Friday, February 27, 2015

“Whatever the costs . . .”

“In a powerful sermon that signaled his desire to push ahead with historic reforms, Pope Francis on Sunday (Feb. 15) said the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the costs.” [Pope Francis Slams 'Prejudiced Mentality' Of Believers Who Fearfully Cling To Religious Laws, David Gibson, Religion News Service,, 15th Feb 2015]

If we come to think about it, catholic means universal and thus open and welcoming?

“‘There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost . . . Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking . . .’ as he outlined the current debate in the church between those seen as doctrinal legalists and those, like Francis, who want a more pastoral approach.” [ibid.]

“Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences . . . For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family. And this is scandalous to some people!”

“Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal . . . He does not think of the close-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.”

“Francis repeatedly slammed the ‘narrow and prejudiced mentality’ of believers who cling to religious laws out of fear. They wind up rejecting the very people they should be ministering to . . . which means anyone on the margins of society ‘who encounters discrimination.’”

Question: Where do we in PHL stand given the historic reforms that Francis is championing? For example, “[T]he Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the costs?” Consider: Our value system, characterized by our parochial bias, is not open and welcoming to change especially of the extraneous kind. And so we find even the community and the common good extraneous – so long as our family's needs are provided for. No wonder we're among the most corrupt? And given the ambivalence in our traits and values, we live with and perpetuate a feudalistic system even as we claim that we are for an inclusive society. And it is deep-seated and has stood the test of time. 

The evidence: How long have we heard unsolicited advice like the following? “Phl needs to open up economy – think tank” and “Corruption, investment restrictions hinder PH ‘economic freedom’ – US think tank” and “EU urges reform in PH procurement system.”

“US-based think-tank The Heritage Foundation said the Philippines would need to open up the economy to more players and continue its structural reforms to increase investments.” [Phl needs to open up economy – think tank, Kathleen A. Martin, The Philippine Star, 19th Feb 2015] “Terry Miller, executive director of the organization, said . . . the government should consider altering some rules on trade and investments to better cater to a bigger group of investors. Miller said that some policies only protect a number of businesses or some sectors, holding back economic development and investments, and in turn, the creation of jobs.”

“They tend to preserve the benefits to perhaps only an elite group in the society. Maybe if you can open up the economy, then much more opportunity will be available for average people. Policy changes can make significant changes.”

“THE Philippines should focus on three key areas of concerns to achieve ‘economic freedom,’ according to the US-based Heritage Foundation.” [Corruption, investment restrictions hinder PH ‘economic freedom’ – US think tank, The Manila Times, 18th Feb 2015] “[T]he think tank’s Senior Analyst Anthony Kim and Executive Director Ambassador Terry Miller both said that the Philippines should further improve its policies and reforms for the elimination of corruption, ease restrictions on foreign investments, and remove the influence of corruption in the judicial system.”

“The country should improve its rule of law in the performance of the judicial system and in fighting corruption. If those are addressed, there should be advancement in the [economic freedom] score for the long term. Address corruption and change the culture to correct the acceptance of corruption in the [government] processes.”

“THE European Union has urged the Philippine government to do more in improving the transparency and competitiveness of its procurement system as it plays a key role in attracting job-generating investment into the country.” [EU urges reform in PH procurement system, Mayvelin U. Caraballo, The Manila Times, 17th Feb 2015]

“In a forum on Tuesday, Ambassador Guy Ledoux of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines, said the country has made progress in terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), noting that inward FDI stocks in the country increased to 25 billion euros in 2013, mostly originating from the EU, from 10 billion euros in 2004. However, the EU ambassador said that the latest figure is only a fraction of the more than 200 billion euros in FDI that European companies invest every year around the world. That the Philippines has been a laggard in FDI growth can be traced to the bottlenecks in the country’s procurement policy, which blocks investments.

“Some of these companies are reluctant due to problems industry faces with procurement: companies encounter problems with tendering and bidding processes that seem to work against foreign bidders,” Ledoux said.”

Those are pretty damning indictments that should wake us up and bring us down to earth? If they're not bad enough, what about our demonstrating to the rest of the world that indeed we're a banana republic? Are we again foolishly entertaining the idea if not gearing up to upend a democratically elected government?

I was chatting with a relative who was bragging about their province up north. And so next January during their fiesta they will host us to see for ourselves how much progress they've achieved even when they're not done yet – and have in fact attracted foreign investment. But that's why when another relative wondered aloud how the fate of Luisita would have angered relatives of President Aquino, one would appreciate how after we take one step forward we then take two steps back.

Wouldn't our generation wish to see the future of the Philippines? But not if we keep moving backwards? And so I have to miss another extended family get-together before our annual homecoming to the Philippines ends. With my Eastern European friends, we are among the sponsors of Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebration and received an invite to an advance thank-you event. While having just returned, I'm flying back because I want to be a witness to Singapore (more so the Philippines) going full circle after 44 years – when I first visited and the industrial area of Jurong was still barren land. [Concern is in the air in Singapore following the news that Lee Kuan Yew is not in the best of health.]

Francis referenced “the close-minded . . . repeatedly slammed the narrow and prejudiced mentality” . . . “Charity is creative . . .” They are a great guide not only about faith but thinking as well, including innovation and creative destruction. But even the Curia, to the surprise of Francis, can’t imagine that? Not surprisingly, mortals like us Pinoys are like a lost sheep? Which explains why we’re the regional laggard?

Because our comfort zone always wins, it goes without saying that we're preserving the status quo, yet we wonder why reform efforts don't get traction. For instance, half of our people say they are hungry and poor yet we take the ambivalence for granted? And so instead of the positives of charity and creativity, we are confronted with the negatives, of a narrow and prejudiced mentality? 

But we’re not about to rock the boat? Precisely why Francis wants openness whatever the costs? Openness is not sacrilege. But in a feudal society, that applies only to the few? Like my old neighbors in our old enclave in Alabang; they flexed their muscles (all the way to the SC) to block a planned community center in the neighborhood. Bravo!

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