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GK, ‘Couples:’ Divorced, but still friends

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:18:00 05/23/2009

Filed Under: Couples for Christ rift, House building, Conflicts (general), Family planning

MANILA, Philippines?The Couples for Christ Friday disagreed with Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz?s instructions to Pangasinan parishes to shun the Gawad Kalinga (GK), the social action group that it founded but with which it has had serious policy disagreements.

CFC top officials said its members would continue to support the projects of GK?whose program to build homes for the needy has been a runaway success?even as they made the announcement that the CFC, the country?s largest lay Catholic organization, was ?letting go? of GK.

?We recognize and respect the authority of our bishops in their respective dioceses,? said Joe Tale, executive director of the CFC International Council (CFC-IC), but he clarified that CFC?s cutting its ties with GK would not mean ?the abandonment of GK sites.?


Following the announcement in early May that the CFC-IC and GK had decided to have separate leaderships, Cruz issued a directive to Pangasinan parishioners not to have anything more to do with the GK as he said the split would mean that the GK would be functioning as a nonreligious organization.

GK executive director Antonio Meloto immediately clarified that there was no severing of ties with the CFC-IC, explaining that there continued to be an ?interdependence of members? even as there was an ?independence of governance.?

By this he meant that the Church hierarchy and its members should continue to participate in GK projects.

This was further clarified by the CFC-IC Friday at the first press conference it held on the issue during which officials of the lay organization admitted that they had initiated the break.

Tale said CFC-IC members decided ?to let go [of their positions in the GK] and pass on the leadership to a new set of board members.?

He said the CFC-IC hoped to meet with Cruz to ?explain that our desire is to continue to serve and care for them [the GK sites in Pangasinan].?

?Elusive unity?

?There is no split in the real sense. CFC members can continue to volunteer in GK sites,? he said.

Earlier reports said the CFC-IC and the GK had serious disagreements, particularly on the issue of the GK accepting donations from groups promoting population control that the Catholic Church opposes.

While it did not categorically confirm this, the CFC-IC said in a statement that while it has tried to resolve its ?differences? with the GK, ?unity continues to be elusive under the present structure.?

?GK is focused on nation-building and on poverty alleviation that will necessitate that it mainstreams and partners with all sectors of society,? Tale said in the statement.

He said GK was also ?poised to enter non-Christian countries (such as India, Indonesia and the Middle East) as a nonreligious organization.?

But CFC-IC member Rouquel Ponte said, ?we will continue to support GK even in non-Christian villages.?

GK helps poor communities build decent homes for themselves. For the past 12 years, the group was practically under CFC-IC leadership as the seven members of the CFC-IC also served as members of the 12-member GK board.

In Friday?s statement, the CFC-IC formally announced its decision to ?let go of the governance and corporate structure? of GK and turn over the leadership to a new board.

To ensure a smooth transition, two CFC-IC members, Ernie Maipid Jr. and Lito Tayag, will remain in the GK board ?in an interim capacity,? Tale said.

Common heart for the poor

Tale said the split would ?allow the GK to grow and flourish.?

?There is an organizational change but it is important to note that the two will continue to work together and have a common heart for the poor,? Tale added.

He said the split would also allow the CFC to continue working on its own pro-poor projects.

In 2007, the CFC also suffered a schism over the organization?s direction, also involving the same issue of GK?s policies.

Frank Padilla, a founding member of the CFC, broke away from the group to form CFC-Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL), after voicing his opposition to the GK.

Padilla reportedly did not approve of the GK policy of accepting donations from companies that market artificial family planning and other values that he said were opposed to CFC. He also called for more vigorous evangelization efforts from CFC members.

Meloto, also a founding member of the CFC, argued that the CFC should also be involved in nation-building, which is the underlying philosophy of the GK that he founded.

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