By ROBERT Z. CORTES
June 12, 2017
Three Saturdays ago, I and
two of my friends met a lady who can easily qualify as the coolest and
funniest octogenarian of our lives - even if she could hardly walk.
(She's not in the picture though :) )
She lived in a house also
occupied by her older brother and his wife who, she later told us,
both hardly minded her. She had one little corner in that house but it
was practically a separate unit since it had its own private entrance
from one side of the house.
Our random meeting happened
through the recommendation of a barangay counsellor-friend who knew
her semi-abandoned plight. That first meeting was unforgettable. There
was a kind middle-aged lady who led us to Lola, and what followed was
easily an hour of laughter and deep insight when we thought it was
just going to be 10 minutes of expressing our piety and pity.
The upshot of that first
meeting was that we resolved we were going to visit Lola more
regularly - bringing our other friends. Pope Francis, after all, has
been very clear about not abandoning our elderly – they’re one of
those in the peripheries of the Church. And here was one who would not
only give us an opportunity to obey the Pope; she was even one who
could make our and our friends’ Saturday mornings much more
meaningful. Most importantly she pleaded with us to please come again.
Last Saturday, we made that
next visit. It was raining but it didn't matter. When we arrived at
Lola's side of the house we saw that the main door was open, but the
screen door was locked. We then called out to Lola. However, instead
of her, someone else heard us who came out from another door. Seeing
the apparition was like an encounter with Medusa: we froze.
And it was not because she
had snakes on her head (in fact, she only had a fake flower stuck on
top of her left ear). It was rather because she was someone we knew as
the "pious lady" of the parish church nearby: always hopping around
busily fixing things on the altar, approaching people nicely, making
sure shawls were placed on "errant" girls who insisted on wearing
sleeveless tops, etc. But she was now anything but that. She had been
transformed to the imperious lady boss of the compound.
Looking at us like we were
masked men about to take Lola hostage, she asked us what we were doing
there. When we told her we were going to talk to Lola she asked what
for. And before we could answer, she asked what we were going to do
after we talked to her. And while we were formulating the answer to
that last question – wondering if we were still going to answer the
previous – she asked how long we were going to talk to Lola. This time
one of us was quick enough to say “around 30 minutes,” and she
replied, "one hour?" I then realized she really was paying attention.
And very interested in our answers.
Seemingly satisfied that she
had made quite an impression on us, she then pounded on Lola's door
with all the vigor that her imperiousness could muster, as if she were
demanding the Maute rebels to come out or else. She muttered
impatiently under her breath why on earth Lola locked her door. (I
thought I saw some flames coming out of her nostrils, but most
probably I was just seeing things.) Very condescendingly, as if taking
pity on the suffering we were about to be subjected in the visit, she
advised us to be patient with Lola since Lola was "baliw." She then
I was interiorly shaken when
I entered Lola's unit. I had begun to understand that Lola was around
someone who didn't regard her the same way we did and wondered what
other sort of abuses she received from this woman the rest of the
time. Thankfully, Lola was her old self the last time we met her. We
again laughed and learned from each other. We soon found out that she
was the ignoble sister-in-law (ISIL) and Lola gestured that the lady
was "baliw" by waving her two hands in circles near her head. The
feeling was clearly mutual. That fact was a source of a good laugh for
all of us and we continued our gossip in whispers. It was good, albeit
innocently mean conspiratorial fun.
Pretty soon the meeting had
to end earlier than we had wanted. After all, we were painfully aware
that someone was timing our stay. When we went out of the door,
planning to pay our respects to the ISIL before we left, we realized
she was nowhere to be found. We then headed to the gate fearing she
didn’t want to be disturbed anymore. And just when we were opening the
gate, she made her second apparition – and she was definitely no Lady
Nope, after all, she caught
us "red-handed" leaving without even the decency to say goodbye to
her. Didn't she see us opening the gate, and we never even bothered to
look for her? There’s a door, you should’ve knocked! Is this how you
do things - you are welcomed like decent guests and you sneak out like
thieves? Don't do that to me or anyone else ever again you understand?
Sige, umalis na kayo!"
That was the end of the rope
for me. As we were out of earshot I said, “What a disgusting
One of my friends asked me,
“Why do you say that?”
I said, “Don’t you realize
that the Gospel this morning was about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees
who paraded their piety outside but were full of wickedness inside?
Didn’t she hear the priest’s homily this morning? She was right there
in front, piously folding her hands.”
My friend meekly answered,
“Well, maybe she needs a visit herself.”
His reply gave me pause, and
I immediately knew where it was going. She’s one of those in the
I also quickly realized that
he was right, but I just wasn't willing to fully admit it. Not yet.
Darn it – how can someone so mean be in the same peripheries as such
nice people as Lola? In fact, I wanted to resist the idea so much I
managed to quip, “Well, I can ask a psychiatrist to visit her.”
But a few more steps, I had
to accept a fact that was as clear as day: I was now like her. By
putting her in the category of the disgusting, I was now in that same
category. What a sad thing: many times we don't realize that we who
think ourselves very much within the Church are in reality in its
But with acceptance comes
hope. Thankfully, the source of hope is clear. "Blessed are the
merciful for they shall obtain mercy." It's the very same idea that
brought me to the coolest and funniest octogenarian I've ever met.
Only now I understand better how much more deeply I still need to
understand that word "mercy."
The goal of
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 31, 2017
THIS is none other than for
us to be another Christ. After all, he is the very pattern of our
humanity in the beginning and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. If
education is for us to achieve the fullness of our humanity, we should
not look at anything, no matter how lofty and useful, other than at
St. Paul, in his Letter to
the Ephesians, describes it this way: “His (Christ’s) gifts were that
some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors
and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for
building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of
the faith and of the knowledge of God, to mature manhood, to the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...” (4,11-13)
Yes, education is not simply
about acquiring some worldly knowledge and skills. It’s about
achieving this “mature manhood” St. Paul was talking about, a mature
manhood that is “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Obviously, knowledge and
skills are important and are, in fact, indispensable. But they have to
be oriented toward the ultimate goal of education which is the pursuit
for the fullness of Christ in us.
We have to be wary of the
strong, almost irresistible temptation to downgrade the purpose of
education to simply achieving some worldly values like wealth, honor,
popularity, efficiency, etc.
These worldly goals, if not
related to the ultimate goal, can very well be sweet poisons that can
corrupt the process of education.
Some sectors may claim that
putting Christ as the main goal of education undermines the technical
rigor that should accompany the task of learning the sciences and the
arts. They claim that that approach would be too other-worldly as to
restrain us to go to the last consequences of our studies.
We should not be deceived by
such claim, because the opposite is, in fact, the case. When we put
Christ on top of everything else in our education, we would be most
motivated and pressured to be thoroughly exacting in our studies.
Christ himself would require nothing less than that.
Thus, the ultimate goal of
education is when we learn to deal in an abiding way with the Holy
Spirit, who is the spirit of God, who will remind us of everything
Christ taught us, who will lead us to the complete truth and would
tell us of things to come.
At this time of the world’s
life, we should do much better than the early Christians who, when
asked by St. Paul whether they have received the Holy Spirit, answered
that “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19,2)
All the technical things
involved in our education should somehow tend to the learning of how
to deal with the Holy Spirit. For this, it might be useful also to
know the gifts of the Holy Spirit which enable us to know things the
way the Holy Spirit knows them.
We should never marginalize,
much less, ignore, the Holy Spirit in our education.
Statement on the
By Philippine Center for
Islam and Democracy
May 25, 2017
The Philippine Center for
Islam and Democracy strongly condemns the violent attacks perpetrated
by lawless elements in the Islamic city of Marawi and Lanao del Sur,
made more heinous as it occurred as the Muslim faithful are preparing
for the holy month of Ramadhan. Any act inciting to terror in the
hearts of defenseless civilians, the destruction of places of worship
and properties, the murder of innocent men, women, and children
irrespective of one’s faith are all forbidden and detestable acts
according to Islam. Sowing terror through force and violence has
always been an invalid means of attaining societal changes, and cannot
be justified through faith or religion. The Qur'an says: "If any one
slays a person- unless it be as punishment for murder or for spreading
mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all people. And if
any one saves a life, it would be as if he saved the lives of all
people." (Surah 5, verse 32).
We urge the Philippine
Government to ensure that the declaration of Martial Law will not, in
any way, compromise the lives of our people and the principles of
democracy that we hold dear. PCID believes that the peaceful
resolution of the armed conflict Marawi is needed, through tempered
and calibrated responses that will prevent further casualties and
damage to property and livelihoods.
We ask fellow Filipinos to
stay informed based on facts, especially with the prevalence of
unverified information and unsupported theories regarding the crisis.
We also ask the media to take extra precautions in their reporting,
and to prevent framing the crisis as a binary conflict between Muslims
and Christians. We should focus on uniting and working together for
just peace and human rights, instead of holding unfair and preemptory
judgments that can only lead to a perilous cycle of fear, ignorance,
and worse, more violence.
More than ever, preventing
violent extremism is needed, so we are urging all sectors to
immediately address the worsening issue at its roots. First and
foremost, our government officials, particularly the elected leaders,
should be accountable for good governance and rule of law as well as
the deterioration of the peace and order condition in conflict
affected communities of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Without good governance and the rule of law, government cannot be
effective in improving the socio-economic and political conditions of
our people, and the delivery of basic services long denied in the
As the Muslim ummah enters
Ramadhan, we can only pray for wisdom, peace, and understanding.
rejects military rule in Mindanao
A press statement by
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
May 24, 2017
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang
Pilipino (BMP), a socialist national labor center, added its voice
today to all those who oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition
of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. Our position in based on the
1. Mindanao is not in a
state of lawless violence, nor is it facing invasion or rebellion,
which are the only cases where Martial Law could be legally imposed.
The Marawi attack does not
justify the imposition of military rule in a region that is now
pursuing peace through revived negotiations between the Philippine
government and the various armed groups of the Moro self-determination
2. Unlike in the 1973 and
1935 constitutions, where imminent danger or mere threat to public
safety is enough to justify military rule and the suspension of the
writ of habeas corpus, the 1987 Constitution requires that there has
to be an actual uprising or insurrection in the entire Mindanao region
before a justified declaration of Martial Law.
In forty eight (48) hours,
Duterte is required, by law, to reveal to Congress the factual and
legal basis of his imposition of Martial Law.
We demand that Malacańang 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
Malacańang – 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
Malacańang rushed into martial rule, without exhausting all other
options, we fear that the fascist tendency of the Duterte regime is
nearing its full bloom, through the re-imposition of open dictatorship
in the entire country, which Digong has repeatedly threatened to do
during the campaign and throughout his first year in office.
The BMP demands that the
Duterte administration immediately (a) end the martial law in
Mindanao; (b) uphold civilian supremacy over the military; (c) protect
people’s rights – especially the rights to freedom of association and
legitimate dissent; and, (d) address the longstanding conflicts in
Mindanao by satisfying the Filipino people’s demand for peace and
equality and the Bangsamoro people’s right for self-determination.
Priests should only
talk about God!
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 14, 2017
THAT’S right. And
especially, when it involves bishops. When they, we – me included,
stray into commenting about politics, even if we have the good
intention of evangelizing it but cannot avoid taking a partisan
position, we would be doing wrong and be causing great harm to
Christ himself, living at a
time and place where the political conditions were far from ideal,
refrained from making any comments about politics. About the only time
he could be said to have made a political comment was when he referred
to Herod as a fox. (cfr Lk 13,32) Other than that he was silent and
resisted any attempt to drag him to the political scene.
In fact, he submitted
himself to the prevailing laws at the time, highly imperfect as they
were, even if as the Son of God and our Redeemer, he could have been
exempted from them. This was the case of whether he had to pay the
temple tax or not. (cfr, Mt 17,24-27)
Current Church laws and
praxis have always discouraged the clergy from getting mixed up in
political issues. Part of the reason is the autonomy that temporal
matters like politics enjoys and has to be respected no matter how
much we may disagree with certain political views.
But the other part of the
reason is the obvious danger of alienating some people. Priests,
consecrated to be the sacramental personification of Christ as head of
the Church, should always be an agent of unity and redemption,
concerned mainly with the spiritual and supernatural life of the
Even if we have the better
political view, we do not have the privilege to participate actively
in the political discussions. Even when the issues involved already
have direct repercussions on faith and morals, we should refrain from
making comments that can be interpreted as politically partisan.
The reason behind is that
even in the worst scenario, there is always some good that can be
derived from it. If we follow by our faith, if we follow by the
example of Christ, we just have to go along with whatever political
temper there may be at a given time and place and focus more on what
we are supposed to do.
Of course, we as pastors can
make moral judgments on political issues that clearly violate faith
and morals, but these should be done with utmost delicacy and charity.
In this regard, we should
not be afraid to be misunderstood and to suffer all kinds of
persecution, reflecting Christ’s character as a sign of contradiction.
What we cannot do is to fall into a kind of bitter zeal that would
leave charity behind in pursuit of what we consider to be the truth
and the requirements of justice.
Actually, talking only about
God already entails a lot of things and can demand everything from the
clergy. It covers everything that is of real and eternal importance to
us. Preaching the mysteries of our faith alone is no small matter.
This is not to mention that we have to journey pastorally with the
people, both in their collective and individual/personal aspects.
All these require nothing
less than full identification with Christ in whose priesthood we
participate. The social-action aspect of the clergy’s work should
never be interpreted as a ticket to get involved in partisan politics.
National ID system,
amid militarization of gov’t bureaucracy, will lead to wholesale
A Press Statement by the
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
May 12, 2017
Amid the growing number of
military generals holding top posts in the government bureaucracy, the
proposed bill on the national ID system, which was recently approved
by the House Committee on Population, is bound to lead to wholesale
violation of people’s rights to freedom of movement and privacy, right
against surveillance, and right to unhampered and non-discriminatory
provision of social services.
Such proposed measures will
legitimize the already existing violations of the rights of the
people. Many activists and political dissenters were subjected to
surveillance by the state. Worse, their names were listed in the
so-called “order of battle” by the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP)
and other similar lists as part of the counter-insurgency program of
the government. With the continuing spate of illegal arrests and
detention of activists, we believe that this policy and practice
continues to this day.
The proposed National ID
system will aggravate the already bleak human rights situation in the
country where human rights defenders and political dissenters are
subjects of surveillance, threats, illegal arrests and detention,
enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Its conspicuous
timing is also in the context of increased militarization of the
civilian bureaucracy, the continuing implementation of
counter-insurgency programs, and killings in line with the war on
We take exception that such
draconian measures are being pursued in the guise of purportedly
addresses problems in the bureaucracy on the delivery of social
services. The inefficiency in government transactions is deeply rooted
in a corrupt system. A more productive response to the need for an
efficient system of delivering government service to the people is
through the prioritization and allocation of necessary funds for the
social services, instead of giving a lion’s share of public funds to
the unproductive concerns of the defense sector. A more comprehensive
response to criminal activities should start with the investigation
and prosecution of criminal elements mostly in the Philippine National
Police itself and the political biggies who protect these syndicates.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on vote to Gina Lopez
By Office of Senator Alan
Peter S. Cayetano
May 5, 2017
Good evening everyone!
Greetings from Geneva.
I will always decide on what
is right and not what is popular.
I'm not surprised to see so
much support and so much opposition to the voting of the C.A. re DENR
Secretary Nominee Gina Lopez. I thank those who are open minded and
asking why? I'm not surprised that Sec. Gina and her group will go so
low as to cast aspersions on why I voted the way I did and even accuse
me of being in the pockets of the mining industry.
Since the 2007 campaign my
stand on responsible mining and the strictest, highest standards for
industries that affect the environment has been consistent.
At the time of the voting, I
felt that for me to explain my vote at that time would be like rubbing
salt in a wound, because I would have to enumerate all the reasons why
she is not fit to be DENR secretary. I felt it would be cruel to
reject then put her down.
Yet she now singles me out
when a vast majority of the CA voted to reject (after giving her a
year to prove herself) her appointment.
I want to clarify that I
gave Ms. Lopez enough chances to dispel fears that she would not
observe the legal process in regulating the mining industry. I
supported her in closing down mining sites that were not compliant
with the highest standards. Moreover, illegal mining and logging
continue to proliferate, while other sectors that need both strict
regulation continue to destroy the environment.
Unfortunately, the Secretary
was adamant in defending her illegal actions. If she had carried on
with her mindset, it would have embarrassed the Duterte Administration
sooner or later. She would have placed the administration in a
predicament that would be hard to defend.
I respect Ms. Lopez's
passion as an advocate for the environment, but she fails to
understand that she cannot arrogate unto herself Constitutional powers
reserved exclusively for Congress.
Many officials have invoked
good intentions when they violated our anti-graft and corruption laws,
and President Rodrigo Duterte was left with no choice but to terminate
them. Ms. Lopez's recent acts already bordered along these lines.
Going by her unwillingness to comply with institutional processes, she
is not fit to head the DENR. She would have embarrassed the President
in no time.
We are all for alleviating
poverty and the strict enforcement of our laws, but we cannot and
should not do so by being whimsical in imposing regulations that
violate Constitutional processes.
I hope that the President
will appoint another Ms. Lopez with the same zeal, yet still mindful
of the requisite that one must be faithful to the mandate and dictates
of our laws and processes.