CEBU CITY -- Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma advised President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday to “move forward” rather than linger on the alleged crimes committed by the previous administration.

Aquino issued a stinging statement against the Philippine clergy when Pope Francis was a guest of Malacañang last January 16, saying they had fallen silent in the face of the anomalies allegedly committed by the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In an interview with reporters, Archbishop Palma said that contrary to President Aquino’s statement, the Church has always observed “critical collaboration” with the National Government, even during the nine-year Arroyo administration.

“But if he believes that we were not critical of programs during PGMA’s time, it’s just his personal perception,” the archbishop said.

Palma, who was in Manila during the five-day papal visit, said that President Aquino shouldn’t have used the event in Malacañang as a venue to criticize the past administration’s failings.

“With all the inspiring moves made by the Holy Father, why do we have to linger or always go back to the past?” Palma said.

While he said he respected the President’s opinion on the matter, Archbishop Palma said he also believes that Aquino could have done better by focusing on his administration.

“Each person is entitled to his perceptions, but if we look at it, it might be good to look at the present and to look forward rather than be stuck in the past,” he added.

In his speech, President Aquino praised Pope Francis for showing an example of “joy and a sense of authentic service” and said that the Pope was helping millions “gain the courage to do what needs doing.”

However, he also asked why “the Church of the poor and oppressed shone vividly” during Martial Law, but fell silent “in the face of the previous administration’s abuses.”

Fr. Amado Picardal, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) committee on basic ecclesial communities, was one of those who came to the clergy’s defense after the President’s complaints.

In a statement posted on the CBCP’s website, Picardal said that Aquino’s reprimand of the clergy before the Pope was the “lowest, ugliest moment of the papal visit.”

“He bore false witness against the Church in front of Pope Francis, the whole nation and the whole world. He was not only rude, he was also a liar. This is what made his welcome address very offensive,” Picardal said. (JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)