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Cardinal Vidal not calling for Aquino resignation – secretary

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal feels "bad" that a group calling for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III used him to spread their statement, his personal secretary, Father Joseph de Aquino, said Monday, February 16.

De Aquino reiterated that Vidal does not share the call of certain groups for Aquino to step down from his post, but the prelate is not holding any grudges.

"Wala man gyud niya giingon na iyaha to nga stand. Iyaha lang gibasa and naa siya giusab before niya gibasa," said De Aquino. (He did not say that it was his stand. He was only reading and he even revised some of it before reading.)

"He said some groups are calling for this (resignation of President Aquino). That's what he was clarifying,” De Aquino said, quoting the Cardinal.

“He said not to judge the group nga dautan na ang grupo (malicious group) or anything. He does not blame the group or even the media. He understands,” De Aquino said.

Revised statement

On Friday, February 13, members of the National Transformation Council (NTC) met with Vidal in his home in Banilad. 

After their meeting, Vidal read a written statement prepared by the NTC while television cameras were rolling, but he omitted and revised some parts of it. The original NTC statement was more strongly worded. 

A television network aired the part that said the group believed it was imperative for the President to resign after the anti-terrorist mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, where 44 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels.

Asked by reporters after reading the statement if he shared the NTC's position, Vidal said he did not make such calls, but he believed Aquino, as commander-in-chief, should be held accountable for the Mamasapano operation. 

In a separate statement sent through the Archdiocese's spokesperson, Monsignor Joseph Tan, on Monday, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma also reiterated that he did not support calls for the President's resignation.

He clarified the context behind Vidal's reading of the NTC statement. Palma was present during the Friday meeting but left soon after the statement was read to the media.

“In the statement read by the Cardinal after lunch, it was very clear that he did not categorically say and express his desire and support for the resignation of the President,” said Palma in a handwritten note, dated February 15, sent to his spokesperson in Cebu City.

Palma wrote his statement while in Manaoag, Pangasinan, to attend the preparations for the proclamation of the Shrine of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to the title of Basilica Minore.

Call for NTC to be 'honest'

Palma's spokesperson apologized for the confusion and also sought to explain why Vidal read the statement despite not sharing the group's position.

Tan said Cardinal Vidal lent his "voice" to the group to get the attention of Malacañang. He had hoped the Palace would agree to a dialogue with the NTC after that.

The Cardinal, Tan said, being a shepherd of the flock just wanted to call for a discussion and dialogue between the government and the sectors which are asking for President Aquino to resign. 

The monsignor hoped that the clarification made on Monday would prevent any further misrepresentation of church officials, especially within the Archdiocese of Cebu. 

"I would just like to say that the NTC has to be respectful and to be honest in their pronouncements. To stand by their own conviction on this matter. We want to prevent a misrepresentation [in the future]," Tan added.

De Aquino reiterated Monday that Vidal's reading of the NTC statement was taken out of context. 

"'Dili raba ako ana,'" De Aquino quoted the 84-year-old prelate. "Ang iyahang ingon na some groups are coming to him and asking the President to resign. He is sad nga siya ang ra ang nagsulti ba, and mura bitaw ug iyaha ngastand,” De Aquino said.

("No, that didn't come from me." What he said was that some groups are coming to him and asking the President to resign. He is sad that he is the one who said that, but it's also being taken as his personal stand.)

Present during the gathering of NTC members were former Senator Francisco Tatad, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, and former Interior Undersecretary Lito Ruiz. Gonzales and Ruiz both served the Arroyo administration.

De Aquino said Vidal welcomes all groups that seek dialogue with him as he is a “man of Peace.”

"All groups are welcomed by the Cardinal. He will listen to all. That's why he is prone to abuse, misquote, because he is always that, welcoming all groups that seek dialogue"  De Aquino said. 

Vidal did not face the media on Monday to prevent further confusion. De Aquino said that the statement of the Archdiocese through Archbishop Palma and his spokesperson Tan is already enough explanation.

Archbishop Palma clarifies too

Palma on Monday issued a handwritten note saying that he too did not call for the president to step down. 

For his part, Palma said that while he respects the opinions of others who asked for the President to resign, he maintained his position not to issue a statement of such nature.

“The church is not in the position to issue such political statement for it is beyond her competence,” Palma said.

“Finally, it is my hope and prayer that through this letter, confusing reports that have been widespread by now, will be cleared and clarified,” he added.

Tan also apologized to the public for the confusion brought about by the events on February 13.

"I would like to also sound off our apologies in behalf of the Archdiocese to everyone who has been offended by what happened. I say that because we cannot prevent people from reacting [in social networks]," Tan said.

It was not the intention of the Archdiocese to rally its people against the President to step down from office, Tan said. 

Unlikely stand

Tan, on the other hand, said it is unlikely that Vidal would issue a partisan stand. "He has served during several presidents, even with Marcos. If you remember, he never really called for Marcos to step down. EDSA was initiated by the late Cardinal Sin."

Tan said that during the time of President Joseph Estrada, the Cardinal was even accused of being pro-Erap for not having said anything against the former President. "What he did was he went privately to Malacañang in the height of the crisis and ended up convincing the President to step down on his own volition."

Meanwhile, De Aquino also pointed out that Vidal is not a member of the NTC as claimed by the group, although he was present in some of the group’s activities because he was invited.

“I have not seen any list or any document ug unsa si Cardinal sa grupo. The Cardinal has not signed any letter saying he was the chairman, or a member,” said De Aquino.