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‘Life in Philippines like living in the valley of death’

Eva Visperas - The Philippine Star
âLife in Philippines like living in the valley of deathâ
“This is the time for penitence and atonement for our national and personal sins,” Archbishops Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Marlo Peralta of Nueva Segovia and Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao said in a joint pastoral message on the culture of murder and plunder dated today.
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DAGUPAN CITY , Philippines — Three Catholic bishops have described the present social condition of the nation as “like living in the valley of death.”

“This is the time for penitence and atonement for our national and personal sins,” Archbishops Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Marlo Peralta of Nueva Segovia and Ricardo Baccay of Tuguegarao said in a joint pastoral message on the culture of murder and plunder dated today.

They cited “the killing of drug users and (political) opponents, the helpless death in the pandemic, death by governance without vision, death by shameless corruption that seems to break all records,” noting that for the past five years, more than 30,000 poor Filipinos have been killed in the campaign against illegal drugs.

“Journalists have been killed, political opponents have been murdered, court judges have been assassinated, priests have been shot and critics have been bullied and threatened. The killers are at large and the blind supporters of these murderers applaud the killers. The pandemic was a calamity of nature that we could not control.”

“We saw death in our homes and offices. The heroic medical health workers risked their safety and some perished with their PPEs on. While other nations have risen from the pandemic, our death toll continues to rise,” they said.

“The poor are slowly dying from joblessness due to ridiculous confusing quarantine classifications. Incompetence kills people. Ineptitude kills nations and economies. Hunger kills slowly,” they added.

They also stressed that “Bullets kill. Viruses kill. Governance without direction kills. Corruption kills. Trolls kill with fake news. Hunger kills.”

“When will the killings stop?” they asked, saying the poor pay for the corruption of the powerful while the nation is sinking in debt.

However, the bishops believe that Filipinos are not helpless and facing a dead end. “We will overcome evil by the power of good. Our help is from the Lord!” they said.

They urged the faithful to organize penitential rosaries and reparation prayers “to the Divine Mercy that the Lord may forgive our murders and our support of murderers.”

They asked people to resist  a murderous and corrupt public order as guided by the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

No. 401 of Compendium states that non-violent resistance, such as peaceful assemblies of dissent or sober discussions of social issues guided by the Gospel or rallies for honesty and heroism, is the path people must choose.

“We have a moral duty to resist and correct a culture of murder and plunder as much as the prolonged pattern of hiding or destroying the truth. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism,” they said.

No. 408 of the Compendium states that “we are taught that in the democratic system, political authority is accountable to the people and representative bodies must be subjected to effective social control…The obligation on the part of those elected to give an accounting of their work is a constitutive element of democratic representation.”

Guided by this, they “commend, bless and encourage the full investigation, by those in authority, of any whiff of corruption; as we also reproach, rebuke and censure those who obstruct the legal process to arrive at truth and justice.”

They said free elections, which allow the selection and change of representatives, is the most effective way to make political authority accountable.

The bishops pleaded to the youth and first-time voters to register. “We appeal to the sense of patriotism of the reluctant candidates to bring back ethics in our political life and run according to your conscience not according to the surveys,” they said.

“This is not the time for despair but courage. This is not the time to be quiet but to stand up for God. Against the tide of murders and plunder, let us bear witness to truth and life,” they said.

SOCRATES VILLEGAS
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