Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Vidal Is The Poor?

There's The Rub : Clean conscience

Conrado de Quiros dequiros@info.com.ph
Inquirer News Service

I HEARD the joke some years ago in reference to Ernesto Maceda. It said Maceda holds the record for the fastest open-heart surgery in the country. The doctors opened his chest and then closed it right back again. They found no heart.

I remembered that last Sunday when I read about the outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Fernando Capalla saying it wasn't wrong for the Catholic Church to accept money from state-run gambling operations. He is one of those accused of doing so. "My conscience is clear," he said. Well, that is because he hasn't got one.

Someone from the government casino form Pagcor earlier tagged Capalla, along with Cebu Archbishop Cardinal Ricardo Vidal and Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, as being beneficiaries of Pagcor Chair Ephraim Genuino's beneficence. "The principle of morality does not apply in this situation," says Capalla. There is nothing wrong with accepting money from gambling operations, so long as it directly benefits the poor. Quoting Vidal, he said, "I'd rather be criticized than let the poor die of sickness or hunger."

Well, the principle of morality has never had a narrower range of application than during his time as head of the CBCP. Quite fortuitously, at about the same time he was defending taking Pagcor money to help the needy, the local government officials who had gathered in Puerto Princesa City for a meeting under the aegis of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines were complaining about one thing. Why was it, they asked, that when the bishops took money from the illegal lottery "jueteng" it was called aid, while when they did so it was called a bribe? Good question.

That reminds me of the time I appeared in a talk show ages ago. The topic was whether it was all right for entertainers who had been voted into office to continue doing movies or appearing in television. Joey Marquez proceeded to say it was fully justified in his case because he used his earnings as an entertainer to give to the poor. The budget of mayor of Parañaque City just wasn't enough to improve the lives of his constituents, he said, so he needed to supplement it with his personal income. I confess I was taken aback, being completely unprepared for that argument. I just said vaguely that he must be exceptionally altruistic, a veritable saint, since not every entertainer-cum-mayor did that. I couldn't very well say, "Goddamn man, I didn't know you could lie through your teeth barefacedly."

As it is, there is a difference in claiming that you are giving the money you earn as entertainer to the poor and claiming that you are giving the gambling money you receive as bishop to the poor. Money derived from entertainment is at least legitimate, however you can raise all sorts of questions about the propriety of earning it while serving as a public official. Money received from gambling lords -- and Pagcor is the biggest gambling lord of all -- is plain blood money.

Experience, if not medicine, has at least determined that accepting blood money produces the pathological effect of robbing you of three of your five senses: sight, hearing and the use of your mouth. You see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. It affects even archbishops. In fact, I don't know, as suggested by the case of Capalla, that it doesn't rob archbishops in particular of all their senses, including smell and touch. Capalla for one can't seem to smell the stench surrounding Malacañang, which has nothing to do with its proximity to the Pasig River. Or touch it.

It was Capalla who rushed to say, along with Benjamin Abalos, chairman of the Commission on Elections, and Bill Luz, secretary general of the election watchdog Namfrel, that the 2004 elections were as pure as holy water, give or take a contamination or two, and committed the entire congregation of bishops to it. Abalos at least you can excuse for not knowing how to count votes, even if he probably knows how to count bills. Hell, he couldn't even count the number of weeks the illegal bidder he awarded the contract to computerize canvassing to had been in existence. And Luz at least had 83 percent of the election results, largely from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's bailiwicks, to rely on, give or take an improvement on reality or two. Capalla had nothing to go on but the word of the lord. I don't know which lord.

It was Capalla who left Archbishop Oscar Cruz twisting in the wind during the latter's exposé of the involvement of top government officials in jueteng. At no time did Cruz get help from his favorite congregation of bishops, even as his witnesses began disappearing from him, which he presumed to be the product of Pagcor et al. donating to his witnesses' favorite charities which were themselves, and even as he wept at the sight of a country turning into Sodom and Gomorrah. At the time, Cruz wasn't just showing the presidential husband and son to be the godfathers of jueteng, he was showing that if you wanted to help the poor, the divinely and humanly blessed route was not to accept gambling money to give to the poor but to stop gambling which was making the poor poorer. What little Ms Arroyo left behind, Bong Pineda and ilk were siphoning off with a vacuum cleaner.

The notion that it is all right for an archbishop to accept gambling money because he is desperate to give to the poor makes about as much sense as the notion that it is all right for presidential candidate to cheat in elections because she is desperate to serve the people. The premise voids the conclusion. Experience again, if not medicine, has determined that receiving gambling money produces the pathological effect of making you think when you say, "I'd rather be criticized than let the poor die of sickness or hunger," that you are the poor.

I remember yet another joke told by a friend who smokes heavily. The doctor, he said, had just declared him to have clean lungs: no more lungs.

Nice to have a clean conscience.


Abante Pinoy ! said...

I am saddened by the stand of Archbishop Capalla (and I hope its not the official stand of the Catholic Church). Since the time of Jose Rizal, it has been said that the "end doesnt justify the means".

Because of the Pagcor expose, I am not anymore surprised why the Catholic Church has not reacted even if the impeachment complaint is already on its way to the trash.

I hope our Catholic organizations will urge the Catholic hierarchy to now take a stand after the impeachment is "killed" in Congress.

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