The courtesy visit of the Holy Father Pope Francis in Malacanang was highlighted by two speeches—that of President Noynoy Aquino and that of the holy Pontiff’s. President Noynoy spoke first. He tried to sound like a religious savant by quoting passages from the holy scripture enunciating the temporal role of the Church in social-political affairs of the State. Perhaps, a JIL pastor was on hand to assist him in preparing his speech? Or has the Holy Spirit descended on him within the hectic days immediately before the Pope arrived?
Anyhow. It was rather elating to think that the Papal visit could have knocked on the conscience door of President Noynoy and has effected a quick conversion for him to abide by the teachings of Christ. But no sooner had we relished the comforting feeling of exultation by his reading from St. Mathew’s gospel than our ears felt being flooded again with self-acclamations of supposed achievements of his administration. But as in many times past, his propensity to blame the previous regimes for the shortcomings of his government takes prominence in his entire speech. And he even made a sideswipe punch at the local Church officialdom for its own criticisms against his rule.
All in all, President Noynoy’s speech was a desperate act of “passing the buck” that leaves a sour taste in the sensibilities of well-meaning citizens who came to bear witness to an event aimed primarily to invest a backdrop of graciousness and harmony on the much awaited pastoral visit of the Pope to the Islands. In effect the chief host in Malacanang summoned unwanted ghosts to be part of the welcoming event. And that makes the President’s speech an unpleasant piece of unArt.
The prepared speech of the good Pontiff was essentially an exhortation to all and sundry, but most especially to the political leadership of the local secular community. But the gracious way with which he delivered his moralizing was meant more as a dialoguing piece than as a sermonizing reminder that could have only served to prick the ego of the concerned sector in society. Verily, the speech of Pope Francis is a charming artpiece of the spoken word. If somehow it did sink into the consciousness of politicians on whose ears the words may have fortunately fell, it was a blessing beyond measure. For indeed this country, hailed as the only Catholic nation in the Far East, direly needs such moralizing words—now more than ever—more than the saintly Pontiff could have imagined.
For all we know, the Filipino nation now totters at the juncture of its history as a people struggling against the triad evils of foreign imperialism, landlord dynasticism, and rabid bureaucratic capitalism. The President himself proves to be an admirable complicit puppet of American imperialist interests at the same time that he caters to the big landlord interests of his clan. From what we have gathered of his utterances in previous events and occasions, and even by the gist of his speech today in front of the Pope whom he seemingly accords his reverence and out-of-protocol solicitude, it would be too much to expect better days under a more comfortable political atmosphere ahead.
For after all, his official acts and actuations as a leader have hitherto remarkably deviated from what would be expected of a Christian leader. For one thing, has he taken concrete steps, much less exerted efforts, to curb the worsening human rights violations by government soldiers against the Indigenous Peoples in the countryside, especially in Mindanao? Has he intervened by way of serious effort to hasten the alleviation of sufferings of the poor victims of calamities? Hasn’t he preferred to play deaf-mute to the shrill cry for justice by the victims of the Ampatuan massacre? And more specifically, haven’t we witnessed with dismay his aversion to remain adamant in his arrogant stance vis-a-vis the people’s clamor for a moratorium on fare-hike in the railway transport system? Are all these in keeping with the Christian principle of Charity?
In terms of policy planning and decision making, has he come up with appropriate and effective long-term programs to address the age-old problem of poverty? What about the sell-out of our patrimony to foreign corporations who are being privileged to extract the country’s mineral resources at the expense of the Filipino people? And behold how he has surrendered our precious sovereign rights over our territory by forging an unconstitutional agreement with President Obama in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)! It seems President Aquino knows no bounds in plunging to deeper levels and broader extent the continuing disinegration of Philippine society.
There is no doubt that his hypocritical posturing of being the scion of an avid Catholic family will ever be affected in profound ways by the words of Pope Francis. His political career is only as extensive as his class interest. And class interest is just as thick as blood. There is much whiplash to expect from his big-landed-gentry upbringing after this brief season of euphoric windfall of the Papal visit.