Manila (AsiaNews) - On the day of the 29th anniversary of the first "People Power" revolution a union of civil society groups are asking President Benigno Aquino to resign after the Maguindanao massacre, a military operation in which an alleged 2002 Bali bomber died along with 44 policemen.
The current president is the son of Corazon Aquino, icon of the 1986 "rosaries movement " that marked the end of the Marcos dictatorship. His maternal uncle and aunt, Jose and Margarita Cojuangco, are among the President's fiercest critics to the point that they have created a coalition called "February 22".
The couple have
asked their nephew to step down and allow the creation of an Advisory Council
to prepare a transitional government and to reform the current electoral law,
in order to give voice to the people. Aquino is also accused of corruption and
nepotism, and his government is in the crosshairs of public opinion for stepping
up pressure against the free press and the huge increase of the interference of
the public forces in the protest movements.
The National Transformation Council led by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal and seven other bishops - which includes the former Defence Minister Norberto Gonzales - has joined the popular protests. As has the leftist party Bayan Muna which is demanding a people's council for national unity, reforms and peace, basically a two-year interim government.
For its part,
the government responded by stating that demands "are illegitimate." Minister
of Justice Leila De Lima warned
that groups like the NTC violated sedition laws because "they said they
will establish a transitional government [and] they are appealing for military
support". She also noted that many were allied with ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is in detention facing plunder charges".
The president of the Filipino bishops' conference and archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Msgr. Socrates Villegas, told AsiaNews that said his colleagues did not speak for all 131 bishops but were merely expressing their own views. We bishops have a moral duty which is to shake consciences and also ask uncomfortable questions, but we cannot and we should not invite people to revolt". The reference to the 1986 movement "is wrong. That was a military dictatorship, this no".
The role of a Catholic pastor, Msgr. Villegas resumes, "is to provide faithful all the tools to analyze a situation always in the light of the truth. But the next step is to leave them free to make their own decisions according to their conscience. We must not offer solutions to the political or social issues: rather, we must ask questions and give answers to people's morale questions".