LAST Wednesday, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani delivered a speech before delegates of the 4th World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (Wacom), a gathering of devotees of the Divine Mercy that the Philippines (Manila) is hosting this year. His talk centered on the war of the Duterte administration against the illegal drugs trade, specifically on the so-called Operation Tokhang, short for the Cebuano words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (request).
“The lord in his mercy knocks, and when he knocks, he brings grace. Today, we in the Philippines also get knocks. We call it tokhang. But this tokhang is not a bringer of grace. It is a bringer of death,” he said.
The next day, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered another rant at the Catholic Church, specifically its bishops and priests.
“Anong ginawa ng simbahan? Kayong simbahan ng Katoliko. Milyon ang kita ninyo linggo-linggo all throughout the Philippines, karaming simbahan. Saan ang pera ng tao? Kami, ‘yung pera namin, ine-explain namin sa tao. Kayo? Kayong mga pari, mga obispo. Ang gaganda ng suot ninyo, mga kotse. Meron ba kayong isang bahay lang maski limang kwarto para rehab? Anong ginawa niyo sa simbahan ninyo?” he said.
The rant was long and the President dredged almost all the muck that he could shovel from the long history of the abuses and excesses of the Catholic clergy. All because, as Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella would explain the next day, of what Bacani said. But it showed how deep the resentment the President holds against bishops and priests, or should I say, some of them. A single spark, like a criticism from a bishop of his war on drugs, could already start a flaming rant.
But the advise to first check the facts and not to generalize should be made. As I have pointed out in previous columns, in our zeal to go after some erring bishops and priests, we forget the good deeds that millions of church people and Catholic martyrs have done not only in the Philippines but around the world throughout history. For one, we recently celebrated the sainthood of Mother Teresa.
More than a week before Duterte’s rant, the Archdiocese of Manila, through Caritas Manila, signed a pact with a Brazil-based Catholic drug rehabilitation center for a project in Manila for dug addicts. The rehab center is called Fazenda da Esperanca or Farm of Hope, which was set up in Masbate in 2003 and is an extension of Fazenda da Esperanca in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The agreement was a continuation of the Manila Archdiocese program called Sanlakbay Para sa Pagbabagong Buhay, that shepherds some of the Operation Tokhang surrenderers that the Duterte administration has left unattended. The program has linked up with private entities like the University of Sto. Tomas Graduate School Psyco-Trauma Department and even government agencies like the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
That is only for the Archdiocese of Manila and yet it already answers the President’s question to bishops and priests, “Meron ba kayong isang bahay lang, maski limang kwarto, para rehab?”