Catholic bishops urge Filipinos not to vote for those who distort the truth about the years of martial law
On the anniversary of the peaceful revolution that led to the fall of Marcos in 1986, Bishop David, president of the Bishops' Conference, released a pastoral letter ahead of the 9 May elections, in which the former dictator's son is running for president. The letter stresses that "There can be no justice without truth”.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a pastoral letter titled “The Truth Will Set You Free” (Jn 8:32), signed by CBCP President Bishop Pablo Virgilio S David of Kalookan.
In it, the bishops warn that “troll farms which sow the virus of lies” dominate the current presidential election, stressing that “There can be no justice without truth”.
The letter’s release today, 25 February, is no accident. On this day in 1986, the non-violent EDSA[*] People Power Revolution took place that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The former dictator’s son, Ferdinando Marcos Jr., and his running mate, Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, are leading in the polls ahead of the 9 May presidential election thanks to a massive advertising blitz downplaying the scars caused when the Philippines were under the iron fist of martial law.
While they “are aware of the complexity of things”, the bishops insist on the need to help a deeply divided country rediscover the common good.
“We have no ambition of appropriating for ourselves your distinct role as laity in the just ordering of society, nor do we intend to usurp the role of the government. We are here to provide moral and spiritual guidance, in accord with our mission of proclaiming the truth from our faith.”
“But we are appalled by the blatant and subtle distortion, manipulation, cover-up, repression and abuse of the truth, like: historical revisionism – the distortion of history or its denial; the proliferation of fake news and false stories; disinformation – the seeding of false information and narratives in order to influence the opinion of the people, to hide the truth, to malign and blackmail people.”
Citing “the virus of lies” that paralyses Filipinos’ capacity to “recognize God [and] respect truth and goodness”, the bishops note that “the radical distortions in the history of Martial Law and the EDSA People Power Revolution” are at the heart of the problem.
“We issued a ‘Post-Election Statement,’ dated February 13, 1986, regarding the systematic disenfranchisement of voters, widespread and massive vote-buying, deliberate tampering of election returns, intimidation, harassment, terrorism and murder.
“In the same Statement we said: ‘a government that assumes or retains power through fraudulent means has no moral basis.’ Thus, we asked you to see, to judge and to act, clearly not with violence, but through peaceful means. And that was what happened.”
“The peaceful revolution was not an invention of one person, one party, or one color. It was a triumph of the entire Filipino People.”
“Many of us, Bishops, were witnesses of the injustice and cruelty of Martial Law. And up until now, the human rights abuses, the victims, the corruption, the grave debt and economic downturn of the country due to dictatorship are all well-documented.”
Forgetting this “is dangerous, for it poisons our collective consciousness and destroys the moral foundations of our institutions.” Indeed, “Can we afford to make lies become the basis of our laws and their implementation? What happens to a family or a society that is not founded on truth?”
Ultimately, “There can be no justice without truth. Even charity, without truth, is only sentimentalism. An election or any process that is not based on truth is but a deception and cannot be trusted.”
For this reason, the bishops urge Filipinos, “especially the Youth, to examine carefully what is happening in our quest for a true and just society. Engage in dialogue and discernment. Listen to your conscience. Be the ones to decide.”
Lastly, “We trust in your capacity to discern what is true and good. We all seek the common good. And, in the light of the Gospel of Jesus, let us follow the path of truth, goodness, justice and peace – not the path of violence, vengeance or evil.”
[*] Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a major highway in Metro Manila.