MANILA, Jan. 17, 2015—A local militant group has joined the rest of the country in supporting the head of the world’s more than a billion Catholics, praising him for his “compassion for the poor and downtrodden,” especially as detailed in his “Joy of the Gospel” (Evangeli Gaudium).

The Holy Father rides a Volkswagen Touran from the Apostolic Nunciature along Taft Avenue to Malacañan for his official welcome rites, Jan. 16, 2015. (Photo: Johann Mangussad)

In an official statement, Renato M. Reyes, Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), expresses appreciation for the deep concern Pope Francis has shown to the Filipino people, especially survivors of Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), most of whom have not yet fully recovered over a year after the disaster.

“We value his compassion for the poor and downtrodden peasants, indigenous peoples, women and youth,” he shares.

“We take comfort in his support for human rights and social justice. We welcome the fact that he is striving to establish the Church of the Poor and encouraging the youth to change the status quo,” he adds.

According to Reyes, Bayan agrees with the Holy Father’s critique of the oppressive and exploitative global economic system that continues to put profits above people, describing it as an “economy of exclusion and inequality”.

“We hope that during his visit, the Pope will come to know the real situation of the Filipino people. Our country remains economically backward and underdeveloped, with poverty, unemployment, hunger and migration on the rise. Human rights violations persist, in the form of militarization, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances, similar to those that took place in Latin America. Social services are being privatized, and our natural resources plundered by foreign corporations,” he explains.

“Corruption is deeply rooted in our political system, with the President defending and promoting the pork barrel system and other forms lump-sum discretionary spending. Accountability is low. Impunity is the norm,” he adds.

Quoting Pope Francis, Reyes states “until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.”

“There is armed conflict in our country because the past governments have failed to address social inequality, feudal exploitation and lack of sovereignty,” he adds.

Reyes defends the Argentine pontiff, whose views often earned him the tag “Communist” and “pauperist” from critics, pointing out that what he preaches is rooted in the Gospel.

“Let the Pope know the real situation of our country. Let not the security arrangements prevent the poor from welcoming the Pope and let not the barricades and barriers prevent the Pope from knowing the plight of the poor,” he declares.

“The Filipino people are struggling for genuine freedom and democracy, for peace based on justice. We are struggling daily against corruption and corporate greed and for a better future. We warmly embrace the solidarity of the Pope and wish him a safe arrival, he adds.

The Holy Father will be having two more major events scheduled tomorrow, Jan. 18: an Encounter with the Youth at the University of the Sto. Tomas and a papal Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta, Manila. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)