The inside story
By Raïssa Robles
“From the very start, (na) bad trip si presidente kay Rosales,” someone in the know told me when I casually wondered why President Benigno Aquino III did not have that same chummy relations with top Catholic Church officials, enjoyed by his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Mrs Arroyo was always just a phone call away from top Catholic clerics.
I remember, in one interview I had with Catholic Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan province, he told me that whenever the public school teachers’ salaries in that province went unpaid, he would simply phone the presidential palace and the money for the salaries would come through.
But Bishop Jumoad did not ask for himself but only for things that would enable him to help the long-neglected people of Basilan. The controversial vehicle supplied by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office came under that category.
I’m sure Mrs Arroyo never openly told the bishops to support her beleaguered presidency. But in gratitude for what she was doing for them – making them political power brokers – they simply did.
And so, when my source told me that from the very start PNoy did not see eye to eye with the Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales, I was greatly intrigued.
The Archbishop of Manila holds a special place in the local Catholic hierarchy. The Manila bishopric is the wealthiest in the country and whoever occupies that post becomes equally or even more influential than the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the clergy’s policy-making and governing body.
My source explained:
It was because of the way Rosales treated the mother. You remember in 2005, Cory Aquino called for GMA (Arroyo) to resign (from the presidency)?
“Uhuh,” I said all ears.
My source said Archbishop Rosales had delivered a sermon inside the Edsa People Power Shrine criticizing Mrs Aquino’s demand for Arroyo’s abrupt resignation. This was after it emerged that in 2004, Mrs Arroyo had phoned an election commissioner in order to ask whether she would win by at least a million votes over presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.
My source said the Archbishop’s sermon had stung Cory Aquino to the core:
From that time on, Cory refused to step inside the Shrine, (because) basically, he had slapped her face.
Wow, how the past continues to haunt us, I thought, as I researched what exactly had happened six years ago that now colors the incumbent president’s attitude towards certain members of the Catholic clergy.
I found this news dispatch by my friend Barbara Mae-Dacanay, Manila bureau chief of Gulfnews, dated July 12, 2005:
Aquino tells Arroyo to quit
Former President Corazon Aquino yesterday advised President Gloria Arroyo to resign due to alleged election fraud and allow Vice-President Noli de Castro to assume the presidency.
Barbara quoted Mrs Aquino as stating in a speech before students at De la Salle University:
I ask the president to spare her country and herself from this second option [of impeachment at the House of Representatives] and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning.
Then another news item from the online newspaper Sunstar explained what exactly Archbishop Rosales had said to make the late former President Corazon Aquino feel rejected so:
MANILA — Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales said past presidents were also tainted with corruption and scandals that were worst than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Rosales mentioned the late former President Ferdinand Marcos, who allegedly stole public funds, adding that the Marcoses should “give back the money” to the people.
On former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos, Rosales said the two former heads of state were not directly linked to corruption but the people around them were.
With regard Estrada, Rosales said cases against him are pending in court.
“I’m not in favor of anyone and I don’t mean to say that I like GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo]. What I’m worried about is the truth. The truth is GMA is not the only president linked to corruption,” Rosales said over the weekend.
Rosales added: “There are bigger, bigger fishes. That is why I’m interested in the whole truth. This is only piecemeal.” (Sunnex)
What about PNoy’s sisters?
“What about his sisters,” I asked.
I wanted to know whether the sisters were leaning on the President not to pass a Reproducive Health Law that would allow the state to give away free condoms and offer family planning services other than natural methods.
My source said “I don’t think they meddle.”
Another thing my source pointed out was that only the De la Salle brothers had stuck with Cory Aquino and her family through political thick and thin.
My source noted that even Ateneo de Manila University “refused to hold the wake for Cory.”
PNoy’s critics would probably label the President vindictive.
I don’t think so.
I think what happened was that the bishops lost their holy aura when they sided with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The sheen on their halos got a little bit tarnished in the eyes of a good number of Catholics, myself included.
They haven’t recovered their moral ascendancy to this day. And this is affecting their battle against the passage of a Reproductive Health (RH) Law.