What I will be looking for in the SONA
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
IN my column last week, I stressed the need for our Church to become more sensitive to the plight of the poor in our country. One reader wrote to me saying that I am anti-Church and that I could not call myself a devout Catholic for writing the article. Does sharing one’s opinion about how the Church can become more relevant to the signs of the times now constitute to being against it? I hope that our Church leaders and its most devout followers would learn to take constructive criticism and advice especially from its members. As we have learned in our Christian Life Education and Theology classes at the Ateneo, the Church as an institution is not just the bishops and the priests but it also includes ordinary members of the laity. As we have learned in organizational development, the surest way for an institution to fail is for it to remain stagnant and not be able to keep itself abreast with what is happening in our society. Like many of its believers, I would like to see our Church and her teachings to continue to become a relevant part in living our daily lives.
Not the Church
Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan City
Just to clear the air, I am not criticizing the Church as an institution but rather I am expressing my disappointment at some of its leaders such as Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who even wrote to ask for an SUV as his birthday gift from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in exchange for his unwavering support of her administration. How can an esteemed member of the clergy such as Bishop Pueblos continue to support Arroyo and turn a blind eye to the scandalous corruption that occurred during her time? Worse, while millions of Filipinos grow hungry each day and officials close to Arroyo live extravagant lifestyles, you have some members of the clergy such as those in Pampanga who continue to even use the pulpit to show their undying loyalty and support to her. Wasn’t it greed and corruption that led Judas Iscariot to sell Jesus Christ to his enemies for a few silver coins? I pray that we will have more Church leaders like Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J. and Fr. Melo Diola who have made it their apostolate to work towards creating a clean, honest and effective government for every Filipino.
What to look for at the SONA
President Noynoy Aquino
This coming Monday, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will be delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA) which is supposed to contain the achievement of his administration during the past year as well as his plans for the coming year. Here are some things that I will be looking for during his SONA.
Firstly, I hope that the President would be able to show how effective the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has been in terms of curbing poverty and hunger among millions of Filipinos. Our government invested more than P21 Billion in taxpayer’s money thus, if we see that this program hasn’t been effective then perhaps the money should be channeled to other key priorities of the administration such as improving access and quality of basic education as well as public health.
Secondly, I would like the President to also share with the Filipino people his administration’s achievements in the fight against graft and corruption in our government. How many government officials have now been put to jail or have been suspended due to their involvement in graft and corruption? How much has the government saved due to its review and rescinding of erroneous contracts that clearly place our government at a disadvantage? What new policies have been put into place to make bidding and procurement more transparent and accountable? These would concretely show every Filipino that the administration is on the right track in keeping its campaign promise to eradicate graft and corruption in our government.
Thirdly, I would hope to hear the President deliver a clear policy statement and program when it comes to providing universal access to quality healthcare especially to Filipinos who continue to live below the poverty line. Majority of Filipinos especially those living in rural communities have not yet been enrolled to PhilHealth which would provide them with access to medical treatment that they would need in case they get sick. A healthy country will lead to a more productive economy.
Finally, I am expecting that our President will finally express his full support in ensuring the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill which should become one of the main pillars in his promise to promote greater transparency and accountability in our government. An FOI law will help prevent cases such as the Fertilizer Scam, PCSO Fund Scam and the Eurogenerals scam from happening again. More importantly, it gives the power to ordinary Filipinos to demand information about the use of public funds from their local government leaders. The only people I see who may not be inclined to support this measure are our public officials who may have dark secrets that they wouldn’t want to bring to light.
Asia Society’s Young Leaders of the Philippines
The Asia Society-Philippines recently concluded its search for this year’s batch of Asia 21-Philippines Young Leaders fellows. The chosen fellows will represent the country in the upcoming Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in New Delhi, India this coming November. The summit gathers more than 200 young leaders from different fields across the Asia-Pacific region. The chosen Asia 21-Philippines fellows for this year are as follows: Mayor Paulino Leachon, Michael Sandejas, Atty. Lesley Cordero, Joy Anya Lim, Doris Dumlao, Solvie Nubla-Lee, Jeffrey Tarayao, Annalie Edday and Alvin Dakis. Congratulations to all of you! I will write more about these inspiring young leaders in my column next week.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my blog at : http://harveykeh.wordpress.com
Follow me at : http://twitter.com/harveykeh
Church for the poor
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
AS much as I would like to show some sympathy to the bishops who are now being grilled by the public for receiving vehicle donations from PCSO, I believe that they are also at fault for being placed in this dire predicament. It was admirable that the CBCP issued a statement wherein they apologized on behalf of the bishops who accepted the vehicle donations from PCSO. The sad part about this is that the wrong decisions made by these 7 so called “Pajero” bishops has not only affected them but also the Roman Catholic Church as an institution. As a devout Catholic, I still believe that majority of our Church leaders are still pious and upright but it will need to be more strict in policing its own ranks if it wants to avoid similar controversies that may eventually turn off more of its followers.
Quid pro quo
One of my frustrations during the past administration was despite all the graft and corruption scandals that then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was embroiled in, many of our Church leaders chose to just stay quiet. I would always remember that the reason that they gave was the separation of the powers of Church and State but if this is so then why would some of their bishops request SUVs from our government? This has led many Filipinos to think that in exchange for their support, the Arroyo administration continued to shower these bishops with gifts. Perhaps this is also the reason why we have Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos calling for the immediate resignation of President Noynoy Aquino because he knows that in this present administration there will no longer be “gifts” that will be bestowed upon his holiness. Our Church leaders are supposed to be our moral compass and should always take the high ground. They should never be beholden to just a few selfish and vested interests.
Church for the poor and powerless
Aside from writing for The Manila Times, I also write a regular column for Abante and one of my readers reacted to a recent column saying that it was very sad to hear that while thousands of very poor Filipinos have to line up for several days just to get medical treatment support from PCSO, we have bishops who drive around on SUVs given by PCSO worth more than a million pesos. I think this is a sentiment that is being felt by many Filipinos right now. We need a Church that will become more responsive to the needs of millions of Filipinos who live in poverty. Even Jesus Christ himself showed a preferential option for the mar-ginalized such as the poor, the sick and the sinners during his time here on earth as we can read from the Bible.
The Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University where I studied and am currently working in has also made it a priority to develop students with a passion for excellence and service. This can be seen in Ateneo’s involvement with public education reform initiatives such as Pathways to Higher Education, Synergeia Foundation and the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED). Under the leadership of its former President, Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J., Ateneo was also very active in promoting Gawad Kalinga and has in fact helped build hundreds of homes in Payatas and Nueva Ecija.
Aside from Ateneo, there are also many Church leaders like Bishop Sofronio Bancud of the Diocese of Cabanatuan who has been at the forefront of working with civil society groups and schools in Nueva Ecija towards promoting good governance in their province.
This just shows that in any institution there are always good eggs and bad eggs but the challenge that our Church now faces is how it will be able to show Filipinos that they are an institution that is not insensitive to the plight of the poor and the powerless as they are now being perceived to be. They can start by living more simply and following the example of Jesus Christ who lived not among the rich and the powerful but among those who most needed his love, care and attention.
PNoy at Pinoy: A Year After
The Asia Society Philippines Foundation and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) together with The Manila Times will be hosting a pre-SONA forum, PNoy at Pinoy: A Year After, on July 22, 2011 (Friday), 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the GLDC Room, AIM, Legazpi Village, Makati City. The forum aims to assess the first year in office of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. President Aquino will be assessed on the following, Politics and Governance by Mr. Mon Casiple of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER), Social issues by former Department of Education Usec. Mike Luz and Foreign policy and international relations by Mr. Roland Simbulan from the University of the Philippines-Manila. This event is open to the public and is free of charge. Seats are very limited. Those who wish to attend need to register by calling Nash Cordero of the Asia Society at (02) 752-4374.
Comments are welcome at email@example.com