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5 Catholic leaders say 'time to prepare for new gov't is now'

by ARIES RUFO, | 10/28/2008 3:16 PM

Are Church leaders now ready to back attempts to oust the Arroyo government?

In its strongest position yet indicating that they are ready to give their blessings for what may be a drastic change in government, five bishops, led by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Angel Lagdameo, condemned the unabated “top to bottom” corruption in government and asked the public to shake the status quo.

Lagdameo went as far as assuring the public that “liberators” may be just around the corner.

“In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically, is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy to prove that we have matured from our political statements is now. The time to prepare a new government is now,” Lagdameo said in a forum organized by the CBCP.

Lagdameo added the public should not lose hope that changing the present system is futile. “In spite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our county may yet have the needed liberators.”

It is hoped that these “liberators,” Lagdameo said, “will in a courageous peaceful way effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country.”

Also present in the forum were Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon and Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra. We learned that seven more bishops would have attended the forum but cancelled for some reasons.

Active involvement

Villegas urged the public “not to be passive” but engage “in active involvement” in effecting a change in governance. He noted that curbing corruption by only half of its present level would immensely benefit the country. “The problem is not population, the problem is rampant corruption,” Villegas said.

He said that the country would have been better prepared to deal with the ongoing global financial crisis if not for corruption.

Cruz said the country is now in a “precarious, dangerous and critical situation” because of massive corruption and directly blamed the “incumbent occupant” in Malacanang as the culprit.

In his statement, Lagdameo took to task the government’s claim that prosperity is now being felt by the masses pointing out that 20 million people will surely disagree with this, as shown by surveys. He said rampant poverty and hunger are directly related with rampant graft and corruption “which has invaded all public and private institutions.”

Endemic corruption

Lagdameo noted that corruption under the past few years of the Arroyo government up to present has become “endemic and systemic.”

He pointed to “overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners” as the “faces and symptoms of corruption.”

He lamented that the country is now tagged as one of the most corrupt country in Asia, based on a survey conducted by Transparency International. “If we are not horrified, disgusted, exasperated and enraged by these realities, can we still we love our country?” Lagdameo said.

The bishops’ statements came on the heels of the arrival of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante from the US following futile efforts of seeking asylum there. Bolante, tagged as the main architect of the P728-million fertilizer scam, had claimed political persecution but US immigration junked his alibi.

Also providing backdrop was the current “euro” scandal in the Philippine National Police where four police officers, including one retired, are set to be charged with unauthorized release of intelligence funds, and the fresh impeachment initiatives against the President.

Church leaders have been criticized for just waiting in the sidelines and giving mixed signals on its verdict on the Arroyo administration. At the height of the wiretap scandal, where the President was caught on tape giving orders to disgraced poll commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of the results in the presidential elections, the CBCP sought for truth but withheld passing a guilty verdict. Lack of active Church support has been cited as one of the major dampeners on attempts to oust Arroyo.


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