Philippine Catholic bishops tell Aquino to uphold constitution

by Reuters
Tuesday, 22 July 2014 05:04 GMT

In this 2010 file photo, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (R) greets bishops of the Roman Catholic Church during a first ever solemn celebration of a Mass of the Holy Spirit, known as 'Red Mass', inside a cathedral in Manila REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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"There is a very important distinction between what is popular - or appears to be so - and what is right," Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a statement

MANILA, July 22 (Reuters) - Philippine Catholic bishops warned President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday to resist temptations to bully the Supreme Court to reverse a decision that an economic stimulus fund was illegal, asking him to uphold the constitution.

Aquino, only son of the country's democracy icon, former president Corazon Aquino, has warned the court of a possible constitutional crisis if it does not reverse an earlier decision that the Disbursement Acceleration Program was illegal.

The president has asked people to wear yellow to show support to his government against the Supreme Court, invoking "people power" to force the justices to reconsider their ruling because it threatened his economic goals.

"There is a very important distinction between what is popular - or appears to be so - and what is right," Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a statement.

"I pray that all our officials ever be cognisant of this important differences so that all may resist the temptation of pursuing a course of action only because it seems to be popular. We stand for an independent judiciary."

The political opposition said Aquino has shown dictatorial tendencies when he refused to accept the court decision and rejected his budget secretary's offer to resign.

Villegas issued the statement after a retired archbishop, Oscar Cruz, signed an impeachment petition against Aquino for violating the constitution and betraying public trust.

He said the CBCP neither supports the filing of any impeachment complaint against the president, but it will neither begrudge anyone, including priests, to exercise their right to file cases against Aquino.

On Tuesday, a congressman Terry Ridon endorsed another impeachment case against the president filed by a group of university students in Manila. A day earlier, three left-wing congressmen had supported the first valid impeachment motion against Aquino.

Aquino's ratings have fallen to the lowest level, based on two latest independent pollsters, after the public doubted Aquino's anti-corruption drive when he protected his own allies.

Analysts said the president's ratings would continue to slide after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional his creation of an economic stimulus fund designed to shore up public spending to boost economic growth.

Aquino's communications secretary, Herminio Coloma said they are not worried by the impeachment complaints.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Michael Perry)

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