THE influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) does not support the call made by some bishops for President Benigno Aquino 3rd to step down over the massacre of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
CBCP President and Lingayen- Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, however, said the President should learn from the tragic incident.
While recognizing the fact that calls for the resignation of the President have snowballed in the wake of outrage and grief over the sad fate of the “Fallen 44,” Villegas on Wednesday said the CBCP currently has no collective position on the issue of Aquino’s resignation
“Some members of the Philippine Catholic hierarchy have echoed these calls. For the present time, the CBCP has not arrived at a collective position. Whether or not the President should resign and yield the powers of his high office to a lawful successor is a judgment that he must make, after prayerful discernment, and in all humility and judiciousness,” the bishop noted in a statement.
“We do not yet have all the facts. In fact, we have been given conflicting accounts of what really happened. But one thing should be clear: We must not lay the blame on those who already paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for they were never in a position to command but, true to the culture of the police and the military, stood ready to receive orders,” he said.
“The President of the Republic, the CBCP prays, should have learned from this regrettable tragedy that transparency and forthrightness are what are expected of him at all times. It will serve him well to listen to sound advice and counsel from the truly wise, and not from those eager to curry favor. He has been roundly criticized for having absented himself at the arrival honors for the mortal remains of our heroes.
He will, in the future, we hope, make better-balanced choices and conduct himself as his high office demands. We pray that in all humility he would willingly accept just criticism rather than have his spokespersons concoct excuses at every turn,” Villegas added.
He said the CBCP is endorsing the creation of a “Truth Commission” or fact-finding body that will put together the real accounts of the events and determine who are responsible for the carnage.
“But we must get at the facts. That is why the CBCP fully supports and endorses the creation of a credible Truth Commission or a fact-finding body. Any inquiry by a police body, such as the Board of Inquiry, no matter how veridical its findings, will be weighed down by lingering doubts about its preparedness to point to liability, no matter how high up the chain of command attribution must go. Subordinate officers, whether in the police or in the military, after all seldom point accusingly at superiors.
An investigation by Congress is likewise compromised by the political allegiances of most of its members,” Villegas added.
He, however, warned that for the investigative body to be credible, its members must be acceptable to the public.
“The CBCP therefore strongly suggests that the members of any such committee, though appointed by the President, must be endorsed by and acceptable to the public, recognized for their probity, acknowledged for their truthfulness and characterized by their boldness. The vocal advocates for the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law are not credible nominees because they have made it exceedingly clear that they would not like the sad incident to derail the process of the enactment of the BBL. It is as important that the hearings of the body be open to all, and that its findings be available to all. Nothing is served by secrecy,” Villegas said.