Malacañang Diocese: What is it all about?

The Malacañang Palace is the seat of power for the President of the Philippines. But sometimes that seat gets too soaked in murky waters of politics that soon it gathers mosses and barnacles in it. The Malacañang “Diocese” got it’s moniker during the tutelage of the 14th President of Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And everything is tumultuous history.

GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) owed her presidency in most and in part to the Leaders of the Catholic Church. They were instrumental in kicking from his post the then contentious flash-in-the-pan president Joseph Ejercito Estrada and all the way to managing her to stay in power when she was almost losing it.

Instinctively, GMA knew she has to maintain a convivial connection with the High Rollers of the church. And she knew how to charm them like lapping dogs. So, she made sure she visits them whenever she is near a parish or diocese.

Far from our knowledge, only handfuls of parishes in the Philippines are financially affluent, and most of them are in Luzon but those in Visayas and Mindanao are hardly to hard-up. Madam GMA knew exactly what to do to ease them out. So, she made it a point to visit the bishops every time they held plenary council in Manila every January and July. These are great times for both councils to lavish both ends of the bargain. Bishops to solicit “untoward” favors whipped as “goodwill”, and your Madam President for a collective support in exchange for money she gave them, candy coated as “for social services.”

The Envelope Scandal that happened in 2006 is just one of the many mutualisms that happened between the two parties. By the end of the plenary, 43 bishops did sign a MOA purporting to be the President’s medium for her Social Funding – rice, medicine, noodles and other financial goods. Nevertheless, this agreement did leave a bad taste in the mouth of the onlookers and thinking lay people, seeing it as “organized bribery.” In fact, the instrumentality of this action came into fruition when a wave of impeachment proceeding has been brewed same year. As reciprocation by the bishops, they refused to express their support of the impeachment.

During the plenary deliberation, few tough hitting words were in the statement, but were tamed down due to the bishops’ closed collegiality with the President. Of course, why would you bite the hand that feeds you. These men in clothes are collectively known as the “Malacañang Diocese” or Parish due to their staunch support to the president.

One of the most zealot member of the “Malacañang Diocese” was Bishop Diosdado Talamayan, bishop of Tuguegarao then) was the avid emissary of the president, when in one of the deliberations of the Pastoral Statement, he was constantly glued to his cellphone updating someone on how the statement is taking shape. You can guess with your eyes closed who’s on the other line.

Talamayan also lead handfuls of bishops in disaffirming another impeachment order against Gloria Arroyo during the searing investigation of the corruption of the $321 Million National Broadband Deal saying “As ministers of the Church, it is not our prerogative to support the call for the President’s resignation.” This is a statement that will keep your blood boiling if you are a lay individual with eyes wide open, up and aware of what is going on.

In return for Talamayan’s loyalty to the president, he arrived with slick and brand-new wheels quoting his colleagues that it was a gift from the president. To give more emphasis on the so called “friendship”, Talamayan became the peering glass of the president every time she needs to assign someone for a key governmental position including the judiciary. His commendation is puregold for the president.

Leonardo Leonida for the Commission on Election was amenable that he was indeed endorsed by Talamayan. This was seconded by then Supreme Court Justice Jose Mendoza.

Talamayan also crossed the line, when during the election season he tries to influence the Judicial and Bar Council about allowing Arroyo to appoint Chief Justice in the course of the election which is prohibited by the Constitution. Of course, Talamayan has his expected mental reflex when asked to explain about the intervention.

Talamayan’s undying loyalty continued beyond the throne, even serving the president’s spiritual adviser after her tutelage.

Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Peublos is another devoted lapdog of the president who, together with 18 other bishops, shouted out loud against the resignation of the president during the scorching litigation of the NBN-ZTE Deal. This, knowing that the president is shown red handed with corruption. Pueblos is also a prominent figure during the PCSO Vehicle scandal, where the president doled out utility vehicles for the dear bishops. It was known that Pueblos candidly asked Arroyo about the vehicle, “I hope you will not fail to give me a brand-new car which will serve as your birthday gift for me.” Reasoning that he would be using the car for far flung apostolate duties. Arroyo referred the request to the PCSO which then funded the purchase.

De Dios Pueblos made some streaks when he criticized Senator Benigno Aquino III saying that “Aquino’s linage is not worthy of the any political position and the earlier he’ll be out, the better for the Philippines.”

“I really need a brand new car, possibly a 4×4 which I can use to reach the far-flung areas of Caraga Region. I hope you will not fail to give me a brand-new car which will serve as your birthday gift for me.” – Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos

Another loyal patron of President Arroyo was Nueva Vizcaya Bishop Ramon Villena who spearheaded solicitation to let the president sponsor the bishops’ hotel accommodation held during their retreat in Baguio City. The President consented by asking funding from PCSO which amounted to more or less P100,000.

Bishop Fernando Capalla of Davao and Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag served as Arroyo’s firewall when during the heat of the election coupled by the supposed massive electoral cheating such as the “Hello Garci” Tape Scandal, touted the election as “generally peaceful” and that there is no concerted conspiracy for massive cheating. It was in 2004 election that the uproar of Gloria Arroyo cheating his presidential rival Fernando Poe, Jr. was heard all over and was bellowed by his wife Susan Roces. This electoral atrocity was even suspected to have caused Fernando Poe’s demise. 

These and some other members of the “Malacañang Diocese” served as Arroyo’s point persons in both the CBCP plenary assembly and even into lobbying in favor of her. With the undeniable ugly head of corruption raring up against the president, the bishops are obligated to tackle Arroyo’s political welfare and moral ascendency in the light of the Church’s eye view.

In the conclusion of the 10-hour plenary held February 26, 2008, the bishop played safe and even went to the extent of demystifying her corruptions saying that there is no solid ground regarding the allegations against her. In fact, Mindanao Bishops watered down the allegations saying that the question of moral ascendency is of the government at large and not of the president.

FIME_Malacañang_Diocese_Layman
Source: Pexels

If you are an educated layman in spirit and in pragmatic truth, you’ll question the bylaws on the Separation of the Church and State as utter lip service and a useless cog sitting in the workings of the human laws. And you’d be dumbfounded at how these Church Higher-Ups with all their assumed moral know-how and tenacity can actually go down as lowly as to lick someone’s soles for some ephemeral gratifications.

Just think about it!

References: Altar Of Secrets – Sex, Politics and Money In the Philippine Catholic Church – By: Aries C. Rufo. Pp. 123-127. Learn More » 

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Sweet, I blame you not, for mine the fault was, had I not been made of common clay. I had climbed the higher heights unclimbed yet, seen the fuller air, the larger day. From the wildness of my wasted passion I had struck a better, clearer song, Lit some lighter light of freer freedom, battled with some Hydra-headed wrong. – Oscar Wilde

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