Aquino vow a tall order, say bishops
A graft-free Philippines in the next five years may be a “tall order” but for it to be possible, President Aquino must learn to fire his friends in the government service who are found to be in error and select more competent officials, according to several Catholic bishops.
Catholic prelates from across the country on Monday expressed doubts about President Aquino’s vow made in his first Independence Day speech on Sunday to deliver the nation from corruption and poverty before he steps down in 2016.
The bishops said that a 10-percent reduction in poverty numbers in the next five years would be more achievable.
“[That’s] a tall order. [He must] prove his competency,” said Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon over Church-run Radyo Veritas on Monday.
But for Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, “that’s not attainable,” referring to Mr. Aquino’s promise of a country free from corruption.
“Maybe a 10-percent poverty reduction in five years” [was more realistic], Gutierrez said also over Radyo Veritas.
The Marbel prelate said the President must first eliminate graft and corruption in government offices, particularly in the largest revenue-collecting agencies like the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs, to fulfill his promise.
“He should fire and not protect his friends if [they are found guilty] of wrongdoing… he must also select competent officials,” stressed Gutierrez.
Antipolo Auxiliary Bishop Francisco de Leon echoed his colleagues, saying that the Philippines would be free from poverty and corruption if the President does not spare his friends whom he appointed to the government.
“Talk is different from action, I want to see his actions,” added De Leon, also over Radyo Veritas.
Last week, the minority in Congress demanded that the President’s “kakampi, kaklase and kabarilan” (party mates, classmates and shooting buddies) face a congressional investigation for alleged offenses, after Mr. Aquino supposedly chose to ignore the cases his close friends were facing.
They include Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres, Mr. Aquino’s shooting buddy who was recommended for dismissal by the Department of Justice for intervening in the Stradcom ownership dispute.
Another close friend of the President, Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, had been recommended to be charged for the botched Rizal Park hostage rescue last year, while Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had been accused of tax evasion but he has since been cleared.
Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco conceded that eliminating graft and corruption in the country would not be easy and that it could not be carried out by only one man.
“We must help each other [and] we are also hoping that President Aquino would give attention to the feedback and reflections of the people from various sectors of society to achieve his promise,” said Ongtioco.
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