RH Bill Was Killed by Pres. Gloria Arroyo in Exchange for Church Political Support

September 7, 2011

Wikileaks’ US Embassy cable from Manila shows

By Raïssa Robles

A month after then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a State of National Emergency, following the arrest of Brig. Gen. Danny Lim and other army officers, her political adviser Gabriel Claudio met with American diplomat Joseph Novak.

In a cable dated March 22, 2006, US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney filed this summary about Kovak’s meeting:

In light of recent political turbulence,President Arroyo has been reaching out to high-level members of the Catholic clergy in an effort to shore up support. Arroyo has also taken care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and population policy.

Kenney observed that –

Arroyo’s efforts appear to be bearing fruit: while a handful of bishops oppose her, the vast majority seem reluctant to be drawn into politics, a stance which effectively helps the president. Given its widespread influence (over 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic), Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to maintain good links to the Church.

Kenny reported what Claudio told Novak:

¶5. (C) Claudio added that President Arroyo had also taken care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and population policy.

¶6. (C) With respect to population policy, Claudio said there was “little chance” that Malacanang would ever endorse HB 3773, a proposed bill in the House that its proponents say would set a comprehensive national policy on responsible parenthood and population management (ref A). Claudio noted that the president had not taken any position on the bill’s merits per se. That said, she knew that the bill was “controversial” and had “upset many in the Catholic Church whom the President did not want to offend.” She had no plans to block the bill, however, which already had a sizable number of co-signors in the House.

Kenney added that when Dr. Bernie Villegas, a population expert and the vice-president of the Opus Dei-run University of Asia and the Pacific, met with the US embassy’s political section chief, Villegas –

commented that he had heard there was “an informal understanding” between Malacanang and the Church that the GRP would not push for HB 3773 “under any circumstances.”

A separate cable – this time sent on July 15, 2005 from the US Embassy in Vatican City – confirmed that Vatican had given marching orders to the Philippine bishops not to join anti-Arroyo protests.


US envoy Brent Hardt

Brent Hardt, the US Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires at the Vatican wrote then that:

¶1. (C) Holy See Country Director for the Philippines Monsignor Luis Montemayor confirmed July 14 that the Vatican pressured the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) not to support protests calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Hardt, now the US ambassador to Guyana, added:

¶2. (C) Monsignor Luis Montemayor, Holy See Country Director for the Philippines, confirmed reports (ref b) that via the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Antonio Franco, the Vatican had pressured the CBCP to remain neutral in the controversy surrounding President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He told us that although the Vatican’s preferences on the matter had never been a secret, Franco had for the first time on July 9 explained in no uncertain terms to the CBCP that the Vatican did not support popular uprisings as a method to remove a government. “We put a lot of pressure on the bishops” not to support the protests calling for the president’s resignation, he said, adding that the Vatican “insisted that the bishops distinguish between pastoral care and political involvement.”

In the light of the now raging controversy over the RH Bill, this stance by the Vatican raises some interesting questions.

Can Catholic bishops now reverse themselves and say it’s alright to call for the ouster of President Benigno Aquino III because he supports the passage of an RH Law?

If they do, could we suspect the Church motives then, that they had propped up the Arroyo government because Arroyo promised she would never allow the passage of an RH Law?

The bishops described their behavior during the Arroyo administration as “political neutrality.”

But even fence-sitting is an exercise of political power which the Church knows it has. The refusal to exercise political power is in itself a use of that power.

Fence-sitting is a political statement, as Ambassador Kenney herself rightly observed in the comment she attached at the end of her cable regarding Gabby Claudio’s revelations. Kenney concluded:

¶8. (C) Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to maintain good links with the Church, given its widespread influence (along with the military, the Church is probably the most important institution in the country). Both Marcos and Estrada got crosswise with the Church which backed successful “People Power” protests against them; Arroyo, however, has been careful to mind the store so that does not happen to her.

Which explains all the goodies that Malacañang Palace had extended to high Church officials.

The intense lobbying to curry Church support was done by no less than Mrs Arroyo. Kenney wrote what Monsignor Hernando Coronel told one of her embassy officers:

¶3. (C) The president has also had additional meetings with key figures in the Church. Monsignor Hernando Coronel, an assistant to Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila, told Acting Pol/C on March 20 that she had held a private meeting with Rosales in early March. During the meeting, Arroyo had offered to fly to Rome with Rosales and his party in order to attend Rosales’ formal induction as a cardinal. Rosales had demurred, while expressing his appreciation to the president for the offer. Coronel commented that Rosales — who meant no disrespect to the president — did not want his “red hat” ceremonies in Rome to be linked in any way to politics back home.

Claudio confirmed Arroyo’s generous offer and disclosed that she was wooing other sectors:

¶4. (C) When asked about all of these contacts, Malacanang Political Adviser Gabby Claudio told Acting Pol/C that the president was aware that the State of National Emergency had been controversial. She had decided “to intensify” efforts to reach out to key sectors, including the Church, in order to explain her views and communicate her willingness to listen. Arroyo, Claudio asserted, was not doing this “out of weakness” — in fact, she felt her positioning with the Church as a whole was quite solid (see below). She also planned to meet with other sectors, such as the business community and groups from outside of Manila, down the line in order to solidify her position further.

It boggles the mind to think how much tax money was spent shoring up Arroyo.

Definitely, the non-passage of the RH Law was a serious casualty of that holy bargain that Arroyo struck with the Church.

I am reprinting in full below the two Embassy Cables I quoted from so you can read them yourself and make your own conclusions:

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001275
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, INR/EAP, INR/B
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI PINS EMIN RP

SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ARROYO WORKS TO SHORE UP SUPPORT IN CATHOLIC CHURCH
REF: A. MANILA 1036
¶B. 05 MANILA 3946
MANILA 00001275 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: In light of recent political turbulence,President Arroyo has been reaching out to high-level members of the Catholic clergy in an effort to shore up support Arroyo has also taken care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and population policy. Arroyo’s efforts appear to be bearing fruit: while a handful of bishops oppose her, the vast majority seem reluctant to be drawn into politics, a stance which effectively helps the president. Given its idespread influence (over 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic), Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to maintain good links to the Church. End Summary.

Reaching out to the Clergy

¶2. (C) In light of recent political turbulence, which included the imposition of a State of National Emergency from February 24 – March 3, President Arroyo has been reaching out to high-level members of the Catholic clergy in an effort to shore up support. On March 14, Arroyo met with Ricardo Cardinal Vidal in Cebu and joined in a celebration of Vidal’s 50th year as a priest. On March 16, Arroyo traveled to Nueva Vizcaya in northern Luzon to celebrate the birthday of local Bishop Ramon Villena. On March 17, she traveled to Sorsogon in southern Luzon to attend a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of a priest who had formerly served as the chaplain at Malacanang.

¶3. (C) The president has also had additional meetings with key figures in the Church. Monsignor Hernando Coronel, an assistant to Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila, told Acting Pol/C on March 20 that she had held a private meeting with Rosales in early March. During the meeting, Arroyo had offered to fly to Rome with Rosales and his party in order to attend Rosales’ formal induction as a cardinal. Rosales haddemurred, while expressing his appreciation to the president for the offer. Coronel commented that Rosales — who meant no disrespect to the president — did not want his “red hat” ceremonies in Rome to be linked in any way to politics back home.

¶4. (C) When asked about all of these contacts, Malacanang Political Adviser Gabby Claudio told Acting Pol/C that the president was aware that the State of National Emergency had been controversial. She had decided “to intensify” efforts to reach out to key sectors, including the Church, in order to explain her views and communicate her willingness to listen. Arroyo, Claudio asserted, was not doing this “out of weakness” — in fact, she felt her positioning with the Church as a whole was quite solid (see below). She also planned to meet with other sectors, such as the business community and groups from outside of Manila, down the line in order to solidify her position further.

Mining, Population Policy

¶5. (C) Claudio added that President Arroyo had also taken care not to cross the Church on two key issues: mining and population policy. Regarding the first matter, President Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia and some other GRP officials had met with a handful of bishops representing the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on March 10 to discuss the Mining Act of 1995. (Note: After years of complex litigation by environmental activists, the Mining Act was ruled to be legal by the Supreme Court in ¶2004. End Note.) The bishops, Claudio continued, had expressed their long-standing view that the government needed to monitor implementation of the Mining Act more closely and not hesitate to withdraw mining permits where abuses related to the environment were occurring. Arroyo and de Venecia had carefully listened to the bishops and promised to continue to consult with them. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced on March 11 that the president was “sensitive to concerns about mining” and had ordered her administration to enforce environmental standards strictly. Claudio noted to Acting Pol/C that President Arroyo had no intention of placing a moratorium on the issuance of mining permits or revoking permits already issued, despite pressure to do just that by social activists and the CBCP. (Note: In January, the CBCP reiterated its concerns about mining in a public statement, which called for the repeal of the Mining Act, among other items. End Note.)

¶6. (C) With respect to population policy, Claudio said there was “little chance” that Malacanang would ever endorse HB 3773, a proposed bill in the House that its proponents say would set a comprehensive national policy on responsible parenthood and population management (ref A). Claudio noted that the president had not taken any position on the bill’s merits per se. That said, she knew that the bill was “controversial” and had “upset many in the Catholic Church whom the President did not want to offend.” She had no plans to block the bill, however, which already had a sizable number of co-signors in the House. In a March 21 discussion with Acting Pol/C, Dr. Bernie Villegas, a vice president and population expert at the Opus Dei-run University of Asia and the Pacific, commented that he had heard there was “an informal understanding” between Malacanang and the Church that the GRP would not push for HB 3773 “under any circumstances.”

Church Reluctant to Intervene

¶7. (C) Arroyo’s efforts appear to be bearing fruit. Most contacts agree that the vast majority of bishops are reluctant to be drawn into politics, a stance which effectively helps Arroyo. Coronel commented that this does not mean that bishops “necessarily support her,” though many see her as a very pious women who attends mass every day. Most bishops, however, feel that the Church needs to avoid getting involved directly in politics, a view in line with the pressures it is under from the Vatican which wants the Church worldwide to stick to spiritual issues (see ref B). Coronel acknowledged that there is a small cluster of bishops (probably five or so out of roughly 90 bishops nationally) who strongly oppose Arroyo, claiming that her administration is corrupt and “anti-poor.” One of her main detractors is Archbishop Oscar Cruz, an outspoken cleric with ties to the mainstream Opposition. Many in the Church — to no avail so far — want Cruz to stop making pronouncements on politics. Coronel added that Arroyo’s relatively solid positioning with the Church could change quickly if new scandals emerged.

Comment

¶8. (C) Arroyo will no doubt continue to work hard to maintain good links with the Church, given its widespread influence (along with the military, the Church is probably the most important institution in the country). Both Marcos and Estrada got crosswise with the Church which backed successful “People Power” protests against them; Arroyo, however, has been careful to mind the store so that does not happen to her. At this time, her positioning with the Church seems relatively solid, though — as noted by Coronel – any further scandals impacting on her or her administration (such as the “Hello Garci” tapes matter which rocked her administration last year) could change the status quo.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm
You can also access this site through the State Department’s Classified SIPRNET website:

http://www.state.sgov.gov/

Kenney

Here’s the one from the US Embassy in Vatican City:

C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000500

SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR EUR/WE (JLEVIN)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/15/2015
TAGS: PGOV PINS PREL SOCI RP VT

SUBJECT: VATICAN CONFIRMS IT PRESSURED FILIPINO BISHOPS

REF: A) MANILA 00318; B) MANILA 3202; C) VATICAN 473; D) VATICAN 489
CLASSIFIED BY: Peter Martin, POL, Vatican, State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

Summary

¶1. (C) Holy See Country Director for the Philippines Monsignor Luis Montemayor confirmed July 14 that the Vatican pressured the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) not to support protests calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Montemayor noted that the recently-deceased Cardinal Jaime Sin had been an obstacle to the Vatican’s influence over the bishops, but that they were “now hearing our message.” With this episode, and the Holy See’s recent input on the involvement of Catholic bishops in protests in East Timor (ref c), the Vatican appears to be intent on communicating its preference that clergy focus on the pastoral rather than the political. End Summary.

Pastoral not Political

¶2. (C) Monsignor Luis Montemayor, Holy See Country Director for the Philippines, confirmed reports (ref b) that via the Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Antonio Franco, the Vatican had pressured the CBCP to remain neutral in the controversy surrounding President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He told us that although the Vatican’s preferences on the matter had never been a secret, Franco had for the first time on July 9 explained in no uncertain terms to the CBCP that the Vatican did not support popular uprisings as a method to remove a government. “We put a lot of pressure on the bishops” not to support the protests calling for the president’s resignation, he said, adding that the Vatican “insisted that the bishops distinguish between pastoral care and political involvement.”

Sin had Different View

¶3. (C) Montemayor, a former Department IVP recipient who has covered the Philippines since 2001, emphasized that he had always opposed Catholic clergy’s involvement in popular uprisings against the government. “In 2001, with the protests against Estrada, I pressured the bishops to stay neutral,” he said. “They wouldn’t listen to me.” Montemayor suspects that the bishops were not getting the message. Montemayor knew recently deceased Cardinal Jaime Sin very well, and said the prelate had been “a major obstacle.” “We didn’t see eye to eye on the issue [of political involvement by the clergy].” “Sin felt it was his moral responsibility towards the people to intervene,” Montemayor added, “but we must support democracy and due process. Otherwise we are opening Pandora’s box.” His comments tracked closely with ref (b)as he suggested that with the death of Cardinal Sin, the current bishops are more amenable to instruction from the Vatican.

Comment

¶4. (C) The Holy See is hesitant to get out in front of its bishops in opposing local political leaders (recent ref (d) conversations on Venezuela are a case in point), but the Vatican is also loath to see clergy take active political roles. In fact, the principle of avoiding direct political involvement is enshrined in canon law, even if not always followed. Unlike in matters of “faith and morals,” the Holy See’s control over local bishops on political matters is uneven. Montemayor added that in this case an additional difficulty in communicating the Holy See’s policy was the papal nuncio. Franco “acts like a father figure to the bishops, encouraging them even when they go the wrong way,” Montemayor said. In any case, with this episode and the Holy See’s recent input on the involvement of Catholic bishops in protests in East Timor (ref c), the Holy See has proven to be intent on communicating its preference that clergy focus on the pastoral rather than the political. End comment.

HARDT

NNNN

2005VATICA00500 – Classification: CONFIDENTIAL

Source: http://raissarobles.com/2011/09/07/rh-bill-was-killed-by-pres-gloria-arroyo-in-exchange-for-church-political-support/

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