Is God sending Pope Francis to the Phl?

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2015 - 12:00am

We cannot fathom God’s ways. But there is a reason why they happen. The timing of this charismatic pope’s visit to the Philippines is one such mystery. On the surface it seems only a date and an event. It could not have been more appropriate and that is what we must ask our questions about.

Politically, it is recognized that the country has reached a nadir of social and economic inequality with its growing number of poor. We are sitting on a social volcano with immense poverty and a declining middle class. Its problems have been compounded by disasters brought about by climate change.

We are hit by both natural and social afflictions, making us more vulnerable than other countries in the region.  Other countries may be affected by climate change disasters like the tsunami in Thailand or the earthquake in Japan, but these are not as badly off as the Philippines is. Unlike us, they have governments capable of dealing with it.

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This was best described by CNN’s Anderson Cooper  who was hailed a hero in the Internet by netizens for saying exactly what he saw on the ground.

In his Twitter account he wrote: “The scene here at the airport is desperate. The people in Tacloban have great dignity and deserve better than what they have gotten.”

“I have not seen a large Philippine military presence out around here.

“The search and rescue never materialized. There are mothers searching for their children, it is a sickening sight five days later.

 “There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief.” All this was beamed around the world.

With mounting hard evidence that the President and his government were incompetent and did not meet the standards for emergency rescue after Yolanda, we should stop asking him why.

Some were surprised at the chaos and disorganization. These need not have happened had the President made use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command.  It is a group within the military made of civic professionals who are trained to cope with such disasters. He is surprised that no one, not even the defense secretary thought of it. National mobilization would need congressional approval but district mobilization of the reserved forces was possible.

The issue was never really discussed in mainstream media on who to blame. It seemed the Aquino government was being shielded from blame rather than being made to account for its irresponsible handling of the disaster that killed thousands.

Instead we were regaled by a battle for the truth about the real situation on just exactly what happened in the typhoon-ravaged areas of Leyte and Samar. That battle is unresolved even to this day as Pope Francis visits the Philippines.

As it was then there are two sides. Then on one side, we had members of the international media giving factual reports from the ground at the disaster zone. On the other side were people from Malacanang including President Benigno Aquino giving a much rosier update from a cozier distance.

The same question is being asked with reports from the victims themselves that up to today, aid has been slow in coming. Or if they did come, like the “cardboard” houses, they were simply not adequate to the need and simply blown away.

It must now be asked and the question directed instead to the sovereign people. What must we do?

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Indeed, this is where the problem lies. Given such a situation Pope Francis has the unenviable task cut out for him – how to help the many who are both Catholics and Filipinos open their eyes to what can be done. There are solutions but the people are being blinded into accepting that these problems do not exist and that the country is doing just fine.

The Pope’s visit may be a pastoral visit, but it has deep implications if after his visit the country returns to “business as usual,” and we resume with the frenzy of campaigning for still another dubious elections for 2016.

The lack of leadership in the Philippines is so apparent and those who would want it reformed are often shunted aside instead of listened to. The Philippine government has become irrelevant.

Members of Congress are only good at grandstanding during Senate hearings in the guise of “aiding legislation” but these have not be pursued to render justice.

We would like to believe that Pope Francis’ visit would do more than just be a visit. It should be a unique opportunity for calling for needed moral change. Indeed, we hope fervently for some word, some encouragement from a reforming Pope that things are not as rosy or made to look as rosy as they really are. This should be directed at both Filipinos in general and the Aquino government in particular. There is too much suffering among the many that needs to be addressed soon if we are to be true to the teachings of our Catholic faith.

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By the time this column is published, I will be in Palo. The lower floor of the Pedrosa ancestral house which was leveled to the ground was made habitable for us to stay in when Pope Francis makes a whistle stop to visit the town of my late husband’s forebears.  My daughter, Veronica of Al-Jazeera is already in Tacloban and on her way to Palo.  She covered Haiyan’s destruction and will able to compare what happened then and what has been done since.

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