President B. S. Aquino 3rd swiftly reacted to the August 27 Lipa Declaration calling for his immediate resignation by announcing that he will no longer push for a constitutional amendment to allow him to seek a second term.
That is not nearly half as good as his resignation, or a solemn pledge that he will do everything now to make sure the next election does not merely become a cheap rerun of the 2010 and 2013 “hocus PCOS” operations using Smartmatic’s precinct count optical scan machines.
But it shows that despite appearances to the contrary, PNoy is not, after all, immovable in the face of an irresistible force. This should encourage the National Transformation Council to press on.
My earlier piece (“Will Cardinal Chito and Archbishop Soc talk to Aquino?”) has provoked some interesting reactions from friends. One wanted to know if the Council was not playing footsies with the idea of a theocracy by having so many bishops, pastors and imams as its corps of moral and spiritual advisers. |
Another wanted to know, pointedly, what makes it right for some bishops to demand Aquino’s resignation now when, except for now-Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and now-Archbishop Soc Villegas, they thought it was wrong to ask then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign in July 2005.
These deserve to be answered at once.
Not all the bishop supporters of the Council were in Lipa last week. Aside from Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, Bishop Juan Pueblo de Dios of Butuan, Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez of Manila, and Bishop Emeritus Salvador Quizon of Batangas, a number of other bishops had intended to attend, but had run into scheduling problems.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, a former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, like Vidal and Capalla, found himself at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Virac, and the 40th episcopal ordination anniversary of Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra instead, along with 10 other bishops, some of whom had earlier intended to go.
(Bishop Sorra is a very dear friend, and Virac is my original diocese, but because of the Lipa Assembly, where I was asked to preside, I could not be there for this important celebration.)
The same thing happened to the Evangelicals. Many more had intended to join Protestant Bishop Hilario Gomez Jr. of Iligan, Baptist Bishop PioTica (not Teotica as previously reported) and Pastor Arthur Corpuz of the United Church of Manila and their companions, but failed to do so for various reasons.
Despite the impressive size of the Muslim delegation, not all those who had wanted to come were able to do so because of certain travel-related problems. Those from Maguindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula and other parts of Western Mindanao were led by Datu Benjie Andong, Noreen Palloy, Ed Kabalu, and Bai Estrella A. Babanu of the Bangsamoro Transformation Council, while those from Lanao were led by the charismatic former Mayor Omar Solitario and Amer Sarangani, one of most highly respected Arabic-educated religious leaders from the area.
So while the Council hopes that eventually the entire hierarchy of the Philippine Catholic Church, the Evangelical churches and the Muslim community would fully support its program, it is not yet there. The Council believes that the restoration of the country’s strong moral and spiritual foundations is indispensable to recovering its sense of the common good, which needs to be understood better and by more people.
Theocracy refers to a country ruled by religious leaders. Saudi Arabia and Iran would be the most obvious examples. These are not models the Council intends to follow, in its proposed reforms.
In a power point presentation to the assembly, Father Romeo J. Intengan, S. J., who teaches moral theology at the Loyola School of Theology, underlined the common good as the total set of conditions of societal life that facilitates the fullness of life blessings for every individual and group within the society. These include spiritual and material welfare, liberty, equality, participation, solidarity and integrity of creation.
For the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—the purpose of God, for all his creatures, is their flourishing in the fullness of life blessings: the promotion of the fullness of these blessings is thus the ethical goal of societal life. Even secular humanists—atheists and agnostics—accept human flourishing as their ethical goal, Intengan pointed out.
“God’s glory is the human being fully alive.” This happens when men and women are guided by the knowledge of God’s plan for their fulfillment. Society fosters the fullness of life of its members by promoting the common good. But when the societal systems are damaging rather than promoting the common good, the members of the society have the moral obligation to change the systems so that society can be transformed for the good, Intengan said.
This is what is happening to Philippine society today. Therefore, national transformation is urgently needed. But while the Council believes moral and spiritual guidance is indispensable in bringing about radical change, it is irrevocably committed to a secular and pluralistic society, and rejects any shade of theocracy as strongly as it rejects any form of state religion.
Now, what makes it so right for the Lipa bishops and religious to demand Aquino’s resignation today when they did not think it was right for them to demand Arroyo’s resignation in 2005?
Under Archbishop Capalla’s presidency of the CBCP, and in response to the political developments at the time, the bishops went into an intense period of discernment and came out with varying appreciation of the options open to them in the light of the Gospel. Not a single bishop could say resignation was the only morally correct choice at the time.
So the 85 bishops gathered under CBCP concluded by saying, “In a spirit of humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision that we do not demand her (Arroyo’s) resignation. Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others. For we recognize that non-violent appeals for her resignation, the demand for a Truth Commission and the filing of an impeachment (complaint) are not against the Gospel.”
In contrast, the bishops and religious in Lipa believed that the 2010 and 2013 elections, which were conducted by the foreign private company Smartmatic rather than solely by the Commission on Elections, which has the exclusive authority and power to conduct elections, were illegal and fraudulent, and that such conclusion is no longer speculative and controvertible. This has been exacerbated by Aquino’s corruption of Congress and his culpable violation of the Constitution and related offenses.
Therefore they believe his resignation is demanded not only by the assembly but above all by the Gospel. As Archbishop Arguelles put it in his address, Aquino “must resign now,” to which the assembly roared in agreement, “now na,” meaning this very instant.