The CBCP has just concluded its marathon special meeting. The statement it issued is a fine example of the balancing that the bishops had to do to accommodate each other’s widely-differing positions. The statement condemned the “culture of corruption from top to bottom” and “urge the president and all branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found.”
However, there is a tilt in the balance as it categorically called for the abolition of EO 464 so that “those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies.” The CBCP asked President Arroyo to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly on the $329.48-million ZTE NBN deal without being obstructed in their testimony, “no matter who is involved.”
The thematic unity of the CBCP revolved around the search for truth–a formula that basically puts the onus for finding it on the broad opposition. In including President Macapagal-Arroyo as participant in the search for truth, the CBCP basically satisfied the bishops friendly to her. At the same time, it also opened the door for more testimony thereby satisfying those bishops who already made up their mind on the guilt of the President.
The CBCP put itself as the cart after the horse and sidestepped its possible moral leadership on the matter of addressing the key action of calling for GMA resignation. This sends the message that it will only act decisively when the people themselves–on their own–acted decisively towards this end.
The CBCP stance–from the political point of view–runs the real risk of it losing its ability to influence succeeding events. It may be sidelined in favor of other institutional and political remedies. If people power suffers a temporary setback, the middle class may attribute it to the CBCP’s weak endorsement. If people power wins, the role of the CBCP may be seen as an accidental one.
Certainly, the CBCP position will be used by both sides in the crisis to buttress their own position. However, the practical effect is to return the ball to the sender.
The judgment therefore is still out. The truth is still out there; but the Philippine Catholic church’s leading institution will not be part of those who will seek for–and act on–it.