The Gardener’s Tales

(First of a Series) By Charlie Avila

Manila, March 5, 2022 – There are rumors floating around that May 9, 2022 may mark either the beginning or the end of the world – at least the Philippine world.

May 9th is election day. All popularity games and contests of any kind take second fiddle to this one. The prize is power, or perhaps more accurately, the illusion of power.

In this game, one is not ordinarily considered a player unless the moneyed few had put together a humungous fund for her or him with billions of pesos to throw away. This is why democracy in our country still does not reflect the will of the bottom majority. Election is an exclusivist game among a dictatorial “One” being challenged by an oligarchic “Few” more often than not effectively erasing the existence of the “Many.”

Why is this so? In the first place, getting elected is costly business, and not only in the Philippines, if it be any consolation to some.

In the USA, some decades back, one Joseph P. Kennedy was quoted by his son John F. Kennedy, as having said, “Don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary. I’ll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.” Joke, or truth?

In the Philippines, some time back, when Joker Arroyo’s spending of millions upon millions to get elected was exposed to be second only to Prospero Pichay’s campaign spending, many people immediately remarked, “And we thought he was clean.”

Why did people talk that way – about Joker who later waved his legislator’s right to pork barrel? People correctly presume that a politician ends up “grateful” to the moneyed few through the need for election campaign support – unless, of course, he or she was a plunderer to start with.

When the late Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, erstwhile President of the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) urged the people to accept the money but vote according to their conscience, he forgot one thing. It was the fact that gratitude is the memory of the people’s heart. And so, in conscience, they voted for those who had given them money.

Again, more than a decade ago the CBCP in its much-vaunted exercise of moral leadership urged people NOT to vote for those who are spending too much.

For the coming elections, even before the start of official campaigns, the Wannabees Robredo, Marcos, Lacson, Pacquiao, Moreno and drop-out Bong Go had already tried to outspend each other in the hundreds of millions – by the billions of pesos, really, if you care to be updated.

Has the CBCP changed its moral theology for the coming election? The question cannot be suppressed when one notes how many of the clergy and the religious and members of the hierarchy have all but canonized the first or second biggest spender, urging the “faithful” to vote for her almost under pain of mortal sin and hell fire, if one may be permitted an exaggerated description of a true situation.

Is there not an unjustified moral panic among many of our moral leaders that the “One” (i.e., dictatorial rule) may stay (Duterte) or return (Marcos), and so they must postpone living out their faith in the people whom they are committed to educate for self-empowerment according to the Church’s Social Teachings?

Have many church leaders not overstayed in the triumphalist culture of Rome and completely forgotten the original Jesus Culture of Bethlehem? If they have, then, understandably, they will now help propagate the rumor that May 9, 2022 may mark either the beginning or the end of the world – at least the Philippine world.

To them, it is too late to take a second look, much less visit and assist the efforts of the shepherds, the farmers, the fishers and the poor. To the triumphalist and the conquistador, the party of the poor is a joke and has no chance.  (To Be Continued)