HomeNewsChurch groups join protests as Duterte delivers State of the Nation Address

Church groups join protests as Duterte delivers State of the Nation Address

Church and faith-based groups in the Philippines joined thousands of protesters across the country as President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 27.

In his homily during a “Mass for Peace and Justice” hours before the president’s address, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila called on the faithful to show love for country by speaking the truth.

“We need to speak the truth, we need to let the truth prevail,” said the bishop in a homily read by Father Hernando Coronel in Manila’s Quiapo church.

Bishop Pabillo has been in quarantine after he was reported to be infected by the new coronavirus disease.

“Let us revive our love for the country,” said the prelate in his prepared homily, adding that love of country is part of the command of God to love one another.

“We cannot be good Christians if we are not good citizens. We cannot say we love our fellow men if we don’t love our country,” he said.

“If we love our country we should at least know its real status. We care enough to know what is happening among us now and what our elected officials are doing,” said the bishop.

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“Unfortunately in our times, not everything that is said, even by the highest official of the land and his official spokespersons, is credible and true. That’s why we need to analyze,” added Bishop Pabillo.

“We should speak the truth. Justice should prevail. We are doing this because we love our country. Through our actions we hope justice and peace will come,” he said.

While the Eucharistic celebration was going on authorities entered the church and confiscated protest materials from a church-goer.

In a video uploaded on Twitter, two policemen could be seen forcefully taking a box of protest materials and some placards from an activist while Mass was ongoing.

“They are the worst! In the middle of a Holy Mass, these uniformed personnel are taking our companion’s things! So disrespectful!” read a Twitter post by netizen RJ Naguit.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she talked to the police officers after the Mass, explaining that no protest action happened.

“This harassment is not acceptable, especially during the middle of a sacrament,” said the opposition legislator.

“They want to silence even the prayers inside the church?” added Senator Hontiveros

Protesters gather outside the Baguio Catholic Cathedral on the occasion of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 27. (Photo fro, Northern Dispatch)

Protests in the provinces

In the northern city of Baguio, church leaders and faith-based groups called for unity in facing “uncertainties” as they held demonstrations in time of the president’s address.

Bishop Victor Bendico of the Catholic Diocese of Baguio said people should never loss hope despite the uncertainties that beset the country.

“The vagueness of the Anti-Terrorism Law and the widespread situation of [COVID-19] in our country could easily tell us of the uncertainties of the condition … in terms of our peace and order, and our health,” said the bishop.

Among the issues raised by protesters during the demonstrations was the passage of the new anti-terrorism law, which government critics feared would be used against activists and the political opposition.

They also lambasted the Duterte administration for prioritizing the passage of the law amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We maintain that the anti-terrorism law is an affront to God’s gift of humanity and a threat to all people of good will,” said Rev. Dhee Laguitnay of the Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera region.

In southern region of Mindanao, church and peace groups called for the resumption of talks between the government and communist rebels.

“It is our wish that the president’s [address] may contain even the slightest window of opportunity for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” said Bishop Felixberto Calang of the group Sowing the Seeds of Peace.

In a statement, the group said the new anti-terrorism law “is the single biggest obstacle to the revival of the peace process.”

The Protestant bishop expressed hope that “in the midst of the pandemic, there will be ‘social distancing’ in the battlefield.”

He said a ceasefire should allow the government “to focus its full attention and resources on the people’s health, while also allowing [rebel forces] to complement this effort.”

Bishop Calang lamented that four years into the Duterte presidency “we see a whole-of-state approach, dominated by military and police generals.”

He said dreams for an independent foreign policy, genuine land reform, and a just and lasting peace “have been taken over by anti-democratic, anti-national, and anti-people measures.”

Members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines join a protest rally on the occasion of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address on July 27. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Religious superiors call for justice

The influential Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines said “it is time” for Filipinos “to make a stand, speak up and be counted.”

“There is so much pain and suffering in our beloved land. There is so much hatred and division in our midst and we cry out … ‘Peace, peace!’ they say, though there is no peace,” read the organization’s statment.

The religious superiors noted that “poverty and want envelop our poor and dehumanized … destruction is perpetuated by extractive industries and agribusiness.”

“As religious superiors of various congregations and institutes of consecrated life, we are driven by our commitment to serve as modern-day prophets and mystics,” they said.

“To live up to that role by discerning the ‘signs of the times,’” the church leaders said they want to remind government leaders “to value their constituents.”

They then enumerated in their statement the failure of the Duterte administration to address killings, attacks on women and perceived enemies, the defense of human rights and the country’s territories, among others.

“We have prayed fervently and discerned for the light that only our Triune God can give. We have begged God for the grace of courage and fortitude to stand up and be counted,” said the religious leaders.

“We cannot but recall what Daniel had warned King Belshazzar in the midst of his unrepentance and wickedness: ‘MENE, MENE, TEQEL AND PARSIN…. God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it…. You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting,” they said.

Marielle Lucenio, Sherwin de Vera, and Jigger Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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