A “word war” between Malacañang and members of the National Transformation Council (NTC) worsened on Thursday as both camps directly assailed each other over the latter’s renewed call for the resignation not only of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his Cabinet but all lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives as well.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. warned the group not to step over the boundaries of legitimate dissent as the government stands ready to have them charged for violation of the Revised Penal Code.
In a news briefing, Coloma said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s earlier warning should be enough to restrain the NTC from committing these possible violations.
“Gagawin ng pamahalaan ang nararapat para panagutin ‘yung mga lumalabag sa batas [The government will do everything in its power to make lawbreakers pay],” he added.
Coloma made the remarks after Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, a convenor of the NTC, taunted the government by saying he is not afraid to go to jail and that such would give him “great pleasure.”
The NTC also called on the entire Cabinet and all members of Congress to resign for they, too, it claimed, benefited from so-called pork barrel funds.
“It will be a great pleasure for me if I go to jail. Many of those in jail are innocent and still many of those guilty are there not because they are the only sinners but the greater sinners are free and are placed in government,” the prelate, who led the latest gathering of the council in Lipa City, Batangas, also on Thursday, said.
He insisted that their actions cannot be considered sedition or rebellion.
Earlier, de Lima blasted the NTC for “perverting the nation’s grief” over the death of 44 elite police commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province on January 25, saying the group is nothing but an “aggrupation of disgruntled GMA [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a former President] allies” and “opportunists” who want to sow “discord and division” among the ranks of the country’s military and police organizations.
Coloma said those behind the NTC should heed the warning so as not to get themselves into trouble.
He added that the Department of Justice “will do what is necessary based on existing laws.”
The official described the NTC’s actions as “off key,” explaining that the group seeks to reverse economic gains the country has achieved over the years.
Meanwhile, Arguelles said if the government considers “listening to the poor” as a seditious act, then he is willing to join the poor in jail in order to listen to what they think should be done for a better society.
The prelate scored de Lima for calling them “pro-GMA,” explaining that the NTC is a multisectoral group of those with various political and religious beliefs.
When asked for his message to the Justice chief, the bishop said he has none but reiterated that de Lima is among those who should step down.
Also on Thursday, a Church-based group described President Aquino as a “fool” for lacking wisdom in dealing with the massacre of the police commandos.
According to the Religious Discernment Group (CDG), a month after the carnage, the people only heard “very little wisdom but lots of foolishness” from the President.
“We the Religious Discernment Group call on President Aquino to speak the truth and take responsibility. Only then will the trust of the people in the government be restored and peace based on justice be achieved,” the RDG said in a statement signed by convenors Fr. Quirico Pedregosa Jr. and Sr. Patricia Fox.
The CDG has joined earlier calls made by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other Church-based and multi-ectoral groups, demanding a full and satisfactory accounting of the Mamasapano incident to Filipinos.