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

insight 107


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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?

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




Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

October 17, 2016

IT'S all understandable, of course. Young people like to enjoy life. I was also like them when I was at their age. Even if they carry some heavy personal or family problems, they like to have fun every time they have the chance.

Outside of my chaplain's office, I see young students, all boys, sitting on the floor, invariably engaged in what I consider as mindless chatter, pulling each other's leg, laughing or simply idling away time, with looks that can only show purposelessness. I call this the 'tambay' lifestyle, very common in many places.

I presume it's their break time, and you just have to let them be. Like little children, they should not be over-supervised. Their classes would take care of that, since discipline and meeting the academic requirements would always be the order of the day there.

And yet, at the back of my mind, I worry that if they are not properly attended to, this 'tambay' lifestyle would harden and become the permanent feature of their character. When I was at their age, I already worried about how to fill up my time more fruitfully and meaningfully. I exerted some effort, though I must confess that the motivation was not quite right. Self-interest fueled most of that effort.

It was only later in life that I discovered the proper motivation for working or studying or simply filling time. Only God, the love for him and for neighbor, can be the appropriate motive. But how can you transmit this truth to these young ones?

I remember that in my case, I had a regular chat with a priest who taught me many things. I first went to see him because I had a problem with my philosophy classes in school. He was very helpful in clarifying my doubts and answering my questions.

But besides those, he taught me how to pray, to study the doctrine of the faith more deeply, to appreciate the value of sacrifice, the sacraments, the virtues, etc. What I learned was that I can only study and work properly if the motivation is precisely the love of God and neighbor.

That was when I could always find something to do, and I pressured myself to fight against my laziness, excessive love for comfort and pleasures, etc. I learned the importance of time – that it is the occasion for us to attain the ultimate purpose of our life. I realized it was a crime to waste time.

It was not easy. And even until now, I sometimes have to exert some extraordinary effort to do things properly and to fill up my time. All of us have to contend with our weaknesses and the many temptations around. One has to wage a constant struggle to be able to use time properly.

But how can I transmit these precious lessons to the young ones? Yes, as chaplain, I say Mass for them everyday. There I can say something in this regard during the homilies. But that would not be enough. I also give some talks and classes, conduct retreats and recollections, but then the effects and results are long in coming. These need a more personalized and abiding attention.

It's good that many of the students come for a personal chat with me. There I get to know them more closely and have the chance to encourage them. They need a lot of clarification and motivation.

Trying to explain what loving God and others is, what it involves and how it impacts on our use of time is not easy, especially when it has to touch on an essential part of it, which is suffering and the need for the cross. Christian charity has endless facets and practical implications.

We have instituted a mentoring system so that each student is followed up closely. And obviously, the task of monitoring the developments of this system can be demanding. I am more and more convinced that more than anything else, what are needed to keep things going are the spiritual and supernatural means.

Without these means and when we rely only our human resources and natural powers, we can only achieve so much. Worse, we can be deluded into thinking that we are doing right, when in fact we would be doing wrong.

I hope and pray that while the general character of the young – their attitude to take things easy and to have fun – should be respected, the seed of a more responsible use of their time, talents and other resources would be sown, take root and start to grow.





We need to experience God

October 14, 2016

IS it possible to experience God, to feel his presence, to know his will and to participate in his own life? To all these questions, the answer is a loud yes.

Not only is it possible, but also, first of all, it is God’s will. Besides, he has endowed us with the power that would enable us to achieve these feats.

God as our Creator and Father always intervenes in our life. He is never away from us even if we fall into the state of sin. We only lose him definitively in hell. But in our whole earthly sojourn, he is in us, right deep in the core of our existence.

That’s because he is the giver and maintainer of our existence. For as long as we exist, God is in us. Our existence does not depend on our biological constitution alone, nor on food and air and health only. Even before these things become indispensable to us, it is God who gives and keeps our existence.

And since we have been made in his image and likeness, he links with us through our intelligence and will, through our thinking and loving, and thus he comes to us as objects of our innate desire for truth, goodness and beauty.

That’s why we have to be most careful in the exercise of our spiritual faculties – how we are thinking, judging, reasoning, loving, etc. These human operations have to be firmly grounded on God, and not just made to be mainly dominated by the twists and turns of our bodily and natural conditions.

Our thinking and willing, our knowing and loving should be properly engaged and not allowed to just drift anywhere, and especially when they are given only at the instance of our instincts, emotions and passions. They have to be properly inspired and directed.

The need to experience God has become an urgent necessity these days because the spiritual and moral health of our life, taken individually and collectively, depends on this fact and on no other.

Pope Emeritus Benedict emphasized this point sometime ago. In an address to some lay faithful, he said the following:

“How do we reawaken the question of God so that it becomes the fundamental question?...The question of God is reawakened in meeting those who have a living relationship with the Lord. God is known through men and women who know him. The way to him passes, in a concrete way, through those who have met him.”

This is just but natural. God is not just an idea, a theory, a philosophical or theological term. Christ is not just a historical figure nor an object of curiosity. God is alive. In fact, he is the very foundation of reality and of life itself. It’s not in his character to stay away from us or to hide from us or to play hard to get.

Thus, the Pope Emeritus said that God should be the central point of reference in our thinking and acting. He warned that ignoring God will harm our humanity. “A mentality that rejects every reference to the transcendent has shown itself to be incapable of preserving the human,” he said.

“The spread of this mentality has generated the crisis that we are experiencing today, which is a crisis of meaning and of values before it is an economic and social crisis,” he added. How true!

God actually engages us every moment of our life. This is what providence is all about. We have to learn how to correspond to that continual divine governance, by learning how to pray, how to know and follow his will, how to offer whatever we are doing to him, how to live in his presence all the time, how what we are doing at the moment fits in his plan, etc.

For this we need to study well the doctrine of our faith, to have recourse to the sacraments, to develop the virtues, and to commit ourselves to a certain plan of continuing piety so that whatever may be the circumstances of our life, we can manage to be with him always.

To live with God is not an impossibility. Nor is it meant only to some gifted if not strange people. It is for all, though we need to help one another, since to achieve that condition involves a lifelong process with endless stages, aspects and possibilities.

To experience God should be second nature to us. With the proper attitude and skills, with the relevant plans and virtues, this is always possible. Nowadays, the world needs people who have direct experience of God!





Be like an eagle, not a hen

By Fr. Roy Cimagala,
October 10, 2016

YES, let’s be like an eagle, soaring quietly high up in the sky, having a good, extensive view of the things on the ground, and not like cackling barnyard hen whose flight is low and is mainly done to escape something or to boast to the whole world that it has just laid an egg. The hen, of course, has a very limited view of things.

The other thing about the eagle is that in spite of the tremendous altitude that it can climb, it has a sharp vision that can see even a running rodent on the ground and has the agility to swoop down quickly to catch its prey. That’s really quite a combination. This can never be said of the hen.

I know that it is unfair to compare a hen with an eagle. Each one has its own nature and purpose for being. But for our sake, we can compare ourselves to them because as human beings, we have the choice to assume the qualities of an eagle or those of a hen.

To be like an eagle can mean to think big instead of being contented with small, petty things. It can mean to take on more and more responsibilities, instead of being contented with what we are having at the moment.

We can always do more. With our spiritual nature, the possibilities for growth and improvement are infinite. This simply corresponds to the fact that the demands of our own sanctification and the needs of other people about whom we should always be concerned are also infinite.

To be like an eagle can mean expanding our generosity instead of simply being self-satisfied with our current state of charity. It can mean pushing ourselves up to the next level in every aspect of our life. We should never be contented with the status quo, no matter how good it already is. Let’s remember the saying that “the good is the enemy of the best.”

It can mean to be always zealous in any endeavor we do, instead of simply being complacent and lukewarm. It can mean to be a maximalist rather than a minimalist, contented with a passing mark.

That’s what happens when one is in love. He is not contented with doing things just to get by. He does things to the best of his abilities, always seeking new frontiers of creativity, effectiveness and efficiency. That’s simply because love is giving not only things but his own self without measure. That’s love most intrinsic law. It’s given without measure.

We need to learn to adopt this kind of lifestyle. It’s not going to be easy, of course. Many things have to be resolved and mastered. We have to contend with our tendencies to be self-centered, to be attached to things, to be materialistic, complacent, cold or lukewarm, etc. But with God’s grace, our full trust in God’s ways matched with our efforts, we can enter and flow in this amazing dynamics of true love.

Truth is for this love to develop and grow, we do not need some special moments and opportunities to trigger it. Any occasion, any event, no matter how small and, humanly speaking, insignificant can be a golden privilege to live heroism that is inseparable from loving.

Another reason why we have to be like an eagle in our spiritual and moral life rather than just be like a chicken is that when we have an outlook and lifestyle that can be characterized as big-hearted, eager to do big things without neglecting the fine details, and magnanimous, we can more easily handle the many weaknesses and temptations that will always hound us.

A person stuck in petty things is an easy target of his own weaknesses and the temptations around. He tends to be lazy and narrow-minded, unable to develop the resistance to bear things and the strength to move forward.

A phenomenon that is getting common nowadays is that of many smart people with impressive accomplishments but who are unable to escape the bad allurements of the world and the subtle tricks of the devil.

And that’s simply because they have stopped growing and moving forward. They get self-satisfied with what they have already accomplished, showing in effect that all that effort was not really for God and for others, but simply for themselves, a clear contradiction to what loving is supposed to be.

We need to alert everyone about this danger. That’s why it’s good to keep in mind this comparison between the eagle and the hen.





Let us journey together in support of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations

A press statement by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)
September 22, 2016

We, the 135 leaders of the clergy, religious and laity from the five federations that comprise the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)* have successfully convened the 5th Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit on Peace from September 20-22, 2016 under the theme “Celebrating God’s Work for Peace: Journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for Peace”. We converged in Davao City from all corners of the country to draw strength from each other as we celebrated the first successful round of talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after years of impasse. The positive atmosphere that resulted from the recent resumption of the formal peace talks was carried into the positive mood of our summit and our joy for the growing ecumenical participation in supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Process.

In our gathering, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University, reminded us in his keynote address of the Biblical imperatives and our Christian duty to work towards the common good and accompany the poor in seeking social justice.

Our optimism was strengthened by the sharing of Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Office of the Executive Secretary, on the government’s renewed commitment to peace and to the GRP-NDFP negotiations and the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

We were also encouraged by the input of Attorneys Angela Librado and Antonio Arellano of the GRP Peace Panel regarding the serious commitment of the Panel to engage in principled dialogue with the NDFP. The clear commitment to peace has also been observed in the willingness of government to honor previous agreements and through the concerted effort invested in achieving the release of detained NDFP consultants.

Mr. Luis Jalandoni, NDFP Peace Panel Chair, reminded summit participants of the indomitable spirit of the Filipino people through the centuries to persevere in the struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country. The presence of the NDFP Consultants, Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, and the recently released Mr. Ariel Arbitrario, Mr. Lando Genelsa, Mr. Alfredo Mapano, and Mr. Porferio Tuna, Jr. brought depth to the discussions and strengthened the determination of participants to further support the peace process.

We admire the resolve of both the GRP and NDFP to transcend differences, willingly explore substantive issues and implement working methods that will accelerate the talks. We also appreciate the decision of both parties to declare indefinite unilateral ceasefires towards a possible bilateral ceasefire.

The Royal Norwegian Government and Caritas Norway through solidarity messages from the Special Envoy to the Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum and Program Coordinator for Asia, Aron Halfen, reassured the Summit of their common resolve to persevere in the journey with the PEPP and with the GRP-NDFP Peace Process. They highlighted that a political settlement of the armed conflict through principled dialogue is both possible and attainable, even though difficulties and obstacles are to be expected along the way.

We were inspired and challenged by the presence of our Lumad sisters and brothers who kept us attentive to the reality on the ground. Their contributions have shown that peace must be tangible and manifest not only through the silence of arms but even more through food on the table, clothing, shelter, education and access to the means to meet other basic needs and for them to live in their communities without fear or threat. They also underscored the reality that the road to peace is long and arduous, fraught with dangers, but for the sake of the people, especially the most vulnerable, it must be pursued with all our heart and effort.

The Summit concluded with a workshop to consolidate the commitments and concerns of the PEPP, and plans for how these can be presented to both the GRP and the NDFP, and to the Filipino people:

• We support and affirm the intention of both the GRP and the NDFP to meet in Norway on October 6-10 for the Second Round of Formal Talks focusing on Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, while also defining the terms for a common Ceasefire Agreement and General Amnesty for political prisoners.

• We invite support and goodwill from the Filipino people for the Peace Talks between the GRP and NDFP which we consider are sincere and thorough and that as a Nation we should stand vigilant against those whose intentions are to spoil the Peace Process to protect their personal or vested interests against the interests of the Filipino people.

• We call and demand both the GRP and NDFP to respect their existing agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, putting a stop to the practice of manufacturing false charges against clergy, lay people, indigenous people and other human rights defenders who are serving the poor and marginalized.

• We call for the removal of all armed groups and the dismantling of existing para-military groups that divide and terrorize the communities of our Indigenous Peoples.

• We call on all our Christian communities – at the local, regional and national levels – to expand our peace constituency and to continue pushing for the completion of the peace talks and the implementation of any peace agreement.

• We offer and render our services and resources to both panels to help in attaining a just and lasting peace in the country.

“And with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15), we will journey together till peace based on justice reigns in our land.

Davao City, Philippines, 22nd day of September 2016.





Morality and the rationalizations

September 15, 2016

IN the heat and passion of our political exchanges, as in the many other fields like in sports, entertainment, social issues, etc., we should try our best to be sober enough to keep a firm grip on what would constitute as moral and immoral views and to resist the strong temptation to fall into all kinds of rationalizations to justify certain positions that we hold, either individually or as a group.

Nowadays, especially in the political field, a lot of rationalizations are made. Many people are of the view that because of a certain problem that is widely considered as raging and harmful to a large sector of the populace, certain drastic measures can be made.

In theory, of course, these measures can and even ought to be done. Serious problems that affect the lives of many have to be met with forceful, vigorous and hopefully effective solutions.

But for all this theoretical practicality of this radical and even extreme approach to such problems, morality should never be sacrificed. We don't do evil so that a certain good may be achieved.

That the end never justifies the means is a classic moral principle that will never go obsolete. Violating this principle can only trigger a vicious cycle of hatred and revenge that would divide people into unfair and inhuman categories and would perpetuate the law of Talion, a tit-for-tat kind of culture where mercy has no place in the pursuit for justice. Violating this principle violates the very nature and the law of our freedom itself.

Nowadays, many people, including our leaders, appear to be unclear about what is moral and what would make a human act, personal or collective, immoral. In the case of the extrajudicial killings, for example, many would justify it because the intention is supposed to be good, or it has lowered down the rate of criminality, or it is supposed to be an expression of a strong and relevant political will, or that there were more EJKs in the past, etc.

Others mouth a new moral doctrine about a certain justifiable collateral damage when there is some kind of undeclared war.

These are pure rationalizations. Forgotten is the objective evaluation of the morality of the act itself. It seems that even our leaders do not know anymore where the sources of morality have to be taken. That one has to consider the object of the act, the intention and the circumstances is not anymore done.

Things now seem to depend only on a certain idea of political effectiveness based on some statistics, popularity and acceptance of at least a simple majority of the people, or profitability. It seems morality is now measured by these criteria.

Aside from EJK, other immoral acts are now being justified. Detraction is one, as shaming by exposing the hidden faults of some public figures is made. The Catechism says that especially in the media, “the information must be communicated honestly and properly with scrupulous respect for moral laws and the legitimate rights and dignity of the person.” (Compendium 525)

Vengeance is another. And all forms of insults and personal derision are hurled. Fallacies are now the new logic. There are now all sorts of misinformation and disinformation glutting the media.

Among the collateral victims of this new culture are the very principle of human rights, the standing of God, Church and religion itself in society, basic decency and courtesy to all including offenders.

A certain build-up of fanaticism, a culture of simplistic black-and-white categorization of people, can be observed, with its corresponding wave of hatred against those who choose to be different from the majority.

We need to go back to the basics of morality. We have to assess human acts, especially those with public character, according to their objective morality before considering them in their political, social or economic contexts, etc.

As said earlier, the sources of morality are three: the moral object, the intention of the subject who acts, and the circumstances which include the consequences. As the Catechism would put it:

“An act is morally good when it assumes simultaneously the goodness of the object, of the intention, and of the circumstances...It is not licit to do evil so that good may result from it...On the other hand, a good end does not make an act good if the object of that act is evil...Circumstances can increase or diminish the responsibility of the one who is acting but they cannot change the moral quality of the acts themselves.” (Compendium 368)

This is the new challenge we have.





Human life is sacred

August 28, 2016

Nowadays, when the value of human life has been greatly reduced, we need to recover its true worth by revisiting the pertinent Christian doctrine about it.

It cannot be denied that in many parts of the world, an open anti-life culture is taking place and it’s slowly coming also into our country. Abortion is legal in many countries. Euthanasia is fast gaining ground. Summary and extra-judicial killings are getting rampant. Of course, there is now a creeping wave of terrorism in many places.

We need to reaffirm the truth that human life, no matter how deformed and depraved in its earthly condition, is always sacred, because it’s a life that has a special and very intimate relation with God, its creator.

No one can just put it away on his own volition or that of another or even of the state. It’s a life whose death can only come properly by God’s will. This usually takes place through natural causes – sickness, old age, etc.

Though God can allow death to occur due to human volition, such event is clearly against his will and would constitute a grave sin. Our Christian faith also teaches that if some evil is allowed to happen, it’s because a greater good can also be derived from it.

We should be quick to discern God’s designs when some evil takes place, so we avoid falling into a vicious cycle that sin usually generates. In this, we should try not to be scandalized by evil, not by affirming that evil is not evil but rather by acknowledging evil in the context of God’s merciful and wise providence.

From there, we can start to perceive the good God has in mind for it. This effort may be aided by our legal and juridical system, some conventional wisdom that we have accumulated through the ages, etc. But we should also be aware that these elements are never perfect.

At best, they can lead us to divine wisdom but can never replace it. In fact, the way things are now, we may have to do a lot of purging, since many distortions if not errors insofar as the moral law is concerned may already have contaminated these systems.

Human life is sacred because it is always a life intimately linked with the very life of God. And that’s because we have been made the image and likeness of God, children of his, endowed with faculties that would enable us, together with his grace, to enter into the very life of God.

Thus, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “from its beginning human life involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.” (466)

In another point of the Catechism, we are told that “of all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator.

He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake.” (CCC 356) In other words, our life somehow reflects the life of God.

That is how each one of us is designed by God. The full realization of that original design may be thwarted by the many manifestations of our sinfulness. Just the same, in spite of such condition, we also know that God became man to save us and has given us all the means so we can be what we ought to be, according to God’s providence.

This brings us to the conclusion that human life is always sacred no matter how sinful it is. God is so in love with man that he cannot abandon him. He will do everything to bring him back to him while respecting man’s freedom. That’s why in Christ, God is made to die, which is the greatest proof of one’s love for another.

We need to counter the attack on human life by spreading this fundamental truth about us. That may sound quixotic, but with faith in God’s powers and with our persistent effort, we know that the good and the truth will always prevail.

In this regard, St. Paul gave us a relevant piece of advice: “Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5,7)

This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and suffering. But we need to convince ourselves that this is all worthwhile. We should pray, offer a lot of sacrifices, and do whatever we can, individually or with others, to do a battle of love to uphold that human life is sacred.





Statement on the President’s campaign versus illegal drugs, criminality and corruption

By Ecumenical Bishops Forum
August 22, 2016

We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on his serious campaign versus illegal drugs, criminality and corruption, his election campaign promise which he will do in three to six month-time of his term. The promise is getting fulfilled.

Even before President Rody formally assumed office, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has started rounding up known illegal drug users and pushers in Metro Manila. Today, more than one month after the President’s inauguration on June 30, hundreds had been killed, hundreds more were arrested and jailed, and thousands voluntarily surrendered. All of them are said to be small time users and pushers, and, as human rights advocates say, are poor people.

However, on July 5, the President unexpectedly named five former and incumbent police generals who are illegal drug protectors. This was followed by an announcement on August 7 of 159 local government officials (mayors, former mayors, and former vice mayors) incumbent and former police and military officers, and incumbent and former judges who are linked to illegal drugs trade. He claims more names will follow.

The big time drug lords, the President says, are in other countries like China and Mexico from where they direct their operations, and it is difficult if not impossible to run after them.

The PNP chief, Police General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, claims that crime have gone down, indicating that most crime are drug related. Thus the war on drugs is also a war against criminality.

This may be true as far petty crime such as bag-snatching, child molestation, rape, rape with homicide and murder, “akyat bahay” theft, hold-ups and the likes are concerned. Big crimes such as bank robberies, pyramiding scam, illegal recruitment, cyber-crimes, break-in in malls and the likes continue unabated.

Steps in curbing corruption in government have been started. Among the measures are the signing of the Executive Order on Freedom of Information which covers the executive department and the order to shorten the processing of applications in government offices. More serious and lasting measures still have to be done.

Given the number of days in office of the new administration, its campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption may be considered a success thus far. We congratulate the President for this, and pledge our support for his sincere efforts to address the present situation.

While we believe and support President Duterte’s war on drugs, there is a need for deeper analysis why the drug problem is thriving and who benefit from this. There is also need for the present administration to examine the correctness of its approach in eliminating this menace. The extra-judicial killings that are happening, we believe, won’t solve that problem but exacerbate it as most of those killed are small time and poor people. The suspected five police generals and government officials seem to be getting a special privilege; they remain very much alive.

We wish to caution the President, then, to respect the human rights of the people. Life which came from the Creator is precious; it has to be preserved as much as possible. The campaign can continue without violating people’s rights and keeping all actions within the parameters of the law.

We bid the President success in his drug campaign in particular, and in his administration in general. His success is the Filipino people’s success.

Issued and signed this 22nd day of August, 2016:

Very truly yours in Christ,


Executive Secretary









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