The call on President B. S. Aquino 3rd to step down as a result of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano, Maguindanao massacre has now become irreversible. It has taken hold of our people’s consciousness, and is now sweeping across the nation. In Cebu last Friday, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, archbishop emeritus of Cebu, flanked by Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Batangas, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, Bishop Filomeno Bactol of Naval, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, and a special representative of Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, plus some visiting leaders of non-Catholic Christian churches, read the latest statement reaffirming the moral validity of the call for PNoy’s immediate departure, in the light of the latest developments.
Of the bishops present, only Palma, who presided over the Holy Mass in honor of the Cardinal’s 84 birthday at his private residence, prior to the statement, has not endorsed the call. Many members of the Cebu clergy, however, are sympathetic to it.
Vidal’s statement was reported in banner headlines in all the Cebu dailies the next morning, and later featured as the number one breaking news on national television. Malacañang is now busy trying to say the Cardinal did not endorse the step-down call, as though it would change anything. This is wishful thinking.
The cardinal’s words were very clear. He said: “Various assemblies convened by the National Transformation Council have strongly advocated that the President should step down. We, the bishops of the Catholic and other Christian Churches, have often been asked if there is moral basis to this growing demand. Recent developments have made this call even more urgent and imperative.
“Gadium et Spes (The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) made it emphatically clear that ‘at all times and in all places, the Church should have the freedom to teach her doctrine and to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard the common good and fundamental rights and freedoms.’ 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 live in the hands of politicians, no matter how virtuous they might be.”
“We cannot be apathetic. In the face of attempts to glorify evil and undermine the life of grace,” the Cardinal recalled the words of Pope Francis to Filipinos during his apostolic visit. These words inspire us, the Cardinal said, to listen to God’s call to ‘pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it’ (Heb 2:1); to ‘approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb 4:16); and to struggle against sin, even to the point of shedding our blood (cf Heb 12:1-4). “
Former supporters now also see Aquino must step down
Even those who used to support Aquino blindly now seem convinced that by denying reinforcement to the Special Action Force police commandos, who were pinned down by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the President sent the fallen 44 to their deaths, and made himself not only totally unfit to remain sitting in Malacañang but also a grave danger to the nation. He has to step down. There can be no other way of providing a closure to this bloody episode, and allowing the nation to move on.
For us, citizens, we need to readjust our own perspectives now. For all intents and purposes, the Aquino regime is over, though not yet gone, and we must now begin thinking “post-Aquino.” We must begin planning our lives as a people not only under a new government but, if possible, also within a new system. The only remaining opposition to this seems to be coming from those who say we should not get rid of PNoy only to put Vice President Jejomar Binay in. The columnist Neal Cruz calls it “a cure worse than the disease,” and some others repeat it with some passion. But it is a false proposition.
Through a subcommittee of the Senate blue ribbon committee, three Senate attack dogs, some local politicians from Makati, and the flagship of Aquino’s conscript media, Malacañang and the ruling Liberal Party have been trying to destroy Binay as a prospective candidate in the next presidential elections. Their ultimate objective is not just to prevent him from winning in the next election, if there is one, but rather to prevent him from filing a certificate of candidacy altogether. Thus the conscript media have made the anti-Binay campaign their daily fare, until the papal visit temporarily interrupted, and the Mamasapano massacre headlines now seemed to have displaced it altogether.
The wrecked constitutional order must first be restored
But the real issue is not Binay’s right to run in the next election or to succeed Aquino if he vacates earlier. The real issue is the nation’s right to a functioning constitutional democratic order. If such an order exists, then Binay’s right to succeed Aquino, whatever his personal or political defects, can never be impugned. But if the constitutional order has been wrecked, and no longer works, then the law on presidential succession has also been abolished, and there is no longer any right to succession to invoke. The constitutional order must first be restored before we can talk again of presidential succession.
This has been the position of the National Transformation Council and other groups demanding PNoy’s removal from the very beginning. They do not believe the 2010 and 2013 elections, which put Aquino in power, were legitimate and honest elections. They do not believe they installed a de jure government. Both elections were illegally conducted by the Venezuelan service provider Smartmatic rather than by the Commission on Elections, which alone has the constitutional mandate to conduct elections. Smartmatic used the precinct count optical scan machine, after it had been illegally divested of all the security features and accuracy mechanisms needed to guarantee fair and honest elections. The actual data, repeatedly shown in numerous NTC public presentations, confirm this proposition.
Since both elections were illegitimate, and their results false, Aquino is no more than a de facto president, at the head of a de facto government. Thus the various general assemblies convened by the NTC in Lipa, Cebu, Butuan, Angeles City, Davao, General Santos since August of last year have repeatedly called for Aquino’s stepping down as the first requirement of regime and system change. Many others have since echoed this position. But none of them could ever be accused of wanting to remove PNoy just to install Binay or a single leader on top of the terribly conflicted political and constitutional system. They would all like to see the constitutional order fixed first, before they consider choosing a single national leader. This needs a thorough constitutional reform.
Until a superior idea manifests itself, the NTC would like to put together the best qualified men and women from the strategic sectors of the society to form a caretaker government, completely nonpartisan and transitional in character, and functioning as a council, that would first fix the constitutional structure, and all relevant constitutional processes and systems, beginning with the electoral system, before calling upon the voters to elect wise and honest government leaders in an absolutely free and honest election.
Those aspiring to lead the country through honest elections could become part of this process, simply by embracing its declared objectives and principles. But they cannot insist on holding another automated election in 2016 just because the Comelec has already signed its new midnight deal with Smartmatic in defiance of the massive citizens’ protest, or just because they have already made their own arrangements with the syndicate that will rig the next elections.
There is need for all the political players to now embrace the call for system change. Unless there is a real effort at such change, the public outcry against the regime will simply intensify even after Aquino is gone.
Police and military coup is a no-no
As a result of the presidential meltdown at Mamasapano, the police and the military have become critical factors in pursuing the desired constitutional change. They just cannot stand there in support of a venal and wicked officialdom that has lied barefaced to the nation and the world about Aquino’s true involvement and actual culpability in the bloody encounter that had caused the death of 44 brave young men who did not have to die. Neither can they initiate any action that would have the appearance of a police or military coup, no matter how justified it might appear.
But they could, and they should, enter into open dialogue with the NTC and the various other groups to make sure that whatever action the citizens decide to take could only enhance the nation’s drive for stability and peace. If the NTC and the other groups decide to declare that they have ceased to recognize the authority of the Aquino regime over their lives as citizens, the police and the military should be able to support such action, consistent with the constitutional principle that the Philippines is a democratic and republican state, that sovereignty resides in its people, and all government authority emanates from them. Thus if the citizens withdraw their recognition of the Aquino regime, the police and the military should similarly be able to withdraw their allegiance to, and support for the regime.