Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the opinionated, intolerant and highly politicized Archbishop of Manila, has been avoiding publicity lately, in stark contrast to the way he comported himself publicly at the height of the political campaign for the May 2019 midterm election.
Even his trusted and equally politicized and opinionated underlings, namely, Caloocan City Bishop Pablo Virgilio David and Lingayen Bishop Socrates Villegas, have not been their usual noisy selves.
The reason — their anointed candidates in the Otso Diretso ticket sponsored by the Liberal Party were clobbered at the recent polls. Adding to their collective sorrow is that almost all of the senatorial candidates endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte won convincingly, with two of them, closely associated with the President, landing in the top five.
Since the midterm election was seen as a referendum on the President’s administration, there is no doubt that the election results indicate that the Filipino people are on the side of the President.
The election to the Senate of Imee Marcos, the eldest daughter of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos, and the embarrassing defeat of reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino, a first cousin of ex-President Benigno Aquino III, are also seen as the end of the anti-Marcos sentiment sowed by the Aquinos since 1972. It is likewise seen as a prelude to the end of Aquino politicians.
Obviously, Tagle and his friars wanted to reprise the years when Mrs. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was president. Back then, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin was consulted by Mrs. Aquino on practically every major decision of her administration, and priests enjoyed power and influence in state affairs.
With the defeat of Otso Diretso and the fresh mandate given by the people to President Duterte, the plans of the local Rasputins to control the government will have to be shelved.
They will have to stay in the dustbin of irrelevance for the next three years.
The meddlesome friars will shut up in the meantime and avoid publicity. They are, however, expected to create political intrigue once again after briefly avoiding the political spotlight.
During the election campaign, Catholic priests were virtually endorsing the Otso Diretso candidates in their sermons and in partisan political propaganda disguised as “pastoral letters.”
It will be recalled that Bishop David once went out of his way to go to Taguig City, a great distance from his parish in Caloocan, just to speak in a partisan assembly of anti-Duterte personalities. Surely, that act cannot be justified as parish work.
The reason for the zeal displayed by these friars in their campaign against President Duterte and his administration has substantially nothing to do with religion or morality, although the friars have been trying their best to make it appear that way. That’s called deceit.
As if campaigning from the pulpit was not controversial enough, some prominent personalities in the Catholic educational community even used their schools to rally for the Otso Diretso ticket.
For example, the president of a prominent Catholic university based in Manila and who has close ties with President Benigno Aquino III even published an open letter in a newspaper of general circulation (not the Daily Tribune).
He said that his letter is his apology to the succeeding generation of Filipinos for his having left behind a nation that he could not be proud of. To make his letter sound credible, he cited an undisclosed, unidentified “mock election” conducted by what he vaguely refers to as “the youth.” According to him, the results of that “mock election” favored all the Otso Diretso candidates, whom he enumerated one by one.
After identifying his anointed candidates, he painted a grim picture of the national political landscape and insinuated that the youth should vote for the anti-administration candidates if they want a better country.
Since the letter was published on the eve of the election, it was obviously an illegal, last-minute campaign for the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates who had been lagging behind in the voter’s surveys. The desperation of the letter writer is obvious.
Right now, the credibility of the friars is at an all-time low.
Indeed, the high priests in this country have reasons to despair.