There was a big story by National Geographic last week about illegal ivory being used by Philippino Catholics to make statues. They even named one of our more dubious priests as being involved in the practice.

Corruption is not new in the Philippines, where winking at the law is a way of life and bribes are given “over the table, under the table and with the table” as the saying goes.

The problem with the story is that it didn’t distinguish between “old ivory” and “new ivory”. There is indeed a law against using “new ivory”, but the government simply doesn’t have the means or the money to check every “El Nino” statue in Cebu. So we have no idea if the ivory used to carve statues is old or new.

Of course, this being the Philippines, even if the ivory had to be certified, smugglers would just find a cooperative official to look the other way, but never mind.

So the NatGeo findings of some new ivory being used is “business as usual”.

The problem is that the the local conservationists feel betrayed by the reporter for twisting the story to emphasize the crime, when they were under the impression that the story was about the devotion to ElNino (the Christ Child) in Cebu, i.e. a story about Philippine culture.

So those interviewed in the story feel betrayed.

    “I should be honest with you, we have been expecting that you’d write about the Sto. Niño and our cultural traditions but we are disappointed that after all, we Filipinos would be portrayed as fanatics, idol worshippers, smugglers, etc. in a rather appalling story,” he said.

What makes the story especially infuriating is that the Philippines is not the country behind most of the illegal Ivory trade. The real culprit behind the “blood ivory” trade is to China?

Ivory has replaced blood diamonds as a major source of cash for
criminal armies. International organized crime syndicates serve as the
middle men. Money flows through these mafias and into the pockets of
Africa’s worst murders, rapists and poachers largely because of the
growth of the luxury good hungry middle and upper classes of China.

“China is the epicenter of demand,” Robert Hormats, a senior State
Department official, told the New York Times. “Without the demand from
China, this would all but dry up.”

So why the expose on the Philippines? Because criticizing China might lead to China objecting to the truth, whereas ridiculing Pinoys is just plain fun, and if they can accuse the Catholic church of corruption, so much the better: The church is the main obstacle here to passing the RH bill to slow down population growth, and population control is one of the sacraments of the church of ecology, so the church’s influence has to be weakened as much as possible.

Sigh.

Given the culture, there are plenty of corruption stories out there.

But of course, the other side of the coin rarely gets into the papers: about the many people working to help improve society who are either church workers or inspired to sacrifice more lucrative job offers to work as laypeople to improve the lives of their countrymen.

Usually the PC are snotty about the idea of missionaries, but they do valuable work. Religion that stresses hard work and honest living is only part of the contribution of the many churches in the Philippines. But we also see priests, ministers, and laypeople inspired by their religion fighting for people’s rights and against the destruction of the environment, and sometimes being killed for doing so.

But other church workers are building the infrastructure in the poorest areas, even when they know their lives are endangered by local thugs.

We just read Father Bossi has passed away. He survived his kidnapping, but others, not just priests but Evangelical missionaries and lay people, who worked in the poorest areas of Minadano did not survive attacks and kidnappings..

The government must remember that the missionaries bring with
them the glad tidings not only of the Gospel but also of development.
The missionary orders—Pime, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the
Columbans and Claretians—bring to the South their congregations’
resources to build churches and mission houses (a boost to
infrastructure and job-generation), as well as set up schools,
cooperatives, livelihood programs, and medical missions. Bossi himself
set up schools where Christians and Muslims are enrolled. He also
established cooperatives to provide microfinance to and generate
livelihood among the poor.

And the editorial notes the “culture of impunity”…because few of the murderers/kidnappers have been arrested or punished.

One hopes that in the future that National Geographic will be more honest in their reporting.

One: most “blood ivory” is going to China, not the Philippines. Why pick on the mouse while ignoring the elephant in the living room?

This dishonesty shows that money talks, and that China’s Potemkin villages of eco-friendly triumphs will remain in the news to impress the clueless, while a Philippines that is trying it’s best to promote green technology and organic farming will be held up for ridicule because we don’t have the economic clout to fight back.

And yes, we have corrupt priests, but we also have priest martyrs, including Father Tentorio who was martyred for his opposition to mining that would destroy the environment of his people.There is an eco story there, complete with bad guys and the problems of small indigneous groups trying to preserve their culture.

How many articles did you write about this?

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