A record 37,000 AFP soldiers and police will be ‘protecting‘ Pope Francis during his visit to Manila and Tacloban later this year. But protect him from whom, or what, precisely?
After earlier claiming that the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) is out to harm the Pope, the Communist Party of the Philippines issued a statement denying any such plan.
Anyone who’s closely followed the papacy of the former Argentinian archbishop would be surprised if the NPA did have any such designs. After all, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (as he was known before) is a known critic of capitalism, and has acknowledged the similarities between ‘Marxists’ and ‘Catholics’. In fact, if Pope Francis was an ordinary Filipino, he would probably be accused as being an ‘NPA member’ following the logic of the Armed Forces.
So we go back to the question: who/what is the AFP and PNP protecting Pope Francis from? Or more precisely, what is the AFP-PNP defending against?
Why, none other than Pope Francis. The Philippine military and police are defending Philippine society from His Holiness.
Given the Pope’s relatively radical views on society, Filipino student activists have expressed the fear that the Philippine government and segments of the local Catholic Church will ‘hide’ the true state of the poor from Francis. They, as well as organizations representing marginalized sectors in the country, are urging him to make ‘surprise visits’ (something that is not new to the Pope).
Back in college, I learnt that religion was regularly used to keep the poor from complaining about their conditions, and more importantly, to prevent them from trying to change it. Can you imagine how the Filipino masses (who have struggled non-stop for centuries, albeit in different forms and movements) will react when the Catholic Church’s leader tells them that system keeping them poor is unjust?
I repeat, it is not Pope Francis whom the 37,000 troops are defending. It is the unjust Philippine society. The NPA is not the threat, but His Holiness himself.
While I was first writing this article, the most obvious proof of this plan was the report that the AFP-PNP is planning to blockade San Juanico Bridge to prevent certain typhoon Haiyan survivors from being able to communicate with the Pope (which is ironic considering that THAT is the main reason for the Papal visit).
But I then saw something that made me rewrite the ending of this article. Just before the clock turned 2015, the national government said that the ‘NPA’ (military-speak for anyone who criticizes the government) is trying to contact the Pope. Reading between the lines, the government is saying that people it considers their ‘enemy’ want to communicate with His Holiness.
Seeing that Pope Francis cannot just ‘break free’ from his ‘official security’, the AFP is trying to do the next best thing: prevent the voice of the poor from breaching their manufactured wall of deception.