Sedi­tious bish­ops

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

THE charge of sedi­tion against our bish­ops and priests is quite alarm­ing. Whether the prelates are “by law” guilty of the said charges, is some­thing we can­not but, for now, leave to the court for de­ter­mi­na­tion. This does not mean though that only the court can give us the com­plete nar­ra­tive about the mat­ter. Those schooled in law may have more com­pe­tence to tell us what is sedi­tious or oth­er­wise. How­ever, let’s not for­get that those dragged into this case have been crit­ics of the pres­i­dent in one way or another. In other words, the com­plete story isn’t just sim­ply about sedi­tion.

Out of re­spect for our sys­tem, we should give the De­part­ment of Jus­tice a chance. Per­haps there’s still truth in the promise of the good of­fice to de­cide on the is­sue in a man­ner most fair and hon­est. None­the­less we should not naively in­sist to the point of fool­ing our­selves that we are only see­ing seg­mented events. We have to go back to the point of ori­gin where all th­ese started and that is the protest and crit­i­cism made by the re­li­gious against the gov­ern­ment’s al­leged in­volve­ment in ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

On this note we can­not but hope that the goal of the ad­min­is­tra­tion is not merely to de­mol­ish and si­lence al­lits crit­ics. It is easy to say that a case was filed against some­one for mere vi­o­la­tion of the law. In re­al­ity how­ever, it is some­times a case of “an­i­mos­ity pre­ced­ing ob­jec­tiv­ity.” Le­gal tech­ni­cal­i­ties can be very well used as a cloak for a po­lit­i­cal agenda against one’s en­e­mies. The let­ter of the law may be ob­jec­tive in terms of its con­struc­tion. The in­ten­tion pre­ced­ing its ap­pli­ca­tion, how­ever, is ba­si­cally sub­jec­tive, also not rul­ing out mal­ice or bad faith.

So other than prov­ing that the bish­ops charged are

sedi­tious, the ad­min­is­tra­tion also has to prove that the charges are not with­out mal­ice in re­la­tion to the crit­i­cisms against the gov­ern­ment. I hope peo­ple will not mis­read the whole mat­ter. This means not for­get­ting the fact that prior to the al­le­ga­tion of sedi­tion, the fo­cus was “hu­man rights.” We have not in­quired whether the “to­toong nar­col­ist” is authentic or not. What has hap­pened in­stead was a twist in the plot. We can only hope that pub­lic will be re­cip­i­ents of an authentic gospel truth and not one that is fab­ri­cated.

At the end of the day is a se­ri­ous ques­tion: should the bish­ops and priests go to jail then should crit­i­cisms against hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions stop? I am say­ing this be­cause crit­i­cism, un­der cer­tain con­di­tions, is a ba­sic el­e­ment of po­lit­i­cal life. There is no gov­ern­ment so per­fect that a sin­gle crit­i­cism is not needed. Who else will have the courage to stand up once the likes of Fr. Robert Reyes and Bishop Ambo David will rot in jail?

On another re­lated note: the CBCP through its pres­i­dent Arch­bishop Ro­mulo Valles ex­pressed sad­ness over the al­le­ga­tions of sedi­tion against the four bish­ops and three priests of the Catholic Church. Re­cently, Manila Arch­bishop Car­di­nal Chito Ta­gle has ex­pressed not only con­cern but also sol­i­dar­ity with the bish­ops. Ap­par­ently, it is con­sol­ing that th­ese high-rank­ing Church of­fi­cials ex­press what­ever sen­ti­ment of sol­i­dar­ity to their fel­low clergy. After all, it is, se­ri­ously, not easy when one is made to go through the has­sle of an­swer­ing crim­i­nal charges.

But for heaven’s sake our bish­ops do not just need our prayers and moral sup­port. I hope the other mem­bers of the bish­ops’ con­fer­ence will be clearer in their stand and pro­nounce­ment on the more con­crete is­sues from which th­ese sedi­tion charges stemmed. This we have to say in the face of moral am­biva­lence even among mem­bers of the clergy and the re­li­gious.

More than the “sad­ness” and “dis­be­lief” of Valles, this coun­try needs a clearer de­nun­ci­a­tion of the horrors that have been hap­pen­ing to us. Should the four bish­ops go to jail, the loss of their lib­erty is val­ue­less in the face of a par­a­lyzed Catholic hi­er­ar­chy. Prophets are prophets not be­cause they are great or­a­tors but be­cause they are fear­less crit­ics un­fazed by any im­pe­rial power.*

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