Reprinted from the April 7, 2009 issue of the Philippine Star
Supreme Court chief to Filipinos: Fight government corruption
By Edu Punay Updated April 07, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – As the nation enters the Holy Week, Chief Justice Reynato Puno yesterday reiterated his call for a moral force and asked Filipinos to work together to combat widespread corruption in government.
Some Supreme Court justices who support Puno in this initiative are expected to name before Thursday members of an advisory council that would push for the movement toward moral transformation in government.
Speaking at the launching of the moral force movement of the Manila Episcopal Area (MEA) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in the Philippines of which he is a member, Puno lamented how the country is now perceived in the world as a “moral pariah.”
He said Filipinos have witnessed moral decadence and leprosy, referring to corruption in government that he likened to the corruption in England at the time when John Wesley founded their church in the 1700s.
“We are cast as a moral pariah. What a tragic social landscape for the only Christian country in Southeast Asia,” he said.
“Corruption in the country has been deforming all its institutions, undermining our stability and security and preventing our socio-economic development. We can arrest this social decadence through a moral force,” said Puno.
Other religious groups, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Philippine Bible Society and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, expressed solidarity with the Methodist Church in Manila at its launch.
“They are part of the moral force movement,” Puno said of the Catholic hierarchy, adding that there were CBCP representatives during the launch.
“However, I expect the CBCP will have its own brand of moral force movement,” he added, referring to a similar activity at which Catholic leaders would launch their own moral force initiative.
Bishop Lito Cabacungan Tangonan led UMC Manila Episcopal Area’s launch of the moral force at the Central United Methodist Church in Manila.
“We see the moral force as prophets of our time – people who feel the urge to expose and denounce the debilitating ills in our society, especially those generated by the structural system that promotes, breeds and spawns corruption,” read the UMC-MEA’s handout on its area-wide moral force movement.
Puno said yesterday’s activity in Manila wasn’t the first launch of a moral force movement.
The Chief Justice earlier called for a moral force movement nationwide to arrest corruption in the country while maintaining an apolitical stance, saying a council should be formed to spearhead the campaign.
Members of the moral force council would include credible leaders from “business, church groups, youth and the media.”
The core group would “set parameters for the moral force movement with the purpose of making the people aware of what’s been happening and to do something about it.”
Puno earlier vowed that the movement would not be anti-administration or pro-opposition but rather “a positive-neutral constructive” force.