MANILA, April 22, 2013— An influential alliance of religious groups criticized President Benigno Aquino III for his supposed failure to punish the corrupt and resolve cases of human rights abuses.
In a statement, the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) threw a barrage of criticisms and expressed dissatisfaction against the three-year old Aquino administration.
Titled “Where does Daang Matuwid lead our people?” the statement touched on several aspects: ecology, human rights, agrarian reform and something that is close to their hearts – whistleblowers.
“So much needs to be done. Let not our hope be shattered and our dreams turned into nightmares,” the AMRSP said.
“We are now in the third year of Aquino’s term and it is time we ask ourselves so many questions: Akin to the question, “Which way Lord?”, we ask those in authority: Where is this government leading us?” it said.
It is so far the strongest statement of the AMRSP, which has been at the forefront in all the political upheavals in the country since the Martial Law years, against the Aquino administration.
The only positive remark the organization had for the government is the effort of some agencies in fighting corruption, like the departments of Public Works and Highways, Education, Justice, and others.
“[But] we were saddened with the news of continuing corruption and abuse on the use of public funds by some congressmen and senators,” the statement further read.
“We hold him to his promise of change. While it is true that there has been headway in the fight against corruption, much more remains to be done.”
“No big fish has been convicted since 2010 and with the way the tentacles of the corrupt have stymied the judicial process, PNoy’s term might be over and the cases will still languish at the courts,” it added.
While Malacañang flaunts a supposed robust economy, the AMRSP also scored the “grinding poverty, agrarian unrest, assaults of integrity of creation, the trafficking of our women and children”.
They reminded the government that governance is not only a fight against corruption but also the delivery of basic services especially to the poor.
The religious noted that while they are thankful that some laws on human rights have been passed, they are saddened by the continuing of violence and impunity.
According to them, day by day in so many places, unabated killings take place “as if it were the most normal thing to happen in a civilized and Christian country like ours.”
“We raise our voices with the victims of extrajudicial killings whose numbers are on the rise each day,” the AMRSP said.
“What do these killings mean? Is there still a rule of law? Are we back to the former days of anarchy – when the law of guns, influence and money ruled? Is this what Daang Matuwid means? Where is this government leading us? Where are we going?” it also said.
DAR leadership revamp
Denouncing the slow implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the AMRSP called on the government to revamp the leadership of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
More than 80 bishops earlier appealed to Aquino to replace DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for his alleged dismal performance to implement CARP.
“Together with the farmers, we doubt the effectiveness of the leadership in the Department of Agrarian Reform,” they said.
“We enjoin, therefore, the Administration to listen to the plea of the farmers and the CBCP that the DAR leadership be replaced to ensure effective implementation of the most important social justice program of governance, which is agrarian reform and land distribution.”
“If ‘daang matuwid’ is sincere in fulfilling its promise; then, the PNoy government must give out the lands now, including his family’s very own Hacienda Luisita,” they stressed.
The AMRSP is known for providing sanctuary to whistleblowers like Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, star witness in the aborted $329-million national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp.
Lozada is currently facing graft charges for allegedly granting leasehold rights over public lands to his brother and to a private firm with connections to him and his wife when he was head of the Philippine Forest Corp. in 2007.
We are saddened by the way, the PNoy administration is treating the case of Jun Lozada. It is unthinkable to imagine that Jun’s heroic act that has put him and his family, not only in danger, but in a state of continuous dislocation would be in vain,” according to the AMRSP.
“We cannot go back to “business as usual” simply because “higher-up” officials want to get back at Jun. We cannot understand the indifference that the PNoy government is showing about Jun Lozada,” they lamented. (Roy Lagarde)