Monday, February 25, 2008

Catholic Church divided on oust PGMA move

After a weeklong brouhaha on the ZTE-NBN scandal, where Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada was made an instant celebrity, nothing much had transpired but the usual pockets of rallies, the biggest of which was the one held at the Makati City commercial district where an estimated crowd of at least 10,000 people attended.

Some concerned people have commented that unless some elements in the military and the police will lend support to the efforts being made by the ralliests, the true spirit of another People Power will just fissle out. From the point of view of the experts, the move to oust President Arroyo will only prosper if the Catholic Church and other religious groups like the El Shaddai and the Jesus Is Lord Movement (JIL), who have at least 10 million members nationwide, will come together to heed the call of other civil society groups to join them.

But the expectations that JIL leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva would allow his millions of members to hit the streets on the anniversary of EDSA People Power, in partnership with other cause-oriented groups. On the contrary, the show of force came not much from the religious groups, but between the left-leaning organizations led by Bayan Muna and the pockets of rallies conducted by pro-administration leaders in the local governments.

And the question filled the air as to why the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines was not united in its stance to rally behind the people who were calling for the ouster of President Arroyo, whose husband was allegedly involved in the anomalous multi-million ZTE-NBN boradband deal? Along with First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos was fuming hard when Lozada broke his silence and corroborated Joey de Venecia's earlier allegations that Abalos indeed negotiated the broadband deal by deliberately overpricing the project by as much as US$130 million.

Going back, the people who are already tired of these shenanigans in government thus jeopardizing the delivery of basic services to where they are supposed to be, can only wonder at the gravity of suspicions that the Catholic bishops may have different views on how the oust movement initiaves could be undertaken. Or it could be that some of them have benefitted in one way or another from government donations which benefitted either their diocess or their pockets?

Running priest Father Robert Reyes has admitted during a live morning broadcast interview that some of the bishops and priests are accepting financial donations from some top government officials whenever they ask for them to fund certain projects of the Church. He himself was offered during the time of President Cory Aquino some thousands of pesos. But according to him, he declined the offer of donations from these public officials.

In the previous People Power movements, then Jaime Cardinal Sin would get out of his way to urge the people to go out and join the mass protests. A clear manifestation to this was the ouster of then President Marcos and his family and that of President Joseph Estrada, who voluntarily stepped down after pressures from then AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes.

It is unfortunate that there's nobody to placate what the late Cardinal Sin had done to rally behind the people anymore, Father Reyes lamented. And probably, he doesn't know either as to who among the members of the CBCP would duplicate the guts and the nerves shown by the late Cardinal Sin, especially at this time when the country's direction is heading down the drain.

A large number of people are aware that the military and the police are not solid in their support for the embattled administration. But how many of these military and police officials are benefitting from the largesse of the administration, at the expense of the rank-and-file's quality of life suffering in limbo. As one Filipino columnist said, the ranking officials of the military and the police are nothing without the full support of their lowly subordinates. Which is true, but still many of these lowly subordinates are perhaps, adamant to go for it because they feel that once the oust movement fails to prosper, their jobs are surely in peril.

Along the rank-and-files of the armed forces and the police, the millions of national and local government employees are also pissed off with what is going on right now. But they have remained in the sidelines because they knew from the heart that holding jobs as public servants is all they have. Losing their jobs at the height of economic problems would mean more hungry stomachs for their families who greatly depend on them for survival.

Now the political situation in the Philippines can be compared to someone attempting to cross a balancing pole to reach the other end of the line. Unless the people are ready and willing to take the risks, the move to oust President Arroyo from Malacanang Palace is nothing but a wishful thinking. At this moment, the bottom line and the priority is no doubt security for the families. This is a typical reaction that Filipinos have considering the situation that they are in since the country got its independence from foreign powers. Perhaps, they think that only the politicians and the influentials are benefitting from the mass efforts in the end. After all, why bother?
In developed countries, this kind of thinking doesn't hold water.

Why? Because citizens of developed countries couldn't care less and they are assured of the basic services that they are supposed to get on a regular basis. For example, in America, ordinary or unemployed persons can always go to the Salvation Army to ask for food and clothings. For financial assistance, they can always seek welfare funds from the government. And there are other civic organizations that do the same on a regular basis. If the Philippines has this kind of established system, there is no doubt that the people will not have second thoughts to join the rallies. That's why the politicians always prefer that the people continue to suffer and subservient to the mandate of those who are in power, especially during the time of elections.

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