From left: Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Senator Mar Roxas, NBN-ZTE star witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, Monsignor Pedro Quitoria and lawyer Ricardo Ribo.
(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
PUBLISHED ON June 10, 2009
Several religious leaders have vowed to never abandon the Filipino people in their struggle to defeat the regime’s attempt to change the Constitution. Arroyo, they say, “has surpassed the brutality and evilness of martial law.”
BY JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Mother Mary John Mananzan, OSB, never swore in her life. Despite having seen so much corruption and injustice all these years, she said she has never cursed. These days, however, Mananzan has the convent-bred and Catholic-educated Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to thank for losing her manners, if not her cool.
“This is not only a matter of politics,” Mananzan firmly said at a press conference on Wednesday. This, she said, is also about “good and evil.”
Mananzan, co-chair of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), was among the religious leaders who have come out publicly against the efforts by Arroyo and her allies to change the Constitution. Many say this is just a way to extend Arroyo’s term or make her prime minister so she can, among other motives, enjoy immunity from the many legal cases that are sure to be filed against her once she is out of power next year.
Thousands of Filipinos are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday to protest charter change. (Read related story below.)If the Philippines’s religious leaders will be cowed, “who is left to shout for the truth?” Bishop Godofredo J. David of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) asked during the press briefing at the Ilustrado restaurant in Intramuros, Manila.
Bishop Jessie Suarez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said the Church will “never turn its back on its responsibility to uphold the truth.”
David said only few would benefit from charter change. “Our county has so many problems to deal with. I wonder why everyone was willing to stay up late and railroad this bill,” he said, referring to House Resolution 1109 passed last week by Arroyo’s allies in Congress. The bill paves the way for the convening of Congress as a constituent assembly, one of ways the Constitution can be amended.
Sister Maureen S. Catabian of the Interfaith Justice Peace Network said that there are more relevant problems that the current administration needs to address. She underscored the less priority given to education and health services for poor Filipinos.
Catabian said more Filipinos are leaving the country as migrant workers because of lack of local employment in the country. “The congressmen are not prioritizing these. They are more focused on getting privileges and personal favors from this administration despite the widespread poverty in the Philippines,” she said.
Bishop Lito Tangonan of the United Methodist Church said before anyone thinks of changing the Constitution, those in power should be changed first. He said charter change is illegitimate since the majority of the Filipino people had no say in the approval of House Resolution 1109.
Father Joe Dizon of Solidarity Philippines said his group is “very dismayed” that upon surviving the dark period of martial law under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, “we now have Gloria.” Arroyo, he said, “has surpassed the brutality and evilness of martial law.”
“Gloria, in its literal sense, is a beautiful word. But since the president is named after it, the meaning of Gloria becomes ugly,” said Bishop Elmer Bolocan, also of the UCCP.
Father Charlie Ricafort of the Task Force on Urban Conscientization of the AMRSP said the Arroyo administration has not learned from history. He said attempts by previous regimes to tinker with the Constitution failed because the people protested.
Mananzan, of the AMRSP, conceded that not all bishops from the Roman Catholic Church support the anti-charter change position she and her colleagues have taken. But, she said, they will not wait for the bishops to make up their minds. “We are mature and grown-ups,” she said. “We do not wait for anyone to lead us.”
But Mananzan said that even if representatives of Muslims and the Iglesia ni Kristo were not present in the press conference, she was sure that they would soon take a stand against charter change.
Despite the lack of over support from the Catholic bishops in the movement against charter change, Dizon said they did not have problems coordinating with various church sectors. “The gang rape committed by the Lower House bound us to call for the people to stand up and show their righteous indignation against charter change,” he said.
Dizon warned that if the administration will push through with the constituent assembly, religious leaders will not hesitate to organize bigger protest actions. “We assure the people that we will be with them in the streets,” Dizon said. (Bulatlat.com)