Monday, July 25, 2011

Mr. President - "Saan ba patungo ang matuwid na daan?"

As President Benigno S. Aquino III marks his first year in office, the Black and White Movement recommits to support him and his administration in the struggle against poverty and corruption.

We laud this government’s prudent fiscal management which has led to significant savings and higher confidence by the business community here and abroad. We commend the Conditional Cash Transfer program which is beginning to lift the poorest of our poor from the bondage of hunger while committing parents to keeping their children in school and avail of much-needed health services.

At the same time, we hope that in the coming months, the government shall accelerate the implementation of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program and start spending more on infrastructure projects to spur economic activity, generate employment, and allow the benefits of what is turning out to be a robust economy reach all levels of society, even in the midst of a global recession. Furthermore, passing the Reproductive Health Bill would provide significant help in poverty reduction.

We believe that ICT is a major engine for economic growth. Dissolving CICT, the primary agency responsible for the development of ICT through E.O. 47 and transferring its functions to DOST send the wrong signals to the ICT industry and the international community that ICT is not a priority for this government. We urge the President to rescind the executive order and restore CICT to the Office of the President to give ICT the importance and attention it deserves.

In the area of corruption eradication, we are encouraged by the cancellation of projects set in motion by the preceding administration that were highly disadvantageous to government. We are gladdened to see that there have been, so far, no hints of scandalous projects on the scale of NBN-ZTE and the Fertilizer Scam in this administration.

We support the unraveling of corruption at the highest levels of the past administration. Moreover, we urge our government to vigorously pursue the filing of cases and seeing through the prosecution of those who our people believe to be guilty. By proving that crime does not pay we can discourage corruption from polluting our future.

However, to Juan de la Cruz, corruption goes on unabated. For example, “kotong cops” continue to victimize motorists and “fixers” in major government agencies still pervade their halls. “Jueteng” lords persist in preying on the little guy looking for a quick way to hit it big, fast. Sadly, it seems the President's message of "matuwid na daan" has not cascaded down to government’s subordinate offices. It's still business as usual in so many of them.

We acknowledge that it will take time to reverse this culture of corruption that has been etched in our minds for decades. "Matuwid na daan" is a narrow road, and it is deplorable that many have chosen to keep on the wide and crooked road of dishonesty. We enjoin every Filipino to join in this crusade against corruption. Government cannot fight the good fight alone.

At the same time, we ask the President to constantly check on those within his closest ranks. Power corrupts, and it is all too easy for some to fall for the lure of instant wealth. Media has called attention to some possibly brewing scandals - these are not always products of black propaganda by the opposition.

We trust that the year just past was enough for this administration to disentangle the crooked ways of the last administration in order to lay the foundation for the straight and narrow road - "ang matuwid na daan".

And now, Mr. President, we'd like to know where that road will lead us. You told us last year that we can dream again. Share your vision with us so we can dream the same dreams.

Mr. President - "Saan ba patungo ang matuwid na daan?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the ill-founded allegations of Harry Roque

The Black & White Movement is very disappointed in Harry Roque. Mr. Roque quite well knows that talk is cheap. And that lawyers salivating for the limelight are quite capable of spinning things in the media for their own purposes, not to mention playing fast and free with the facts and even the lives of others.

As the conscientious prosecutors, in their letter subsequently endorsed by Nena Santos, lawyers for the Mangudadatu family, pointed out, "The panel of prosecutors and the WPP and the rest of the private prosecutors enjoy a close working relationship. It is Atty. Roque¹s belligerent attitude to the DOJ (not just to the Secretary of Justice) that is the obstacle to a complete harmony between public and private prosecution."

It is therefore highly unfortunate that the ones in synch, now, are the lawyers of Zaldy Ampatuan and Roque, for both are indulging in sweeping allegations without benefit of any substantiation. Both are reprehensible for introducing political color into what should be the stern, implacable, quest for justice.

Justice demands that those responsible for the mass murder that took place in Maguindanao be punished. The Black & White Movement believes that the administration has been uncompromising in this. All concerned citizens are uncompromising in their expectation that justice will be done.

It is not necessary to malign without basis those in the Cabinet who are working so hard to make the justice system work. We all have the highest expectation that the Cabinet will fulfill its responsibilities to our people. DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo’s job is to ensure the security of the accused, and to ensure the police do its part in the investigation of the case; the DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima is committed to the successful prosecution of the accused. But all these must be proven not with hearsay, but solid facts. After all, we should never forget that the accountability of the Ampatuans includes a plethora of crimes, from mass murder to plunder and electoral chicanery.

It is irresponsible for Roque to cast aspersions without the benefit of evidence. The claim that certain members of the Cabinet are partial to the Ampatuan clan is baseless and malicious. We must remind Roque that PCDSPO Sec. Ricky Carandang was threatened by the very Ampatuans Roque claims he is palsy with during the 2007 elections. Furthermore, we are aware that Sec. Edwin Lacierda was asked by Mrs. Myrna Reblando, widow of massacre victim Bong Reblando, to represent their family. It was unfortunate that Sec. Lacierda had to decline due to his being spokesperson for then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. It is a cheap shot to include Sec. Ging Deles just because she happens to head OPAPP.

Moreover, it is important to note that President Benigno S. Aquino III stated that Zaldy Ampatuan has offered to provide testimony without preconditions or in exchange for any consideration: but it is up to government to determine the use, if any, of the purported evidence being offered. What is clear is that the President is focused on the need to secure accountability, to achieve justice, and to abide fully with the law.

Having been chastised by the conscientious prosecutors in the past, we would expect Roque to be more responsible and diligent with his research, before he grandstands before the media and plays fast and free with the emotions of victims' families and the public. The cases have prospered thus far, not because of Roque, but because of those who have stood their ground, pursued the case with zeal and determination, and who know that the surest way to achieve justice is through effective, thorough, marshalling of the facts and knowledge of the law, and not by substituting hard work with sensationalistic sound bites.

Good sound bites may bring Harry Roque the media attention he craves. But sensationalism will not serve the ends of justice we all long for. - END

Friday, July 08, 2011

Re CBCP Bishops and the PCSO, A Look Back: The Long View - The interdiction of a witness

(In March 2008, BnW called a Roman Catholic Cardinal a "congressman in a cassock" for his staunch support of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in exchange for financial patronage through her Religious Affairs Office, we caused an uproar. Recent Senate hearings on questionable dealings between the Catholic Church and the previous PCSO Board have the people in a tizzy. Here's a look back at what we suspected all along.)

By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 03/24/2008

MANILA, Philippines - When Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was recently taken to task for showing partiality to the President, his critics were taken to task in turn. The whole thing has taken a regrettable emotional toll on the Cardinal and his defenders.

Due deference is owed the good Cardinal as the spiritual father of the Cebuanos. But whether president, prince of the church, or pauper, in matters that involve the public good, a democratic citizenry must put the lowest premium on respecting hierarchy. Respect the office, yes; respect the principles the office ought to represent most of all.

What must be paramount is for our spiritual shepherds to realize how they have been co-opted by political wolves.

The present administration handles the hierarchy in the same manner it handles congressmen. For this reason, anyone who objects to calling prelates “congressmen in cassocks” should lodge a complaint, not with those who say it, but with the Palace that made the comparison possible.

No other administration ever contemplated or needed a Religious Affairs Office; no other president needed a Dodi Limcaoco, a Nena Valdes, or those with a roving commission like Medy Poblador or Mike Defensor, to name just a few, to coordinate with the hierarchy the way the PLLO coordinates with congressmen. No previous president needed to dispense state funds to Catholic dioceses and charities by handing out envelopes or placing ads on Radio Veritas or involving the PCSO and other agencies in such a politically systematic fashion through the bishops.

Our prelates know their moral theology; they know how to receive patronage without sinning. In these poisonous times, these are acts, though, that serve to place the Church in disrepute.

When Cardinal Vidal met the President in Wack Wack Golf Course and discussed jobs, when he allowed Cerge Remonde to address his gathered clergy in a retreat, when he forbade the clergy from signing petitions, and when he and other prelates met officials in Malacañang, everyone needs to understand that from the point of view of the prelates concerned, what they did was licit.

But the hierarchy needs to understand how the public can view it as an illicit effort, at the very least, on the part of government, for such illicit behavior benefits the government politically. A political act of generosity always has a price, and it is a fine line that separates the naïve from the saints. If you will deal with the devil, you had better have the strength of an archangel. And this is why the generosity of the President, and her politically-shrewd operators, serves to divide and confuses the public, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

It also sends the wrong signal to overzealous subordinates.

When Cardinal Vidal was criticized for supposedly issuing instructions to the clergy to deny the Mass to Jun Lozada, the Cardinal denied ever issuing such instructions. I believe him.

Undoubtedly no memorandum was ever signed—but then again no one ever said the instructions had been given in written form. He didn’t need to issue any instructions, because his past actions are as unambiguous as any human act can be. For when he allowed Remonde to address the assembled priests of the archdiocese, approved the handing out of a government-prepared primer on NBN-ZTE, forbade petitions and interceded for schoolteachers with the President, the clergy knew right there and then on which side their archbishop stood—and assumed they’d be expected to act accordingly.

No need for instructions, no need for prohibitions; once Cardinal Vidal showed partiality his priests took the cue: and as subordinates tend to do, probably with greater zeal than the Cardinal ever imagined. It wouldn’t surprise me if perhaps a priest or two, to salve his own conscience, maligned his Cardinal by whispering to angry nuns that they would not say Mass because the Cardinal said so—when he only implied and was never explicit about denying anyone the Mass. This is how our culture works: the boss winks, and everyone beneath him does the nudging.

Whether implied or explicit, the consequences of the Cardinal’s behavior were grave. For the display of archiepiscopal partiality essentially placed an Interdict (“a sentence barring a person, or esp. a place, from ecclesiastical functions and privilege”) on Lozada, a sanction of the Church almost at the level of an Excommunication.

And here lies the question at the heart of the criticisms against Cardinal Vidal: not even Marcos faced such ecclesiastical sanctions.

For this reason, it is fair to appeal to the Cardinal to confront the questions that have been raised, and not by means of an appeal to his authority. If no one can question the desire of the clergy to uphold the Mass as a sacrament, what needs to be questioned is whether there’s Christian justice in denying the Mass to anyone, knowing that denial represents the highest and most fearsome sanction in the power of the episcopacy. What is his discernment? Does he remain neutral? If not, why not?

Let the shepherd speak. Politicians allied with the President are not the Cebuano people. The clergy of Cebu is not the Catholic Church in Cebu. There were Cebuanos who wanted to hear Jun Lozada for themselves, to judge him, for good or ill. That some of Lozada’s supporters treated a heckler violently and discourteously is what should have provoked holy anger from the Cebuano clergy, united with their Cardinal-archbishop.

Cardinal Vidal knows full well that the CBCP has already declared NBN-ZTE, and everything else, to be a national concern. The people of Cebu deserve more than an insistence on the feudal belief that presidential sins of omission and commission are acceptable so long as patronage for the province keeps rolling in.