The power of the Churches in the Philippines, especially the Roman Catholic Church (RC). They were key to ousting a tyrant president.
In February 1986, when Ferdinand Marcos cheated in the snap elections and his opponent Corazon Aquino had called for civil disobedience, Jaime Cardinal Sin through Radyo Veritas called on the people to go to EDSA. What happened then was the People Power uprising.
In 2001, when Erap Estrada was kicked out from Malacañang, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had drawn the support of the Philippine Churches, especially the Protestant Churches through Fidel Ramos and Renato de Villa, and she rose into power.
In 2004, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was exposed to have called a COMELEC official to ensure her presidency, the people clamored for her resignation. The RC Church did not support the call of the people, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had able to finish her term.
At present, Rodrigo Duterte knows that among his biggest opponents in his becoming a dictator is the Philippine Churches, especially the RC Church. One of the challengers of his de facto Martial Law nationwide is the Philippine Churches. He knows that his charter change and federalism will not be realized because of the opposition of the Philippine Churches. If he plans to ensure his national and local electoral candidates to win in May Elections through cheating and violence, the Philippine Churches will condemn his regime and he might be ousted. This is why Duterte keeps on attacking the Church. It is his way of avoiding to face the power of the Church.
Duterte enjoys attacking the Churches. In ranting against the Churches, he has been able to entertain his supporters and in a way, he sways the attention of the public from some relevant and important issues.
On January 10, during the ground breaking of the Gregorio del Pilar National High School in Bulacan, Duterte challenged the Church to disprove the book ‘The Altar of Secrets.
The book was written by the late journalist Aries Rufo and contains articles about sex and corruption scandals involving bishops and priests.
“Kung masagot nila ito at sabihin nila na may isang bagay dito na mali, abangan niyo ang Holy Week, dito ako magpalansang (magpapako) sa krus sa Bulacan. Oo. Totoo,” Duterte said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
[If they can address this and say one thing in the book that is incorrect, wait for Holy Week, I will have myself crucified here in Bulacan. Yes. That’s true.]
As 2018 was about to end, Duterte ranted again against the Churches by asserting his idea that God is one and He is only the Father. Jesus Christ is not God, because God should not submit to be crucified on the Cross.
The public has to ask, in Duterte’s distractions, what are the big issues which Duterte needs to cover?
The immediate concern of the people this year is another round of rising costs of basic commodities because of the additional amount on the excise tax on fuel. There is also the continuing massive human rights violations in the de facto Martial Law. There is also a big problem for Duterte on how to win his national and local candidates without using fraud and violence.
Last year, Duterte had attacked the Churches in two crucial moments of the people’s movement. One moment was in June and July and the other was in October and November.
In the months of June and July last year, Duterte floated his idea of “Stupid God”. At the time, the big issues were the cancellation of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks, extension of martial law in Mindanao, extrajudicial killings because of war on drugs where reported deaths under investigation reached 23,000, all-out war and war on terror, ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, pushing for charter change and federalism, restoration into power of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and TRAIN Law among others.
In the months of October and November, Duterte ordered to “kill the bishops,” aside from attacking Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David of stealing Church money and he asked the people to build chapel in their homes. That was the time where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) concocted an “ouster plot” of Duterte.
Gross human rights violations had intensified as red-tagging and vilification on some churches, church organizations and progressive legal organizations and partylists are openly carried out by the state forces. Crackdown on Peace consultants were carried out by AFP and PNP using planted evidences. The Lumad and Moro in Mindanao are deprived of their ancestral lands and their rights to self-determination are violated. The peasants and workers in Mindanao are subjected to the power of martial law. Sister Pat Fox was deported. His military cohorts also invented the ‘Red October’ plot, red-tagging and vilifying 18 schools and putting college students in harm’s way.
Duterte’s attacks on the Churches will continue these coming months and even after May 2019 Elections. It is his way of preventing the leaders of the Churches to use their prophetic role.
However, attacking the Churches is a sign of weakness of the Duterte administration. Actually, he is afraid of the power of the Church. In the right time, the Church’s power will judge him and can help the people in removing him from his throne.