Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Church and State
My column this week looks at politics and religion in the context of the evolving relations between Church and State. Do consider lending your support by being a Patreon of this newsletter and my other efforts.
This week’s Long View
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM April 13, 2022
So said the American general William Tecumseh Sherman. Our present republic differs from its previous incarnations in invoking God, and not some vague Supreme Being, in its opening lines just as it is said to be secular but not anti-religious in its orientation. In many ways, the hands of the government are tied when it comes to favoring churches, but churches are free to do what they please when it comes to elections and their flocks.
Back when our elections were still held in November, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued its first joint pastoral letter on elections on Sept. 12, 1953. It marked a turning point, in relations between the Republic and the Catholic hierarchy, away from the wariness if not hostility dating back to the era of the revolution. That a new era had begun was demonstrated on Dec. 30, 1953, when President Ramon Magsaysay became the first president to take his oath of office on a Bible (in fact, he used two, one from each side of his family). A year later, on Dec. 4, 1954, he led the Catholic faithful in consecrating the Philippine nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Two years after that, on Dec. 2, 1956, he consecrated the entire Philippines to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There were some protests, to be sure, but even the Rizal law, signed six months earlier, had a provision negotiated by the Catholic Church, which meant only college students would have the option of reading uncensored versions of Rizal’s novels.
Magsaysay, himself, was following, not leading, public opinion. Congress, sensing where Catholic opinion lay in an election year (1949), abolished divorce, which had existed in a highly restricted form, since the American colonial era. Fernando Lopez, President Quirino’s vice president, led a similar consecration of the Philippines in 1950.
Last Feb. 25, the CBCP issued a pastoral letter on the anniversary of the Edsa revolution, in which the bishops collectively bore witness to martial law and that peaceful revolution, setting the historical record straight and condemning fake news, black propaganda, and so on. A month later, the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines joined Pope Francis in consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, itself an act echoing John Paul II’s consecration of the world (including Russia) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1984. The Philippines, itself, had last been consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
These — consecrations of nations and bishops speaking with one voice — are political acts, and in this election season, it is necessary to ask this question. Which is the authentic face of any church: its ordained leaders, its lay leaders (including those active in secular affairs), or the community of the faithful?
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. enjoys the personal endorsement of both Mike Velarde of El Shaddai, who, personally, goes back a long way with the Marcoses (he’d helped plan Imelda Marcos’ birthday bash in 1972 and helped broker getting Arturo Tolentino as Marcos’ running mate in 1986) and the institutional one of FBI-wanted pastor, Apollo Quiboloy, who has been a pillar of the Dutertes.
Leni Robredo has been endorsed by many lay councils in Lipa, Calapan, Taytay (Palawan), the charismatic movement Ligaya ng Panginoon, a majority of the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas, and by organizations of the clergy, as well as religious orders such as the Christian Brothers of Taft Ave., the Daughters of Charity (St. Vicent de Paul Province), and a significant flock of Jesuits. The Catholic hierarchy, for its part, is more circumspect, though movements within the Church and other religious groups are far less shy. Take the relationship between these organizations and party lists. El Shaddai has Buhay, the Iglesia ni Cristo has Alagad, Jesus is Lord had CIBAC. But the more politically savvy also endorse locally: at one time, Iglesia had endorsed ACT-CIS in Quezon City and 1-SAGIP in Las Piñas; Quiboloy had endorsed party lists ACT-CIS, 1-BAP, and OFW Family Club in the past.
The limits on the part of the Catholic clergy being actually involved in the government are a prohibition on holding secularly elected office, though the appointive office does not seem to be banned. The limits on Church-state relations are fixed by secular law: the government cannot demand religious tests of its citizens or provide state support. Over time, the Catholic authorities have evolved into thinking they function best when exercising self-control by focusing on helping in the process of discernment.
For my previous discussions on secularism and Church and State, see Rebuilding The Walls Separating Church From State (2005), Church and State Sources (2006), Faith and Morals (2008), The Secular Ideal (2008), The cross and the sword (2017) and Divorce lost in the debate (2017) and Presidents and capital punishment (2017). See also, this year’s Presentation: The Rise and Fall of our Fifth Republic. In 2012 Florin Hilbay wrote an informative commentary, Religious participation in the party-list.
Read Joint Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines on Elections from September 12, 1953 and “The Truth Will Set You Free” (John 8:32) from February 25, 2022 to see the evolution in tone and language in exhortations from the Catholic hierarchy to the faithful. For a definitive digest of Catholic teaching on the role of Catholicism in political life, see the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life.
For the consecration of the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and then to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, see Fifth Day — Sunday, December 4, 1954 Summit and Closing of the Congress and President Magsaysay’s Consecration of the Philippines to the Sacred Heart. From December 24, 1956, see Protests Ignored in Consecration of Philippines for the controversy caused by the participation by President Magsaysay. More recently, see Philippine bishops consecrate nation to Mary (2020), Act of Consecration to Sacred Heart of Jesus (2003), and Holy See: The Consecration of Russia has taken place.
Si Mayor at Gov atbp — Proyekto Pilipino: Conversations on Civics and Politics | Podcast on Spotify — open.spotify.com
Listen to this episode from Proyekto Pilipino: Conversations on Civics and Politics on Spotify. “Natutugunan ba ng local government officers ang mga kailangan ng kanilang komunidad?”LGUs are the first responders to the immediate concerns on safety, health, and security of their communities. We have seen most especially how crucial their roles are in ensuring survival and safety — from ayuda to lockdown implementation to vaccine rollout — during the pandemic. This is why this coming election, we should be more discerning in studying and electing our local government officials. There will be 18,000 local seats that will be up for grabs this coming May 9. To help us understand better what these leaders will do once elected, join Fr. Tito Caluag and his friendly trio of distinguished thinkers — Dr. Leloy Claudio, Manolo Quezon, and Carlo Santiago — in this new episode of Proyekto Pilipino.To watch the full version of this conversation with Lito Anzures and Bryan Asiatico, both of whom have had 15 years of experience working with the LGUs of Quezon City and Makati City, head to the Conscience Collective Youtube Channel here: https://youtu.be/at7WMGlDuqo ***DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the podcast creators, hosts, and guests do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Podcast Network Asia. Any content provided by the people on the podcast are of their own opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Survey says — Proyekto Pilipino: Conversations on Civics and Politics | Podcast on Spotify — open.spotify.com
Listen to this episode from Proyekto Pilipino: Conversations on Civics and Politics on Spotify. “Ang survey ay isang snapshot ng panahon na nakalipas na at hindi para hulaan kung ano ang magiging kalalabasan ng halalan.”Surveys and polls are hot topics during the election season, especially since they give people an idea who is seemingly leading or garnering the most support. But sometimes, we forget that surveys are not predictions of the future, but merely a snapshot of the past of a small sample of the population. Join Fr. Tito Caluag and his friendly trio of distinguished thinkers — Dr. Leloy Claudio, Manolo Quezon, and Carlo Santiago — as they try to understand the role of surveys in the elections. How should we view and understand surveys? Are all surveys equal? Can surveys influence the outcome of the elections? To watch the full version of this conversation with ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido and Political Science Professor Arjan Aguirre from the Ateneo de Manila University, head to the Conscience Collective Youtube Channel here: https://youtu.be/7__eRWcY72s***DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the podcast creators, hosts, and guests do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Podcast Network Asia. Any content provided by the people on the podcast are of their own opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Interesting Readings Department
Two parts of a piece. An interesting take by the author of a new book; and a truly remarkable piece of investigation published in the WaPost.
Several factors help to explain the staggering odds of a Marcos victory. The first is the failure of the post-1986 government to enact legislation prohibiting political dynasties from holding elected positions in government. The “revolutionary” president Corazon “Cory” Aquino was herself a member of one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful political dynasties. She had at least eight family members running in various positions from Senate to congressional posts in the 1987 elections. The Marcos family were back in the Philippines running for elected offices and rebuilding political capital only six years after being deposed.
The second factor is the influence of social media disinformation on electoral politics. Last year, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa called the impact of Facebook in the Philippines an “atom bomb”. Filipino internet users spend several hours every day on Facebook and indicate a higher level of trust in social media than in mainstream media for information. Disseminating misinformation is not new for the Marcos household. For decades they and their allies have been spreading narratives that downplay or deny the corruption and violence of the martial law era. In the lead up to the 2022 election, the Marcos family’s propaganda machine is making full use of social media’s amplification effect to rewrite the former Marcos era as a “golden age”.
There are other, less tangible but deeply rooted dynamics at play.
In my recent book, Chasing Freedom: The Philippines’ Long Journey to Democratic Ambivalence, I explore the incendiary power of political narratives that have deep historical roots in the Philippines. As a US colony, the country spent the best part of half a century trying to prove itself worthy of self-government. One of the legacies of this period is the conflation of democratic practice with ideas of national unity. Whereas elsewhere in the world the value of democracy might be seen in its accommodation of civil debate, disharmony and dissent, the emergence of democracy in the Philippines was intimately tied with the struggle for national sovereignty and independence. The idea of being “democratic” became wedded to images of national solidarity and a “unified people”.
In contrast to his father’s razor-sharp acumen, Ferdinand Jr rarely addresses the media or crowds, described by one commentator as possessing an “artful stupidity”.
In the post-independence period there was arguably no one more skilled at deploying the “unified people” rhetoric to gain political power than Ferdinand Snr. Beginning in 1965, Marcos began to dismantle power-sharing devices under the guise of a “democratic revolution”. By 1973 he was declaring that support for his martial law regime was akin to a “joining of hands” to build the future of the nation.
In contrast to his father’s razor-sharp acumen, Ferdinand Jr rarely addresses the media or crowds, described by one commentator as possessing an “artful stupidity”. His campaign team, however, were quick to announce that the 2022 candidate’s central message was unity. Late last year, he joined with vice-president aspirant Sara Duterte (daughter of the country’s current controversial president), describing the coming together as a “unifying force that I believe will bring stability back first to the political arena, and secondly to the country”.
Somewhat paradoxically, even the spectacular “people power” revolution of February 1986 that ended the brutal two-decade reign of the older Marcos and restored electoral democracy, was undergirded by a “one voice, one people” national unity narrative.
“We find ourselves in a crisis again”, Marcos Jr recently said, “and we must once again unite”. It reflects an internal reckoning, one might argue, that the country needs to have — about whether it is willing to unshackle itself from the remnants of the “colonial democracy” paradox and embrace a different democratic politics. If this happens, I would hope it is replaced by an image of democracy that sees disagreement between political forces not as a threat to the nation, but as an expression of the right to freedom of speech and a check on would-be tyrants who would try to concentrate power in the country yet again.
…In the global war on the truth, the Philippines is especially vulnerable. About 99 percent of its population is online, and over half find it difficult to spot fake news. President Rodrigo Duterte rose to power in 2016 aided by a keyboard army and online hate campaigns, forever changing the online landscape….
…The old dictatorship is now being upgraded and modernized, peppered with songs and emoji. Through the power of social media, one of the Philippines’ most despised families is being rehabilitated into one of its most revered.
“Bongbong Marcos is as if Marcos Sr. rose from the dead,” said historian Alfred McCoy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who documented the Marcos dictatorship. “He is a surrogate for his father.”…
The Marcoses’ online revisionism project dates back to the 2000s through the family’s presence on Friendster, Flickr and other now defunct websites, researchers found. Key to the messaging is that the family has been unfairly maligned, that President Ferdinand Marcos was not a corrupt kleptocrat but one that brought his country glory, wealth and infrastructure in the course of his two decade reign, playing down the human rights abuses during that period.
The effort to rewrite history ranges from the serious to the absurd. On Wikipedia, members of the Wiki Society of the Philippines — a group of volunteer editors monitoring pages related to the country — find themselves at the forefront of the information battle, routinely scrubbing efforts to change content on the Marcoses’ pages. A key focus over the year has been the words “dictator” and “kleptocrat,” which users have tried to delete dozens of times.
Wikipedia volunteers find themselves sometimes in “edit wars,” going back and forth with Marcos defenders for hours in the hopes of restoring the truth.
“Wikipedia has rules, and because [it] has rules, it’s sort of the last safe space on the Internet where you can’t just push your narrative,” one volunteer editor, Remi De Leon, said.
Administrators have also marked Marcos Sr.’s and Jr.’s pages as “semi-protected,” meaning anonymous and new users cannot edit them without approval.
The disinformation has pushed into other fronts, where unlike Wikipedia, citations and proof are not required. YouTube and TikTok follow Facebook as the leading sources of online disinformation, according to fact-checking collective Tsek.ph. Among the most widely spread falsehoods are claims that no arrests were made under Marcos’s martial law, and that no cases were filed against the Marcos family in court.
YouTube is rife with Philippines-linked conspiracies — from claims that French astrologer Nostradamus predicted Marcos Jr.’s presidency to a now widely believed tale that the Marcos family inherited tons of gold, which will be redistributed if they return to power.
On TikTok, with its time limits, content is shorter and punchier in how it glorifies and romanticizes the Marcos family. Archival photos and video are reframed with music and captions to evoke amusement and sympathy, like setting Ferdinand Sr.’s photos to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” or pairing news footage of his wife, Imelda, weeping with crying emoji.
Philippine campaign strategist Alan German, who runs Agents International Public Relations, says this platform has been particularly effective with Filipino voters, who choose candidates that will delight and entertain — “the guys who make noise,” he said. “They’re literally dancing and singing their way into our ballot.”
Multiple studies and reports have detailed how Duterte’s weaponization of social media has helped silence critics amid a bloody drug war and dismal coronavirus pandemic response. The Marcos family now stands to benefit from that model, especially as Duterte’s daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for vice president alongside Marcos Jr. — consolidating their online networks.
Since 2016, troll operations have grown more adept at skirting takedowns for coordinated inauthentic behavior. They no longer do the copy-paste jobs seen from Duterte supporters in the past, German, the campaign strategist, said. Instead, they act like real people, maintaining personalized accounts, sharing photos and videos, and joining groups.
The modern troll network is led by a moderator and runs like a call center, he explained. A moderator alerts their staff — typically composed of 10 people, each of whom can handle dozens of accounts — to the agenda of the day, such as news items to react to or what criticism to stem.
Others lean on micro-influencers or “key opinion leaders,” who have a few thousand followers. They are picked by candidates based on socioeconomic class, age and location, depending on the demographic the political client needs to reach. The market rate is 4 to 6 cents per like, follower or subscriber.
An influencer with 10,000 followers could earn between $5,800 to $6,800 on a monthly retainer during election season, German said — more than 10 times greater than an average teacher salary.
One digital creative shared a job offer sent by an agent for a “political candidate” with The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter. It entailed running a Facebook page and posting material every day, with messaging “seeded” from the agency…
Researchers say the change in strategy — more authentic content, focused on Gen Z-friendly platforms — isn’t just about avoiding takedowns. It also intentionally speaks to the next generation, solidifying the Marcos family in people’s hearts beyond just Bongbong as the next president. At the heart of the campaign is his eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander, who is running for Congress.
The 27-year-old, nicknamed Sandro, is a rising online star. Whole accounts are dedicated to fan cams of him, with photo and video run through filters and love songs. Some posts lean into fan fiction, where a viewer can pretend they are in an arranged marriage with him, or that they are being fought over by Sandro and his brothers.
Experts say these posts, however, are not just from ordinary fans but rather “people” working for Sandro’s own family. Some clues to the inauthenticity of the content include the volume and pace at which they’re released, and access to raw material — which include baby photos and seemingly intimate video, like Sandro dancing with his mother…
The strongman model plays well in a country with rising socioeconomic disparities, argues McCoy, the historian. He and others expect a Marcos victory to be worse for the Philippine economy and further weaken institutions, including the press.
The opinions of experts, however, can be no match for 30 seconds of TikTok, such as in one video viewed more than 50,000 times, where a toddler simply chants “Bring back Marcos!”
It drew over 800 commenters, most of whom replied with a similar sentiment: “We’ll bring him back, baby,” they said. “For your future.”
If you’re unable to access the article, click the link below to read a kind of executive summary.
Thread by @RegineCabato on Thread Reader App — Thread Reader App — threadreaderapp.com
@RegineCabato: I spent too much time in the pro-Marcos TikTok Upside-Down for this, guys. Please don’t let it flop 😅 Marcos revisionism expands to new platforms and forms, from yassified Imelda to Reader x Sandro Ma……
April 1942: WW2PH 80 Years After — The Philippine Diary Project — philippinediaryproject.com
In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II in the Philippines, we have compiled the diary entries for April, 1942, the fifth month of the war, along with other interesting material, in the hope that this will help interested readers to get a sense of the of that conflict. Each… Read More »April 1942: WW2PH 80 Years After