Arroyo still RP’s best option: Catholic Church


MANILA, AFP

President Gloria Arroyo on Sunday won an important endorsement from Philippines Roman Catholic bishops, who said there was no credible alternative despite her declining popularity.

President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, cautioned its flock to be wary of attempts to organize a “people power” uprising aimed at toppling the incumbent government.

A group of former Arroyo political allies are planning an anti-government street protest in Manila on Monday.

“I do not see the Church supporting any artificially-created people power trying to raise the banner of a contrived and artificially created national crisis,” Quevedo said in a statement.

Commenting on the planned protests, Arroyo spokesman Silvestre Afable said: “This government has taken the initiative (with) a lot of political, social and economic reforms, and there is no possibility that another (regime-changing uprising) will happen under this administration.”

Arroyo came to power in a Church- and military-backed bloodless popular revolt that toppled predecessor Joseph Estrada in January 2001. Estrada is now on trial for corruption.

“Right now, it would seem to me that the best option for the country is for President Arroyo to finish her term and be allowed to succeed without nitpicking by the opposition and by some sectors of media, and without needless political infighting,” Archbishop Quevedo said.

Without a realistic alternative, “why should we continue to raise petty issues about her personality, her political mistakes, as if she were Superwoman?”

Arroyo has faced rising dissent and eroding popularity over a wave of kidnappings as well as her pledge to honor power supply contracts predecessor governments had signed with private power producers which have driven up electricity tariffs.

Her public approval rating slipped to 42.6 percent last month, compared to 48 percent in March.

Quevedo said the Church would pursue its “critical solidarity” stance with Arroyo.

There are more than 50 million Catholics in the Philippines, a Southeast Asian archipelago of 80 million people.

“I do not see any grave national crisis that would seriously destabilize the Arroyo administration,” the church leader added.