Here's the complete article.
EVEN AS Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo were calling for “character change” among Filipinos instead of Charter change, operatives were moving among the crowd at the Rizal Park distributing flyers announcing that Sen. Franklin Drilon would give free foodstuffs to anyone who attended the rally.
When his attention was called to the flyers, by his driver and some of his staff who got their hands on the spurious material, the senator was driven to denounce the “dirty trick” that had been played to discredit him before the public and perhaps throw suspicion on the motives of everyone who came to Rizal Park last Sunday. “Obviously the call for character change is not going to affect these people at all,” the senator said, referring to the brains and financiers of this “black ops” tactic.
So when Malacañang spokespersons said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would heed the prelates’ call and conduct an examination of conscience to see how she might need to change her “character,” some sectors of the public could be forgiven for responding to this news with raised eyebrows. If she were sincere in her intentions, she already knows what she needs to do: tell the truth about the conduct of the 2004 elections and its results, and step down from office.
But in calling for a different kind of “cha-cha” among the populace, I’m afraid the Catholic bishops have managed to dissipate the collective anger roused by the congressional leadership’s mule-headed attempt to ram a constituent assembly through. Granted both the House and the executive have backed down and rescinded their foolish attempts at forcing their way through legal blockades. Still, the evil intent, the arrogant behavior and the undemocratic conduct that so riled the public deserved a proportionate response, not the subdued, half-hearted protest that took place in Rizal Park.
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BY MOST accounts, the turnout in Rizal Park was disappointing, a far cry from the promised half-a-million crowd that organizers said they were expecting to attend.
Perhaps the lack of focus -- prayer? thanksgiving? moral indignation? -- had something to do with the tepid response. When bishops tell us that “character change” is what this country needs, they are deflecting our focus from what should have been the real targets of public anger: the administration congresspersons and their political patrons.
When the bishops call on all the faithful to change their ways, they are saying the country’s deteriorating political situation is everybody’s fault -- and therefore nobody’s.
But excuse me, I refuse to share responsibility for that railroading attempt carried out in the dead of night. Innocent bystanders have no need for an examination of conscience, except perhaps as voters for allowing the wrong people to sit in the House. But the real fault lies squarely on the shoulders of those men and women who plotted against the national interest and rode roughshod over public sensibilities.
The organizers had also wanted to transform the rally from a protest to a “thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving for what? That Congress and the President finally saw the light? They did so only because their eyelids were forcibly yanked open. Thanks but no thanks -- the time for a mea culpa has long passed, and today is not the time for painless, self-serving atonement.
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I REALLY don’t know what happened between the first, angry reactions issued by Bro. Mike Velarde of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai and Bro. Eraño Manalo of the Christian denomination Iglesia ni Kristo, and the staging of that rally last Sunday in Rizal Park.
True, Archbishop Lagdameo had been unusually swift in his denunciation of the Con-ass, questioning whether it had been truly “for the common good.” But was this enough justification for the CBCP to hijack what had been planned as a multi-sector, multi-faith demonstration and turn it into an exercise in pious futility?
Wasn’t it rather ungracious of the organizers to decree that no politicians and non-bishops, including non-Catholic leaders, would be allowed onstage? And that no “political” banners be displayed at the venue itself?
I mean, who called for this rally anyway? It’s like a latecomer barging into party preparations and then demanding that the guest list be amended, that the décor be torn down, and that the guest of honor be excluded. Whose party was it anyway?
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ONCE again, the institutional Catholic Church in this country confronted a moment to turn the tide of history and -- blinked.
Commenting on the turnout in Rizal Prk, a friend quoted from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink,” where the author declared that when you make a snap decision, based on your experience, your knowledge and your instincts, the best option is to stay the course. It’s when you start trying to explain yourself that you get bogged down in justifications and motivations. That’s when you lose the momentum.
Perhaps, stunned by the wave of public indignation that they managed to catch when they reacted with all the righteous courage of biblical prophets, the Philippine bishops began to backtrack in haste. Perhaps, uncomfortable with finding their feet on the path of activism, they began to scramble for safer ground by mouthing the usual pieties.
But the bishops -- and the pro-Gloria politicians -- will soon find out that the simmering resentments that boiled over the other week are still around and gathering steam, and will find expression one way or the other. Whether these are manifested through the ballot or through extra-parliamentary regime change, the guardians of the status quo should realize that you thwart popular will at your peril. And redistributing blame or guilt is not the way to assuage anger that demands to be redressed.
MORE: Hmmmm... bawal ang political speech sa prayer rally, or else aarestuhin sila ng pulis? Bumigay ba ang simbahan dahil sa request ng PNP, o request mismo ng CBCP organizers ito?
If Senate president Manuel Villar or Sen. Ping Lacson or actor Rez Cortez go on stage during a rally for peace on Sunday, they will be arrested. That’s according to the strange order of Reynaldo Varilla, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office of the Philippine National Police.
For what crime, only Varilla knows.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Varilla as having said,”There will be no political speeches and no movie personalities onstage. The organizers will run the show. If they (movie stars and politicos) will insist and thigs get messy, we will do our thing and arrest them a per request of the organizers.
Why Varilla is setting the guidelines for a rally being organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and other religious groups is something that could only happen when one is a state of panic.
Rep. Roilo Golez is also puzzled.”What’s the crime?,” he asked. “Illegal grandstanding?”
Read this previous post of mine too.
UPDATe: More from Kuya Manuel re the latest flipflop from Arroyo in his Arab News column.