Vote reverse endorsement

- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - September 6, 2015 - 10:00am

If we want good governance and to protect our democracy, we have to vote reverse endorsement. Simply, we must reject any candidate endorsed by the INC no matter how seemingly good and competent. Once elected, an INC endorsed candidate will be beholden to INC officials and our experience has not been good.

If it is just a religion, there should be no problem. But INC is more than a religion. It is a political power bloc that uses its clout to promote its interests regardless of implication to the common good. We must push INC back to the realm of purely religion, and thus uphold separation of church and state.

Yes, placards in the last INC mass action called for separation of church and state. But they have a different understanding of it. To them, they should be totally independent even of our judicial process. The state cannot interfere if they are “disciplining” their own members.

But when does “internal discipline” or even “internal squabble” end and a potential criminal act begin? The subject of their “discipline” filed a complaint with the DOJ for illegal detention. That’s as criminal an act as it could be. Remember Janet Napoles is in jail not because she illegally appropriated public funds from the pork barrel of legislators, but because she illegally detained her own assistant.

There was a text message I received several times during that mass action urging their members to make everyone feel the power of the Iglesia by massing their members in the busiest corner of Metro Manila on a payday weekend. That is a totally irresponsible exercise of their constitutional right for peaceful assembly.

What the INC did is simple bullying. They held innocent citizens hostage. If they stayed at Padre Faura, they may have a point. But there is no government agency at EDSA Crossing.

Still, many of our politicians, the same ones we elected, showed complete subservience to the INC. They justified this totally anti-social behavior.

The INC apparently wanted to force government to disregard the complaint filed by one of their own. Luckily, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima had balls other men in government lacked. She reiterated her duty to hear all complaints from all citizens and let the judicial system work.

But the INC is so used to having their way, subverting even our judicial system. It is no secret they have members appointed in the judiciary, fiscals, police, NBI and other agencies of government. Indeed, an NBI official tried to undercut Sec de Lima by prematurely announcing there is no case even before it could be investigated properly.

Separation of church and state is a good principle. P-Noy invoked such separation when he strongly defended the RH Act from stiff opposition by the Catholic Church.

But in fairness to the Catholic Church, it bans its clergy from holding public office. A bishop from Pampanga had to unfrock himself to run for Governor. In the US a popular Jesuit priest had to resign his congressional seat representing Massachusetts under orders from the Pope.

Indeed, even the so-called Pajero Bishops, so criticized for receiving SUVs from the Sweepstakes office during the Arroyo administration, faced a congressional investigation. They did not invoke the Constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State to exempt themselves from a public inquiry. They held themselves accountable in the same way the members of the INC Sanggunian should.

The Constitution guarantees our right to freely practice our religious beliefs. But once such practice impinges on the rights of others or threatens public safety, the State must act. Thus, a religious terrorist group like ISIS should not be free to decapitate heads in the name of their religion and say their right to practice it is protected by the Constitution.

Churches already have too many privileges that seem to be contrary to this separation principle. For instance, this tax free status given to churches is an anomaly. If the justification is because churches provide social services such as education and welfare the state is unable to fully provide, then that should merely be a deductible expense.

There are many things churches do that are clearly in the realm of commerce that ought to be levied the proper taxes. In Christianity, even Jesus made a gesture of paying taxes.

In Matthew 17, verse 25-27: … Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes --- from their own sons or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

A voluntary tax payment would be in keeping with the example set by Christ. It would seem to me all Churches who claim to be Christian or claims the name of Christ or Cristo and impose tithing among its members, ought to do the same. That separates obligations to God and obligations to the earthly government. It separates Church and State.

Going back to why we should not vote for candidates endorsed by INC, let us recall recent examples that show why INC’s undue influence on government goes against good governance.

Many of us are unable to get our driver’s license after we apply for renewal because of a failure in supply. The problem has its roots in the early ’90s when a company owned by a very influential INC member managed to win the contract for producing the license cards.

I know the guy and the story because he was one of those I often had coffee with during the time I was a regular at the 365 Club at the Intercon coffee shop. His brother was also a prominent SC Justice.

When the contract lapsed, LTO couldn’t bid out a new contract. TROs forced LTO to just let the company supply the license cards for years even without a contract. Then, COA ordered LTO to bid it out. The guy had died so that probably made COA braver.

Legal problems delayed already cumbersome bidding procedures so we are now given pieces of paper in place of a license card. That piece of paper may work here, but not abroad and that’s the inconvenience to the rest of us.

Then, there is that dismissal of Sunny Sevilla as Customs commissioner because he refused to appoint someone supposedly recommended by the INC to head Customs police. I heard the story of a meeting at Bahay Pangarap in Malacanang.  P-Noy took a cigarette break with Sunny and they had a conversation.

P-Noy supposedly showed Sunny a text message chiding the President for his inability to make a subordinate toe the line on the appointment agreed upon. So Sunny asked P-Noy if he wanted him to resign because it is a matter of principle. P-Noy said it might be the best and so it happened.

We all know how absolutely rotten the Customs bureaucracy is. It is also one of the favorite agencies of INC to which they recommend appointees. I have heard of reports that document how the practice makes eliminating the kalakalan at Customs difficult to do.

Even Joe America, P-Noy’s favorite blogger was despondent enough about corruption at Customs to write his first negative observations about this administration. His blog is entitled “Are BOC and INC a crime syndicate?” In Joe America’s words:

“What do I want? I want heads to roll… They anchor good government processes, perhaps while engaged in a bad one, a real stinkeroo. It is hard to terminate Lina given that Sevilla was pushed out to bring him in. So I don’t know whose head needs to roll.

“Mar Roxas will pay the price, and that’s a pity. He gets attached to a straight path that is decidedly bent.

“Mr. Aquino is in a box. I suspect his trust in subordinates has been misused, as it was with another guy named Purisima. If he does not cure this with firm and transparent acts, the straight path (Daang Matuwid) suffers a very heavy, heavy blow.”

Of course P-Noy knows. On corruption at Customs, he asked in one of his SONAs: Saan kayo kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha? But no follow up from P-Noy.

We have no choice. We simply must not vote for anyone endorsed by the INC. That’s how to protect our democracy from becoming a captive of one religion. That’s how to make INC go back into being a religion rather than a political power broker with axes to grind.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is  bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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