MANILA TIMES EDITORIAL/OPINION

WHY DOUBT PERSISTS ABOUT PNoy'S 2010 'ELECTION'  

OCT 13 --By FRANCISCO TATAD: It happened toward the end of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, and GMA may be in a position to confirm it. There is a growing belief that President B. S. Aquino 3rd was not legitimately elected in 2010, but was simply “processed into office” by the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic, using the precinct count optical scan machines, which they had illegally divested of safety features and accuracy mechanisms. Aquino is, in effect, a de facto president. Some analysts suggest that under extreme political duress, GMA was forced to either cooperate or look the other way in exchange for some assurance that Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd would be a benign president, and would not go after her for any of her purported sins. Regardless of who was proclaimed winner in that election, the process was illegal and invalid. In Germany in 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court declared automated voting unconstitutional because, according to the Court, it removed the “public character” of elections, and an election without a public character is not an election.

This was one point I had tried to raise in public forums during the campaign, but of course nobody listened. In our case, a serious constitutional breach invalidated the process. The “election” was conducted by Smartmatic, a Venezuelan private firm, which had no legal personality to conduct any election, for and on behalf of the Philippine government. The only legally constituted body with the authority and the duty to conduct elections for the Philippine government was (is) the Commission on Elections. Assuming for the sake of argument, and only for the sake of argument, that the Comelec could delegate to a private foreign corporation the technical aspect of its authority and duty to conduct a national election, the law on automated voting, and the contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic on the use of the PCOS machines, prescribed a number of built-in safety features and accuracy mechanisms. These included the source code, the digital signatures, the voter verification mechanism, the ultra-violet marker, etc. The Melo Comelec removed all of these, illegally, and it has remained an unpunished crime. This automatically rendered the use of the voting machines invalid and illegal, and the “results” drawn therefrom equally invalid and illegal. No invalid process can produce a valid result.
* READ MORE...

ALSO: Bungling the Binay debacle 

OCT 12 --By Tita Valderama: Sixteen months into the official campaign period for the 2016 presidential election, the allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, perceived as the most formidable of possible candidates, are becoming more serious.The longer the Vice President refuses to recognize the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s investigation of his alleged corrupt activities and delegates to spokespersons the task of denying the accusations, the more people would believe his erstwhile trusted allies. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised a valid point when she said that Binay is courting impeachment for betraying public trust if he continues to dismiss the allegations of corruption hurled against him and his family as part of a demolition job to destroy his chances of getting elected in 2016. Santiago said it is about time that Binay confronts his accusers and present pieces of evidence that would dispute their claims of corruption and ill-gotten wealth. “That is the normal reaction of an innocent person. He tears at his hair; he drives himself through the roof, he shouts to high heavens for justice, and then presents his evidence. He cannot just say, `they’re all lies, I deny all of them.’ That is not a defense.

The presumption of innocence is not a defense,” Santiago said in an interview after she delivered a speech at the Philippine Association of Real Estate Boards, Inc. (PAREB) in Muntinlupa City on October 10. At the same time, it is not difficult to understand where the Vice President stands. “Ikaw kaya, sa mga napanood mo sisipot ka doon? Mata lang ang walang latay,” Binay said in a conversation with reporters. “Kawawa ka sa mundo, pinagdududuro ka, sinisigawan ka, tinatakot ka pa. Sila na lang ang magmoro-moro doon.” The Vice President seems to have embraced the adage “less talk, less mistake.”  How do we get out of this political mess? Binay cannot be charged in court because he enjoys immunity from criminal suit. The Senate does not have prosecutorial powers to indict the Vice President. Who among the congressmen would dare impeach him when surveys show him to have the highest approval rating among prospective candidates? Yes, the Senate investigation may indeed have political colors given that the senators at the forefront have declared their intention to seek either the presidency or vice presidency, most probably under the administration umbrella.
--The Binay ruckus is all about politics, dirty politics at its best. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Political games in a society without trust 

OCT 14 --By Mike Wootton: I lived in Norway for a few years. What a great place it was to live in! An enduring memory is of one Saturday afternoon wandering around a fairly exclusive area of Oslo, basically window-shopping, when my wife decided that she might like to try some fur coats displayed in one of the shops. We went into the shop and indeed she tried a few on, all of which were extremely expensive, anything up to about $20,000 each. I was in no position to buy one, nor would I particularly have wanted to. However, the wife was quite taken with a couple of them and as women do, took them off and put them on again, trying to decide which she preferred.After about 20 minutes of this—although it seemed much longer!—the lady in the shop just said, “Why not take them both home, try them there and if you don’t like them just bring them back on Monday.” No suggestion of any payment. She didn’t even take note of our address other than the area in which we were living. We said thanks all the same but didn’t take the coats as we were not really intent on making a purchase.

Now could you imagine that happening in Manila!? You’d be lucky here if they even let you into the shop to try them on. And as for letting two unknown foreigners take two of these valuable items away to try and choose at home—it is an act that would be seen as total lunacy here in the Philippines (not that many fur coats are sold here anyway, but that is beside the point!).The example narrated above is about trust. Had I taken one or both of the offered coats away with me I would of course have returned them on the Monday. Had the coats been damaged whilst in my possession, I would have reimbursed the shop that had so kindly loaned them to me. Had I been of a mind to actually buy one them, being allowed to take them home in such an informal sort of way, may well have encouraged me to actually make a purchase.

The Philippines is a society without trust, or if there is trust it is in isolated cases. Basically very few people believe a word that anybody says, particularly if they are a stranger and even more particularly if they are unfortunate enough to be a foreigner. Even more odd is that people don’t really seem to expect others to believe a word of what they say. It’s all just a sort of bizarre game. Driving into the car park at Festival Mall on Sunday, right in my face was a car with a big “A framed” tarpaulin on its roof showing photos of the property in Batangas supposedly secretly owned through dummies by the Vice President. Of course I was already well aware of this accusation along with most other residents of the Philippines—it has certainly been well publicized. Philippine politics is a truly dangerous area and the competition for power and influence knows no bounds. Competitors get shot—there is a reasonable market for bullet-proof cars, being jailed on flimsy evidence, and disgraced also on flimsy or what may even be totally contrived “evidence.” * READ MORE...

Editorial: Filipino reformers should study Nobel awardee Jean Tirole 

OCT 14 --HE works of this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science should be the subject of intense study by Filipino good governance reformers. But we suppose these Filipino reformers would only be able to introduce what new methods and systems they learn from Jean Tirole’s works after a new president replaces Mr. Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. For as even Aquino’s adoring fans have now realized—except the deeply brainwashed true yellow believers—he is not working to reform the corrupt Philippine system but is even condoning the corrupt practices of his friends, playmates and political allies. These are, in the lingo of disgusted critics, his KKK or his “kaklase, kakampi at kabarilan.” These words mean classmates (kaklase), allies and close associates (kakampi) and target-shooting buddies (kabarilan).

He never fires, disciplines or even merely orders probes into the doings of KKKs. As a result, to cite only a few examples, smuggling has increased six times more than the annual average during the regimes of former president Erap Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (who is under hospital arrest for plunder and other charges despite her being seriously ill).
One of the research works for which the French economist Jean Tirole won the respect of colleagues worldwide and won the Nobel Prize is on how governments can effectively moderate the greed for profits of monopolies and gigantic businesses. This research also quantified the destructive effects of monopolies and overly large conglomerates on the common good of society as well as on the business climate. Regulatory capture --One of the banes of the Philippine economy, and a cause of great suffering for the 70 million Filipinos who are poor and almost poor, is what economists and governance analysts call “regulatory capture.” This is commonplace in Third World countries, but perhaps it is a phenomenon seen most nakedly in our country than in any other in our region. * READ MORE...

ALSO: National transformation (NTC) in Eastern Visayas 

OCT 17 --by Francisco Tatad: At the invitation of Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese of Borongan, Eastern Samar, I traveled to Borongan last week to talk about “the transformative role of the laity in Philippine politics.” This happened at their Diocesan Congress on the Laity on 11 October. It was an unadulterated Church event, in observance of the Year of the Laity and in preparation for Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines. An impressive turnout of church workers from 34 parishes packed the capitol gym, but for a while I thought I was speaking to one of the two assemblies which had been convened by the National Transformation Council.

In recent months, Filipinos have heard a lot about “national transformation.” From August 27 in Lipa, when the first NTC-initiated assembly issued an “urgent call for national transformation,” to Oct. 1 in Cebu, when the second assembly defined “the first steps toward national transformation,” the phrase has become part of the nation’s most important conversation. This was evident in Borongan. There, the stress was on the moral and spiritual as the basis of, and the indispensable first step toward, the political. And the people were eager to respond to the challenge, both as Church faithful and as citizens. But the most striking work of physical transformation today is to be seen in Tacloban, which remains the gateway to Eastern Visayas. From Manila to Borongan, you first fly to Tacloban. From there you travel by car for another four hours to your final destination.

You cannot possibly miss the spirit that fills the air. The whole city is being rebuilt from the ground by the city government and the people themselves with a lot of outside help, but not from the national government.
In just a few days, the world will be marking the first year anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, which flattened Tacloban on Nov. 8, 2013. It is not known how the city intends to remember this unforgettable date. Until now, the national government’s response to the emergency has been at best tepid. In fact, a visitor from Manila is casually asked by ordinary city folk, where have all the foreign donations gone? * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Rigoberto Tiglao: Is Aquino‘s plot to jail Binay?  

It seems like it. Vice President Jejomar Binay is way ahead in the voter-preference polls with 69 percent, against Mar Roxas’ 29 percent, while his trust ratings —despite the all-out demolition drive against him by Senator Antonio Trillanes and the powerful Philippine Daily Inquirer—are still the highest among government officials. I had been wondering why the propaganda campaign against Binay was undertaken this early, a year and a half before the May 2016 elections. One reason obviously is that the campaign is a weapon of mass distraction. Since the attack on Binay started, the issues such as the accountability of the architects (Aquino and his budget secretary) of the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the corruption of the police chief, the horrendous crime rate, the reincarnation of pork barrel funds in the 2015 budget and the MRT-3 corruption have receded from public attention.

But why would President Benigno Aquino 3rd risk weakening the demolition campaign’s impact against Binay in the 2016 elections by launching it too early, just as a distraction? The inescapable answer is that throwing Binay to jail at this time seems to be the only option left to stop Binay from being President in 2016. If he is detained in the next few months, it would be easier for Aquino to claim that it has nothing to do with the 2016 elections, while Binay’s resources for an election campaign, as I would explain, could weaken. Stopping Binay from becoming President in 2016 is a matter of political and even personal survival for Aquino and his camp: their illegal DAP, the bribery of senators in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, the MRT-3 gross anomalies, the pork-barrel thefts under this Administration, will surely land this president and his accomplices to jail unless they control the next administration. They have also wronged so many people with resources who are likely to demand justice – okay, call it vengeance – when Aquino and company are no longer in power.

Jailing Binay, of course, risks making him an underdog, a persecuted opposition figure just like this president’s father, Ninoy. But Aquino’s camp knows that despite his father’s popularity in 1972, that there was consensus that he would be the next president – people hardly cared about Ninoy’s imprisonment. It would be the economic recession that started in 1983 and Ninoy’s assassination that roused the people to revolt, and that occurred more than a decade after he was imprisoned. The jailing of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla – once very popular figures – as well as of former President Gloria Arroyo, have been successful dry runs of sorts for Aquino’s plan to jail Binay. The three senators – who were, before, among the most trusted and most popular in the Senate – are fast receding from people’s sphere of attention. Even with the flimsiest of evidence against her, Arroyo is spending her fifth year in detention, her health deteriorating to life-threatening levels, yet there is no outrage over such injustice. If I could do that in Arroyo’s case, I can do it with Binay, too, Aquino must be thinking. * READ MORE...

(ALSO by Ricardo Saludo) The Synod: Divorce, gays and other hot potatoes  

THE great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy. — First-week report on the Synod of Bishops, by Cardinal Péter Erdo

Will the Vatican now allow divorced Catholics to remarry? If not, can those who do so anyway still receive Holy Communion? What about unmarried couples living together? Are homosexual acts no longer sinful? Is artificial birth control? Setting out the evolving Church position on such moral questions was the work of the Eleventh Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held at the Vatican from October 5 until yesterday. And tasked by Pope Francis to report on the first week of discussions was Cardinal Péter Erdo.He is no small potato. As Esztergom-Budapest archbishop since 2002, he is the Primate of Hungary, the highest Catholic leader in that country. When Pope Saint John Paul II made him cardinal in 2003, Erdo, then 51, was the youngest Prince of the Church. The former professor of theology and canon law also heads the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, grouping the presidents of 33 conferences.

Thus, Erdo enjoys not only intellectual and ecclesiastical stature, but more important, broad respect among more than 200 bishops and archbishops gathered for the Synod on the family. He needs those qualities as General Rapporteur summing up without slant or omission the assembly’s sometimes discordant views and proceedings. The above-quoted lines from the October 13 report suggest the tensions underlying the forum. While acknowledging Christian family values, the excerpt cites the need “to accept people in their concrete being.” That includes “failure” and “diverse situations” in personal life like cohabitation, remarriage after divorce, and homosexuality — all contrary to Church law. The last sentence highlights the paramount challenge in the Synod: balancing the demands of doctrine and the imperative of mercy. God’s commandment and His forgiveness. So it has been in Christendom from the beginning, with 3rd Century Pope Saint Callixtus I, commemorated last Monday, facing strong opposition in extending absolution to sexual transgressions. A Church divided ---* READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Why doubt persists about PNoy’s 2010 ‘election’


FRANCISCO S. TATAD

MANILA, OCTOBER 20, 2014 (MANILA TIMES)  by FRANCISCO TATAD - It happened toward the end of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, and GMA may be in a position to confirm it.

There is a growing belief that President B. S. Aquino 3rd was not legitimately elected in 2010, but was simply “processed into office” by the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic, using the precinct count optical scan machines, which they had illegally divested of safety features and accuracy mechanisms. Aquino is, in effect, a de facto president.

Some analysts suggest that under extreme political duress, GMA was forced to either cooperate or look the other way in exchange for some assurance that Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd would be a benign president, and would not go after her for any of her purported sins.

Regardless of who was proclaimed winner in that election, the process was illegal and invalid. In Germany in 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court declared automated voting unconstitutional because, according to the Court, it removed the “public character” of elections, and an election without a public character is not an election.

This was one point I had tried to raise in public forums during the campaign, but of course nobody listened.

In our case, a serious constitutional breach invalidated the process. The “election” was conducted by Smartmatic, a Venezuelan private firm, which had no legal personality to conduct any election, for and on behalf of the Philippine government.

The only legally constituted body with the authority and the duty to conduct elections for the Philippine government was (is) the Commission on Elections.

Assuming for the sake of argument, and only for the sake of argument, that the Comelec could delegate to a private foreign corporation the technical aspect of its authority and duty to conduct a national election, the law on automated voting, and the contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic on the use of the PCOS machines, prescribed a number of built-in safety features and accuracy mechanisms. These included the source code, the digital signatures, the voter verification mechanism, the ultra-violet marker, etc.

The Melo Comelec removed all of these, illegally, and it has remained an unpunished crime. This automatically rendered the use of the voting machines invalid and illegal, and the “results” drawn therefrom equally invalid and illegal. No invalid process can produce a valid result.

* Homobono Adaza and Herman Tiu Laurel have petitioned the Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the whole 2010 elections. And some UP professors have filed criminal charges with the Ombudsman against the members of the Melo Commission for tampering with the PCOS machines and corrupting the elections.

There has been no action either from the Supreme Court or from the Ombudsman.


FROM WIKIPEDIA: The Philippine presidential and vice presidential elections of 2010 were held on Monday, May 10, 2010. The ruling President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was barred from seeking re-election by the 1987 Constitution, thus necessitating an election to select the 15th President. Incumbent Vice-President Noli de Castro was allowed to seek re-election though he could have possibly sought the presidency. As he didn't offer himself in any manner of candidacy at the election, his successor was determined as the 15th Vice President of the Philippines. This election was also the first time that the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) implemented full automation of elections, pursuant to Republic Act 9369, “An act authorizing the Commission on Elections to use an Automated Election System in the May 11, 1998 National or Local Elections and in subsequent National And Local Electoral Exercises”.

But this does not tell the whole story. How Aquino became a candidate and eventually president requires further telling.

This was 2010, and Aquino was then on his third year as a non-performing senator, after three terms as a non-performing congressman. Unlike his late father who could charm a snake with his gift of gab, Noynoy was an introvert. Cory had to campaign house-to-house, and plead with the late Governor Jose Yap of Tarlac to make him win on his first bid for Congress. As senator he had no declared political ambition, having reached the Senate on the sheer strength of his late father’s and mother’s reputation.

The declared Liberal Party presidential aspirant then was his friend and fellow senator Mar Roxas. They were both sprung from the same oligarchic class. Mar is the grandson of the late President Manuel Roxas, while PNoy is the grandson of the late Benigno S. Aquino, Sr., who was arrested in Tokyo for collaborating with the Japanese during the war but died of a heart attack before he could be tried for treason.

Mar’s and PNoy’s fathers were Senate colleagues and were seen as the most likely rivals for the presidency had martial law not scrapped the 1973 presidential contest. Gerry Roxas was seen as the statesman and Ninoy the demagogue, but the latter was the smarter strategist and tactician. In 1971, while Roxas was caught at Plaza Miranda with his LP colleagues when the communists struck, Ninoy, the party secretary general, was nowhere in sight.

Mar was going head to head with propaganda survey-leader Manny Villar in the pre-campaign, but he could not find a suitable potential team-mate–ideally someone from Luzon, preferably female or feminist.

In one small meeting of LP leaders when the matter came up, former Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas wondered why it had to be a problem when Sen. Aquino was right there with them.

The suggestion provoked laughter among Roxas, Abad, and Sen. President Franklin Drilon. Little did they know that PNoy would have the last laugh in the end.

Sometime in 2009, Cory suddenly took ill. The conscript media made a big event of the death watch, and prayers and solidarity messages poured in from all over, including from the Pope. Suddenly Cory was getting the media coverage she never got after EDSA, even while she was still in Malacañang.

As death came to Cory, something bigger than life came to her son, proving once more the truth in the saying, “So long as there is death, there is hope.”

From out of the blue, the stone rejected by the builders became the cornerstone.

PNoy became the presidential candidate, while Mar slid down as his running mate.

While Kris Aquino and her showbiz friends turned the wake into an extravaganza, the propaganda pollsters, owned or controlled by close relatives and friends of the bereaved family, suddenly found a new star.

Until then the billionaire-senator Manny Villar had all the propaganda surveys locked in. Gilberto Teodoro, the brightest among the candidates, and Richard Gordon, who has done more in his one term at the Senate or as Olongapo mayor than Aquino in all his nine years as legislator, were kept at a ridiculously low position. They never moved at all.

To finally dispose of Villar, the Aquino camp denounced the Nacionalista candidate as “Villaroyo”–meaning Arroyo’s real candidate, instead of Teodoro. This sent Villar’s rating tumbling down, while Aquino’s numbers shot up.

But knowing the real meaning of these numbers, Aquino now aimed for the coup de grace: he said he would win by five million votes, but he would be cheated by Arroyo, so he would call for “people power” to claim the presidency.

Arroyo could not take this lightly. Five years before that, Cory had gone to Malacañang, accompanied by four bishops, to ask Arroyo to resign.

Arroyo listened to the bishops, and after they had spoken, said: “Thank you very much, I will think about it, please pray for me.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, meeting in plenary at the time, decided it could not ask Arroyo to resign, but that it could not prevent others from asking her to resign, either.

Aquino’s people power threat , supported by the wild propaganda surveys, had a demoralizing effect on the Arroyo camp.

They decided to negotiate a modus vivendi with the Aquino camp. They assured Aquino that he could have his five million vote-plurality over his closest rival, provided he would not wage any punitive expedition against Arroyo later. The agreement was brokered and guaranteed by the tycoons and the taipans.

And so it came to pass—-the PCOS did its job, and US Ambassador Harry Thomas called on PNoy at his residence on Times Street even before the Congress could finish the count.

It looked like a win-win situation even for GMA for a while. Some of her senatorial candidates who had lost in 2007 for being associated with her, won in 2010 for being associated with her.

And despite PNoy’s five million-vote plurality, his number one senator, Frank Drilon, ranked only No. 4. And only one other LP candidate, Teofisto Guingona III “won.”

There was no punitive expedition against Arroyo, in keeping with the purported agreement. But after a while, some people started asking, what and where is the program of this administration? It had none.

But PNoy’s Akbayan advisers said, “We have a program. Impeach and remove Corona, send GMA to jail.”

I have tested this story on Manny Villar. He smiled very broadly but refused to confirm or deny.

Will GMA, despite her condition, honor us with a confirmation or denial. In any case, many seem convinced this is what happened.

PNoy was never elected, and should therefore step down now.

Bungling the Binay debacle October 12, 2014 9:11 pm by TITA C. VALDERAMA


Tita Valderama

Sixteen months into the official campaign period for the 2016 presidential election, the allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, perceived as the most formidable of possible candidates, are becoming more serious.

The longer the Vice President refuses to recognize the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee’s investigation of his alleged corrupt activities and delegates to spokespersons the task of denying the accusations, the more people would believe his erstwhile trusted allies.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago raised a valid point when she said that Binay is courting impeachment for betraying public trust if he continues to dismiss the allegations of corruption hurled against him and his family as part of a demolition job to destroy his chances of getting elected in 2016.

Santiago said it is about time that Binay confronts his accusers and present pieces of evidence that would dispute their claims of corruption and ill-gotten wealth.

“That is the normal reaction of an innocent person. He tears at his hair; he drives himself through the roof, he shouts to high heavens for justice, and then presents his evidence. He cannot just say, `they’re all lies, I deny all of them.’ That is not a defense. The presumption of innocence is not a defense,” Santiago said in an interview after she delivered a speech at the Philippine Association of Real Estate Boards, Inc. (PAREB) in Muntinlupa City on October 10.

At the same time, it is not difficult to understand where the Vice President stands.

“Ikaw kaya, sa mga napanood mo sisipot ka doon? Mata lang ang walang latay,” Binay said in a conversation with reporters. “Kawawa ka sa mundo, pinagdududuro ka, sinisigawan ka, tinatakot ka pa. Sila na lang ang magmoro-moro doon.”

The Vice President seems to have embraced the adage “less talk, less mistake.”

How do we get out of this political mess?

Binay cannot be charged in court because he enjoys immunity from criminal suit. The Senate does not have prosecutorial powers to indict the Vice President. Who among the congressmen would dare impeach him when surveys show him to have the highest approval rating among prospective candidates?

Yes, the Senate investigation may indeed have political colors given that the senators at the forefront have declared their intention to seek either the presidency or vice presidency, most probably under the administration umbrella.

* Mercado’s testimony appears credible because he was part of some of the transactions and he candidly admitted it. Yes, he has an axe to grind against the Binays who had frustrated his desire to become mayor. He would have been the recipient of the largesse that the Binays had if the Vice President did not field his wife and son to succeed him when he ran for higher office.

The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee has extended its investigation of the allegedly overpriced P2.3-billion, 11-storey Makati City Hall building 2, to give Binay another chance to answer allegations that he received 13 percent kickbacks in every public works contracts in Makati City when he was still its mayor, and that he had arranged that public biddings be rigged for favored contractors.

On October 8, Binay’s erstwhile ally and former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado presented video footages and still photos of a 350-hectare estate in Rosario, Batangas that purportedly belonged to the vice president but was allegedly registered in the names of dummies to hide his ownership of the properties, as well as other corporations.

We have seen in previous exposes how public officials conceal ownership of bank accounts, properties and other assets to avoid getting tracked down.

The entry of the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), into the scene would hopefully find a way to establish the paper and people trails that could clearly establish ownership of the properties purportedly owned by the vice president and his family.

Hopefully, the NBI agents who would work on this would not be manipulated to favor one party over the other, and come up with credible findings that would either clear the innocents or prosecute the guilty. The situation presents a good opportunity to the DOJ and the NBI to prove its neutrality and credibility.

Let us hope that the probe was not intended only to bring Binay’s ratings down.

One positive outcome that this hullabaloo could possibly have is for the voters to responsibly exercise their right of suffrage, to scrutinize the candidates that they vote into office.

We could not just sit idly by and watch politicians who can sing, dance, and cry as they relate their sad beginnings to dominate public office. We should not leave our fate to those who rely on dole outs during the campaign season. It is about time to go out, register and exercise the right to vote.

Credible election results could perhaps entice more people with genuine concern for public service to offer themselves as candidates in future elections even if they don’t know how to make people cry with their sad stories, or laugh with their out of tune singing or jokes.

The Binay ruckus is all about politics, dirty politics at its best.

Political games in a society without trust October 14, 2014 8:18 pm


Mike Wootton

I lived in Norway for a few years. What a great place it was to live in! An enduring memory is of one Saturday afternoon wandering around a fairly exclusive area of Oslo, basically window-shopping, when my wife decided that she might like to try some fur coats displayed in one of the shops.

We went into the shop and indeed she tried a few on, all of which were extremely expensive, anything up to about $20,000 each. I was in no position to buy one, nor would I particularly have wanted to. However, the wife was quite taken with a couple of them and as women do, took them off and put them on again, trying to decide which she preferred.

After about 20 minutes of this—although it seemed much longer!—the lady in the shop just said, “Why not take them both home, try them there and if you don’t like them just bring them back on Monday.” No suggestion of any payment.

She didn’t even take note of our address other than the area in which we were living. We said thanks all the same but didn’t take the coats as we were not really intent on making a purchase. Now could you imagine that happening in Manila!?

You’d be lucky here if they even let you into the shop to try them on. And as for letting two unknown foreigners take two of these valuable items away to try and choose at home—it is an act that would be seen as total lunacy here in the Philippines (not that many fur coats are sold here anyway, but that is beside the point!).

The example narrated above is about trust. Had I taken one or both of the offered coats away with me I would of course have returned them on the Monday. Had the coats been damaged whilst in my possession, I would have reimbursed the shop that had so kindly loaned them to me. Had I been of a mind to actually buy one them, being allowed to take them home in such an informal sort of way, may well have encouraged me to actually make a purchase.

The Philippines is a society without trust, or if there is trust it is in isolated cases. Basically very few people believe a word that anybody says, particularly if they are a stranger and even more particularly if they are unfortunate enough to be a foreigner. Even more odd is that people don’t really seem to expect others to believe a word of what they say. It’s all just a sort of bizarre game.

Driving into the car park at Festival Mall on Sunday, right in my face was a car with a big “A framed” tarpaulin on its roof showing photos of the property in Batangas supposedly secretly owned through dummies by the Vice President. Of course I was already well aware of this accusation along with most other residents of the Philippines—it has certainly been well publicized.

Philippine politics is a truly dangerous area and the competition for power and influence knows no bounds. Competitors get shot—there is a reasonable market for bullet-proof cars, being jailed on flimsy evidence, and disgraced also on flimsy or what may even be totally contrived “evidence.”

* Particularly now with the wide use of social media, it is open for people to assert and publicize the committal of almost any “crime” by a competitor in order to gain advantage, even to the extent of producing witnesses and documentary evidence to support the assertion.

Whether any such claim represents the truth or not is irrelevant to the case; the objective of blackening someone’s character can be easily achieved and competitive advantage secured through the simple expedient of lying, and if done well, it may be possible to take the competition out altogether by just locking them away.

How on earth can any semblance of democracy operate in such an environment of skulduggery and mistrust? Of course it cannot. The winners will be those who are most adept at, on the one hand, developing false accusations and on the other, defending themselves against such accusations.

This type of political character assassination begets a culture of lies and deception.

Acting ability backed up by a bit of reasonably intelligent manipulative skill must be prime criteria for success.

What I find slightly amusing about the current overheated accusatory political environment is that it is almost all focused on corruption—“he is more corrupt than me” sort of thing, I have the high ground (the high “power” ground, hardly the high moral ground) and I will use it to maximum advantage to drive my competitor into the dust.

The point here, as I have written before, is that relative corruption is not really seen by the electorate as a particularly important discriminating factor. All Filipinos know how the political system (democracy!) operates here and it is just accepted “coz that’s the way it is.” Many would even think that to be able to siphon off public funds for personal benefit is an acceptable perk of the job at any political level.

To strive to make the Philippines a place of widespread trust and integrity is clearly an elephantine undertaking which would take many generations to achieve—it could be several hundred years before you could go into a store in Manila and be invited to just casually take some expensive item home to try it out on the understanding that it would be returned in a few days.

So for now the Philippines, although it has a democratic system, cannot be said to be a democratic society.

I believe that at the masa level, little attention will be paid to allegations of corruption amongst politicians.

Votes will be cast for who they think will do the best thing for them. Unfortunately, though, they often seem to consider that the best thing for them is a payment for a vote and it’s not difficult to find conversations about who is paying most for an individual vote.

But in order to try to raise the vote-catching game just a bit above the level of giving out money and possibly t-shirts and free food, perhaps the politicians could try to demonstrate to their constituents their actual track record of past achievement, for this would speak far louder than these endless and tiresome allegations of corruption, much of which the mass of voters don’t really understand anyway.

If, however, an aggressive political contender were to show that the competition had a history of beheading children, poisoning grandparents or some similarly outrageous and totally indefensible atrocity, then they may score a few points in the battle of words.

But to use corruption as a discriminator, forget it, nobody knows what to believe around here anyway!

Editorial: Filipino reformers should study Nobel awardee Jean Tirole October 14, 2014 11:54 pm

THE works of this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science should be the subject of intense study by Filipino good governance reformers.

But we suppose these Filipino reformers would only be able to introduce what new methods and systems they learn from Jean Tirole’s works after a new president replaces Mr. Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. For as even Aquino’s adoring fans have now realized—except the deeply brainwashed true yellow believers—he is not working to reform the corrupt Philippine system but is even condoning the corrupt practices of his friends, playmates and political allies. These are, in the lingo of disgusted critics, his KKK or his “kaklase, kakampi at kabarilan.” These words mean classmates (kaklase), allies and close associates (kakampi) and target-shooting buddies (kabarilan).

He never fires, disciplines or even merely orders probes into the doings of KKKs. As a result, to cite only a few examples, smuggling has increased six times more than the annual average during the regimes of former president Erap Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (who is under hospital arrest for plunder and other charges despite her being seriously ill).

One of the research works for which the French economist Jean Tirole won the respect of colleagues worldwide and won the Nobel Prize is on how governments can effectively moderate the greed for profits of monopolies and gigantic businesses. This research also quantified the destructive effects of monopolies and overly large conglomerates on the common good of society as well as on the business climate.

Regulatory capture

One of the banes of the Philippine economy, and a cause of great suffering for the 70 million Filipinos who are poor and almost poor, is what economists and governance analysts call “regulatory capture.” This is commonplace in Third World countries, but perhaps it is a phenomenon seen most nakedly in our country than in any other in our region.

* Regulatory capture is what is happening when government regulators of industries or a range of businesses serve the interests of the industrialists or the businessmen they are tasked to monitor and regulate. They do that instead of working for the benefit of the public, the consumers of the products of these businesses and industries. It is of course corruption.

And it is treason and economic sabotage when regulators are actually servants of the corporations they should regulate.

With his associate, Jean-Jacques Laffont, Jean Tirole, developed a model to address the problem of preventing regulators from being captured by a regulated industry. This is something Filipino socio-economic reformers should learn to apply.

It would immediately improve the delivery and pricing of electric power here, which is among the world’s most expensive. The cost of cell telephone messaging, the toll of dropped calls being charged to telecommunications subscribers, for example, would decline overnight in the Philippines if the Jean Tirole model were used.

Another area where he has found new insights is banking. In the 90s, papers he co-wrote with associates anticipated problems that beset banks and finance houses and erupted into the 2008 crisis. He has offered a model of how to jump-start a financial market that has sunk, suggesting to government central banks a safe way to buy weak assets (and therefore protect them) and to lend against assets of medium quality. This would be the alternative to bailing out gargantuan banks and risking total loss if the bail out doesn’t work.

But as we said at the very beginning, these tools and models are only for reformers in the administration of a future Philippine president who is seriously—and not hypocritically claiming to be—pursuing reforms.

One Response to Filipino reformers should study Nobel awardee Jean Tirole
Gloria M. Kuizon says:
October 15, 2014 at 6:28 am
True, Manila Times. The wisdom of Jean Tirole and the new tools and models to be learned from his works will be useless in this corrupt, lazy and criminally uncaring and negligent Aquino government.
Reply

National transformation in Eastern Visayas October 17, 2014 12:30 am by FRANCISCO TATAD


FRANCISCO S. TATAD

At the invitation of Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese of Borongan, Eastern Samar, I traveled to Borongan last week to talk about “the transformative role of the laity in Philippine politics.” This happened at their Diocesan Congress on the Laity on 11 October.

It was an unadulterated Church event, in observance of the Year of the Laity and in preparation for Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines.

An impressive turnout of church workers from 34 parishes packed the capitol gym, but for a while I thought I was speaking to one of the two assemblies which had been convened by the National Transformation Council.

In recent months, Filipinos have heard a lot about “national transformation.” From August 27 in Lipa, when the first NTC-initiated assembly issued an “urgent call for national transformation,” to Oct. 1 in Cebu, when the second assembly defined “the first steps toward national transformation,” the phrase has become part of the nation’s most important conversation. This was evident in Borongan.

There, the stress was on the moral and spiritual as the basis of, and the indispensable first step toward, the political. And the people were eager to respond to the challenge, both as Church faithful and as citizens.

But the most striking work of physical transformation today is to be seen in Tacloban, which remains the gateway to Eastern Visayas. From Manila to Borongan, you first fly to Tacloban. From there you travel by car for another four hours to your final destination.

You cannot possibly miss the spirit that fills the air. The whole city is being rebuilt from the ground by the city government and the people themselves with a lot of outside help, but not from the national government.

In just a few days, the world will be marking the first year anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, which flattened Tacloban on Nov. 8, 2013. It is not known how the city intends to remember this unforgettable date. Until now, the national government’s response to the emergency has been at best tepid. In fact, a visitor from Manila is casually asked by ordinary city folk, where have all the foreign donations gone?

* Some people who thought I was still a sitting “senator” wanted to know why the Senate has not summoned President B. S. Aquino 3rd, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman to explain what happened to the money from all those countries. Why are they giving so much official and TV time to those young punks in the Senate who are trying to bring down the survey ratings of the Vice President, while keeping complete silence on what happened to the foreign donations for the Haiyan/Yolanda victims?

They showed distinct outrage over reports that Aquino had yet to approve the proposed master plan for the total recovery and rebuilding of Tacloban–nearly a full year after the US Seventh Fleet, the British Navy and most of the international humanitarian missions had come and gone.

In fact, one self-confessed promotion of the NTC pointed out that if only for his heartless response to the calamity, Aquino should be run out of his office, even without taking into account the other crimes he has committed against the Constitution when he used the pork barrel system to bribe the members of Congress to railroad the widely opposed Reproductive Health Law and to remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Despite all this, Tacloban has moved on and is determined to rise with a new face and spirit when Pope Francis comes to visit in January next year. The Pope’s much-awaited visit has become the biggest single motivating factor for people to quicken the pace of rebuilding and development. Everyone is talking about it. “This is where the Pope will say Mass,” “this is where the Pope can stop, if it gets to be too hot and he would need to take a drink or rest.” “This is where I will stand and wave when he passes.” And so forth.

The show of solidarity is not limited to the Catholic faithful alone. As I went around the city, my driver proudly pointed at the massive reconstruction of the Sto. Niño church, funded by the world-famous Tzu Chi Foundation, which initiated the cash-for-work program at the height of the disaster. “It’s the Buddhists putting in the money to rebuild this Catholic church,” he said.

But Tacloban’s greatest luck is to have a young, intelligent, hard-working and self-effacing mayor who is determined to get the work done with the people’s total involvement and support. Mayor Alfred Romualdez, 52, drives his people hard, but drives himself much harder still. The result is a highly energized city government that has the courage to assume full responsibility for Tacloban’s rebirth.

Given the well-publicized effort of the President and his secretary of the interior and local government, Mar Roxas, to drive Romualdez against the wall during the first critical hours of the emergency, you would expect to find a highly resentful and antagonistic mayor when you mention the Aquino government. There is none of that at all. Romualdez is focused on doing what seems to be an impossible job, and getting his own people and the international community to support it.

Last September UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited both the President and Romualdez to participate in the Global Summit on Climate Change in New York. Both accepted and went. But after the international security crisis in Iraq and Syria reshuffled US President Barack Obama’s priorities in favor of ISIS and away from climate change, Aquino found himself delivering an empty speech to an equally empty small room at UN headquarters.

However Romualdez managed to keep his audience in a much larger room, and ended making some hands-on recommendations, which won the support of the mayors of New York, Paris, and other big cities, and prompted the UN technical experts to put them forward for further discussions at the Paris summit on climate change next year.

In light of the unusually rude treatment Romualdez got from PNoy and Roxas, when they sought full control of Tacloban as a condition for providing much needed national government help, asking the mayor to understand that the President was an Aquino, while he was “only a Romualdez,” I fully expected the mayor to denounce the Aquino government’s inaction in the face of a grave emergency and ask the UN to take disciplinary action against national governments that fail to respond to any type of emergency.

That would have made the Aquino government’s heartlessness and incompetence a matter of international public record, and made such great running headlines in the world press. But, noblesse oblige, there was no sign Romualdez ever thought of it.

Instead, he chose to be completely positive. He asked the participants from all over the world to learn from the Tacloban experience. He calculated that the various foreign governments and institutions that had rushed all sorts of assistance to Tacloban after Haiyan/Yolanda struck must have spent enormous sums of money to move ships, planes, machines, men and supplies for their individual operations. And they would probably do the same thing again when the next calamity strikes.

But why not anticipate disaster, Romualdez asked, by identifying in advance the disaster-prone areas, and making the necessary investments in disaster preparedness and risk reduction management, etc. in order to substantially reduce the work to be done, and the cost to be incurred, when disaster strikes?

Apparently, it was the only proposal made with such authority and conviction that it not only won the ear of the UN experts but also gained for Romualdez so many invitations to speak before foreign audiences. Amid the gloom that pervades the nation’s political scene, which has prompted the two NTC-initiated assemblies to call for PNoy’s early exit and for the organization of an “alternative government,” I spoke to Romualdez in his office in Tacloban, and got a rare treat.

I have not heard anyone of late, including those who believe they are destined for the highest office, who speaks with such conviction and confidence about the future of his city, and our poor degraded Republic.

How different things might have been if we had a working constitutional democratic system, and someone of this caliber sitting where PNoy now sits, or even where Mar Roxas sits.

Is Aquino‘s plot to jail Binay? October 19, 2014 9:46 pm by RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO


RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO


It seems like it. Vice President Jejomar Binay is way ahead in the voter-preference polls with 69 percent, against Mar Roxas’ 29 percent, while his trust ratings —despite the all-out demolition drive against him by Senator Antonio Trillanes and the powerful Philippine Daily Inquirer—are still the highest among government officials.

I had been wondering why the propaganda campaign against Binay was undertaken this early, a year and a half before the May 2016 elections.

One reason obviously is that the campaign is a weapon of mass distraction. Since the attack on Binay started, the issues such as the accountability of the architects (Aquino and his budget secretary) of the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the corruption of the police chief, the horrendous crime rate, the reincarnation of pork barrel funds in the 2015 budget and the MRT-3 corruption have receded from public attention.

But why would President Benigno Aquino 3rd risk weakening the demolition campaign’s impact against Binay in the 2016 elections by launching it too early, just as a distraction?

The inescapable answer is that throwing Binay to jail at this time seems to be the only option left to stop Binay from being President in 2016. If he is detained in the next few months, it would be easier for Aquino to claim that it has nothing to do with the 2016 elections, while Binay’s resources for an election campaign, as I would explain, could weaken.

Stopping Binay from becoming President in 2016 is a matter of political and even personal survival for Aquino and his camp: their illegal DAP, the bribery of senators in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona, the MRT-3 gross anomalies, the pork-barrel thefts under this Administration, will surely land this president and his accomplices to jail unless they control the next administration.

They have also wronged so many people with resources who are likely to demand justice – okay, call it vengeance – when Aquino and company are no longer in power.

Jailing Binay, of course, risks making him an underdog, a persecuted opposition figure just like this president’s father, Ninoy.

But Aquino’s camp knows that despite his father’s popularity in 1972, that there was consensus that he would be the next president – people hardly cared about Ninoy’s imprisonment. It would be the economic recession that started in 1983 and Ninoy’s assassination that roused the people to revolt, and that occurred more than a decade after he was imprisoned.

The jailing of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla – once very popular figures – as well as of former President Gloria Arroyo, have been successful dry runs of sorts for Aquino’s plan to jail Binay. The three senators – who were, before, among the most trusted and most popular in the Senate – are fast receding from people’s sphere of attention.

Even with the flimsiest of evidence against her, Arroyo is spending her fifth year in detention, her health deteriorating to life-threatening levels, yet there is no outrage over such injustice. If I could do that in Arroyo’s case, I can do it with Binay, too, Aquino must be thinking.

* Enrile couldn’t mobilize the North, his RAM veterans, and Marcos loyalists; Jinggoy’s father Erap’s solid popular base of support obviously wasn’t transferable; and Revilla’s movie fans have proven useless in a political battle.

Aquino and his camp have concluded that as long as a personality is portrayed successfully as corrupt, and if he or she is jailed for plunder, which is “non-bailable,” there wouldn’t be a political furor over his or her jailing.

Aquino’s camp knows that the allegations of overpricing for the Makati building, the Batangas agrotourism park, and rigged city-government contracts don’t really matter for the C-D-E classes, which have learned to accept an “acceptable” level of bribery as long as an official is doing his job – and Makati has been practically the kind of social-welfare state the masses want.

Surveys I’ve seen also show that Binay has built up a solid, unwavering 35 percent mass support, even a bit more than of Erap’s. That kind of support has proven to be invulnerable and steadfast, with Erap’s landing second place in the 2010 elections even after his conviction by the Sandiganbayan, and even if the other candidates like Manuel Villar had much bigger campaign funds.

For some reason, despite the corruption of the judiciary, it is still a highly trusted institution, and many people believe that if a regular court orders somebody jailed, it is likely that he or she is guilty, or “somewhat” guilty of a crime.

Almost all the elements in Aquino’s now familiar playbook for attacking a personality and putting him (or her) to jail are now in place:

• The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s and its opinion columnists’ all-out attack against the target, almost simultaneously with a Senate investigation, as has happened in the campaign against President Arroyo, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the three Senators.

Alleged whistle-blowers who would be placed, for drama, under the Witness Protection Program.

After the big Doberman-type of attack dogs on opinion pages, enter the “Chihuahua” attackers yapping their “exclusives,” like that blogger whom congressman Renato Umali in the impeachment trial described as the small lady who gave him Corona’s confidential bank records, columnists who usually follow crowd-thinking, and a news website.

• Commission on Audit commissioner Heidi Mendoza (remember her crying in the Senate hearing against Reyes and her attempt to explain Corona’s bank records in the impeachment trial?)

• Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and her attack dog, the National Bureau of Investigation; and lastly,

• The Anti-Money Laundering Council’s secretariat, especially when its play-safe head, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco, is out of the country.

The one element that is conspicuously absent is the Akbayan party, which, after getting millions of pesos from this Administration, is wisely starting to disengage from it.

When Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales rears her head in this fray, Binay should start packing his overnight bag.

What would Binay’s jailing achieve?

First, he would find it difficult to tap his resources, financially and politically, and there would be some defections from his political and business-sector supporters.

Second, the usual campaign funders from business would reduce their contributions, and if there is no public uproar over his jailing in the eight or six months before the May 2016 elections, they would probably stop their support, crippling his campaign.

The media will play a big role in the coming months or even weeks, whether Aquino will implement his plot to jail Binay and whether it will be successful or whether it will backfire to make him a shoo-in for the presidency in 2016.

However, the two big networks, ABS-CBN and GMA7, as well as Channel 5, are appearing as defenders of democracy and have not joined the still-small lynch mob against Binay, and to their credit have been professional in their coverage of the accusations against Binay.

Unlike Aquino’s previous campaigns, the Philippine Star also has been more sober in its coverage of the controversy.

There is still a chance for democracy and justice.

The Synod: Divorce, gays and other hot potatoes October 19, 2014 8:53 pm by RICARDO SALUDO


Ricardo Saludo


THE great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations.

This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy. — First-week report on the Synod of Bishops, by Cardinal Péter Erdo

Will the Vatican now allow divorced Catholics to remarry? If not, can those who do so anyway still receive Holy Communion? What about unmarried couples living together? Are homosexual acts no longer sinful? Is artificial birth control?

Setting out the evolving Church position on such moral questions was the work of the Eleventh Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held at the Vatican from October 5 until yesterday. And tasked by Pope Francis to report on the first week of discussions was Cardinal Péter Erdo.

He is no small potato. As Esztergom-Budapest archbishop since 2002, he is the Primate of Hungary, the highest Catholic leader in that country. When Pope Saint John Paul II made him cardinal in 2003, Erdo, then 51, was the youngest Prince of the Church. The former professor of theology and canon law also heads the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, grouping the presidents of 33 conferences.

Thus, Erdo enjoys not only intellectual and ecclesiastical stature, but more important, broad respect among more than 200 bishops and archbishops gathered for the Synod on the family. He needs those qualities as General Rapporteur summing up without slant or omission the assembly’s sometimes discordant views and proceedings.

The above-quoted lines from the October 13 report suggest the tensions underlying the forum. While acknowledging Christian family values, the excerpt cites the need “to accept people in their concrete being.” That includes “failure” and “diverse situations” in personal life like cohabitation, remarriage after divorce, and homosexuality — all contrary to Church law.

The last sentence highlights the paramount challenge in the Synod: balancing the demands of doctrine and the imperative of mercy. God’s commandment and His forgiveness. So it has been in Christendom from the beginning, with 3rd Century Pope Saint Callixtus I, commemorated last Monday, facing strong opposition in extending absolution to sexual transgressions.

A Church divided

* Today, the debate is not so much about forgiving sinners who turn away from their proscribed ways, but how the Church should regard and treat professed believers who continue with practices and relationships violating present laws of Catholicism. This question is dividing the hierarchy and the faithful at large.

The debate over allowing divorced Catholics with new spouses to receive the Eucharist flared up in the months before the Synod, with leading cardinals taking opposing sides. Earlier this year, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council on Promoting Christian Unity, published a book titled Gospel of the Family, advocating communion for remarried divorced Catholics after a period of penance.

In response, five Cardinals and four other theologians have published Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, disputing Kasper. Citing Scripture and early Church tradition and writings, the nine Church men affirmed the indissolubility of marriage and the principle of linking this doctrine with sacramental practice. So no communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry.

The Synod summary recorded the differing views: “[regarding] Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening … For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path …”

The traditional approach of simply insisting on obedience to Church norms was under review: “Reconfirming forcefully the fidelity to the Gospel of the family, the Synodal Fathers felt the urgent need for new pastoral paths, that begin with the effective reality of familial fragilities … It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of ‘all or nothing’.”

Indeed, the bishops even urged care in the words used for Catholics who divorce and remarry, “avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against.” One wonders if that means they can no longer be told what Jesus said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”

‘Homosexuals have gifts to offer’

Several media reports on the Synod document highlighted the short three-paragraph portion subtitled “Welcoming homosexual persons”. It read: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

The Synod stressed “that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman.” Still, the document acknowledged that homosexual ties do some good for those they bind: “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

Gradualness — the new mercy?

Along with arguments for changes in moral doctrine, there was discussion on gradualness: the idea that Catholics in proscribed situations be accepted and assisted in gradually moving toward the Church family ideal, acknowledging positive aspects in their relationships: “while clearly presenting the ideal, we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal.”

Thus, on cohabitation, the Synod argued that if a civil union “reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage.”

Next October a follow-up Synod shall further refine Church positions after a year of pastoral encounter and dialogue.

Can there be common consensus by then? After two millennia and with God’s grace, we hope so.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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