Former governor-priest’s return to Church still uncertain
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A year-and-a-half since serving a three-year term as governor of Pampanga, Fr. Eddie Panlilio still finds himself forbidden from performing Roman Catholic rites.
He cannot even celebrate the 31st year of his ordination on Dec. 13.
The limitations persist as Archbishop Paciano Aniceto studies whether or not to restore the priestly faculties and duties of Panlilio. His case shows it is not easy to cross from the Church to the state and back.
Aniceto suspended Panlilio when the latter, with less than a month to the 2007 local elections, “disobeyed” his order not to plunge into politics.
The priest, who heeded the appeal of some sectors to fight two moneyed allies of former President Macapagal-Arroyo, was brought to victory by an army of volunteers despite great odds, weeded out corruption and installed reforms for good governance amid recall and recount campaigns by the camp of now Gov. Lilia Pineda.
In a campaign sortie, President Aquino recognized that the version of people power in Pampanga presaged his “daang matuwid” campaign.
“I have no regrets. We faced an extraordinary situation in Pampanga then. Public good was at stake. Perhaps serving in government at that time was the expression of my priesthood,” Panlilio said in an interview on Dec. 6, his 58th birthday. He declined to talk beyond this.
Panlilio’s request to return to the ministry is “under process,” Aniceto told the Inquirer. “It is not automatic,” the 74-year-old archbishop added.
“The issues involved are being evaluated regarding the consequences for the future of his previous direct participation in partisan politics,” he said.
Aniceto’s replies made two things clear now. One is that the archbishop is in touch with Panlilio. Another is that the lifting of the suspension depends on Aniceto.
All these months, Aniceto was known to have put Panlilio under the guidance of Auxiliary Bishop Roberto Mallari. His home has been at the University of the Assumption here.
Some priests and several lay leaders want Panlilio back, according to a source who said that letters of support have been filed at the archbishop’s office.
Because the fate of Panlilio rests on Aniceto, the reintegration of the priest should happen before the archbishop retires on his 75th birthday in 2012, said Fr. Resty Lumanlan, SVD.
Aniceto, said Lumanlan, has imposed just one condition: That Panlilio must sign a contract that he is not going to accept any appointment or any position in government.
Panlilio must be toeing this line. He has not taken any offer to serve in the Aquino administration. In recent months, he was known to be involved in human rights campaigns, prison apostolate and disaster responses.
With Kaya Natin!, which he cofounded together with Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, Panlilio lectures on local governance and moral leadership. He is also helping the Pampanga laity in responsible citizenship as convenor of the Kapampangan Manalakaran Inc.
He continues to fight the illegal numbers game “jueteng” because where it exists, “it destroys the moral values of our elected leaders,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.