FROM the point of view of a Gobang Tinguian like one that I happen to be, the legislative hearings and the pastoral letters from the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines have something quite queer in common.

Of legislative hearings, I refer, of course, to the hearings now being held in the Philippine Congress or, Pare Johnny Bugaling, is it still Batasan? They cannot even decide on a definite permanent term to designate their functional venue. The hearings are supposed to be done in aid of legislation.

The Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) refers to the organizational meeting of Roman catholic bishops regularly held by them in their Manila headquarters at the old Fort Santiago area. By the phrase “legislative hearing”, whether in the lower house of Congress or the upper house that is the Senate, what does one expect to see or hear? Since it is a hearing in aid of legislation, one expects to see congressmen or senators gathered to consult with concerned people as resource persons to get information that they the legislators need to make a proper legislation whether originally new or an updated improvement of one already existing.

The persons invited are thus expected to be treated as visitor-consultants to shed light to an issue at hand. But what is the atmosphere in the hall? You see right away the prospective hearers seated elitely as judges and then hear them being addressed as “Honorable”, “Your Honor” just like in courtroom. The poor person “invited” to be heard by people who lack some knowledge on things necessary in order to do their work properly is made to appear like an accused, who came to have to prove that he is innocent of some impending charge. Worse, he is even required to raise his hand in oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, thus at once casting doubt on the person’s trustworthiness to tell the truth. He must if swear first to be believed. So , the person becomes apprehensive that anytime he can be charged of perjury. A Gobang man worth his salt would not take the insult sitting down. No wonder if he gives the surprising “Apay aya nga casta? Rumuartayo man ta agboboksing tayo!” (Why like that? Better go we outside and have a boxing bout!).

This reaction would be very natural because in the first place why do you invite the person to help you make laws if you doubt his truthfulness and do it even in full view of TV audiences? For the Gobangs of the Abra-Kalinga borderland, that is a perfect insult, a consummated crime. A neophyte senator in one forum inadvertently turned it to a pre-court, and for pay-for-view showing, worded his query thus: “Do you think you can make us believe in what you said?” Perfect misplaced and mistimed treatment again to a Go... bang! Good it was directed to one not of the tribe and so was just shrugged off.

Now, to touch on touchy matters as originals or in-support of traditional church stand on faith or morals coming from the CBCP body. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines usually sent their pastoral letters to be read by the different catholic parishes and be read by the parish priests during homilies on Sundays and church holidays. One of such was the one read last Sunday, September 17, at least where we attended Holy Mass. Afterthought made us think that perhaps the CBCP should get into its ranks member bishops who had more and wider previous immersion into the day-to-day life of common parishioners. Instead of just criticizing secular government for what it tries to do to serve constituents in ways it thinks best to fulfill its assigned job, ecclesiastical government should concentrate more in its assigned educational job in the realm of faith and morals. In the academe, we use to say that before wars are waged in the battlefields, they are already waged in the classroom. Brawn need not clash if brains are properly brought up to grow in age and wisdom. For churchmen then, to keep indulging in publicly castigating, directly, or, worse, by insinuation, secular government in the performance of its functions as if the leaders therein have never been to educational institutions under church care speaks against the bishops themselves. They should examine themselves and also their performance in pursuing the vision and mission of the church. Our conclusion may appear very logically deduced, but have me always closely examine our premises in this or that issue? Against facts, no argument stands.

The things CBCP wants to be followed in its last pastoral letter is already known by secular administrators. But to go to war, it had to to eliminate a virulent threat to the nation, and war invariably incurs loss of life. You cannot perfectly moralize anymore once arms is poised. So avoidance of war is a goal but in this phase, the church is expected to play the major part. Presently, church leaders better beat their breast and acknowledge “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” with humble sincerity to amend and do much better in our own duty. Secular governance is also God’s handiwork. And God’s thought are not man’s thought.