IT must’ve come as a shock to CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) that the faithful paid no heed to its stern warnings and voted Rodrigo Duterte overwhelmingly into the presidency. Consistent with their fears, they soon after defined their position vis-à-vis the new administration as one of “vigilant collaboration.”

The vigilance has since taken the form of an oratio imperata. The faithful have been ordered to pray for Duterte to, among others, become humble and to be gifted with genuine love for the Filipino people. No word on collaboration yet.

It impresses me, however, that the oratio imperata might as well be a “prayer selfie” for the bishops. In spite of Pope Francis’s example, we have yet to see a Filipino bishop give up his luxurious abode or high end transport in favor of simpler ones as the Pope has done.

It is President Duterte who has refused all the trappings of power, insisting on being sworn in simple ceremonies, wearing simple clothes, living in Pangarap house not in the Palace, and going places simply sans any special treatment.

And speaking of genuine love, it is no secret that the Catholic Church in the Philippines has not lifted much of a finger to concretely help the poor and has simply stood by, generally but of course with some exceptions, either to pass judgment on (as in the case of the RH Law) or pray (a cop out?) for those who are trying to help.

President Duterte, on the other hand, put his reputation, his honor and his life on the line with his initial determined steps to protect the poor from criminals, drug lords and corrupt government officials. All this makes one wonder who needs the oratio imperata more, Duterte or the bishops.

Because Pope Francis has asked the bishops to apologize to the LGBT community and the poor that he rightly claims they have marginalized, the question what forms “vigilant collaboration” is going to take is identical with the question what forms the bishops’ apology to the poor they have marginalized with their elitist and far from humble ways will take.

The bishops are now in conference and hopefully are asking how much of their prayer for President Duterte applies to themselves and discerning how to elaborate on their stance of “vigilant collaboration.” They need to flesh this out in ways that would serve as their apology to the poor and thus disabuse themselves of Duterte’s allegation that they are “one of the most hypocritical institutions.”

Will “vigilant collaboration” be effectively their apology to the poor, hence take the form of support for Duterte’s pro-poor programs, of change to simpler life-styles and of humility to be close to the poor and smell like them as Duterte is doing?