MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Friday rebuked Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos for urging President Benigno Aquino III to resign less than a year into his term or risk facing possible ouster.
Dubbing him "a conspirator in a cassock" and a petty politician, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Pueblos is the same bishop who opposed attempts by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to discern the moral culpability of former President Arroyo on the issue of the "Hello, Garci" wiretapping scandal.
The wiretapping scandal allegedly revealed a plot by Arroyo to rig the 2004 presidential election. Arroyo admitted on nationwide TV that she talked to a poll commissioner but denied manipulating the poll results.
Lacierda said Pueblos opposed the Aquino administration's plan to form a Truth Commission that would investigate corruption scandals during the previous administration.
The President's spokesman rebuked Pueblos for his lack of pastoral concern, and for displaying the zeal of a Grand Inquisitor.
"He admits to being in the loop as far as people conspiring to unconstitutionally oust the President and told the media he is awaiting further details on these supposed plots. His contribution to the conspiracy of which he claims to be in the know, being his opinion that it should be 'without bloodshed and without violence,'" he said in a statement.
"This is a prelate who has substituted the proud record of his diocese- exemplified by Archbishop Emeritus [Carmelo] Morelos and his principled fight against martial law- for the partisan ramblings of a petty politician," he added.
Advocate of impunity?
Lacierda said Pueblos deserves to be rebuked in the strongest terms for being a longstanding advocate of impunity.
He urged the bishop to refer to the Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Doctrinal Note states: "It is not the Church's task to set forth specific political solutions‚ and even less to propose a single solution as the acceptable one‚ to temporal questions that God has left to the free and responsible judgment of each person. It is, however, the Church's right and duty to provide a moral judgment on temporal matters when this is required by faith or the moral law."
Media reports earlier quoted Pueblos as saying that Aquino should resign from the presidency for appointing friends and allies to high government posts. “He is not interested to be President. I can see that. He does not plan, does not study, does not make his own decision, and just lets his friends [make] it. Poor Philippines,” Pueblos said.
The bishop said he has personal knowledge of some groups that are already looking to oust the President.
"There are people who are working on it already... Seriously working for it. So I'll just be waiting for them to share the result of their output and see ano ba talaga ang the best for the Philippines without bloodshed and without violence," Pueblos said in a Sunstar report.
'Resign as bishop, join GMA'
Sen. Franklin Drilon, an ally and party-mate of President Aquino, said Bishop Pueblos is an avid supporter of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the least credible person to ask for President Aquino's resignation.
“Where was Bishop Pueblos when President Arroyo appointed her manicurist and her gardener to important positions in government?” asked Drilon.
“Where was Bishop Pueblos when the Catholic Church criticized Mrs. Arroyo for her extravagance when she and her cronies spent almost a million pesos on a single dinner in an expensive restaurant in New York during her 2009 USA trip?” he added,
Drilon was referring to the public outrage that erupted after President Arroyo and her entourage reportedly spent US$20,000 at the French restaurant Le Cirque in New York. This came at a time when a vast majority of poor Filipinos were suffering from the devastating effects of the 2009 global financial crisis, Drilon noted.
Drilon said he was “appalled by the gall of Bishop Pueblos to call for the resignation of President Aquino who is only doing his best to institute reforms in government.”
He added that if Pueblos intended to stop the government reforms being pursued by President Aquino, he should resign as bishop of Butuan and “join the ranks of the pro-Arroyo opposition in the House.”