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Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

EJK and human rights

Cultivating a sense of media responsibility

Time for US to step aside and let the Philippines give peace a chance

When religion is abused

Loving the cross is genuine sign of hope

Pinoy in Rome: At the Door of the Jubilee Year of Mercy (IV)

Outgoing regime, unaddressed violations

Two years Leyte

What is Government’s priority, Money or People?






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.

Former Criminal 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 justice.”

“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

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 offline.

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 to them.

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 military.

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.





Tender Mercies

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 walked away.

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 of Fatima.

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 creature.”

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.”

Well... yes.

His reply gave me pause, and I immediately knew where it was going. She’s one of those in the peripheries, too.

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 peripheries.

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 education

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 Christ.

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 Christ.”

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 Marawi Crisis

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 Bangsamoro.

As the Muslim ummah enters Ramadhan, we can only pray for wisdom, peace, and understanding.





Workers’ group 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 following grounds:

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 movement.

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!

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 everyone.

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 people.

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 rights violations

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 drugs.

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.





Statement of 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.

Senator Alan Peter CayetanoI'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

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 this.

“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 proof.

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 teaches

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 perfection.

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 10,13)





Our CAB. Our Peace. Our Future

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.





Political killings in the Philippines – complicity in murder

By ANDREW ANDERSON, 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 indiscriminately.

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 impunity.

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 Mt 9,14-15)

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 also, etc.

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 climate change.

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 darkness

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 abundantly.

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 never lacking.

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 apostles.

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 of temptations.

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 religion no?

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

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 decisions.

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.





Uninformed or misinformed?

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 Jesus

By 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)

jesus christCalling 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 calming effect.

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 and patience.

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.





Prostitutes entering heaven

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.’” (Mt 21,31)

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 will.

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 fake news

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, hands down.

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 temporal affairs.

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.” (4,12)

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

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 the world.

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 8,36)

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 hero simply.





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.

Unlike previous 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 justice.

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 justice.





Beware of privileges and entitlements

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 necessary adjustments.

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 to him.

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 about.

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 self-interest.





How long should homilies be?

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 BORING.’”

“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 with it?

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 firm resolution.

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 sanctioned murder.

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 financial gains.

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 away with.

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 always

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 not-so-healthy conditionings.

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 catchy slogan.

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

October 24, 2016

“Blessed are 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 peace.

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!


Last updated: 07/23/2017

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