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Philippine Presidents on God: A Recent History

How have our leaders described their own spirituality?
IMAGE Presidential Museum and Library PH (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo/ Joseph Ejercito Estrada) / Benhur Arcayan - Malacañang Photo Bureau
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As a predominantly Catholic country—one of only two in Asia and now the fifth largest Christian country in the world—we tend to prefer that our political leaders be pious and god-fearing and devout. In turn, leaders and officials have mostly refrained from using the Lord’s name in vain, and would even err on the tendency to pander to a religious electorate. That is, until recently.

To illustrate, here’s what some of our country’s Presidents have had to say about religion, about God, about the Church, and about their own spiritual lives.

Corazon Aquino

IMAGE: RTVMalacanang
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“I am well aware of my shortcomings as a human being, which is why I always seek God’s intercession. And I enjoin all of you to join me in prayer, introspection and discernment. Not one of us has all the answers—we must always seek divine guidance to find the right path. I shall go to visit and pray in as many of our churches and schools.  For the right answer as to where duty lies from here on, is surely to be found wherever people are gathered in God’s name. For that was His promise.” (From a speech delivered at the Misa Para sa Katotohanan at the Church of Gesu in 2005)

“As I came to power peacefully, so shall I keep it. That is my contract with my people and my commitment to God.” (From a speech in front of the US Congress in 1986)

“I needed prayer more than ever to live through the brazenness of the assassination, and the shamelessness of the government’s attempt to blame it on a man who was already dead before my husband arrived. I needed prayer to be able to contemplate the final victory of evil without losing hope. I needed prayer not to fall into the last temptation of despair.” (From a speech at the UNIV Conference in Rome in 1993)

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Fidel V. Ramos

IMAGE: RTVM

“In our time of troubles, I would never have dared to take up the burden of national leadership had I not been confident of God’s special feeling for us Filipinos who have always regarded ourselves as “the people of his pasture, and the flock under his care.” (From a speech at the Festival Thanksgiving in 1992)

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“Over the past 75 days that I have been your President, I have strived—following St. Paul’s admonition to be God’s fellow worker—to lay the foundations of a truly humane Philippine society.” (From a speech at the Festival Thanksgiving in 1992)

“EDSA 1986 taught me this: when we pray to God, we are made strong—in fact we feel we are at the height of our strength.” (From a speech during the 63rd Anniversary of the Cosmopolitan Church in 1996)

Joseph Estrada

IMAGE: Malacañang Presidential Museum and Library
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The voice of the people is the voice of God.” (Addressing a crowd after the Supreme Court junked his disqualification case)

“I had no one to turn to except God during my incarceration. Every day I prayed The Lord’s Prayer. We forgive those who trespass against us. I realized, I might as well practice this.” (From 2012 interview with Inquirer)

I only have time to pray and talk to God. ‘God, I asked you to make me a successful actor, you gave it to me. When I ran for mayor I asked you to help me, you gave it to me. For senator, against all odds…you gave it to me. Even as vice-president, and president you gave it to me. But God, I never prayed to you that you’d make me a prisoner.'" (From an interview with Esquire Philippines)

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons - World Economic Forum
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“Divine providence put me here. The lord is a very good manager of my career." (From a soundbite of the Associated Press)

I'm a very religious person and I always believe if I surrender myself to the will of God, where I am is where He wants me to be.” (From a 2003 interview with Time Magazine)

I'm a very devout Catholic and I tried to make it my practice to wait for discernment from the Lord. I'll go back to what my father always told me in his own public life: 'Do what is right, do your best and let God take care of the rest.'" (From a 2016 ABS-CBN interview)

Benigno Aquino III

IMAGE: Presidential Museum and Library PH
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“In this job, I sometimes feel like a punching bag precariously held together by duct tape, but I have never wavered because you are behind me. It is true: I am not alone. This has led me to conclude that my parents continue to watch over me, and that God truly loves us.” (From his 2015 State of the Nation Address)

"Akin pong paniwala na Diyos at taumbayan ang nagdala sa ating kinalalagyan ngayon. Habang nakatutok tayo sa kapakanan ng ating kapwa, bendisyon at patnubay ay tiyak na maaasahan natin sa Poong Maykapal. At kapag nanalig tayo na ang kasangga natin ay ang Diyos, mayroon ba tayong hindi kakayanin?” (From his 2010 State of the Nation Address)

“Pinalaki ako na gawin mo ang lahat ng magagawa mo, tapos isa-Diyos ang natitira. Dasal mo na lang.” (From a 2017 interview with the Inquirer)

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