BY GERARD NAVAL
CIVIL society groups are organizing an inter-faith rally in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for what has been designated as "communal action for truth, justice and accountability."
The prayer rally, scheduled Friday next week at the Luneta Park, could lead to calls for President Arroyo’s resignation, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said yesterday.
"It is a communal action and I think it will lead to ‘Gloria resign.’ Where else will it go? Gloria please remain?" said Cruz, former CBCP president.
Cruz and Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said the Luneta rally would just be the start of a series of actions against corruption in government.
Last week, civil society, militant, political, Church and other groups calling for Arroyo’s ouster kicked off their series of protest actions with a rally Makati City, which had about 10,000 participants.
The groups called for Arroyo’s ouster on the ground she has lost the moral authority to govern and for the prosecution of officials involved in graft and corruption. The fresh ouster calls followed the implication of government officials in alleged payoffs in the NBN-ZTE deal that is now being investigated by the Senate.
On Monday, the United Opposition and various groups are planning to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of Edsa 1. According to Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the "nationally coordinated" protest actions planned for Monday are a buildup toward the "interfaith rally for truth, justice and accountability" at the Luneta Park.
He said the Edsa commemoration and the subsequent protest action is a response to the CBCP call for "communal action" and a "new brand of people power."
Expected to attend the interfaith rally are members religious groups and civil society such as businessmen, laborers, youth, women and non-government organizations, and politicians.
Cruz and Iñiguez described the interfaith rally as the "prayer element" in the CBCP’s call for communal action against the "evils" in the Arroyo government.
Iñiguez said it is hoped that the prayer rally would raise the public’s awareness on the ills in government. It is also a call for united action against evils in government.
"Kaya mula dito ay inaasahang natin na patuloy na dadaloy ang iba pang mga communal action na gagampanan to different degrees," said Iñiguez, head of the CBCP’s public affairs committee.
Cruz said the Catholic Church is following "the maxim of ora et labora, which means pray and act."
"It is an inseparable action. It cannot be just one but both," he said.
NO CRITICAL MASS
Malacañang belittled Lag-dameo’s call for a "new brand of people power," saying the elements of a successful peaceful revolution are not yet present.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said there is no critical mass yet to support a people’s revolt and it still would need the support of the military and the police.
Ermita also said Lagdameo’s call is not enough to set the spark for a people power revolution.
He also said that Lagdameo, although CBCP president, does not necessarily represent the view of all Catholic priests and the entire Church.
The CBCP has 97 members consisting of 81 bishops, 14 archbishops and two cardinals.
He said Lagdameo’s position so far is being openly supported only by two bishops who he said are "not necessarily admirers of the President."
He said there is now no widespread disgruntlement among the bureaucracy that was present during the People Power 1 because of favoritism in appointments. He said there is also no lawlessness, tyranny, despotism, and cronyism.
NOT THE CHURCH
Ermita said while certain members of the CBCP could say they are disappointed with President Arroyo, not even the entire Catholic Church could claim it put her in power.
Lagdameo on Tuesday expressed disappointment over the Church’s involvement in ousting Joseph Estrada, a president they perceived to be corrupt, only to replace him with Gloria Arroyo who he said was tagged the most corrupt president in a recent survey.
He said they were "somehow disappointed because People Power 2, with the help of the Church, installed a president who later on was judged by surveys as the most corrupt president."
He likened the Edsa 2 aftermath to going from "one frying pan to a worse frying pan."
VOICE OF SOBRIETY
While dismissing Lagdameo’s view as that of only one priest, Ermita kept quoting a paper by another priest, Fr. Ranlilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law.
Aquino, in his paper, said the CBCP should be the "voice of sobriety," and "should not jump the gun on investigations, and should be the last to join the bandwagon of popular sentiment." He also said the "noise of Manila should not be confused with the voice of the country."
He also said he does not find any evidence in the Senate hearing that would show any direct culpability on the part of President Arroyo.
Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokeswoman, said the CBCP’s search for truth should involve "justice and fair play" and must not be based on "gossip, lies, and innuendos.
FORCES OF EVIL
The son of Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. called on young people to "fight with our lives" the Arroyo administration which he repeatedly called "evil" throughout his speech at the launch of the Campus Tour for Truth spearheaded by the Youth for Accountability and Truth Now (Youth Act Now!) at UP Manila.
"We have an evil president," said Joey de Venecia. "The forces of evil are strong, but our people are stronger."
He also called on the youth to take a stand on corruption in government "despite the risks which I did not see coming when I decided to speak out."
"Pagod na ang taumbayan sa kawalang-hiyaan. We must unite now," he said.
"We can’t do it alone. Jun Lozada and I need your help," said De Venecia.
De Venecia also called on the students to pray for him and Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada.
EDSA 1 ACTIVITIES
Despite differences with some major players of the Edsa People Power 1 revolution, Malacañang has lined up activities from February 22 to 25.
On February 22, there will be a wreath laying at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to be led by Arroyo and former President Fidel Ramos. The following day would be dedicated to the youth.Ermita, who chairs the EDSA People Power Commission, said February 24 would be a religious day, which would be celebrated with a procession near the Corinthian Garden. He said February 25 would be celebrated with a flag raising ceremony at the People Power Monument. An opposition-organized Mass will be offered at the monument that same day. – With Regina Bengco, Ashzel Hachero and Anthony Ian Cruz