The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Wednesday said it was supporting the mass gathering planned on Sept. 11 on Edsa to call yet again for the abolition of the graft-tainted pork barrel.
However, netizens who were behind the Million People March last month said they have nothing to do with the Edsa action.
“Ours is an expression of solidarity,” CBCP president Jose Palma said over Church-run Radio Veritas. “Let the people join, but we are not organizing that. It’s about time that people manifest their own convictions,” said the archbishop of Cebu.
The planned gathering, dubbed Edsa Tayo, was apparently an offshoot of the successful citizen-led Million People March against the pork barrel at Rizal Park in Manila on Aug. 26.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday appealed to the organizers to consider moving the Edsa rally elsewhere on Sept. 11—the birthday of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“First of all, we’re saying everybody has a right to free expression; everybody has a right to public assembly. Our only concern is that, No. 1, it’s a Wednesday. We don’t know why it will be held on the birthday of Mr. Marcos. And since it’s Wednesday, it’s Baclaran Day. Edsa will be affected by it, will be inconvenienced by the traffic,” Lacierda said.
“So should they want to look for another venue? We hope they will be considerate enough to those who will not join the rally,” he added.
Why Sept. 11
“I was wondering why it was timed during Marcos’ birthday,” Lacierda told reporters. “What’s the significance of that?”
He noted that the organizers of the Million People March would not take part in the event on Sept. 11—which also marks the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.
“Peachy Bretaña has disowned the rally and is not participating,” he said. Bretaña’s Facebook post led to the event last month on National Heroes Day.
Palma said the 120-strong CBCP was supporting calls for the abolition of the pork barrel system in the legislative and executive departments.
He said that the bishops preferred that the government find other ways to ensure the delivery of genuine public service instead of continuing with the widely abused Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The pastoral statements earlier issued by the CBCP’s social arm, the National Secretariat for Social Action, incoming CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle reflected the sentiments of all the members of the Church body, he said.
“It’s very obvious in principle that we want PDAF to be stopped and find ways and means to reach out to the poor,” Palma said.
Churches back prosecution
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) in a statement on Wednesday expressed its support for President Aquino in the “prompt, impartial and complete” investigation of all those involved in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
“We strongly support the President… as he leads in prosecuting those who are culpable, all those who were directly part of this heinous crime, private persons and members of the executive and legislative who have been involved in the corruption of pork barrel funds whether they belong to the ruling party or the opposition, whether they belong to the past and present administration,” it added.
The PCEC is a network of more than 30,000 evangelical denominations, local churches and mission organizations in the country.
The group added that it would encourage its constituencies to “prayerfully monitor” the development in the pork barrel corruption cases and that “it would not let go until we see all the guilty ones properly brought to the bar of justice.”