Palace downplays bishops' stand on CJ trial

Posted at 05/21/2012 1:34 PM | Updated as of 05/21/2012 6:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang downplayed the support of some Catholic bishops for Chief Justice Renato Corona, saying the Church has not yet issued any formal statement on the matter.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles celebrated mass at the Supreme Court on Monday, in preparation for Corona’s testimony in the impeachment trial. Corona hails from Batangas.

While the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has not given a formal position on the matter, its president, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, has always called on the Senate to implement due process and respect the rights of the accused.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, “I don’t believe [Archbishop] Arguelles stands for…there’s no official stand of the CBCP.”

He added: “We don’t rely on individual bishops. Even [Archbishop] Palma, we have not heard from him other than his short interviews.”

He said Arguelles can celebrate mass for Corona “by all means.”

Asked what Malacanang would do if CBCP makes an official stand, Lacierda said: “Any organization can make a position. Right now, it’s in the hands of the senator-judges. Let’s just wait for the testimony of CJ Corona.”

Earlier in the press conference, Lacierda admitted Malacanang also reached out to the CBCP three months ago. This, after disclosing that President Benigno Aquino III has met with Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo on Monday morning to discuss the administration’s “reforms”, including the ouster of Corona.

“It was just to touch base with the INC,” he said.

He said both leaders already tried to come up with a schedule even during the Holy Week, but both were very busy. A schedule was finally met this morning, he said.

Asked why Aquino had to explain his position on the impeachment trial, Lacierda said “it was a burning issue of the day.”