Manila: The influential Catholic Church called for environment protection and the prosecution of corrupt government officials, adding that accountability must be exercised at the start of Lent, a 40-day Christian tradition marking the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which started yesterday.

"Lent gives our leaders — if they have all but belittled the sovereign people who elected them—time to remember that they are ultimately accountable to a greater sovereign in their use of power," a Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement posted on its website said.

"Government mechanisms of checks and balances should be allowed to work. One instance is in Congress' impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez," the CBCP said, adding the executive branch should prosecute "officers and cohorts involved in robbing the men and women of our armed forces."

Short of calling for errijng government officials to confess and repent, CBCP said that corrupt officials must be reminded, during Lent, of "the existence of an unseen higher power to which mortals are accountable."

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said in a radio interview that newly-installed armed forces chief of staff Eduardo Oban should guarantee transparency in the military.

"He should implement transparency and fight corruption in the AFP and restore its image," Iñiguez said.

Total log ban

At the same time, the CBCP praised President Benigno Aquino for signing last February an order for a total log ban, adding, "Logging companies, big or small, have to take heed."

CBCP praised the Association of Barangay Councils in Cebu, central Philippines for asking residents to help plant one billion trees nationwide on Arbor Day, on June 25.

CBCP also praised environmentalist Antonio Oposa who called for a "collective transport-based system" to stop pollution.

CBCP called on all Filipinos to help clear creeks and prevent beggars from staying on the streets, and for government to give money to illegal settlers on the slum areas who are being evacuated to far-away resettlement areas.