Praying for Enlightenment
October 17, 2000
This is not a subject I wish to tackle, this is not a job I want to undertake. I wish more than anything to live in peace and quiet, having all the honors I could wish for, enjoying the vacation from politics I think I have deserved.
But how can I not be here, when you are here. How can I say that, having led the people in the fight to bring back democracy, I cannot be with them in protecting its life and defending its honor. And so I must address the crisis of governance today.
You know the charges that have been made. You know the actors in this sordid drama. You know that motive can play only a small part in the gravity and credibility of the charges that have been laid at the feet of the President no less.
So much is clear: serious crimes have been committed, grave charges have been aired. What we have here is a quarrel over the sharing of the spoils. But some of the spoils are public funds and the President has been implicated.
There was here also the familiar modus operandi of passing off an attempted assassination as a chance encounter over a traffic violation. There may be little sympathy for the likes of Chavit Singson but we must recoil in horror at the brazen attempt to stop his mouth with a bullet. Only an impartial and fearless investigation can tell from how far up the order came. We thought such methods had passed away with the dark days of the dictatorship. Now it seems they have returned.
Over the past two years, we have listened to stories of corruption and passed on jokes about it. Now we are shocked to learn of the ultimate outrage that has been committed and at the lowest insult offered to the honor of the Republic. No less than one of the President's closest friends has leveled bribery charges against him in the hundreds of millions.
The shameless efforts in the Senate and the House, to silence rather than answer these charges have only made matters worse. For now the stigma is spreading and the stain on the Presidency threatens to cover Congress as well. We fear when it will touch the courts.
When that happens, the last argument for a upholding democracy will have been defeated; and those freedoms for which we fought, and that way of life for which the best of us gave their lives, will be utterly defenseless against its age-old enemies on the a Right and the Left.
We cannot allow things to come to such a pass, nor can we allow the passion of the moment to obscure the right course of action that we should take – today, tomorrow, and the day after until an early resolution to the crisis of the Republic takes a place.
I join the Cardinal and the bishops and ministers of all the Christian churches in urging everyone who loves his country to pray, to ponder, and to seek enlightenment. I urge the President himself to join us in seeking discernment through prayer. For the heaviest decision lies with him: to spare our country from more of the troubles he has brought down upon its head.
What lies ahead is a period of unending turmoil, for these are not charges that will just go away. Nor can these charges just be swept under the carpet. The truth must be finally established for no government can continue with such charges hanging over its head.
These charges strike at the very essence of government. They call into question the very right of this government to exist. And if they are not fully investigated and the appropriate action taken, they will undermine the moral foundations of our society. For they will tell the world that this country does not care about what is right or wrong, what is legal or criminal. These charges, if left unanswered and unpunished, will tell all that wish to live, work or invest here that they do so at their own peril.
The investigation into the corruption charges made by the President's friend has barely started, though not because the truth is hard to get. Efforts to derail or delay the investigation, or suppress it altogether, have only added to their credibility and disgraced the Congress.
No one in his right mind can dispute their gravity; few people of any honor can doubt their essential veracity. The best that can be said is whether these I charges can be made to stick in a court of law or a congressional impeachment of the President himself.
That will be a long and painful process, both for the President but more so for the country. A country deemed without effective leadership in the past two years will be seen to have a leadership just one step away from jail.
Who will take this country seriously then? All foreign and local investment has virtually come to a stop. The process of divestment is well advanced. The peso has dropped 20 percent since the start of the year, the Phisix over 50 percent in dollar terms. Investments have dropped 20 percent in the past six months and foreign direct investments over 80 percent in the same period. Who can believe that this I country has a future at all, except those who are fooling themselves or are making money illegally today.
In 1983, the assassination of a popular political leader turned a moderately healthy economy into a very sick one in just a few months. Growth dropped from 5 percent to negative 3, dipping even further until the government was overturned.
This year bribery allegations delivered the coup de grace on the last shred of integrity in the Office of the President. It threatens to bring about the same economic consequences.
The fear is that the righteous anger of discerning Filipinos, the outright disgust of the moral authorities of our nation at such corruption so close to the highest office of the land, will spark a ceaseless round of protests that will write off the Philippine economy. And yet that anger cannot be discouraged because this country cannot live with the charges that have been made. They must be answered.
This anger, this disgust, this deepening doubt about the ability of this government to govern morally and well, even as the region descends into a crisis again, raises a legitimate concern. Along drawn-out investigation into charges of the most serious legal violations, alongside a bitter and protracted impeachment of the country's chief law enforcer no less, will damage our economy beyond all hope of swift repair. We may reach the point of no return in the economy or only of a long and painful recovery back to zero.
No less than the life of our country is now at stake.
At this point, I ask everyone who can hear me or will read my message, to join me in prayer.
Starting today, I will visit parishes and schools in Manila and ask the people to join me in praying the rosary, in the church or in their homes. We will join our prayers with those of other churches and other faiths, all to the same end: that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us all, the President included, on what course of action we and he must take that will best serve the highest interests of our country.
We will do what we can to achieve a just resolution to the crisis. He will do what he must. We pray with him that he does what is right for his country.
There has been a call for his resignation before the investigation into the bribery charges is complete. That call was prompted by the gravity of the charges and by the shame in which he has cast his office by the sordid company he keeps.
Alternatively, he might take a leave of absence during the investigation of the charges. It is there in the Constitution, under Article 7, Section 11. The President can inform the Senate President and the
Speaker of the House that he wishes to take a leave of absence because he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office under this cloud. The Vice President will assume his position in an acting capacity. After he has obtained a full exoneration in an investigation over which he had no control, he can take back the Presidency.
And finally there is the process which it is our hope to avoid, without sacrificing the imperative of restoring moral government. This is impeachment. From this process we expect the worst. It will be long drawn-out; it will put the truth at the mercy of numbers; and it will leave justice in the hands of those whose single overriding concern is their reelection.
The process may yet surprise us by achieving a fair and just result. But we think it will meet our worst expectations. The result will be the discredit of yet another critical institution of democracy, so that, stained throughout with scandal, democracy will be defenseless thereafter against her enemies.
No one should think he knows everything; but no one should doubt that God knows all. If we pray, He will share this knowledge with us and show us the way to go.
I urge us all therefore to pray for enlightenment and discernment. When the hour strikes, we shall all be clear in our minds and ready in our hearts about the action we must take. When the battle is joined, the standards should be clear and every man and woman will know where they stand – with the forces of light or those of darkness. We hope that when the time comes, we shall be on the same side of brightness, both the President and us — committed to only one cause: the peace, the stability, and the honor of our a nation at whatever price to ourselves.
There are times that try men's souls and moments when love of country calls for supreme self-sacrifice, even if it means resignation.