President declares Oct. 26 a nonworking holiday in Cebu to allow Cebuanos to attend Vidal’s interment
Even in death, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal still played the role of a peacemaker.
President Rodrigo Duterte put aside his anger against some leaders of the Catholic Church who criticized his war on drugs to pay his last respects to Vidal at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in downtown Cebu City even if it was past midnight on Monday.
To show how he honored the beloved prelate, Mr. Duterte declared October 26 a special nonworking holiday in Cebu to allow more Cebuanos to attend the funeral of Vidal, who had been recognized as a peacemaker.
Proclamation No. 333 was issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday afternoon, just hours after President Duterte visited the wake of Vidal at the cathedral and announced that October 26 would be a nonworking holiday in Cebu including the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
“It is but fitting and proper to give the people of the Province of Cebu the opportunity to remember, honor and show respect, and join the interment of the late Archbishop Vidal,” who “enjoyed great affection by the people in the Roman Catholic Church and deep respect by the people of other Christian denominations and Islamic faith,” said the proclamation dated October 23.
It cited Senate Resolution No. 306 s. 2010 which recognized Vidal’s contribution especially in “providing spiritual leadership and inspiration, helping the community avert or survive several crises and conflicts, often acting as a peacekeeper and giving the voice of moderation amid clashing views and interests in local and national issues.”
The move of President Duterte touched Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, one of those who opposed to the manner of how the government’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs was being implemented.
“These things show the solidarity and unity between the government and the church for our beloved Cardinal Vidal,” he told reporters early morning of Monday after the President left.
President Duterte’s declaration of holiday for Vidal’s funeral is an expression of his “high respect” for the prelate, Presidential Assistant for Visayas Michael Dino said in a news conference in Iloilo City on Monday.
It was not surprising that Mr. Duterte had a soft spot on Vidal despite his strong stance against the Catholic Church.
Vidal paid him a courtesy call in July 2016 shortly after the then mayor of Davao City took his oath of office as the country’s 16th president and offered to bridge the gap between the Catholic Church bishops and the new administration.
The prelate then urged the faithful to give Mr. Duterte a chance as he promised the new President that he would pray for his success.
In an earlier interview, Vidal urged the people to pray for President Duterte whom he said might have felt uneasy over the statements of some bishops on his campaign against illegal drugs.
“We in the church, we are all obliged as citizens to pray for our President, whether we like him or not. Since he won in the elections, we have to accept that. Let us cooperate with him in whatever way we can,” the cardinal said in an interview during his 86th birthday last February 6.
After his engagements in Negros Occidental, President Duterte dropped by Cebu past midnight on Monday before he went back to Manila because he wanted to see Vidal even for the last time.
The President arrived at the cathedral at 12:05 a.m. and was welcomed by Palma and other church officials. He then extended his condolences to Juanito Vidal, 84 and younger brother of the prelate, who was on a wheelchair.
He then approached the gold coffin to view the remains of Vidal and offer a prayer.
Mr. Duterte later spoke to the crowd inside the cathedral and announced that he would declare October 26 a holiday in Cebu to allow more people to attend the funeral.
“His Eminence, Cardinal Vidal, was a person of peace. His language does not revile. I know that because I am from Cebu. I trace my roots to Danao,” he said.
Mr. Duterte explained that he was not immediately able to visit Vidal’s wake since he had so many things to attend to especially after the liberation of Marawi City from the terror Maute-Islamic State group.
“(But) it is important for me to be here as your President,” he said.
He made the crowd laugh when he said, “If I die, also pray for me.”
Before he left, he went back to the coffin and kissed the glass cover.
Palma, in an interview, expressed his gratitude to President Duterte for condoling with the Cebuanos and for declaring Vidal’s funeral date a holiday in Cebu.
“This means a lot to us. People working in the office can now attend the funeral and burial of Cardinal Vidal,” he said.
Declaring October 26 a holiday would not affect the school days because both private and public schools are already on a semestral break, said Dr. Bianito Dagatan, Department of Education–Cebu City schools division superintendent.
“No classes would be affected since our students are having their semestral break,” said Dagatan.
Dino said in a news conference in Iloilo that he requested the holiday declaration also upon the request of the Cebu City Council and Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III.
He said the President approved the request because he knew that Cebuanos loved Vidal and would like to say goodbye and honor him for the last time by bringing him to his resting place.
“Cardinal Vidal is more than just a cardinal for the Cebuanos. He is in fact more Cebuano than most of the Cebuanos,” said Dino, a Cebuano.
“He (Vidal) lived his life in Cebu. He died in Cebu and he wanted to be buried in Cebu,” he said.
Vidal was a native of Mogpog town in Marinduque province but served as Archbishop of Cebu for 29 years until he retired in 2011. He spent his retirement years in Cebu and still presided over Masses and attended events in the archdiocese.
“He took good care of his flock. He became endeared to Cebuanos,” said Dino.
In the May 2016 presidential elections, the President won by a large margin in vote-rich Cebu.
The President has repeatedly lambasted officials of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, several of whom have spoken out against extrajudicial killings in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a close ally of the President, has recently blamed the bishops for the significant drop in the popularity ratings of the President.
But Dino said the President does not take this personally.
“He is not anti-Catholic. He is not anti-church. He is also a Catholic,” he said. /With a report from Correspondent Futch Anthony Inso