Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Philippines: Council of Bishops issues letter in opposition to charter change

From Episcopal Life Online-

The Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines issued a statement July 30 against amending the nation's Constitution -- a change opponents say would perpetuate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's hold on power.
Arroyo's presidential term expires in 2010. In the statement, the bishops equate the current political situation with that of former President Ferdinand Marcos' cling to power in the early 1970s. In 1972, after Marcos' efforts to extend his term failed, he declared martial law, holding on to power until his ouster in 1986, according to the statement.

"The political atmosphere this year is highly charged because of the expected presidential election next year," the bishops said in the statement. "Under this highly politicized atmosphere, it is certain that the conduct of Charter change will be characterized by intense lobbying, backroom dealings, political trade-offs, bribery and corruption, and the deception and manipulation that are characterizing marks of the incumbent administration."

The bishops expected Arroyo to use her July 27 presidential address to the nation as an opportunity to say goodbye in the fashion of former President Corazon C. Aquino, said the Rev. Winfred B. Vergara, program officer for Asiamerica Ministries in the Episcopal Church Center, in an interview.

"Instead she berated her critics and used her state of the nation address to hit back at critics and detractors. There is a perception that she will cling to power through charter change or declare a state of emergency the way Marcos did. They [the bishops] don't trust that she'll let go of her power," Vargara said, putting the bishops' statement in context.

(Aquino died July 31 while Arroyo was visiting the United States. Arroyo said she would cut short her visit to attended Aquino's funeral scheduled for August 5 in Manila.)

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