LIPA CITY, Batangas: Hundreds of people from various walks of life, varying political persuasions and different religious beliefs rallied here on Wednesday and demanded that President Benigno Aquino 3rd step down because of his failure to deliver on his promises of clean government with two years left in his term.
In their Lipa Declaration, they stated, “[We] have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd, and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.”
“Far from preserving and defending the Constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process,” they said in a statement.
“President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has also damaged the moral fabric of Philippine Society by bribing members of Congress not only to impeach and remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice but also to enact a law which disrespects the right to life of human being at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the constitution but above all of the moral law, the customs, culture, and consciences of Filipinos,” they added.
The gathering gave birth to a National Transformation Council (NTC) that the rallyists said will stand up against the most pressing challenges facing the country and fight for the common good.
It started with a national situationer given by former senator Francisco Tatad, who also explained the role of the NTC under whose auspices the Lipa Declaration was drafted.
A program that followed included a discussion on the role in the transformation efforts of the Catholic Church given by Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, the role of the Muslim community given by Dr. Kamil Unda and the participation of the Protestant movement given by Rev. Arthur Corpuz.
Archbishop Fernando Capalla, a former chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the PhilippineS, also discussed the role of the Catholic Church in the transformation efforts, particularly the EDSA 2 experience, which saw the ouster of then-President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
The final call to action was given by Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who appealed to Filipinos to act now on the country’s economic and social ills and not wait until it is too late.
“We should not let the time go [to waste], otherwise we will be blamed in the future for failing to do something. It has always been in our history. We reform what needs to be reformed,” Arguelles said.
“Something has to be changed [and]that is why we are here today. Let us do something now,” he added.
Arguelles said it is not enough to change leaders as it is the system that needs to be changed.
The Lipa Declaration signed by those present at the rally welcomed the NTC’s proposal to open broad public consultations on the need to modify and strengthen the presidential system or to shift to a federal/parliamentary system to achieve a totally independent judicial department; a merit-driven, professional civil and military service; a totally transparent government budgeting and accounting system; and an irreproachably independent and dependable electoral system.
Among the signatories was the Alliance for Truth, Integrity and Nationalism or ATIN, whose convenor Ricardo Penson said the President “has lost his moral ascendancy” and “taken over the power of the purse” that he said rightfully belongs to Congress.
Among those present at the gathering were former Chief Justice Renato Corona and the President’s aunt, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco.
Corona said he attended the event to be one with all those calling for national transformation.
“We are here to show our support to any effort to institute reforms and to create something good for the country,” he added.
The former Chief Justice, however, refused to comment on the continuing battle between the executive and the judiciary.
Cojuangco explained her attendance: “I want to express sympathy for my country and there are certain things that have to be done and I’m here to join the group because I love my country.”
When asked for a message for his nephew, she said she can only say, “I don’t have a message for him because he believes he knows everything, so I have no message for him.”
Let him finish
Administration and opposition senators, however, believe that asking Aquino to resign will not be good for the country.
They said the President should be allowed to finish his term and continue the reform policy of his administration.
According to Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Aquino has done a lot of good things, especially in terms of good governance and social services, thus he should be allowed to finish his mandate.
“Besides, it wouldn’t be good for the country and our people to switch jockeys in the middle of the race,” Angara said.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito also sees no real reason for the President to step down, noting that it would bring more harm than good for the country.
According to him, Aquino should finish his term in order for him to pursue programs for the poor, create jobs and address the power problem.
Ejercito, however, said although he wanted the President to stay, it does not mean that he favors term extension for him.
He added that he will oppose any attempt to amend the Constitution that would lift the term limits of public officials.
Some members of the House of Representatives said calls for the President to step down are baseless.
Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo and Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite said they want Aquino to finish his term.
Deputy Majority Floor Leader Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list agreed.
The President “was elected by 15 million Filipinos. It is his duty to lead the country. Asking him to step down is baseless and merely the handiwork of destabilizers,” Tugna said in a text message.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello belittled the movement launched on Wednesday and said there is no way that Aquino will step down.
“The problem is these people will use any issue to discredit the administration’s reform program,” he said.