Interview transcript – 22 August 2012

23 Aug

Sen. Santiago meets with Ateneo de Davao University students who visited the Senate last 22 August 2012.

On the Ateneo faculty members’ support for the RH Bill

The threat of the Catholic Church to blacklist the members of the Ateneo faculty just because they took a position in favor of RH is an infringement of a Constitutional right—the right to academic freedom. You cannot dictate to a professor what to teach.

Secondly, I think that this is a backward-looking message. I have insisted many times that after the ecumenical council called Vatican II, the role of the Church in society has changed. You can no longer punish Catholics for their freedom of conscience. Freedom of conscience is now enshrined within the Catholic Church itself. It is called an ecumenical council because it abandoned all its previous strict, conservative ways, and is now more open to what is called, “questioning concerns”.

A Catholic is not supposed to just swallow everything that is recited by a cleric, whether he is a parish priest or a bishop. Only the Pope can dictate, and that is when he categorically claims that he is speaking ex cathedra, in his role as Supreme Pontiff. Meaning to say, if you don’t follow that dogma, then you are no longer a Catholic. But the Pope never exercised that power with respect to reproductive health, or population control, or responsible parenthood. So we are all agreed among the Catholic theological community that this is not a dogma, that this is not a required position for a Catholic. Therefore, it is open to the exercise of the freedom of conscience of every Catholic.

To summarize: First, to threaten that these people will be kicked out of the Catholic Church is, in effect, to impose sanctions on the academic freedom well-exercised by Catholics. I doubt very much if what is religious should be allowed to trample or downtrod the academic freedom of all intellectuals in the country.

Secondly, I humbly submit that this is wrong theology, because there is no dogma involved here. There is no specific dogmatic principle that has emanated from the Pope. They have never declared that when they are talking about the RH Bill, they are speaking ex cathedra, whether we refer to the incumbent or the prior popes. So that is the danger with that statement from the Catholic Church. Are we going back to the Middle Ages? Is this again the clericalism we knew from the Spanish regime? I don’t think so. The Catholic Church will make itself obsolete from the mainstream if it adopts this attitude.

On DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo

Everybody was gobsmacked with what happened, and I’m bushwacked because we never expected it. In my mind, it raises again the question of the problem of evil. We know when a person dies, but we don’t know why a person dies. This is basically the question of the suffering of the innocent, which is also known in theology as the problem of evil. Why does a person have to die? You, and including myself, have our own nominees who should have been there in that plane. But of all these dozens of people we could nominate, why did it have to be him? There is no answer to that theologically. To be able to answer that you have to know the mind of God, and since God is inaccessible to the human mind (he is perhaps accessible in a spiritual level that we could never reach while we are here on Earth) it would be very presumptuous for people to say that it was God’s will. But that is the end of his life.

He was a good and honest man. When I ran for president in 1992, he took the initiative to invite me for dinner in his humble home. And he was saying that he was hoping he could follow my footsteps in government; his wife was saying that she was hoping to become a lawyer like me. All this has taken place. And I was very proud when he became a Cabinet member, although he was not bombastic—that was his way. This is ineffable. It is beyond words. It’s a loss.

On the proposed state funeral for Sec. Robredo

Yes, definitely. But this is all nominalism. Let us all do something. Maybe even only as a voluntary movement, let us put up a trust fund for the kids, at least. I think that in order to honor his memory, government should at least provide a pension for the wife and the children, because no one will support them anymore. Or maybe his wife, who is also a lawyer, will contemplate running for mayor herself since she was very intimate with her husband, as I observed, and they would have discussed many times political issues in Naga City.

On moves to confirm Sec. Robredo’s appointment in the Commission on Appointments

Like I said, that is nominalism. It’s just an effort to show how much we think he should have remained in government, but it is not going to do him anymore good. There is no prohibition (on confirming Robredo’s appointment post mortem). If the law does not prohibit, then it is not prohibited. #

2 comments on “Interview transcript – 22 August 2012

  1. I agree. Practical assistance to Sec Robredo’s family better conveys our sincerest gratitude for his service in the government.

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