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Church leaders lambast Aquino presidency

Government accused of failing to keep promises on poverty and rights

Church leaders lambast Aquino presidency
New census results show that more than one in four Filipinos remain poor (AFP photo/Noel Celis) reporter, Manila

April 23, 2013

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An influential group of church leaders on Tuesday accused of President Benigno Aquino of failing to keep campaign promises to seriously tackle human rights and corruption concerns, nearly three years into his term.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), an umbrella group of heads of major Catholic religious orders, issued a statement questioning in which direction the country is headed.

The group said that while some agencies have shown progress in fighting corruption, "much more remains to be done."

"No big fish has been convicted since 2010, and with the way the tentacles of the corrupt have stymied the judicial process, [Aquino's] term might be over and the cases will still languish in the courts," the statement said.

AMRSP also pointed to “grinding poverty” and “agrarian unrest” as key concerns.

Although the Philippines economy is forecast to expand by six percent this year after 6.6 percent growth in 2012, according to the Asian Development Bank, millions of poor remain confined to slums as jobless rates have failed to improve in recent months.

Meanwhile, the government has failed to meet its own targets on turning over land to poor farmers, a key reform under the Aquino presidency. Around 80 Catholic bishops earlier appealed to Aquino to replace Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio Gil de los Reyes over what they described as a dismal performance so far.

AMRSP also said violence and impunity remain commonplace in the Philippines.

In the latest high-profile murder case, a radio journalist was shot and killed in Zamboanga Sibugay province in southern Mindanao on Monday morning, reinforcing the Philippines' reputation as one of the most deadly countries in the world for media workers.

"We raise our voices with the victims of extrajudicial killings whose numbers are on the rise each day. What do these killings mean? Is there still a rule of law?" AMRSP said.

The Philippines is due to go the ballot box next month in what will be Aquino’s first major electoral test since he became president in June 2010.

Redemptorist priest Marlon Lacal, AMRSP executive secretary, challenged candidates for next month's elections to "put people first before profit, people first before power, God and Creation first before Mammon and greed."

AMRSP joined 200 church and human rights activists on Tuesday in launching a campaign to remind candidates to take a firm stand on mining-related issues. This has been a major source of conflict in recent years, leading to the deaths of a number of activists.

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