Bishop Soc Villegas was the secretary of +Cardinal Sin when EDSA 1 happened. He was rector of the EDSA Shrine from 1989 to 2004. Last February 24, 2008 his reflection on the current situation in the country was finally heard.
The story of EDSA 1986 is the greatest gift that the Philippines gave to the family of nations. The song says “handog ng Pilipino sa mundo”. EDSA 1986 showed us the glory and greatness of being Filipino. EDSA as the greatest event of the last century was our solution to the worst scourge of the last century and even until now—corrupt, immoral and dirty governance. The antithesis of EDSA is corruption.
The heaviest cross weighing heavily on the shoulders of the Filipinos now is corruption in public life. This corruption has reached scandalous depths and mind boggling figures. Government corruption had deprived the poor in the countryside of basic health and education services. The corruption of citizenry who get prostituted at elections and the preference to bribe rather than to go through inconveniences in processing government papers may be low scale yet equally immoral.
Worse than the scourge of graft and corruption is the blatant and consistent effort to cover up and hide the liberating truth. In the present situation where we are in, the watching public believe that the accuser and accused are both guilty of graft and corruption in anyway. The advocates of truth become the little devils of greed when they take office. In such a culture, the poor are pitiful bystanders who hear the unspoken lustful dream of the accusers: Tama na! Palitan na! Kami naman!
The worst among the scourges that our nation suffers from right now is the culture of indifference. Many of us want to resign as Filipinos! The peso is at its highest in recent years but we have reached our lowest level of hope and highest level of frustration. We do not care anymore. Our people have grown tired of rallies to change public officials because the changes have simply been from one corrupt official to another. Those “revolutions” did not improve our lives, did they? They were just like shots of opium that gave us a temporary high and nothing more.
They say “Why make noise when the economy is doing well?” Can you hear the Lord say “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul”? There is something more important than money. It is our national moral fiber slowly eroding and becoming desensitized to evil and sin. It is not enough to moderate greed. It must be eradicated. Its eradication must begin in each one’s heart.
The President must change or be changed; so with the senators and congressmen. But it is not enough to change the officials we elected in Malacanang and Congress. We must also seek reform in the commission that handles the elections. It is also not enough to change officials in government. The change must being with each and everyone’s heart. Each and everyone must be reformed Filipino that we want our public officials to become. We must change ourselves so that society and government will change. We must not demand repentance and reform from our leaders if we are not even willing to repent of our personal sins as dishonest and uncaring ordinary citizens.
Let us all resign from corruption, from indifference, from lies, from arrogant use of power. Corruption is not a crime of the government. It has become our national livelihood. It is not only those on top who are guilty. We who are below are all guilty as well!
The story of EDSA 1986 is not just the story of a fleeing dictator due to the power of the people. EDSA aroused the goodness in us. It is our hearts on fire for God and country. The EDSA spirit is not just about political change. It is primarily about a change of heart and soul! Let us not invoke the EDSA spirit for political change if we are not even open to moral and spiritual reform individually. The change we seek must come from within.
EDSA must now move from the street to the heart.
From the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, Balanga City February 24, 2008
+ B. VILLEGAS
Rector of the EDSA Shrine 1989 to 2004