Abellanosa: Seditious bishops

Fringes and frontiers

THE charge of sedition against our bishops and priests is quite alarming. Whether the prelates are “by law” guilty of the said charges, is something we cannot but, for now, leave to the court for determination. This does not mean though that only the court can give us the complete narrative about the matter. Those schooled in law may have more competence to tell us what is seditious or otherwise. However, let’s not forget that those dragged into this case have been critics of the president in one way or another. In other words, the complete story isn’t just simply about sedition.

Out of respect for our system, we should give the Department of Justice a chance. Perhaps, there’s still truth in the promise of the good office to decide on the issue in a manner most fair and honest. Nonetheless we should not naively insist to the point of fooling ourselves that we are only seeing segmented events. We have to go back to the point of origin where all these started and that is the protest and criticism made by the religious against the government’s alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings.

On this note we cannot but hope that the goal of the administration is not merely to demolish and silence all its critics. It is easy to say that a case was filed against someone for mere violation of the law. In reality however, it is sometimes a case of “animosity preceding objectivity.” Legal technicalities can be very well used as a cloak for a political agenda against one’s enemies. The letter of the law may be objective in terms of its construction. The intention preceding its application, however, is basically subjective, also not ruling out malice or bad faith.

So other than proving that the bishops charged are seditious, the administration also has to prove that the charges are not without malice in relation to the criticisms against the government. I hope people will not misread the whole matter. This means not forgetting the fact that prior to the allegation of sedition, the focus was “human rights.” We have not inquired whether the “totoong narcolist” is authentic or not. What has happened instead was a twist in the plot. We can only hope that public will be recipients of an authentic gospel truth and not one that is fabricated.

At the end of the day is a serious question: should the bishops and priests go to jail then should criticisms against human rights violations stop? I am saying this because criticism, under certain conditions, is a basic element of political life. There is no government so perfect that a single criticism is not needed. Who else will have the courage to stand up once the likes of Fr. Robert Reyes and Bishop Ambo David will rot in jail?

On another related note: the CBCP through its president Archbishop Romulo Valles expressed sadness over the allegations of sedition against the four bishops and three priests of the Catholic Church. Recently, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Chito Tagle has expressed not only concern but also solidarity with the bishops. Apparently, it is consoling that these high-ranking Church officials express whatever sentiment of solidarity to their fellow clergy. After all, it is, seriously, not easy when one is made to go through the hassle of answering criminal charges.

But for heaven’s sake our bishops do not just need our prayers and moral support. I hope the other members of the bishops’ conference will be clearer in their stand and pronouncement on the more concrete issues from which these sedition charges stemmed. This we have to say in the face of moral ambivalence even among members of the clergy and the religious.

More than the “sadness” and “disbelief” of Valles, this country needs a clearer denunciation of the horrors that have been happening to us. Should the four bishops go to jail, the loss of their liberty is valueless in the face of a paralyzed Catholic hierarchy. Prophets are prophets not because they are great orators but because they are fearless critics unfazed by any imperial power.


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