” Is this impression correct?

A: Very much so, but we bishops do have our distinct responsibility, too, and this is contained in that Statement as well. Since we leave it to the people to choose their options we felt we could not just stop there. So we decided to offer moral guidelines which they must observe while pursuing their options within the parameters of the Constitution. By “people” we refer not only to those in government service but also to our lay people in the different Church organizations. And we suggested that they do this through discernment and dialogue, which means they have to “come and pray together, reason, decide and act together…” This is the second most important point in the Statement: that political issues and affairs are the responsibility of the lay people, not of the bishops. And then, to help our people to deepen their “moral discernment” we offered moral guidelines (nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) on specific subjects like accountability, constitutionality, non-violence, and effective governance without excluding ourselves.

Q: That whole process took all of two days?

A: Two and a half, which, on hindsight, was swift, considering our limitations and the pressures upon us. To speed up the process of deliberating and owning each important issue or point and paragraph, I decided to put to vote right then and there each of these; that minimized the work of the drafting committee. We finished everything by 12:30 that Sunday noon of July 10. After lunch and a little siesta we returned to the assembly hall to hear the reading of Archbishop Quevedo of the final and polished draft.

Q: There were no more objections entertained to that final draft?

A: No more. In fact, it was met with thunderous applause—unanimous approval, no objection, no abstentions. The last crucial question was to decide what time to hold the press conference and where. To allow our media office to inform the reporters and journalists and to prepare copies for them and the bishops, we decided to hold it at 4:00 PM. I suggested to hold it in the assembly hall with everyone in attendance. I told the bishops that the presence of the 85 members will reinforce the message of our Statement, since it would clearly show the unity and solidarity in the bishops’ conference. The suggestion was loudly approved. The rest is history.

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

August 7, 2005

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Answers to Questions on CBCP Press Corps

CBCP President Archbishop Capalla’s (FRC) answers to some questions from the CBCP Press Corps

1. Will the stand of the CBCP on GMA change in the wake of the new developments (witnesses accusing her of electoral fraud, bribery allegations)?

FRC’S ANSWER:First of all, the CBCP Pastoral Statement is not a “stand on GMA”. If it must be called a “stand” at all, it is a stand for sobriety, for upholding constitutional processes, for the rule of law, which everybody is subject to, whether one is a president or a pauper. It is very clear in the Statement that bishops are not supposed to tell the president what to do or what not to do. We are supposed to be moral guides, not king makers or king bashers. Under all circumstances, and especially in the present, decisions must not be made in terms of political loyalties but in the light of truth, justice and the common good, which are all Gospel values, and which we as bishops must uphold and promote, not only in CBCP statements but from the pulpits. Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales put it very well in his recent press conference, “We are here to evangelize, not to politicize.”

2. Do you think GMA will be able to finish her term as president?

FRC’S ANSWER: I can not predict the future; only God knows. But more important than the issue of whether the president will finish her term or not is the question of the people’s willingness and preparedness to help themselves. If she stays until her term ends, are the people going to cooperate with her in a spirit of trust and confidence, with an eye towards the country’s good? If she is not able to finish her term, are the people ready for whatever may come, or will they just keep on electing public servants and deposing them when they prove to be unworthy or worse, not to their liking after all? As a people of God we are to be so formed that we will choose our leaders with intelligence and guided by Christ’s light.

3. GMA has been reported to be considering “reconciliation” with the opposition. Considering your experience at reconciliation and your reputation as a “negotiator” and a man of peace, would you be willing, if invited, to act as go-between this time?

FRC’S ANSWER:My role has been a facilitator of meeting, not negotiator or go-between. But if invited? As long as they are meeting on moral, not political grounds, perhaps I will consider it—it depends on the tenor of the invitation. If they want a retreat together I can conduct it for them. Do they want to go to confession? I can also hear that.

Archbishop of Davao
CBCP President

August 2, 2005