|Filipino church leaders criticize alleged corruption|
Nearly 50,000 demonstrators participate Feb. 29 in an
interfaith march in Makati City, Philippines, protesting alleged
corruption in President Gloria Arroyo's administration. A UMNS photo
courtesy of Arkibong Banyan.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
March 4, 2008
Allegations of a corrupt business deal that would have garnered millions
of dollars in payoffs to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and her
husband have United Methodist leaders declaring that now is the time to
"exorcise this evil spirit."
Norma P. Dollaga (left) and Darlene
Marquez-Caramanzana participate in a 2007 Social Creed workshop in
Manila. A UMNS file photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
United Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero said allegations of "graft and
corruption" have caused the country's leaders to lose their credibility
to govern. Since Arroyo took office in 2001, Toquero and United
Methodist Bishop Leo Soriano, along with other religious leaders, have
spoken out against government corruption and the ongoing violence
against church workers and social justice advocates in the Philippines.
"What has happened to our leaders?" Toquero asked in a Feb. 25
statement. "What has happened to the 'only Christian country in Asia'?"
In testimony before the opposition-controlled Philippine Senate,
former project consultants testified that the president's husband, Mike
Arroyo, and the country's former elections chief have received huge
kickbacks linked to an aborted telecommunications contract with China's
According to news reports, Arroyo has said her family does no business
with the government and that she opposes corruption. Although all those
named have denied the allegations, the Senate hearings––broadcast live
on television in the Philippines––have prompted numerous protests and
renewed calls for Arroyo's resignation.
President Gloria Arroyo
"No wonder our young people have lost respect for our leaders because
of corruption," Toquero said. "It has inched its way into the
socioeconomic, political and religious fabric of our society; everyone
is adversely affected. There is a need to exorcise this evil spirit
that is killing us as a people."
The United Methodist Board of Women issued a statement Feb. 26
praising "courageous testimony" before the Senate about the ZTE deal,
which President Arroyo was forced to cancel. Darlene
Marquez-Caramanzana, executive secretary of the board, said the business
transaction was "an affront to the sacredness of life."
A statement by the board's executive committee asked: "How can the
government be so callous, numb and heartless to enter into anomalous and
shady transactions at a time when a majority of the people are
suffering from extreme poverty and misery?"
The statement pointed to two examples of suffering children. Recently
a 7-year-old girl from a poor community in Rapu-rapu died of hunger and
malnutrition while waiting to receive her share in a feeding program in
school. Another young girl committed suicide when her father was not
able to give her the P100.00 (US$2) needed for her school project.
"Given the present political crisis, we wonder whether the church should
make its prophetic statement stronger," said Norma P. Dollaga,
chairperson of the United Methodist Church's Philippines Annual
Conference board of church and society.
Bishop Solito Toquero
"Today is not a time to lose hope, today is not a time to give up,
today in not the time to be silent, today is not the time to be
reluctant prophets," she said. "Called to be the salt and the light of
the world, we are challenged not to hide the light. We are called
to give out light in the valley of shadow of death."
Toquero called for new leadership in the Philippines.
"There is a need for new leaders who will lead us in fighting against
corruption in all sectors of our society, both in government and
non-government agencies and institutions," he said.
Citing other incidents of corrupt business transactions, Dollaga said
a growing number of Filipinos are demanding the "ouster of a corrupt
"The moment is ripe to join the growing number of people who are
demanding justice, who are seeking after truth, and advocating
accountability," Dollaga said.
"The rottenness of this system poses a challenge for the church to
participate with the people to change the rotten system with one that
will give the people a meaningful and dignified life. This is not an
illusive dream. Even Isaiah announced a similar vision. And so
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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