Thousands always admired Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. A gentle pastor, he was a principled leader for democratic freedoms in a country often skidding into totalitarian rule.
Many of us remain in his debt when, in 1986, he led the Catholic Bishops Conference to denounce the Marcos dictatorship rigging of the snap election count. He played even-handed counselor in armed standoffs, during the coup attempts following the People Power One revolt. All the coups failed.
So, we were taken aback when Vidal, now in well-deserved retirement, lent his name to a self-styled ‘National Transformation Council.” It demands, among other things, President Benigno Aquino shred his election mandate of 15,208,678 votes for a six year term. That’s 5.7 million more votes than Joseph Estrada culled.
Resign, NTC demands. They do not question the President’s integrity but assail corruption in government.
“Everybody is entitled to his own entertainment,” former Rep. Pablo Garcia said. Suppose the President quits? Why, an unelected NTC will be happy to step in, thank you. It’d immediately organize an alternative government “staffed by men and women of integrity.”
Is that not a replay of Thailand’s unelected People Alliance for Democracy? PAD snarled Bangkok for weeks demanding they rule — without election mandate? May pin ray, Thais shrug. “Never mind.” The military junta, in any case, made PAD and free elections irrelevant for Thailand and is savaging a once thriving economy.
Here, the NTC declaration wants more than the President’s head. Abolish the Commission on Elections and in its stead establish “an honest and credible electoral body”. It doesn’t say how. Nor does the NTC indicate how the people they pick bear the people’s mandate.
“The problem with groups claiming to be occupying the moral high ground is that they’re fair game for scrutiny”. Sun Star’s opinion editor Bong Wenceslao wrote. “I hold a modicum of respect for the retired cardinal, but he should not allow himself to be used by people with dubious agenda because the backlash on his image would be damaging.
Was it coincidence?. But NTC proposals surfaced when all current leaders of the Catholic Church – Cardinals Luis Tagle and Orlando Quevedo, among others — are in Vatican City for the synod called by Pope Franics from Oct. 5 to 19 .
The synod is discussing the “challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children, and the role of the family in the life of the church.” Approximately 250 people are attending; presidents of 114 national bishops’ conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic churches, three superiors general of religious orders, heads of Vatican offices, synod officials, and fathers.
Among other things, the Synod will discuss issues the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion. It set the agenda for a larger meeting of bishops, to be held at Vatican in October 2015. That meeting will generate proposals for the pope’s approval.
Here, “Vidal and his group ask a president voted into office by majority of the people, through elections to resign, Sun Star noted in its editorial. That would replace a duly elected President with unelected leaders. No matter how credible their integrity might be, (it) reduces the Constitution and our laws into mere documents that can easily be shredded by the noisy. The better call is for all of us to be true to our democratic tenets.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who quietly retired, sets perhaps the best example.