The Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jose Advincula, announced that Church-run Radio Veritas Asia (RVA) “remains in full operation” despite the statement made by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo on May 29 announcing the “suspension” of the media network’s operations.
“I declare that the [RVA] remains in full operation,” said Cardinal Advincula in a statement dated March 30, 2023, a copy of which was obtained by LiCAS News.
The Manila prelate said Cardinal Bo’s announcement to suspend “all activities and programs” of RVA “cannot be implemented” because the corporation — Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center, Inc. (PREIC) — that has been managing RVA for years “is accountable to Philippine laws.”
As prelate of Manila, Cardinal Advincula sits as chairman of the board of PREIC.
On March 29, Cardinal Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), announced the suspension of “all activities and programs” of the continental media network.
He alleged “disorder and anomaly happening” in the management of the organization for his decision. He also questioned the non-renewal of the contract of Father Bernard Dashi Tang of Myanmar as program director.
In his statement, Cardinal Advincula said “the temporary designation of the assistant program director as officer-in-charge of the Program Department will proceed as announced.”
Arlene Arungayan-Donarber, a longtime employee of RVA, is currently the assistant program director.
In his statement, Cardinal Advincula cited a Memorandum of Agreement in 1974 between the FABC and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and another MOA on RVA in February 2007 as basis of putting on hold Father Tang’s appointment.
The MOA states that “appointments to management positions are proposed and recommended by FABC, but made by PREIC.” It also said that appointment letters “should be signed by both the PREIC chairman and the FABC-OSC chairman and/or executive secretary.”
“To the best of my knowledge as PREIC chairman, I have not signed any letter on [Father Tang’s] re-appointment,” read the cardinal’s statement.
On Cardinal Bo’s claim that PREIC was “established to provide legal safeguard for RVA in the Philippines,” Cardinal Advincula said it is “a source of misunderstanding” as PREIC “does not simply function as a dummy legal corporation.”
Cardinal Bo maintained that that RVA is a project of the FABC, “and as such it is the prerogative of the FABC to decide on the major policies, programs, personnel and administration of RVA.”
“This has been the practice so far, and I am surprised to see a virtual takeover of these by the PREIC, which has been established to provide legal safeguard for RVA in the Philippines,” the cardinal of Yangon said in a statement sent to media on March 29.
Cardinal Advincula, however, said PREIC is “responsible and accountable” before the Labor department of the Philippines if, for instance, payment of salaries of employees for services rendered are suspended.
He said Cardinal Bo’s statement is “a misrepresentation of the original agreement” that the FABC and the CBCP entered into in 1974.
“The agreement entrusted RVA to PREIC, and it was clear that the OSC would merely assert its participation by sitting in the PREIC board that would make the decisions,” said the cardinal.
Decision based on Church, civil laws
Cardinal Advincula said that based on Canon Law, a set of ordinances and regulations for the government of the Church, the suspension order issued by Cardinal Bo “is null and void for lack of competence.”
He cited Canon 35-A of the law that states, “Singular administrative act, whether it is a decree, a precept, or a rescript, can be issued by one who possesses executive power within the limits of that person’s competence, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 76, 51.”
The Filipino cardinal also said that based on the same law, the Church “recognizes the sovereignty of the State and our being subject to civil laws.”
The Corporation Code of the Philippines states that “board of directors or trustees (that) shall exercise the corporate powers, conduct all business, and control all properties of the corporation.”
“This being the case, for the declaration and announcement of Cardinal Bo to take effect and become a valid corporate act and binding on PREIC-RVA, the same should be approved by the Board of Trustees of PREIC-RVA,” said Cardinal Advincula.
He clarified that the president of the Philippine bishops’ conference, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, has made clear that “we are willing to support whatever decisions will be arrived at by the FABC.”
“However, whether to continue with or to dissolve RVA in the Philippines is not just to be taken at a quick glance but will have to be taken with serious consideration,” said the cardinal.
History of Radio Veritas Asia
Radio Veritas Asia traces its roots back to 1958 when more than 100 bishops from all over Asia and Australia met in the Central Seminary of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila under the presidency of the special Papal delegate, Cardinal Gregory Peter XV Agagianian, and resolved to establish a radio station for the Catholic Church in Asia.
The bishops decided to establish the radio station in the Philippines because it was then the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia.
The late Cardinal Rufino Santos of Manila contacted Konrad Adenauer, chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and obtained assurances for financial assistance. The German government committed to pay 75 percent of the expenses to put up the radio station.
Vatican’s Propaganda Fide and various mission organizations of the German Church — the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, the Archdiocese of Cologne, Aid to the Church in Need, MISEREOR, the Holy Childhood Association under the umbrella of missio — joined to support the project.
RVA would become the first and the only Catholic Continental Radio Station of the Catholic Church.
In 1961, Cardinal Santos set up PREIC as the legal body for planning and construction of the project.
In 1964, the radio franchise of the University of Santo Tomas was purchased, and the Archdiocese of Manila allocated a property donated by the family of Jose Yulo in Fairview, Quezon City, for the project.
Tests broadcasts started in 1967and on April 11, 1969, the first overseas broadcast via shortwave technology began with two 100 KW transmitters.
In 1974, FABC sought the help of the archbishop of Manila to establish what later became RVA by riding on Radio Veritas Philippines (RVP), which was the one established in 1961.
RVP was registered under the name Philippine Radio Educational and Information Center, Inc., also known as PREIC, in the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission
The Archdiocese of Manila later decided to involve the CBCP in the project, resulting in the 1974 agreement between the FABC and CBCP.
The agreement defined the participation of FABC in the “overseas service” of RVA while acknowledging PREIC as the “legal owner of Radio Veritas.”
“No less than a majority of PREIC’s membership shall at all times consist of bishops,” read the agreement.
It said that FABC shall only have the maximum membership in the company as permitted by Philippine laws, that is three bishops “based on total membership of twenty.”
The same agreement specified that “in the event that the law should completely prevent the membership in PREIC of non-Filipinos, FABC shall have the right to appoint at least three Philippine bishops of their choice, to represent FABC.”
Both RVP and RVA operated under PREIC through a board that consists of seven members.
The agreement specified that “as required by Philippine civil law, the board of directors will be made up of all Filipino members” who “shall also elect their own chairman.”
The board takes responsibility over RVA’s “administration, appointment, and discontinuance of personnel.”
PREIC, under CBCP, taking charge
The decision in 1991 of the Archdiocese of Manila to separate RVP from RVA allowed PREIC to focus its attention on RVA’s operations.
The archdiocese created a new corporation — Radio Veritas Global Broadcasting System, Inc. — separate from PREIC for the administration of RVP, later known as Veritas 846.
With the creation of the new corporation, the Archdiocese of Manila in effect left its resources, including land and buildings, with PREIC, benefitting RVA, and making it accountable to the Philippine bishops’ conference based on the 1974 agreement.
RVA became a “symbol of the Asian people’s hope and trust” and tried its best to respond to the challenge laid down at Vatican II to use media to reach out to Catholics in their own language.
With 22 language services, RVA became the Catholic Church’s tool to reach our to people across the region.
In 1986, the station played a crucial role in the most critical period of Philippine history during the “people power revolution” that returned democracy to the country.
In 2018, it stopped its shortwave broadcast and migrated to online and social media.
In a statement during its 50th anniversary celebration, RVA said it is “challenged to change and to convert ourselves as we listen to the Lord talking to us through the signs of the times.”
It said that it will continue to fulfill its mission through the internet “to enliven millions in Asia and Asians around the world.”