Former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal yesterday, along with church leaders and former government officials, called on President Benigno Aquino III to step down along with Vice President Jejomar Binay and the entire government.

“Various assemblies convened by the National Transformation Council (NTC) strongly articulated that the President should step down,” Vidal said in a statement he read at his retirement home in Santo Niño Village, Banilad, Cebu City.

“We, bishops of the Catholic and other Christian Churches, have often been asked if there is a moral basis to this growing demand. Recent developments have made this call even more urgent and imperative.”

Vidal calls on President Aquino to resign

TIME TO RESIGN. Former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal (seated) talks to reporters about the call for President Aquino to step down over the handling of the Maguindanao encounter that led to the killing of 44 Special Action Force commandos. (Photo taken from the Facebook page of the National Transformation Council)

Bishops, former government officials

Among those who were present yesterday to express support for the call for the President to step down were Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Tolentino De La Cruz, Bayombong Archbishop Ramon Villena, Naval Archbishop Filomeno Bactol, and Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla.

Former senator Francisco Tatad of the National Transformation Council and former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales were also in the gathering to call for the President to resign.

Tatad said the entire government should step down “including those who have claims to the line of presidential succession,” to make way for a group that will “put in place a working democratic system where you have genuinely free elections.”

“We are not ousting. We want them to step down. We are not for violent change or for a military takeover. We are sure that many of these people who are wounded by this administration are behind our plan to have a new government that will be for the people. We just don’t want to change faces. We want to change hearts.” — Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, as quoted by Cebu Daily News

“We are hoping, of course, that the people will have the courage to come out. Again, I will not call it people power because times are changing and the form and mode of change is also changing. But I think that given the sentiments of the Armed Forces and the police today, kung lalabas ang taong bayan sasali sila (if the people will come out, they will join).” — former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales

Post-birthday party for Vidal

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma was present during the gathering and reading of the statement but did not call for the President to resign. He left before reporters could ask questions.

Archdiocese of Cebu media liaison officer Msgr. Joseph Tan later said after the event that the “Archbishop of Cebu is in no position to issue any political statement of whatever kind because such an act would not be part of the competence of the ministry of the Church.

“We want to make it clear that no one will hear from the Archbishop of Cebu issuing such a statement nor would we be interested in making such a statement.” — Msgr. Joseph Tan, Cebu media liaison officer

Tan said Palma was in yesterday’s gathering merely to join Vidal’s post-birthday party.

Police officials in the region, meanwhile, dismissed talks of a coup amid the reported widespread dissatisfaction by the public on President Aquino’s handling of the Maguindanao encounter.

“We stand behind the Constitution. We will always be loyal to the duly constituted authorities.” — Senior Superintendent Conrado Capa, PRO-Central Visayas deputy regional director for operations and Cebu City Police Office officer-in-charge

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