Bishop calls on Noy to resign, hints of shadow ouster group

By Gerard Naval and Regina Bengco – Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, known to be close to the Arroyo administration, yesterday called on President Aquino to resign after allegedly making it apparent by his actions that he is not interested in being president of the country.

Pueblos said “some groups” are already seriously working at ousting the President.

In a phone interview, the prelate said Aquino’s appointment of his allies, classmates and shooting buddies to various government positions only proves that he is not fit to stay as president.

“He does not plan. He does not study. He does not have his own decision and just let his friends fulfill it,” said Pueblos. “He should just resign then.”

But Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Aquino is “highly focused in implementing his program of government and is undeterred by baseless criticism.”

Pueblos’ call was the first made by a Catholic priest for Aquino to resign after only a year in office. It came amid moves by the House of Representatives’ minority bloc to investigate Aquino’s personal friends who had been given government posts but “whom the Palace has refused to hold accountable.”

Among them are Interior undersecretary Rico Puno, Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chair Margarita Juico.

Pueblos said he does not see any problem with Aquino quitting. “In the first place, he did not like to be the president even before. He was just forced because the mother died, so on and so forth. He was just forced by circumstances.”

Calls for then Senator Aquino to run for president began snowballing after the death of his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, in August 2009.

Pueblos said an Aquino resignation would work best for the country. “The earlier he will be out of his post, (the) better for the Philippines,” he said in another interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, commenting on Pueblos’ call, said: “The statement is more suited to a grand inquisitor and not a shepherd. It does not show pastoral concern, Christian humility or charity or prudence but instead as a political response fired from the hip without concern for justice or discernment of the truth as required from a man of the cloth.”

Lacierda also counseled the opposition to be more diligent in researching on its allegations against Aquino’s officials instead of merely rehashing them and going for sound bites.

“Wala na ba silang magawang mabuti?” he said.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the allies of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo could be attacking President Aquino’s appointees as a “smokescreen” for the legal charges that the Aquino administration has filed against some of them.

“Sa tingin ko, smokescreen lang iyon dahil sa baka may ibang gustong imbestigahan ang gobyerno,” Belmonte told reporters in a press briefing.

Belmonte was referring to the threat of minority leader Edcel Lagman to investigate Interior undersecretary Puno for allegedly receiving jueteng payola; LTO’s Torres for alleged meddling in the ownership feud in its computer provider Stradcom; and Ochoa for his alleged ownership of a P40-million mansion.

Opposition congressmen have said there is a “surplus” of “KKKs” or the President’s “kakampi” (allies), “kaklase” (classmates in Ateneo) and “kabarilan” (shooting buddies) in the government.

Lacierda said the still unnumbered House resolution calling for a probe has not been filed and “was just announced for headlines.”

“Are they so afraid? We are building a new system…but they are crying harassment. It’s our job to reveal anomalies,” he added.

He also said that the Aquino administration has never hampered any congressional investigation against its officials by invoking executive privilege or “some sort of EO 464.”

He said he expects the House of Representatives to “sift through what is propaganda and what is truth” in investigating officials of the Aquino administration.

House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II challenged the opposition to just sue Aquino’s officials in court. “What should not happen is to make use of the House as their venue for a fishing expedition.” – via

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