This is from the Tribune (Manila)
The Pope's demand that clerics keep out of politics seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the Philippines. Many of the country's clerics take the view that they are responsible to their flock to see that they are treated better by the government and not just exploited. They fight for their interests to gain the respect of their charges.
Many clerics are particularly upset that Arroyo is trying to push through constitutional change to keep herself in power. Of course they are also upset by the pervasive corruption that they see within the Arroyo administration. Many clerics have been at the forefront of people power uprisings in the Philippines before.
It is doubtful that the clerics will actually be charged with sedition although calling for an uprising to remove Arroyo does seem a bit provocative! To charge the clerics with sedition would be likely to destabilise the situation even more and make them all heroes.
Bishops-led march on to oust Arroyo
By Riza Recio and Pat C. Santos
Tagged as “pied pipers” by Malacañang, Catholic bishops who called for an uprising to remove President Arroyo from power said they are keen to continue their campaign, adding they will not be deterred by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s threat of sedition charges when they lead today a people’s protest in Caloocan City.
The mass action today, to be led by Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME) and participated in by labor and cause-oriented groups, will primarily call for the public to block efforts of Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives to amend the Constitution.
The revived Charter change (Cha-cha) attempt is being billed by the Palace and Mrs. Arroyo’s House allies as a measure to amend economic provisions in the Constitution but it is widely seen as an effort to further extend the term of Mrs. Arroyo which will end in 2010.
The bishops said they are unfazed by Gonzalez’s threats to file sedition charges against them.
Tobias and Iñiguez yesterday said they are open to “extra-legal” means to oust Mrs.Arroyo.
“We are already used to the threat of the old secretary of injustice. We will just wait what he will do,” said Tobias.
The 67-year-old bishop also warned Malacañang allies in Congress over their aggressiveness to push Charter Change, saying that it could fuel fury among the public.
In Thursday’s press conference, he said the moves for constitutional amendments despite the lack of public support just show the “real color of the administration.”
Invoking a Biblical passage that supposedly orders people “to fear and honor duly constituted authorities” Malacañang said the bishops are making “reckless and irresponsible” acts.
Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez Jr. called Iñiguez and Tobias “pied pipers” for what he called as their acts on influencing the public to sympathize with them in searching for extra-legal means to oust Mrs. Arroyo.
Golez said the two bishops violated Biblical teachings in particular the Book of Romans Chapter 13 which supposedly told the faithful “to fear and honor the duly-constituted authority”.
“It is foremost that all bishops who are encouraging our people to resort to extra-constitutional means can be likened to the pied piper blowing their flute to innocent children and leading them to drown in the river” said Golez.
The Pied Piper is a mythical character who supposedly led hundreds of children to drown to retaliate against townsfolk who withheld payments for his previous service of ending a rat infestation.
Tobias said that the whole Catholic Church is heading for a consensus in calling for the ouster of Mrs. Arroyo.
“Masyado ng garapal kaya papunta na diyan. Papunta na diyan na magkakasama-sama kami (Their brazenness have become too much. We are all heading in one direction),” Tobias said.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales told an assembly at St. Paul’s College in Manila that “self-serving public servants exploit the ignorant poor.”
“The worst possible scenario is where people approach the poor not to help but to take advantage of them,” Rosales added.
There are more bishops now (who are joining the call for Mrs. Arroyo to step down). I’m very sure the initial five (who called for a new government) and the others like us are growing,” Tobias furthered.
Such was the case, he added, during the Martial Law years, when the religious leaders in the Philippines all expressed opposition to the continued stay of then-president Ferdinand Marcos.
Last month, Lagdameo along with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas and Legazpi Bishop emeritus Jose Sorra, called on the public to start preparing for a new government to remove the present one that is riddled with massive corruption.
Some bishops, who are known to be friendly with Malacañang, however, tried to downplay the statement of the five bishops saying this does not represent the CBCP as a body.
Golez said the Palace had no plans on what measures to implement when the bishops lead today’s mass action.
It would depend on the action that the Department of Justice would be implementing related to this recent development, Golez said.
Gonzalez had said the DoJ would be monitoring any clear violation of the Revised Penal Code pertaining to rebellion and inciting to sedition of the rallyists.
Golez added with the country reeling from the current global crisis, the people would be unlikely to support any destabilization effort.
Malacañang, however, ordered police forces to exercise maximum tolerance on today’s mass actions.
In preparation for the mass protest, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Capital Region Police Office will be on full alert tomorrow, according to the Palace.
AFP spokesperson Leopoldo Batawil said the armed forces has been coordinating with the AFP National Capital Region Command and the Region IV-A and Region III in order to ensure peace and order during today’s protest action.
The AFP has called on the protesters to stage rallies within the designated freedom parks and to ensure banning of bringing guns among rallyists.
The rallyists are also expected to protest the rushed junking of the impeachment case against Mrs. Arroyo, the fourth in so many years.
The impeachment bid was junked by the House committee on justice after two days of deliberations ruling that it was insufficient in substance. The impeachment case will be debated in the plenary tomorrow.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza Saturday scored Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales for threatening two Catholic Bishops on “inciting to rebellion” cases for their critical stand against the Arroyo administration.
“It is so unbecoming of Gonzales to utter such statements. He should learn to respect the viewpoints of people who chose not to be gagged and fooled by the Arroyo administration,” said Maza.
“The Bishops’ call is valid and in no way impedes the constitutional right of anyone; rather it is a solid exercise of our basic right for expression and redress and to demand for accountability from our public officials, more so from the highest position in the country.”
“It appears that the allies of the Arroyo administration are guilty of hiding the truth, They might have killed the impeachment complaint but they will never succeed in thwarting our civil liberties,” she added.
The Gabriela solon further encouraged the people to be more vigilant against all the schemes of the Arroyo administration now that its “Charter Change express” had been exposed.
“It is high time for us Filipinos to unite against the evils in Malacañang. We can never allow the culture of greed, violence, and corruption to thrive further and consequently poison the minds of our children.” Charlie V. Manalo