New pro-Davide group launched

By Jhunnex Napallacan, Fritzie Joy Dungog,
Albert Aballe and Bernadette Parco

BLACK will be the color of protest for Cebuanos who are rushing to defend the Supreme Court from "political harassment."

A new group, organized by former leaders of the anti-Estrada movement in Cebu, will be launched Monday before a crowd of professionals, students, businessmen, priests, lay people and other sympathizers of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

At 5 p.m., members of the newly formed Citizens for Judicial Independence (CJI) will gather on Redemptorist Church grounds to finalize their battle plans, among them a boycott of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) products.

SMC is headed by businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, widely perceived as the "brains" behind Davide's impeachment.

Father Carmelo Diola, one of the prime movers of the protest movement, said they were defending the chief justice "not because he is a Cebuano."

"First and foremost, it is to protect the justice system," he said. "It just happens that we have a good man at the helm who is a Cebuano," Diola said.

"Davide symbolizes decency, integrity, honesty and all the changes that we seek," he said. "To me, this (impeachment case) is also an attack against good people."

Diola said the impeachment complaint had generated "a lot of anger" and urged the Cebuanos "to channel this into something productive."

Several personalities are reportedly flying down to Cebu to express their solidarity with the Cebuanos.

Presidential aspirant Raul Roco and the group of former governor Emilio "Lito" Osmeņa will join the protesters. Also coming over is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's daughter Luli Arroyo.

Reports said former President Corazon Aquino might make a surprise appearance, but this could not be confirmed.

CJI, made up of former Barug Sugbo stalwarts, will be formally launched after the 6:30 p.m. mass, according to Father Diola.

Barug Sugbo was the local group that vocally campaigned for the resignation of deposed president Joseph Estrada at the height of the jueteng scandal in late 2000.

The new group met last Friday at the St. Jerome Bible Center in Seminario Mayor de San Carlos in Mabolo to draw up their plans for Monday.

Judges and court employees will also wear black starting Monday to express their opposition to the impeachment of the chief justice.

Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Pampio Abarintos said the move to wear black shirts, black armbands and ribbons was a "unanimous decision."

He said judges nationwide were saddened by the move to impeach Davide "because this is not just an attack on the chief justice but the entire judiciary."

Abarintos said they would continue their "protest" until legislators dropped the impeachment complaint.

He did not discount the possibility of suspending their operations -- as what they recently did to press their demand for higher wages.

Abarintos said he feared chaos if the impeachment complaint would prosper. "Definitely, there will be confusion, there will be chaos because the possible effect is that there will be a constitutional crisis," he said.

"It will be a fight between the judiciary and Congress," he said.

Father Diola said their meeting would focus on how to support the chief justice and the entire judicial system.

He admitted that one of the proposals was to boycott all SMC products. The boycott, however, still has to be decided upon, he said.

Carlos Co, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said business groups were trying to convince Cojuangco to order the congressmen under his Nationalist People's Coalition to drop the impeachment rap.

Co himself has committed to support Monday's activities at the Redemptorist Church.

Arman Perez of Bayan Muna said their members would display their support for the chief justice by also wearing black.

The Catholic Church in Cebu has yet to issue its official statement.

But Episcopal Vicar Monsignor Esteban Binghay said he was objecting to Davide's impeachment because "it would not do the country any good."

"They should have exhausted other means (to look at the complaint against Davide," Binghay said. "The alleged offense is too light, and does not merit impeachment proceedings."

He said the issue "is not corruption, just a misapplication of funds. And besides, the Commission on Audit already stated that there was no violation."


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