MANILA,  JUNE 12, 2004
By RHOEL FERNANDEZ - A day after he issued acritical and negativeappraisal of the country's politicians, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales yesterday delivered a scathing homily directed at the country's political system.

Before more than 8,000 people at the launching of the Pondo ng Pinoy movement at the Folk Arts Theater in Pasay City, the normally soft-spoken Rosales lashed out at the country's politicians and the way they have governed.

"The country needs people who seek what is truly good for its citizens without being blinded by narrow selfish ambitions. We call these people statesmen. And when we say that we need people with that selfless perspective and longing only for what is the good of the whole man and of every man, we mean you ... and not the politicians," Rosales said.

Archbishop Rosales, known for avoiding political issues, pulled no punches in attacking the present political system.

"Our protected political system is such where families and interest groups hold on to government positions like it was theirs by right, by inheritance, as a domain or dynasty."

Rosales cited a 2000 study of the Economic Intelligence Unit which revealed that corruption, cronyism, ethics, transparency, and governance as the most glaring weakness in the Philippines. A survey from the same outfit identified the lack of proper infrastructure as the main disadvantage to development investment.

"What has happened to the Philippines, our neighbors are asking. And do you think our national and local politicians can answer that? No!" Rosales said.

"How do you explain the regression, the corruption, repression in the country? The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in a studied reflection and exhortation on Philippine politics has the answer. There is one main reason: Philippine politics, the way it is practiced, has been more hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full human development," he said.

"Our politics is so full of self, ambition, pride and greed. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the world has everything for everyone's needs but not for one man's greed. Our Lord Jesus Christ counseled a friend, 'Watch and be on your guard against greed of any kind,' quoting Luke 12:15. Philippine politics is so full of selfish ambition and greed and the obvious results are what today the country has harvested: corruption with an economic catastrophe,"he said.

Rosales also pointed to a 2001 World Bank-International Fund study, Combating Corruption in the Philippines, which revealed that 40 percent of the annual budget of the Philippines is lost to graft practices and corruption.

According to Rosales, who spent several years in poverty-stricken Mindanao, "the consequence of the country's present political ethos is now all too evident in the much damaged Philippine economy. The sad turn of such a political confusion is such that the disvalues it created in the economy are now slowly eating its way to the heart of our once rich culture. The devil knows nothing of goodness; he thought it was only grabbing your money and your vote, but it really has both his hands on your soul."

On the elections, Rosales had this to say: "Our country is a unique country where candidates will spend tens to hundred of millions of pesos for a position that pays only a few tens of thousands of pesos. Your country is the only one in the world where a family and its descendants actively stay in and control a city, a town, district, province, and region for two continuous generations and still claimed 'aggrieved' when replaced in a democratic selection."

"This is the only place in the world where no one since the time of Manuel L. Quezon has lost an election. In this country nearly every election loser claimed he or she was cheated," he said.

The bishop talked on behalf of the poor. "We will no longer allow the poor in our midst to be used or taken advantage of. Ang dukha kapag may eleksyon inaakit; pag may rally ginagamit. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ the poor, the lame, the beggar, were not objects. They are rather subjects ... who through the power of the Gospel will help to affect and upset criteria of judgment, determining values, sources of inspiration and styles of life that are contrary to the Word of God and His plan of salvation."

Describing the economic situation, Rosales said: "The GDPs and GNPs do not tell the true picture and stories of our less fortunate brothers and sisters ... The poor cannot eat economic product 'averages' no matter how well they are prepared."

The bishop said the true story of the Philippine economy is "revealed daily at the meal plates of families in the slums, shacks, cardboard homes and makeshift sheds you see in Metro Manila, and under Metro Metro Manila bridges."

The national socio-economic profile shows that 63 percent of Filipinos are poor.

Rosales said he hopes the movement, based on each Catholic giving 25 centavos, described as "crumbs from the table" as often as he can, would bring programs that would help the poor help themselves.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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