These guidelines were prepared by the Society of Jesus Philippine Province Commission on the Social Apostolate whose members are Albert E. Alejo, S.J., Miguel B. Lambino, S.J., Jose Cecilio J. Magadia, S.J., Antonio F. Moreno, S.J., Karel S. San Juan, S.J., Primitivo E. Viray, S.J., Peter W. Walpole, S.J. and Roberto C. Yap, S.J. (Chair).
FR. DANIEL Patrick L. Huang, S.J., the provincial superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines, recently endorsed the "Guidelines in a Time of Confusion and Crisis," which was prepared by the Province Commission on the Social Apostolate. Produced after much discussion and consultation, the document is an attempt to provide specific guidelines for a Christian moral reflection on the ongoing political crisis and confusion that have engulfed our nation.
Father Provincial asks that these guidelines be read, reflected and prayed upon, and made the subject of serious discernment, toward action by individuals, communities and institutions. Father Huang recognizes that not all will agree with what is presented in the guidelines: some will judge that they go "too far"; others will doubtless think they do not go "far enough." For his part, Father Provincial personally believes that these guidelines offer sound directions to help us "read" our present situation and to orient us in our common search for authentic solutions to the grave problems of our country today. Nonetheless, these guidelines are not
presented as positions that all are compelled to accept and adhere to. If some, in conscience, differ with the positions taken in the guidelines, Father Huang is asking them to present their dissent with civility and intelligence, as input for the continuing task of communal discernment toward that which will serve the true good of our country.
Father Provincial exhorts the Jesuits and their lay partners to be united in prayer and deep concern for our country and our people. He prays that the Lord show us the way toward the truth, freedom and justice that our people yearn for; and that God bless us with courage and hope.
We are presenting nine guidelines here to share them with those who may be seeking direction and guidance in these troubled times.
1. The struggle to bring out the truth must go on. The freedom to advocate this struggle must be upheld. The President has not sufficiently rendered an account to the people (of the) serious charges (that) have been raised against her, and the efforts to hide the facts only confirm the suspicions of many. To dismiss the concern for truth in the name of stability is to condone the culture of impunity, under which those in power have long been able to commit crimes unpunished, and our people have become cynical-accepting corruption and deceit as normal in public life.
2. Those who claim that the "rule of law" (triumphed) in the recent impeachment proceedings confuse proceduralism with law. While it is true that the procedures of law were (followed), the spirit of the law was subverted. Evidence was not allowed to emerge.
3. Peaceful and legal means that protect and strengthen our democratic institutions must be used in the continued search for the truth. In this same spirit, the legislature, especially the Senate, must not be remiss in its oversight function, to ensure (that) the system of checks and balances, set in place by the Constitution (serves its purpose). Likewise, care should be taken that concrete actions do not support or strengthen groups with covert anti-democratic, adventurist or power-grab agenda.
4. We respect the decision of those who in conscience have reached a judgment that the President should not remain in office. Part of this process is the moral obligation to seriously consider alternatives that will be truly good for the country, and not abet the struggle for power among the elite and corrupt politicians.
5. The search for truth must include a search into the deeper truth of Philippine political life, the factors which make the present crisis just one of a series of political crises that hinder the country's development. It is necessary to listen to, reflect seriously on, and address the concerns of a large majority of people who seem apathetic or whose dissatisfaction does not seem to translate into political action. Some, for example, have lost trust in all politicians of whatever camp. Others, especially those in the provinces, feel excluded by and resentful of what they perceive to be (a status quo that allows Manila to make decisions) for the country again. Efforts must be made to address this disillusionment and sense of exclusion,
so that our people will be motivated to participate more vigorously in our country's political life.
6. If many of our people seem to be uninvolved or uninterested, it is primarily because of an overriding concern for economic survival during very hard times. The real and urgent concerns of the poor should be given highest priority amid (the) search for truth. Indeed, the search for truth is integrally linked to the fate of the poor. Corruption and dishonesty have made the lot of the poor worse.
7. Government and private sector to address the urgent needs of the poor in fields (of major concern), such as education, health, housing, livelihood and the like, should continue to be supported and, indeed, intensified. This is especially urgent in view of the looming international oil crisis.
8. While there may be reasons to consider amending the Constitution for the sake of greater responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of our people, Charter change as a diversionary tactic in times of political conflict, or as a means of perpetuating elite democracy, should be rejected. Thus, the rush to change the Constitution, especially through a constituent assembly, should be resisted. Furthermore, while major constitutional changes such as parliamentarism and federalism may seem to have merit, their concrete realization and implications should be carefully studied and discussed, rather than prematurely decided upon.
9. There may be no clear solutions or exit strategies to our present state. But our past history, especially during the martial law years, reminds us that we can continue being vigilant and work for truth and justice even when the alternatives are not clear. Thus, the following courses of action should be pursued:
a. Our educational institutions, parishes and other institutions should become centers for conscientization. Discernment groups must be organized to combat apathy, to heighten awareness and involvement and to prepare for future action. We echo the call of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines in the statement of 10 July 2005, to "urge our people in our parish and religious communities, our religious organizations and movements, our Basic Ecclesial Communities to come and pray together, reason, decide and act together always to the end that the will of God prevail in the political order."
b. Conscientization that leads to organizing and reorganizing base groups and forming community or sectoral organizations should be given priority. Such groups can also be invited to deal with local problems, to engage local government and to do network-building with other sympathetic groups.
c. These and other groups should be mobilized toward vigilance and monitoring:
. First, the continued effectiveness of government programs for the poor.
. Second, appointment to public offices made by the President.
. Third, acts of apparent retribution against those who are critical of the government and the President.
. Fourth, the actual use of pork barrel by legislators and their possible abuse of it for themselves.
. Fifth, the preparations for forthcoming electoral exercises, through advocacy for automation, and the continuing task of voters' education.
. Sixth, the use of funds that will be made available in the event of a peace agreement in Mindanao.
d. Deeper study and reflection on institutional alternatives (such as parliamentarism, federalism, etc.) should be conducted at various levels, from university think tanks to grass-roots groups.