The role of the Catholic Church in our nation-building
The role of the Catholic Church in our nation-building
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2014 - 12:00am

If reports are correct, President Aquino has stepped backward from his hilarious announcement that he will seek constitutional change, extend his term and weaken the powers of the Supreme Court. No longer.

Perhaps after some discussion, his allies and he recognized it would be a losing battle if they did go ahead. It is my opinion that the single most important factor for the turn around was the statement of Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president.

“They (meaning all the bishops? Or the public at large) are against amending the Constitution if its reasons are derived from the wrong premise. I cannot lend support to constitutional amendments that merely serve the purposes of one office-holder or one class of persons,” Villegas, considered the heir to Cardinal Sin’s legacy said.

I hope the good archbishop will continue with his more enlightened leadership as president of the CBCP. He may be a friend of the Aquino family but he also carries the responsibility for steering the flock in a moral direction when it is called for. Recent events show the power of the collective CBCP for the moral good in governance. It is an inescapable fact that in the Philippines, especially in the hinterlands, people follow what their priest tells them. A Filipino in Chile, Elizabeth Medina, writes that the tradition of the dual role of the priest as administrator of the town as well as of  the parish remains alive.

Therefore Archbishop Villegas knowing how important a role he plays for the good of the people should use that influence.

He did open the door for further action from the collective CBCP on constitutional amendments and in defense of the Supreme Court.

“We cannot support the proposed curtailment of the power of judicial review. Against the heavy hand of the State or transgressions of the Constitution by politicians, judicial review is the only recourse of the hapless citizen,” stressed Villegas.

*       *       *

When we were first looking for a name for our crowdsourcing website we had a little discussion on what to call it. It was Nick Lizaso who suggested that we name it after the song “Bayan Ko” a song that has been the trademark of our revolution. The original song was created by Jose Alejandrino during the Philippine struggle against American colonization.

A descendant, also named Jose Alejandrino who has lived much of his time in Europe recently posted in FB that he will be returning home to help in rebuilding the country. He came home when Ninoy was assassinated “and was active in the movement to overthrow Marcos.  Here is his account of his life then in Manila.

 “During Cory’s time, particularly during the coups, I acted as the backchannel to the Americans and urged them to save Cory. I was the one who informed Larry Henares the Americans were sending their jets from Clark to buzz the rebels even before US ambassador Nicholas Platt made the announcement to the media. Larry mentioned this in his columns in the PDI.

When Cory’s term was coming to an end, she asked her niece, Maria Montelibano, to walk me outside the Palace where I was asked to deliver a secret message to FVR. I was to persuade him to run for the presidency in exchange for Cory’s endorsement. When I was managing the Manila Chronicle, FVR wrote Geny Lopez twice asking him to allow me to help in his presidential campaign. I took charge of secret ops working with JoeAl and Tony Carpio. When FVR won, he asked me to join the government as his assistant.

But he soon returned to Spain to enter business. He is in a field very much needed in the Philippines: affordable housing and renewable energy.

“I decided to return to the  Philippines because I feel it is my duty as a Filipino to help out when the country is in crisis.” I hope he will set an example and encourage other Filipinos to come back and help with the development of the Philippines.

*      *      *

I recently had a chat with Manny Sd Lopez of the E-pirma group against pork barrel. He has invited me to attend and participate as delegate in the 2nd People’s Congress on August 23, 2014, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Mariner’s Court in Cebu City.

Their people’s initiative is against pork barrel with former Chief Justice Reynato Puno as the keynote speaker.  We had talked of how all the groups can form a coalition.

*      *      *

In the meantime it would be good to review the history of people’s initiative as it was envisioned in the 1987 Constitution. It is not just about objections to pork barrel but how sovereign citizens can initiate constitutional reform.

I will attempt to make sense of what happened to people’s initiative circa 2006. Since I was one of the most committed and vociferous advocates of this process, I should explain why I did. In hindsight, my problem, as with others, was to operate on two levels; on one hand on the level of theory and on the other on the level of practice.

On the level of theory the question of people’s initiative should be unassailable in a nation that purports to be a democracy. On the level of reality, its practice is impossible. The experiences of the last two attempted people’s initiative, one in 1997 and the other in 2006 showed all too clearly individual citizens do not have the means nor are they ready for it.

We must recognize the wide gap between theory and practice of people’s initiative before we should attempt another.???

We took many things for granted. For example, if people’s initiative was put in the 1987 Constitution as one of the methods for amending it, the framers should have spent time to make sure it can be implemented.

 But quite the opposite was true. Having put it in the Constitution, our leaders made sure that it would be impossible to do.

The proviso that Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this ‘right” said it all. Why should Congress give to the people the powers they have acquired as representatives even if in theory they derive these only from the people’s sovereignty.

But since the 1987 Constitution was ratified by an overwhelming majority of the electorate, it is a contradiction. The citizenry agreed both to granting them the powers of amending the Constitution but at the same time that they would not be able to exercise it anyway unless Congress passed an implementing law which as I mentioned in my column yesterday was done near the end of the term of President Cory Aquino who certified it urgent. It was the late Raul Roco who shepherded its approval in Congress.

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