60. The Philippine presidential elections: the aftermath
60. The Philippine presidential elections: the aftermath

60. The Philippine presidential elections: the aftermath

Last week’s post explored the reasons Maria Robredo lost the presidential election to Bongbong Marcos despite the Catholic Church’s overt support of Maria. No doubt, Bongbong has grievances against the Catholic Church.

First, the Church led the ousting of his father Ferdinand in the 1986 revolution. Second, the Catholic Church seriously opposed his candidacy for the presidency. Third, although the Church did not officially support his main opposition, Maria Robredo, many bishops and priests publicly endorsed her for the presidency. As president of the Philippines, how Bongbong Marcos will relate to the Church is uncertain.

After Bongbong won the May 9 presidential election, the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Charles Brown, leading a delegation of diplomats, visited Bongbong on June 10. After the meeting, the Nuncio said: “We had a very productive, encouraging, and positive discussion and the President-elect assured me of his desire to collaborate, cooperate closely with the church and Holy See.”[1]

As a traditionally Catholic country, the Apostolic nuncio customarily heads the foreign diplomatic corps accredited in the country and the diplomatic functions at Malacanang Palace, the president’s official residence.The head of Caritas Philippines, Bishop José Colin Bagaforo said that Caritas would work with Bongbong’s administration if there were “a program that will address the rights and dignity of the people and (that) promotes truth and honest governance.”[2]

Ahead of Bongbong’s inauguration as president on 30 June 2002, Pope Francis congratulated the new president. The Nuncio, Archbishop Charles, shared the message on 29 June. The Pope wrote: “I send my congratulations and cordial wishes to Your Excellency as you begin your mandate as the President of the Republic, “In assuring you of my prayers that you will be sustained in wisdom and strength, I invoke Almighty God’s blessings of peace and prosperity upon the nation”[3].

Will Bongbong keep to his promises of working closely with the Church? Will the papal nuncio keep his privileges? Time will tell.

No doubt, the election loss has already undermined the Church’s credibility and political clout. It has also sent signals to the clergy that people do not wholly accept all they say. In other words, their moral authority is eroding. The glory days of influence such as the time of Cardinal Sin have now passed.

Yet, even with the defeat, all of these could have still been hidden if the clergy had not endorsed any candidate. As I have written in the past weeks,

the Churchs official neutrality is a Christological strategy that ensures that the pastor always reaches all people. It limits the high political risk of defeat and political backlash. It safeguards the moral authority of the Church and gives the Church a soft landing in case of defeat.

This is the reason countries prefer a stalemate to an outright defeat.

However, all hope is not lost. No institution is as resilient as the Catholic Church. Of course, Jesus promised his continuous presence. First, as Jayeel Cornelio suggests, the Church needs to return to evangelisation at the community level. Second, we need to avoid the abuse of authority when relating to the people. Third, in an era in which the internet has disintermediated a lot of traditional institutions, the Church needs to embark on a massive online evangelisation to target the youths who spend most of their time online and who actually decided the fate of Maria Robredo.

On this last point, one must commend the many Nigerian priests and religious who have an active online ministry. Their little individual contributions are cumulatively making an impact and promoting the Catholic faith in the country.

Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾


[1] https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1176538

[2] Ibid

[3] https://globalnation.inquirer.net/204944/pope-francis-offers-prayers-for-bongbong-marcos-sends-best-wishes

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