Duterte and Villegas

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the current president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has a long history of closeness to the Aquino family, a closeness that continues to this day. Considering the power and influence of the Aquino family, it is not farfetched to imagine that such a closeness would be a beneficial one for Villegas.

There is nothing wrong in that, of course. But it is a closeness that is best left to the level of personal pastoral ministering. I doubt, however, if Villegas can summon the guts to talk to Noynoy, much less draw him away from the patent obstinacy that characterizes many of his ill-advised decisions. Noynoy would have needed that. Even presidents need spiritual and moral guidance.

Failing that, is Villegas prepared to lend himself to Noynoy in some other way, even without his bidding? I would assume so, considering how Villegas has come out blazing against Rodgrigo Duterte over comments the Davao City mayor made about the traffic jams he experienced during the visit to the Philippines of Pope Francis. The colorful language Duterte used came as no surprise.

But Villegas saw that as an opportunity to pontificate about how corruption has corrupted the character of people, with profanity and vulgarity among its vocal manifestations. As an archbishop and a man of the cloth, it is the duty of Villegas to pontificate about the good against the bad. What makes such pontification leave a bitter taste in the mouth is when it cannot pass the simplest test of neutrality and objectivity.

The heavy underscoring by Villegas of corruption as an issue jibes perfectly with the hype about Noynoy's anti-corruption campaign, the same campaign Noynoy's anointed successor Mar Roxas promises to ostensibly pursue. To attack Duterte as a corrupted soul because of his vulgarity is unmistakably an oblique endorsement of Roxas, a job that is certain to please Noynoy at the expense of the CBCP which is supposed to be apolitical.

But using his person and the CBCP for politicking is far less an evil than the hypocrisy by which the public admonition of Duterte by Villegas is couched. Many do not approve of Duterte's words and ways, but at least he has no pretensions about them. He advertises them. Villegas, on the other hand, pontificates without the basis for which pontification earns credibility and respect -- honesty.

Villegas talks about being saddened by corruption, about the vulgarity in people which is a sign of corruption. But that is just seeing the trees. Villegas has obviously missed the entire forest. He clearly has not seen the huge role his failure as a shepherd of the flock has played in making people the way they are. If Duterte if foul and vile, has Villegas asked himself why?

Villegas, as president of the CBCP and, therefore, a ranking leader of the Roman Catholic Church, cannot stop short in just taking pride in the fact that 80 to 85 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholics. To have so many and still growing is just half the story. One must also acknowledge the warts that come with the distinction. It is not enough for Villegas to be saddened by a society so corrupt. He should also ask himself why.

If that society is corrupt and that society is 85 percent Catholic, then Catholic leaders like Villegas must have fallen asleep on their pastoral jobs. Duterte is a product of such a failure. And why is there such a failure? Because the moral and spiritual guardians are not being honest in their responsibilities. They cry out at the sins of others but never against the sins from within their ranks. Poor Villegas. Against Duterte, Duterte is far more honest, if in his own brutal way.

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