MANILA, Sept. 5, 2011— Catholic bishops have denied getting “pressure” from the Vatican not to support ouster calls of then President Gloria Arroyo at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal in 2005.
A known critic of Arroyo himself, retired Archbishop Oscar, said there is no truth to the WikiLeaks report, saying it is not Vatican’s policy to intervene in local socio-political issues.
“WikiLeaks has a lot of wonderful things but you don’t take it as hook, line and sinker,” said Cruz.
“One should also be perceptive [in] reading it… most of them are perceptions. There’s no documentation etc, etc.,” he furthered.
US Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks revealed that Vatican allegedly urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to “remain neutral in the controversy surrounding Arroyo.”
A classified cable ((www.wikileaks.org/cable/2005/07/05VATICAN500.html)) dated July 15, 2005 stated that the pressure was made trough then papal nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franco.
The cable stated that the information was confirmed by Msgr. Luis Montemayor, country director for the Philippines, to Brent Hardt, deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires of the US Embassy to the Holy See.
Hardt quoted Montemayor saying “we put a lot of pressure on the bishops” not to support the protests calling for the Arroyo’s resignation as well as Vatican insisting that “the bishops distinguish between pastoral care and political involvement”.
On July 12, 2005, another confidential cable (www.wikileaks.org/cable/2005/07/05MANILA3202.html) stated that Joseph Mussomeli, deputy chief of mission and charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Manila, had inquired into reports that Franco “scolded” the bishops during their plenary assembly, which resulted in a Pastoral Statement dated July 9 that did not call for Arroyo’s resignation.
Archbishop Cruz said this is the first time he has heard of such incident and urged the faithful not to view it as being “Gospel truth.”
“The Vatican has global concerns and I don’t think that it will involve itself in such a ‘small thing’ as Garci tapes,” he said.
“I can say for certainty because I was there all along… Vatican was not even mentioned. This is the first time I heard about that,” added Cruz.
In the July 2005 CBCP statement, the bishops did not demand Arroyo’s resignation “but said they also do not “encourage her simply to dismiss such a call from others”. [CBCPNews]