'Day of Prayer an Aquino publicity stunt'
MANILA, Philippines – On Jan 20, 2001, a petite woman stood onstage with a cardinal, the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Sin, creating an image that lent moral authority to her assumption in office.
One of the most unpopular leaders in Philippine history, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo later faced a series of protests and coup attempts. Portraying herself as a devout Catholic, she held on to power by, among other things, sticking to priests as ancient rulers did to legitimize their regimes.
Exactly 13 years after Arroyo assumed the presidency, her successor, Benigno Aquino III, went onstage as well. On Monday, January 20, Aquino stood alongside Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and at least 4 other religious leaders.
Aquino held the National Day of Prayer for victims of recent calamities, such as Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013. He pushed for "one nation in prayer" – at a time when he faces the most divisive controversies. (READ: President Aquino's reality check)
“Meron nga akong kasamang obispo, ang kanyang sabi, para lang mai-angat 'yung survey ni PNoy,” said Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana in an interview with Rappler after the program. (One of my fellow bishops said this is probably a ploy to improve the survey ratings of PNoy.) (READ: Aquino ratings drop in Luzon.)
Fajutagana heads the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a Philippine group that broke away from the Catholic Church in the 19th century.
He also chairs the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), a 10-member coalition that has criticized Aquino over the pork barrel. The Palace didn't invite them to stand onstage with Aquino on Monday.
Fajutagana said he appreciates the day of prayer, but hopes Aquino invited other major churches in the Philippines to join the prayers onstage. The NCCP includes the following churches:
Apostolic Catholic Church
Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches
Episcopal Church in the Philippines
Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas
Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Iglesia Unida Ekyumenical
Lutheran Church in the Philippines
The Salvation Army
The United Methodist Church
United Church of Christ in the Philippines
Fajutagana also said while the National Day of Prayer focused on natural calamities, it neglected “man-made calamities,” such as the pork barrel, illegal mining, human rights issues, and other environmental problems.
“While it is true na merong natural calamities, 'yung man-made calamities ang mas malaki ang impact sa disasters na nangyari,” he said. (While it is true that there are natural calamities, the man-made calamities made a bigger impact on the disasters that happened.)
Without leaders addressing these man-made problems, prayers “will not be sufficient,” he said.
Bishop Nathanael Lazaro of the Evangelical Methodist Church, a former NCCP chair, also told Rappler the government should abolish all forms of pork barrel. This includes Aquino's own discretionary funds, the subject of protests over the past few months. (READ: Pork for the president)
In a statement on Aug 15, 2013, the NCCP said “there is every reason to be upset that the President who was elected via an anti-corruption drive and a platform of 'daang matuwid' is not keen” on removing the pork barrel. “Instead, it will remain and may even be increased,” the group said.
Eight days later, Aquino announced that he would abolish the much-maligned Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF), but will replace it with an overhauled pork barrel system. (READ: Aquino: 'Overhauled' pork to replace PDAF)
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, for its part, said the pork barrel is part of a “worsening social cancer.”
Denouncing the pork barrel controversy, Tagle broke into tears in August, and said the “intricate web of corruption” badly hits the poor.
And they're the worst-hit victims of natural calamities. – Rappler.com