3 bishops belie rumors CBCP divided over granting pardon to Erap
Manila (30 October) -- The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is not divided over the issue of granting pardon to former President Joseph Estrada.
In fact, majority of the Catholic bishops are satisfied and respect President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to grant executive clemency to Estrada.
In a joint statement, Tuguegarao Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, Bishop Rodolfo Beltran of Bontoc-Lagawe and Bishop Ramon Villena of Bayombong belied rumors that the CBCP is divided on the issue. The statement said the alleged division is more imaginary than real.
The three bishops said that it is public knowledge that the CBCP welcomed the decision and even Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal had joined other prominent citizens in asking for the pardon of Estrada as a gesture of reconciliation.
"Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the incumbent president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has a different – not an opposed – concern: that of restorative justice. It is our position that there is no contradiction in these positions," the bishops said.
"It should also be noted that many who are exceedingly vociferous against the grant of the presidential pardon are averse to it not because they desire justice, but because they see in this another opportunity to strike at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo."
The bishops said that justice has been done with the former President having been tried, prosecuted and convicted.
The bishops said Estrada has admitted his guilt by asking for presidential clemency and is bound to restitute the items and properties decreed by the Sandiganbayan.
"Restorative justice does not mean only the restoration of society that has been injured by the misdeeds of one of its members, but also the restoration of the offender so that he may not be an outsider to his own community," they said.
Aside from being part of government policy of releasing convicts aged 70 years or above, the bishops said the grant of pardon was "a courageous and commendable gesture at reconciliation," and added that "the nation cannot benefit from a badly divided people."
"As bishops, we demand that justice be done. We are satisfied that the trial and conviction of former President Joseph Estrada has done just that. We also believe that he must restitute what must be restituted, as firmly as we believe that he must be given a chance to be a productive member of our society," they stressed.
"We therefore respect the decision of the President to exercise a power unquestionably granted her by the fundamental law of the land, considering furthermore that the Constitution itself lays down no conditions that give us reason to doubt the legality or morality of the President's act," the bishops added. (OPS) [top]