By Carlos H. Conde

MANILA — I was disappointed, to say the least, that our Catholic bishops, in a closed-door meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last Friday, did not bring up with her the matter of Proclamation 1017. According to this report, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, reasoned that since the state of national emergency had been lifted, “we have no material to discuss it. He added: “I think everybody is happy now.

Lagdameo and his ilk should tell that to the activists who are dispersed violently, to the Filipinos who can longer hold rallies and demonstrations without the risk of getting mauled by the police, to the families of activists who were assassinated since the lifting of the state of emergency, to members of the press who still feel the chilling effect of the government’s assault on press freedom.

Since the lifting, things have not returned to the situation prior to Proclamation 1017. Either these bishops are too blind to see it or they have become totally compromised to give a hoot.

Arroyo has successfully put out fire after fire caused not by some disgruntled elements in the military or the Left but by the cheating in the 2004 election. She used force to intimidate the political opposition, the Left, the reformist bloc in the military, the press, and the middle class. All to suppress the truth about the election, in which she allegedly cheated massively using, among others, the military.

And she used to her advantage, dear bishops, your failure to see evil in Proclamation 1017 and the repression that went with it. Your failure to act against her authoritarian edict and the state’s abuses of our civil liberties only emboldened her tyrannical regime.

No, bishops, nobody but Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is happy with how things turned out. And that’s partly because you lacked the moral courage to confront her.

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