Philippines Crisis Basically Moral, Say Bishops

President Arroyo Facing Calls for Resignation

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MANILA, Philippines, JULY 17, 2005 ( Philippine bishops say that the crisis their country is encountering is a moral one, reflected in a lack of trust.

In a recent document, the bishops call for a rejection of all violent solutions, and for serious discernment based on criteria of justice, in addition to prayer, so that God’s will prevails in the political order.

The document, entitled «Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics,» was presented by the country’s 85 prelates at a meeting in Manila, held July 8-11.

The Church message, which includes an extensive analysis of the country’s critical situation, was much awaited, reported the Vatican missionary news agency Fides.

The prelates did not join the social and political sectors of society calling for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s resignation.

Arroyo is under suspicion for electoral fraud in last year’s elections, while some of her family members, who have left the country, are suspected of pocketing bribes from illegal gambling. She also faces unease in the country due to recent rises in consumer prices.

Prayer rally

On Saturday, thousands of supporters of Arroyo attended a prayer rally in the capital for the embattled Philippines leader who has resisted calls to step down over alleged vote-rigging. Earlier in the month, 10 members of Arroyo’s executive resigned, asking the president to do the same.

In their document, the bishops warn that this crisis runs the risk of polarizing the country, and criticize the attitude of several groups «in this grave situation.» The groups «take advantage of one another, manipulate situations for their own agenda, and create confusion among our people,» the prelates state.

The bishops stress that moral values are at the center of the crisis, especially trust. «The people mistrust our economic institutions, which place them under the tyranny of market forces whose lack of moral compass produces for our people a life of grinding, dehumanizing poverty.»

However, the people «mistrust yet another key institution — our political system,» and this «mistrust is not recent,» the bishops note. «Politics has not effectively responded to the needs of the poor and marginalized.»

The prelates state that academic, business, professional and civilian sectors of society have adopted a variety of positions in regard to the country’s president.

No single option

Some ask for her resignation, others for her impeachment, still others for the establishment of a «truth commission.»

«On the other hand, there is also a wide manifestation of support for the chief executive by a cross section of society,» they stress.

«In the present situation we believe that no single concrete option regarding President Macapagal Arroyo can claim to be the one demanded by the Gospel,» the bishops add. «Therefore, in a spirit of humility and truth, we declare our prayerfully discerned collective decision not to demand her resignation.»

However, the bishops do not encourage the president «simply to dismiss such a call from others.»

They add: «Nonviolent appeals for her resignation, the demand for a truth commission, and the filing of an impeachment case are not against the Gospel.»

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