22 February 2008

Bishops split on Arroyo quit call, But all urge truth in NBN deal, end to corruption

Comment on an excerpt:

"Mass for Truth

"In Legazpi City, Fr. Rex Paul Arjona, chancellor of the Legazpi diocese, said the bishops of Albay province would make their stand known in time.

"It may coincide with the Mass for Truth and Accountability scheduled for Friday in Ligao City, hometown of whistle-blower Lozada.

"The Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Lucilo Quiambao."

The Misa para sa Katotoohan asin Paninimbagan has been postponed to 27 February, Wednesday, due to bad weather. Although the weather has already improved today, the rains, which poured almost daily for more than a week, have caused floods and landslides, making unpassable a number of roads within the province.

The main presider for Wednesday's Mass will still be Bishop Lucilo Quiambao, the Apostolic Administrator (no longer Auxiliary Bishop). The homilist will be Monsignor Ramon Tronqued, Vicar General of the Diocese. In the morning, a meeting of Church lay leaders, NGOs and academe representatives will be held at the Social Action Center to discuss the concrete steps the diocese will be taking as far as "communal action' is concerned.

Bishops split on Arroyo quit call
But all urge truth in NBN deal, end to corruption

By Inquirer Bureaus

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:59:00 02/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- There is a strong demand among bishops in the provinces for the truth to emerge in the scandal-ridden National Broadband Network (NBN) project, but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation or ouster is an issue that divides them.

Of the 12 prelates reached by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday and Wednesday, only one -- Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro D. Arigo -- openly said the President should step down.

“She should resign,” Arigo said. “Tama na, sobra na (Enough is enough)!”

Zambales Bishop Florentino Lavarias said he would abide by whatever decision the leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines would reach regarding the calls for Ms Arroyo’s resignation.

Pampanga Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, on the other hand, said he was calling for the resignation of the members of the Arroyo Cabinet.

David said the CBCP was categorical in saying that Catholics should “reject evil.”

No qualified successor

“I ask the Catholics among [the Cabinet officials] to stop receiving communion, confess their lives and make the sacrifice demanded of them -- repair the damage they’ve done to the nation’s soul and well-being,” he said, adding:

“They still have a way out of the hell they are in now.”

Six Church leaders -- Bishops Carlito Cenzon of Baguio, Florentino Cinense of Tarlac, Crispin Varquez of Borongan, Martin Jumoad of Basilan and Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, and Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo -- want Ms Arroyo to complete her term.

Varquez said that while he agreed that Malacañang under Ms Arroyo had committed some blunders, there was no qualified candidate to take her place.

Bagaforo said there was “not enough reason” to support the calls for Ms Arroyo’s resignation, but her administration should rectify the purported corruption.

“My own stand is no resignation,” he said.

Church as ‘energizer’

Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra called on the people to back whistle-blower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. and on Commission on Higher Education Chair Romulo Neri to speak the truth about the scrapped NBN deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

But Navarra stopped short of calling for the President’s resignation, saying: “The Church is just an energizer in the campaign against corruption.”

Laguna Bishop Leo Drona said he was one with the CBCP in its call for communal action in the face of the purported bribery and overprice that attended the NBN-ZTE deal.

He said communal action simply meant that the people should “pray together, reflect together, decide together and act together.”

General Santos Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said that instead of stepping down, the President should take a leave of absence for some “soul-searching.”

Gutierrez also said he did not expect the CBCP to initiate moves to oust Ms Arroyo. He said that if there would be change, it should start with the people themselves.

“But the initiation should be a product of faith and discernment -- soul-searching, analyzing and asking what is God’s will,” he added.

There are 98 bishops in the country, according to the CBCP.

‘So much corruption’

Jumoad of Basilan said he continued to support the Arroyo administration.

“But at the same time, I also recognize the existence of so much corruption, and I hope [the ongoing protest actions] will wake her up [so she can] correct where she is wrong,” he said.

Pueblos of Butuan, who is known for his closeness to the President, said: “We in the Mindanao bloc [of the CBCP] want GMA (Ms Arroyo) to finish her term until 2010.”

He said the bloc would request a meeting with the CBCP leadership in Manila so it could air its position on the latest scandal to rock the Arroyo administration.

Pueblos conceded that there was a real need to combat “rampant corruption in government,” but said the campaign must “start at the grass roots level and not from the top.”

He said those involved in the NBN-ZTE deal should be criminally charged and tried.

Cenzon of Baguio said he was not among those calling on Ms Arroyo to step down because there were “no established or proven grounds” for her to do so.

Cinense of Tarlac said he could not support the calls for resignation because he had yet to hear the complete story: “I cannot make a judgment based on what I read in newspapers and see on TV. I’m still waiting for more information. I’m still studying the issue.”

Mass for Truth

In Legazpi City, Fr. Rex Paul Arjona, chancellor of the Legazpi diocese, said the bishops of Albay province would make their stand known in time.

It may coincide with the Mass for Truth and Accountability scheduled for Friday in Ligao City, hometown of whistle-blower Lozada.

The Mass will be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Lucilo Quiambao.

But a streamer on the concrete fence of the Redemptorist Church in Barangay Gogon carries this message: “Oust Gloria!”

For a while, the message had merely read: “GMA resign!”

Last week, Bishops Ramon Villena (Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino) and Rodolfo Beltran (Mt. Province and Ifugao) and Cagayan Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan issued a statement urging the faithful “not [to] seek confrontation, certainly not revolution or violence” amid the crisis.

They said they wanted “communal action for deep reflection, discernment, sobriety and for the way of peace.”

Slow burn

The CBCP leadership expects a slow-burn anticorruption drive against the administration rather than a sudden toppling of Ms Arroyo.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the CBCP president, said on Wednesday that apathy and cynicism about the last “people power” revolt that brought Ms Arroyo to power in 2001 meant that many Filipinos were in no rush to take to the streets again despite the NBN-ZTE scandal.

“The Filipino people, we together through communal action, must discover a new brand of people power,” he had said.

Lagdameo called last week for communal action but said civil society groups should take the lead in “a sustained national campaign against graft and corruption.”

Going with people

“We are not actually turning our back to [people power]; we have to go where our people are going,” he told Reuters. “If that (people power) is there ... who are we to stop it?”

Lagdameo also said that even if the CBCP were to call for immediate rallies, he doubted that it would get the hundreds of thousands that poured into the streets in 2001 and 1986.

“Our youth seem to be very satisfied about what is going on in their lives,” he said, smiling. Reports from Julie Alipala, Aquiles Zonio, Orlando Dinoy, Edwin Fernandez, Franklin Caliguid, Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez and Grace Albasin, Inquirer Mindanao; Desiree Caluza, Cristina Arzadon and Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Russell Arador, Cesar Villa, Carmela Reyes and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; Redempto Anda, Romulo Ponte and Joanna Los Baños, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Eliza Victoria, Inquirer Research

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