MANILA, Philippines – Church leaders have tempered their welcome to new President Benigno Aquino III with a call to the Filipino people to remain vigilant while presenting the new leader with a 13-point agenda focusing mostly on social issues.
“We must now follow up whether (elected officials) are honestly serving the common good,” Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, told Filipinos, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.
Aquino, nicknamed Noynoy, was sworn in as the 15th president of the Philippines June 30 in front of a crowd estimated at 500,000 in Manila’s seaside Rizal Park. He vowed to work for change and provide “a home for every family within safe communities.”
He follows in the footsteps of his parents, the revered Benigno and Corazon Aquino, who helped liberate the Philippines from dictatorship.
The younger Aquino faces major challenges as he succeeds outgoing leader, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose turbulent nine-year rule saw four failed power grabs and opposition impeachment bids against her over allegations of vote-rigging, corruption and rights abuses.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines outlined its agenda in a posting on its website.
The implementation of land reform was at the top of the list as the bishops urged the new leader to support the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Other demands of Aquino include the rejection of a controversial reproductive health bill, same-sex union, abortion, divorce, euthanasia and contraceptives. The bishops also urged Aquino not to allow the demolition of homes in urban areas without relocation assistance for poor families.
The agenda also included pleas to end human trafficking; protect the environment by stopping large scale mining and illegal logging; stop corruption and prosecute the people involved in corruption; halt nepotism; uphold human rights; educate the poor by improving the educational system and giving the poor access to quality education; pursue peace and security by negotiating rebel groups; stop illegal gambling by prosecuting gambling lords; alleviate poverty by improving the living condition of the marginalized, under-represented and oppressed people; boost food security by eliminating structures that hinder the growth and development in the agricultural sector.
Joining in the call for Filipinos to be “alert and vigilant” was Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro.
But Manila Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales called on the faithful to get behind the new administration.
“The dream of a better Philippines depends on the response of every Filipino,” he said in his homily during an inauguration Mass June 30 at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Manila.
Cardinal Rosales urged the new president to look to the needs of the poor.
“We pray that the new government will ensure a genuine transition of the impoverished to a more human existence,” he said.
Meanwhile, Monsignor Achilles Dakay, spokesman of the Cebu Archdiocese, warned of a potential conflict of interest over the appointment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide to the truth commission that will investigate alleged anomalies committed by Arroyo and her officials.
Monsignor Dakay said Davide had been close to Arroyo.