MANILA, November 13, 2003  (MALAYA) By REGINA BENGCO - President Arroyo yesterday called for "principled reconciliation" among the warring groups in government and "civil society" to speed up the healing process and "strengthen the country's democratic moorings."

Arroyo said she has opened backchannel lines to all groups.

Arroyo issued the call following the defeat of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

The House last Tuesday voted 115-77 in favor of respecting the Supreme Court ruling that the impeachment complaint was unconstitutional.

Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, incoming president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has accepted Arroyo's offer to act as facilitator for future reconciliation meetings with groups with which government would like to mend fences.

Capalla accepted the offer during a special Cabinet meeting in Malacaņang Tuesday where he and Fr. Romero Intengan, provincial of the Jesuit Community of the Philippines, were invited as resource persons to guide the Cabinet on the doctrine of "principled reconciliation."

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the Palace is open to reconciliation with the groups of detained President Joseph Estrada, Communist Party of the Philippines, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Marcos family and former ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Cojuangco is chairman emeritus of the Nationalist People's Coalition which spearheaded the impeachment move.

Bunye, asked if Arroyo's advocacy of "principled reconciliation" and pursuit of the "common good" means government would allow Estrada to go to the US, said: "We do not wish to go that far. I believe we will adapt to this situation as this plays out."

"The general feeling was that the rule of law would have to be upheld but the humane treatment of the detainee, being a former president, would have to be taken into consideration," he said.

Capalla told the Cabinet that countries that emerged from traumatic experiences brought about by authoritarian regimes like Uganda, South Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador used "Truth and Reconciliation Commissions" to promote national unity. He said the truth commissions ferret out human rights abuses and help a wounded society reconcile its conflicts.

He said forgiveness, though a dirty word in politics, is possible and have been used by successful nations.

He cited the case of Nelson Mandela, who invited his white jailer as guest of honor during his inauguration as South Africa's first black president; South Korea's Kim Dae Jung who invited to his oath-taking Gen. Chun Doo Hwan who sentenced him to death in 1980; Pope John Paul who apologized for Christian atrocities to Jews; and Jordan's King Hussein who knelt before parents of Israeli children who were gunned down in 1995 by a rogue Jordanian soldier.

Arroyo, in her speech at the 22nd National Prayer Breakfast at the Manila Hotel, said principled reconciliation "is the call of God to our people today."

She said Interior Secretary Jose Lina Jr. during the emergency Cabinet meeting Tuesday, deduced from his reflections that the embodiment of principled reconciliation is the story of Zaccheus.

In the Bible, Zaccheus is the diminutive tax collector who climbed a tree just to see Jesus Christ pass by. Following his repentance and introduction to Christian life, he promised to change and give back several times what he had overcharged.

Arroyo asked for prayers to withstand challenges ahead and institute reforms, saying the Philippines is not yet a strong republic.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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