Filipino church members walk for accountability

Some 500 church members and students from United Methodist Middle Philippines and South Nueva Ecija Philippines conferences gathered Nov. 17 to express their indignation about graft and corruption in the country.

Led by Manila Area Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan, with the support of his cabinet, the people gathered for a short liturgy in the Wesleyan University gymnasium before walking a mile to the Plaza Lucero to hold a candle-lighting for good governance, truth, justice and accountability.

Len Carreon from the Church People's Alliance Against Pork Barrel said that Juan and Carlos Cao, an attorney and United Methodist lay leader from the Philippines East Conference, represent United Methodist Church in the alliance.

Education is a “significant aspect” of the People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork movement, which is gathering signatures to scrap the public fund, she noted. “We believe that one advocacy of the church is engaging in societal issues like this one," said Carreon.   

Pork Barrel is a lump sum public fund assigned by law, regulation or practice with sole discretion given to the President, legislator or group of legislators, or any public officer.

A scandal over pork barrel funds has attracted national attention, with lawmakers and ordinary people prosecuted and jailed.

In an interview last December, former Philippines Chief Justice Reynato Puno, a United Methodist, said all forms of pork barrel should be scrapped and added that “the Methodist people should speak on this because this is a moral issue.”

Marching and gathering signatures

The march offered one way to speak out. "We are here to express our support by signing our names, our signatures will signify that we are against the pork barrel." said Zenaida Candelaria, a lay woman from San Leonardo United Methodist Church.

"I believe this is a call to everybody, a call to support scrapping of the pork barrel system, the fund shall be given to where it should go, it should serve its purpose,” added the Rev. Casiano Sta. Maria.

Deaconesses were among the marchers as well.  Rachel de la Cruz and Beng Azurin said that targeting corruption can help ensure that the funding of education and health agencies “shall be properly managed and with accountability."

De la Cruz added, "More people shall be granted this assistance, not only in the hands of the few, making people greedy and selective."

“Moving on to good governance is the great outcome of this call," said Gene Coronel, chair of the Middle Philippines Board of Church and Society.  He believes the church will not tolerate the ill behaviors of politicians and policy makers in the government.  

United Methodist Women and young adults, who were in the queue for signatures, unanimously said that they are firm in their belief that their presence and signatures show their commitment to the cause the bishop is leading.

The liturgical call

Three of Juan’s district superintendents – the Revs. Rommel Franco, Apol Cunanan, and Marlon de los Reyes – also expressed their solidarity.  "Social holiness is the admonition of John Wesley," said Cunanan.  

United Methodists are not callous, "we don't just shrug off our shoulders on these issues, we will do something," said De los Reyes, extending the support from the provinces of Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales. 

Two guests from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Gerald Lord and Amos Nascimento offered greetings and expressed solidarity during the liturgy. 

Nascimento said he is grateful to be with the group addressing an important issue.  

"When the church is following Wesley's social justice against corruption, you are bringing new dimension of witnessing to heal the nation and live a better life, not only in Asia but in the whole world."

Juan emphasized in his homily the lack of integrity among leaders and because of decadence which is ubiquitous, moral regeneration and transformation is greatly needed.  

"This people's initiative for good governance will bring back integrity, this will be a wake-up call to everyone."

*Mangiduyos is a deaconess in the United Methodist Philippines Central Conference and a professor at Wesleyan University-Philippines in Cabanatuan City.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, or 615-742-5469.

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