Some happy, others mum on new CBCP head’s election

DAVAO CITY, July 12, 2009—Following the announcement that the new president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, some are happy that it is from a Mindanaoan bishop but others keep mum.

Dominican Sister Anabelle del Castillo of Justice and Peace said that he was happy that Odchimar is elected in the post saying, “he deserves that. We will pray for him.”

Del Castillo added that he is hoping that the newly-elected CBCP president will also give high priority to issues concerning the lives of the people.

Missionaries of the Assumption (MA) Superior Sr. Maria Luz F. Mallo is also optimistic that Odchimar will make a difference especially in handling social issues.

“Although I don’t personally know him, but I am happy that he is the new CBCP president. I am just hoping that he will be a strong supporter on the advocacy for the people,” Mallo told CBCPNews.


For now, Mallo said, “we are in the ‘wait and see’ situation as to what kind of leadership that he (Odchimar) will take.”

Mallo, a critic of Arroyo said, “we hope that the new president will say something about issues confronting the present administration particularly the problem in Mindanao.”

Like his predecessor, Mallo continued, “we are hopeful that Bishop Odchimar will be supporting the struggles of the people especially against corruption and issues confronting Arroyo.”

“Actually, inaabangan namin ngayon kung ano ang kanyang pananaw sa Constitutional Assembly, bombings in Mindanao, the problems of mining and the upcoming elections in 2010,” said Mallo.

Odchimar will assume the post as CBCP president on December 1, 2009. Next year election is seen to be one of the country’s top events where the conference official stand is expected by the people.

“Titingnan natin kung ano ang gagawin ng CBCP sa isyu ng election at kung papaano ito haharapin ng liderato ni Bishop Odchimar. For now, we don’t want to give much comment,” said Mallo.

When asked to comment on the reported meeting of Odchimar with Mrs. Arroyo, Mallo said, “I only read about it in the paper. No comment.”

Meanwhile, Jing Tunglos, an environmental advocate said that he is hoping that Odchimar will give more emphasis on the issues of environmental degradation in Mindanao.

“Sana ngayon na CBCP President siya maipaliwanag niya sa Manila at sa mga national leaders natin kung ano talaga ang problema dito sa Mindanao partikular na sa mining,” said Tunglos.

Odchimar, also the prelate of Tandag is known for his strong advocacy against mining the watershed in his diocese.

“We hope that he will talk about Mindanao especially the problem of peace. Yung peace talk natin sa MILF at GRP sana makatulong siya na mapatuloy yun,” said Aquil Makhmod of Moro Youth for Peace group.

Meanwhile, some also refused to comment on his election.

“No comment. Sana hindi totoo yung lumabas sa paper kasi kung ganoon, wala rin,” said Jonathan Diaz, member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) here.

A Mindanao journalist who refused to be named also has this to say, “What do we expect? Well, I hope the new president will have a big heart for the bakwits in Mindanao.”

One priest who refused to be named for lack of authority also said, “Sorry, I have no comment [on his being the president].”

Another religious who requested anonymity is also skeptical on Odchimar’s presidency.

“I hope that our bishops know that being connected with the administration is not good and is never a good example. I am personally hoping that he is not in anyway connected to Mrs. Arroyo or he cannot be swayed by whatever connection there is in the administration,” he said by phone Saturday afternoon.


Fr. Marbendear Morallas, editor-in-chief of Davao Catholic Herald said that he is glad that the new president is Odchimar of Tandag.

Morallas said, “Bishop Odchimar being the vice president of CBCP is already expected to assume the post of president. There’s nothing wrong about him being the president. We have to see his leadership.”

He also dismissed fears that Odchimar is a close ally of Mrs. Arroyo saying, “That is how it is being presented by news reports. But, honestly I personally know the bishop and he is a good man. I don’t think that Bishop Odchimar will easily submit to the whims of the present administration.”

“We don’t have to judge him. That’s not fair. One thing is for sure, the bishop will always act according to the call of the time and his ministry,” he said, adding:

“Anyway, at the end of the day, it is not the CBCP President who will decide for the affairs of various dioceses in the country, it is their local ordinaries. So there’s nothing to fear. He’s not the Holy Father where pronouncements and statements issued will become binding to the entire Catholic church.” (Mark S. Ventura)

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