Priest’s hope: Pope to pray vs PH’s ‘corruption culture’

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MANILA, Dec. 17, 2014—A Catholic priest shares that if given the rare chance to talk to Pope Francis, he will ask the Holy Father to pray for Filipinos that the country may be rid of the culture of corruption that has infected many.

The “Huwag Kang Magnakaw” campaign continues to draw young, old, men and women. (Photo: Tfucmp Amrsp)

Fr. Atilano “Nonong” Fajardo, a Vincentian missionary who heads the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM)’s Ministry of Public Affairs, expresses hope that the forthcoming apostolic visit of His Holiness next year will bring about a spiritual renewal, enabling Filipinos to look inside and change themselves for the better.

In a recent interview with CBCP News, the priest shared the Church-backed “Huwag Kang Magnakaw” movement which he also leads, is one way the faithful can join the fight against institutional thievery and help transform the nation from one of cheaters and crooks, into one of honest and responsible citizens.

The ‘Good News’ that acts

And it’s as as easy as wearing a t-shirt with the statement “Huwag Kang Magnakaw” (“Thou Shalt Not Steal.” (Exodus 20:15, Deuteronomy 5:19, Douay-Rheims).

Paragraph 2401 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) notes, “The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men’s labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property.”

In naming the campaign after a verse from Scripture, Fajardo expects it will send a clear reminder to Filipinos that stealing, deceit, and untruth are acts God has always frowned upon.

According to the priest, this novel approach to putting important ideas into action draws inspiration from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

In his encyclical “Spe Salvi” (“Saved by Hope”), the then Bishop of Rome states that Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of unknown content.

“In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative’. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing,” he says.

“The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life,” he adds.

Officials to kids

Fajardo bemoaned that the Philippines has “practically become a country of thieves,” with almost everyone guilty of violating God’s 7th Commandment at some point: from the highest bureaucrat who dip their fingers in the taxpayers’ coffers, down to the grade-schooler who copies his classmate’s homework.

“Corruption is not the monopoly of politicians. Without us being aware of it, we’ve all been guilty of corruption … Children stealing coins from their parents’ pockets, students cheating during exams, etc.,” he says.

Nevertheless, the priest expresses optimism that with enough will and determination, Filipinos can be motivated into becoming a people that will transcend its cultural shortcomings, and that will value honesty and integrity.

“If we want structural change, we should start from the bottom,” he stresses, noting how many Filipinos have picked up the habit of dishonesty at home, having been exposed to it at an early age.

Fajardo shares the movement is unlike other similar ventures in that proponents do not have to go to Luneta, Mendiola, nor Edsa to tell their crooked officials that their days of stealing are over.

He points out the shirt serves two purposes: first, it reminds the wearer of his God’s commandment and the Christian duty not to steal; second, it serves as a mirror in which Filipinos can see their dishonesty writ large, urging them to take on the difficult but important task of fostering a culture of honesty and integrity.

The priest explains the drive seeks to overhaul the system that makes corruption possible and to replace a mindset that tolerates institutional thievery, not oust a particular politician from his lofty seat.

“We can always replace a corrupt politician, but if our culture itself encourages corruption, we will always have corrupt politicians running the country,” Fajardo says.

“Little by little, I’m sure we can make a difference,” he adds.


In a Dec. 2 circular, Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle writes, “Our effort in supporting the campaign is one of the best contributions to the preparation of the coming of Pope Francis to our country.”

“May I call on you to pray for the forgiveness for all our sins committed against the Seventh Commandment and ask God to heal our land,” the prelate adds.

The shirts, sold at Php 150 each, are available at Adamson University, San Marcelino St., Ermita, Manila; Radyo Veritas, West Avenue, Quezon City; Caritas Manila, Pandacan, Manila; and in select parishes nationwide.

The public may also support the anti-corruption drive by tuning in to the “Huwag Kang Magnanakaw” program aired over Radyo Veritas 846 every Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

For more updates on the movement , follow the “Huwag Kang Magnakaw” on Facebook:

(Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCPNews)

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