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Aquino to hold prayer meeting without bishops

Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - He may be the only son of the late former President Cory Aquino, known to have been a devout Catholic, but he is not one to turn to bishops – many of whom have called for his resignation and ouster – in the most trying times of his presidency.

In a surprising move, President Aquino made last-minute preparations to hold a “prayer gathering” at 3 p.m. today at the Palace grounds.

However, the advisory sent to members of the press did not mention any member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) as among those invited to the Malacañang prayer gathering.

Also noticeably absent from the list is Mike Velarde, who heads El Shaddai, one of whose members turned out to be among the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos deployed in the covert operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The SAF survivor had recounted his ordeal to fellow El Shaddai shortly after the Jan. 25 incident.

Among members of the religious sector invited for the event were Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Movement; Daniel Razon, president of the Church of God International; Bishop Leo Alconga, national vice chairman of the Philippines for Jesus Movement and East Asia director of Biblica Ministry; and Bishop Dan Balais, chairman of the Intercessors for the Philippines.

Villanueva, who ran and lost against Aquino in the 2010 presidential elections, is the father of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Joel Villanueva.

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The younger Villanueva was Aquino’s former colleague at the House of Representatives. Aquino then represented his hometown in Tarlac, while Villanueva represented the party-list group Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC). 

Razon, meanwhile, is a colleague of Bro. Eli Soriano of the group Ang Dating Daan – the fiercest critic of the highly influential Iglesia ni Cristo group. 

According to the advisory, the older Villanueva will deliver a message right after the opening prayer and national anthem and pray over the President. 

Alconga will deliver the welcome remarks and will be followed by Andrew Liuson, president of the City and Land Corp., for the scripture reading. 

Malacañang has also organized what it called a “presidential hour” where a “question-and-answer forum” would be held. However, only prepared questions from the guests would be entertained. 

This will be Aquino’s first “question-and-answer forum” since his nationally televised address on Jan. 28 regarding the Mamasapano incident. 

According to Palace officials, the estimated crowd of 500 is composed of major religious and worship groups, Cabinet members, and other government officials and invited guests.

 

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