Plea To Our Bishops: Stand Up For Your Flock

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July 5, 2018

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

Your Eminences and Excellencies:

May peace be with you!

In 2015, while still struggling to recover from the immense grief and devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, our country was blessed with the comforting presence of our beloved Pope Francis. Pope Francis’ visit was a reminder of hope, compassion, determination, joy amidst challenges, and servant leadership—it was an affirmation of who we truly are as children of God and as a nation.

During his pastoral visit, Pope Francis said: “The Philippines faces the challenge of building on solid foundations of a modern society—a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given
human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.”1

We mourn as we seem to have forgotten our dear Pope’s message when his Holiness himself has had to endure the verbal abuse of the country’s highest leader.2 We mourn for the 23,0003 victims of the “War on Drugs,” which has been a war waged against the poor and the defenseless. We mourn for the thousands4 killed in Marawi. We mourn for the clerics and the government officials shot dead in open daylight.5 We mourn for the creeping impunity; for the death of checks and balances in our democracy;6 for the continued disrespect of women;7 the sustained attack against the Church;8 and the unrelenting blasphemy against our God.9

We, the faithful, are at your doorsteps, mourning, repenting and rising in prayer to defend our faith.

We repent! We repent for the nation’s sins and the wrong choice of electing a Godless and heartless man to lead our country. We repent for listening to the trickery, lies, and the promises of the evil one, the way Eve and Adam listened to the serpent.10

We rise! We rise to protect our faith against the mockery of evil and his blasphemy against our God, for it is important for us to be strong and to be of good courage, not to be cowed by fear nor be afraid, for we believe that the Lord our God is the One who goes with us. He will not leave us nor forsake us.11

We pray! We pray that Your Eminences and Excellencies listen to the cry of your flock, be one with them in their anguish, and join them in this fight for our faith. In God’s name, we call on Your Eminences and Excellencies to stand, walk, and rise with us as we fight the evil’s outright violation of the Commandments of God.

Your Eminences and Excellencies, they are killing our flock—even the most vulnerable childrena re not spared.12 They are killing our flock—the rule of law is disregarded, the leaders who fight relentlessly for truth and justice are viciously silenced, and the Indigenous Peoples who live peacefully in the land they have nurtured all their lives are oppressed.13 They are killing our flock—our freedom of speech, our right to information, and the sacred guarantee of the Constitution to due process are now clear casualties.

We refuse to be defeated and to just stand idly by. We choose to learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow's cause.14

We call on Your Eminences and Excellencies—our faith leaders—to take your rightful place as God’s stewards of His Church. Reflection is a special time when God speaks to us and reveals Himself in silence, but from reflection comes action—a privilege and responsibility to represent God’s infinite love and justice.

And as we promised Pope Francis before he left our country, “Tomorrow, you will go. Every Filipino wants to go with you. Don’t be afraid. Every Filipino wants to go with you – not to Rome – but to the peripheries.”15

The peripheries await, and tomorrow is now.

Yours in defense of our faith and in Jesus’ name,

Purple Cross Movement

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1 See Pope Francis’ statement in Malacanang, 16 January 2015, via http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/665201/pope-francis-speech-at-malacanang.
2 President Duterte, on December 30, 2015, said “Pope putang ina ka, umuwi ka na. Wag ka nang magbisita dito.” See
https://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/114481-rodrigo-duterte-curses-pope-francis
3 Per official data of the Philippine National Police (PNP), 22,983 individuals have been classified as deaths under inquiry (DUI) ever since the drug war was launched by the Duterte Administration.
4 The Marawi death toll has breached 1,000. See https://www.rappler.com/nation/184967-marawi-death-toll-over-thousand
5 Fr. Marcelito Paez, Fr. Mark Ventura, Fr. Richmond Nilo (killed while officiating a mass in a chapel in Zaragosa, Nueva
Ecija). On the other hand, Fr. Rey Urmeneta was also seriously injured after sustaining
gunshot wounds from another assailant. Just recently, Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio and Mayor Antonio Halili of
Tanauan were both gunned down by unidentified assailants.
6 For being a vocal critique of this administration’s war on drugs, Senator Leila M. De Lima was sent to jail on false charges.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted through unconstitutional means, days after the President declared her as his
enemy. Even the Ombudsman has been constantly attacked by the President.
7 Duterte has repeatedly joked about the rape of women in the past, including the remark that the “Mayor should have been
first” in the rape and murder of an Australian missionary. She has also proclaimed that women soldiers should be shot in the
vagina. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/13/philippines-rodrigo-duterte-orders-soldiers-to-shoot-female-rebels-in-the-vagina
8 Among Duterte’s repeated tirades against the Catholic Church, he has called it “full of shit.” See
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/865123/duterte-catholic-church-full-of-shit
9 Among others, President Duterte has called God “stupid.” See https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44610872

10 See Genesis 3:6-7.
11 See Deuteronomy 31:6.
12 Let us not forget the slay of our teenagers, among them are Kian Delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and Reynaldo "Kulot" De Guzman.
13 Several Indigenous leaders and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were included on a terror list together with over 600 named people in the Philippines. See https://www.iwgia.org/en/news/3239-update-indigenous-leaders-are-threatened-by-duterte-in-the-philippines
14 See Isaiah 1:17.
15 Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s message to Pope Francis on January 18, 2015. See full text at
https://www.rappler.com/specials/pope-francis-ph/views/81258-full-text-tagle-pope-luneta-message



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