CBCP backs judiciary amid Aquino impeach bid
MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) stayed neutral on the impeachment complaint filed against President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, July 21, even as a Catholic archbishop signed it along with 27 others.
The CBCP, however, said it supports an “independent judiciary” – a core issue in the clash between Aquino and the Supreme Court (SC) over his controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, the subject of the impeachment complaint.
In a statement on the complaint, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said, “In the wake of recent events of which the public has been made aware through the media, we stand for an independent judiciary.”
Villegas explained: “To insist that ours be a government of laws and not of men is not to subordinate the human person to the law, but to uphold the equality of all before the law so that the powerful may not trample upon the weak and so that all enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.”
“Let the government show the citizenry that the law is at all times to be obeyed, for only under such a regime are rights and liberties safeguarded,” he added.
The CBCP issued this statement after leftist lawmakers on Monday endorsed an impeachment complaint signed by 28 individuals, including Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, against Aquino.
'What is right' over 'what is popular'
In the bishops' statement, Villegas added that the CBCP reiterates its “earlier call for all to submit to the Constitution.”
He was referring to the bishops' call to “respect the Supreme Court” after Aquino, in a televised speech on July 14, slammed the SC for declaring 3 schemes under the DAP as unconstitutional.
Noting that Filipinos live in “difficult and often confusing times,” the CBCP president said, “There is a very important distinction between what is popular – or appears to be so – and what is right.”
“I pray that all our officials ever be cognizant of this important difference so that all may resist the temptation of pursuing a course of action only because it seems to be popular. We urge respect for the breadth and the limits of constitutionally allocated powers between the great branches of government,” he said.
The CBCP also distanced itself from the decision of Cruz, a vocal critic of Aquino, to sign the impeachment complaint against the President.
Villegas said “the position that any bishop takes on any particular issue is not necessarily that of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.”
“That is to say that the CBCP as the highest assembly of Catholic bishops in the Philippines neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the President nor do we begrudge anyone, member of the clergy, or laity, the exercise of constitutionally and statutorily recognized rights,” he said.
The impeachment complaint came as Aquino suffered his lowest ratings since he became President in 2010.
Observers attribute this drop to Aquino's stance toward the DAP, a source of discretionary funds allegedly used to bribe politicians. – Rappler.com