Tony Meloto 'speaks out' against his detractors
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-12-02
For some time, Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga (GK) had been at the receiving end of unjust tirades and acrimonious loose talk from a small faction of the Catholic family-oriented movement, Couples for Christ (CFC) led by Frank Padilla.

Tony chose to take all the insidious attacks the Christian way, by turning the other cheek. The hatchet job from the Padilla faction takes cover beneath the veneer of "pursuing evangelization as the original mission of CFC."

Like self-righteous Pharisees, they have cast aspersion on the GK's main thrust of nation-building that harnesses and organizes the inherent heroism present in every Filipino. This, claims the Padilla CFC faction, runs counter to the 'spirituality' of the CFC.

My insights to that row between Frank Padilla and his gang and Tony Meloto and GK were all written in my "Splitting Couples" column of September 4, 2007 (visit

Tony Meloto's talk at the Ateneo de Manila University Public Lecture on Theology last October 5, 2007 focused on the spirituality of nation building. Without even intending to answer his critics, Tony's professionalism and wisdom had shone through, effectively affirming a right-mindedness that contrasted with the wayward perspectives of his detractors.

Following are key segments from Tony's talk which give us good insights on the deeper spirituality of what GK is doing as against the 'Pharisee-like' posturing of the GK critics.

Poverty and the Filipino Catholic

Meloto said: "Poverty is the consequence when we do not walk our talk. Hypocrisy justifies how we live with it.

We cannot talk about nation building without touching on religion since more than 80% of Filipinos are Catholics and their control and influence in the country is almost absolute. A strong nation needs a strong moral foundation. If we are a weak nation it must be because we are a weak people with nominal faith, lacking in character and moral conviction. A weak people elect corrupt leaders who use immoral power for personal gain, who impose their will on the weak majority with the use of force and violence."

Catholicism didn't cause poverty

Meloto added: "We are poor because we failed to practice our religion. We compromised our integrity and tolerated corruption. We lowered our standard and accepted poverty.

We cultivated behavioral aberrations and cultural patterns that make it difficult for us to cut the cycle of poverty and remove corruption.

First is our split-level Christianity. We live double-lives: One inside the Church and another one the moment we step out of it. We have two laws that govern one life: Piety in our Christian environment and self interest in the workplace.

Second is our double standard of morality. A difficult situation brings out the martyr in the women and the predator in the men.

If men are the problem, they can also be the solution. Real Filipino men are those who are ready to die for honor, not those willing to live in shame.

Third is our "matapobre" (looking down on the poor) culture. The historical pattern of exclusion and discrimination of the poor majority by the elite minority still prevail today. We who have been blessed with better opportunities in life feel safe living in exclusive communities, oblivious to the misery of Lazarus outside our subdivision gates.

The truly rich are those who value the poor more than money.

Fourth is our crab mentality. This is our habit of bashing and blaming, of pushing and pulling people down.

Jesus is not about living for self, but living for others. He told Peter if you love me "feed my sheep."

Christian moments

Meloto outlined the choices that define his Christian moments: "First are my Adam moments. As the Filipino Adam it is my responsibility to protect the environment, to promote good governance in politics, to develop market with a social conscience and to build abundance for all where no Filipino is in need.

Second are my Abraham moments. These are moments when God calls me to surrender my Isaacs — the things that are most precious to me for the sake of others.

The third are my Judas moments. These are times of betrayal, of abandoning the ideal for what is practical, of selling out when the price is right.

Finally, my Jesus moments are the daily opportunities to build on the innate goodness of the Filipino. While it is important to be vigilant in pointing out injustice and wrongdoing, I am called to just as vigorously honor what is good and what is right.

The GK mission

Meloto concluded: "The GK brand is a Filipino creation, but one with a global mission to demonstrate that religion is not a drug that helps one to be unaffected by all the misery around. On the contrary, GK is out to prove that faith can defeat misery by fueling positive action that in turn fuels growth.

The branding is a marketing strategy to make love of God and country popular and exciting and make the Filipino believe that he has the power to move mountains of garbage and transform slums into beautiful communities.

What began with Couples for Christ is now embraced by other religious organizations as their own journey of faith. What started in the Philippines is now spreading to other developing countries. In time, this nation in darkness will not only shine but will be a light to the world."

I support Tony Meloto and GK simply because their brand of spirituality is genuinely Christian, as Christ intended it. GK lives by the Christ commandment: Whatsoever you do for the least of your brethren, you do unto me."

Our country needs more Christians like Tony Meloto and less Pharisees like his detractors.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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