Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Manila (Fides Service) – The local Catholic Church was not a bystander in the crisis which hit the Philippines when 296 army soldiers staged a mutiny occupying a shopping centre in Manila and taking some 300 hostages on 26 and 27 July. The rebel military accused the defence ministry and government of corruption and supplying arms to Islamic separatists in southern Philippines. They called for the government to resign but then accepted to withdraw and the matter was settled without bloodshed after 20 hours of negotiations.
During the hours of crisis the Catholic leaders, bishops, clergy and religious and ordinary lay faithful voiced their support for President Gloria Arroyo, who made a public statement of thanks to the Church when the crisis was happily solved.
Cardinal Jaime Sin, Archbishop of Manila, issued a statement denouncing the attempt at the stability of the country and he called on Catholics to be watchful and to be ready to take action to save the president and the legitimate government, should it be necessary, and to keep the nation on the Path to Peace. In a radio message broadcast repeatedly by Radio Veritas the Cardinal said: “This is your Cardinal speaking. We must not let the enemies of peace overcome. God will not bless those who spread violence and lies”. In the meantime more than 100 pastoral workers and members of lay movements gathered at Mary Queen of Peace shrine with former president Corazon Aquino for a prayer vigil, like at the time of the non violent Revolution of EDSA. Priests, Sisters, seminarians and laity prayed for several hours.
Also Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, urged Catholics to pray and he made a public call for a peaceful solution. Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, outgoing Bishops’ Conference president, called on the government to hold an inquiry into the charges made by the rebel soldiers and undertake serious reforms to uproot corruption, while naturally condemning the method chosen by the rebels to highlight the problem. Meeting in early July the Bishops had denounced corruption as a major ill in the Philippines’ society calling for appropriate legislation and a nation wide anti-corruption campaign.
In the past Father Cirillo Nacorda charged the Philippines army of acting in collusion with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. The case gave rise to much clamour but Congress put aside the enquiry for lack of evidence.
In the meantime, since the mutiny, general Victor Corpus army anti-espionage head has resigned. In a letter to the president the officer said he wanted to “preserve the unity and stability of the army” and put an end to the trouble which culminated with the revolt. But he warned that “in the army there is still a lot of malcontent”. PA (Fides Service 30/7/2003 EM lines 39 Words: 504)