Release of cops in
rub-out case in Leyte, non-release of political prisoners, clear signs
of impunity under Duterte
A press statement by
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
June 20, 2017
“We express our condemnation
and extreme disappointment on the release on bail of police officers
involved in the Espinosa case, as among the clear indications of
prevailing impunity under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. We remind the
President that his job as commander-in-chief does not entail
protecting State security forces from accountability on their crimes,”
said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay on the release of
the nineteen (19) accused policemen involved in the killing of Albuera
mayor Rolando Espinosa.
Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 chief Superintendent
Marvin Marcos, along with 18 others, were initially charged with
murder after they launched an operation to serve a warrant against
Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa last November 5, 2016; the operation
led to the killing of Espinosa inside his jail in Baybay, Leyte. The
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the senate investigation
ruled the case as a “rub-out.”
On June 2, 2017, the
Department of Justice downgraded the charges against the 19 cops from
murder to homicide, with the regional trial court allowing bail of
P40,000 each. On June 16, all the accused were released on bail.
Earlier last April, President Duterte said that he will not only
pardon cops involved in the Espinosa slay case should they be
convicted, but that he will also promote them.
“Duterte apparently remains
true to his words when it entails ensuring the continued support of
institutions who might be detrimental to his presidency. When it comes
to promises he made for the welfare and benefit of the marginalized,
however, he falls short, or at numerous occasions, makes a reversal.
This is true for the issue of the release of political prisoners,
especially those for humanitarian considerations,” said Palabay.
As of May 15, 2017,
Karapatan puts the number of political prisoners in the country to 402
– with 39 political detainees arrested under the Duterte
administration. Palabay added that “there is a clear State policy of
absolving culpable policemen in the war on drugs campaign and soldiers
in their counter-insurgency war against the people, while maintaining
the continued imprisonment of political prisoners jailed for
trumped-up charges. It is deplorable to see scalawags being out on
bail while those unjustly kept behind bars remain fighting for
“The Filipino people have
been promised change, and we hold Duterte accountable that these
changes be for the better. Instead, we now have martial law in
Mindanao, aerial bombings and other community violations committed
with impunity, the non-release of political prisoners, a militarized
bureaucracy, a war on drugs that has claimed the lives of thousands,
and an enabled and abusive State security forces with guaranteed
protection. We urge Duterte to look closer, because for the most part,
he has largely contributed to the worsening of the same oppressive and
repressive system inherited from his predecessors,” concluded Palabay.
Joint statement on
Marawi, martial law and internet freedom
By CPU, TXTPOWER and AGHAM
June 15, 2017
After Camp Aguinaldo
spokesman Colonel Edward Arevalo warned that the military would
exercise an alleged “right to censure”, DICT Head Rodolfo Salalima has
announced arrests for “cyber sedition”.
It must be clear by now:
Whether you’re in Marawi, Mindanao or Manila, we’re all unsafe from
martial law’s effects on our basic rights. And nowhere is this more
obvious than the internet and the basic rights we enjoy online and
These threats by the
military and DICT don’t strike fear at the heart of terrorists. They
dampen civic engagement and attempt to negate the public’s right and
duty to see to it that martial law is required, that martial law is
actually aimed at the terrorists, and that martial law is not being
implemented against the public.
We warn the military and the
DICT not to overstep their bounds. Censorship, whether prior restraint
or subsequent punishment, does not help combat terrorists. We urge the
military to revisit their claim of a “right to censure”. It is an
invention, with no legal provenance or constitutional basis.
We also warn against network
shutdowns under martial law. Network shutdowns in Mindanao are
unacceptable. It would isolate and disconnect Mindanao from the rest
of the country and the world. Mindanaoans should not be silenced. It
would be bad for business, commerce, education, governance and other
aspects of our daily lives.
The dress rehearsals for
turning off our internet have started many years back. In the name of
counter-terrorism, the police, the military and the government have
taken down mobile and internet access in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and
other parts of the country.
All the shutdowns have been
applied for and granted in an questionable manner, without hearing and
without assessment. It is not farfetched that the government would use
this if the “online noise” of widespread criticism becomes intolerable
If there’s any event and
place where the public would understand a network shutdown, it is this
incident and Marawi City from the very start. Based on "practice",
shutting down all communications there would deprive the terrorists
any means to communicate among themselves and the outside world. It is
now a virtual ghost town, with most of its 200,000 inhabitants already
transformed into evacuees.
But this appears to be
impossible. Because it would affect the military operations,
coordination between the Commander-in-Chief in Manila and the ground
forces in Marawi and media reportage that has been so kind to the
We urge citizens and
organizations to be vigilant and jealous of the rights we enjoy,
offline or online, against any arrogant overreach by the military and
government. They have a track record of abuse, and have also made
threats of doing under martial law.
Let’s keep the Philippines'
and the internet free.
By ROBERT Z. CORTES
June 12, 2017
Three Saturdays ago, I and
two of my friends met a lady who can easily qualify as the coolest and
funniest octogenarian of our lives - even if she could hardly walk.
(She's not in the picture though :) )
She lived in a house also
occupied by her older brother and his wife who, she later told us,
both hardly minded her. She had one little corner in that house but it
was practically a separate unit since it had its own private entrance
from one side of the house.
Our random meeting happened
through the recommendation of a barangay counsellor-friend who knew
her semi-abandoned plight. That first meeting was unforgettable. There
was a kind middle-aged lady who led us to Lola, and what followed was
easily an hour of laughter and deep insight when we thought it was
just going to be 10 minutes of expressing our piety and pity.
The upshot of that first
meeting was that we resolved we were going to visit Lola more
regularly - bringing our other friends. Pope Francis, after all, has
been very clear about not abandoning our elderly – they’re one of
those in the peripheries of the Church. And here was one who would not
only give us an opportunity to obey the Pope; she was even one who
could make our and our friends’ Saturday mornings much more
meaningful. Most importantly she pleaded with us to please come again.
Last Saturday, we made that
next visit. It was raining but it didn't matter. When we arrived at
Lola's side of the house we saw that the main door was open, but the
screen door was locked. We then called out to Lola. However, instead
of her, someone else heard us who came out from another door. Seeing
the apparition was like an encounter with Medusa: we froze.
And it was not because she
had snakes on her head (in fact, she only had a fake flower stuck on
top of her left ear). It was rather because she was someone we knew as
the "pious lady" of the parish church nearby: always hopping around
busily fixing things on the altar, approaching people nicely, making
sure shawls were placed on "errant" girls who insisted on wearing
sleeveless tops, etc. But she was now anything but that. She had been
transformed to the imperious lady boss of the compound.
Looking at us like we were
masked men about to take Lola hostage, she asked us what we were doing
there. When we told her we were going to talk to Lola she asked what
for. And before we could answer, she asked what we were going to do
after we talked to her. And while we were formulating the answer to
that last question – wondering if we were still going to answer the
previous – she asked how long we were going to talk to Lola. This time
one of us was quick enough to say “around 30 minutes,” and she
replied, "one hour?" I then realized she really was paying attention.
And very interested in our answers.
Seemingly satisfied that she
had made quite an impression on us, she then pounded on Lola's door
with all the vigor that her imperiousness could muster, as if she were
demanding the Maute rebels to come out or else. She muttered
impatiently under her breath why on earth Lola locked her door. (I
thought I saw some flames coming out of her nostrils, but most
probably I was just seeing things.) Very condescendingly, as if taking
pity on the suffering we were about to be subjected in the visit, she
advised us to be patient with Lola since Lola was "baliw." She then
I was interiorly shaken when
I entered Lola's unit. I had begun to understand that Lola was around
someone who didn't regard her the same way we did and wondered what
other sort of abuses she received from this woman the rest of the
time. Thankfully, Lola was her old self the last time we met her. We
again laughed and learned from each other. We soon found out that she
was the ignoble sister-in-law (ISIL) and Lola gestured that the lady
was "baliw" by waving her two hands in circles near her head. The
feeling was clearly mutual. That fact was a source of a good laugh for
all of us and we continued our gossip in whispers. It was good, albeit
innocently mean conspiratorial fun.
Pretty soon the meeting had
to end earlier than we had wanted. After all, we were painfully aware
that someone was timing our stay. When we went out of the door,
planning to pay our respects to the ISIL before we left, we realized
she was nowhere to be found. We then headed to the gate fearing she
didn’t want to be disturbed anymore. And just when we were opening the
gate, she made her second apparition – and she was definitely no Lady
Nope, after all, she caught
us "red-handed" leaving without even the decency to say goodbye to
her. Didn't she see us opening the gate, and we never even bothered to
look for her? There’s a door, you should’ve knocked! Is this how you
do things - you are welcomed like decent guests and you sneak out like
thieves? Don't do that to me or anyone else ever again you understand?
Sige, umalis na kayo!"
That was the end of the rope
for me. As we were out of earshot I said, “What a disgusting
One of my friends asked me,
“Why do you say that?”
I said, “Don’t you realize
that the Gospel this morning was about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees
who paraded their piety outside but were full of wickedness inside?
Didn’t she hear the priest’s homily this morning? She was right there
in front, piously folding her hands.”
My friend meekly answered,
“Well, maybe she needs a visit herself.”
His reply gave me pause, and
I immediately knew where it was going. She’s one of those in the
I also quickly realized that
he was right, but I just wasn't willing to fully admit it. Not yet.
Darn it – how can someone so mean be in the same peripheries as such
nice people as Lola? In fact, I wanted to resist the idea so much I
managed to quip, “Well, I can ask a psychiatrist to visit her.”
But a few more steps, I had
to accept a fact that was as clear as day: I was now like her. By
putting her in the category of the disgusting, I was now in that same
category. What a sad thing: many times we don't realize that we who
think ourselves very much within the Church are in reality in its
But with acceptance comes
hope. Thankfully, the source of hope is clear. "Blessed are the
merciful for they shall obtain mercy." It's the very same idea that
brought me to the coolest and funniest octogenarian I've ever met.
Only now I understand better how much more deeply I still need to
understand that word "mercy."
The goal of
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 31, 2017
THIS is none other than for
us to be another Christ. After all, he is the very pattern of our
humanity in the beginning and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. If
education is for us to achieve the fullness of our humanity, we should
not look at anything, no matter how lofty and useful, other than at
St. Paul, in his Letter to
the Ephesians, describes it this way: “His (Christ’s) gifts were that
some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors
and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for
building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of
the faith and of the knowledge of God, to mature manhood, to the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...” (4,11-13)
Yes, education is not simply
about acquiring some worldly knowledge and skills. It’s about
achieving this “mature manhood” St. Paul was talking about, a mature
manhood that is “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Obviously, knowledge and
skills are important and are, in fact, indispensable. But they have to
be oriented toward the ultimate goal of education which is the pursuit
for the fullness of Christ in us.
We have to be wary of the
strong, almost irresistible temptation to downgrade the purpose of
education to simply achieving some worldly values like wealth, honor,
popularity, efficiency, etc.
These worldly goals, if not
related to the ultimate goal, can very well be sweet poisons that can
corrupt the process of education.
Some sectors may claim that
putting Christ as the main goal of education undermines the technical
rigor that should accompany the task of learning the sciences and the
arts. They claim that that approach would be too other-worldly as to
restrain us to go to the last consequences of our studies.
We should not be deceived by
such claim, because the opposite is, in fact, the case. When we put
Christ on top of everything else in our education, we would be most
motivated and pressured to be thoroughly exacting in our studies.
Christ himself would require nothing less than that.
Thus, the ultimate goal of
education is when we learn to deal in an abiding way with the Holy
Spirit, who is the spirit of God, who will remind us of everything
Christ taught us, who will lead us to the complete truth and would
tell us of things to come.
At this time of the world’s
life, we should do much better than the early Christians who, when
asked by St. Paul whether they have received the Holy Spirit, answered
that “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19,2)
All the technical things
involved in our education should somehow tend to the learning of how
to deal with the Holy Spirit. For this, it might be useful also to
know the gifts of the Holy Spirit which enable us to know things the
way the Holy Spirit knows them.
We should never marginalize,
much less, ignore, the Holy Spirit in our education.
Statement on the
By Philippine Center for
Islam and Democracy
May 25, 2017
The Philippine Center for
Islam and Democracy strongly condemns the violent attacks perpetrated
by lawless elements in the Islamic city of Marawi and Lanao del Sur,
made more heinous as it occurred as the Muslim faithful are preparing
for the holy month of Ramadhan. Any act inciting to terror in the
hearts of defenseless civilians, the destruction of places of worship
and properties, the murder of innocent men, women, and children
irrespective of one’s faith are all forbidden and detestable acts
according to Islam. Sowing terror through force and violence has
always been an invalid means of attaining societal changes, and cannot
be justified through faith or religion. The Qur'an says: "If any one
slays a person- unless it be as punishment for murder or for spreading
mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all people. And if
any one saves a life, it would be as if he saved the lives of all
people." (Surah 5, verse 32).
We urge the Philippine
Government to ensure that the declaration of Martial Law will not, in
any way, compromise the lives of our people and the principles of
democracy that we hold dear. PCID believes that the peaceful
resolution of the armed conflict Marawi is needed, through tempered
and calibrated responses that will prevent further casualties and
damage to property and livelihoods.
We ask fellow Filipinos to
stay informed based on facts, especially with the prevalence of
unverified information and unsupported theories regarding the crisis.
We also ask the media to take extra precautions in their reporting,
and to prevent framing the crisis as a binary conflict between Muslims
and Christians. We should focus on uniting and working together for
just peace and human rights, instead of holding unfair and preemptory
judgments that can only lead to a perilous cycle of fear, ignorance,
and worse, more violence.
More than ever, preventing
violent extremism is needed, so we are urging all sectors to
immediately address the worsening issue at its roots. First and
foremost, our government officials, particularly the elected leaders,
should be accountable for good governance and rule of law as well as
the deterioration of the peace and order condition in conflict
affected communities of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Without good governance and the rule of law, government cannot be
effective in improving the socio-economic and political conditions of
our people, and the delivery of basic services long denied in the
As the Muslim ummah enters
Ramadhan, we can only pray for wisdom, peace, and understanding.
rejects military rule in Mindanao
A press statement by
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
May 24, 2017
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang
Pilipino (BMP), a socialist national labor center, added its voice
today to all those who oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition
of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. Our position in based on the
1. Mindanao is not in a
state of lawless violence, nor is it facing invasion or rebellion,
which are the only cases where Martial Law could be legally imposed.
The Marawi attack does not
justify the imposition of military rule in a region that is now
pursuing peace through revived negotiations between the Philippine
government and the various armed groups of the Moro self-determination
2. Unlike in the 1973 and
1935 constitutions, where imminent danger or mere threat to public
safety is enough to justify military rule and the suspension of the
writ of habeas corpus, the 1987 Constitution requires that there has
to be an actual uprising or insurrection in the entire Mindanao region
before a justified declaration of Martial Law.
In forty eight (48) hours,
Duterte is required, by law, to reveal to Congress the factual and
legal basis of his imposition of Martial Law.
We demand that Malacañang to
also present its case on why military rule is its solution to the
terror attacks, as it is contradictory to statements by the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which declared that the situation in
Marawi is now “under control”, and to declarations by Rodrigo Duterte
himself, who has said that a purely military solution will not address
the historical roots of the Mindanao conflict.
3. The legal minds of
Malacañang – especially President Duterte – may argue that safeguards
to civil liberties and political rights are in place even with the
imposition of Martial Law. But formal recognition is different from
actual realities. The Bill of Rights is often illusory in a
warlord-ridden region such as Mindanao, even during peace-time but
certainly more so during martial rule.
Since the imposition of
martial law in Mindanao has no factual and legal basis and because
Malacañang rushed into martial rule, without exhausting all other
options, we fear that the fascist tendency of the Duterte regime is
nearing its full bloom, through the re-imposition of open dictatorship
in the entire country, which Digong has repeatedly threatened to do
during the campaign and throughout his first year in office.
The BMP demands that the
Duterte administration immediately (a) end the martial law in
Mindanao; (b) uphold civilian supremacy over the military; (c) protect
people’s rights – especially the rights to freedom of association and
legitimate dissent; and, (d) address the longstanding conflicts in
Mindanao by satisfying the Filipino people’s demand for peace and
equality and the Bangsamoro people’s right for self-determination.
Priests should only
talk about God!
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 14, 2017
THAT’S right. And
especially, when it involves bishops. When they, we – me included,
stray into commenting about politics, even if we have the good
intention of evangelizing it but cannot avoid taking a partisan
position, we would be doing wrong and be causing great harm to
Christ himself, living at a
time and place where the political conditions were far from ideal,
refrained from making any comments about politics. About the only time
he could be said to have made a political comment was when he referred
to Herod as a fox. (cfr Lk 13,32) Other than that he was silent and
resisted any attempt to drag him to the political scene.
In fact, he submitted
himself to the prevailing laws at the time, highly imperfect as they
were, even if as the Son of God and our Redeemer, he could have been
exempted from them. This was the case of whether he had to pay the
temple tax or not. (cfr, Mt 17,24-27)
Current Church laws and
praxis have always discouraged the clergy from getting mixed up in
political issues. Part of the reason is the autonomy that temporal
matters like politics enjoys and has to be respected no matter how
much we may disagree with certain political views.
But the other part of the
reason is the obvious danger of alienating some people. Priests,
consecrated to be the sacramental personification of Christ as head of
the Church, should always be an agent of unity and redemption,
concerned mainly with the spiritual and supernatural life of the
Even if we have the better
political view, we do not have the privilege to participate actively
in the political discussions. Even when the issues involved already
have direct repercussions on faith and morals, we should refrain from
making comments that can be interpreted as politically partisan.
The reason behind is that
even in the worst scenario, there is always some good that can be
derived from it. If we follow by our faith, if we follow by the
example of Christ, we just have to go along with whatever political
temper there may be at a given time and place and focus more on what
we are supposed to do.
Of course, we as pastors can
make moral judgments on political issues that clearly violate faith
and morals, but these should be done with utmost delicacy and charity.
In this regard, we should
not be afraid to be misunderstood and to suffer all kinds of
persecution, reflecting Christ’s character as a sign of contradiction.
What we cannot do is to fall into a kind of bitter zeal that would
leave charity behind in pursuit of what we consider to be the truth
and the requirements of justice.
Actually, talking only about
God already entails a lot of things and can demand everything from the
clergy. It covers everything that is of real and eternal importance to
us. Preaching the mysteries of our faith alone is no small matter.
This is not to mention that we have to journey pastorally with the
people, both in their collective and individual/personal aspects.
All these require nothing
less than full identification with Christ in whose priesthood we
participate. The social-action aspect of the clergy’s work should
never be interpreted as a ticket to get involved in partisan politics.
National ID system,
amid militarization of gov’t bureaucracy, will lead to wholesale
A Press Statement by the
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
May 12, 2017
Amid the growing number of
military generals holding top posts in the government bureaucracy, the
proposed bill on the national ID system, which was recently approved
by the House Committee on Population, is bound to lead to wholesale
violation of people’s rights to freedom of movement and privacy, right
against surveillance, and right to unhampered and non-discriminatory
provision of social services.
Such proposed measures will
legitimize the already existing violations of the rights of the
people. Many activists and political dissenters were subjected to
surveillance by the state. Worse, their names were listed in the
so-called “order of battle” by the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP)
and other similar lists as part of the counter-insurgency program of
the government. With the continuing spate of illegal arrests and
detention of activists, we believe that this policy and practice
continues to this day.
The proposed National ID
system will aggravate the already bleak human rights situation in the
country where human rights defenders and political dissenters are
subjects of surveillance, threats, illegal arrests and detention,
enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Its conspicuous
timing is also in the context of increased militarization of the
civilian bureaucracy, the continuing implementation of
counter-insurgency programs, and killings in line with the war on
We take exception that such
draconian measures are being pursued in the guise of purportedly
addresses problems in the bureaucracy on the delivery of social
services. The inefficiency in government transactions is deeply rooted
in a corrupt system. A more productive response to the need for an
efficient system of delivering government service to the people is
through the prioritization and allocation of necessary funds for the
social services, instead of giving a lion’s share of public funds to
the unproductive concerns of the defense sector. A more comprehensive
response to criminal activities should start with the investigation
and prosecution of criminal elements mostly in the Philippine National
Police itself and the political biggies who protect these syndicates.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on vote to Gina Lopez
By Office of Senator Alan
Peter S. Cayetano
May 5, 2017
Good evening everyone!
Greetings from Geneva.
I will always decide on what
is right and not what is popular.
I'm not surprised to see so
much support and so much opposition to the voting of the C.A. re DENR
Secretary Nominee Gina Lopez. I thank those who are open minded and
asking why? I'm not surprised that Sec. Gina and her group will go so
low as to cast aspersions on why I voted the way I did and even accuse
me of being in the pockets of the mining industry.
Since the 2007 campaign my
stand on responsible mining and the strictest, highest standards for
industries that affect the environment has been consistent.
At the time of the voting, I
felt that for me to explain my vote at that time would be like rubbing
salt in a wound, because I would have to enumerate all the reasons why
she is not fit to be DENR secretary. I felt it would be cruel to
reject then put her down.
Yet she now singles me out
when a vast majority of the CA voted to reject (after giving her a
year to prove herself) her appointment.
I want to clarify that I
gave Ms. Lopez enough chances to dispel fears that she would not
observe the legal process in regulating the mining industry. I
supported her in closing down mining sites that were not compliant
with the highest standards. Moreover, illegal mining and logging
continue to proliferate, while other sectors that need both strict
regulation continue to destroy the environment.
Unfortunately, the Secretary
was adamant in defending her illegal actions. If she had carried on
with her mindset, it would have embarrassed the Duterte Administration
sooner or later. She would have placed the administration in a
predicament that would be hard to defend.
I respect Ms. Lopez's
passion as an advocate for the environment, but she fails to
understand that she cannot arrogate unto herself Constitutional powers
reserved exclusively for Congress.
Many officials have invoked
good intentions when they violated our anti-graft and corruption laws,
and President Rodrigo Duterte was left with no choice but to terminate
them. Ms. Lopez's recent acts already bordered along these lines.
Going by her unwillingness to comply with institutional processes, she
is not fit to head the DENR. She would have embarrassed the President
in no time.
We are all for alleviating
poverty and the strict enforcement of our laws, but we cannot and
should not do so by being whimsical in imposing regulations that
violate Constitutional processes.
I hope that the President
will appoint another Ms. Lopez with the same zeal, yet still mindful
of the requisite that one must be faithful to the mandate and dictates
of our laws and processes.
God and evil
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 23, 2017
A usual question many people
ask is, If God is good, is goodness himself, if he is truly omnipotent
and provident, why is there evil? It’s definitely a very complex
question that is hard to answer. In fact, the Catechism recognizes
“To this question, as
painful and mysterious as it is”, the Catechism explains, “only the
whole of Christian faith can constitute a response.” (Compendium 57)
It hastens to reassure us that “God is not in any way – directly or
indirectly – the cause of evil. He illuminates the mystery of evil in
his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose in order to vanquish that great
moral evil, human sin, which is at the root of all other evils.”
Then in the next point, it
says: “Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit evil if
he did not cause a good to come from that very evil. This was realized
in a wondrous way by God in the death and resurrection of Christ. In
fact, from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son) he
has brought forth the greatest of all goods (the glorification of
Christ and our redemption). (Compendium 58)
We also know about the story
of Joseph, the son of Jacob, in the Old Testament who was sold by his
own brothers out of envy but who later became a prominent man in
Egypt. When that dramatic reunion between him and his father and
brothers took place, the brothers were very apologetic for what they
did to him and expected to be duly punished.
But Joseph, with utmost
magnanimity, the magnanimity of God, simply told them: “You intended
to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now
being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50,20) Once again, the
divine principle that God knows how to derive good from evil finds its
It’s important that when we
consider the very many different forms of evil that can come to us and
that we see around, we should immediately have recourse to our faith
and not stay too long in our merely human estimations that are usually
based on our emotions only, our prejudices, our sciences that cannot
fathom the many mysteries in life, etc.
We should not waste too much
time lamenting and complaining, and worse, drifting towards the loss
of faith. We need to go to our faith as soon as possible, and there
find some refuge for our troubled souls.
But for this to happen, we
need to practice some emotional and intellectual humility, otherwise
that faith cannot shed its proper light, and we would be held captive
by our limited ways of understanding things. We cannot deny the fact
that our emotions and our intellectual pride can easily dominate the
way we think and react to things.
We have to find ways of
embedding this attitude in the people and in our culture itself. We
should not be too afraid when some forms of evil come our way. We just
have to ask: “Lord, what do you want me to learn from these?”
What the Holy Week
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
April 9, 2017
MANY precious insights and
lessons can be derived if we enter into the spirit of the Holy Week.
Let us thank God for all of them and strengthen our resolve to go
through the Holy Week keeping our faith and piety as vibrant as
possible. That way, we can predispose ourselves to continually discern
these insights and lessons, refining, polishing and deepening them as
we go along.
Among these precious
insights and lessons is the idea of human and Christian perfection
which, I believe, is patently shown by Christ as we liturgically
celebrate his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
For many of us, our usual
understanding of what is perfect and complete is when we manage to
pass a certain test, conquer a certain battle, win in a certain
contest, all measured in human terms.
That is to say, that the
victory and conquest is measured in terms of points scored, wealth
earned, popularity gained, or in terms of mere physical and mechanical
Those standards of
perfection and completion obviously have their proper value and place
in the sun, but they definitely are still far from what is ideal to us
as persons and as children of God.
They are far too exclusive,
not inclusive, and are unable to find value in suffering, and reason
and meaning in the many human imperfections and natural limitations
that we all have.
It’s an understanding of
perfection that is not realistic, given our wounded human nature and
damaged condition. It fails to consider many other things that are
unavoidable in our earthly life.
In this Holy Week, from
Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, to his
death on the cross and resurrection, what we see is Christ’s
determination to perfect and complete his redemptive work by obeying
the will of his Father, no matter what it costs.
Our idea of human and
Christian perfection has to conform to that model shown to us by
Christ. It can be very strict and demanding insofar as the human and
natural standards are concerned, but all of that should not in any way
undermine the charity and mercy that has to be extended to everyone no
matter how they are.
We have to realize that our
human and Christian perfection is achieved to the extent that we
follow Christ all the way to the cross so that we too can share in his
resurrection. It is a perfection that will always involve suffering,
that is, the cross of Christ that paved the way to his resurrection.
What the Holy Week teaches
us is to train ourselves to suffer with Christ, to take up the cross
of Christ without fear. We should be reassured of the victory that can
be the consequence of this attitude, banking also on the reassurance
that was once expressed by St. Paul:
“No temptation has overtaken
you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful. He will not
let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor
Our CAB. Our Peace.
A Press Statement by All-Out
Peace (AOP) & Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) on CAB’s 3rd Anniversary
March 27, 2017
As we commemorate today’s
3rd Anniversary of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro
(CAB), the All-Out Peace (AOP) and Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) renew
and further strengthen our support for this historic peace agreement,
and reiterate our collective resolve for a genuinely inclusive peace
roadmap that secures the present and the future not just of Bangsamoro
but of the whole nation.
AOP and MPW believe that
CAB, an instrument of genuine peace, “embodies and recognizes the
“justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and
their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic
process that will secure their identity and prosperity, and allow for
meaningful self-governance”. It is in this context that we register
our support and call for the immediate enactment of a Bangsamoro
enabling law that reflects all principled and meaningful solutions to
seek a final answer to the Bangsamoro question and resolve the
decades-old Mindanao conflict.
Today, we re-affirm with
utmost urgency, our commitment to contribute, more significantly, to
peacebuilding – a strategy crucial to finding a viable peace formula
to help see through the conclusion of the Bangsamoro peace process
that would finally seal the democratic aspirations of the Bangsamoro
for their inherent right to self-determination towards a meaningful
and enduring peace.
Despite the setbacks
suffered by the CAB in recent years, starting with the unfortunate
incident in Mamasapano and the failure of the 16th Congress to pass a
BBL, we believe that the CAB, and those who believe in it, have
weathered the storm. Believing that the CAB is a product not only of
political negotiations between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine
government but of the peacebuilding communities’ decades of
peacemaking, we are here today, stronger and with a firmer resolve to
persevere and defend the political promise and peaceful vision of what
we claim as Our CAB.
In the immediate, we
respectfully urge the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the
implementing peace panels, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)
to fast track the peace process as we cannot afford anymore delay. The
strategy of the new administration to actually build on what has been
accomplished in the past and to continue previous commitments,
including the implementation of signed agreements from past
administrations is a welcome development.
Already, even if an enabling
law is yet to be hammered by the BTC and enacted by Congress, a
Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission mandated by the CAB
has delivered on its major task by issuing a report and proposing
recommendations primarily based on extensive consultations in the
Bangsamoro areas. We urge President Duterte to heed its
recommendations particularly of establishing a Transitional Justice
and Reconcilation Commission for the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) that shall
ensure the implementation of the ‘dealing with the past’ framework and
promote healing and reconciliation.
Now, more than ever, we are
optimistic and hopeful that in the spirit and principles of the CAB
and other related peace agreements, history will be on our side and
will offer a new round of golden opportunity for the enactment of a
Bangsamoro enabling law to rectify the injustices committed not just
against the Bangsamoro, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, but for
all the oppressed peoples of our nation. We are determined to win this
‘war’ against war. In the success of the peace process rests our
peaceful and democratic future.
in the Philippines – complicity in murder
Executive Director, Front Line Defenders
March 10, 2017
On Thursday, 2 March, Jimboy
Tapdasan Pesadilla was contacted by a neighbour to go to his parents’
house urgently. When he got to the house, he found several neighbours
outside the house and a team of police inside, taking pictures. His
father and mother had both been shot dead.
Ramon Dagaas Pesadilla and
his wife Leonila Tapdasan Pesadilla were both active members of the
Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA). The CFA has been vocal in its
opposition to major mining projects in the area, and as a result their
members have been regular targets for the security forces and thugs
hired by the mining companies. Ramon and Leonila had recently donated
land for a Lumad (the non Muslim indigenous people of the southern
Philippines) community school. This had made them a particular target
for attack as the security forces accuse indigenous community schools
of fostering support for the New People’s Army, the NPA. Human rights
groups have reported an upward trend in human rights violations
against indigenous people ever since fighting resumed between
communist rebels and government forces following the termination of
both parties' unilateral ceasefires early last month.
These latest killings bring
to 17 the number of HRDs killed since the start of 2017.
When President Benigno
Aquino III of the Philippines left office in June 2016, he could at
least claim some credit for a significant drop in the number of
extra-judicial executions, even through the activities of
government-backed death squads still remained a major cause for
concern. Since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, killings are
once more on the increase. These crimes are rarely investigated or the
perpetrators held to account. According to Human Rights Watch's 2016
Annual Report “Among the reasons are lack of political will to
investigate and prosecute abuses by state security forces; a corrupt
and politicised criminal justice system; and a traditional “patronage
politics” system that protects officials and security forces”.
In its 2016 Annual Report,
Front Line Defenders reported 281 killings of human rights defenders (HRDs)
around the world. Thirty-one of those killings took place in the
Philippines, the largest number of killings of HRDs in any country
outside the Americas. By calling for the extra-judicial killing of
those involved, or suspected of being involved, in the drug trade,
President Duterte has sent a signal that murder is an acceptable way
of dealing with certain social problems. The ending of the peace talks
and the ceasefire has made an already volatile situation even more
dangerous, especially for indigenous peoples or environmental HRDs who
object to mining or other polluting industries.
The Philippines is now one
of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a HRD and
the government of President Duterte must act urgently to break the
cycle of violence, ensure the security forces operate within the rule
of law and bring the perpetrators to justice or stand accused of
complicity in murder.
The recent decision to
involve the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the war on drugs,
especially in the lands of indigenous peoples, is a dangerous
development which will do nothing to solve the drug problem or resolve
the decades-old conflict, but will certainly increase the death toll.
Since the beginning of
February there has been a catalogue of killings of Lumad community
leaders. On 3 February, Matanem Lorendo Pocuan and Renato Anglao, were
gunned down in separate incidents. On 6 February, Emelito Rotimas was
shot eight times by suspected military agents, while later the same
day Glenn Ramos, was shot dead by personnel of the Crime Investigation
and Detection Group (CIDG). On 16 February, Edweno ‘Edwin’ Catog, was
shot by two men, believed to be linked to the 46th Infantry
Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA). He had previously been warned by a
relative that he should go into hiding because he was on a military
hit list. On 19 February, Willerme Agorde of Mailuminado Farmers’
Association Incorporated (MAFAI) was shot by suspected members of the
Bagani paramilitary group.
According to Cristina
Palabay of human rights organisation Karapatan, “There is a consistent
pattern in these killings. Every political killing is justified by the
military with claims that victims are members of the New People’s Army
(NPA), and have been killed during ‘legitimate’ encounters’. In the
cities, we are being fed a similar narrative – with the police
justifying drug-related killings during ‘legitimate’ police
operations. These killings are perpetrated by state security forces
who seem to think that they have been granted the right to kill
President Duterte has
encouraged the killers and must be held responsible for his actions.
The international community must challenge President Duterte’s
endorsement of murder. Failure to do so will send a signal to
dictators everywhere that they can wage war on their own people with
The number of killings is
not just a measure of entrenched violence, but an indicator of the
failure of successive Philippine governments to deal with issues of
poverty, corruption and discrimination, as well as the lack of
economic or social opportunities for the vast majority of the people
of the Philippines. A key step towards addressing this issue is for
the government to recognise the key role of HRDs in helping to create
a more just and equal society in the Philippines.
Why do we fast?
March 9, 2017
CHRIST was once asked this
question. The disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees
wondered why they had to fast much while those of Christ did not. (cfr
The answer came immediately.
“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and
then they will fast.”
I suppose Christ was
referring to himself as the bridegroom. In fact, in his Letter to the
Ephesians, St. Paul referred Christ as the groom of the Church, that
is, us. (cfr 5,22-32)
Christ can be regarded as
the bridegroom who actually is with us always, but also not yet fully
with us, given our human and temporal condition as of yet. We are
still on our pilgrim way on earth toward our eternal destiny in heaven
where Christ will be fully with us.
That is why Christ can be
considered somehow as not yet with us, and that’s the reason why we
have to fast. It is to train ourselves to seek him. It is to make us
realize we need him, and that we actually will find our true and
lasting joy with him. At the moment, we are still kind of mourning, as
Christ said, because we are not yet fully with him.
We have to be clear about
the reason why we fast. We should not just fast because we have been
commanded to do so. We have to fast because, especially at these times
when we are easily carried away by earthly pleasures, we need to
sharpen our longing for Christ.
Fasting has a dual effect.
One is the passive or the negative effect, which is that of
disciplining ourselves – especially our senses and our other bodily
faculties. This is the self-denial part. And the other is the active
or the positive one, which is that of honing our hunger for Christ.
This is the following part, as illustrated in the very words of
Christ: “If any man wants to follow me, he must deny himself, carry
the cross, and follow me.”
This two should go together,
mutually affecting each other. One without the other would distort the
true character and purpose of fasting.
And nowadays, we have to
understand that fasting should not be limited to matters of food and
drinks. It has to be extended now most especially in the use of the
many conveniences that we now enjoy, like our new technologies, that
have an effective way of enslaving us and blunting our love for God
and for others.
We need to concretize our
resolutions with regard to this need for fasting. This may mean that
we have to set aside our cellphones from time to time, that we use the
gadgets with clear rectitude of intention, that we refrain from
complaining when these same gadgets give us problems as they often do
We have to understand that
everyday, the element of fasting as a sacrifice is actually a
necessity to all of us.
PMCJ’s statement on
President Duterte’s signing of the Paris Agreement
March 6, 2017
The Philippine Movement for
Climate Justice (PMCJ) welcomes President Duterte’s signing of the
Paris Agreement as a step towards the Philippines commitment to the
1.5 degree aspirational goal laid out in the Paris Agreement.
However, signing the Paris
Accord still will not ensure a world beyond the climate crisis and the
Philippines climate-proofed from extreme weather events. However, the
Philippine Government will once again lead the various countries in
demanding the historical responsibilities of rich countries and the
higher commitments in polluter countries in mitigation action. As of
now, the NDCs submitted by all countries which ratified the Paris
Agreement falls short of preventing catastrophic climate change.
With this, PMCJ stands firm
that the Paris Agreement is not enough to enact effective and genuine
climate actions. The group calls for stronger and concrete policy
actions that can directly address and develop programs towards
Philippine economy achieving growth not tied with increased
consumption of coal.
We demand the president’s
full support in implementing policies to reduce the dependence of our
country to the use of dirty fossil fuels and spearhead the transition
towards 100% renewable energy. Moreover, we call on the President to
use its mandate to ensure that government agencies will be working
hand-in-hand and will serve and protect the interest of the people who
are being directly hit by the impacts of the exacerbating global
So far, the Philippines
energy consumption exhibits an increasing CO2 emission due to
undesirably increasing number of existing coal-fired power plants (CFPPs)
in the country – counting 26 operational and 36 more CFPPs in the
pipeline. In fact, President Duterte himself has inaugurated 3 CFPPs
in his term.
The Philippines still
remains as one of the most vulnerable countries. According to the 2016
Global Climate Risk Index our country ranked 4th globally after being
visited by strong typhoons like Typhoon Yolanda for the past decade
and the succeeding typhoons. As a result it exacerbated further
poverty, massive inequality due to the extent of damage and
dislocation. The continued burning of coal and other fossil fuels
globally will be detrimental to most climate vulnerable countries like
the Philippines where economic growth are being eaten up by
destruction and devastation.
Typhoon Yolanda’s effects
and impacts include high percentage of destruction of framed homes,
total roof failure and wall collapse, isolation of residential areas
due to fallen trees and power poles and power outages (NOAA, 2013c),
and left the country with 6,201 dead, 1,785 missing and 28,626
injured. All of these resulted to P296 million total damages in
agriculture and infrastructure which caused a 1% total decrease in
gross domestic product (GDP).
Lent, seeing the light in
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
March 5, 2017
WE are now again the in
season of Lent. It’s important that we know how to see the good,
bright and happy side of this season that otherwise is usually
considered as dark, and also associated almost exclusively with pain,
suffering and sacrifice.
We need to confront the dark
reality of our sinfulness as well as the reassuring reality of God’s
mercy. These two realities should go together, and the Lenten period
is the good time to strengthen our conviction about the helpful
relationship these two should have with each other.
Whenever we feel the sting
of our weaknesses and sinfulness, together with their antecedents and
consequences, their causes and effects, let’s never forget to consider
also God’s mercy that is always given to us, and, in fact, given to us
We have to avoid getting
stuck with one while ignoring the other. Our sinfulness should be
viewed in the context of divine mercy. And vice-versa: God’s mercy
should be regarded in the context of our unavoidable sinfulness.
And from there, let us
develop the unshakable conviction that no matter what sins we commit,
no matter how ugly they are, there is always hope. God’s mercy is
May it be that while our
sinfulness would have the understandable effect of making us feel bad
and sad, we should not allow it to scandalize ourselves to the point
of running away from Christ rather than going back to him contrite.
Let’s strengthen our
conviction that Christ has a special attraction to sinners, that he is
ever willing to forgive us as long as we show some signs of repentance
that he himself, through his grace, will stir in us.
Let’s play the part of Peter who, after denying Christ three times,
realized his mistake and wept bitterly in repentance. Christ looked
kindly on him and forgave him and even made him the prince of the
But we have to learn how to handle our weaknesses and temptations. And
the secret is always to be with God. The more we are stirred and
bombarded by them, the more we should be with God. That’s the secret.
To distance ourselves from him can only mean disaster.
Truth is, we always need God in our battle against temptations. We
should disabuse ourselves from the thought that with our good
intentions and our best efforts alone, we can manage to tame the urges
We cannot! That’s the naked truth about it. We only can if we are with
God. And we have to be with him in a strong, determined way, not in a
passive or lukewarm way. Do flies flock on a hot soup? No. But they do
on a cold or lukewarm soup.
We need to do everything to be with God. Our mind and heart should be
fully and constantly engaged with him. We always have reason to do so
– at least, we can thank him for what we are having at the moment:
health, food, air, work, etc. Let’s never leave him!
God yes but
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 22, 2017
WE have to be clear about
this. We cannot have God without religion. They go together as far as
we are concerned. Religion is precisely our relationship with God.
It’s an unavoidable thing, whether we like it or not. It has its laws
and requirements that flow from God himself and that ought to be
followed. Without religion, what would God be to us?
There are some people who
profess that they believe in God but not in religion. Perhaps what
they mean is that they indeed believe in God but do not want to be
hampered by certain “requirements” that religion demands from them. Or
they do not want what they call as “organized religion” with its
doctrine and practices.
It’s like saying that they
want a God that is according to their own liking, their own designs,
their own terms. They do not want to be told what to do in their own
so-called relation with God.
Of course, they are quick to
say that these “requirements” are simply man-made, or are mere
legalisms that really have nothing to do with the essence of our
relation with God. They seem to be the only ones capable of knowing
how their relation with God should be. No one should intervene.
Worse, they are quick to
point out the many inconsistencies that people who occupy positions in
the Church and those who call themselves as pious, holy and religious
make, to justify their rejection of their own idea of religion. They
are deflecting the issue, as if the mistakes and sins of these men and
women detract from the objective need for religion.
This is unfortunate because
such understanding of God and religion is fatally flawed. While
religion is personal in the sense that it is unique to each
individual, it is also personal in the sense that it is by definition
relational and subject to the laws of God and the laws that the
divinely founded Church stipulates.
To be personal is not only
to be a unique individual but also to be related to God and to
everybody else. A person is always a religious and social being. That
is how a person is wired, and in these relations, there are universal
God-given laws that need to be followed.
Of course, these laws are
articulated in human terms and therefore cannot fully capture the
mysterious laws of God. That is why they need to be updated, improved,
polished, enriched, etc. as time goes on. But they have to be followed
just the same, unless it’s clear that a particular law does not apply
to a concrete situation of the person.
Some people say that they
believe in God but they do not want to do anything with the Church.
But God without the Church is not God. He would be a man-made god. The
bishop-martyr St. Cyprian expresses this truth well: “You cannot have
God as your Father if you do not have the Church as your mother.”
Souls of prayer
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 11, 2017
We really need to be souls
of prayer. This is what is proper to us. It’s a fundamental need
because when we pray we connect ourselves with our ultimate life
source who is God. Our need for prayer is infinitely more than our
need for air and food. Before anything else, it is what truly makes us
a human person and a child of God.
That is why Christ preached
abundantly about it, and encouraged us always to pray. He himself, who
is both God and man, prayed all the time. He prayed before he started
his public life, when he began his day of work as well as at the end
of the day, when he performed miracles, when he had to make big
In the end, he clearly told
us to pray always and not to lose heart when he talked about the
parable of the persistent widow (cfr Lk 18,1ff). He also told us about
the basic characteristics of our prayer – that it should be sincere,
confident, humble and constant.
We have to be wary of our
great tendency to be dominated by worldly and temporal concerns such
that we fail to pray. That would be a disaster since that would be
like being deluded that we are doing well in life when in fact we are
failing big time.
We have to start to pick up
the rudiments of prayer and begin the process of becoming authentic
souls of prayer, such that wherever we are, whatever situation we may
be in, somehow we are always praying, we are always in touch with God.
This should not be difficult
because we know that God is always around. He is everywhere. Besides,
he is always solicitous of us. He cannot fail to love us. We may fail
him and earn his anger, but that anger would only be for a while,
since his mercy is forever. We can always manage to pray any time any
place if we just would have the proper disposition.
Definitely, we need to
exercise our faith and be willing to exert effort and make sacrifices.
That is how we can aspire to make our prayer alive always. We should
put ourselves in God’s presence always so we avoid anonymity in our
intimate conversations with him.
What can also help is to
train and use our imagination in our prayer. In fact, we have to use
all our human powers and faculties – our intelligence and will, our
feelings and memory, etc. – in our prayer.
And we should be ready to
handle the unavoidable difficulties in our prayer. There will be times
when we would feel dry and uninspired or when we would be tempted to
think that our prayer is going nowhere.
Those difficulties are
actually opportunities to improve our prayer and to grow in our
spiritual life. If we persevere in praying, using all the means that
are always available, we will see how this improvement and growth are
taking place, and be filled with joy and satisfaction.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
February 7, 2017
APPARENTLY an American actor
expressed the view recently that if he does not read the newspapers,
he obviously would be uninformed of developments around. But if he
reads them, he most likely would also get misinformed, considering the
way the papers are now, he said. He found himself in a dilemma.
This is the challenge we all
face at present. The truth is that we have to get informed, but
informed properly. We simply have to find ways of how to get out of
the state of being uninformed and misinformed.
This will require some
skills, of course. But the basic and relevant virtue to live here is
that of prudence. That’s what would enable us to judge whether we
should read the papers or not, now or later, or to “smell” whether a
piece of information is good or not, useful or useless, relevant or
irrelevant, true or false.
Nowadays, the need to be
most discerning is getting urgent precisely because of the
proliferation of useless information, not to mention, misleading and
deceptive ones and fake news that are laced with all sorts of biases
and prejudices of those who make them. It’s not only political
partisanship that occasions this phenomenon. It’s deeper than that.
It’s now ideological partisanship.
This virtue of prudence, of
course, presumes some criteria to guide our judgments. In this regard,
it has to be made clear that we have to start with God’s moral law. We
just cannot set aside this indispensable requirement and plunge
immediately to merely earthly and temporal values like practicality,
profitability, popularity, etc., to guide us. That would be like
sailing a boat without the North Star, or the GPS.
Prudence, of course,
presumes a certain hierarchy of values that we should respect, uphold
and defend. It should be vitally connected with wisdom that in the end
connects us with God and all others, as well as all things in the
world, through love and truth.
We have to make sure that
our prudence is not only motivated by secondary criteria, like
efficiency, effectiveness, practicality, profitability, convenience,
etc. If these criteria do not lead us to a closer relation with God,
with others and the rest of the world, but would rather reinforce our
self-absorption, then it would not be true prudence.
We might enjoy some perks
that these secondary standards may give us, but it would not be true
prudence when it fails to lead us to our proper relationship with God,
others and the rest of the world.
Of course, true prudence
springs first of all from our intimate personal relation with God, the
source of all good things, of all truth, of all love. Without that
foundation, our prudence would be limited to mere appearances of
prudence that would be nothing other than the prudence of the world
and the prudence of the flesh, if not the prudence of the devil.
Again, we cannot
overemphasize the need to be vitally united with God for us to be
truly prudent and able to discern all types of information that are
being fed to us these days.
In the name of
Fr. Roy Cimagala,
January 12, 2017
WE should form the habit of
frequently invoking the name of Jesus. If there’s any name that we
should call most often, it should be that of Jesus. It is the most
important and necessary name we can call, as attested by St. Paul
himself who said:
“God greatly exalted him,
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the
name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2,10-11)
Calling his name, for sure,
is never just an empty form of pietism, or some kind of superstition.
Calling his name corresponds to a basic necessity of ours who always
need to be helped, enlightened, strengthened and ultimately redeemed.
We are assured that Jesus
always listens to us and promptly attends to our needs, although in
ways that may be different from our own expectations. It’s not in
Jesus to be indifferent to our needs, no matter how unworthy and
undeserving we are. His great love for us will always lead him to
intervene always in our life.
The name of Jesus means “God
saves.” Invoking that name will always remind us of our need for
salvation, that is, our ultimate salvation from sin, from death, from
all pain and suffering. It’s not simply liberation from some
transitory hunger or worldly need. It’s liberation to eternal life.
If invoked with faith and
love, if done with great piety, calling the name Jesus can only give
us a lot of good. It can even give us an immediate relieving and
I remember that one time, I
had some muscle pain in my legs and in my back. A ‘manghihilot’ was
recommended to me, and he told me to have strong faith and to follow
him in calling the name of Jesus as he did his therapy. I must say
that it worked.
But more importantly, we
need to call Jesus’ name when we are faced with big challenges and
difficult, if not irresistible, temptations. Somehow doing so
generates a certain kind of spiritual strength that would enable us to
handle these situations effectively.
When we feel our weaknesses
stirred up, or when, for some mysterious reasons, we seem to be
strongly drawn or lured to do something sinful, calling the name of
Jesus would really help. More than just recovering our senses, we can
feel a strong mysterious spiritual force that will enable us to do
what we ought to do.
And if, in spite of
everything, we still manage to fall, then calling Jesus’ name
facilitates our repentance and reconciliation with God and with
others. We do not actually need to go far or do extraordinary things
for us to be helped, guided, enlightened, strengthened and redeemed.
We just need to call Jesus’ name, and the process of healing starts.
Some people question whether
it is practicable to be truly holy in the middle of the world that is
full of sin and temptations. The answer to that is a resounding,
‘yes.’ Christ would not command us to be holy if that is not doable.
And the practicability of holiness can start simply by calling the
name of Jesus – with faith, love and piety.
The lives of saints can
attest to this. And even our own personal experiences can prove it.
Calling Jesus’ name can immediately soften our mind and heart that can
tend to harden due to the pressures of life, not to mention, the
temptations and sin around.
Calling Jesus’ name will
always remind us to be good to others, to be charitable, understanding
and compassionate with them. It will prod us to think well of the
others, to be quick to serve and help them. It will push us to do a
lot of good, never saying enough.
Calling Jesus’ name will
help us to be quick to ask for forgiveness if we commit a mistake as
well as to forgive others. It will lead us along the way of humility
Calling Jesus’ name will
strengthen us so we can tackle the many and endless challenges and
problems of life. It will help us to handle situations when we are
insulted, mocked and offended. It will encourage us to identify with
him on the cross when we suffer all kinds of injustice.
Calling Jesus’ name will
also show us what else to do to follow him all the way to the end.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
January 8, 2017
LEST you get scandalized, it
was Christ himself who said so. Let us cite the exact quotation:
‘“Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they
answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors
and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’”
Of course, the context was
the precious lesson Christ wanted to highlight as to what would
comprise fulfilling God’s will. He mentioned about two brothers. The
first was asked to work in the vineyard, and said no, but later on,
changed his mind and went to work. The second said yes, but actually
did not go.
The precious lesson Christ
wanted to impart is that what really matters is doing and not simply
saying to do God’s will, even if at the beginning one declines to do
God’s will. An important part of this lesson is the need for
repentance and conversion in our life.
So the prostitutes referred
to in this particular episode are those who repented and who actually
did what Christ wanted them to do. They did not enter as prostitutes,
but as sinners who have repented.
A significant lesson we can
also gather from this particular story, and one that should serve as a
constant warning to all of us, is that we have to be most careful when
we think we are already good enough because of certain good things we
have or have done, but still have failed to be very faithful to God’s
This is the lesson embedded
in that saying that “the good is the enemy of the best,” that is the
very germ of that most insidious spiritual illness called spiritual
complacency and lukewarmness. That’s when we think we are good enough.
There’s no need to be better.
We have to understand that
conversion is a continuing need for all of us. We can never say that
we are good enough and that we do not need further conversions. We
should not forget that we are all sinners even in the best condition
of our earthly life.
For this to happen, we need
to be humble, which can be the result of the keen awareness of our
sinfulness. It’s when we think we are sinless or with little and
negligible sin that we fail to realize the need for conversion.
We should never allow
whatever good we have done to lull us to think that we are good enough
and that we don’t need another conversion.
I refer more to people who
have been doing good all these years, but somehow are stuck at a
certain point in their spiritual life. Doing good for them has become
a kind of set routine that is turning to be more mechanical than
spiritual, leaving an impressive shell but slowly being deprived of
substance, desensitizing them from the urge for another conversion.
The mark of true saints is
precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion.
Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud.
They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made,
and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes,
faults, infidelities, etc.
It’s not that they led a
miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative
attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy
sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father,
but aware of their total dependence on God.
It’s their driving love for
God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and
conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this
hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see
more things that they need to do. It’s this love for God and souls
that would make them feel that they have to go further than what so
far they have accomplished.
This love has no limits. It
does not have the word ‘enough’ in its vocabulary. It always urges
them to do more to be more and better.
That is why it is often
given as a spiritual advice that one forgets himself completely and
just thinks of God and the others. Not only that, but also that one’s
true growth and development toward human maturity and Christian
perfection is measured to the extent that one thinks of God and the
others and does things for them.
It might be good to
replicate in oneself a true act of contrition that is involved in a
conversion of a prostitute.
Good news and the
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
December 13, 2016
There's a new scourge in the
media today. It's called the fake news. It had its most devastating
display during the last US presidential election where one candidate
was touted practically by all the major news sources to be the winner,
The outcome was, of course,
different. The upset was shocking. And the world woke up to the
realization that it has been fed, maliciously or not, systematically
or not, with fake news.
That this phenomenon
happened certainly deserves a more in-depth study. How could such
powerful news agencies, pollsters, etc., fail to read the mind of the
people in general? What an epic, big-time fail it was!
There can be many, endless
reasons behind it. But offhand, what I can say is that there certainly
was a very devious virus of bias and prejudice involved among the
media people that now include millions of netizens with their blogs
and social media accounts.
It was a virus that found
its host in the passion-filled arena of the political warfare, where
the light that was shed blinded more than made people see things
properly. It generated what may be termed as agenda-dictated
journalism, where self-serving slanting of data and the objective
assessment and the fair treatment of the issues were set aside.
Words were inflated or
deflated to serve the biases and prejudices of those in media. More
than words, ideologies corrupted the minds of people to the extent
that the people could not judge things properly anymore and resorted
instead to a simplistic black-and-white tack on the issues.
These ideologies tried to be
the core basis for the people's faith and reasoning. But we know that
for all their valid points, no ideology has exclusive right to be the
sole holder and owner of what is true, right and fair in our human
affairs. It's amazing that many people now turn to ideologies as the
bedrock of their beliefs.
God, his word, his will and
ways – in short, the Good News – are all but dismissed completely.
They are considered irrelevant, a drag and an unnecessary baggage in
resolving issues political or otherwise.
Many people have not come
any closer to the realization that in fact God has to be in the middle
of all our earthly affairs, be it business or politics, etc. No
ideology, no personal convictions can replace him.
In short, we have to listen
to the Good News God has given us through Christ and now in the Holy
Spirit that animates the Church and its many instrumentalities. We
have to understand that this Good News is the foundation of whatever
opinion, view, philosophy, ideology that we may use to pursue our
In other words, God’s word
is the first and last word. Any word we coin and use in the fields of
our sciences, arts, technologies, politics, business, culture, etc.,
should begin and end with God’s word. Otherwise it will have no proper
foundation and orientation.
St. Paul has amply warned us
about arrogating our words to be simply our own. “Let no man deceive
himself,” he said. “If any man among you seems to be wise in this
world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of
this world is foolishness with God…Let no man therefore glory in men.”
(1 Cor 3,19-21)
That's simply because God's
word or the Good News, as described in the Letter to the Hebrews, is
“living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and
marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Its primary purpose is to
bring us back to God through our temporal affaris. And so more than
just giving us some helpful earthly knowledge, it gives us the
ultimate spiritual knowledge we need to return to God, even through
the very contentious field of politics.
Christ himself said: “Heaven
and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mk 13,31)
We need to echo that response of St. Peter who, when asked if the
apostles would also go away from Christ when he talked about himself
as the bread of life, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words
of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)
We certainly have to sit
down and see how we can be more aware of grounding and orienting our
words with God’s word, the Good News. Otherwise, we will be wallowing
in fake news.
Heroes and saints
ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2016
HEROES need not be saints,
but saints are always heroes in the sense that whatever their vocation
and mission, they always live them with heroicity even if their heroic
lives may not be publicly known in some political, social, historical
or cultural terms.
Saints can even live their
heroicity hidden from the public eye, and often they live it by going
against the current obtaining in a certain society. They can be
unpopular, in fact, as St. Paul once said: “We have become the scum of
the earth, the garbage of the world...” (1 Cor 4,13)
Heroes obviously can be
saints too, as long as they live their vocation and mission in strict
and heroic obedience to God's will and ways. They definitely have done
some acts that we consider as heroic. They serve a certain purpose in
But what we usually consider
heroes are defined more in political, social, historical and cultural
terms, and need not accord with the spiritual and supernatural
criteria of sainthood.
In fact, there are many
heroes now who can hardly qualify as saints, precisely because their
heroism may go against spiritual and supernatural standards. Heroes
work for some worldly values like nationalism, save-and-rescue
operations, efficiency and effectiveness, etc. Saints work only for
the fidelity to God's will.
While heroes are always
involved in some extraordinary events, saints need not get involved in
those kind of events. Most of them become saints simply doing very
ordinary things but doing them extraordinarily well, that is, with
great love of God and of others, with extreme fidelity to their
vocation and mission.
Most saints live their
heroic lives in secret. They don't show off their goodness, imitating
Christ who said: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door
and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in
secret will reward you...And when you fast, do not look dismal, like
the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may
be seen by men...” (Mt 6,6&16)
Saints live their heroic
lives consistently, in season and out of season, when times are
favorable and when they are not. They hardly are influenced by the
opinions of people. They can go against the general trends, if need
be. Theirs is in strict obedience and fidelity to God's will.
The distinction between
heroes and saints is crucial because we need to realize that we have
to aim more at becoming saints than at becoming heroes. If we happen
to end up both saints and heroes, then that's good. It's quite a
privilege. But if given a choice, we have to opt for sainthood rather
than for being a hero.
What is truly important is
that we are with God rather than with our own selves. We have to aim
at heaven rather than some earthly advantage. “What does it profit a
man,” Christ says, “to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” (Mk
This does not mean that we
have to belittle the value of the world. Not at all. The world and the
things in it, our temporal affairs, are important and even
indispensable in the pursuit of sanctity. But the world and things in
it are simply means. They are never the end.
Thus, the call to holiness
and sanctity is universal. It's meant for everyone, while the call to
be heroes is quite selective. Not everyone can be heroes, but everyone
is expected to be a saint. The occasions to become saints are always
available, while those to become heroes are few and far between.
That is why even with his
apostles, Christ would just choose practically anyone at random,
including the one who would betray him later. And the reason is simply
because all of us come from God and belong to him.
To become a saint is not so
much a matter of the kind of skill, talent, position, etc. that one
has. It's simply a matter of a total self-giving to God and to others,
irrespective of the conditions and circumstances one may be in.
In this regard, we have to
develop the appropriate passion. That's simply because to become a
saint just cannot happen without fully involving all our faculties,
including our passions. Let's remember what Christ told us about the
greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22,37)
To become a saint is to
achieve the fullness of our humanity. Our fullness is not to become a
Stop the killings!
End impunity! Human rights for all!
A Statement from Network
Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines) forwarded by the
Asian Human Rights Commission
November 23, 2016
There has been an epidemic
of summary killings and extrajudicial executions across the
Philippines for decades now. From 1998 to December 2015, a total of
1,424 were documented to have been killed by the so-called Davao Death
Squad in Davao City. More such killings, often perpetrated by
so-called “riding in tandem” killers and death squads, had taken place
and continue to take place in other cities such as Tagum, Digos,
General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Cebu and in other cities in
the Visayas and Luzon.
In the first five months of
the Duterte administration, however, the killings have only gotten
worse, with nearly 5,000 people killed in its brutal war on drugs in
that short period. More than 2,000 died in police operations while the
rest were killed by unidentified assailants, or what the police calls
“deaths under investigations” that appear to be death squad killings.
A number of children were among those killed.
President Duterte campaigned
on a platform of reducing crime and illegal drugs. But instead of
fixing the country’s long-standing rule-of-law problems, he and his
top officials incite and encourage law enforcers to commit even more
killings and even more abuses. While some of these killings are being
investigated both by the police and the Commission on Human Rights, no
one has been charged, signaling what appears to be complete impunity.
The Duterte administration
has likewise taken steps to erode human rights and civil liberties.
The president’s allies have filed bills in Congress to reinstate the
death penalty and to lower the age of criminal liability to nine years
old. He has floated the idea of suspending the privilege of the writ
of habeas corpus and imposing martial law. He has likewise approved
the burial of the dictator Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani
despite opposition from those who suffered under the dictatorship.
President Duterte has been
trying to discredit institutions that can check official abuse of
power, such as the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and
non-government groups critical of the killings. He has attacked the
United Nations and the Human Rights Council as well as western
countries whose representatives have expressed concern about the human
rights situation in the Philippines. He also wants the Philippines to
get out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after other
countries with despotic regimes have done so.
administrations that have denied complicity in past extrajudicial
killings, the Duterte government encourages these abuses and even
promises protection to the perpetrators, taking an already egregious
human rights situation to a whole new and more dangerous level. It is
time for these killings to stop and for the killers to be brought to
We organized ourselves into
the Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NAKPhilippines)
because civil society needs to take a firmer, stronger and principled
stand against extrajudicial killings and the continued erosion of
universal human rights in the Philippines. Like the human rights
advocates that have campaigned against death squad killings since
1999, we are outraged by these violations and are committed to do what
we can to stop the killings, demand accountability from government,
assert human rights for all, and protect human rights defenders.
NAKPhilippines is an
independent, non-partisan and broad alliance of various individuals,
NGOs and civil society organizations concerned about human rights,
civil liberties and rule of law in the Philippines.
Today, on the 7th
anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, we hold a National Day of Prayer
and Solidarity for Victims of Extrajudicial Killings and Their
Families at the Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help, Redemptorist
Church, Baclaran, in Manila. This is our way of acknowledging the pain
and anguish of the families of thousands of victims of Duterte’s war
on drugs and to press for our continuing demand for accountability and
Beware of privileges and
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
November 17, 2016
AS school chaplain, I get to
talk with students who are transitioning from one level to another –
be it from high school to college or from college to professional
life, etc. A common problem or difficulty these students meet in this
stage of their life is that of adjustment.
Most of the time, these
students realize that they have new responsibilities to assume, new
challenges and expectations to meet. Though many of them manage to
cope with the new things, some find it hard and fall into crisis,
sometimes grave, almost fatal or suicidal crisis.
These problematic cases
often manifest a common feature – that of somehow being spoiled by
privileges, entitlements, comfort and carefree lifestyle that they
enjoyed and received from their parents and peers.
This time though, as they
enter a new phase in their life, they notice that these perks are
ebbing away for a number of reasons, and they find it hard to go on
without them. While this phenomenon is quite normal and should be
expected, some of these young ones do not know how to handle it. They
are unprepared for these changes, or they simply refuse to make the
They continue to expect the
same things, when circumstances have in fact changed, sometimes
drastically. And so they get disappointed and frustrated, and from
there more serious problems can be triggered.
They fail to realize that
gospel indication of Christ: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Mt 23,12) They fail to
match their growth in their status with the corresponding growth in
their sense of responsibility, in the tenor of what Christ himself
said: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt 23,11)
This is where they have to
be reminded – with patience and reassurance but with clear and strong
admonition – that they have to know how to wean themselves from their
previous lifestyle and start to get real with the objective changes of
circumstances in their lives.
Part of this reminder should
be the explanation that all the attention and affection lavished on
them by their parents and others while they were growing up was meant
for them to grow toward maturity and not for them to get spoiled.
Getting spoiled by all the
attention, privileges and entitlements given to them can happen when
they fail to realize this crucial truth about their life. They fail to
act on what Christ himself said: “From everyone who has been given
much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him
they will ask all the more.” (Lk 12,48)
So this is where they have
to be taught how to grow in responsibility, teaching them to be ever
mindful and thoughtful of the others, and to realize that our life,
like Christ’s life, is meant to serve and not to be served.
In fact, all of us have to
do everything to acquire, develop and enrich this attitude in
ourselves and among ourselves, inspiring and inculcating it in others
as much as we can, for it is what is truly proper of us all.
With God’s grace, we have to
exert effort to overcome the understandable awkwardness and tension
involved in blending the natural and the supernatural aspects of this
affair, as well as the expected resistance we can give, due to the
effects of our sins.
We can make use of our daily
events to cultivate this attitude. For example, as soon as we wake up
from sleep in the morning, perhaps the first thing we have to do is
address ourselves to God and say “Serviam” (I will serve). It’s the
most logical thing to do, given who God is and who we are in relation
And “Serviam” is a beautiful
aspiration that can immediately put us in the proper frame of mind for
the day. It nullifies Satan’s “Non serviam” and our tendency to do our
own will instead of God’s, which is what sin, in essence, is all
And as we go through our
day, let’s see to it that everything we do is done as a service to God
and to others. Let’s not do them merely out of self-interest or
self-satisfaction. That kind of attitude is highly poisonous to us,
ruinous to our duty to love. Sooner or later, we will find ourselves
completely engulfed by self-centeredness.
For us to be able to do
things as service of love to God and to others, we have to continually
rectify our intentions. We should be quick to react when we notice
that our intentions and motivations are already invaded by
How long should
ABRAHAM V. LLERA
November 16, 2016
“Eight minutes, with 15
minutes as maximum,” according to Abp. Malcom Ranjith who used to be
the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) of the
Vatican. “Eight minutes, the average time a listener can remain
listening,” agrees Abp. Nikola Eterovik, former Secretary General for
the Synod of Bishops of the Roman Curia.
“Eight minutes,” agrees Fr.
Andre Headon, vice rector of the Venerable English College in Rome
which prepares men to become priests. “There’s a saying among clergy,”
adds Fr Headon, “’If you haven’t struck oil in seven minutes, stop
“It should be brief,”
cautions #138 of Evangelii Gaudium, and should not be “a form of
entertainment,” [emphasis mine] as many priests, it seems, take it to
be. If the homily goes too long, e.g., 45 minutes, it disturbs two
characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and
rhythm,” reminds Evangelii Gaudium. This means that “the words of the
preacher must be measured, so that the Lord, more than his minister,
will be the center of attention.”
Unfortunately, some priests
seem to think otherwise. Look at them sing. Or crack jokes. Or talk
about last night’s episode of a teleserye. Did they really intend the
singing to help the faithful understand the need for sorrow for sin in
these days leading to Advent? Or is it simply to call attention to
their singing prowess?
Was the joke intended to
make a wealthy business owner listener impatient to get home so that
he can give the instructions that will give SSS and Philhealth
coverage to his employees, long denied of this basic employees right?
Or did Father oblige with a joke because that is what most Catholics,
sad to say, come to church for: to be entertained?
And the teleserye. Did
Father mention that in order to stir the congregation into such a
fervor they would henceforth look at their wealth not as theirs, but
as a good common to all, ready to be given to everyone in need? Or did
Father do that for the “Okay si Father” comments that invariably come
Homilies must be
scrupulously prepared for one week in advance, and, as Pope Francis
has said, must be limited to the Scripture readings of the day,
avoiding sociologism, politics, or vainglory, the last one apparent
the moment the priest starts talking about himself.
Especially to be avoided is
useless chatter. To include in the homily the diocesan priests’
retreat in Betania, Tagaytay, and how they would be going there on
different flights to make sure there’ll be priests left in case of a
mishap is dangerously approaching “useless chatter,” especially on a
Sunday when St. Luke talks about persecution, and about the need to
even speak all the more about Christ.
Homilies are difficult to
prepare, because it takes a lot of effort to keep homilies short. But
it doesn’t require a 45-minute homily to whip the congregation to
fervor and to specific and firm resolutions where they can apply the
message of the day’s readings in their lives.
In fact, precisely the
opposite is bound to happen. Often along the way, the homily hits
paydirt, and a firm resolution forms up in the heart of the listener.
But instead of wrapping up, Father rambles on for another 10 minutes,
so you listen, and finds out that Father is talking about Bato de la
Rosa now and Pacquiao’s all-expenses-paid-US-trip gift to him. Then
Father suddenly ends his homily which leaves you wondering what it was
Father was driving at. Worse, in the process, you have forgotten your
Finally, it'd help if the
preacher checks his facts first. It wasn't Nero who destroyed the
Temple of Jerusalem, and watched it burn from a distance. The
Babylonians did the first time, and Titus (not the bishop of Crete)
under orders from his emperor father Vespasian did the second time,
but it was not Nero.
Something bereft of love
cannot be pleasing to God. Long homilies, to the extent that they’re
often but not always the product of ill preparation, simply have no
place in such a celebration as the Holy Mass.
Long homilies must end.
Pakistan: Will the
judiciary bring back to life the two brothers who were declared
innocent, following their execution?
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission
November 4, 2016
Sadly, in an atrocious
system where innocents spend decades behind bars awaiting justice to
be served on them, instead death penalties are handed down as state
The lack of justice sector
reforms coupled with near-collapsed institutions of criminal justice
has yet again caused a grotesque miscarriage of justice. In a shocking
revelation on year after two siblings have been hanged the Supreme
Court declared them innocent of all charges. The Court finding several
anomalies in several witness accounts acquitted and exonerated both
brothers of all charges – to find, that they have already been hanged
despite their appeal pending in the Supreme Court.
Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam
Qadir, were accused of murdering a woman in the year 2002, and the
trial court handed down its verdict in 2005, finding them guilty of
all charges following which the Lahore High Court upholding the said
decision of the Trail Court, handed down the brothers’ death sentences
in 2010; they were executed on October 13, 2015.
On October 6, 2016, after
one year of their hanging, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court
accepted their appeal, set aside the Lahore High Court verdict and
ordered their release. No sooner the convictions were set aside, it
transpired that the president of Pakistan had already rejected their
mercy petitions and they were hanged in the Bahawalpur jail.
Sadly, in an atrocious
system where innocents spend decades behind bars awaiting justice to
be served on them, instead death penalties are handed down as state
sanctioned murder. The legal axiom “justice delayed is justice denied”
is sadly the norm in Pakistan where it takes an average of around 10
years for a litigation to be heard and many before the courts do not
receive justice during their lifetimes. In many other cases innocent
persons are hanged as they are unable to afford capable defence
lawyers. The judiciary too is lax in sieving through the evidence of
the cases which are concocted by the police against such poor accused,
and often with the view to extorting bribes.
The Criminal justice system
fails to meet even the basic standard of due process and fair trial.
The judicial system in Pakistan has been mired by delays and indolence
of judicial officers, including the police, the state lawyers as well
as the judiciary. The entire system of administration of justice has
virtually collapsed to the point that rule of law has become
non-existent and the state has virtually no presence in remote parts
of the country.
Calls for comprehensive
reforms to this overall system of justice has been called for, time
and again by the civil society activists, the intelligentsia and
interested parties however, despite such repeated calls – except for a
few half-hearted pledges by the government for reforms, no concrete
measures have been taken so far.
A blatant miscarriage of
justice of this magnitude – where two innocent lives have been taken
away by the state machinery - is unprecedented in the history of
Pakistan and amply demonstrates to the world the level of negligence
on the part of entire system of the judiciary and the state to provide
justice to its people. The two innocent victims cannot ever be
compensated for their lives and for the 11 years behind bars.
Following the verdict, in
2016, the lawyers of the deceased brothers filed an application,
stating that the Sessions judge, Home Secretary and the Interior
Secretary had failed to discharge their duty mandated under Article
190 of the constitution, adding that despite having the knowledge of
the pendency of the appeal, it is highly unprecedented and deplorable
that both the brothers were so executed.
The Interior Secretary, Home
Secretary, Additional District and Session’s Judge, Hon. Sadiqabad and
Superintendents of Rahim Yar Khan and the Bahawalpur Jail
administration were also named in the application for having failed in
their duty. The case exposes another dangerous aspect of the underling
absence of coordination between the jail authorities and judiciary.
Each and every stage of the
archaic and colonial criminal justice system including - the police,
prosecution, and judiciary - is infested with loopholes that are used
and abused by the officials, and the state itself for their own
Ironically, the said
colonial system has been dispensed with ages ago in its country of
origin, yet it persists in its atrocious form in all Commonwealth
countries including Pakistan. The Ghulam brothers’ case should act as
a reminder to the authorities to reinstate the moratorium on the death
penalty given the macabre cases of miscarriages of justice. When
criminal the justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and due
process – the enforcement of death penalties should be absolutely done
This case is a textbook
example of everything going wrong with Pakistan’s archaic and
inefficient criminal justice system that instead of meting out justice
– punishes the poor and vulnerable while allowing the rich to get away
with murder. The system is extremely stringent for the improvised
while providing enough loopholes for those with deep pockets to go
scot free. The selective application of the system has bought about
utter disregard to rule of law making might becoming the right a
social mantra for the politically well placed.
The lifting of the
moratorium on the execution of death sentences since 2014 while its
criminal justice system is mired in corruption and injustice is a
complete travesty of justice and travesty of human decency. Exercising
the death penalty in an already intolerant society is clearly a
populist move rather than a deterrent to crime and terror. Blind to
justice and international norms, these Courts have been awarding death
sentences to minors and even the mentally and physically challenged as
is the cases with Imdad Ali.
So far more than 425 people,
within a span of 18 months, have been hanged to comply with the
National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate terrorism. However, the
glaring facts are a glaring reminder enough to the state that these
hardly have the deterring effect on crime and terrorism – all of which
continue unabated if not, are on the increase.
Despite the constitutional
guarantee under Article 9 of the Constitution the courts of the state
dole out death penalties without following any due process nor fair
trial. Right to life is a supreme and inalienable right, and any
exception to it must be narrow and well -founded. The death penalty
legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the State and will
inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains
fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
The Asian Human Right
Commission (AHRC) deplores the alarming state of affairs in Pakistan’s
handling of the criminal justice system and calls for immediate
measures, and policies to be put forth towards reforms to the entire
system of justice in Pakistan ensuring the rights of all its citizens.
The AHRC calls upon all stakeholders including the Government and
international community to intervene in reinstating the moratorium on
the death penalty given the fact that the system is extremely prone to
gross miscarriages of justice.
Thinking with God
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 26, 2016
“We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can
look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to
power to assume a universal appeal and influence…”
PASSING by a school one day,
I had second thoughts when I saw its billboard ad that was supposed to
express the school's mission-vision. It said something to the effect
that the school would make the kids independent thinkers.
I, of course, understood what the slogan wanted to say. The kids would
be taught how to think without undue influence by unwelcome elements,
like biases, prejudices and social trends, fads and other
I imagine that the kids would be taught how to think analytically and
critically in a constructive mode. They would be guided to arrive at
convictions on their own and must be responsible for them. There can
be many other positive corollaries that can be derived from such
But the second thoughts that came to my mind were: how far should the
students' independence in their thinking go? We need to be clear about
what the kids should be independent from in their thinking.
We cannot take this issue for granted, for many people nowadays think
that to be independent in their thinking, they have to be independent
from God, from teachings of our faith, from certain authorities, and
that's where we can have big problems.
We are now familiar with those people who brand themselves as
freethinkers. These are those who claim that they think freely and
independently, without any influence from any opinion and especially
from any religious beliefs. Many of these so-called freethinkers are
actually atheists and agnostics.
This is the problem that we have these days. That's because if there
is no belief in God who is supposed to be the creator and the very
foundation of reality, then what would be our reference of what is
true and false, what is good and evil in our life here on earth? If
it's not God, then it can only be our own selves or certain things in
the world. In the end, we can just be subjective about things.
Sad to say, this is what we are seeing in many places these days. We
have people who are trapped in their subjective mode of thinking,
practically incapable of transcending their purely human estimation of
things. They fall for that Cartesian principle – the 'cogito ergo
sum,' or I think therefore I am – such that their subjective thinking
is prior to the objective reality of things.
In other words, things are the way we consider them to me, rather than
the way they are. Said another way, things depend on how we think of
them. It's the things that have depend on our thinking, rather than
our thinking to conform to how things are as they are.
This is the danger that can come when we have an unclear understanding
of what it is to be an independent thinker or a freethinker. We have
to be wary of this danger because nowadays there are powerful groups
that are promoting ideologies and isms that while having certain valid
points are in the end essentially subjective, not objective.
We are now entering a new phase in world development where error can
look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can have to
power to assume a universal appeal and influence. It can have a global
network to spread itself and dominate the world.
Some of these ideologies and isms, which are all human constructs
almost devoid of any reference to God, to faith, to piety, etc., have
already been proven wrong in recent history, like communism, some
aspects of socialism, etc.
Others, like capitalism and democracy that are mainly detached from
the Christian spirit, are more tricky and deceptive. They look good
and acceptable, but they have elements that are dangerous too. They
can be sweet poisons.
We need to reinforce our belief that only in our Christian faith, in
Christ can we find everything that we need to know and to be as we
ought. In the gospel of St. John, there is a passage that bears this
claim out: “He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man,
for he himself knew what was in man.” (2,25)
That, after all, goes without saying, since Christ as the Son of God
is the perfect image of God, and since we have been made in God's
image and likeness, then we are patterned after the Son of God. And
since the Son of God became man to save us, we have to be with Christ
to be saved, since he is “the way, the truth and the life” for us.
Statement of support of the World Association for Christian Communication - Asia Region to the ongoing peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is
good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to
those who hear.” - Ephesians 4:29
We in the World Association
for Christian Communication (WACC) - Asia Region express our support
and solidarity with the Filipino people as they walk the path to a
just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
We are happy to know about
the progress in the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and we are strongly supportive of it.
Establishing the lines for
communication for the sole purpose of achieving just peace is both
inspiring and meaningful. It lays down the foundation to converse and
find solutions together to problems and hindrances.
Communicating peace is the
same as creating space for communication rights for we can only attain
genuine peace when the rights, lives and dignity of people are
ensured, protected and upheld. When people can communicate their
thoughts without fear of discrimination or retribution, we are steps
forward in building a society with genuine freedom, dignity and just
The people of the
Philippines have borne witness to many decades of and suffered greatly
from poverty, austerity and conflict. Many marginalized peoples have
been silenced yet many groups continue to express solidarity with
them, building communication lines, creating space for them to speak
freely. The ongoing peace talks will help in facilitating and
improving these lines and spaces.
We in the WACC - Asia Region
look forward to the positive progress of the peace talks between the
GRP and NDFP in the Philippines. May the Filipino people truly benefit
from the fruits of these negotiations.
For just peace in the
Philippines, we remain in solidarity!