- Yes, indeed, the Bishops are in contact with the grassroots. This is why they do not agree with the way some groups have co-opted the term "the people" when the term really means "some people", as in say, "the people's war," "the people's agenda", etc. Thus, such groups say that "the people want impeachment" when they really mean, "we" want impeachment. This is the first lesson that Bishops learn when they talk with their people in the poblacion and barrios.
- The second lesson that bishops learn is that what the people really want is not more political bickering in Manila but a political unity to address THE problem of their lives – food, delivery of social services, livelihood, road conditions, high prices of farm inputs, low prices of their products, etc.
3. The third lesson is in what they call in their statement, "in the light of previous circumstances." I think they are really speaking of the comedy of last year's impeachment process. The Bishops question not only the rules, but the behavior of ALL THE PARTIES (the pro and anti-impeachment Congresspersons), the character of the witnesses, the nature of evidence (including questions about the Garci tapes), the presentation of evidence, the judgment on the evidence, etc., etc. It is all so political. And so what some people judge as conclusive proof, other people would deem as very questionable. There is simply no undisputed smoking gun presented so far similar to the testimonies of Edgardo Espiritu, Chavit Singson and his secretary, and most especially Clarissa Ocampo in the case of the former President — their testimonies will drive THE people to the streets. But in the present case there are so many questions regarding the evidence and testimonies of witnesses, etc., that would make people stay home rather than go out into the streets.
4. That is my take on the reaction of people at the grassroots. It is neither cynicism nor indifference. I think they have made their judgment on the impeachment process and that judgment is quite different from what the political opposition claims it to be.
5.This is why the Bishops say that "in the light of previous circumstances," another impeachment process would be futile. It is not, unfortunately, the way to search for the truth but would simply make the over-all situation worse.
6. So are there other alternatives? Yes, and the Bishops already referred to such alternatives in a very general way in their July 2005 statement. It is again unfortunate that the opposition simply latched on to just one of the alternatives that the Bishops pointed out, namely, "Congress." Since that is no longer viable, why not try the others??
7. The fact that the CBCP statement mentions the One Voice group is also significant. The Bishops, I think, are indicating that One Voices, as reflected in the group's statement, represents an alternative approach to the impeachment process. More creative thinking along similar lines about getting out of the political impasse could be very helpful. Unfortunately, the One Voice position has been somewhat compromised by four or five signatories who have opted for impeachment.
(Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo is the Arcbhishop of Cotabato City. He served as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for two terms)