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CBCP : pursue the TRUTH!
may pag-asa pa! nawalan ng isa pang puwedeng pagtaguan si arroyo!
CBCP: Truth on wiretap scandal must be pursued
Bishops oppose No-El proposal
By Christian V. Esguerra
IN CLEAR and unmistakable language, influential Filipino bishops yesterday called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to pursue relentlessly the truth behind the Hello Garci controversy and to stop moves to call off elections next year.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the CBCP had observed a failure of political processes to make public servants accountable, citing the acts of evasion and obstruction in the Virgilio Garcillano wiretapping.
We recommend that the search for truth be relentlessly pursued through structures and processes mandated by law and the Constitution, the bishops said in one of two pastoral statements issued at the close of a three-day plenary in Manilas Pope Pius XII Center.
They did not really pursue the truth, said newly elected CBCP president Angel Lagdameo at a news conference, referring to the killing of the impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo by her majority allies in the House of Representatives in September last year. They stopped at technicalities.
The impeachment attempt was triggered by the release last June of wiretapped phone conversations purportedly between Garcillano, a former election commissioner, and Ms Arroyo. Opposition politicians said the recordings were evidence Ms Arroyo manipulated the 2004 presidential election.
Saying the President was acknowledging the CBCP statement with humility and an open mind, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Ms Arroyo was open to all just and fair means under the law to ferret out the truth surrounding all controversies affecting the presidency.
She wholeheartedly supports the renewal of our public life through moral values, national solidarity, the ascendancy of truth, the welfare of the poor and heroic Christian citizenship, Bunye said.
The CBCP plenary produced two statements -- on renewing our public life through moral values and on mining issues and concerns about claims of massive environmental damage and displacement of indigenous peoples in affected areas.
Said Ipil Bishop Antonio Ledesma, CBCP vice president: It is still a wide open search for truth and we do hope that with some moral orientation, we can really reach the bottom of this problem.
The root of the problem, the 119-member CBCP said, was a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace.
Truth has become a victim of political partisanship as well as of transactional politics, said the statement read by Archbishop Lagdameo of Jaro, Iloilo, to reporters at the news conference broadcast live by several radio stations. He said the statement was addressed to Ms Arroyo and all Filipinos.
The latest pastoral statement was ostensibly more to the point than the one issued last July at the height of the wiretapping controversy. The CBCP then said that it could not join mounting calls for the Presidents resignation but she should not dismiss those calls altogether.
The Churchs refusal to join the resignation calls and former President Fidel Ramos declaration of support for Ms Arroyo were largely credited for saving her administration last year from its worst political crisis since she came to power following the ouster of President Joseph Estrada.
The CBCP suggested that the search for truth be done through the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Commission on Human Rights, Sandiganbayan, Congress and citizens groups.
Need for probity
But it made clear that these bodies must first be led and run by credible people, persons of integrity and probity.
Last month, Ms Arroyos handpicked Consultative Commission recommended the scrapping of the 2007 elections to pave the way for the adoption of a federal-type parliamentary system in 2010.
On this issue, she has locked horns with Ramos who, while supporting the shift to parliamentary system to provide Ms Arroyo with a graceful exit amid a cloud of doubt over her legitimacy, has insisted that the balloting next year should proceed as scheduled.
Elections in 2007 should not be cancelled, the four-page CBCP statement said. But it said confidence and trust in our political processes have to be restored.
As a first step, we strongly urge our political leaders to undertake electoral reforms posthaste. The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach, the CBCP said.
Comelec resignation calls
The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral process, including the counting of votes, needs to be reformed and modernized before the next elections, it said.
Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos has rejected calls for his resignation, including one made recently by Senator Joker Arroyos blue ribbon committee over shenanigans in the commissions automation program.
Abalos has insisted he could only be removed through impeachment as provided for in the Constitution.
The CBCP agreed that certain aspects of the Constitution probably needed revision. But any changes, it said, should be made only after widespread discussion and participation among all stakeholders.
This is best done through a Constitutional Convention, it said. The reasons for constitutional change must be based on the common good rather than on self-serving interests or the interests of political dynasties.
Asked what action the Church would take if the President ignored the CBCPs calls, Lagdameo said: We will cross the bridge when we get there.
In resolving the political crisis, the bishops reiterated their call against any form of violence or counter-constitutional means. These measures would only bring about new forms of injustice, more hardships and greater harm in the future, they said.
Bunye said Malacañang was committed to implementing electoral reforms through concrete programs, appointments to the Comelec of people beyond reproach and "stern enforcement of the rules of suffrage.
He said the Palace supported full participation in all aspects of Charter change, transparency and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate.
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