Manila (Agenzia Fides) – Carry out the long-awaited land reform; reject the document on sexual and reproductive health; eradicate nepotism and corruption from government; ensure food security in the country…These are some of the requests that were submitted by the Filipino bishops to President-Elect Benigno Aquino who yesterday, June 30, was sworn into office.

The Philippine Church, at this start of Aquino’s service, held a Mass “for the new government,” which was celebrated yesterday morning in Manila, and at the same time has indicated several priorities. The bishops have drawn up and circulated 13 points in a document that was also sent to Fides and which they have brought to the attention of public opinion. The text opens with an affirmation that the Arroyo Administration failed in addressing some sensitive social issues, hoping that the new president is committed to resolving them. 

High on the list submitted by the bishops is the implementation of agrarian reform (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, CARP), a fundamental point which will test the sincerity of the President: CARP, in fact, provides for the redistribution of land from landowners to peasants, and Aquino is part of landowner’s family (see Fides 24/5/2010). 

The second point is the open rejection of the controversial “Document on Reproductive Health,” which has occupied the public debate in recent months. They ask that same-sex unions, divorce, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and all acts contrary to life, may not appear on the political agenda. 

A third urgent problem is the displacement and resettlement of those occupying the slums of Manila (which some want to simply kick out). The fourth point, which is equally important, is against the sad phenomenon of trafficking in women and children, which in recent years has become a national problem. 

The list goes on, presenting other issues deemed essential by the Church: protecting the environment and block mining on a large scale, combating corruption and ensuring the prosecution of the corrupt, eradicating nepotism and political patronage in the Philippines’ politics, ensuring the legality and human rights of all persons accused of a crime, improving education, especially extending it to the poorest, ensuring peace and security, resuming negotiations with rebel groups in the south of the country, eliminating the practice of illegal gambling, especially by combating criminal organizations that promote it, alleviating poverty, improving living conditions of the poor and oppressed, and ensuring food security to all people, especially improving the agricultural sector. 

The Church has expressed her sympathy to the new president through a Mass “for the new government,” held yesterday at the Cathedral of Manila, presided by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. In his homily, the Cardinal described President Aquino as “God’s gift to the nation.” But he also stressed that to improve the nation, every citizen must assume his responsibilities and give a personal contribution. The Cardinal also urged all citizens to pray for the new president and all directors, that they may “be guided by the Holy Spirit in service to the nation.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 07/01/2010)