A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission on the occasion of Human Rights Day
December 10, 2015
The Philippines sees routine
investigations on targeted killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and
detention, all of which end up without enough evidence to prosecute
the perpetrators. When prosecutions are initiated, those with the most
guilt and evidence for prosecution are routinely excluded from
criminal complaint. Court trials, time consuming and costly for
victims, largely end with key perpetrators acquitted for their crimes.
These are the Asian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) observations on
the pattern of human rights violations, not only in 2015, but over the
past ten years of documenting abuses, particularly those linked to the
To term these violations as ‘continuing’, would be superficial
however, if not simplistic. It distracts from the fundamental
question: why are these violations occurring in the first place? These
violations, mostly targeted at the poor, vulnerable and marginalized
sections of society, are routinely and widely reported in the
country’s newspapers, radio and TV. So, why is it that those needing
protection the most have no protection? In most cases, those who
should be investigated, prosecuted and convicted, simply get away with
their crimes and continue with their lives.
In the past, targeted attacks on human rights and political activists
were orchestrated and equated as counter-insurgency measures. Strong
condemnation, local and international, resulted in a drop in the
number of killings in 2007. At present, there are similar attacks on
indigenous people, with the same justification used by the same
military establishment, under a different regime. Under the Aquino
administration, the killings, torture and abduction of victims are
The state’s economic policy – exploration of mineral resources,
opening plantations to export crops, etc. in countryside – have led to
massive displacement of indigenous people. In Mindanao, a combination
of aerial attacks and foot soldiers, on the pretext of pursuing
rebels, has displaced villagers in upland communities. Those who
oppose these incursions – community leaders, NGOs assisting tribal
groups, villagers officials – are executed on the pretext of being
rebels. In other words, the military is equating a person legitimately
demanding the protection of his and others’ rights as being an armed
These violations are often a byproduct of the state’s security and
economic policies. While the military has been in a state of
protracted war against rebels and militants for some time, military
officers have now also become ‘private security forces’ for big
corporations. By law, the state is obligated to protect the
investments of corporations. This makes the deployment of military
forces in upland communities justifiable, transforming the behaviour
of the security forces to protect corporations, not villagers.
Moreover, there are no repercussions for the violations committed by
the soldiers. Those who oppose them are routinely arrested, detained,
tortured and killed, and all this is justified by saying the opponents
When the state is complicit in human rights abuse, where do
prevention, redress and remedy fit in? This can be understood by
examining how investigations and prosecutions are conducted.
The police, whose chief is appointed by the President, investigates
cases of violations by default. In most cases that are political in
nature, like the killing of indigenous people, the ordinary
investigation process does not seem to operate. It is the prosecutors
and their superior – the secretary of justice – who selectively
prosecutes cases, routinely excluding those who are guilty. The AHRC
has documented numerous cases of such actions taken by the police and
The solution to the protracted, ongoing, and becoming routine human
rights violations by security forces requires both political and
institutional measures. When Aquino assumed power in 2010, his agenda
was to reaffirm the protection of rights. To this end, he promised
justice to the families of the Maguindanao massacre. He will step down
from office a few months from now, in June 2016, and his promise is
yet to be fulfilled.
Aquino assumed office from the widely unpopular President Arroyo,
whose regime was either equal to or worse than that of Marcos when it
came to human rights violations. As in the case of the late Cory
Aquino’s regime, Aquino has failed to alter pervasive political and
institutional violations. Human rights laws are not enforced
effectively, and never result in punishment. The Anti-Torture Act of
2009 has not convicted a single perpetrator. Soldiers and policemen
involved in gross violations of rights, like retired general Jovito
Palparan, continue to roam free.
To date, both political change – from Arroyo to Aquino – and
institutional change – from laws lacking protection of rights to more
laws – have failed to alter the pervasive violation of rights existing
in the Philippines. Not only are those in need of protection left
alone, but the state is now committing violations as a result of its
security and economic policies, which will go unpunished. It is time
for the Philippines to examine how it can implement the laws
protecting human rights and punish the perpetrators.
First part of a series
Andrea main altar - Saint Andrew's Passion
Pinoy in Rome:
Countdown to the Jubilee Year of Mercy
By ROBERT Z. CORTES
December 5, 2015
The Extraordinary Jubilee of
Mercy announced by Pope Francis around Holy Week this year is finally
starting on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception,
just a couple of days from now. That this special event in the
Church’s history begins on that date is, of course, no accident. This
Pope’s devotion to Mary, shown publicly every time he passes by St.
Mary Major before any major trip abroad, should have made that choice
almost predictable. However, aside from human choices, one ought to
consider above all the guidance of Providence, whose will it is that
the most important events in the Church happen under the mantle of
Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of Mercy.
So the idea to prepare proximately for the Jubilee Year of Mercy by
making a novena to the Immaculate Conception made a lot of sense to
me. And being in Rome, the city that arguably no place in the world
can match in terms of the quality and quantity of sacred art present,
I took advantage to do the following. For nine days – including the
Solemnity, hence the term “novena” – I was going to visit an image of
Our Lady venerated in various churches around the city. But which
Given the multitude of beautiful and historic churches in Rome, it
seemed the best way to approach this project was simply to be led by
Providence. This approach is not “to be too mystical about it,” as I
learned quite recently from, of all people, a non-Catholic ethics
professor in a very secular American university whom I interviewed a
couple of months ago. His defense is that “there still is another
dimension in terms of a holistic being in which our reason and our
spirit and our emotions are an integrated whole… So, you listen to the
voice of the spirit.” This was actually good ecumenical advice to
which my experience in the following days would attest.
These experiences, culled from my journal of these novena days, are
actually Church history lessons devotional, tour-guiding tips, and
philosophizing all rolled into one. I share them seeing that they can
serve some purpose, however one may be preparing for the Extraordinary
Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Day 1: Our Lady of the Sacred Hear in Sant’ Andrea della Valle
Yesterday, November 30, was the beginning of the novena to the
Immaculate Conception. It also happened to be the feast of St. Andrew.
Now at the other end of the street where my university is happens to
be a huge, looming basilica dedicated to Saint Andrew with the name "Sant
’Andrea della Valle." People with very limited time in Rome usually
don't have time to visit this magnificent church, but really next time
you come, you should. This church was actually built by the very same
people involved in the building of St. Peter's and used this as their
"practice" church; people like Giacomo della Porta and Carlo Maderno.
The fountain in the square fronting the church is Maderno's.
The paintings and the frescoes inside are even more breathtaking. The
dome and the ceiling are one of the best there is in Rome – and
perhaps in Christendom. Since it was the feast of St. Andrew,
precisely, I decided to do my prayer right there, before the huge
fresco of the crucifixion of St. Andrew. I did my rosary in one of the
side chapels dedicated to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. And by the
time I left the church, which is just a five-minute walk from my
house, what else could I say, but thank You. Really there is nothing
much else one can say.
Day 2: Our Lady and Child in San Salvatore in Onda
Funny what one sees when one changes perspectives. Going home from
jogging one day, I decided to pass by the right (instead of the left)
side of Via dei Pettinari (Combmakers' Street). I happened to look up
by chance and I saw this charming image of Our Lady I had never seen
before, even if I'd already passed by here more than ten times. Then,
when I looked down, I likewise noticed what should have been an
inconspicuous door. Now I saw there was a paper posted on it hinting
that inside was actually a church called San Salvatore in Onda and the
place where Saint Vincent Pallotti's remains are venerated. I took
mental note of the opening schedule and resolved I would do the second
day of my novena there.
What was behind that inconspicuous door? Actually a small but
amazingly beautiful jewel of a church. First, behind the green door
commonly seen along the street, was another set of wider doors made of
beautiful, strong, old wood. It had a huge tarp proudly claiming that
St. John Paul II had visited this church. For such a small church, I
thought, it would be surprising any pope would do that.
But of course, if one knew JP II and St. Vincent Pallotti and what
they each stood for, one would understand. For JP II loved to promote
the apostolate among lay people, and St. Vincent, in his own 19th
century, religious way was one of the promoters of the lay apostolate
at the time when it was so much lacking. He founded the "Pious Union
of Catholic Apostolate." That’s a union of priests, religious and
laity – but the "Pallotines" as they are called, really just consists
of the religious brothers and priests, and the laity are, well...
they’re there. But that was certainly a huge start.
The church is now their home base, but it wasn’t so at first. Built
near the end of the 11th and beginning of the 12th century, it was
given to the Franciscans from which two popes came from. Knowing this
historicity of the church and that St. Vincent’s body is now under the
altar, one then understands this church deserved the Pope’s visit. But
to add to these, there’s also the sheer beauty of medieval and
renaissance art that one sees on the ceiling and the simple baldachin
under which Mass was held, when I was there. The image of Our Lady and
Child by Cesare Mariani in the main altar is also arresting.
The church has the appellation "in Onda" which means "in the wave"
most probably because of the frequent flooding of the Tiber. I've seen
some of these signs on marble stone around several parts in Rome,
indicating where the river was at this or that point, and there's only
one thing I can say. The worst Manila floods are as if only two
inches, compared to Rome flooding in those days! I'm not sure if this
has any connection to one image of Our Lady venerated there on a huge
side altar, "Virgin most Powerful" – because one certainly needed a
huge power to survive such inundations!
But last night, I know I was inundated by only one thing –
thanksgiving for being surrounded by such beauty and holiness.
[Robert Z. Cortes is a PhD student in Social Institutional
Communication at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, Rome. He
has an M.A. in Ed. Leadership from Columbia University, N.Y.]
Fr. Roy Cimagala,
November 30, 2015
IN our political discussions and exchanges, it’s just fine to be
partisan as long as we are open and respectful of all other views,
including those that are different and opposed to ours. We should
avoid any form of extremism by demonizing others who do not agree with
Partisanship is inevitable in our politics. And that’s simply because
we have different backgrounds and orientations, different preferences
and priorities. Given our human condition, let alone, our weakness,
mistakes and failures, we will always have differences among
We should not be surprised by these, but rather learn to live with
them as befits our human dignity. We should not allow that we be
dragged by the dynamics of anger, animosity and hatred. Charity should
always rule, even in our political choices as it should in all other
aspects of our life.
Yes, we can be quite strong and fixed in our views, but this does not
give us an excuse to let go of charity. In fact, these differences
should be a good ground for charity to grow. Thus, the sharper the
differences, the more intense should be our charity.
We have to avoid painting those who disagree with us as if they are
the very personification of evil, completely incapable of doing
anything good or saying anything true and worthwhile. This would be a
simplistic and naïve way of looking at things, and as such, is fraught
with potential dangers.
If we have to disagree, then let’s disagree amicably, respecting each
other and each other’s position. No need for harsh words to be thrown,
much less, uncharitable thoughts and bad intentions. Charity knows how
to unite us even in our most hopeless and irreparable differences.
Sad to say, many of us today are behaving the opposite of what is
proper to us. It starts with our political leaders and candidates down
to the electorate and even to the general population, including
children. We have to stop this.
We cannot paint a favorite candidate to be so perfect and saintly that
we can observe no defect, mistake or fault in him. Neither should we
picture a disliked candidate to be so bad that we can find no saving
grace in him.
Let’s always remember that all the saints and the appointed patriarchs
and prophets of old have their defects and mistakes too, even after
their conversion. They were always struggling, because they know that
their sanctity is always a work in progress. It is never completed in
Also, even those who are generally considered as bad people are still
capable of doing something good. I remember one gospel episode where
this possibility is illustrated. It’s in the gospel of St. John:
“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to
them, ‘You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it
expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the
whole nation should not perish.’
“He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that
year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for
the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are
scattered abroad.” (11,49-52)
It is quite clear that even if by living charity, we may appear to be
suffering a defeat according to human standards, God in his providence
would know how to derive good from it.
We should not be afraid to suffer the consequences of human pride and
worldly arrogance just because we try to be consistent with the
requirements of charity. For those who love God and others, as St.
Paul in his letter to the Romans would say, everything will always
work out for the good.
Now that we are going through this delicate political process of
electing our next leaders, we should try our best to avoid the
pitfalls of emotional, knee-jerk reactions to the issues at hand.
Let us learn to be level-headed and to have a good grip of our
emotions and passions. More than that, let us see to it that we follow
the requirements of charity as strictly as possible. It is precisely
in moments like this when charity is most needed.
Let’s be careful with our words, and especially so with our thoughts
and intentions. May they always be infused with charity, which is
always the way to find the truth, to achieve justice and fairness
proper to us. Charity is never a drag in our politics. It is what
politics needs most of all! Charity is what leads us to the common
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
November 17, 2015
THESE are what we have to
look for in choosing our public officials. Of course, to be realistic,
we have to put these qualities in the context of the candidates’
popularity and electability. But for Pete’s sake, let’s not make mere
popularity the main guide in electing our officials.
We have to go beyond looks,
pr gimmicks, smart sound bites, spins and vote-getting machineries.
Sad to say, we cannot help but observe how local candidates tend to
congregate around national candidates and political parties with vast
and deep war chest. They are there more for the “fund” of it.
Neither should we go by mere
genealogy and pedigree – that one is the son or daughter of so-and-so,
or that his father or mother died in some dramatic circumstances. This
is a dangerous way to elect officials. It’s like impulse buying that
leaves many of us with the buyer’s remorse.
Neither still should we be
guided by some forms of kinship – blood, political, cultural, social,
geographical. While these factors and conditions have their valid
values, they can only play a secondary role. They should never be the
primary criteria. Of course, a big no-no is choosing candidates on the
basis of who give us more money, dole-outs and other forms of perks.
This way can only spell disaster.
We should not even be guided
solely by the candidates’ fame or their mass appeal, though that would
already be a big help. We have to be wary of image-building tactics
that do not necessarily show the true character of the candidates.
We should not be naïve as
not to consider the many subtle forms of propaganda that sway people’s
favor unfairly. We have to discern whether that mass appeal that
candidates may have, spring truly from some divine or humanly
legitimate charisma, or it is simply a product of some witchery.
What we should look into in
vetting the candidates is their track record, their performance in
public service, their achievements and their mistakes and how they
Integrity and competence
should always go together. Integrity without competence would not give
us good governance. Neither competence without integrity. They are
supposed to have a mutual relationship.
Integrity evokes a sense of
completeness and wholeness as well as order, harmony, consistency,
honesty. For us, it is crucial because it is something to work and
live out, protect, defend and even fight for. It does not come
automatically with our DNA.
We have to know its real
essence, its firm basis and real source. We have to know the different
elements involved in achieving it, as well as the techniques and
skills to get the act together. Hopefully we can develop a clear and
correct science about it, both in its theoretical and practical
Offhand, we have to be clear
that the ultimate foundation, source and goal of our integrity is God,
our Creator and Father. Hence, we have to understand that the pursuit
of integrity cannot be done outside of this original religious
context. Any understanding of integrity outside of this would be
compromised right from the start.
Even if our concept of God
and of how to relate to him is not yet clear, we have to hold it as a
necessary prerequisite, at least theoretically, because it would be
funny to look for the origin, meaning and purpose of integrity simply
in ourselves or in the world.
That way of pursuing
integrity would make it a mere human invention, and given the way we
are, we could not help but be subjective and therefore prone to have
different versions of integrity.
Competence requires a
working knowledge of the common good and of what it requires. It
involves a good understanding and practical skills to live the social
principles of solidarity and subsidiarity. It demands one to have a
clear vision of the goals to achieve. Otherwise, there would be
disorder and chaos.
It requires continuing
formation, continuing effort to know the concrete conditions and
circumstances of the relevant issues and situations of one’s work.
Thus constant updating of relevant knowledge and skills is needed.
It urges the officials to
always polish their virtue of prudence, making due study,
consultations as well as timely decisions and action. It requires the
officials to know how to coordinate the different elements of his
office. It also involves a certain sensitivity to changes taking place
and the ability to correspond to them without getting lost in the
With what we are seeing in
this funny but painful episode of the “tanim-bala” in NAIA, let’s hope
that we can learn the lesson of how to choose our leaders and public
Fr. Roy Cimagala,
November 9, 2015
THANKS to the wonders of the
Internet, we now have easy access to many things, among them,
newspapers and magazines. We don’t have to subscribe to local and
foreign papers to be able to read them.
With this exposure, I’m
certain we are also forming many views and opinions, and we slowly
discern the various underpinnings, political, ideological, religious,
and otherwise, that the media outfits have.
I personally find it very
interesting to compare opinions, styles, approaches, and see how they
play out. There’s thrill always in observing the flashes of genius as
different writers argue and often clash.
Also I want to fish, even if
only tentatively, the different trends and biases the different papers
can have. These considerations always shed some light that makes
things more understandable.
several categories emerge in the mind as I instinctively try to sort
out, classify, brand and label the different positions. Among these
categories are the conservative/liberal, right/left,
With all these developments,
we need to pay more attention to what is fundamentally important to
those involved in the media. What is clear is that everyone in the
media, just like everybody else, should realize very sharply our need
for continuing formation.
This need cannot be set
aside, much less, alienated. This is the lifeblood of our profession,
as it is in any other profession. Anyone who marginalizes the need for
formation in his work is doomed to stagnate, if not fail miserably.
And formation should not
just be some vague and generic term. It should strike us as something
urgent, and with many concrete elements that need to be attended to.
For example, people in media
should know how to attain greater independence and gain better
objectivity, how to adapt to a fast-changing world driven by
technologies that develop quite speedily these days, etc.
These are some concerns that
need to be looked into if we in the media wish to really serve the
people and contribute to the common good.
We have to be sensitive to
subtle tricks, personal, social and cultural, that can warp the
integrity of our profession. These tricks are a constant threat. We
cannot be naïve.
It would be good if we could
have an inventory of biases and other conditionings that can affect
our work. Some of them are unavoidable, but at least if we are aware
of them, we can do something about them.
We have to be wary that
unless we simply content ourselves to cater only to the ignorant and
the impressionable, we need to improve our competence to satisfy the
legitimate expectations of a more demanding and discerning audience.
But before we start thinking
of what new style and techniques to learn to attain this goal, we have
to remember one basic, indispensable requirement, one that needs
continuing renewal and purification, given the condition of our life
This requirement hopefully
will give us a firm grounding, a sound sense of perspective, a clear
focus and sense of purpose. It’s the understanding that our media work
is not just our work but rather is part of the divine redemptive plan
for all mankind. We have to attune our work to that context.
This is our usual problem.
Many of us still have the primitive pagan notion that the business of
communication is purely a human affair, so completely personal,
private or autonomous that God has nothing to do with it.
Or at best, that it is just
a social phenomenon, ruled purely by some social consensus, with God
and his commandments playing no more than a cameo role.
Of course, with this
attitude we become most vulnerable to all sorts of pressures and
temptations that certainly distort the standard of justice and fair
play, of freedom and truth, etc.
Unaware of the divine
character and redemptive mission of our work, we can tend to go in
circles, stuck in the mud of wranglings, self-righteousness and
useless speculations or worse, prone to the tailspin of frivolity,
greed and inanities.
This does not mean that
media work should be some kind of sacred, rigid and monolithic
business. It can go mundane. It can and should respect the legitimate
plurality of opinions proper of our autonomous earthly affairs.
But when there is this
awareness of the divine character of our work, then the search for
justice, freedom and truth can be pursued hindered less by our
tendencies to be shallow in thinking, rash in judgment, rough in
Even when there are
conflicting views, there will always be charity in the discussions.
Even when we are having fun, we don’t forget God. This is our media