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Remembering how Arroyo’s “Diocese of Malacanang” started six years ago

A recent revelation about bishops (particularly Butuan City’s Juan de Dios Pueblos) that received “gifts” (like expensive cars) during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has triggered a public outcry from various sectors the past week. Another allegation is that many parishes across has accepted donations from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Prelates who are perceived to be close to the former President had been labeled pejoratively as members of the “Diocese of Malacanang.” TV Patrol reported last night that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be conducting an investigation about the matter.

President Arroyo and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos (of the Diocese of Malacanang?)-photo from Inquirer.net

President Arroyo and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos (of the Diocese of Malacanang?)-Credits:Inquirer.net

The former president Arroyo had to “buy” the bishop’s support so that they won’t turn against her. It would be good to put everything in context. Exactly six years ago to this day (June 10), the CBCP, after two days of deliberation, issued a pastoral statement saying it does not call on the president to resigned. That was during the height of the “Hello, Garci” election cheating scandal. The statement was titled “Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics.” It can be accessed through the CBCP website (http://www.cbcponline.net/documents/2000s/html/restoringtrust.html).

Two days before the CBCP made that statement, the Hyatt 10, former President Corazon Aquino, and scores of erstwhile political allies called on Arroyo to resign. Knowing the role the Church played in the People Power revolts of 1986 and 2001 (which installed Arroyo to the presidency); many believed that losing the Catholic hierarchy’s support would end Arroyo’s hold to power. CBCP didn’t call on Arroyo to resign, and throughout the remainder of her administration, she did all she can to appease these bishops through lavish donations and favorable policies (particularly on reproductive health). Many Catholic leaders like Antonio Tobias (Novaliches), Deogracias Yniguez (Caloocan), and Oscar Cruz (Lingayen-Dagupan) were very critical of Arroyo, but the CBCP as an institution never called on her to resign.

Some excerpts from the aforementioned pastoral letter, as read by then CBCP president Fernando Capalla:

Our Pastoral Role and our Stand

 

“In the welter of conflicting opinions and positions our role is not to point out a specific political option or a package of options as the Gospel choice, especially so when such an option might be grounded merely on a speculative and highly controvertible basis. In the present situation we believe that no single concrete option regarding President Macapagal-Arroyo can claim to be the only one demanded by the Gospel. Therefore, in a spirit of humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision that we do not demand her resignation. Yet neither do we encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others. For we recognize that nonviolent appeals for her resignation, we demand for a Truth Commission and the filing of an impeachment case are not against the Gospel.” (emphasis added)

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