Abuse of the Poor and Betrayal of the Nation, Abolish Pork Barrel and End the Climate of Impunity

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A Pastoral Letter

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) John 12:4-6, NRSV

The Pork Barrel System has long been the subject of exposé and rumor as a key component of patronage politics and plunder of the Philippine public treasury. Though many have made reference to the stealing of Pork Barrel funds, public outrage ignited by whistleblower Benhur Luy and further inflamed by the Commission on Audit’s report of a 10-Billion Peso JLN-Janet Lim Napoles Pork Barrel Scam is well founded. The burden of generating the national budget is viewed as a collective responsibility: factory workers, rank-and-file office employees and professionals comply with tax deductions in their bring-home pay, and in recent years, each and every one of us pays the 12% Value-Added Tax on every purchase and transaction. The piercing evidence, that billions in public funds have been stolen by corrupt politicians and their cohorts, rightly elicits our anger, disgust, and corrective action.What makes this a double insult to our Christian sensibility is that these funds have been stolen largely under auspices of providing development assistance in poor and needy communities. We have paid a significant portion of our earnings as taxes with an understanding that these monies are utilized to uplift our nation, including efforts toward poverty alleviation for economically poor families. Sadly, our political leaders have proven themselves to be no better than Judas—their pronouncements of the needs of the poor have been merely a façade for their own thievery and abuse of power. Our nation has been betrayed by those stealing from the common purse and we unequivocally denounce that the poor, who continue to endure hunger, demolition, unemployment and underdevelopment, have been abused for such plunder.

In light of this grave abuse and plunder, we, Bishops of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, call for the Pork Barrel system in all its manifestations—from the barangay to the presidential Pork Barrel—to be abolished. We demand a thorough investigation and prosecution of those who have manipulated and plundered Pork Barrel for personal gain. The prevailing climate of impunity, combined with patronage politics, corrodes and chokes our nation’s advancement. The Filipino people long to be freed from the grips of self-serving greed, and the economically poor, as much as ever, deserve opportunities for genuine development. We call all the faithful to discern God’s summons for Christian action in these critical times. Let us join together in our homes, churches, and even the public parks in decisive and persistent action. Now is the time to demand accountability and transparency from our nation’s leaders. #abolishpork

Signed:
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, General Secretary
Bishop Elorde M. Sambat, North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Roel P. Mendoza, Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Arturo R. Asi, South Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Jaime M. Moriles, West Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Dulce Pia-Rose, East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Melzar D. Labuntog. Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Modesto D. Villasanta, Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area

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