PEACETALK: Madame President, redeem yourself… live in the light. By Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

Picardal was delivering his letter to President Arroyo, a letter he wrote a day before he started his “bicycle journey for life and peace”  on March 24, in Davao City. He read the contents of the letter to the President on April 26, during a press conference at the media center of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
“More soldiers, marines and policemen arrived and blocked the entrance towards Malacanang. A firetruck was being filled with water. There was a tense atmosphere. After waiting for a long time, an officer of the Presidential Security Group came and told me that we could not come in. I asked him if he could assure me that the letter which I was giving him can reach the president. After he promised that it will be given to her, I then decided that it was time to go. So we biked back to Baclaran with a police car tailing us and making sure that we wouldn't go back to Malacanang.”

Picardal’s letter to the President, dated March 23, 2008:

Dear Madam President,

Peace be with you!

I am a 54 year old Catholic priest who is biking around the country – from Davao to Aparri via the Bukidnon, Bohol, Cebu, Negros, Panay and Mindoro and back to Davao via Cordillera, Bicol, Samar, Leyte and Eastern Mindanao. This is a 56-day journey covering over 5000 km.

In many churches all over the country, I preach the Good News of Life and Peace in a land where the culture of death, violence and corruption prevails. Some of the manifestations of this culture of death are: the continuing armed conflict in the countryside, the extrajudicial killings, and the destruction of the environment. The rampant graft and corruption which the CBCP has condemned as “death dealing” perpetuates this culture of death and violence.

Eight years ago, I also biked across the country preaching a similar message. When President Estrada was ousted by people power and you assumed office, I was so happy and I thought it would no longer be necessary for me to bike around the country again and preach in the churches to condemn the culture of death and corruption. In your inaugural address you promised to bring about an era of new politics that would put an end to the culture of corruption and that would bring about lasting peace based on justice. I expected the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF and MILF to go forward and a peace agreement would be reached.

Now as I look at our situation I am filled with disappointment and indignation. After seven years under your administration, what your promised remain a dream.

The culture of death persists. The armed conflict continue to escalate as the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF have been abandoned and you adopt an all out war policy aimed at ending the insurgency problem within the next two years. There is still no peace agreement between the Government and the MILF in spite of the ceasefire.

The extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have increased under your regime. The Alston report lay the blame on forces within your government that have used these killings as part of the counter-insurgency strategy.

The environmental destruction caused by logging and mining threatens the life and health of the people continues. The forests are fast disappearing. The air, land, seas and rivers are polluted.

The corrupt patronage politics continues to prevail. The Philippines remains one of the most corrupt countries in Asia. As the CBCP pastoral letter pointed out – there is corruption in all levels of society- from top to bottom. Your husband and cronies have been implicated in these corruption scandals – such as the ZTN broadband deal. Many believe that you yourself are at the center of this web of corruption. There are allegations that you have used the executive privilege and EO 464 to cover up cases of corruption. Whistle-blowers like Jun Lozada have been harassed.

Madam President you claimed that God has destined you for the presidency. You appear as a pious woman. You go to mass everyday. You constantly ask for the blessing of the bishops, priests and religious..

Yet you stand accused of being an evil person who is filled with greed for power and wealth, who cheated in the elections, who brutally suppresses dissent and who engages in covering up anomalies and corruption carried out by those close to you, who favors the mining companies over the welfare of the people and the environment.

You have become so unpopular, Your approval rating is very low and many are calling for your resignation. There is anger and discontent among the people.

It is difficult to reconcile your piety and your behavior. Because of this many perceive you as a hypocrite.

Even if I wish you would resign I will not ask you to step down because I know it will be futile. You intend to hold on to power and finish your term.

The worst thing that can happen to you is to spend the rest of your life in shame and disgrace knowing that you have been judged by your people as a greedy, corrupt, deceitful, power-hungry president no better than Marcos or Estrada.

Madam President you can use the remaining years of your presidency to redeem yourself. You can still live up to the promises you made after you were installed by people power.

The following are my appeal:

   1. Abandon your all out war policy and resume the peace process with the NDF and the MILF.
   2. Investigate thoroughly the extrajudicial killings, bring the perpetrators to justice, and put an end to these killings
   3. Protect the environment by implementing a total log ban, repealing the mining act and banning aerial spraying
   4. Allow the investigation of corruption to continue even if it involves people close to you. Do not appeal to executive privilege in these investigations, and come up with stringent measures to prevent corruption in all levels of government.

Madam President, do not allow yourself to be dominated by the dark side but live in the light. Instead of perpetuating the culture of death and corruption, may you promote the culture of life, peace and good governance.

Think of what legacy you are going to leave behind. Remember, you will face the judgment of history and of God.


Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR