Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

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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?

Filipino WW II Vets on the return of Balangiga Bells to Eastern Samar

Pray, pray and pray some more




EJK and human rights

August 18, 2016

THE Cebu clergy had their monthly recollection the other day. The invited guest speaker, both a lawyer and journalist, among other things, was one known for her advocacy in human rights. We were given a drill on human rights, rule of law, due process and other related topics, all of them as some kind of reaction to the rise of extra-judicial killings (EJK) that we are hearing about these days.

From where I sat, I noticed that the priests were especially attentive, except of course for a few. There will always be exceptions, but this time, I noticed more rapt attention. The archbishop was around, together with the two auxiliary bishops. There were also all ears.

I was happy to note that the talk presented the nuances of human rights as articulated by institutions like the UN and, of course, our constitution, and other personalities of some standing. Since the speaker was a lawyer and not a theologian, there was hardly any theological explanation beyond the fact that human rights spring from man’s being the image and likeness of God.

The reaction of the priests in general was mainly that of grave concern, since it cannot be denied that the drug problem we have is a first-class crisis. Recent developments have lifted the lid on this crisis whose scary dimensions are getting far worse than what are generally suspected.

Somehow priests get to know more details about this crisis because they preside over funerals of drug-related deaths in their parishes, they get to receive information from their parishioners, they hear confessions and they also are sought for some pieces of advice from people. They are near the frontline.

They have mixed feelings about this issue. While they are somehow happy with the current campaign against people involved in drugs, they are also alarmed at the rise of these extra-judicial killings whose perpetrators we cannot be sure of – whether they are done by some vigilantes, or the police, or drug people themselves in their own internecine conflicts.

What comes to my mind is that this development we are having at this time, provoked by the ascendance of our new president, has good aspects as well as poses new challenges that we have to tackle.

Definitely, the drug problem has to be tackled head-on before it gets any worse. As it is now, it is really ugly. But we need to further develop our systems – police, judicial, penal, medical, political, economic, social, etc. – to cope with this highly complex problem.

Let’s hope that our lawmakers can craft better laws that are more effective in blending our need to get the culprits as well as our need for respect of human rights, rule of law and due process.

We obviously cannot remain at the current state of our laws that are now found to be ineffective or lacking in something necessary. We have to understand that our human laws need to evolve without abandoning their essential purpose. They need to be updated to adapt to current situations.

A more appropriate system of checks and balances among the different branches and agencies of our government should be put in place.

This should be a serious affair that should not be trivialized by too much politicking and grandstanding. Let’s hope that we can choose lawmakers and public officials who are competent to carry out their responsibility.

As to the clergy, a great challenge befalls us. But before we start thinking of building rehab centers and the like, we should intensify our spiritual and pastoral ministry. We have to keep the priority of Mary over Martha. While the state and civil society aim at making people responsible citizens, we in the Church have to focus on encouraging people to be saints.

As one saint once said, today’s crises are basically a crisis of saints. People are not praying anymore. They are simply guided by their emotions and instincts and some questionable ideologies. There’s a lot of doctrinal ignorance and confusion, and religious indifference.

Today’s drug problem is just a result of many previous crises that have not been effectively resolved: corruption, deceit, infidelity, lack of temperance, etc. There is little authentic spiritual life in many people.

If these basic problems in people’s spiritual life are made to persist, then we can expect graver crises after the one on drugs. In other countries, this is what we observe. They are now into terrorism and massacres and mindless rampage.

Everyone has to be involved, but I imagine that the clergy has to focus more on strengthening the spiritual and moral lives of people. These aspects are basic and indispensable.





Ecumenical Bishops Forum supports the GRP and NDFP resumption of formal peace talks

Genuine and lasting peace has always been an urgent need as far as our country and people are concerned. The non-stop offensive and defensive armed conflict between the armed forces of the Government of the Philippines and the New People’s Army led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines has been going on for more than four decades now, and has caused thousands of precious Filipino lives to perish.

Considering that life is God’s gift, death is always senseless; it is not the Creator’s will. God wants only the best for all. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18, English Standard Version).

But delivering death and/or accepting death becomes meaningful and relevant to those who do it fighting for a cause against something and/or for something. A government soldier who truly believes that he is putting his life on the line because he is defending his country from those who seek to destroy it will be ready to kill a fellow Filipino. A brilliant young student who sees the vast difference between the ideal he/she learns from the university and the actual reality of life which is hellish, will not hesitate going up the mountains to make sure that his/her beloved country will be free from the rapacious greed of big foreign mining companies who ruin our land and destroy the future the next generations of our people in spite of his/her full consciousness of the danger of his/her decision. He/she is well aware that he/she is bound to face military people armed to the teeth to protect the violators of Mother Nature.

The factory worker who receives less than the minimum wage cannot use his most effective weapon to protest as the worker’s unions have effective been defanged. Where will he to go and what is he to do? The poor peasants and the indigenous peoples whose small family farm and ancestral lands respectively had been taken away from them by rich businessmen protected by the military lost their livelihood. What will they do to regain their property and ensure the future of their children? Then small fisher-folks who can no longer catch fish as they used to because the lakes are full of fish pens of the wealthy and powerful politicians and because they are being driven away and threatened by the Chinese have nothing to support their families. They are among those to find meaning in taking up arms in order to simply live.

There are root causes to the armed conflict. Unless and until these root causes are addressed, armed conflict is bound to continue.

As far as the bible is concerned, “the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10, Revised Standard Version). The love of money or the greed for it has led to all kinds of evil, including invading nations and oppressing and exploiting peoples, wrecking havoc to the whole of life that God has wonderfully formed.

How does this greed manifest in Philippine politics, economy and culture? How come that our officialdom is reserved to the rich and powerful? Why is the vast majority of Filipinos poor? Why are education, sports and mainline music being tailored to cater to the needs of the foreign and local elite? Won’t the presence of all these things ensure the perpetuity of people’s perplexity and strife?

Only an honest-to-goodness discussion to address the root causes of the armed conflict will resolve our age long situation of bondage. Rooting out these root causes will render the struggle meaningless and irrelevant. Fighting shall cease, death shall be avoided, life shall persist. And this state of things will be in accordance with the will of the Lord.

“And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid…” (Leviticus 26:5b-6a, ESV).

We therefore appreciate the decision of the GRP and the NDFP to resume the formal peace talks. The return to the negotiation table and agree on how to bring peace to our people is most important. There may be obstacles to the talks. There may be lots of differences. But that is precisely why talking is made necessary.

Both claiming to represent the Filipino people and their interest, it is incumbent upon them to do all things in their power so that genuine and lasting peace will descend upon our land.

Issued and signed this 8th day of August, 2016:


Executive Secretary











What politics needs most

August 1, 2016

The immediate answer is to humanize and Christianize it. Politics all over the world has been at the mercy of man’s baser passions for so long that it now screams to high heavens for its humanization and Christianization.

And this can only mean that it is in dire need of charity. It has to be guided by the requirements of charity, which should not be considered as some kind of drag or hindrance but rather as the perfection and fulfillment of politics. It just cannot be left alone, fully under the power of our passions, brute force and worldly forces. In fact, it can and should be a massive way of sanctification of the people.

Politics ought to be pursued always in charity. It cannot be any other way, since charity is the mother of all virtues and good values. If we want justice, truth and fairness, charity has them all. If we want competence, order, discipline, etc., again charity has them. If we want objectivity, charity has it. And that’s because charity covers all our needs.

Politics, as a human necessity and as a free act of man, is definitely subject to the moral law, and as such, should also have a proper spirituality to animate it. This is a truth of our faith that should never be lost in our mind, and much less, in our culture. The autonomy we enjoy in our politics is never to be taken to mean that God has nothing to do with it.

Politics just cannot be left to the raw forces of our human nature, which has the capability of detaching itself from its creator and his law. It just cannot be subject to the law of the jungle. Without God, politics would be left to our own ideologies, historico-cultural conditions, our own personal hunches of how things ought to be, etc.

The way politics is practiced today, we need nothing less than a revolution, a drastic, radical conversion of heart among our political leaders and the citizenry in general.

We need to redeem politics from being a devil’s game and to recover its true lofty nature and character based on our innate dignity as human persons created in the image and likeness of God, and made children of his.

In many Church teachings, we are reminded that while the technical formation of politicians does not enter into the mission of the Church, the Church has the mission of giving “moral judgment also on things that pertain to the political order, when this is required by the fundament rights of the person and the salvation of souls…using only those means that conform to the Gospel and the good of all, according to the diversity of the times and situations” (Gaudium et Spes 76)

Commenting on this part of the above-cited Church document, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said: “The Church concentrates particularly on educating the disciples of Christ, so that, increasingly they will be witnesses of his presence everywhere. It is up to the laity to show concretely in personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life, that the faith enables one to read reality in a new and profound way and to transform it”

He batted for a unity of life, a consistency in peoples’ behavior based on faith that would go together with hope and charity. In fact, he added that “Christian hope extends the limited horizon of man and points him to the true of loftiness of his being, to God, and that charity in truth is the most effective force to change the world.”

He also said that the “Gospel is the guarantee of liberty and message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, are very timely and of value for the promotion of new ways of development at the service of every man and of all men.”

To translate all this wonderful doctrine about politics into reality, we should realize that all of us who are in different ways involved in politics should not avoid the cross, but rather look for it and embrace it. We need to realize that the cross would comprise the fullness of any political work, and indicate the authenticity of one’s motives in politics.

Just as the cross is the summit of Christ’s redemptive work, and also the life of every Christian believer, the cross has to be the crown of this human affair we call politics. It cannot be any other way.





Our reminders and challenges to President Duterte in light oh his State of the Nation Address

By Philippine Movement for Climate Justice
July 26, 2016

President Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address, that there are "a few concerns" that he wants to "convey to all" so that "these concerns will not dissipate or get lost along the way."

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice would like to share its own concerns regarding several points in his speech – as reminders and challenges to the President – so that people's concerns will not dissipate or get lost in his administration.

1. ON CLIMATE POLICY – PMCJ welcomes the statement of President Duterte that addressing global warming will be a top priority and that he is committed to a "fair and equitable" solution. Indeed, current global targets to address global warming and climate change are still very far from equitable, with the rich industrialized countries pledging actions that are very short of their fair share. A serious consequence of this inequity is that the aggregate impact of all country targets will still condemn us to nearly 3 degrees Celsius increase in the earth's temperature. This is not consistent with the avowed goal in the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees.

However, we are worried by the President's qualifier to his global warming solution – that "it must not stymie industrialization." Is President Duterte advocating unhampered industrialization? We hope not. Industrialization must be pursued within the bounds of sustainable, rights-based and climate-friendly development pathways, and not the other way around. We believe there are ways to achieve development that is equitable and is in harmony with the welfare of the planet – that is the only kind of development that is in the interest of our people.

We are also alarmed by the President's reference to "clean coal." Is President Duterte falling for this dirty lie, this outdated and false information that coal is cheap? The cost of coal is more than the financial cost of mining coal and building and running coal plants. Even the most state of art in coal energy technology has huge harmful consequences to people's health and environment, that cannot be fully compensated for financially. President Duterte should know that Renewable Energy is not only clean and healthy, the financial cost of building and running renewable energy systems has already achieved parity with coal.

2. ON HUMAN RIGHTS – PMCJ's brand of climate justice is well founded in the defense, protection and fulfilment of human rights. We believe that human rights is central to the principle and goal of climate justice, just as we believe human rights is at the heart of the principle and goal of development.

We are gravely concerned about the President's qualifier to his commitment to human rights, that "human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country." Is President Duterte referring to the many calls and reminders for his administration to uphold human rights in the face of the significant increase in extra-judicial killings? Is this statement a defense is his defense of how his war vs. drugs is being carried out? Yes, we would like to see the illegal drugs industry end. But we are alarmed and condemn the fact that the war on drugs has already claimed the lives of more than 500 individuals without the benefit of due process, many of them from poor and marginalized communities.

President Duterte, you mentioned in your speech that you are going to "wage war against those who make a mockery of our laws." You also said that "equal treatment and equal protection" are what you ask for our people. We will hold you to your words, we will remind you and challenge you to practice what you preach.

While Philippine Movement for Climate Justice will be open to and welcome positive policies of the Duterte Administration, we will be vigilant and relentless in challenging him to pursue genuine change that will truly benefit the people and will be in harmony with environmental and climate justice.





Peace advocates hold high hopes for building a just and enduring peace in the Philippines

A statement by the Pilgrims for Peace on the possible resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace talks
June 25, 2016

Winds of hope continue to sweep the whole archipelago as the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines (NDFP) take steps in close coordination toward resuming the long-suspended, formal peace negotiations.

From parishes and churches to schools and local communities, peace advocates stir interest in and disseminate information about the GPH-NDFP peace talks. Excitement grows for the resumption of talks focused on forging the requisite agreements for building just and lasting peace for the Filipino people. Peace advocates, who steadfastly affirm that peace building must address the roots of armed conflict, enjoin the people to engage in meaningful discussions on what will make for peace in our land.

Significant positive changes in the new GPH leadership’s commitment and readiness to continue and complete the peace negotiations have bolstered our hopes. Not only has it completed the new GPH negotiating panel, but it has also been demonstrating active leadership in resolving hurdles to clear the way for resuming the formal talks. Our ardent hope is that the new leadership will honor its commitment to release the political prisoners who are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). In this regard, we urge President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to exercise political will.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines has not relented on its commitment to pursue the peace talks. Sending a representative to personally meet with President-elect Duterte soon after his proclamation – which led to the holding of bilateral preliminary discussions and tentative agreements in Oslo on June 14-15, the NDFP has likewise demonstrated active leadership in resolving problems hindering the resumption of the talks. Beyond the peace talks, the NDFP responded positively to President Duterte’s unilateral gesture of cooperation; endorsing progressive leaders for consideration as appointees to the Cabinet posts he had offered, appointments were made in due time.

With GPH-NDFP peace talks shaping up to resume on August 20-27, 2016, peace advocates foresee that the two parties will affirm previously signed agreements and proceed to hold negotiations on the next substantive agenda, namely Socio-Economic Reforms. There are positive signs that the two parties will seriously and steadfastly take up this important agenda, referred to as the “meat” of the peace negotiations. To be tackled are issues such as persisting inequitable and unjust control of land by the few and proposals to achieve national industrialization. Peace advocates encourage every Filipino to join the discourse and contribute ideas and positive energies to the formulation and crafting of Socio-Economic Reforms that will address the roots of armed conflict and build justice, peace, freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

In the immediate days ahead, we encourage peace advocates throughout the nation and around the world to support our just call for the release of the 22 JASIG-protected political prisoners, who have tasks to perform for the peace negotiations. Moreover, their immediate release – as well as most, if not all, of the political prisoners – is an issue of justice: they are charged with trumped-up common criminal offences, generally non-bailable and multiple counts to make it hard for them to be released on bail. In addition, JASIG-protected political prisoners should have been IMMUNE from arrest for as long as the peace talks, or the JASIG, have not been terminated.

Respect for the JASIG and the 11 other signed agreements is an obligation of the GPH. Peace advocates are confident that the release of the JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants and the other political prisoners will contribute much in facilitating the resumption and earnest pursuance till completion of the GPH-NDFP peace talks!





Our life in public

July 22, 2016

WE need to give due attention to this aspect of our life. Our life in public is an integral and unavoidable part of us.

In the first place, to be born we need to have parents and a family, then a community, a school, a market, a church, etc. We can never be alone. Our life is at once private, individually ours, and public, always with others, if not physically then at least intentionally.

Thus we need to know the purpose of our life in public, what it involves, what it requires, what duties we have toward it, what benefits it can give us and what dangers it can pose.

I think that as we develop fast because of our technologies, we have to know how to pull the many levers at hand to reach our proper goal.

For example, how do we handle the many inter-generational and inter-cultural demands of our times? Our public and social life now has certain complexities unknown before. It now is much more diverse. And we need to master them, and not be their slaves or pawns.

It’s a pity to see many people, especially the young, getting lost in the dizzying swirl of our life in public. Many of us are left badly equipped to tackle the intricacies involved. There’s the pressure of the peers and “barkada,” the pull of the mob, the lure of the entertainment world, the tricks and ambitions of business and politics, etc.

We often get stuck in the externals and appearances without getting into the essence of things. Our reactions are mainly knee-jerk and Pavlovian. We hardly think, we barely reflect and study things.

We generate a lifestyle based mainly on feelings and impressions, often fleeting and unstable, rather than on one that has a solid foundation, able to guide us consistently through the different phases and situations of our lives.

As a result, we enter into a spiral of a worldly way of life with barely any soul in it. We begin to treat each other merely as facades or masks, quite plastic. Pretensions and hypocrisy become salient features of our society, begetting the other forms of deceit and conceit.

Instead of being persons, we become simply as actors, performers or robots. Our heart is slowly turned from flesh to stone. We become users, manipulators and exploiters of others. The others become mere objects, products, statistics.

Subjectivity, where respect for everyone’s spiritual character and personhood should be enhanced, ebbs away. Instead, objectification of persons takes place, drying us up to make us things instead of persons.

The dynamics created by this set-up allows people to swing from self-absorption to self-assertion, from self-seeking to self-promotion. Thus, the truly human ways to link us into communion with others start to disappear. It’s all about the ego. The “we/us” vanishes.

The field gets littered with the remains of envy, greed, lust, sloth and other capital sins. And, sad to say, there are many exploiters and predators in this field who take advantage of the situation and the vulnerability of the weak and the gullible. We need to expose them and their tactics.

We have to put a stop to this vicious cycle, and reverse it to become a virtuous cycle. This will depend on whether we first establish and strengthen our personal relationship with God.

We have to be most wary of the rise of secularism and relativism in society. They come as a result precisely of setting God aside from our life in public.

And so, we can see in many countries today delicate moral issues that need to be resolved very clearly: abortion, confusion about sexual identity and human nature, divorce, disconnection of science and technology from morality, lack of respect for freedom of conscience, questionable educational thrusts in schools, etc.

These issues are slowly invading our shores, and we just have to strengthen our faith, especially that of our leaders, for this eventuality.

Faith and religion are always involved in these issues. While these issues have to be considered under many aspects, we have to understand that the considerations of faith and religion, being so basic in us, should be given priority.

It’s in our faith and religion that the fundamental and ultimate meaning of the issues are given. It’s where our ultimate common good is determined. The practical, the legal, the social, cultural and historical aspects have to somehow defer to them.

Contrary to some views, being consistent to one’s faith and religion in public office does not make him a fanatic, a fundamentalist or detached from reality. Quite the opposite is true.



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