THE church in the Philippines must not become the vehicle of the rich, Bishop Julio Labayen of Infanta said in London this week.
Speaking at the Catholic Institute for International Relations, the bishop called for the economic enfranchisement of the ordinary people. And he warned against recent moves by some newly appointed conservative bishops, apparently designed to pull the church back from its social commitment to the poor.
Bishop Labayen stressed that in particular the Bacolod diocese on the island of Negros had undergone a dramatic change in direction since the departure of Bishop Antonio Forich, who retired in February last year. Under the new Bishop Camilo Gregorio the church had looked more to the landowning class for support than it had among the poor.
The poor were the "sacrificial goats" of the Philippines economy, Bishop Labayen claimed, and little had been done to encourage genuine land reform since Corazon Aquino was elected to the presidency in 1986.
Much of the government machinery from the days of former president Ferdinand Marcos was still in place, the bishop said, allowing the military to retain its hold on the reins of power. And President Aquino's "total war" policy against so-called insurgents continued to lead to incidents such as the strafing of a convent in the Dinalungan parish of the Infanture prelature last month, Bishop Labayen said.