The Committee started out as an ad hoc
Committee on Public Affairs, a regular arm of the Administrative Council of the CBCP. Its first Chairman was Bishop Leoncio L. Lat, and its first meeting was held on May 18, 1982.
During the incumbency of this first
committee the Government and the CBCP worked out solutions to the touchy issue of priests and religious suspected of subversion. In December of 1982 the members of the Committee attended the interrogation of the late
Edgar Kangleon, a priest of the Catbalogan diocese, where they learned of the infiltration by Communists of the Diocesan Social Action Center of Catbalogan.
When the Committee met again on March 21, 1983, it had
already become the CBCP Public Affairs Committee chaired by Bishop Cirilo R. Almario, Jr. At this critical period the relationship between the Church and the Marcos government had already become tense and explosive. The
accent for the Church had shifted from collaboration to criticism, and dialogues with Government were kept to a minimum.
With Cory Aquino's ascendance to the presidency the relationship with the Government took a
change for the better. This time accent shifted to collaboration. There were a number of meetings between the Committee and President Aquino which resulted in positive solutions to existing problems. The Committee
served as a conduit of the Bishops to the President.
In Congress the Committee monitored bills presented, lobbied for bills the helped the cause of the Church, and did research work to help the passage of good laws
versus defective ones.
Among the more memorable meetings arranged by the Committee with the President was that which included Msgr. Emmanuel Sunga who persuaded the President to come to Taguig, his parish, which had
been under water for sometime. Not only did relief goods flood Taguig, but the flooding of the municipality was remedied somehow.
Certainly one of the most memorable accomplishments took place between Government and
the CBCP on the matter of the Cairo Conference on Population and Development. The Church panel was able to work out with its government counterpart a Philippine position in consonance with that of the Vatican.
become a function of the Committee to invite government officials to dialogue with bishops in their semi-annual meetings. Thus Chris Monsod of COMELEC, Rafael Alunan of DILG and others have ably managed to explain
government positions to the bishops, enlightening them and sometimes succeeding in making them sympathetic to government positions, as in the case of the GATT. On the other hand, the Committee Chairman, or his
representative, has often appeared in Congressional hearings to present the side of the Church and lobby for it.
From the experiences of the Permanent Council on Public Affairs, it may be said that the efforts of the
Committee have not always been crowned with success. But all in all, the Committee has been able to foster good relations with Government while upholding the Church's prophetic role.
At present the CBCP Constitution
and By-Laws enumerates the functions of the Permanent Committee on Public Affairs to include, among others, the liaisoning between CBCP and Government, and the representing of the Conference in public hearings sponsored
by Government in matters affecting Church-State relations.