A couple of issues ago, I said here I’d only believe the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s stand on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill if it would, among other things, reveal exactly what’s happened to the case of Raul Cabonce, the parish priest from Tubay, Agusan, accused of rape by a 17-year-old scholar working under his care in the first quarter of 2011. The CBCP’s response? Dedma.
What now, about Monsignor Cristobal E. Garcia, of Cebu, just the other day the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for allegedly engaging in illegal ivory trade and smuggling, and the main item in the National Geographic Magazine’s forthcoming October issue, in an article written by Bryan Cristy?
Ivory, to the uninformed, is produced from elephant’s tusks, and was in the past used to make ornaments such as piano keys, knife handles, teeth, dominoes, billiard balls, artwork, religious icons and statues, until people realized there was a connection between the quick decline of elephant populations worldwide and the ivory trade, hence the ban enforced by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in 1989.
Google Cristobal E. Garcia, if you wish. The Internet says he’s head of the Cebu Archdiocese Commission on Worship, rector of the Shrine of Jesus Nazareno in Cansojong, Talisay, director of the publications, Bag-ong Lungsuranon and Mag-ambahan Kita, of the family that owns the second-biggest power distribution company, the Visayan Electric Co., and formerly based in Los Angeles, California, in the United States.
Never mind that he’s perhaps got the largest collection of ivory religious icons and paintings here and abroad, some as old as 300 years “heirlooms,” and that he’s “one of the best known ivory collectors in the country.”
Never mind that he may have, as the PDI noted, incriminated himself when he revealed all that he knew of the illegal trade of ivory, that he advised Bryan Cristy how to smuggle religious artifacts made of ivory into the United States, by merely “Wrap(ping) it in old, stinky underwear and pour(ing) ketchup on it,” so that it would look “bloody” and “shitty” — and reportedly added that for icons that wouldn’t fit in a suitcase, he might “get a certificate from the National Museum of the Philippines declaring my image to be antique, or I could get a carver to issue a paper declaring it to be imitation or alter the carving date to before the ivory ban.”
Or, that Brooks Eggerton, reporter, with email address firstname.lastname@example.org, decided to republish his first Garcia story (http://watchdogblog.dallasnews.com/2012/09/priest-who-had-sex-with-boys-now-tells-how-to-smuggle ivory.html/#commentzone): “Priest accused of rapes finds prominence; Filipino church leaders welcome Garcia despite incidents with altar boys” that first came out as part of a Dallas Morning News series on “Runaway Priests: Hiding in Plain Sight” which documented “more than 200 cases in which Catholic clergymen had gone abroad and stayed in the ministry.”
Egerton’s updated piece now includes: “He oversees worship practices for an archdiocese of 3 million believers. He bears the baby Jesus’ image during annual ceremonies that draw throngs into the streets. He led his cardinal’s advance team in Rome five years ago when Pope John Paul II declared a Filipino sainthood candidate to be blessed.
“It’s a far cry from his despair of 20 years ago, when the Dominican religious order expelled him after a nun told police that an altar boy had been found in his bed in a Los Angeles rectory. The priest fled to his hometown Cebu archdiocese — which, despite a warning from the Dominicans, put him to work anyway, with children, and persuaded the Vatican to honor him with the title “monsignor.”
“Cebu Cardinal Ricardo Vidal also has allowed Monsignor Garcia to form a monastic religious society, whose young male recruits call him their ‘supreme motivator.’ The Society of the Angel of Peace is based in a village outside Cebu, where the priest also oversees a chapel, a children’s Sunday school program and a squad of altar boys.”
It’s the CBCP reaction I’m now curious about.
Egerton quotes Lynne Goodwin, the lawyer who defended the Dominicans in a lawsuit filed by one of Garcia’s victims, in 1988: “I don’t think they (Filipino Catholic leaders) have the same standards or concerns we do. I don’t think there’s any consequence for bad action.”
Still according to Egerton, Paul Corral, one of the victims, “was stunned to learn of the monsignor’s high-profile ministry: ‘I never thought he would continue that charade.’”
Will the organization of the self-proclaimed most holies so vocal against the RH bill keep silent in the face of this controversy? So far, key officers are belatedly and suddenly, as in out of the blue, admitting that Garcia has been suspended from all his positions in the Cebu Archdiocese, no less on orders of the Vatican pending its investigation of the supposed molestation of altar boys that supposedly took place from curiously the same length of time since the CITES ban on ivory trade.
We are likewise told the suspension happened months before the ivory trade scandal, but never mind this, as I’ve said, for if Garcia there is guilt, it’s something he has arguably done on his own and without permission of local church hierarchy.
But working again with minors, despite a warning from the Dominicans that he is not allowed to? Bukod sa pinayagan siya uling makipag-trabahong kasama ang mga menor-de-edad, the Filipino Catholic Church went one step further and convinced the Vatican to elevate Garcia as a “monsignor?”
How did this happen? I’m telling you: Only with the complicity of the CBCP. Ang iingay nilang makapuna sa uling sa mukha ng iba, dumi sa tungki ng ilong nila, di nila makita? Don’t look now, but already, the holy pakialameros are defending Garcia, kesyo biased ang National Geographic, kesyo walang pruweba — tigilan nila ako. Ang hindi nila kakampi bibimbangin nila, ang kakampi nila, puprotektahan nila.
Monsignor Achilles Dakay, media liaison officer of the Cebu Archdiocese, is thus quoted by the PDI: “What happened in the States could be a crime. If it was also a sin on his part, it was forgiven. He had repented.”
Kailan nagsisi, kanino nagsisi, sinabi kay Dakay?
Is this the same absolution that has been given to Raul Cabonce?
The CBCP revels in selective dedma. Puwes, lalo akong pro-RH bill.
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Or, “War of the Worlds,” as one wag says it has become. I’m still not directly commenting on who’s right or wrong, and it isn’t because I fear this paper’s online hate mailers wishing me dead. They do this every other issue anyway, with statements like “mamayapa ka na, old hag, you and your brother are the devil’s spawn,” so it’s not as if they can say far worse.
It’s just that Juan Ponce Enrile does not need my defense.
Take the pro-Trillanes sites such as www.ellentordesillas.com, where comments typically go, “It is election time. Ayaw siguro ni Enrile na manalo ulit si Trillanes kaya sinisiraan. Gusto niyang manalo yung mga mahahawakan niya sa leeg.” And, “Why would Sen. Trillanes work for China? Isn’t that the most stupid suggestion? I believe he’s just being pilloried for daring to go against old man Enrile.”
Even there, someone bothered to explain that JPE could not have acted tuta for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Sen. Antonio Trillanes accused him, because with Rolando Andaya Jr. and Dato Arroyo as the incumbent congressmen of the first and second districts of Camarines Sur, respectively, “the bill declares the existing Fourth District as a new province with two legislative districts,” so it “clearly does not affect Dato at all.”
One who calls himself “x-man” also pointed out, that, other than “walang benefits ang mga Arroyo na hatiin ang probinsiya” well, “kahit maaprobahan ‘yong bill na yon ay hindi automatic na hahatiin ang probinsiya. Magkakaroon pa sila ng plebiscite, boboto ang mga taga-probinsiya kung payag sila o hindi na hatiin.”
Philippine Star columnist Cito Beltran last Friday, on the very anniversary of the same Martial Law declaration that later saw his father Louie Beltran jailed, noted that: “Whatever grumbling or serious accusations Trillanes may have had against Senator Enrile, he committed the mistake of forgetting the code of the ‘Officer and Gentleman.’ Unless he intended to challenge Enrile to a ‘duel with pistols at twenty paces,’ Trillanes should have honored the code. Whether at home or at the academy or inside the Senate hall, one must always honor those in authority.
“In this particular case, Trillanes entered the ring without the training of a Matador, no sword in hand and obviously no stomach to stay for the kill. It was folly on the part of Trillanes to handle Enrile as an 88-year-old bull, because this bull was still trampling Trillanes’ reputation long after the ‘Novato’ scampered out of the ring…
Enrile outsmarted and outlived Marcos, survived Cory Aquino’s dislike, waltzed with Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and now Noynoy Aquino. He is not one of the country’s longest standing politicians merely by knowing his law… it seems that his many years in the stockade did not teach Trillanes patience, self-control and wisdom.”
That same day, Winnie Monsod said in her Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) column, that: “It is very clear that the fight between Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Antonio Trillanes was started by the latter, when in a privilege speech he named Enrile as the reason he was quitting the majority bloc in the Senate, complete with attacks on the quality of Enrile’s leadership (supposedly dictatorial at the very least) and motives (alleged lackey of Gloria Arroyo).
“What is not clear is whether Trillanes actually knew what he was getting into — because he seemed genuinely surprised and upset when Enrile rose to give back at least as good as he got. And Trillanes then made matters worse by walking out of the session hall, giving Enrile the opportunity to add cowardice to his list of Trillanes’ supposed failings.
“What then transpired raises questions in the public mind as to the level of Trillanes’ intelligence, or at the very least the soundness of his judgment. The Brady report, assuming it is an accurate depiction, certainly shows an inflated sense of self-worth and importance, the desire for power (also, remember Oakwood), pointing to more than a hint of megalomania. He credits himself for all the so-called successes (frankly, I don’t see any) in the Sino-Philippine contretemps, and thinks he knows more than Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario — or at least is more effective, and shows disdain for Enrile’s “Let the people decide” attitude.
Monsod also made reference to what I feel the other senators should bother to clarify. Have they really ever been bullied by JPE as Senate President, and forced to vote against their will? Tellingly, when asked by JPE to reveal a “specific incident” of such bullying, Trillanes retorted, on the Senate floor, “That’s irrelevant.”
I must say Trillanes’s response sent me thinking, dahil paanong magiging irrelevant iyon, kung iyon mismo ang ibinibintang ng batang senador doon sa mas matanda? Coming up with a specific incident would have proven the accusation of bullying, so that would have been relevant, hindi ba naman?
Yesterday’s PDI editorial, while clearly not siding with any of the two senators and also faulting JPE, observed “… the series of events immediately before Trillanes read his speech and immediately after he walked out of the Senate suggests that he was reaching for something more than the undivided integrity of Camarines Sur. He now says he was in fact hoping to help unseat Enrile as Senate president.
The utter fecklessness of his attempt reminds us not only that… hope is not a strategy; it also reminds us of the inept adventurism he displayed during the Oakwood caper of 2003. Does one seize state power by taking over a serviced-apartments hotel? Trillanes does not seem to understand where the real sources of power lie, whether in society or in the Senate.”
This isn’t over yet, especially as last I’ve heard, Trillanes was quoted by the PDI online edition as saying, re GMA’s alleged ohone call to JPE, “Talagang matindi ang utang na loob kay GMA. Tinawagan ito kaya nagkukumahog. Doon ako nawalan ng respeto at bilib sa kanya. Tawag lang pala ni GMA, nanginginig na.”
Sorry, pero kahit na sabihin pang figure of speech lang ito, never ko talagang nakita si JPE na nanginig to curry favor.
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So the other day, at the Senate, he blew his top. I caught it late on TV, and while watching the most common question asked of me about my brother popped into my head: “What’s he like when he’s angry?”
Us siblings are an emotional lot; we all took after our father. To this day, we’re like him, we cry when angry, when happy, and when sad. But when we’re coldly angry, it’s altogether a different story. As we saw Juan Ponce Enrile telling Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was trying to calm him down, “No, no, I’m not emotional. The truth must be told. I did not start this. If you start a fight with me, I will take you on.”
What led to the “word war” I didn’t catch early enough to be able to tell outright who’s right or wrong, so I won’t comment until I fully understand the issue. Meanwhile, what’s Johnny like when he’s angry, talaga? This is asked of me in all interviews to do with the man I first met only after the war.
I close my eyes and I can still see him chopping firewood; fetching water from the well in our yard in Maysilo, Malabon; with bare hands eating his favorite paksiw na bangus and kaning lamig; driving the GI-jeep that brought all of us — Irma, Chito, Toti and I — to school at the St. James Academy in San Bartolome, where he had also been accepted as a high school junior at the age of 21; and doing various chores for my mother Purita whom he learned to love as his own and who loved him just as well.
There’s a six-year age difference between us, he was the kuya from out of nowhere, after the eldest, Mario, died in a sea tragedy; a product of a one-night dalliance born, of all days, on a Feb. 14. The scholar of a parish priest, for whom he worked as houseboy, he was spurned by the parents of his first love, because he was nothing and no one, at that frame of his life a laborer, a kaminero digging the dirt road that was to become the national highway in his part of the world. Finally arriving in Manila soon after liberation, an older sister from another branch of the family tree for some reason wanted to discourage him from finally meeting Papa; she soaked his good clothes in water so he’d have nothing to wear. Not to be stopped, he donned army fatigues for the first encounter in an office in Escolta where, to his wonder, people would enter a small room and disappear — Juanito, the provinciano, knew zero about elevators.
When I defend him as a kind man, others scoff. Wala raw sa hitsura niya. Johnny, though, was always good to me.
I remember that when Sig and I were making plans for a wedding, Papa had sensed it even if I hadn’t formally told him and Mama yet. He liked Sig as a lawyer, but didn’t approve of him as a future son-in-law. One night Irma and I came home from a date at eleven o’clock in the evening and were in bed by midnight. An hour or so later, we woke up to the banging of pots and pans in the kitchen; I thought Mama and Papa were quarrelling, but, no. Soon after, Papa entered our room, switched on the lights and kicked our beds, shouting, “Get up, you Igorots from New York!”
We didn’t budge; Papa went to the kitchen and started to smash drinking glasses on the floor, galit na galit talaga. Irma and I got up and listened to his harsh words, determined to find out what was causing his fury. Iyon pala, he was angry because I had gone out on a date with Sig. I began to resent Papa’s actuations, and exploded about a week after.
That night I told Mama and Papa that I wanted to get married before the end of the year because Irma was getting married to Dr. Titong Potenciano in January of 1952. Papa reacted to my plans in a violent way and nagkataasan kami ng boses, as if we were actors in a teleserye. The scene got nasty.
I ran out of the house, down the front steps, crying heavily. Juanito appeared at the landing and embraced me as I wept, pleaded for for me not to leave, assured me that everything would be alright, and that he would talk to Papa, at naayos nga niya ang gusot.
Hindi lang happy moments ang naaalaala ko kundi pati na, at lalo pa ang mga away at iringan, ganoon din ang kataku-takot na diskusyon at argumento, because that’s how Johnny and really began to know and understand each other. To fight with my brother is to know him well, to be his adversary somehow — strangely and oddly — makes you his friend.
Whether he keeps you as such is another matter, but people close to him know that he clashes only with those he thinks worth his effort. Otherwise, he ignores you and treats you like you aren’t even there. Still, I am not in a position to presume if he and Senator Trillanes will ever mend fences, so I will not go there.
Johnny is 88 years old, but the story of his life is far from over. Dumarami ang kanyang mga kaibigan, gayundin ang kanyang mga kagalit, a reality that can only be expected from one with an active political life.
My detractors have alleged I abused his position as Marcos defense secretary by way of asking him to pick up my enemies for incarceration, but as producer the most I got from him was the use of army horses, for the filming of Dung-aw. My close friends know that he gave in to my request(s) for the release of some political prisoners, and this I reveal today, the 40th anniversary of Martial Law.
I won’t name names kung sino ang mga napakawalang iyon, magkusa na lang silang magkuwento. There was this one day I begged and cajoled for him to let some people out, and he got ticked and exclaimed, “Armida, I have a job to do!”
Even so, napakawalan din niya ang mga pangalan sa listahan ko. That, despite his temper.
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