Background: The support of Philippine Catholic bishops for the Peninsula Mutiny
The events at the Manila Peninsula last November 29, 2007 demonstrated, among other things, that there continues to be a section of the Catholic Church in the Philippines that believes in the necessity of an uprising or a revolution in order to remove the current Philippine government and install a revolutionary government to be led (according to Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches) by the Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. Furthermore, this pro-revolutionary section enjoys the support of some members of the episcopate of the Catholic Church in the Philippines .
Two bishops – Julio Labayen OCD, Prelate-Emeritus of Infanta; and Antonio Tobias, the current Ordinary of Novaliches – joined Senator Antonio Trillanes, Danilo Lim and former Vice President Teofisto Guingona at the hotel on November 29, and joined their voices to the call for revolution. As people now know, almost nobody heeded the call for popular revolt to oust the President; and when the Marines finally stormed the hotel, the presence of two Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) in the lobby, some tear gas and a bit of machine-gun fire was enough to convince this group of would-be revolutionaries to leave the premises and surrender to the law.
On November 30, 2007 , the day after the aborted uprising, the President of the CBCP, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, defended the actions of Bishop Julio Labayen. As Archbishop Lagdameo stated in a Press Release posted on his blog In and Out of Season, (http://abplagdameo.blogspot.com), “The advocacy that Bishop Labayen had been doing is for the country to be restored to genuine democracy and justice which is worth fighting for” (http://abplagdameo.blogspot.com/2007/11/thank-god-its-over.html). It is, of course, no secret that Archbishop Lagdameo has been calling upon GMA to consider resigning since 2006 on the plea that her government is morally bankrupt, although he has not (so far) joined any calls for armed revolution.
On December 9, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo issued a statement (http://abplagdameo.blogspot.com/2007/12/international-human-rights-day.html#links) for International Human Rights Day in which he declared that it is now “almost impossible” for the government to regain the “trust, credibility and respect which are critical ingredients of effective governance.” While not drawing any explicit conclusions, the statement, brought to its logical conclusion, clearly marks out the current government as unworthy and incapable of continuing to govern. Indeed, the last paragraph states: “If civil society wants to effect moral transformation in governance, they must be reasonably angry, articulate, and persevering in effecting the change they want to see. Most important is the element of spiritual transformation, whose key is conversion to God which starts with ourselves.” (NB: While the call to “spiritual conversion” is attached -- evidently as an afterthought – the main thrust of the statement remains the call for political change.)
Furthermore, the official CBCP website (www.cbcponline.net) posted on December 4 a link to a statement from the Emeritus Bishop of Novaliches, Teodoro Bacani Jr. This statement was posted on the CBCP’s official news site (See http://www.cbcpnews.com/?q=node/419) and contained not one word condemning the mutiny; instead, it characterized the “victors” (meaning, the government) as “gloating” and as “eating and drinking today, or going shopping or visiting other countries, not knowing what is in store for them.” Furthermore, Bishop Bacani declared that: “…In the Philippines … Mrs Arroyo and her husband and other ranking government leaders have been accused, weighed and found wanting by the people, if not by the courts as yet. ‘We, in fact, have a government we do not trust, because there is a lack of transparency, honesty, and adherence to the rule of law by those who are supposed to implement them’…”
Strong words indeed! It is difficult to understand this statement as being anything other than justification and support for the Peninsula Mutiny. Adding to the force of this statement is the fact that it was carried on the CBCP’s two official websites.
Other bishops who have not condemned the mutiny while offering some support for the justifications given to it by its perpetrators, include Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran and Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan.
According to Bishop Medroso, Bishop Labayen was only acting according to his conscience, stating that “His (bishop's) conscience would tell him to get out and be heard, to speak out if there's something wrong with the authorities," he said…” (see http://www.gmanews.tv/story/71261/Nuns-back-Trillanes-cause-CBCP-defends-meddling-in-social-issues). Without directly addressing the question of the mutiny itself, Bishop Medroso nevertheless defended Bishop Labayen’s right to act the way he did, reasoning that the clergy must not be limited to purely spiritual matters.
However, the harshest and most vehement statements against the government have come from Archbishop Oscar Cruz. In his blog “Viewpoints” (http://ovc.blogspot.com/), His Excellency has published two essays, “Lessons Learned” (http://ovc.blogspot.com/2007/12/lessons-learned.html) and “Truth, Justice, Change” (http://ovc.blogspot.com/2007/11/truth-justice-change.html) in which, with his accustomed acerbity, His Excellency condemns the current government in the strongest terms and clearly calls for its overthrow, even blaming it as the real culprit for the Peninsula incident. For instance, in “Truth, Justice and Change” he asks: “What on earth will bring about a public outrage, a national move, a concerted action to end a continuously and consistently distrusted and disapproved government? They have done it peacefully, steadfastly and successfully before. They can once more surely do it again the same way, with the same resolve and spirit.”