MORE members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) are set to join the National Transformation Council (NTC) to heap more pressure on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to step down and pave the way for the creation of a new government, a senior prelate said.
The NTC, an organization of Catholic bishops and leaders of other Christian denominations, has been calling for Aquino’s resignation over the botched Mamasapano operation that killed 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.
It counts among its members Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Naval Bishop Filomeno Bactol, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop-Emeritus Oscar Cruz on Tuesday said the NTC’s efforts to get the support of more Catholic bishops would bolster its campaign to pressure the President to relinquish his post.
“Yes, I believe more bishops are going to join the call for him to step down. I have no doubts about it, because it is clear that Aquino is growing more and more unpopular,” Cruz, a former president of the CBCP, noted.
He said aside from the seven bishops who have openly shown their disgust with the President, there are many others who are similarly frustrated with the way Aquino is running the affairs of the nation.
“As of now, they [NTC] are reaching out to the different dioceses. And I’m telling you, once the bishop in a particular diocese agrees to welcome them, that bishop will join the call [for Aquino’s resignation],” according to Cruz.
The NTC came out with an official letter on February 13, which was read by Cardinal Vidal, demanding the resignation of the President.
“We, bishops of the Catholic and other Christian churches, have often been asked if there is moral basis to this growing demand. Even long before the unfortunate events, the NTC has strongly articulated that the President should step down. Recent developments have made the call even more urgent and imperative,” it said.
According to the council, the January 25 massacre of 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, was the peak of the Aquino administration’s incompetence, and has made Aquino’s resignation “urgent and imperative.”
“With courage, we confront the seat of power and privilege. No doubt, the call on Mr. Aquino to step down is profoundly a moral issue that can no longer be ignored,” the NTC said.
Other religious leaders involved in the NTC include Bishop Butch Belgica of the Christian Bishops of the Philippines and Pastor Arthur Corpus of the United Church of Manila.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has held the President and his advisers accountable for the Mamasapano incident.
“Before we have all the facts, however, the CBCP cannot morally join in the calls for his resignation, leaving this decision to his humble and prayerful discernment of his capacity to lead and the support not only from officials of government but from members of Philippine society,” the CBCP president said.
Villegas reiterated on Tuesday that the CBCP is committed to the peace process and would oppose moves that would destabilize or bring greater suffering to Filipinos.
“The goal cannot be the cessation of hostilities at any cost, but a principled settlement of the dispute, and peace born out of truth, a commitment to social justice and adherence to the fundamental law of the land,” he said in an official statement.
“We hold it to be morally obligatory for the government and for the restive segments of Philippine society to search for the paths of peace,” he added.
“True peace cannot rest on deceit, the suppression of truth, and subterfuge, which only underscore the paramount importance of getting to the truth of the Mamasapano tragedy,” Villegas said.