The Church’s hierarchy represented by Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) since 1952 was never stirred up, challenged, and confronted with direct verbal tussle by any of the past Presidents of the Philippines — except, now, by Rodrigo Duterte; the new president-elect.
The CBCP’s dipping into the country’s political and secular affairs had its handiwork felt in the two EDSA Revolutions. The CBCP was instrumental in installing President Cory Aquino and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The changing of a country’s leadership without an election with minimal violence is a no mean feat of the power of the Church to goad a country to a revolution.
It demonstrated the CBCP’s inordinate strength, influence, and clout. And this could be the reason why all the presidents after Marcos, including Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, had never displayed the courage to stop the intrusion of the CBCP in the country’s political affairs – although they knew that there is this what we call separation of the Church and the State.
In 2005, the “Hello Garci” tape scandal exploded, which brought the presidency of Gloria Arroyo in crisis points. The “Hello Garci” tape conversation revealed that she rigged her winning of the presidency in the 2004 election. The people demanded that she be removed in power.
Just then she created this Presidential Advisers on Ecclesiastical Affairs composed of Catholic bishops. Using funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PSCO), Arroyo on behest of the bishops, distributed Mitsubishi Pajeros to them as a donation silencing their moral and spiritual persuasion – an indication of corruption.
This was Rodrigo Duterte’s beef against the hypocrisy of the Church, which, he blatantly resurrected straight in the face of the CBCPs.
When P’Noy campaigned for the presidency in 2010, he broached the idea of family planning as one of his agenda to stem the tide of the booming population. His campaign strategist cautioned him not to touch this issue as it will ire the Church’s hierarchy, and it might endanger him from not getting elected.
In April 8, 2014, however, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the RH Law, also known as: “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”, which was signed into law by President Aquino on December 2012 after the numerous challenges posed by the conservative Catholics and the prelates of the CBCP.
The influence and invulnerability enjoyed by the CBCP started to crack open.
In the unfortunate Mamasapano clash on January 2015, where 44 SAF soldier perished in the encounter, The National Transformation Council (NTC), an ecumenical, interfaith group, headed by retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Vidal and seven other prelates urged P’Noy to resign. The NTC claimed that there was a moral basis of P’Noy’s failure to meet expectations and an obligation to the people he serves: therefore, he should relinquish his presidency. P’Noy didn’t resign.
The CBCP’s influence weakened.
Then came Duterte. A maverick who came out strong in the 2016 presidential derby. A total antithesis of every morality, spirituality, and virtues espoused by the prelates of the CBCP. A man running for president of the country, who got the gumption to curse the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church. Can anyone beat that? The CPCP leadership urges the Catholics not to vote for Duterte. And Duterte won. The CBCP blinked. The CBCP have been ignored largely by their own.
The CBCP should mellow their intrusion to the political affair of the state as they lose grip and is becoming irrelevant in their attempt to complain and set the record straight. They should concentrate saving the souls of their parishioners instead.