CAGAYAN de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano and local legislators were conspiciously absent during Tuesday’s installation of Archbishop Antonio Ledesma.
There was no immediate explanation but many perceive their absence as a breach of protocol given that Ledesma is an appointee of Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the State of the Vatican City.
There were reports that the only city hall official who attended the installation rites at the St. Augustine Cathedral was Vice Mayor Michelle Spiers but this could not be independently verified at presstime.
‘‘If he (Emano) did not give an explanation, that means it was a deliberate snub,’’ said lawyer James Judith, a known critic of the Emano adminisration.
Judith added, ‘‘It could mean a lot of things. He is either indifferent to church affairs, bears a grudge against the church officials or the clergy, hates church politics, uncomfortable with its (Church’s) tradition or (it could just be) plain arrogance. It could be any of these.’’said Sen. Aquilino Pimentel: ‘‘He’s (Emano’s) running true to form. He has no need for God and things spiritual.’’
‘‘It’s a pity,’’ reacted former vice mayor Antonio Soriano. He did not elaborate.
President Arroyo, who was reported by another paper earlier to be coming over for the affair, did not show up. Neither did anyone represent her during the formal assumption of the 63-year-old Jesuit priest as head of the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese.
Ledesma is the vice president of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which has voiced apprehensions over moves to quickly change the 1987 Constitution. The Charter change campaign is something that Arroyo and her allies, including Emano, have been preoccupied with.
The new archbishop is said to be personally against the Charter change campaign.
The only prominent political ally of Arroyo who attended the affair was Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno.
But Moreno declined to comment on the absence of city hall officials. Ledesma’s installation, he said, is a ‘‘purely Church affair.’’
But Tagoloan-based priest Raul Bagongon said he felt disappointed because ‘‘political alliances’’ became evident during the archbishop’s installation.
"There is a clear division between those in the administration and the opposition," said Fr. Bagongon.
The VIP guest list included prominent opposition figures: Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Pimentel and their wives, Black and White Movement lead convenor Dinky Soliman, and Mila Roco whose late husband Raul was a senator and one of Arroyo’s challengers in the 2004 presidential elections, among others.
"We sent invitations to city officials," said Fr. Butch Zayas, overall chairperson for the installation rites preparation. The invitations were sent out three weeks ago.
Zayas said a committee even called local officials to follow through on the invitations. "We called them by phone."
Said Councilor Ian Mark Nacaya: "No comment. Better ask the vice mayor, the invitations were sent when she was the acting mayor."
Councilor Reynaldo Advincula said he was surprised because he received no invitation.
"I was really surprised why the city council was not invited," said Advincula.
Speaking at the jampacked St. Agustine Cathedral for the first time since he was appointed by the Pope, the archbishop stressed the need for the Church to promote a ‘‘culture of peace’’ through interreligious dialogues and intercultural understanding.
Ledesma also stressed the need for the collaboration of efforts of the Church and State to attain peace and development in Mindanao. He also cited the work of ‘‘civil society’’ groups which he also called the ‘‘NGO community’’ for helping address social concerns.
Gov. Moreno said Ledesma’s pronouncement’s only showed that the archbishop is an "activist and a reform-minded Church leader."
‘‘His message to Cagayanons was so deep," said Moreno.
"Very inspiring,’’ said former Social Welfare secretary Soliman. ‘‘He became an archbishop at the right time and in right place.’’gsd9000.tripod.com