5 bishops attending Vatican council
MANILA, Philippines — Five Filipino Catholic bishops are off to Vatican City to attend a three-week gathering of prelates with Pope Benedict XVI, which will start on Sunday.
The gathering, also known as the synod, aims to “intensify the people’s understanding, reading, and living of the Word of God because the Word of God is the center of all Christianity,” said Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, one of the representatives of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The synod, which is the 12th Ordinary General Assembly, has the theme: “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” It is scheduled on October 5 to 26.
The CBCP said on its website that a synod is a “gathering of Catholic bishops, summoned to Rome by the Pope, to advise him on the subject of his choice.”
The Pope also appointed Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, secretary general of the Federation of the Asian Bishops Conference, as well as Catholic Family Bible Quiz founder Elvira Yap-Go, to attend the synod.
The CBCP will also send, aside from Bastes, bishops Luis Antonio Tagle, Pablo David, and Broderick Pabillo to the Synod.
ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The national organization of the Catholic laity has thrown its support behind beleaguered Pampanga Governor Eddie “Ed” Panlilio, who is facing a recall campaign to oust him from office.
In a statement issued Wednesday at the culmination of a three-day national convention of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines held here, the national organization of Catholic lay people declared their support for Panlilio’s campaign to “promote integrity and honesty in government.”
The statement was issued as Catholic Church leaders called on the laity to be at the forefront of the fight against graft and corruption and for good governance barely two years before the next national elections in 2010.
“We are backing (Panlilio) in his fight for good governance and his battle against the proposed recall, which will bring to naught his noble and difficult work against graft and corruption,” the group said in a statement.
The resolution was approved by around 500 delegates representing the dioceses of the country.
Panlilio, who is on leave from his duties as priest, was one of the speakers during the opening of the convention last Monday. He was no longer around when the resolution was passed on Wednesday, according to convention secretariat member Joseph Jesalva.
He won the gubernatorial race in a landmark victory against powerful political figures, defeating former provincial board member Lilia Pineda and then incumbent Governor Mark Lapid in the 2007 elections. He rode on a platform calling for reforms, good governance and an end to traditional politics of money, patronage, influence-peddling.
But he is facing a recall bid initiated by a non-government organization led by a former election campaigner of Pineda.
Citing loss of confidence in the governor’s leadership, the group aims to gather the signature of at least 100,000 registered voters in the province. The number is more than 10 percent of the 977,000 registered voters of Pampanga, a requirement in a recall election.
Church leaders have called on lay people to be more active in fighting graft and corruption.
Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), who spoke during the convention, said graft and corruption has been among the most pressing problems of the country.
“The convention is very practical because this is a good preparation for the forthcoming national elections,” Lagdameo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
“The Church encourages the vigorous participation of the laity in governance not only in the Church but also of society. The laity must be at the forefront in solving our social problems,” the prelate said.
Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, chair of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on the Laity, said lay people could help minimize if not eradicate corruption.
“Bishops and priests can only exhort them to do it and to provide spiritual formation, but they should be at the forefront,” Reyes said in a separate interview.
He said that based on reports and accounts of lay people, graft and corruption in government has been worsening.
“The challenge to all government officials in all levels of governance is to live the faith,” said Reyes.
In his homily during a Mass, Reyes acknowledged that corruption in government has been institutionalized in the country.
“It must be hard to be good, to be a Christian politician in the Philippines,” he said.
Reyes said he could see corruption even in the Church.
“There is corruption in the Church because we are human. But not as much as in government,” he said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.
When interviewed later, Reyes said the practice of giving the “SOP,” or kickbacks to government officials as “standard operating procedure” in state-funded projects, purchases or transactions, should be stopped.
Reyes lamented the accepting attitude of most people to corruption.
“There must be a change in mindset. It is not acceptable. It is wrong,” said Reyes.
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
CALAMBA CITY, Philippines — Leftwing fishermen’s groups are launching fluvial protests in various parts of the country in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for “communal action against this ruling regime of greed.”
In the province of Batangas, some 150 fishermen in 50 boats started Tuesday a two-day “fluvial protest” which would take them from Batangas to Cavite provinces to protest against coastal conversion and alleged repression against fishermen.
Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakdagat (Habagat) said the fisherfolk set out from San Diego village in Lian, Batangas and will pass through Calayo and Patungan villages in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas, then sail toward the municipalities of Maragondon, Cavite City, Ternate, Rosario, Noveleta and Bacoor in Cavite.
In an e-mailed statement, Habagat spokesperson Isabelo Alicaya said the group is protesting the “rampant” privatization and conversion of coastal communities in Batangas and Rizal provinces for eco-tourism, industrial and commercial projects.
Habagat, a provincial affiliate of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), is also against the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels into the municipal waters of Batangas and Cavite, he added.
Alicaya said the two-day “fluvial protest” is part of a weeklong action organized by Pamalakaya from February 19 to 25.
The group said sea-based protest actions such as “Oplan Palutang” (“flotilla protest”) will also be conducted in San Fernando City in La Union, Legazpi City in Albay, Sorsogon City in Sorsogon, Cebu City, Iloilo City in Iloilo, Bacolod City in Negros Occidental and General Santos City in Sarangani province.
“The weeklong protest in fishing grounds across the country is in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for ‘communal action’ against this ruling regime of greed,” the militant group added.