MAC: Mines and Communities

Cbcp For Poll Reforms, Vs No-el - Expresses Its Belief That Mining Destroys Life

Published by MAC on 2006-01-29
Source: The Manila Bulletin

CBCP for poll reforms, vs no-el - Expresses its belief that mining destroys life

by LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO, Manila Bulletin

29th January 2006

Bares stands on other nat'l issues

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday made clear its stand against the proposal to scrap the elections scheduled for next year.

At the same time, the influential group of Catholic bishops said it does "not support hasty efforts to change" the Constitution, adding that Charter reforms are best done "through a Constitutional Convention."

More than 100 members of the CBCP attended the plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Center in Manila, led by its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

In a four-page pastoral letter entitled "Renewing our Public Life through Moral Values," the bishops said that while they agree that certain aspects of the Constitution may need to be amended or revised, they do not "support hasty efforts to change this fundamental law of the land without the widespread discussion and participation that such changes require."

"We continue to believe, as we did in our Statement on Charter Change in 2003, that changing the Constitution involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency, and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention," the CBCP letter said.

The bishops said that elections in 2007 should continue, saying that in a democracy power emanates from the people.

Lagdameo cited a passage in the book Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church which states "that the subject of political authority is the people considered in its entirety. This people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects but it preserves the prerogative of evaluating those charged with governing, and in replacing them when they do not fulfill their functions satisfactorily."

With regard to other political issues such as the legitimacy of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the bishops said: "We recommend that the search for truth be relentlessly pursued through structures and processes mandated by law and our Constitution, such as the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Human Rights, the Sandiganbayan, and Congress itself as well as other citizens' groups. This requires that such bodies be led and run by credible people, persons of integrity and probity."

The CBCP letter also called for electoral reforms. "Confidence and trust in our political processes have to be restored. As a first step we strongly urge our political leaders to undertake electoral reforms posthaste," it said.

"The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach. The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the Commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral process, including counting of votes, needs to be reformed and modernized before the next elections.

The bishops also rejected resorting to violence to resolve the country's crisis. "We also reiterate our stand in our July 2005 statement that we do not condone resort to violence or counter-constitutional means in resolving our present crisis. These measures would only bring about new forms of injustice, more hardships, and greater harm in the future," the CBCP statement said.

The bishops said they believe that at the bottom of the country's political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity.

As such, the bishops committed themselves to do the following:

1. "To adopt a more systematic program of promoting the moral values that are indicated in seven (of the nine) pastoral priorities drawn up at the 2001 National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal such as integral faith formation, empowerment of the laity among others.

2. "To continue the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith communities at the grassroots, towards a deeper spirituality of heroic Christian citizenship, and towards encouraging the laudable efforts of these communities at nation-building.

3. "To promote a spirituality of public service, integrity and stewardship among public servants and citizens' groups alike.

4. "To bring together various concerned citizens' groups that are working for good governance in order to encourage better collaboration among them in the mobilization of the governed to check graft and corruption and to work for better public services.

5. "To declare this year 2006 as a Social Concerns Year under the auspices of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

6. "To accompany our efforts with prayer and penance and a deep trust in the transformative power of God's grace in the lives of individuals as well as of societies."

In parting, the bishops said they are doing all these because they want "to be faithful to the Lord's command of love, and His call to His followers to care for all peoples, especially those whom He sees as the 'least of My brothers and sisters.'"

They expressed hope that through their efforts and with the help of the people, they will be able to heal and renew the country's flawed political culture and corrupted public life. "In doing this, we show our solidarity with the poor who suffer most from the present state of public life and politics," Lagdameo said.

Meanwhile, in another pastoral letter entitled "A Statement of Mining Issues and Concerns" read by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, the bishops reiterated their concern for the Earth.

"We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life.

"Furthermore, mining threatens people's health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailing in rivers and seas," Bastes said.

It is for these reasons, he said, that the CBCP is reiterating its request to the President to recall all approved mining concessions, and to disapprove pending applications.

"As believers, the people must live a lifestyle that is outwardly simple yet inwardly rich and compassionate to the Earth community," the CBCP statement said.

The bishops called on all religious leaders to:

1. "Support, unify and strengthen the struggle of the local Churches and their constituency against all mining projects, and raise the anti-mining campaign at the national level.

2. Support the call of various sectors, especially the indigenous peoples to stop the 24 priority mining projects of the government.

3. Support the conduct of studies on the evil effects of mining in dioceses; and

4. Support all economic activities that are life-enhancing and poverty-alleviating."

Also present during yesterday's press conference, aside from Lagdameo and Bastes, were Bishop Antonio Ledesma of Ipil and Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Boac.

The next plenary assembly of the bishops will be in July this year.

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