Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, February 8, 2006 edition, p. A10.

What was the official reaction to the most recent CBCP (Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines) statement?

Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s official spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said, “Para pong Bibliya iyan, kanya-kanya po iyung interpretasyon. They have their interpretation, we have our own take on the statement.”

The CBCP said, “We have all observed the failure to make public servants accountable for wrongdoing. What we have seen instead are acts of evasion and obstruction of the truth.”

Bunye replied, “We are one with the CBCP in the search of truth and justice and we shall exert our efforts to engage the CBCP in sincere and constructive dialogue. We take exception, however, to comments questioning the legitimacy of the President.”  Bunye is right to take exception because legitimacy is no longer the question, unless we pretend that we still don’t know the truth.

Didn’t  Bunye himself preempt the release of the Hello Garci tapes by presenting two CDs, an authentic fake with the voice of Ignacio Arroyo’s chief of staff dubbed over Virgilio Garcillano’s voice and a faked authentic tape that made the conversation between Mrs. Arroyo and Garcillano appear innocent? Didn’t Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in Congress abort the impeachment before any evidence could be presented? Didn’t Mrs. Arroyo issue Executive Order 464?

There is no need to continue searching for something already found. The task now is to bring criminals to justice. Iyan po ang interpretasyon ko dyan. (That’s my take on it.)

The CBCP said they were opposed to the no-election scenario proposed by Malacañang, so Bunye replied, “There will be elections in 2007.” Speaker Jose de Venecia agreed. He said, “We are in favor of elections in 2007. There’s a moral dimension that we cannot move to extend our terms of office. That is irregular.” De Venecia must have found the introduction of a moral dimension as highly irregular.

At any rate, the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments voted 14-3 to scrap “no-el” but its chairman, Representative Constantino Jaraulla, said the committee’s decision could be overturned because the final decision on the 2007 election “depends on the mood of the congressmen during plenary debates.”

So, who do we believe?  Bunye, de Venecia, Jaraulla, or our common sense? Hindi ko masasagot iyan, kaya bahala na kayo. (I can’t answer that so you’re on your own.)

The CBCP delivered a rather lengthy exposition of their views on changing the charter, but we must read it, if only to fully appreciate de Venecia’s response.

The bishops said, “Although we agree that certain aspects of our Constitution may need amendments and revisions, we do not support hasty efforts to change this fundamental law of the land without the widespread discussion and participation that such changes require….This is best done through a Constitutional Convention. The reasons for Constitutional Change must be based on the common good rather than of self-serving interests or the interests of political dynasties.”

And De Venecia’s response?   He said, “We appreciate the historic decision of the bishops and the archbishops to now go for Charter change. That is a breakthrough, a welcome positive constructive criticism. That is terrific and we salute that.”  Wow! So I waited for the other shoe to drop. And De Venecia did not disappoint me.

He said the Bishops’ call for a constitutional convention was “something that we could not support at this time because of the delay of two to four years and the incredible cost— we need P8 billion which we don’t have.” What?!?  If we can’t afford to do it right and right away then a constituent assembly composed of “self-serving interests or the interests of political dynasties” acquires the right to do it for us?

But, what if our economy is indeed poised for a take-off because of Mrs. Arroyo’s wonderful economic policies, then we won’t have to wait too long for the P8 billion to pay for a Constitutional Convention Right? Is that why de Venecia and his associates are in a hurry to change the charter now? Melanie Marquez would answer, “They want to bake a cake and eat it too.”

What if there are no elections in 2007? What if the charter is not amended in a democratic manner? What if the criminals are never be brought to justice?

St. Augustine has the answer to those questions. He said, “a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves.”

And what do people call the ruling coalition headed by Mrs. Arroyo and de Venecia? Read the title again.