ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Eliminate corruption from public life: a task for the new president of the Philippines: the Church is a “watchman ” for morality in the country’s social and political life

Friday, 21 May 2004

Manila (Fides Service) - Political and social debate is lively in the Philippines pending the official announcement on 10 June of results of presidential elections held on May 10 Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is said to be in the lead compared to her major opponent actor Fernando Poe Jr, but according to the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, there are only three points of percentage between the candidates.
In the meantime the attention of the media, many sectors of the Church and civil associations is focused on the need to eliminate corruption and re-launch economy.
Politics in the Philippines suffer from frequent scandals over immoral behaviour, which in the past led even to the resignation of President Joseph Estrada, whose place was taken by Gloria Arroyo, and it involves many political personalities including Gloria’s husband Josè Miguel Arroyo.
This is why, in a message in view of the elections the Catholic Bishops stressed the need to eliminate the evil of corruption. The situation in the country is known and NGO Transparency International put the Philippines in 92nd place on a list of 133 countries with regard to transparency in public administration.
Corruption is endemic in political and social life in the Philippines; a situation which the local Church has always denounced. Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity are actively committed to promoting honesty and transparency at all levels. Recently Father Fred Maghanoy working in Sarangani, on the island of Mindanao received death threats after courageously denouncing corruption in politics. The priest, who leads an association to promote transparency and honesty in political life a service for the common good of the nation, received several intimidating messages.
Corruption has also been denounced among army officers: some military are said to be involved in supplying arms to separatist guerrillas and rebel groups in the southern Philippines and even taking money from kidnappings known to be the main source of income for terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf.
In the meantime with regards to the war on terrorism, the authorities have announced the arrest of Usman Lidjal one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted for taking part in a series of kidnappings and murders. Military police arrested the man in Zamboanga, Mindanao. According to military sources the arrest of Lidjal, former leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who joined Abu Sayyaf in the mid 1990s - is a hard blow to this terrorist group which the US has put on its list of terrorist groups also because it is thought to be connected with Al Qaeda. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 21/05/2004 Lines: 38 Words: 385)