The Council of the Laity of the Philippines (Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas) called on the faithful to support the position of Caritas Philippines to engage in “principled cooperation” with the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“Aligned with the statement of Caritas Philippines, the laity and all peace-loving Filipinos should exercise ‘principled cooperation’ with the government,” said Raymond Daniel Cruz Jr., president of Laiko, in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas 846.
Cruz said that “with the many ‘unfinished businesses’ in connection with the recent electoral exercise, we are called not to be at the waiting mode.”
He urged everyone to “pro-actively engage our constituents” — local Churches, Catholic educational institutions and civil society — and “address the ‘foundational footings’ which has been shaken and weakened through the years.”
Cruz said that even as Catholics engaged in “cooperation” with the government, they should also be wary, especially because there are still questions that remain unanswered during the elections.
“As we hope and work for a collective alignment of our patriotic desires to uplift our nation from corruption and incompetence, let us not idly wait for one another, nor wait for the government or for one great plan of action, because there is so much re-building to be done,” said the Laiko leader.
He said that although “coordination and bridging work are needed, especially in the grassroots,” the Church “should rebound immediately and show our sincerity in working for the common good.”
“Let us veer away from issuing “motherhood statements,” he said. “Rather, wherever we are, let us rise up, act and simply do the right things in our circles of influence.”
“Let us continue to be witnesses in our communities knowing that ‘it is the Lord’ whom we are serving,” said Cruz.
The earlier statement of Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic bishops’ conference, was met with mixed reactions from several groups.
“We need to be careful on how to deal with [the incoming administration],” said Father Robert Reyes, also known as the “running priest” for his penchant to literally run to bring attention to social issues.
In a statement on May 26, Caritas Philippines said “it will exercise principled cooperation” with the incoming administration.
“As such, we will support all [Marcos] administration’s programs that will respect the rights and dignity of the Filipino people,” it added.
Missionary priest Flaviano Villanueva questioned the wisdom behind the so-called “principled cooperation.”
“What principles do we set with someone who has no moral principles to show and begin with?” said the priest, a member of the Society of Divine Word congregation.
Father Villanueva recalled that the Catholic Church in the Philippines during the time of Marcos Jr.’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., also “collaborated” with the government.
The late Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila described the relationship between the Marcos Sr. administration and the Philippine Catholic Church during that time as “critical collaboration.”
Several pronouncements of various Church leaders, however, showed that the relationship was “largely more critical and prophetic than collaborative,” according to an article posted on the bishops’ conference’s website.
The tendency of Church leaders to criticize and at the same time to collaborate with the succeeding administrations continued even until the time of President Rodrigo Duterte who repeatedly attacked the Catholic Church and its leaders.
In 2018, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines announced that it was willing to continue a “critical collaboration” with the Duterte administration.
In a pastoral exhortation titled “Rejoice and be happy,” Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the conference, however, said the Church does not accept any compromise on its fundamental teachings.
“The Church respects political authority, in particular democratically elected government officials, demanding respect for the basic spiritual and moral principles that are dear to us, such as the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person,” he said.
He said “critical collaboration” only means that in some cases there are “shared efforts” while on, some specific questions, collaboration “is not possible because of our spiritual and moral values.”
In such cases, the Church “can only invoke our right to conscientious objection,” wrote the former head of the bishops’ conference, adding that the Church recognizes the “constitutional separation between Church and state.”
Father Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said that the organization will cooperate with government initiatives that are aligned “with the values of the Church,” including those that are in pursuit of the common good, integrity of life, and ecology.
He said, however, that Caritas Philippines will hold Marcos and Duterte accountable, especially of their promises during the political campaign.
“We will always oppose, otherwise. That’s where our prophetic roles begin. We have to champion despite the risks,” said Father Labiao.
Caritas Philippines was established by the bishops’ conference in 1966 and was mandated to “accompany the poor and marginalized in the just and legitimate struggle for social justice and transformation.”
Father Villanueva said the organization “can proceed” with its relationship with the new administration, “but with great caution.” – with a report from Marielle Lucenio
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