Up until now, the image of the Philippine Catholic Church has been that of an institution that embodies and works for the spread of love, charity and justice. The church had always spoken out against government excesses — a posture that achieved its greatest glory with the unceasing opposition of Cardinal Sin to the Marcos regime’s abuse and misuse of government power. The church charities and charitable institutions have always been a source of sustenance for thousands upon thousands of hungry and shelterless Filipinos. And the reputation of Catholic churches as dependable sanctuaries for oppressed and harassed Filipinos was reaffirmed by presumptive President Corazon Aquino’s quest for refuge in a Carmelite convent in Cebu City upon the outbreak of the Edsa Revolution.
The image of the church, to wit, more than 80 percent of Filipinos belong, was completely shattered by what former Senator Osmeña, Makati City Mayor (and United Opposition president) Jejomar Binay and their colleagues said about Bishop Villegas’ actions in connection with the quest for sanctuary of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy director Samuel Ong and Isafp (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) T/Sgt. Vidal Doble Jr. in Makati City’s San Carlos Seminary. The hitherto seemingly sensible Bishop Soc was shown by their testimonies to be a callous, calculating and highly partisan cleric.
In the light of what Osmeña and his colleagues told the Senate, it is no wonder why the Bishop of Balanga chose to write an unsworn letter to the Senate rather than face Senators Alan Cayetano, Rodolfo Biazon and Richard Gordon and their committees’ members during the Sept. 17 joint hearing.
In his letter to the Senate, Bishop Villegas said (1) that he had been asked by Malacañang Undersecretary Remedios Poblador for help in putting an end to a “crisis” that she said was developing in San Carlos Seminary, (2) that he agreed and then flew to Makati from Balanga in a helicopter provided by Poblador, (3) that in doing what he did, he acted to ensure the safety of the San Carlos seminarians and (4) he then flew Doble to Camp Aguinaldo where the military agent’s family was waiting.
In their testimonies, Osmeña and his colleagues showed this to be not the case. They said what really happened was the exact opposite of what Bishop Soc so piously recounted.
Osmeña, Binay, actor Rez Cortez, Luis Sison Jr. and the other Senate witnesses testified that the Bishop of Balanga was very much in-charge at the seminary, that he appeared to be in touch with Malacañang and at one point spoke of “talk(ing) to the President,” that the seminarians were never in any danger, on the contrary, it was the lives of NBI man Ong and Isafp operative Doble that were in jeopardy, that Bishop Soc was adamant about Doble leaving the seminary and going to Camp Aguinaldo and refused to give the fear-filled Ong a one-hour extension of his stay in the seminary. Clearly, Bishop Soc, on that 2005 day, shed his image as a benign, charitable and caring priest and donned the raiments of a heartless, headstrong and partisan individual.
So deeply affected by Bishop Soc’s behavior was one of the participants in the drama — Donn Remo — that he renounced his Catholic faith that very day. I dare say, many a Filipino who read or heard the Senate testimonies about Soc Villegas is inclined to do the same.
The Bishop of Balanga and Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. have one thing in common. They appear to have lost their moral bearings and wandered off into areas that have nothing whatsoever to do with either elections (in the case of Abalos) or religious duties (in the case of the good bishop).
These developments about Bishop Villegas have given rise to a very important and nagging question. What does the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) think of the Bishop of Balanga’s actions on that June 2005 day? Does the CBCP approve of what Bishop Soc did?
The nation is waiting to hear from Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and his fellow prelates.
Sobra ka naman, Rudy. Ni "rescue" lang ni Bishop Soc si Doble. Katulad ng pag-"rescue" ni Mike Defensor kay Udong Mahusay.
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