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Church gives undeniable influence to PH politics, culture—historian


(Jennifer M. Orillaza)

MANILA, July 26, 2013—What would the Philippines be like without the influence of the Catholic Church?

Would it possess the same identity known to all? Or would its rich history be altered in such a way that marks of religiosity would be replaced by secularist and relativist ideologies?

In an attempt to emphasize the interrelation of politics, history, and culture with religion, a Protestant historian said that the Catholic Church has played a significant role in the history of the Philippines as a democratic nation.

History professor Michael Charleston Chua cited the historic People Power Revolution of 1986 as among the greatest manifestations of this undeniable influence, eventually causing the breakdown of a dictatorship and restoring the freedom that was once lost by Filipinos during the period of Martial Law.

“In times when no one had the courage to stand against the government, the church stood ground to guide the majority,” Chua said during the Katolikong Pinoy recollection held at the San Carlos Seminary last Saturday.

“If we would fight and offer ourselves for the achievement of the change we all wanted to see, the Philippines would obtain a renewed hope of becoming a free and prosperous nation,” he added.

It was in September 21, 1972 when the late President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial rule in the country to suppress the alleged civil rebellion and communist insurgency emerging from various provinces in the country.  Martial rule was lifted on January 17, 1981.

Church against Martial Law 

During instances when fear of speaking against the Marcos dictatorship ruled the nation, it is the Catholic Church who had the courage to help those who suffered from the grave abuses of the government, Chua said.

In this historic period of political mayhem, it was the late Jaime Lachica Cardinal Sin who shepherded the Filipino people into breaking the iron rule of Marcos, he added.

He emphasized the importance of Cardinal Sin’s policy of “critical collaboration” with the government, which involved the church’s cooperation to the laudable policies of the administration and critical opposition to those that are deemed detrimental to the growth of the majority.

Chua said that the church did not express active opposition against Martial Law during its early years, but after the military raided a Jesuit Seminary in 1974, Cardinal Sin became convinced that it was time to fight the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship.

“Right after the military raided the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Cardinal Sin became more critical of the government. This led his decision to fight the grave abuses and injustices committed by the Marcos administration against the Filipino people,” he said.

He also noted Sister Mariani Dimaranan, an ex-political detainee and former chairperson of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, an organization that supports political prisoners, as among the remarkable church icons who defied the odds of Martial Rule and fought for the protection of human rights.

In order to discretely organize rallies against the government, some movements organize mobilization activities through masses and other spiritual activities, Chua said.

“It was priests and nuns who led mobilizations against the Marcos administration. They knew that they should strive to fight for what is right, no matter how dangerous the task may be,” Chua said, noting that the country’s fight for freedom will never be attained without the participation of the Catholic Church.

 ‘Trapo’ attitude 

Chua also urged public officials to veer away from “trapo” (traditional politician) culture—that which is characterized by service done for the attainment of self-serving reasons instead of one’s genuine desire to serve—and imitate the late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in serving the country.

Aquino, a former senator and one of the country’s democracy icons, was the staunchest critic of Marcos during the years of martial rule in the country. He was among the thousands who were detained for speaking against the government. Upon his return to the country in 1983, he was shot in the head by a controversial gunman whose real identity has remained unidentified at present.

Chua said that like most “trapos,” Aquino also had self-serving desires at the beginning of his political career. But after his incarceration, a new realization dawned on him, making him dedicate his life for the freedom of his country.

“If only our public officials could be just like Ninoy, they will be loved by Filipinos and they will be regarded as heroes of the present generation,” he said.

Dream of EDSA I 

He also went against the claim of former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos that the Martial Law era was the most democratic and peaceful period known in the Philippines, saying that this period was marred by grave injustices and abuses committed against innocent Filipinos.

“During the Martial Law period, the fourth estate was muzzled and Filipinos were deprived of the right to control their own lives…Approximately 34,000 people were tortured—some were electrocuted, some were drowned, others suffered from other forms of torture; 3,240 were killed; and 1,000 individuals disappeared during that period,” he said, referring to the report of human rights group Amnesty International.

Chua noted that because of the excessive violence and abuse suffered by Filipinos during that period, a lot of intelligent and nationalistic individuals were killed, leading to the great decline in the number of promising visionaries in the present generation.

“It seems that we have already forgotten the dream that the EDSA People Power has for all of us. We have to make this dream come true,” he said.

“We should not rely on the government in fulfilling this dream. Together with the Catholic Church, we have to take action in pushing our nation toward change and progress,” Chua added.

Miracle of EDSA 

The historian said that the momentous People Power Revolution is comprised of a political, cultural, and spiritual dimension as it narrates and describes the real essence of Filipino nationhood.

“The story of EDSA is not simply an extraordinary feat. It is the miracle of a change of heart happening to thousands of people,” Chua said.

He urged the faithful to relive the spirit of the 1986 revolution everyday to obtain genuine change within oneself.

“Genuine freedom will only be attained if it is felt within one’s heart. With the Lord’s help from heaven, we would be able to obtain this goal,” he said.






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