Accusations of bribery are hardly new or even news in the Philippines but the charges against President Arroyo seem to be getting stronger and louder. This will be an excellent opportunity for the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines to add to their Christmas Cheer Funds. This is from the Tribune.
Pimentel: Gloria beyond redemption, must resign
Temperature extreme of CBCP quit call
By Sherwin C. Olaes and Angie M. Rosales
Amid strong talk that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be preparing a strong statement that will call on President Arroyo to “take a leave of absence” or call on her to resign the presidency, or at the least, give its blessings for people power, along with encouraging a louder public clamor for her to resign, Mrs. Arroyo is now working on getting a dialog going with the Catholic bishops to explain her side of the bribery scandal.
The CBCP, in a statement released Monday, denounced the Palace bribery of 190 congressmen and some 50 local executives, some of whom have already admitted that they were handed the paper bags containing cash in the amount of P500,000 in Malacañang.
The bishops branded the Arroyo administration as “morally bankrupt.”
Despite the admissions from at least two governors and one congressman-preacher that they had received “cash gifts” in Malacañang which the bishops termed a bribe, the Palace insisted on Mrs. Arroyo’s innocence in the alleged
bribery of elected officials, but said there is a need for Mrs. Arroyo to sit down and dialog with the Catholic bishops to explain her side of the controversy.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said a dialog between the Palace and the CBCP was “called for,” but added that no definite schedule has been set as yet.
Mrs. Arroyo also did the same routine with the bishops in 2005 and 2006, when her government was in crisis over the Hello Garci wiretap tapes scandal and the second serious impeachment complaint filed by the opposition forces in Congress.
There were reports of bishops having been handed envelopes containing cash, where some of the bishops admitted to having taken it, claiming that there was no bribery involved, as the cash was for projects for the poor.
Not surprisingly, the pastoral statement then issued the CBCP was a watered down version of what the public expected. Instead of calling for her resignation, the bishops said this was not going to be called by the CBCP and warned the public against staging a people power type revolt. The next year, the same thing occurred, where Mrs. Arroyo wined, dined and wooed the bishops. The pastoral letter that was issued again favored Mrs. Arroyo, with the bishops saying that impeachment was a “useless move” and again warned the public not to participate in a people power demonstraiton against Mrs. Arroyo.
Wednesday, Bunye confirmed that the President met with some bishops while she was in Mindanao. “So I believe this is part of the process, to explain what’s going on,” he told reporters.
The President is known to personally drop by the residences of Catholic bishops in provinces, coinciding these with her governance visits to local government units. It is also known that she “gatecrashes” birthday celebrations of certain Catholic bishops she wants to visit.
Tribune sources inside Malacañang earlier told the Tribune that they maintain a list of birthday celebrants among the 100 members CBCP, with Mrs. Arroyo usually making a surprise visit and providing gifts to bishops on their birthday.
An opposition critic, who requested not to be identified said this is one of the reasons Mrs. Arroyo has been able to establish and maintain a good relationship with the church leaders.
“Thus whenever a bishop makes a critical stand on controversies surrounding her, a demand for her resignation is not included as one of the solutions,” he said referring to 2005 and 2006 controversies that hounded her, where the bishops protected her.
Calls for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation mounted, with Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. yesterday saying she must go as she is beyond redemption.
“It’s beyond repair, as far as damage to President Arroyo’s leadership or continued stay in power,” he said yesterday, in the light of the rising tension to Malacañang stirred by the alleged payoffs after Mrs. Arroyo met with a number of congressmen, governors, municipal and city mayors last Oct. 11 for a supposed dialog but where cash bribes were handed to each.
Regardless of whether or not an impeachment case stemming from this incident would take off from the House of Representatives, the opposition leader told a news forum at the Senate that the Chief Executive and other Palace officials being implicated in the alleged payoff cannot escape any liability from the laws.
“Either way, whether it’s private or public funds (distributed as cash gifts), that would be bribery. This is an open and shut case,” he stressed during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado.
“If you talk about evidence, then you have to involve (Pampanga) Gov. (Fr. Ed) Panlilio because he admitted that he received the money, plus the statement of (Anakpawis Rep. Crispin) Beltran and one or two other members of the House, (Bulacan) Gov. (Joselito) Mendoza and now Rep. (Protestant Bishop Bienvenido) Abante (6th district, Manila). So if you talk about evidence, I think there is sufficient basis to cause the investigation and the subsequent impeachment of Mrs. Arroyo because the money used came from public funds. Of course this is in addition to the anti-graft provisions of the law. If these came from private funds, the first question that arises – where did this come from, which means there were bribes being given to public officers from the private sector.”
Furthermore, claims by those who have come out in the open and admitted of receiving the alleged cash gifts, already “more or less makes certain now that she had a hand in it,” he added.
The lawmaker said the President’s order to the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) would only end up in a whitewash, considering that the suspected principal culprit happens to be the “superior” of officials in the said agency.
“But this is exactly where the problem begins because if what she does is only to give the impression that she’s investigating without necessarily meaning it, then she digs a deeper hole for herself,” Pimentel stressed.
Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. was also not spared the tirades of the opposition senator as he ridiculed the former’s call on the President to initiate a “moral revolution.”
“It’s like the pot calling the kettle black. You turn white or use botox to shine yourself up. That’s difficult to believe. But I admire the son of De Venecia.”
He said he believes the call of the Speaker to Mrs. Arroyo to stop corruption is “an impossible dream. She is beyond redemption. She cannot be redeemed anymore. That’s why I am calling for her resignation and to turn over the government to (Vice President) Noli de Castro in a caretaker manner,” he said.
As to the impeachment complaint in the lower house, its leaders can validly give due course to the case that the United Opposition (UNO) will file even if the first complaint made by lawyer Ruel Pulido has already been referred to the House committee on justice.
But Malacañang yesterday rejected the opposition’s call for Mrs. Arroyo to resign because of the bribery controversy surroun-ding her administration.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita urged the opposition to leave Mrs. Arroyo alone and let her do her job effectively.
“ Let us give the President the chance to work and do her job.. You can expect them ( opposition) to say that because they want their presence felt but it does not mean that what they’re saying is true,” Ermita said.
Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief, Secretary Cerge Remonde for his part, urged the opposition to just wait for the 2010 presidential elections rather than push Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation. “The call of some senators for the President to resign is unwarranted . May we respectfully request them to wait for 2010,” Remonde said in a text message.