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
The Philippines Transparency and Accountability Council (PTAC), an independent people’s council would like to invite you to a Conference on Ethical Governance on November 23, 2007, from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM at the Penthouse, UP Law Center, Quezon City.
Most Rev.Luis Antonio Tagle, Bishop of the Elepano will be the keynote speakers. A workshop will follow in the afternoon. and Court Administrator Zenaida N.
PTAC is a gathering of non-partisan and independent minded individuals acting as a point of initiative to create public focus on the issue of corruption. It also aims to promote the people’s call for genuine democratic governance as the long lasting solution to this problem.
The conference aims to gather individuals, sectors, organizations and groups to come up with timely resolutions and concrete actions that will somehow address the systemic and endemic problem of graft and corruption which continuous to reach an alarming proportion.
It is a big challenge to us Filipinos to take a decisive and sustained action. The conference is a step towards working for the moral upliftment of our nation. Your participation will be greatly appreciated.
Most Rev. Deogracias Iniguez, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of Kaloocan
Antonio Tujan, Jr.
Director, IBON International
Latest results of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) indicate that Filipino families are getting poorer. But while this could be partially compensated by increasing public expenditures for social services, resources are being diverted to debt servicing or lost to corruption.
According to IBON executive editor Rosario Bella Guzman , corruption results in loss of government revenues going to private pockets that could have been used to provide the poor of basic social services.
The ZTE’s reported of US$130 million-overprice (roughly P5.9 billion), for example, could have been used to increase the subsidy of government hospitals catering to indigent patients. Guzman said that the overprice is enough to provide for the operating costs of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for five years, serving 70,000 indigent outpatients per year.
She added that the amount can also hire 2,889 public school teachers and pay for their salary for one year. The Department of Education estimated the backlog of teachers at 2,733.
Guzman said the unabated corruption allegations against the Arroyo administration are made even more scandalous because of the worsening poverty and income inequality in the country. Based from the 2006 FIES and government’s family living wage, poverty increased to 86% in 2006 from 82% in 2003