Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It’s battle of good vs evil, church leaders say of cha-cha fight

Religious leaders from various denominations affirm their commitment against charter change.
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.”


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)

All set for Wednesday’s anti-Arroyo protests across the Philippines

PUBLISHED ON June 9, 2009

MANILA – Groups across the Philippines are gearing up for what they promised to be one of the biggest nationwide protests against the Arroyo administration and its efforts to amend the Constitution.

From Makati City, where the rally in the capital will be held, to General Santos City, in Mindanao, Filipinos are making final arrangements for the protest tomorrow, June 10, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the umbrella organization of people’s organizations.

And Bayan says Wednesday’s mobilizations will just be the beginning. “There will be no let-up in protests,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

Wednesday’s protests, Reyes said in a statement, is just the “opening salvo” in a series of protests leading up to the Sona, or the State of the Nation Address by Arroyo scheduled in Congress next month.

“The Sona would be a major political battleground insofar as pushing the Con-Ass is concerned. We hope to mobilize what could be the biggest Sona protest in Arroyo’s eight years in office,” Reyes said.

Carol Araullo, Bayan’s chairperson, called on Filipinos to go out in the streets on Wednesday. “Let us not be fooled into complacency by this regime. The threat of charter change and Arroyo staying in power is now more real than ever,” Araullo said.

Araullo said Arroyo’s denials that she would not seek to rule beyond 2010, when her term ends, is “meaningless,” pointing out that Arroyo had lied about her intentions in the past, most notably her promise, made in 2002, not to run for office in 2004.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said Filipinos should protest charter change because “convening the con-ass next month is Ms Arroyo’s last and final push in her bid to achieve political immunity.” Mariano was referring to the constituent assembly, a way for Congress to amend the Constitution.

Last week, Arroyo’s allies in Congress railroaded a resolution that constituted the Lower House as a constituent assembly, much to the consternation of senators, opposition legislators and many Filipinos.

“All roads lead to Ayala Avenue and other urban centers in the country on Wednesday,” Mariano said. “We call on all our regional and provincial chapters to launch simultaneous protests in major urban centers nationwide.”

Already, preparations are underway. The Ayala rally, which will be held at the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, will feature a 15-minute interfaith service, a comedy skit between characters “Juana Change” and “Pacquito Yu,” the recitation of the Bagong Panatang Makabayan written by National Artist Bienvendio Lumbera, and a photo mosaic of all the legislators who voted or supported House Resolution 1109. Senators have also been invited to attend the protest.

The rally program will be directed by multi-awarded film maker Carlitos Siguion Reyna. It will also feature performances by bands and stage personalities. The program is expected to start at 5 p.m. up to 8 p.m., although protesters are expected to be in Makati as early as 12 noon.

In Baguio, a march rally has been scheduled. It will be led by Tungtungan Ti Umili-Cordillera People’s Alliance and to be participated in by the Catholic bishop of Baguio City, women religious congregations, city officials and local personalities.

In the Southern Tagalong region, protests have been scheduled in Calamba City, Lucena City, Batangas (Batangas City, Nasugbu), Cavite (Bacoor, Dasmariñas and Silang), and in Antipolo City in Rizal province.

In the Bicol region, mobilizations are expected in Sorsogon, where a torch march will start at 5 p.m; Naga City, where a march rally and program at Plaza Quinze Martires will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rallies will be led by Bayan-Camarines Sur.

In Legazpi City, Bayan-Albay will lead a picket at the Department of Agrarian Reform and at the congressional office of Rep. Al Francis Bichara. This will be followed by a march rally and program in front of the Albay capitol. Also joining the protest action are the Social Action Center in Legazpi City, NGOs and people’s organizations in Albay under the ALPRODEV as well as Bayan member organizations.

In the Visayas, march rallies have been scheduled in Cebu City, to be led by Bayan and other allied groups, as well as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter, and Jesus Is Lord movement and other religious groups. Ricado Cardinal Vidal is expected to join the protest.

Also in Cebu, protesters will converge at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at the Fuente Osmeña. They will then march through Gaisano Metro Colon en route to the Malacañang sa Sugbo, Arroyo’s office in Cebu.

In Tagbilaran City, a rally will be led by Bayan-Bohol and opposition parties and others groups.

In Bacolod City, Bayan-Negros will march beginning 10 a.m. Wednesday. The rally will be attended by Bishop vicente Navarra.

In Iloilo City, the Iloilo Movement Against Arroyo’s Charter Change and Bayan-Panay will spearhead the protest.

In Mindanao, protest marches and rallies have been scheduled in General Santos City at 5 p.m.

In Cagayan de Oro City, the rally will start at 9 a.m. up to 2 p.m. at the Divisoria. This will be led by the People’s March Against Charter Change and Bayan-North Central Mindanao, together with the churches, the academe and members of the opposition parties.

Similar protest actions have been planned for Iligan City, Bukidnon and Davao City.

In the Caraga region, groups have planned protests in Butuan City and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte; Bayugan City and San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, and Surigao City.

Bulatlat will cover the nationwide protests throughout the day, using real-time and live updates on its website. (Bulatlat.com / With reports from Ronalyn V. Olea in Manila and Ritche T. Salgado in Cebu City.)