POSTSCRIPT / April 8, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why choose the lesser evil? Choose the good!

“Put away your corruption from before my eyes; reject evil, choose the good, seek what is right.” (Isaiah 1:16-17a)

CLARK FIELD — Why should God’s children be reduced to choosing the lesser of two evils in the coming May elections?

This question bothers Capampangans as they examine gubernatorial candidates identified (one) with illegal sand/lahar quarrying and (another) with the illegal numbers game of jueteng.

Macalunus neman rugu ing Pampanga! (Kawawa naman ang Pampanga!)

In our Postscript last Jan. 11, we wrote of the 1.2 million voters in President Gloria Arroyo’s home province being caught in an electoral showdown of “Jueteng vs Quarrying,” or of “Balas vs Bolitos.”

(“Balas” is Pampango for “sand,” while “bolitos” refers to the small balls numbered 1 to 37, a pair of which is drawn to decide the winning jueteng combination.)

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CHOOSE GOOD: But the Most Rev. Paciano B. Aniceto, archbishop of San Fernando, reminded his flock in a stirring pastoral statement last weekend that they need not choose between two evils.

Monsignor Aniceto did not mention any candidate by name.

Capampangans — with religiosity burning beneath their worldly veneer — are reading to heart the archbishop’s statement titled “Reject the Evil, Choose the Good.” They are reproducing it, even emailing it to their cabalens abroad.

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DO RIGHT: Though addressed to Capampangans, the pastoral counsel applies to other Filipinos similarly situated. For lack of space, however, we can share only these slightly shortened excerpts from Monsignor Aniceto’s 1,500-word statement:

“The prophet Isaiah once called the whole Israelite nation to conversion, not by merely putting on sackcloth and ashes, or by merely engaging in ritual piety. Rather, he said, ‘Put away your corruption from before my eyes; reject evil, choose the good, seek what is right.’ (Isaiah 1:16-17a).

“He went back to the most basic kind of election — the choice for good against evil, the choice for right against wrong, the choice for truth against falsehood.

“This is the same kind of choice that the Lord is also asking of us as we again prepare for elections — one of the most precious expressions of democracy, but also one of the most flawed exercises in the political affairs of our country.

“Too often have we heard such cynical expressions as ‘Let us leave politics to politicians… We have no choice anyway… That is none of our business.’ If election is about choosing, how can we exercise it meaningfully if we say ‘We have no choice?’ If Christian life is about choosing the good at all cost, how can we say we just choose the ‘lesser evil?’

Reject evil, choose the good!”

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MONEY THE ROOT: “In the light of current developments in Philippine politics, it is for very obvious reasons that the nation’s attention is focused on Pampanga because of well-based claims that now, more than ever, money is again becoming the very bone of contention over Capampangan politics.

“We speak of money, either from jueteng or from questionable quarrying activities.

“The shady patrons who are engaged in illegal and immoral business and who have all the money to spend on elections are bound to take control over politics and governance — if we do not do anything to expose and put a stop to their underhanded and manipulative practices.”

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JUETENG & QUARRYING: “Over the issue of jueteng, we can only reiterate the pastoral statement released by the CBCP in March 2003, in which the Catholic bishops called for a total eradication of the said illegal numbers game, referring to it as ‘a moral and social cancer.’ The CBCP characterized jueteng as ‘an insidious subculture of immense corruption that involves a shadowy network of powerful financiers, protectors, and lords,’ and ‘…destroys moral values such as industry and hard work, accountability and honesty, integrity and justice.’ We are particularly alarmed about the way this illegal gambling activity has — of late — been merely camouflaged by the legal small town lottery (STL) making it easier for the former to carry on with its operation under the very noses of local government officials and law enforcers.

“In the context of the coming elections, we have reason to be seriously worried that money from jueteng will again serve as a decisive factor for the victory of certain candidates.

“Over the issue of questionable quarrying, we likewise echo the statement of the CBCP on Jan. 29, 2006, over the ill effects of indiscriminate mining activities that do not abide by basic environmental laws and regulations, and which are suspiciously tolerated by government agencies that are supposed to be responsible for their monitoring. Our parish communities, especially those located in the vicinity of major quarry sites have reason to be worried for their safety especially during the rainy seasons, knowing how local government leaders have kept quiet about the absence of such safety measures. Furthermore, serious allegations of corruption involving millions of funds generated from quarrying in the province have yet to be accounted for by the people involved. Such allegations inevitably raise the issue about the possibility that the provincial government is being deprived of the much-needed revenues that could be used for projects that will benefit the people.

“Again in the context of the coming elections, we have reason to be seriously worried that money from questionable quarrying may also serve as a decisive factor for the victory of certain candidates.”

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GET INVOLVED: “We call on the faithful to actively participate in the coming electoral exercises, either through partisan or non-partisan forms of political involvement. It is the duty of our Catholic laity, in particular, to exert all efforts possible so that qualified, capable, honest, and God-fearing candidates — who can be instrumental in effecting change in politics towards good governance — are elected into office.

“It is also the duty of our Catholic laity, in cooperation with the religious and the clergy, to take an active part in the PPCRV-initiated activities such as the education of voters towards a more discerning exercise of their right to vote, as well as in the guarding of votes on all levels of counting and canvassing, from the precinct to the municipal, to the provincial, up to the national levels.

“To insist upon the seriousness of this task, we recall the recent CBCP pastoral statement (Jan. 28, 2007) that said, ‘Many of our current political problems, which have hindered fuller economic development and social justice, especially for the poor, can be traced to unresolved questions concerning the conduct of past elections. As a nation, we cannot afford yet another controversial electoral exercise that further aggravates social distrust and hopelessness.’”

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BETS CHALLENGED: “As leaders of the Church, we challenge all candidates running for any government position in Pampanga to categorically and truthfully declare in public that they have not been and will never be involved in JUETENG AND OTHER FORMS OF ILLEGAL GAMBLING, INDISCRIMINATE AND CORRUPT QUARRYING, VOTE-BUYING, ANY FORM OF CHEATING IN THE ELECTIONS, EXORBITANT CAMPAIGNING, VIOLENCE AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS, ILLEGAL DRUG BUSINESS.

“We call on all voters, especially the Catholic faithful, to reject any candidate who cannot truthfully and resolutely make any of the declarations listed above. We remind the faithful of their baptismal promise to reject all evil, greater or lesser, and to choose the good at all times. We urge them also to remain vigilant even after election, over corrupt, immoral, and illegal practices in governance.

“We urge the laity to encourage and support decent, upright, qualified, and capable alternative candidates and to come up with multi-sectoral organizations and movements for good governance. We call especially on our youth to celebrate our Easter hope by rejecting cynicism and indifference, and by redirecting their energies towards the renewal of society.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 8, 2007)

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