Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moral Leaders demand Aquino's resignation

"A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very political forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations.”- LIPA DECLARATION, National Transformation Council


From Impact Magazine,
Published by the CBCP Communications Development Foundation, Inc.

Moral Leaders demand Aquino's resignation
By Charles Avila
Impact, September 2014

“Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and has become a danger to the Philippine democratic and republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.

“We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.”

-- From the August 27th “Lipa Declaration”

We had heard it up and down this beleaguered archipelago. Our moral leaders were about to make a pronouncement on the current political situation, as they did back in 1986 (Edsa I), then in 2001(Edsa II), and of a different kind in 2005.

In 1986 and 2001, as a result of their moral pronouncement, regime change became a moral necessity.

When they cautioned against regime change in 2005, such change did not occur despite Cory Aquino’s taking to the streets to demand that change. With her then were son Noynoy (now President), good friends Butch Abad (now DBM Secretary), Franklin Drilon (now Senate President), Cesar Purisima (now Finance Secretary), Dinky Soliman (now DSWD Secretary), Ging Deles (now OPAPP Secretary) and a few others then and now known as the “Hyatt Ten” but without Cardinal Sin (prime spokesman of moral leaders) who had already died.

The Hyatt Ten (so-called from their number and the name of the hotel of their meetings) needed to be “Thirteen” to apply the Constitutional provision for a “cabinet coup.” In Article VII, Section 11 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution it says: “Whenever a majority of all the members of the cabinet transmit to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the Office as Acting President….”

“A majority of all the members of the cabinet” meant thirteen, not just ten.

But though the Hyatt ten failed in 2005, they “made it back to power” five years later--after Cory’s passage to the Great Beyond enabled her to pass on to her son a surge of popularity in the wake particularly of corruption charges then flying uncontrolled against the Arroyo couple.

With the rumours regarding an impending moral judgment on the PNoy government, people were now also asking what principles guide, say, the Catholic bishops of this country to make or not to make regime-changing types of moral pronouncements. Do they have a “book” to go by? In fact, some theologians replied, they do, and it is called the Church’s Social Doctrine.

Basic Pointers from the Church’s Social Doctrine on Politics.

Many years ago, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace made a “brief” 600-page “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” that touched on the whole gamut of topics relative to integral and solidarity humanism, complete with notes from the Bible and tradition and into the updates from Leo XIII to St. John Paul II, through St. John XXIII and Vatican II.

For instance, what does this book say regarding Jesus’ ”take” on political power? Jesus refused the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (cf. Mk 10:42) and ejected their pretension in having themselves called benefactors (cf. Lk 22:25), but he did not oppose political authority as such. In his pronouncement on the paying of taxes to Caesar (cf. Mk 12:13-17; Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:20-26), he affirmed that we must give to God what is God's, implicitly condemning every attempt at making temporal power divine or absolute. At the same time, temporal power has the right to its due: Jesus did not consider it unjust to pay taxes to Caesar. [See par. 379.]

Christian moral leaders have always considered political authority to have been founded on the social nature of the person. “Since God made human beings social by nature, and since no society can hold together unless someone is over all in charge, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every civilized community must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its author”. [See par. 393]

Political authority is therefore necessary as an instrument of coordination and direction by means of which the many individuals and intermediate bodies must move towards an order in which relationships, institutions and procedures are put at the service of integral human growth.


Political authority, in fact, “whether in the community as such or in institutions representing the State, must always be exercised within the limits of morality and on behalf of the dynamically conceived common good, according to a juridical order enjoying legal status” [See para 394.]

Moral leaders always prefer a “democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.” Authentic democracy, however, is “possible only in a State ruled by law.” [See para 406.]

In this regard they uphold “the validity of the principle concerning the division of powers in a State: it is preferable that each power be balanced by other powers and by other spheres of responsibility which keep it within proper bounds. This is the principle of the ‘rule of law', in which the law is sovereign, and not the arbitrary will of individuals”. [See para 408.]

For example, for the Executive to habitually buy out and run roughshod over the legislative and the judicial branches of government is indubitably to be out of bounds and in contempt of the rule of law. No matter how allegedly noble the ends, the means of merely following the tantrums or “arbitrary will of individuals” in the executive branch bodes ill for society as a whole.

The Philippine situation is quite a moral challenge: “hocus PCOS” to start with; the most audacious appropriation of more than a trillion pesos a year with neither authority nor transparency, uncontrite and holier-than-thou; a business community in full support so long as the top guy will just let them be, laissez faire. How about the people, the majority populace who get poorer amid the historic economic growth?

Going to Lipa

At first the rumours were that some 300 geographic and sectoral delegates nationwide were travelling in the direction of Lipa City, Batangas upon the invitation of the Catholic Archbishop of that area to hear and discuss important moral pronouncements on the political order.

It turned out, however, that not 300 but four times more -- some 1,200 such delegates, ncluding more than 50 from Muslim Mindanao -- made it on 27th August to the Archdiocesan gym in the premises of the Archbishop’s residence. With Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles were Cardinal Emeritus Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortes, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Evangelical Bishop Arthur Corpus, Muslim Ulamas and Ustadzes, Datu Benjie Mao Andong, and several other moral leaders.

It was definitely a multi-sectoral gathering with the bigger numbers coming from the peasant and worker sectors and representatives of people’s or community organizations. The civilians formed the broad majority but there were as well prominent retired members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines peacefully chatting with equally retired freedom fighters of not-so-long ago.


As they said in their “Lipa Declaration: An Urgent Call for National Transformation,”
to which they affixed their signatures:

“We are Filipino citizens of different personal, professional, social and economic backgrounds and political persuasions and religious beliefs. We have gathered here in Lipa city on this 27th day of August A.D.2014/2nd day of Dhu Al-qa’da A.H. 1435, under the auspices of the National Transformation Council, to reaffirm our deeply held convictions and beliefs about the common good and our highest national interests, in the face of the most pressing challenges.”

Did they spell out these pressing challenges? Yes, they said: “Unbridled and unpunished corruption and widespread misuse of political and economic power in all layers of society have not only destroyed our common conception of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, legal and illegal, but also put our people, especially the poor at the mercy of those who have the power to dictate the course and conduct of our development for their own selfish ends.”

They had earlier stated:

"A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very political forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations.”

Not mincing words, the signers of the declaration went to the heart of the matter by accusing President Aquino no less:

“Far from preserving and defending the constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent president Benigno Simeon Aquino III has subverted and violated it by corrupting the congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process; 

“President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has also damaged the moral fabric of Philippine society by bribing members of congress not only to impeach and remove a sitting supreme court chief justice but also to enact a law which disrespects the right to life of human beings at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the constitution but above all of the law, the customs, culture, and conscience of Filipinos.”

Logically exploding the bombshell, the signatories said:

“Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that president Benigno Simeon Aquino III has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and has become a danger to the Philippine democratic and republican state and to the
peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.

“We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.”

Then they talked about the National Transformation Council. What is this? What are its functions? Most certainly there was no talk here of one single personality being groomed to replace the erring President; no talk of politicians and political parties; and yet the subject matter was unquestionably political.

The National Transformation Council is that which must:

“Assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal political conditions. The role of the council will not be to succeed President Aquino, but
solely to prevent the total destruction of our political system, and to rebuild and nourish its institutions back to health so that all those interested could join the political competition later, without the dice being loaded in anyone’s favor."

“Like a crew whose task is to put everything in order before a commercial carrier, which had earlier developed some problems in midair, is cleared again for take-off, the council’s duty will be only to repair the battered tripartite system [legislative-executive-judicial] and to
make sure that the people are once again able to freely and intelligently elect their own leaders.”

The signatories therefore declared that the Council should:

“Open broad public consultations on the need either to modify or strengthen the presidential system or to shift from the unitary/presidential system to a federal/parliamentary system--endowing such structure with:

1) A totally independent judicial department, free from any kind of intimidation or bullying by either the executive or the legislative department, and with the sufficient wherewithal to clear the backlog of the courts and fast-track all cases;

2) A merit-driven, professional civil and military service;

3) Totally transparent government budgeting, procurement, disbursement, accounting and auditing systems and procedures; and

4) An irreproachably independent and completely dependable electoral system, free from the virus that has corrupted the automated voting system since 2010.

“Whatever the final form of government the citizenry decide to adopt, absolutely indispensable are the integrity and independence of the courts, and the existence of an incorrupt electoral system by means of which we, the people, are able to freely and intelligently choose our own leaders in free and honest elections. Without these we cannot speak of a normally functioning
democratic and republican government.”

There was no doubt among those present regarding the deceitful and fraudulent character of the 2010 and 2013 elections due to the “hocus-PCOS” electoral cheating machines. A presentation by a CPA-Lawyer of the abundant evidence in this regard refreshed everyone’s memory of so much they had been fighting against the past few years.

Hence, they emphasized that:

“Whatever the final form of government the citizenry decide to adopt, absolutely indispensable are the integrity and independence of the courts, and the existence of an incorrupt electoral system by means of which we, the people, are able to freely and intelligently choose our own leaders in free and honest elections. Without these we cannot speak of a normally functioning democratic and republican government.

“Thus we fully support the council’s position that until we have such a fraud-free electoral system, we should refrain from holding any farcical election. But once we have it, we should encourage the best qualified men and women in the country to participate in the open electoral process so that together we could put an end to the stranglehold exercised by the corrupt and incompetent political dynasties upon our elections.”

Then, of course, the transformation they sought was not merely one-dimensional but total; not merely political but, as well, socio-economic and religious-cultural. They were committed both to working on personal conversion and achieving social transformation:

“With political reform there must go hand in hand comprehensive economic reform. With one strong voice, we must now say a vigorous “no,” as Pope Francis has suggested, to an economics of exclusion and inequality, coming from a misguided vision of the human being and of society harmfully acted upon through myopic laws, policies and programs.”

Clearly, then, the National Transformation Council--a revolutionary council initiated by the moral leaders of this country in response to a moral crisis whose effects if not stanched in time would certainly lead to national destruction--is an effort of a non-violent nature, neither illegal nor unconstitutional in character but creatively restorative of a severely damaged constitutional order abetted by an administration chemically clean of any sincere regard for the rule of law.

It is a time of trouble; it is also a time of great opportunity for genuine reform. The movement for national transformation must be protected, defended, warmly welcomed and fostered.

“As the council prepares to embark upon the necessary reforms, we call upon the armed forces of the Philippines, as the constitutional ‘protector of the people and the state,’ to extend its protective shield to the council, and not to allow itself to be used in any manner to undermine the council’s purely transitional and nonpartisan role, nor to allow any armed group to sow violence, disorder or discord into its peaceful ranks.

“Adopted in Lipa City, this 27th day of August A.D. 2014/2nd day of Dhu Alqa’da
A.H.1435.”

Is this the beginning of the end for an administration that has habitually made short shrift of the Constitution and the rule of law, that gloried in high economic growth for the benefit of a very few at the expense of the very many, that corrupted Congress, intimidated the judiciary, took over the treasury, manipulated the automated voting system, and perverted the Constitutional impeachment process? 


Or will all this merely lead to an iron-fisted response from the state? Unquestionably, however, in the end weeks or months from now the only relevant question is: how did the rest of the populace respond? Would they merely say, “Don’t bother us, we’re okay!” or would they not rather ask their moral leaders, “What can we do together?”

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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