BISHOP Juan de Dios Pueblos, 74, of the Diocese of Butuan, passed away on Saturday evening at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Greenhills North, San Juan, where he had been confined for leukemia for the past one month and 20 days. Together with some friends from the National Transformation Council, I visited him on Thursday evening, and found him asleep, breathing under an oxygen tank. We were received by Father Carlito Clase, who worked very closely with the bishop, and some diocesan staff from Butuan, who were in attendance. His remains now lie in state at the Loyola Memorial Chapel at Guadalupe, but are expected to be flown later to Butuan, where he had been bishop for the past 22 years. Details will be announced later.
Born in Moto Sur in Loon, Bohol, the late bishop was ordained priest in 1969, and spent the next 17 years in various pastoral and educational assignments. In 1985, he was made auxiliary to Archbishop (now Emeritus) Fernando Capalla in Davao, but was soon made titular bishop of the diocese of Zaba and then Bishop of Kidapawan, where he stayed for eight years. He was well-loved by his priests and parishioners and known for his love of the poor.
Three noble deaths
He was the third moral and spiritual leader of the NTC to pass away in two weeks. Fr. Romeo “Archie” Intengan, S.J., former Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus and moral theology professor at the Loyola School of Theology, passed away on October 10 and was buried on October 14; and Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, died on October 18 and will be interred at the Cebu cathedral’s mausoleum on Thursday morning. Meantime, his remains have been transfered from the Cebu metropolitan cathedral to the St. Pedro Calungsod Shrine.
These deaths have left the NTC with a great loss, but instead of simply grieving that loss, the NTC has decided to draw inspiration and strength from these three noble deaths by reissuing the call for national transformation, which was first launched at the Lipa assembly on August 27, 2014, under their combined leadership, together with the other surviving leaders. The NTC believes that the need for transformation has grown far more urgent today than under the Aquino administration. The problems have not remained the same; some have simply grown much more life-threatening than before.
I would like us to compare the present and the recent past, by simply going back to the Lipa Declaration. I had the privilege of presiding over the assembly, and this is what we said then:
The 2014 Lipa Declaration
“We are Filipino citizens of different personal, professional, social and economic backgrounds, and political persuasions and beliefs. We have gathered here in Lipa City on this 27th day of August AD 2014/2nd day of DHU AL-QA’DA A.H. 1435 under the auspices of the National Transformation Council to reaffirm our deeply held convictions and beliefs about the common good and our highest national interests, in the face of the most pressing challenges.
“We invite all our compatriots everywhere to reaffirm with us the same convictions and beliefs.
“We believe that:
“A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very political forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations;
“Unbridled and unpunished corruption and widespread misuse of political and economic power in all layers of society have not only destroyed our common concept of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, legal and illegal, but also put our people, especially the poor, at the mercy of those who have the power to dictate the course and conduct of our development for their own selfish ends;
“Far from preserving and defending the Constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process. President Aquino 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 beings at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the Constitution but above all of the moral law, customs, culture and consciences of Filipinos.
Call to resign
“Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that President B.S. Aquino 3rd has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and has become a danger to the Philippine democratic and republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.
“We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President B.S. Aquino 3rd and call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.
“We call upon the National Transformation Council to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form, before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal conditions.
“The role of the Council will not be to succeed President Aquino, but solely to prevent the destruction of our political system, and to rebuild and nourish its institutions back to health so that all those interested could join the political competition later, without the dice being loaded in anyone’s favor.
“Like a crew whose task it is to put everything in order before a commercial carrier, which had earlier developed some problems in midair, is cleared again for takeoff, the Council’s duty will be only to repair the battered tripartite system and to make sure that the people are once again able to freely and intelligently elect their own leaders.
“In this connection, we welcome the Council’s proposal to open broad public consultations on the need to modify and strengthen the presidential system or shift from the unitary/presidential system to a federal/parliamentary system, endowing such structure with:
“*A totally independent judicial department, free from any kind of intimidation or bullying either by the Executive or the Legislative department, and with the sufficient wherewithal to clear the backlog of the courts and fast-track all bases;
“*A merit-driven, professional civil and military service;
“* Totally transparent government budgeting, procurement, disbursement, accounting and auditing systems and procedures; and,
“*An irreproachably independent and completely dependable electoral system, free from the virus that corrupted the Automated Voting System since 2010.
“Whatever the final form of government the citizenry decide to adopt, absolutely indispensable are the integrity of the courts, and the existence of an incorrupt electoral system by means of which we, the people, are able to freely and intelligently choose our own leaders in free and honest elections. Without these, we cannot speak of a normally functioning democratic government.
“Thus we fully support the Council’s position that until we have such a fraud-free electoral system, we should refrain from holding any farcical election. But once we have it, we should encourage the best qualified men and women to participate in the open electoral process so that together, we could put an end to the stranglehold exercised by the corrupt and incompetent political dynasties upon our elections.
“Finally, we support the Council’s proposal that with political reform there must go hand in hand comprehensive economic reform. With one strong voice we must now say a vigorous ‘No’, as Pope Francis has suggested, to an economics of exclusion and inequality, coming from a misguided vision of the human being and of society, harmfully acted upon through myopic laws, policies and programs.
“As the Council prepares to embark upon the necessary reforms, we call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the constitutional ‘protector of the people and the State’ to extend its protective shield to the Council, and not to allow any armed group to sow violene, disorder or discord within its peaceful ranks.”
Except for the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte has not been involved in manipulating any automated election or in bribing members of the Congress to impeach and remove a sitting Chief Justice, the name “President B. S. Aquino 3rd” could be easily substituted with DU30, and the Declaration would stand. But the extra-judicial killings, and DU30’s unprintable language, which replaces reasoning and argumentation whenever he is peeved, would make Aquino’s offenses appear as child’s play, and the need for DU30 to remove himself even more urgent.
A prophecy fulfilled
At the worst periods of the Aquino presidency, the apparent consensus was that it was the worst presidency we ever had. When DU30 took over after getting 38 percent of all the votes counted, I asked my NTC friends what would happen if the “Noynoying” presidency turned out to be better than the next one? They thought it wasn’t even funny, and that I should be ashamed of myself. Now they blame me for the “prophecy.”
While BS Aquino 3rd was totally unprepared for the presidency, he was not at all vile nor uncouth, and never showed such bloody contempt for human life. Like DU30, he also liked to shoot, but he only shot at inanimate objects during target practice. DU30 on the other hand wants to make us believe that he has actually shot and killed people and continues to warn his adversaries he would be happy to shoot them to death. His worst offense is not that he seems to regard the presidency as his plaything, but that he seems to believe he has acquired the right to decide who should live or who should not.
He seems completely unaware that human existence rests on certain immutable truths, and that we can go on quarreling with one another on any issue so long as these truths are respected. But when the jungle roar of power usurps the call of reason and the rule of law, and the most basic truths are routinely cast aside in favor of the smallest lies, we have to worry not only about our basic rights and liberties, but above all about our physical survival as homo sapiens. This is the situation our departed NTC friends had wanted to spare the country from. That’s why I honestly believe that in their honor it is right and just that we relaunch the Lipa Declaration now.