Mr. Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the July 9, 2008 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Why would Malacañang, a week after Gloria Arroyo returned from the US, place a full-page ad in a major daily to convince the public that Mrs. Arroyo’s junket was worth every million she wasted?

Really, there’s just no way she can justify leaving the country after her justice secretary, Raul Gonzalez, gave her his eyewitness account of the destruction in his province. And she cannot justify not cutting her trip short after her health secretary, Francisco Duque, said, on the Monday after the typhoon, “The damage is of unparalleled proportions.”

Her absence wouldn’t have been so bad if she had brought back something substantial, but she came back empty-handed. So the question remains, why did she leave her people when they needed her most?

The only answer I can think of is: If she can leave her critically ill husband’s bedside to witness the signing of an anomalous deal, then she can certainly leave behind a people who never liked her to begin with.

Why would Butuan bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos plead leniency for the Go family, the owners of Sulpicio Lines? He felt sorry for them.

“I went to Malacañang the other day because of the request of the owner of the Sulpicio Lines…it’s the only livelihood they have. Kasi walang ibang source of income ang Go family kundi ang shipping industry so yun ang purpose ng paghingi ng tulong nila sa akin,” (The Gos have no other source of income other than shipping so that’s why they asked me to intercede for them.) said the bishop. He added, “They are also with the Oasis of Spirituality, so we already have a sort of relationship.”

Sulpicio’s cargo ships are sailing once again. It doesn’t matter if the bishop’s intercession had anything to do with it. What’s important is the Go family will remain in their oasis of material wellness and spirituality.

But Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has suggested that the Gos try another business. Everyone hopes they do.

The bishops who are in Manila for another one of their meetings can do something constructive for a change. Instead of telling the Gos to get out of shipping, they can help them find another livelihood.

As Bishop Pueblos explained so eloquently, it would be un-Christian to suddenly deprive a family, any family, of their only source of riches. A substitute must first be found, a middle ground somewhere, a win-win situation as they say, for the poor Go family.

Maybe the bishops can tell the Gos to put up a memorial park in Butuan and call it “The Oasis of Spirits.”  Their shipping business will ensure that the “Oasis” never runs out of bodies and the Butuan diocese can pick up some loose change for providing church services for the dead. It’s the perfect win-win arrangement, the synergy between faith and capitalism.

Philippine prelates are no strangers to such an arrangement. Capital-based faith has been with us since the 15th century and it has kept the church and the ruling class very well fed.