Time for the bishops to back their call with action, but…

Senior leaders of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has gone out last week to issue their strongest denunciation yet of the rampant corruption in the Arroyo regime and called on the people to prepare for the establishment of a “new government.”

Led by no less than CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the bishops in a press conference pointed to corruption from “top to bottom” as the “biggest culprit and major cause of our nation’s poverty and hunger.”

“In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners. Corruption is a social and moral cancer!”

They also vehemently disagreed with Arroyo’s much ballyhooed slogan “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” (Progress is felt), saying that it is more of “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang Gutom” (Poverty and Hunger).

“Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang gutom” … The benefits of the much proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses.”

And so, the bishops argued that the time to rescue our country from its “pitiful state” and rebuild it “economically, socially and politically” is NOW.

“The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now.”

They said, the country’s liberation from poverty and hunger “may yet serendipitously happen” and that they are actually “dreaming, praying and hoping” that the “needed liberators” will somehow “effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country” in a “courageous, peaceful way.”

Of course, this call from the country’s prominent bishops has spooked Malacanang Palace especially since this came on the heels of former agriculture secretary Joc-Joc Bolante’s scheduled return to the country after facing deportation from the United States. Bolante is widely perceived to have masterminded the diversion of more than P728 milion worth of fertilizer funds to finance Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004.  He and his role in what was dubbed as the “grand acricultural theft”,  holds the key to finally pin down Arroyo and cause her eventual downfall.

Unsurprisingly, the palace’s official heckler cum secretary of justice, Raul Gonzalez, has lashed out at the bishops, saying that what they said are political in nature and could be considered seditious.

“They were talking about removal of president, sweeping statements about graft and corruption.  They’re doing clearly political statements. They have crossed the line on separation of church and state,” said Gonzalez.

Today’s Inquirer editorial is right. The bishop’s statements can never be considered seditious  unless we are still living in the Spanish times where one can easily be charged as a ‘filibustero’  and ordered executed via  garrote for criticizing the government.

Maybe Gonzalez were already born during that era (haha!) but of course this is not the cause of this senior citizen’s selective senile dementia : It is his untiring devotion to defend Arroyo and the status quo no matter what, even at the expense of justice that he is sworn to protect and uphold!

“The bishops’ statement is both emphatic and cautious; it is clear about the ills it attacks, but it uses the right language in attacking them. Thus, contrary to Gonzalez’s blithe attempt at intimidation, there is nothing seditious about the bishops’ appeal to the people to “prepare a new government.” Calling on the people to exercise their sovereign prerogative and prepare a new government is an exercise of political maturity,” says the Inquirer editorial.

The Inquirer lauded Lagdameo and his fellow bishops for doing “all Filipinos a signal service,” for getting us asking questions again.  Questions not about the veracity of all the allegations of corruption involving Arroyo and her ilk – because the majority already knows that they are true  anyway considering the lengths that the establishment have resorted to (EO 464, executive priviledge, extrajudicial murders etc) just to cover them up – but about the alternative to the detested Arroyo regime.

Unfortunately, the bishops never expounded on what exactly did they mean by “new government” and who are the country’s “needed liberators” that they had hoped would free us from the muck we are currently in. But one of the bishops, Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, has hinted that what they may very well be “dreaming, praying and hoping” for is for the military to step in.

Cruz unequivocably answered “OK yun” when he was asked if he favors the military to lead the radical reforms needed in government. Journalist Ellen Tordesillas jotted-down the question and answer portion of the bishops’ press conference:

Asked if Arroyo can lead the radical reforms, he replied, “Siempre hindi.”

Q: How about Vice President Noli de Castro?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Senate President Manny Villar?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about House Speaker Prospero Nograles?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Chief Justice Reynato Puno?

Cruz: Pwede.

Q: How about AFP Chief Alexander Yano?

Cruz: Okay yun.

Q: Have you met with General Yano?

Cruz: Tama na. tama na.

No where to go but ‘oust’ for the bishops

While it is true that the military component is a vital ingredient in a successful people power uprising, it is still the people who is decisive. Absent the millions of people in the streets calling for the ouster or removal of Arroyo, any action from the military will not only prove to be futile, it will not be truly representative of the Filipino people’s sovereign will.

Also, for Cruz to confidently proclaim “OK yun” to the AFP Chief’s lead is so scary that it might be viewed by some hawks within the armed forces as an outright endorsement by the Church of a military junta to replace the Arroyo regime. Note that Cruz only answered “Pwede” (maybe) to Chief Justice Puno, who hands down has more credibility than the other names mentioned.

The bishops’ statements are merely a timely reiteration of what we as a people should do. They aren’t inciting us to sedition, they are only reminding us of our collective task to exorcise the evils of corruption committed with impunity by this evil regime, of our moral duty to renew our calls for Arroyo to step down immediately so genuine and pro-people reforms can start to take place.

It is no where to go but ‘oust’ for these bishops, especially for the CBCP President. This is why it is imperative for him to take the lead in strengthening the united front of the broad masses of the Filipino people against the corrupt and morally bankrupt Arroyo regime. He should refuse to take part in any move that will pave the way for a military junta as an alternative to Arroyo. Instead, he and his influential CBCP should support the setting-up of a transition council, composed of different sectors of the society, that would institute urgent and much needed economic and political reforms in the country while the nation prepares for a free and democratic elections.

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