CEBU CITY—Retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and five other senior bishops joined calls for President Benigno Aquino III’s to resign as a group planned protests to make the same demand beginning February 22, the anniversary of the start of the 1986 People’s Power Revolution.
Vidal, also chairman of the National Transformation Council, said Aquino must be held accountable for the death of the 44 police commandos who were massacred in a controversial operation to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir and local bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman.
“If we understand what is a commander-in-chief, if we understand the chain of command, of course he has to account for that,” Vidal said in a statement read at a press conference which was attended by some of the most senior members of the country’s Catholic episcopacy.
Aside from Vidal, other bishops supported the statement were Bayombong, Cagayan Bishop Ramon Villena, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla and Naval, Biliran Bishop Filomeno Bactol.
Vidal issued the statement after the celebration of a Mass at his residence here for the slain police commandos.
Incumbent Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma clarified that he did not share the view that Aquino must resign, but he also wants the President to answer nagging questions about the incident, which directly involved him and relieved Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.
“We, bishops of the Catholic and other Christian Churches, have often been asked if there is moral basis to this growing demand. Even long before the unfortunate events, the National Transformation Council has strongly articulated that the President step down,” the bishops said in the statement.
“Recent developments have made the call even more urgent and imperative,” they added.
The group said the Mamasapano incident showed Aquino’s mishandling of many obligations, which allegedly reveals the “subterfuge of illegal, unconstitutional and immoral foundation” of his regime, adding that their plea for his resignation echoes the general feeling of the people.
The group said Aquino’s misrule clearly indicates his illegitimate claim to the position and that his continuing stay endangers the lives of Filipinos and adversely affects the moral landscape of the nation.
“At all times and in all places, the Church should have the freedom to teach her doctrine and to pass moral judgment in those matters which regard the common good and fundamental rights and freedoms,” the group said.
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