GMA PUSHES 'PRINCIPLED RECONCILIATION'

ANGELES CITY, NOVEMBER 14,  2003   (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - As all hell continued to break loose around her, President Arroyo called yesterday for "principled reconciliation" among the parties involved in the impeachment of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

On a day when thousands marched on the streets of Makati’s commercial district demanding her ouster, and a Quezon City court threw out a multiple murder case against her political rival Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the President kept busy pushing for national reconciliation.

Less than 24-hours after the House of Representatives junked the impeachment case against Davide, President Arroyo took steps to begin a fresh process of national reconciliation with the help of Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, incoming president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The President, in a bid to quickly contain political fallout from the foiled attempt to impeach Davide, met on Tuesday with senior political, religious and business leaders and asked them to immediately begin mending fences.

Hours after Mrs. Arroyo began her reconciliation efforts, anti-government protesters filled Ayala Avenue in Makati City and condemned the House decision to stop the Davide impeachment.

The President had called a "special" Cabinet meeting at the Palace. Capalla and Fr. Romeo Intengan, who heads the provincial Jesuit Community in the Philippines, were invited to the meeting.

Capalla, who initially said he does not intend to be involved in politics, has accepted the President’s offer that he spearhead the renewed effort at national reconciliation.

The Davao archbishop may thus be filling the void left by politically outspoken Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who retired recently.

Capalla and Intengan served as "resource persons" speaking on the theology of "principled reconciliation," which the President wants to pursue.

STAR sources privy to the Cabinet meeting said Capalla is meeting "in principle with everyone" to forge an agreement that will pave the way for "reconciliation."

Capalla’s task "is to spearhead national reconciliation efforts," a highly reliable source said. "Our country is so divided that the task of governance is neglected. There is a general climate of division and rancor in society."

Capalla flew to Sydney, Australia for a vacation immediately after the Cabinet meeting and will not be back until next week.

Tough Job

"This is a very complicated problem but, in the end, it was his passion for peace that prompted (Capalla) to take on the job" of reconciliation facilitator, the source said.

Capalla, the source added, has the "moral authority" to recommend measures and was assured of the President’s full support. He will be "a facilitator, or mediating personage, in this process," the source said.

"This is going to be a long and tedious process," the source said of the reconciliation bid. "(Capalla) will be employing practical measures to bring about confidence. If we rush this it will not be credible."

"The President wants reconciliation, but not at all costs," the source said, adding that this would limit Capalla’s efforts.

The perceived political opponents of the Arroyo administration include the camp of ousted President Joseph Estrada, the Marcos family and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Cojuangco is chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and is contesting the government’s claim to the controversial coconut levy funds.

Capalla was reportedly chosen to spearhead the fresh reconciliation move because of his experience as a facilitator of Muslim-Christian dialogue in Mindanao over the past two years. He has also been mediating on behalf of coconut farmers, so they can use part of the coconut levy fund to improve their lives.

"There are three principles for (Capalla)," the source said. "First, there will be an admission of fault from both sides. Second is the return of any ill-gotten wealth, maybe not all, but a substantial part of it and third is that neither side will cause any more trouble."

All this is to be done "without compromising truth and justice," the source said.

 ‘Open Back Channels’

The President said she opened "back channels" for a "principled reconciliation" of all the groups involved in the impeachment controversy.

The Davide impeachment debacle was "constitutionally resolved" when the House voted 115 to 77 to junk the complaint, Mrs. Arroyo said.

"I have opened earnest back channels to all groups involved and I hope they will heed the call for principled reconciliation," she said.

"The people must sense a unifying force in their institutions of governance or they themselves will be divided and weakened in facing the formidable challenges of waging the peace and fighting poverty," the President said.

She said it was time for opposition legislators and the judiciary "to quiet down this controversy."

Opposition-led members of the House tried to impeach Davide on allegations that he misused the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), but the motion collapsed earlier this week after the Supreme Court ruled the impeachment move was unconstitutional.

Davide denied the accusation and rejected parliament’s authority to put him on trial.

"We must have reconciliation and newfound unity if we are to move the nation forward," the President said in a statement. "All sides in the dispute have acted with statesmanship and we must gather around our democratic institutions rather than erode them further."

According to her, "the nation must be healed by a common patriotism and sense of duty among leaders and constituencies."

She prayed for the "common good," adding that "the Lord is reminding us again to reflect on and seek the common good."

The common good, the President believes, "is healing and reconciliation, and so I speak your prayers so that we can heal this broken land, so that we can reconcile the fragments of the ramparts of this nation."

The breakfast prayer gathering was attended by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Supreme Court Associate Justice Reynato Puno, several Cabinet members led by Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, and leaders of business and religious groups, including Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement.

"I seek your prayers, brothers and sisters, so that we can institute true reforms in our way of politics, in our way of economics — to really develop our economy and create a stronger republic to bring about the common good," the President said.

In Bulacan the President again called for reconciliation at the BarCIE International Center and said she is thankful that the majority of Filipinos respected the SC decision that resolved the standoff between the House and the judiciary.

The effort for reconciliation, the President said "is really the call of the times. Not only for the principled reconciliation in the conflict in the past impeachment crisis, but also true reconciliation that we are seeking with the NPA (New People’s Army) and the government, and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the government."

She added that reconciliation "is also important between the forces of EDSA II and EDSA III and this is an important reconciliation we must pursue."

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the President’s proffered "principled reconciliation" will also be extended to the Cojuangco and Marcos camps and suspected military coup plotters.

"We’re not saying the road to reconciliation is an easy path," Bunye said. "It will take some time, but the President is determined to start the process." — With James Mananghaya, Jose Aravilla, AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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