top of page

Discerning the synodality path for Filipinos, Part 6

The distinction between revolutions is an important one with regards to how the state behaves. In the words of Karl Marx, the state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilable class antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. It rises where, when, and insofar as class antagonism cannot objectively be reconciled. Such has been the case in the Philippines.

Revolutions led by the military and the elites like the EDSA Revolution, or the rebellions against Spain and the United States, have never proven to be an organ for reconciliation of classes. On the contrary, they become part of the oppressive rule. Democracy, as espoused by the ruling class, used the organs of the state (military, police, and other instrumentalities of government) to maintain order for their benefit under the framework of neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism as an accepted truism, proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by espousing democratic visions of entrepreneurial freedoms as supported by a framework of individual liberty, unencumbered markets, and free trade. The lingering colonial mentality made it easy for locals to accept such universal concepts and has influenced the way they think.

The prevailing victors of revolutions maintain such narratives through control of mass media and through government institutions (i.e., the Department of Education perpetuating the narrative). Those who refuse to recognize such hegemonic concepts are looked at with disdain and must be communists or socialists.

Neoliberalism in the guise of democracy, appeals to the upper class because it effectively prevents an equitable distribution of wealth. The desire of the ruling class to retain their privileges in society finds themselves with two options: redistribute their wealth to the poor or shift toward authoritarianism. In the Philippine context, it is easy to discern which option is more palatable to the upper class. As a matter of fact, oligarchy produced more billionaires post EDSA.

Such as the primordial driver of class struggles. It is with this background that the Philippine Catholic Church should recapture the essence of being called the Church of the Poor. This includes reaching out to those who left the Church to pursue their struggle for social justice and for an equitable society. It is in this context to view Pope Francis’ comment that “The future of the Church is in Asia.”

The Communist Party of the Philippines through its military arm perpetuates violence because they are aggrieved and excluded from power, much like the Huks before them. They challenge the ruling class and its military arm, to impose their own model of governance following communism as an ideology. Clearly, neoliberalism and communism will always clash infinitum. Neither extreme ideology is beneficial to the Catholic Church, if it truly believes its own Christian democratic ideology.

Hence, the need for the Catholic Church to step up. To be an effective player, however, the Philippine clergy needs to reinvent itself. First, it needs to follow the lead of Pope Francis because it shows that the Vatican’s journey from anti-communism to anti-capitalism has evolved. The overture he made to China should be viewed in the spirit of synodality.

The pope’s strong condemnation of income inequality and free markets signals that modern capitalism is the new enemy as he debunked the “virtues” of trickle-down economics. Certainly, wealth has not trickled down to the poor in the Philippines. What this means is that there is a need to redefine “sin” in the context of economic inequality.

Sin as an ethical concept deviates from the normal definition of sin as an illness, an infraction against the conventional edicts of the church that merits punishment in the afterlife. Thomas Aquinas referred to sin as the consequence of the final cause (human inclination to sin). As an ethical concept akin to the Latin American thinkers like Father Gustavo Gutierrez, sin is no longer just about self, but humanity in the process of liberation.

Capitalism is an ideology and therefore, not capable of sinning. Yet, its effect (vis-a-vis, poverty, income inequality) is a moral failure in need of accountability. The ruling class hides behind capitalism to avoid a semblance of culpability (technical sin), and ultimately, punishment. The Philippine clergy for all intents and purposes, fails to look at the ruling class’s culpability by looking the other way. Plainly, Aquinas never meant for technical sin to go unpunished because sin is the cause of injustice.

In a wider sense, engaging in capitalism does not mean its objective is to harm people. But, when viewed in the context of corporate greed as in profiteering even during the pandemic, capitalism is what brings misery, poverty, pollution, worsening climate, illegal drugs, among others, that result in many deaths. Excessive profit making is brilliant, but the resultant deaths because of it are sins against Natural Law and God, who created them.

Therefore, Pope Francis is morally correct in making capitalism enemy number one. But the bigger question is, how do you put this into practice. For starters, Philippine prelates need to balance the clamor of the NPA in the context of social justice. Liberation theology is not just the negation of sin, but positively, should result back to what Jesus wants us to do – to love and fellowship with our neighbor.

The current form of government has miserably failed to address land reform and the equitable distribution of wealth. By extension, the alliance between successful capitalists with the political power of the government must be put in check. Apolinario Mabini dreamt of a parliamentary form of government. Perhaps, that can be a starting point when looking at the merits of federalism.

Political dynasty was a favorite bogeyman for opposing federalism for fear of perpetuating it more. Historically, however, political dynasty is the product of the current presidential form of democracy working in tandem with capitalism. They are the ruling elites who fail to craft the implementing rules for the anti-political dynasty provisions of the Philippine Constitution because doing so would be inimical to their economic interests and political survival.

Hacienda Luisita is exhibit A where the president had the Chief Justice removed because his actions devalued the Aquino estate. Even more galling is the fact that illegal pork barrel in a different name (Distribution Acceleration Program or DAP) was used to convict the Chief Justice. Aquino was indicted for DAP but was given a pass due to a technicality that he was an impeachable official. This proves that the current system can be manipulated by the president who controls the other branches of government.

When Aquino died, Cardinal Jose Advincula, Archbishop of Manila led influential Church leaders in extolling the former president. CBCP president Bishop Virgilio David alluded to the Aquinos’ efforts to restore democracy in the Philippines. Retired Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon was brutally honest, “he was a hard-working president who greatly improved the economy of the country.” Democracy, economy were their themes. The late dictator’s daughter, Sen. Imee Marcos, was more forthright that despite the younger Aquino’s misgivings, he had a “kind and simple soul.” To be continued…


bottom of page