Cardinal Jaime Sin, the archbishop of Manila and influential leader of the Philippines' powerful Roman Catholic Church, says he is overworked. The man who was instrumental in ousting president Ferdinand Marcos and bringing Corazon Aquino to power says he would like to take a step back from political activism.
But Sin, who was in Washington yesterday to accept an award from the International Human Rights Law Group, a nonprofit public interest law center based here, says he is finding that hard to do.
In the Philippines, which is 85 percent Catholic, the roles of Sin and the Catholic Church have taken on increased importance since the February "people's power" revolution.
In a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters, Sin said the clergy is taking a leading role in persuading guerrillas of the New People's Army to surrender to government troops. Under questioning, he contended that the Aquino government was making headway in the fight against the guerrillas because those who are surrendering now, unlike under Marcos, are turning themselves in "with sincerity."
Sin referred to the mass surrender of 260 Communist rebels in Cebu City in the southern Philippines several weeks ago to back up his assessment. But U.S. sources, citing reports from Manila, have said the surrender was faked, and that there is little evidence that sizable numbers of guerrillas elsewhere have surrendered.
Sin also said many of Marcos' supporters now congregate at his villa in Manila, because "I am the linkage with the new government . . . to create harmony and peace."
Aquino still calls him so frequently for advice that he has asked her to cut back. "She should not be asking me continuously," he said. Aquino has "common sense" and "is running the country like a housewife -- with a budget and accountability."
It was Sin's appeal on Radio Veritas, the church-run radio, that sent thousands of Filipinos, led by priests and nuns carrying flowers and rosaries, into the streets to turn back tanks that Marcos had sent to crush the military rebellion.
"The point is not politics, it is violence," he said. "That is a moral issue. . . . If I see people getting killed, I should protect them," Sin said. "How do you stop the tanks? . . . The human barricade stopped them."
The vocal role of the church has raised questions among Vatican officials. "They don't like to rock the boat. . . . They don't like to know we are interfering in the affairs of the countries," Sin said. "But the holy father understood us because he comes from Poland."
Sin said he refused a U.S. request to intervene on Marcos' behalf in finding him a home in Honduras.
Interviewed on NBC's "Today Show," Secretary of State George P. Shultz accused Marcos of causing trouble in the Philippines by encouraging rallies of his supporters against Aquino. "He is causing trouble and some of it goes beyond just argument," Shultz said.