MANILA, Philippines — The head of an influential group of Roman Catholic bishops Tuesday raised the possibility of a new brand of “people power” that would spur people to bring out the truth and end corruption that had kept the country hostage to the “greed of power-holders.”
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that a “convergence of bearers of truths” could save the country.
Backed by the Church hierarchy, Jaime Cardinal Sin called on people power and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos responded and toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Lagdameo told reporters after meeting with about 50 civic, student and business groups that the massive anticorruption movement that ousted President Joseph Estrada in 2001 was a disappointment because it “installed a President who later on was judged by surveys as the most corrupt president.”
Lagdameo was apparently referring to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who became President after Estrada was ousted.
“We went from one frying pan to a worse frying pan,” he said.
Referring to the recent CBCP call for “communal action,” Lagdameo said that if, by consensus, “the communal action is people power, it will have to be a different ‘brand.’ It will not be simply a repeat of the past … The movements of some groups for a national campaign against corruption may be a sign.”
At the meeting, civil society groups asked the Church leadership to guide and spearhead “communal actions.”
“They want clearer guidance and leadership. They want to see us with them,” said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz after he, Lagdameo and Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez held a dialogue with various sectoral groups.
Cruz said the bishops listened in order to know the “what, how and when” of the planned communal actions.
Lagdameo made the comments amid mounting calls for Ms Arroyo to resign as a Senate inquiry looks into alleged bribery in the scrapped $329-million broadband deal with China’s ZTE Corp.
Priests and nuns have offered refuge to a key witness in the Senate investigation — a former consultant for the project, Rodolfo Lozada Jr. — amid threats to his life. They have also organized prayer protests and joined street rallies calling for Ms Arroyo’s resignation and a clean government.
Lagdameo called for a “brand new people power” and said a campaign against corruption in government may be a start.
Among those who attended the dialogue were representatives of the Black and White Movement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Makati Business Club, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Kubol Pag-Asa, Gabriela, Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation, Bangon Pilipinas, National Council of Churches of the Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Solidarity Philippines and the La Salle Brothers.
But even Lagdameo’s presence at the meeting does not signify that the CBCP has already joined the movement against the Arroyo administration.
Lagdameo said he attended the meeting only as the archbishop of Jaro.
“That’s why I attended this meeting, because I will bring this message to my brother bishops,” he said.
On Monday, Lagdameo lauded the successful holding of “communal action” undertaken by civil society in response to the bishops’ call.
Apparently referring to Lozada, Lagdameo said in a statement: “Imagine, with just one courageous person willing to witness to the Truth, some good things are already starting to happen, like the exposition of other scams, lies, deceits, ‘moderate and immoderate greed’.
“We hope and encourage that other courageous and inspired persons will emerge to tell or expose or humbly face the truth, whose concealment had made our country captive to corruption and greed of power-holders.”
Lagdameo told reporters the challenge to Filipinos today was to find “how to express its new brand of people power.”
He said he was optimistic that the civil society groups he met may have already found some of the answers to this challenge.
Not just talking
Cruz said that no clear action had yet resulted from the meeting.
Both sides, he said, only committed themselves to a continuing dialogue but would come out with a more concrete agenda soon.
“This is not the end of this. Our agreement does not stop here. And this will not be just talking but definitely there will be doing and acting,” said Cruz.
He said the dialogue with civil society was gaining ground because more people were joining it. With a report from Associated Press