Philippines: discernment for the present situation

In the Philippines, a threatened military coup in coordination with threats by groups determined to seize power from President Gloria Arroyo?s government led to her declaring a week-long state of emergency rule in February. In those confusing circumstances, the Provincial of the Philippines sent a letter with guidelines for Jesuits and their co-workers to clarify issues and positively address the situation. Acknowledging legitimate grievances that may have provoked dissent, the letter took a strong stand against violent and unconstitutional approaches to political change. It also pointed out that emergency rule, although constitutionally permissible, was open to abuse as a cloak for martial law powers enabling the temporary takeover of private businesses and utilities, and government control of the press and media. Fr Provincial lamented the arrest of certain civilians without clear charges. At the same time, he advised religious and Church groups to be on guard lest well- intentioned but unreflected activities indirectly legitimate and support antidemocratic groups with vested interests. ?Any attempt to seize state power cannot be supported, as democracy demands the rule of civilians who are legitimately chosen from and by the people.? He offered alternative responses to an administration that was resisting reform and accountability, and thus hindering the country from moving beyond poverty and inequality. Among such means were gatherings to pray for peace and a non-violent resolution of the crisis, to exchange reliable information, to engage in collective discernment, and to protest against emergency rule and curtailment of democratic freedoms.