AN inter-faith organization demanding the resignation of President Benigno Aquino 3rd for alleged incompetence has challenged Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima to file a case against them amid her pronouncement that the group’s activities are already bordering on criminal acts.
“If they are truly following the law, then apply the law,” Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, a member of the National Transformation Council (NTC), said on Tuesday.
De Lima earlier said the NTC may face legal charges for its activities aimed at removing Aquino from the presidency
According to her the NTC-led forums and conferences “can already be contemplated as conspiracies relating to sedition, rebellion or coup d’etat.”
Arguelles maintained though that they were not doing anything illegal, saying, “We are patriots defending our country, our Constitution and our people.”
Other prelates identified with NTC include 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.
On Feburary 13, the NTC came out with an official letter, which was personally 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 step down. Recent developments [had]made the call even more urgent and imperative,” the council said.
According to the NTC, the January 25 massacre of 44 SAF commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, was the peak of the Aquino administration’s continuous failure to meet expectations of and obligations to the people, 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,” it said.
But the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is yet to come out as a body with a collective decision on the matter even as CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has held the President and his advisers accountable for the Mamasapano incident.
Villegas has issued the “Oratio Imperata for Peace,” a liturgical action resorted to by the Church in times of great need or during calamities.
He said the situation, not just of the country but of the world, now calls on all bishops “to turn to the Lord in humble supplication and gather our people to pray.”
“As the nation continues to grieve over the tragedy in Mamasapano and the family of nations is threatened by war and terror from extremist groups, our best contribution to the nation and to the world is to encourage people to pray,” Villegas noted in the letter to all ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Philippines.
While the sole prerogative of issuing an Oratio Imperata belongs to individual dioceses, the CBCP head requested that bishops issue such prayer and gave a proposed formulary of the prayer to be prayed from March 1 to March 28, 2015 before the post-communion prayer in every Mass.
Even if projected mass protest rallies on February 22 fizzled out, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are constantly monitoring groups allegedly seeking Aquino’s resignation.
Col. Vic Tomas, deputy commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region (Metro Manila), the AFP’s anti-coup force, said all military units that are operationally controlled such as the Philippine Army, the Philippine Air Force, the Navy, the disturbance companies and platoons are on stand-by and are ready for deployment anywhere if there are anti-government forces that are planning to create trouble during celebration of the 1986 Edsa revolt anniversary today.
Multi-sectoral groups have disclosed plans to stage protest rallies in Edsa on Wednesday as part of their week-long call for Aquino to resign over his alleged mishandling of the anti-terrorist operation that led to the killing of 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force.
Tomas said the AFP and the PNP see the situation as very normal, proof of which is that the military and the police have not declared a red-alert status.
At least 500 soldiers will also be deployed to support the police in providing security coverage during the celebration.
WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN