Pastoral concerns

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Speaking of pastors, a more high-profile “spiritual adviser” of President Duterte dragged him yet to another controversy.

Two senatorial candidates whose families were connected by their Christian faiths were meant to cross paths sooner than later on their way to the campaign trails. As it turned out, both of them come from a family of pastors of Born Again Christians.

This we learned from no less than re-electionist Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and former Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) chief Greco Belgica who joined us during our virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday (Nov. 17). Both are Senatorial aspirants vying for slots in the 12-man Senate race in the May 9, 2022 elections.

Belgica fondly recalled his pastor-father Grepor “Butch” Belgica did spiritual renewal project in Valenzuela City where Gatchalian served for three consecutive terms as Mayor of Valenzuela City. Belgica credited Gatchalian as a practising “reformist” who supported a “Moral Recovery Program” for Valenzuela City Jail detainees initiated by his pastor-father.

An ex-convict himself, the elder Belgica turned Born Again Christian. He was converted into a bible preacher when he got epiphany while serving jail sentence. After grant of presidential pardon in 1976, he became a Pastor and established his own Ministry and succeeded in business. The younger Belgica and his brother, Jeremiah, chairman of Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), are also Born Again Christian pastors, just like their father. “We are a family of pastors,” Belgica cited.

In the same vein, Belgica added, Sen. Gatchalian also comes from a “very good” Christian family. Gatchalian traces his common spiritual links with the Belgica’s through the Senator’s mother and her sister who were fellow Born Again Christian pastors also. Gatchalian confirmed having worked closely indeed with the older Belgica’s “Moral Recovery” Program that his younger brother Rex – the current Mayor of Valenzuela City – continues to support. “In our faith, true change comes from spiritual change. No matter what government interventions do to detainees, that person would not change,” Gatchalian pointed out.

Although originating from the same “Christian community,” the two candidates are coming from different political parties in next year’s Senate elections. Gatchalian belongs to the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

On the other hand, Belgica is teamed-up with no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself leading the administration-backed Senate ticket. Both of them carry the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS). Currently the PDDS chieftain, Belgica represented President Duterte in the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC) at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) before the deadline of the period of substitution lapsed last Monday. Four days later, however, President Duterte clarified, he remains the nominal chieftain of the fractious PDP-Laban.

During the same Kapihan sa Manila Bay zoom webinar, Belgica explained this is merely intended to secure the candidacies of both President Duterte and Go as PDDS-endorsed bets. The PDP-Laban and the PDDS forged an alliance agreement on Sept. 23, or a week before the filing of COCs on Oct. 1 to 8. So while the Comelec has yet to resolve the intra-party dispute within the fractious PDP-Laban, President Duterte admitted they adopted this “political strategy.”

Thus, the Chief Executive reiterated his endorsement of Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go as the presidential standard bearer of the PDDS. The President’s long time aide originally filed his COC as the VP candidate of the PDP-Laban. Go withdrew his COC last week and stepped up as substitute presidential bet of the PDDS in place of the senior Pastor Belgica. Incidentally, Pastor Belgica was appointed in 2019 as the Presidential Adviser for Religious Affairs under the Office of the President (OPARA) until he resigned this year.

Speaking of pastors, a more high profile “spiritual adviser” of President Duterte dragged him yet to another controversy.

A grand jury indictment last week in the United States (US) named Davao City-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy along with nine other church officials who are manning their headquarters in Los Angeles (LA), California. They were accused of sex-trafficking operation that allegedly threatened victims as young as 12 with “eternal damnation” and physical abuse if they refused to do “night duty” for the pastor.

The latest indictment added Quiboloy and 5 other new defendants to an existing indictment filed in 2020 against Quiboloy’s church’s LA headquarters. This is the latest legal suit thrown against Quiboloy. He is also facing suit here in the Philippines. Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed a cyber libel complaint against Quiboloy over the latter’s claims of misused funds against the PROMDI presidential standard-bearer.

In his 13-page complaint filed last Sept. 14 at the Makati regional trial court, Pacquiao sought P100 million in damages against Quiboloy for impugning his reputation not only as a Senator but also as a world boxing champion. He deplored Quiboloy in “using his power and influence to spread fake news and false information” through the SMNI News – the broadcasting arm of the Pastor’s church. In the YouTube video aired by SMNI, Pacquiao was supposedly accused of having “misused the funds” for the Saranggani Sports Training Center (SSTC) and that the project had cost the government P3.5 billion.

A Born Again Christian too, Pacquiao also surrounds self with pastors. Pacquiao envisions his administration will be composed of “godly” people who will help him bring back Filipinos’ good Christian values. Should he win the presidency, he announced his intention to name religious leaders to his Cabinet and to his own “anti-corruption task force” to clean up the graft-prone government.

Fortunately, many of our bible-preaching pastors have no messianic complex. Mindful about the country’s Constitution on the separation of Church and State, their pastoral concerns do not overreach into governance.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with