CEBU Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and six other members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), along with leaders of other Christian denominations, have demanded the resignation of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose government they described as “morally evil.”
“The Church and her pastors must never abandon their duty to denounce evil and to guide men, women and children in their active search for the truth and the good. Moral evil must be removed from the political and social system. This task, the Church and the political community cannot just leave them in the hands of politicians, no matter how virtuous they might be,” a joint statement released by the group said.
Vidal and the other Church leaders made the call following the Mamasapano massacre even as the CBCP as a body has yet to come up with an official stand on mounting calls for the President to resign.
The Catholic and non-Catholic religious leaders articulated their call in a joint statement as members of the National Transformation Council (NTC), saying that their plea echoes the sentiment of the majority of the Filipino people.
“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 National Transformation Council has strongly articulated that the President step down. Recent developments have made the call even more urgent and imperative,” the group said.
“In our honest desire to protect our people from further degeneration, disasters and armed conflicts, we strongly demand that the whole government step down so our country can transform through a new and fresh start. Let the NTC, in a caretaker capacity, embrace the responsibility of forming a new government in a new system and context,” it added.
The NTC pointed out that the Mamasapano incident was the summit of Aquino’s series of blunders and mishandlings that reveals the “subterfuge of illegal, unconstitutional and immoral foundation” of his regime.
It claimed that Aquino’s continued stay in power would only endanger further the lives of the Filipinos and adversely affect the moral landscape of the nation.
What the country needs, it stressed, are outstanding leaders with unquestionable honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.
Moreover, the religious leaders underscored that theirs is the challenge to answer the “call of our Christian faith and life,” urging Filipinos to let go of their comfort zones, go to the peripheries, and find the poor, the powerless, the marginalized and the neglected.
“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 group added.
The NTC clarified, though, that it is not a party or wishes to be part of any plot to destabilize or forcefully oust the President through a coup d’ etat.
Malacañang, for its part, has said that it respects the opinion of the NTC but maintained that the president is committed to finishing his term until 2016.
Joining Cardinal Vidal were Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Naval Bishop Filomeno Bactol, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, and Fr. Carlito Clase on behalf of Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.
Non-Catholic Christian communities were represented by Bishop Butch Belgica of the Christian Bishops of the Philippines and Pastor Arthur Corpus of the United Church of Manila.
Earlier, CBCP president Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said whether or not Aquino should resign and “yield the powers of his high office to a lawful successor is a judgment that he must make, after prayerful discernment, and in all humility and judiciousness.”
The CBCP chief also endorsed the creation of a credible Truth Commission or a fact-finding body, separate from the Board of Inquiry or any other government formed probe body so as not to compromise the objectivity of the investigation.