Leloy Claudio is a lecturer in the Department of Communication of Ateneo de Manila University. He graduated from the Ateneo in 2007 as class valedictorian. This article appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Talk of the Town, 13 April 2008, p. A16.
In “Guidelines for Communal Discernment and Action to Address the National Crisis,” prepared by the Jesuit Philippine Province’ s Commission on the Social Apostolate, my Jesuit mentors put forth a coherent and well-argued position on the national situation.
It deserves to be commended for being a call to arms for citizens to engage in national politics. Truly, many privileged members of society have found it pointless to address issues of national governance, promoting instead a form of nation-building that is only concerned with building houses and providing disaster relief.
Despite this, I find myself taking issue with some of the opinions forwarded in the statement. What follows is a critique of the Jesuit guidelines. I write this not because I wish to question the moral legitimacy of the statement, but because I wish to present an alternative framework for communal action. In a sense, I write this because my Jesuit education has formed me in a way that makes me respectfully question authority when the need arises.
Respect for dissent
The respect for dissenting opinions is a facet of Jesuit thought and pedagogy.
I admire the Jesuits because they are beyond the dogmatic fundamentalism that some religious groups are guilty of. As Fr. Provincial, Danny Huang, notes, “if some, in conscience, differ with the positions taken here, let that dissent be presented with civility and intelligence, as input for the continuing task of communal discernment toward that which will serve the true good of our country.”
My principal objection stems from the opinion’s stance on calls for resignation. The statement says that “while this position is one of principled moral conviction, it ceases to be a real political option if GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) remains resolute that she will not resign voluntarily.”
In other words, although the Jesuits “respect” this option, it is not one which they will advocate themselves. This is significant because, while the Jesuits do not condemn the resign position, their ultimate rejection of it will have an impact on shaping the stances of many.
Morality of resign call
My concern stems from the hedging that the statement does regarding the morality of the resign call. We know that they “respect” the reasons behind it, but do they actually believe these reasons?
The reasons for the resign call are simple: 1) GMA is unfit to lead the country, and 2) the country would be a better place without her as president. Unfortunately, based on the statement, we are unsure what the Jesuits really think about these positions.
Let us assume that they accept the reasons because the tone of the statement seems to be critical of GMA. If they do, it is remiss of them not to join the call for resignation. Not doing so is an abandonment of a moral stance in favor of a “pragmatic approach” (although, I will argue later that the call for resignation actually makes pragmatic political sense).
Just because GMA will not resign, it does not mean that we should not voice out our opposition to her in the most categorical way possible. Not doing so would send a message that this regime can still be saved.
And this is precisely what the statement does. In focusing on reforms like advocating the creation of an Independent Counsel, the statement makes it appear that reform is possible under the Arroyo administration. This is ironic.
If the Jesuits dismiss calls for resignation, based on the pragmatic reason that it won’t work, why are they advocating something that obviously won’t work either? GMA has co-opted every single effort to hold officials accountable because she will get implicated.
The Office of the Ombudsman is rigged and the Department of Justice is headed by the biggest legal ignoramus and sycophant of his generation. What will make this independent counsel any different? A GMA-sanctioned independent counsel is an oxymoron.
Despite these disagreements, however, I think that it is correct for the Jesuits to call for GMA’s impeachment. And here is where the call for resignation becomes practical. Calling for resignation makes the ground fertile for an impeachment complaint.
The more people rise up to reject Gloria, the more representatives in the House will realize that their constituents want them to help in getting rid of her. We shouldn’t forget that people were already chanting “Erap resign” in the streets when the House of Representatives impeached him.
Moreover, since impeachment is only one of the ways to deliver ourselves from the evil that is Gloria, we should be categorically state that, should an impeachment attempt fail, we still want her out.
A sustained call for resignation would, for example, pave the way for people power should we be left with no other recourse (although I see this as a last resort that should only be done when constitutional processes become frustrated).
Hence, while I will proudly join my mentors in lobbying for an impeachment, I will continue my call for resignation. The pilferage of this country and the murder of its citizens through extrajudicial killings must be met with a bold stance. Gloria resign!