“Senate has become a partisan venue for opposition”

Quevedo also said that “although many developments have taken place since the 2005 “Hello Garci” tapes were exposed, “these developments beg for proof, the truth, closure.”

The Senate work on the National Broadband Network-ZTE deal is “in aid of legislation,” he said.

“By its very nature the process – which is sometimes without the benefit of the other side being heard or witnesses being interpellated by ‘defense’ – is not ultimately meant to determine responsibility and guilt. In fact some of the Senators are saying, ‘Enough. We already have enough facts to aid us in legislation.’ Hence, the Senate may not really the proper venue for seeking the truth,” Quevedo wrote.

“But does not the Lozano testimony in the Senate establish once and for all that GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) is guilty of the highest type of corruption? Isn’t the testimony of Lozada similar to the testimonies against former President Erap (Estrada) leading to EDSA II?” Quevedo asked.

His answer: “On these issues many Bishops would believe the following: In the case of EDSA II, there were Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings. But the final stage of investigation was a formal impeachment process, with lawyers presenting and rebutting, etc. and with the Supreme Court Chief Justice presiding. Both sides were heard fairly. We saw on TV Governor Singson’s ledger, a money trail right up to Clarissa Ocampo’s riveting story of signature-writing by the former President – all irrefutable testimonies despite efforts by defense lawyers. The stage for EDSA II was set. The verdict of guilty was a foregone conclusion based on real evidences and not simply on stories. The non-opening of an infamous envelope was simply the trigger. There is, therefore, a great difference between the Lozano testimony and the testimonies leading to EDSA II. Today, lawyers would most likely dispute the truth of the Lozano testimony. Some people who are for the resignation of Gloria in fact have some reservations about it.”

“Considering today’s political polarization it is unfortunate that the veracity of witnesses would also depend to some extent on the mind set of the observer. If I am anti-Gloria I would be very inclined to say that Lozada is truthful. But even in the anti-Gloria group we find many who would rather go through a legal process of finding the truth. The pro-Gloria camp would say that no solid evidence has been presented. As a result of these divergent perspectives many Bishops believe that the truth is far from settled and that we must continue to seek the truth,” Quevedo wrote.

In a numbered commentary,  typical of the Archbishop,  he also said reports about Mindanao Bishops “saving” President Arroyo were “absolutely false.”

“There were 55 Bishops present at the meeting of February 26, 2008. Four of the 55 were non-voting. Of the voting Bishops, 29 were from Luzon, 17 from Mindanao (among those absent from Mindanao was Bishop Pueblos), 6 from Visayas. From the numbers alone one can readily see how evidently false it would be for anyone to claim that the Mindanao Bishops ‘saved’ GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).  In fact, the Bishops’ statement was approved unanimously. Even the handful known to favour Gloria’s resignation approved the statement.”

Mindanao has 24 bishops, including 3 auxiliary bishops and one administrator.

In asking “this time, why did not the Bishops demand GMA to resign,” a question Quevedo based on questions raised since the February 26 Pastoral Statement came out, he replied, “choose from the following: a) They are blind and cannot see reality; b) They do not listen to the people and specially to the poor; c) Many of them have received money from the President; d) They have no spine and e) All of the above.”

“Are these charges true? No they are not. Bishops do visit people in the barrios and listen to them. They know what the poor are saying. In the provinces people have problems quite different from those in Manila and are not as much affected by issues that the national media and various groups in Metro Manila project. Mindanao-based groups, for instance, try to project these issues unto the public but for various reasons, particularly ideological, the public does not favourably respond. Some groups in Manila might speak of massive rallies nation-wide, but the Bishops do not see this happening in their own dioceses. And so the Bishops see the difference between Manila and their own provincial dioceses. Their people generally see things differently. Maybe, just maybe,  it also takes a bit of courage for Bishops to go against the current ‘popular’ political opinion and public clamor?,” Quevedo wrote.

On the allegations that the President gives gifts and money to bishops, Quevedo replied: “My answer is quite simple. For how much could a Bishop sell his soul or conscience to someone else? 10,000 pesos? 20,000 pesos? 100,000 pesos? 500,000 pesos?  One million pesos? Five or 10 million pesos? That gifts or money would blind the eyes of Bishops and seal their lips to gross corruption when solidly proven would be a tragic contradiction to their experience as pastors at EDSA I and EDSA II.”

For Quevedo, the abolition of EO 464, which the CBCP is asking and which President Arroyo has responded to favorably through an order for review, “will greatly help the process of seeking the truth.”

“Many questions can be answered by Cabinet Secretaries and they can provide a lot of information related to the present controversies. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., informed the Bishops that even if EO 464 were to be abolished, ‘Executive Privilege’ would still remain. To a Bishop’s question Fr. Bernas answered that the President cannot waive Executive Privilege since it is not given to her personally but is granted to the Office itself. (Many people think that ‘the President can waive this privilege if she has nothing to hide. If she does not waive it, she must be hiding something.’). But there are specific parameters, he said, to Executive Privilege. Therefore, without EO 464 a Cabinet Secretary can answer many questions and provide many kinds of information about alleged corruption cases as long as the questions are not about specific areas covered by executive privilege.  Hence despite its obvious limitations the recommendation to abolish EO 464 is a priority recommendation of the Bishops to help seek the truth,” Quevedo wrote. (MindaNews)