The CBCP vs Duterte
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - July 26, 2020 - 12:00am

In my opinion there cannot be an understanding of the CBCP’s attacks against President Duterte unless we go back to the role the Spanish friars during Spain’s colonization of the Philippines for 300 years.

Spain used specifically Roman Catholic friars to administer and govern the distant colony.

“Since the colonial period, Catholicism has been the cornerstone of Filipino identity for millions in the Philippines. Catholicism rapidly spread during the early years of Spanish colonialism, in part due to a lack of otherwise centralized religious institutions, other than Islam in the south, which might have challenged it.

Its close associations with Filipino identity have placed the Catholic Church at the heart of nationalism, social justice, and other movements, while at the same time has been associated with power, elitism, and exploitation at various points in its history.” (Steven Shirley, Guided By God: The Legacy of the Catholic Church in Philippine Politics)

It can therefore be expected that this historical background continues to influence, even dominate Philippine politics. The effort to block the election of Rody Duterte in the last presidential election came from these conservative sections of the Catholic Church (particularly the CBCP) to keep its historical dominance over the state.

Catholicism and the Spanish state were inseparable, and the religious played a predominant role in the administration of the Philippines. That role has been waning with more effective Duterte holding the reins of government.

“By the late Spanish colonial period, the Catholic orders and their friars were the wealthiest and most politically powerful elements within Filipino society. Spanish friars represented the hegemonic power of the Spanish government and foreign Catholic Church,” author added.

But native priests noticed the inequality between Spanish friars and them.The native priests pushed for greater authority in Filipino parishes.

Both the Spanish government and the orders blocked efforts by local priests, thereby cultivating a nationalist Filipino priesthood that would support and be supported by the efforts of the 19th century nationalist movement.

Catholic priests were among the revolutionary figures that deeply inspired nationalist efforts, especially José Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora, who were executed by the Spanish army on suspicion of fomenting the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. The Katipunan code word, GOMBURZA, was an amalgam of all three names. On the other hand, Spanish friars were vilified in nationalist literature, the most influential of all being José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (1887), which told stories of corruption in the priesthood, and which was banned in Catholic schools well into the 20th century.

The coupling of the Catholic Church and Philippine state proved a challenge for the incoming Americans, who promoted a policy of absolute separation between church and state. They also inherited the problem of the Spanish friars, many of whom had no intention of leaving the Philippines despite hostility from nationalist Filipinos. The Treaty of Paris ensured the orders’ land ownership, but Filipino politicians pushed for the confiscation and redistribution of this land.

While initially it appeared that the Americans favored the friars – much to the fear of the Filipinos – American objectives clearly emphasized the diminution of Catholic power. Americans purchased Catholic-held land from the Church and made it available for sale, ostensibly to the landless, but most land was swept up by wealthy Filipino landholders. At the same time, the American government realized that the Catholic Church held significant power and sought to co-opt it, in part by bringing in American Catholic priests.

Following decades of marginalization and hostility from the American government and Protestant missionaries, the power of the Catholic Church reemerged in the 1930s, in part due its control over Philippine universities, of which the Filipino elite were graduates.

As a result, the vast majority of Filipino politicians were Roman Catholic and Catholicism was an important aspect of political identity.

In the Spanish system the friar or priest was at the center of public life in impoverished communities, but the active engagement of community members changed the way that Filipinos related to systems of power and authority.

The powerful metaphors of suffering and resurrection deployed by the Church served as the catalyst for widespread protests and support for a Cory Aquino presidency, who took Cardinal Sin as a close adviser.

The Church supported the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, which sent 500,000 volunteers out to monitor elections, and in sermons emphasized voting as a Christian duty. Cardinal Sin encouraged those who accepted bribes to vote for Aquino anyway, absolving them of the sin of taking Marcos’ money. The Catholic Church was instrumental in the victory of Corazon Aquino, though Marcos himself claimed to have won the presidency.

The contemporary resurgence of the church domination of the state is targeted against Duterte who has chosen difficult goals for governing the Philippines – real independent foreign policy for the country, fighting crime and the drug lords and now coping with COVID 19. Let us hear from the CBCP on how they can help Duterte and his government instead of attacking his person.

CBCP RODRIGO DUTERTE
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