Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A week from today nation begins commemoration of 29th anniversary of Edsa uprising and stake-out of Cory Aquino in Cebu against the dictatorship. Last Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, Cebu was once again in historic limelight as leaders of various faiths led by Cardinal Vidal asked P-Noy to step down due to gross incompetence, duplicity and dishonesty---a prolonged winter of discontent that climaxed with barbaric slaying of 44 SAF troopers.

Last Friday, Feb.13, 2015, has to be marked as another red-letter day in church history as leaders of various faiths gathered once again  in Cebu City---by now a most historic site in our political life--- led by Cebu’s former Archbishop and former CBCP President Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. Interestingly, but not coincidentally perhaps as the Lord of History weaves various events in our national life, that gathering of multi-faith leaders occurred just a week and a half before the annual commemoration of the fateful anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, which broke out, again in Cebu City, with Cory Aquino as its central character.

It was an interesting incidence indeed,  but by no means a fluke of history, that last Friday, Feb. 13, was just a week and a half before the 29th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA Revolution on Feb. 25.


On Feb. 22, 1986, Cory Aquino brought to Cebu City the boycott movement against cronies of dictator Ferdinand Marcos that she launched days earlier at the Luneta. Later that evening, Cory was advised to seek refuge in the Carmelite Convent in that city. Earlier that afternoon, as fate would have it, Marcos' Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and PNP Commander Fidel Ramos broke away from the dictator and their mutiny, supported by Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, triggered the EDSA Revolution in the next few days that was to result in the installation of a revolutionary government by Cory Aquino.

Last Feb. 13, 2015, Catholic bishops and leaders of other faith communities supporting the National Transformation Council (NTC) gathered in the residence of Cardinal Vidal  in Cebu City to ask Benigno Aquino III---Cory's only son---to step down as president of this country, and the faith leaders stated many reasons for their quit-call on Aquino. This call was not an overnight development, for the harsh winter of Filipino discontent with the second Aquino administration had been brewing over the past four years through various controversies.


These included the manipulations of the PCOS machines by Comelec in the 2010 and 2013 elections, denounced by the most respected names in the local IT world but consistently ignored and belittled; the unconstitutional DAP employed to corrupt legislators on crucial decisions such as the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the vote of Congress on the RH Law;  the Napoles scandals involving the PDAF which have been manipulated to screen out allies of the current administration; the paralysis of action to rescue the poor and the homeless in Yolanda-devastated areas; the hopeless Metro Manila traffic and the MRT mess, congestion at the ports, etc. etc.

But the trigger of discontent was the barbaric slaying of 44 troopers of the PNP's elite Special Action Forces by MILF-BIFF forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25, which revealed the isolation of the Aquino leadership from the security bureaucracy and the ultimate in incompetence and duplicity. The botched Mamasapano operation also sadly contributed to the degeneration of the PNP and the unhealthy tension between it and the AFP. As the hearings in both chambers of Congress last week revealed, never has the relationship between the two security agencies of government sunk to intolerable levels of recrimination as now.

But this is nothing new, for the destruction of our various revered institutions has been evident in the past nearly five years, and many citizens have watched this development with dismay and helplessness. Now they are thoroughly disillusioned in an administration that once rode on the shining white horse of promise and incorruptibility.

From left to right: Pastor Arthur Corpuz of the United Church of Manila, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya Archbishop Ramon Villena, Cardinal Vidal (seasted), Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma

Aside from the personalities in photo no. 1, also seen at far right is Bishop Filomeno Bactol  of Naval, Biliran. Not in the photo but present at the gathering was Pastor Butch Belgica of the "Christ Bishops & Ministers of the Philippines" (CBMP), composed of 3000 churches and congregations across the country. Butuan Archbishop Juan de Dios Pueblos was unable to attend the Cebu gathering, but he was represented by Fr. Lito Clase.

Cardinal Vidal reads a part of the liturgy at birthday mass in his honor officiated by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma 

Last Jan. 25 in Cebu, members and supporters of the National Transformation Council (NTC) among the faith leaders of the country gathered together to express their strong sentiment against the continuance of the administration of President Aquino. Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who had been down with illness two months ago, seemed so miraculously strong last Friday as he celebrated his 84th birthday and read the statement of the NTC seeking Aquino's resignation. In His wisdom God apparently gave the Cebu Patriarch new-found strength to lead this crucial new moral and political battle.

Cardinal Vidal's statement is quoted here in full: 

"The National Transformation Council has strongly articulated that the President should step down. We, 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.

"Gaudium et Spes 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 leave 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, Pope Francis spoke to us as individuals and as a nation in these words.

“Today, the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, face the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions. As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitments to the common good. In this way, they will preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country. Thus will they be able to marshal the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.”

"The Pope’s words inspire us as we listen to the call of God 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). This is the challenge to answer the call of our Christian faith and life. We must let go of our comfort zones, go to the peripheries and find the poor, the powerless, the marginalized and the neglected.

"We appeal to our fellow bishops and religious leaders of faith-based communities to join us in praying to God for his guidance for the renewal of the nation that is deeply rooted in faith values, love of country and respect for human life and environment."

(Next: brief summations of the remarks of various faith leaders at the Cebu gathering; Not just regime change but systems change necessary).

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