My first experience with Carlos Celdran was back in May 2008, when I wrote how I wanted to join one of his tours. Lo and behold he commented and told me I get on for free if I just show up. Of course I went and thoroughly enjoyed an Imelda tour around CCP, information on which I’d never have known if it weren’t for him. I thought he was pretty fair to Imelda when he said how in spite of her grandiose loonyness we wouldn’t have the CCP, and we have her to *gasp* thank. I think about that to this day every time I’m there (such as right now writing this at Starbucks Harbor Square).
I met him again years later at a telco event and we talked a bit, but I doubt he’d remember. There was no doubt though he had alreaady made a fantastic impression on me. Here was the man to which we all truly owe a kind of continuing debt of gratitude. There is no doubt he has done far more for the city and the country than 95% of anyone in power give or take a few. He’s one of those guys who’ll be in the History books for our kids and their kids to study for generations to come. Way after we’re all gone they’ll be putting up a statue of him wearing his weird hat and holding a worn out clear book, for pigeons to sit on and tourists and history buffs to mull over. He’s the real deal. A man out to change the world.
When I think about his lost case against the CBCP, entirely different feelings emerge.
After being involved, albeit in the fringes, of the efforts around the RH Law it’s become clear that this self righteous organization is representative of all that is corrupt and diseased in the Philippine Catholic Church. While there is no doubt its history and the purpose it is supposed to serve is right, maybe even ‘holy’, what it is today and what it represents is anything but.
I have long literally walked out on the Church, likely around the time I heard a priest pontificate on what he in his spiritually superior mind felt how I should live my life and suffer for perceived sins. I have doubts about people telling others how they should go about things and even more so from a person who stands on supposedly hallowed ground considering it his God mandated business to do so.
Nevertheless I left things at that, reasoning that others may just see things I do not. But while I may have doubts about individual priests’ methods while still having some faith in Faith itself, any doubts about the CBCP were erased when they pursued their case against Carlos Celdran.
For me there is no action that is so indicative of a bully desperately hoping to gain lost ground for some measure of vindication than that of declaring the feelings of their religion as ‘hurt’, and that of Carlos’ imprisonment of up to 13 months as justifiable repayment.
What sheer intolerable IDIOCY is that?
The Way Of The Bully
Arguing the particulars of the case is of course moot. No doubt all t’s were crossed and i’s dotted, the case having had dragged on for years after all.
But more than anything the pursuit and eventual winning of the case is a simple clear message by the CBCP. They do not tolerate the questioning of their authority. That anyone who dares contradict them is not allowed to go about their merry way without retribution.
That is the way of the bully. That’s how it was when I was in grade school when a classmate demanded I give him a toy I brought to school lest he punch me in the face. That is how Gloria did it, when she would exclude Congressmen from their pork and give bags of money to her favored ones. That’s how Enrile did it with his unequivocal reckoning of how much pro and contra Senators should get.
And that is how the CBCP does it. They lost the war on the RH Law (I just can’t say ‘Law’ often enough). They lost face big time and for the first time people questioned the true value of a ‘Catholic vote’. They have lost ground and worse, looked vulnerable. The unspeakable has happened: It has now crossed people’s minds that their influence is not as strong as we thought it was.
And so what do they do? They happened to have a case against Carlos. Based on a ridiculous outdated law, laughable at best. One that ordinary men on normal occasions would just brush off and forget. The problem was it was both winnable and they had an axe to grind, and so Carlos got the worst of it.
So What Now?
Carlos is paying the price that people who dare attempt change usually pay. The price most of us lazy fence sitters are afraid to pay. It is the price of receiving the brunt of the ire of the Church. He might not actually go to jail for as long as 13 months, it might be just a month or none at all, I dunno how these things go.
What I am aware of though is two things. Carlos via losing his case now has one of the most powerful, most influential voices in the Philippines, a voice he already uses to help civil society groups of all makes, all of which greatly improve their chances of success. He has our attention. He need only ask us to do something and we’ll do it.
The CBCP? It has gone miles into the other direction. By not forgiving they’ve shown themselves to be not a powerful, influential Church. They don’t even look like they’re the type of people we can count on to do what is right. Instead they are looking like just a gathering of men. Spiteful, vindictive men at that.
Pursuing a guy for some ridiculous made – up slight is not what Catholics are supposed to do. They’re supposed to forgive. It’s written somewhere, look it up. The C in the CBCP stands for ‘Catholic’, sure. But by doing what they did they show they’re petty small minded idiots before anything else.