The heat is on. From Lipa, Batangas on August 27 to Cebu City on Wednesday, Oct. 1, the assembly convened by the National Transformation Council has pursued its call on President B. S. Aquino 3rd to step down.
Not only has he sinned and continues to sin against the Constitution, there is also a growing belief that he was not really elected in 2010 but merely put in office by The call was first made in the Lipa Declaration, which said Aquino had lost the moral right to lead the nation and become a danger to the Philippine democratic and republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual wellbeing of the Filipino people. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, who hosted the Lipa assembly, said Aquino must quit immediately—“now na”—-before we lose everything.
In Cebu, the call became much sharper. And Archbishop Arguelles’s message, much stronger. The assembly called on the Council to “pursue all necessary and available lawful means to compel President Aquino to step down at the soonest possible time” and “to immediately organize an alternative government, consisting of men and women of integrity and proven worth, in order to assure the nation and the international community that President Aquino’s removal and the prosecution and imprisonment of every culpable member of the government for corruption will not create a political vacuum.”
A wide-ranging national situationer by Cebuano PhilStar columnist and talk TV host Bobit Avila and two riveting presentations by two young citizen leaders helped to sustain the energy level of the 500-strong assembly during the afternoon-long session at Mariner’s Court near Pier One. Avila found it ironic that Aquino, whose late father and mother had fought Ferdinand Marcos’s authoritarian rule, would now like to fiddle with the Constitution so he could stay longer in power, “Marcos-style.”
Greco Belgica, the lead petitioner before the Supreme Court against the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program, showed how the Aquino regime has until now completely disregarded the High Court’s order to government prosecutors to file criminal charges against all those involved in the misuse of the PDAF and the DAP, both of which it had declared unconstitutional.
He called on the Council to lead the people in filing criminal charges against all the senators and congressmen, members of the Executive Department, and the Commission on Audit for their crimes, and in making sure that all of them vacate their respective positions.
Former Biliran Rep. Glen Chong for his part showed how the 2010 and 2013 national elections were thoroughly manipulated to produce “machine-elected” officials, who also turned out to be corrupt and incompetent beyond measure. Chong lost his seat in the last elections because of the PCOS manipulation. His presentation showed the futility of holding elections in 2016, unless the Commission on Elections and the present PCOS-based automated voting system were totally abolished and replaced by a truly credible electoral system.
Aside from the grievances highlighted by Belgica and Chong, the assembly flayed the Aquino regime for failing to consult adequately with the various constituencies and stakeholders in Mindanao on the proposed creation of a separate political entity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This has provoked so much political tension in the area and rendered it vulnerable to Islamist extremism.
The assembly also slammed Malacanang for the unresolved electric power crisis and Aquino’s demand for emergency powers as his solution to the problem, the corruption in the Philippine National Police leadership and PNP chief Alan Purisima’s refusal to resign despite copious charges of corruption and unexplained wealth, and the unreasonable and arbitrary taxes on the poor, including the smallest sari-sari store owners and sidewalk vendors, on the various professions and on all religious institutions.
In addition to prosecuting virtually the entire officialdom for corruption and overhauling the electoral system, the assembly called on the Council to conduct extensive consultations in Mindanao to obtain an authentic consensus on how to solve the long-festering intercultural problem there, free from any unwarranted foreign intervention; to support efforts to inform the public about the utter futility of elections so long as the electoral system remained the same; to help citizens resist unjust and unreasonable taxation; to help clean up the PNP; and to help craft a comprehensive strategy on energy development, biased in favor of the general public rather than the power generation, transmission and distribution sectors.
It was the first time that any group openly called for the setting up of an “alternative government.” A “government in waiting” or a “shadow government” is a normal feature of parliamentary government, but not of the presidential system. In the present case, however, the proponents deemed it necessary to preclude the possibility of a vacuum arising in case Aquino steps down, and should the same opposition to Aquino confront those in the line of presidential succession. It should also prevent Aquino from saying that he just could not step down now because nobody would take over.
But it remains to be seen how the Council would respond to this proposal. Since its founding in Cebu three years ago, the Council has refrained from disclosing the identity of its members. Under its rules, members may divulge their own membership but not that of anybody else. And its declared policy is not to try to succeed Aquino, whom it wants out, but simply to fix the system so that the rule of law and the constitutional order could be restored, and the nation could finally begin to hold clean and honest elections once the electoral system has been made credible.
Arguelles called the Aquino government a “criminal regime,” which was also “anti-God, anti-Filipino, anti-life, and anti-Constitution.” It must go now for the good of all, he said. We need it, if we are to regain our status as a God-centered nation.
Unlike the Lipa assembly, which was formally hosted by Archbishop Arguelles, the Cebu assembly did not have official episcopal participation. Archbishop Jose Palma was still in Rome and could not make it to the assembly, although he sent a message welcoming the meeting.
Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, the archbishop emeritus of Cebu, who was also present in Lipa, presided over the Holy Mass in honor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, which opened the event. He led the delegation of bishops, but having retired in 2011, his participation did not carry any official color.
The other bishops included Arguelles, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan and Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, whose delayed flight to Cebu from Manila, after arriving on the same day from the United States, enabled him to catch up just the tail-end of the meeting.
Bishop Pio Tica and Pastor Arthur Corpuz led the participants from the Protestant sector, while Eid Kabalu, former spokesman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and now vice chairman of the Bangsamoro Transformation Council, led the Islamic delegation.
The cardinal clarified to the assembly the role of the Catholic Church in the Council. He had earlier played a central role in two previous regime changes. In 1986, as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, he issued the CBCP statement saying Marcos had lost his moral ascendancy after the highly controversial snap presidential elections. And in 2001, he advised the then besieged President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to avoid bloodshed for the sake of the people and to peacefully vacate Malacañang.
This time he said,“the political dysfunctions we are witnessing… are mere symptoms of a more profound moral and spiritual crisis,” for which the entire nation must find a cure. “Although priests and pastors should not get involved in partisan politics, they must launch into the deep and help resolve the moral crisis, and all its political manifestations and consequences,” he said.
There was no mention of the role of the Armed Forces in compelling Aquino to quit. But in Lipa, the Assembly called on the AFP, as the constitutional protector of the people and the State, to protect the Council from any repressive action from the Aquino government. There has been no perceptible reaction from the AFP.
But many, if not most, members of the Council are confident that the AFP as an institution will always act on the side of the people rather than on the side of a “criminal regime.”