Palace downplays clergy revolt
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang downplayed yesterday the reported plan of the Catholic clergy to join a revolt if there is a failure of elections this year.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said that the statement coming from Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez was clear, that some members of the clergy may participate in the protest but it does not mean the entire Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) would take part.
“There is one bishop who said that some clergy may participate in the protest. I’m not sure you can say that this bishop is the entire CBCP and that all clergy and even most of them will be participating,” Saludo said.
The Palace has repeatedly stated that there would be no failure of elections and that there was no basis to think this would happen at all.
The Commission on Elections had assured the people that the polls would be held as scheduled on May 10.
Talks of a failure of elections came about after several events and statements made over the past two weeks were linked to the opposition’s fears that President Arroyo intends to extend her stay in power beyond June 30.
Mrs. Arroyo’s absence during the graduation rites of the Philippine National Police Academy in Cavite coupled by a statement from deputy presidential spokesperson Charito Planas that a military takeover of the government is possible if there is a failure of elections, fueled speculations.
The President’s snubbing of the PNPA’s graduation rites was seen to signal her supposed displeasure with Verzosa for saying that he would not support any illegal moves to install her as holdover president if ever there is a failure of elections.
The appointment of Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, a former head of the Presidential Security Group, has added to the speculations because of his being close to the President.
Now the Supreme Court has also ruled in favor of allowing Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice, adding yet more grist to the mill.
Members of the opposition have appealed the ruling of the Supreme Court, primarily because of fears that by allowing Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice, the Court would most likely rule in favor of the administration if ever the President would be installed as holdover in the event of failed elections.
Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya clarified that the CBCP Plenary or its Permanent Council are the only bodies that could issue a statement if the Catholic bishops would join a revolt, in case the elections fall through.
Villena, a member of the CBCP Permanent Council, issued a statement contradicting an earlier pronouncement of Bishop Iniguez, the CBCP-Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairman.
Iniguez said last Wednesday that some bishops might participate in protests if there would be a failure of elections and no new president is proclaimed. But he clarified, that it would still be up to his brother bishops to make decisions on their own.
Villena said: “It is the CBCP in Plenary that can make such statement. In the absence of the Plenary, it is only the Permanent Council that can make such statements. No CBCP commission can make official statements in behalf of the CBCP.” Villena is a known Arroyo supporter.
Instead of thinking up possible doomsday scenarios that would disrupt the May 2010 elections, the prelate of Nueva Vizcaya suggested to the media, public and the private sector to help in the education and information dissemination on poll automation.
“We are sowing seeds of fear when we allow ourselves to be conduits of this unfounded news. Let us be very prudent and careful when we are tempted to repeat and multiply this bad news in our circle of influence, in our family and in our community. We appeal that we must extend a solid and urgent stop to this irresponsible, damaging and detrimental spread of this scary and threatening bad news,” he said. With Evelyn Macairan