Philippine bishops condemn ‘Pork Barrel’

Candlelight vigil at Philippines Christian University, Manila

Bishops of the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference have affirmed a Supreme Court ruling that declares unconstitutional features of the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), dubbed “Pork Barrel” by detractors. From left, Bishop Rodolfo Juan of the Manila Episcopal Area (behind the cross), Bishop Solito Toquero (retired, holding placard) and the Rev. Igmedio Domingo are shown at a candlelight vigil at Philippine Christian University in Manila where they released their statement. (Photo by Kathy Yamzon)

MANILA, Philippines — The College of Bishops of the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference has affirmed a Supreme Court ruling that declares unconstitutional features of the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

It is high time that we call for justice and accountability for the funds misused by government or its leaders.

The bishops of the Manila, Baguio and Davao Episcopal Areas announced their support of the Supreme Court decision during a candlelight vigil in front of the United Methodist headquarters here. Radio, television and print media covered the event.

The bishops — Rodolfo Juan (Manila), Pedro Torio (Baguio) and Ciriaco Francisco (Davao) — urged all United Methodist churches, church workers, and members to read their statement preferably during worship services. They also encouraged organizing candle lighting and prayers in their churches and communities. The Philippines Central Conference comprises more than 20 annual conferences.

“It is high time that we call for justice and accountability for the funds misused by government or its leaders,” the bishops declared in a pastoral letter released July 24.

Ezekiel 34:1-31

They cite Ezekiel 34:1-31 as a text that reminding of the plight of the poor in society who are also not receiving enough care and concern from the government.

“If the prophet Ezekiel indeed were to address Malacañang, the Senate and the House of Representatives today,” they state, “he would not have to change a thing, in his condemnation of the rich and powerful of his own time and country. Instead, he would recognize the same roles played out by a different set of people in this land.”

[Ezekiel] would recognize the same roles played out by a different set of people in this land.

The bishops point out that “since time immemorial,” the Philippines has been governed by an oligarchy of business people and landlords that effectively influence all branches of government. This oligarchy has succeeded in preserving its selfish interest at the expense of the greater interest of the people, according to the bishops.

The bishops say the outcry is about misappropriating the people’s money while shrugging off any responsibility especially to the poor of the land, and then shifting that burden to those who create those resources.

Unholy alliance

“Taxes and other revenues are all managed and manipulated by the unholy alliance of a political and economic elite for their own benefit,” the bishops state, “and to the neglect of the hungry sheep who are deprived of those resources.”

The bishops demand that all who are accountable for what has been dubbed “Pork Barrel” income be meted with speedy, yet fair justice.

“We affirm that the systems Pork Barrel declared illegal by the Supreme Court cannot be continued under any guise,” the bishops emphasize. It should not be continued to perpetuate political dynasties and deny power to the people who are the real sovereign in a democracy. It cannot be continued to prop up a government by a few, of the few, and for the few.”

The bishops say Pork Barrel has been used to subvert institutional checks and balances fundamental in the country’s constitution. “It cannot be used as a tool to gain political leverage against government critics and suppress dissent,” the declare. “It should not be diverted to fund projects only to create a good public image under the pretext of boosting an economy that only benefits an elite and neglects the masses.”

Self-serving leadership

Such self‐serving leadership has spawned the socio‐political, economic crisis that the Philippines is now experiencing, and “worse of all, the spiritual crisis that is hovering in our land,” the bishops state. God’s The bishops point to the United Methodist Social Principles:

While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance to any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people … to the guarantee of the rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care (¶164 V. The Political Community).

The bishops also quote former Philippines Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno (retired), a United Methodist. “We all know that a right that has no remedy is not a right at all,” said Puno, who added that these socioeconomic rights are enshrined in the Philippines Constitution.

Funds must be reallocated to the “perennially budget‐starved” health, education, housing, public transport and other socio‐economic service sectors of the government, according to the bishops.

“The people called United Methodists in the Philippines will continue their call for justice and accountability and for government to serve the people of God with integrity and righteous governance,” the bishops declare. “The United Methodists join the Filipino people in their quest for a government described in the Preamble of our Constitution as ‘… under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.’ We will support the Peoples’ Initiative to ensure good governance and the elimination of any wasteful pork barrel practices in government system.

The bishops signed their statement at Philippine Christian University here.

Editor’s note: The full text of the statement can be read at: Philippine Bishops Call for Shalom & Vision of New Day.

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