Archdiocese spokesman says NTC report ‘misleading’
The spokesman of the Cebu Archdiocese said it was not true that Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma was joining the call of the National Transformation Council (NTC) for President Aquino to step down.
Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison officer, had his hands full yesterday correcting the misimpression caused by online posts in the NTC’s Facebook page and news photos of Palma standing with a group of bishops at the residence of Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal as Vidal read a joint statement of the NTC.
Tan posted a message denying the report about Palma’s role and appealed not to mislead the public.
“I am Fr. Joseph Tan of the Archdiocese of Cebu. I speak for the Archbishop of Cebu and the Archdiocese of Cebu. Please be honest enough in all your pronouncements. You all know that Archbishop Jose Palma is not supporting this initiative. Thank you,” his comment on NTC’s Facebook post read.
Tan told Cebu Daily News that Palma, who was in Manila for the weekend, has repeatedly opposed moves to oust the President amid the controversy over the Jan. 25 Mamasapano clash where 44 police commandos were killed.
Tan said a full statement would be released in a press conference on Monday.
The Facebook page of the NTC, which is lobbying for top government officials to step down and let a “transition” group of still unidentified leaders act as caretakers, posted that “Cardinal Vidal and leading bishops of Catholic and other Christian churches call on B.S. Aquino to step down as President of the Philippines.”
The group listed the names of bishops who have “joined” the call for Aquino’s ouster. Palma’s name was mentioned with known NTC supporters Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Bishop Filomeno Bactol of Naval; Father Carlito Clase (on behalf of Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Bishop of Butuan).
It also identified Bishop Butch Belgica of the Christians Bishops of the Philippines, and Pastor Arthur Corpus of the United Church of Manila.
These were the church officials present at the retirement house of Cardinal Vidal at Sto. Nino Village in Cebu City last Friday.
Msgr. Tan explained that Archbishop Palma was there to officiate noon Mass for a post-birthday celebration for Vidal who turned 84 last week. Several news reporters were also present.
The visitors included laymen and religious leaders affiliated with the NTC. After lunch, the group gathered around Vidal at his office desk, where the cardinal read aloud the NTC’s group statement urging President Aquino to resign.
Archbishop Palma found himself standing alongside other bishops as the cardinal read the three-page prepared NTC statement.
Palma didn’t say anything but as soon as the press conference started, he left ahead of the others, who stayed for interviews to elaborate on why they believe President Aquino was not fit to govern the country.
Before the actual event, Palma in a brief interview at the residence, said he he was not in favor of calling on President Aquino to step down from office.
The Cebu archbishop said it would be proper for the government to create a Truth Commission for the Mamasapano clash.
“The Church domain basically dwells on the moral dimension. People may have their own perception. But from the perspective of the Church, that’s not within our domain to make a political stsatement. We leave that to the people. If that’s the sentiments of many then, let it be,” Palma said in an interview.
He said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is calling for a meeting to discern what “proper cause of action” to take following calls for the president to resign.
Both Palma and Vidal are former CBCP national presidents. (See “What exactly did Cardinal Vidal say?” in Opinion page 10.)
Msgr. Tan said the Catholic Church is careful about statements “leading to partisan politics.”
“The Church would never make statements supposedly calling for the president to reign. That’s basic,” he added.
“What the archbishop said was not his personal opinion. This is the official stand of the Catholic Church on the issue,” he said.
The CBCP website said the council as an institutional body has yet to make its official, collective position on the call of some quarters for a presidential resignation.
In a letter issued Feb. 4, CBCP head Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said that whether or not Aquino should resign “’is a judgment that he must make, after prayerful discernment, and in all humility and judiciousness.”
The CBCP chief, however, endorses the creation of a credible Truth Commission or a fact-finding body.
“Before we have all the facts, however, the CBCP cannot morally join in the calls for his resignation, leaving this decision to his humble and prayerful discernment of his capacity to lead and the support his has not only from officials of government but from members of Philippine society,” Villegas adds
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