“She is better off without any endorsement from any of the Catholic priests.”
Father Damaso, the villanous friar in Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere, is hardly fictional. Rizal’s infamous, randy Spanish priest who enjoyed political power in his ecclesiastical territory is alive and kicking in the Philippines today. Today’s Father Damaso, however, is no longer a Spaniard but a Filipino. And unlike Rizal’s villain, the contemporary Father Damaso is almost everywhere in the country.
During the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines, Spanish friars assigned to the Philippine Islands were rotten to the core. They were foul-mouthed, lewd, lustful and lascivious, and took advantage of the gullible young women in their parishes.
Because the Spanish colonial authorities enforced the union of church and state in the Philippine Islands, those prurient friars wielded nearly absolute political power and immense religious influence in their jurisdictions.
No wonder the Filipino revolutionaries hated them. Rizal made them the villains in his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and Marcelo del Pilar wrote a parody of The Lord’s Prayer where the stealing, cheating and foul language of the Spanish friars are memorialized. Del Pilar’s version is available online.
After Spain lost its colonial hold on the Philippine Islands in 1898, the United States, as the new colonial overseer of the archipelago, institutionalized the separation of church and state. Under the Americans, the likes of Father Damaso and his cohorts, the salacious Father Salvi and the libidinous Father Camorra, among others, in the Philippine Islands lost their power and influence. Those who chose to remain in the Islands were confined to saying masses, and running Catholic schools.
In 1956, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 1425, which mandated the inclusion of Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in the curricula of all public and private schools, colleges and universities. Politicians supported by the Catholic church opposed the bill that initiated Republic Act No. 1425, but they failed.
I remember that during my time in a Jesuit-run Catholic high school, the priests made sure that only their censored versions of Noli and Fili were read by their students. Later on, I also found out hat the nuns of Catholic high schools for girls practiced the same kind of censorship.
Father Damaso and his kind reacquired immense political clout when President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino seized power in February 1986. Because Jaime Cardinal Sin, who was then the archbishop of Manila, had a pivotal role in the so-called 1986 EDSA Revolution, Aquino became a virtual lackey of the cardinal. Sin became a regular feature in Aquino’s Malacañang, and a de facto union of church and state was in force in the Philippines.
As a consequence, friars held many government posts under Mrs. Aquino. Friars meddled in legislation and unofficially screened candidates for public office. Even the film censorship body had a friar. I am told that the friar was such a cheapskate that he brought home with him the newspapers in that government office for him to read in his own sweet time.
In 1996, Cardinal Sin told the Catholic faithful not to watch The Priest, a British film about a homosexual man of the cloth, then playing in the cinemas. The cardinal’s ban backfired because the film became a box office sensation in Metro Manila.
During the time of President Gloria Arroyo, Cardinal Sin used hurting language against the film censors chief over the public exhibition of Sutla, a local movie that purportedly had nudity. It turned out that the permit for the film was issued not by Tiongson, but by his predecessor, Armida Siguion-Reyna, when the latter was the censors boss.
Father Damaso and his fellow friars returned to power under President Noynoy Aquino. A member of the religious establishment was Noynoy’s education secretary. At that time, the Department of Education published public school textbooks that had endless factual and grammatical errors.
When President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, the friars lost their power anew. Since then, the friars have been continuously criticizing the President for flimsy and imaginary reasons. Even Aquino’s education secretary publicly campaigned against Duterte’s senatorial candidates in 2019.
It has been almost six years since Father Damaso and his sidekicks lost political power. They want it back.
For the friars, their return to power is possible only if the over-ambitious Leni Robredo is elected president in 2022. That’s because Robredo has not bothered to hide her subservience to the Catholic church because she considers the friars as her supporters. A Robredo presidency means the de facto return of the union of church and state.
Suffice it to say that there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. Moreover, Father Damaso et al. do not have any credibility in this day and age. Robredo is better off without any endorsement from Father Damaso, Father Salvi, Father Camorra and their kind.