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


A statement on mining issues and concerns

A statement by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)

“Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell” (Num. 35:34)

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

We are Pastors. We listen to the voice of the flock and take care of them. In our task to care for them, we reiterate our concern for the Earth, the source of life for all.

In 1998, we in the CBCP issued “A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995”. We declared that the government mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our people continue to grow in poverty. We stated that the adverse social impact on the affected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining Trans-National Corporations (TNCs). In our 1998 statement we also forewarned that the “implementation of the Mining Act will certainly destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest.”

We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amount to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people’s health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.

Our experiences of environmental tragedies and incidents with the mining transnational corporations belie all assurances of sustainable and responsible mining that the Arroyo Administration is claiming. Increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations. We see no relief in sight.

President Arroyo’s “Mining Revitalization Program” is encouraging further the entry and operation of large-scale mining of TNCs. Alarmingly, the mining tenements granted through the program have encroached into seventeen (17) of important biodiversity areas, into thirty-five (35) of national conservation priority areas, and thirty-two (32) of national integrated protected areas. The promised economic benefits of mining by these transnational corporations are outweighed by the dislocation of communities especially among our indigenous brothers and sisters, the risk to health and livelihood and massive environmental damage. Mining areas remain among the poorest areas in the country such as the mining communities in CARAGA, Bicol and Cordillera Regions. The cultural fabric of indigenous peoples is also being destroyed by the entry of mining corporations.

Moreover, we are apprehensive that the proposed deletion of the nationalist provisions in the Constitution by the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) can pave the way to the wholesale plunder of our National Patrimony, and undermine our Sovereignty.

We reiterate our request to the President to recall all approved mining concessions, and to disapprove pending applications.

As Shepherds, we remind faithful of God’s injunction to us through our first parents to care for and cultivate the Earth (Genesis 2:15). As believers, we should live a lifestyle that is outwardly simple yet inwardly rich and compassionate to the Earth community. We therefore call on all religious leaders:

· To support, unify and strengthen the struggle of the local Churches and their constituency against all mining projects, and raise the anti-mining campaign at the national level;

· To support the call of various sectors, especially the Indigenous Peoples, to stop the 24 Priority Mining Projects of the government, and the closure of large-scale mining projects, for example, the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay, HPP Project in Palawan, Didippio Gold-Copper Project in Nueva Viscaya, Tampakan Copper-gold Project in South Cotabato, Canatuan Gold Project in Zamboanga del Norte, and the San Antonio Copper Project in Marinduque, among others;

· To support the conduct of studies on the evil effects of mining in dioceses;

· To support all economic activities that are life-enhancing and poverty-alleviating.

As we have said in our 1998 statement, “even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, our Creator. We invoke upon you the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth. With gratitude in our hearts we ask the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to obtain for us a renewed land and a converted people.”

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines: 

Archbishop of Jaro
January 29,2006





Agony, are you the other name of my country?

March 8, 2006

"We are a country in a state of suspended agony, both natural and man-made..."

I had just checked into my room after the 5:15 PM Mass at the Borongan Cathedral when, turning on the television for the evening news, I noticed an unusual thing. Images of a woman and a little girl covered with mud and being carried away to safety flashed onscreen together with faces of survivors still in various degrees of shock and disbelief. When I heard about Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, I remembered faces of young priests who were my former students at St. John the Evangelist School from the Diocese of Maasin to which the area belongs. In a flash I thought of suggesting to my own bishop and to the cathedral team ministry a second collection on that weekend for the landslide tragedy in Guinsaugon, Southern Leyte as well as to the less noticed occurrences of the same kind in Davao or even in far Zamboanga. I couldn't help saying to myself: Here we go again, my beloved calamity-ridden country! Why does tragedy pursue you no end?

But, of course, it is so plain to see how tragedy brings out the best in the Filipino, too. Everywhere I went people were asking what they could do and that there be second collections in our Sunday Masses for the victims. In Alabang's (no, not the rich Alabang but the original and still mostly urban poor) San Roque Parish the pastor, a friend, told me how surprised he was that their collections for the Southern Leyte victims rose to more than three times the average. And it never fails to amaze me how generous Pinoys can be even despite their poverty; literally the 'widow's mite' many times makes its way to our collection plates. What's more Pinoys in different parts of the global village have also organized their own compassionate responses to the situation. You, dear reader, might have even done your own pitch your own way. We take our hats off to you for that.

But no sooner had a natural tragedy been dealt with than a man-made one struck us last February 24, 2006, a Friday, on the eve of the 20th commemoration of the Edsa 1 Peaceful People Power Revolt in the Philippines. The president, in words that eerily reminded people of Proclamation 1081 that declared Martial Law over the whole Philippines in 1972, also issued Proclamation 1017 putting the country in a State of Emergency. She announced that the government just foiled an attempted coup to topple down her presidency and that she was commanding the whole Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush down all rebellions and restore law and order wherever it is breached. I later found out how so many of my countrymen asked, with me, the same question: If the coup was foiled, why the need for a declaration of a state of emergency? Wasn't the Cory Aquino presidency more fraught with actual coups de tat and yet never even gave one thought to declaring a state of emergency? Ah, but there are so many other legal, political or even economic reasons that are readily invoked for the declaration. The government is in constant denial of ever intending to suppress fundamental freedoms but its actions belie its words. For example, news publications are under careful watch, congressional representatives from party list groups are under threat of being arrested, political rallies are not allowed in the capital.

I've been asked if 1017 is moral. To be able to judge that we need to judge the intention of the declaration (the real one, more than the declared one), the object of the acts that come out of the declaration and the circumstances that surround it. Since many of these things are not crystal clear, the next best thing is to see what it actually does to the whole country, with emphasis on what it does to people. Nothing is moral if it degrades and violates human life, dignity and the inherent rights of the human person. Nothing is moral if it threatens rather than enhance human freedom. Nothing is moral if it acts against truth, justice and peace. Nothing is moral if it violates the dictates of human conscience and makes a mockery of the real will of the people.

To date many of the country's brilliant lawyers and intellectuals are debating the constitutionality of Proclamation 1017. But what I find striking is what it underlines about the state of our country in almost the same way that the Southern Leyte landslide tragedy does: We are a country in a state of suspended agony, both natural and man-made. Typhoons, torrential rains, flash floods and other shades of La Nińa come hand in hand with forest depletion, destructive mineral exploitations, excessive politicking, coup conspiracies (real or imagined), summary killings and assassinations of journalists and militant leaders. These seem a fair summary of the state of the Philippines today. And yet, one must ask: Why do we easily unite behind all efforts to respond to natural disasters but just as easily part ways when confronting man-made calamities in our political, socio-cultural and economic realities? Despite Edsa along our streets, Edsa has still to settle in our hearts. And until it does, Agony could go on being the other name of my country.





Let us be calm and be wise

March 6, 2006

"It is strange that the opposition allowed the enemy of the country (Communists rebels) to be a part of their movement.  It only demonstrates their lack of concern for the welfare of the country and its people and their lust for power as their main motivation."

The Philippines is a boat that is sinking because of two holes at its bottom.  The holes are caused by corruption and poverty.

An attempt to patch one hole by a violent and bloody means only makes the other hole bigger with its deleterious effect on the economy of the country.  It is even highly doubtful that such attempt can effectively patch the hole of corruption as the thrust of the opposition is targeted not towards removal of the rotten political system but only to one person allegedly involved in it even if she happens to be the president of the country. Furthermore, the opposition does not have anybody good enough to dismantle the rotten political system once GMA is gone which will mean just another musical chair for trapos that might even be worse than GMA.

We are all aware of the fact that one big reason for our poor economy is the flight of foreign capital which has gone to our neighbors – Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and China because of the unstable condition in our country.

Thus, extra constitutional and bloody attempt to change leadership only makes us more unstable and makes our already bad economy even worse.  While the coup attempt was not successful it already gave the message to the world that the Philippines is not a place to invest in any business or even to live or visit.  We will therefore remain the sick man of Asia. The additional reason why the coup attempt was not popularly supported by the people is because of the kind of people behind it:

1.       Followers of the former president – Estrada who is now in jail because of blatant corruption and whose hope of getting out of jail depends on the downfall of GMA. The people are afraid that this will happen if GMA is forced out of office by the opposition.  

2.       FPJ’s wife and supporters who want to make it appear that FPJ won the last election where GMA is alleged to have cheated. Let us not forget that FPJ was a close friend of former president Estrada who supported FPJ in the last election.

3.      Marcos family wealth and influence are apparently being utilized to support the attempt to remove the president by force so they can have a share of the power and influence if and when the opposition takes over the government.

4.      The communists – NPA who rejoice when the country is in turmoil because it would justify and encourage its continuing insurgency. It was not a coincidence that red flags were highlighting the protest march that was planned as a prelude to a coup d’etat. It is strange that the opposition allowed the enemy of the country (Communists rebels) to be a part of their movement.  It only demonstrates their lack of concern for the welfare of the country and its people and their lust for power as their main motivation.

5.      opportunistic army officers who are willing to be used by power hungry “trapos” who want to grab power so they can continue to enjoy their “gold mine” in the government’s treasury.

6.      Cory Aquino and her followers who want to protect the Luisita Hacienda by using her wealth and influence. Of all people, Cory should know enough how coup attempts devastate the economy, disrupt governance and hurt the country’s credibility because she experienced it during her presidency.

7.    There are patriotic people who are unwittingly serving the causes and agenda of the above mentioned groups by siding with the opposition without considering the deleterious effects on the economy. Going to the streets and cyberspace shouting their disgust of GMA will not be enough to get rid of corruption but certainly contributes to destabilization of the country and a big blow to its economy.

Most of us share the outrage and impatience of those demanding the resignation of GMA.  But I believe the majority who feel this way are also calm and wise enough to wait for the right time and the right way to do it.  We need to consider the destabilizing effect of constant political bickering on the economy and on the millions of our people who are already experiencing hunger and malnutrition.  The silent majority is not silent because we condone corruption, GMA and the outrageous plundering of government funds. We are just as outraged as our more vociferous brothers and sisters in search for good governance.  But we want to use a more sound strategy that does not punish ourselves particularly the millions of our poor.

In the meantime let us be calm and be wise. Let us concentrate our energy on helping the economy while we keep searching for the suitable replacement to GMA. When the right replacement comes along then we can all join behind him or her to take over the leadership of our country with all our resources and with all our might. While waiting for that time we need to repair or replace the Commission on election.  We need to establish mechanisms that will prevent manipulation of election results.  We need a lot more watchdogs to monitor the whole electoral process.

But there are other reasons why the nation was not anxious to support the opposition’s movement to remove GMA by force right now:

1.      At this time the use of force is not necessary and certainly is not our “LAST RESORT”. There are other options.  We can terminate GMA’s rule in 2010 if not sooner if there will be an election in 2007, which would be peaceful and constitutional using the will of all Filipinos instead of only the will of one or two thousand people in Manila and suburbs.  If she still clings to her leadership position at that time other than by honest and clean election, then we will be justified to use the last resort.  This will also give us time to find a replacement that we can trust in dismantling the rotten political system. Nobody really wants a violent and bloody revolution. The world gave Filipinos the highest admiration when we were able to kick out a dictator without bloodshed. With her unpopularity we can get her out without bloodshed.

2.   The people who are behind the coup attempt do not really represent the whole nation. A few disgruntled army officers encouraged by trapos and other members of the opposition are dividing this country and causing more turmoil and instability in the country.  Many of those who participated in the protest that was designed to start the coup d’e-tat were about 12 to 15 years old some with no shoes as shown in the picture in the local papers in America.  Many of the participants were obviously imported and hired for their participation.  People from Mindanao and the Visayan islands were not represented.

Thus, the use of force at this time violates all the requirements of a “just war”. In  fact, the doctrine of a just war requires that all the stipulated conditions must be present.  (See article, “Principles of the “JUST WAR DOCTRINE” in

3.      By not waiting for the scheduled election a short time from now and ignoring the deleterious effects of a violent attempt to remove GMA suggests that the opposition has other agenda that others might unwittingly be supporting. One obvious example is the NPA’s active participation in the coup attempt and the stepped up insurgency following the attempted coup.

4.     In fairness to GMA who allegedly cheated in the last election, are we going to remove from their respective offices many others who also cheated?  Almost all Filipinos know that cheating and corrupt practices in elections are common from the president down to town mayors. Also, are we sure that the FPJ’s camp did not also cheat?  It is even suspicious that FPJ’s camp cheated considering the vast gap between FPJ’s qualifications and those of GMA. Many observers predicted that GMA would win with a wide margin in the last election. Yet, it appears that GMA alone is going to pay for the crime that most of our elected officials have committed.

By the way, GMA publicly lamented the degeneration of our political system: “It has become such that one cannot embark on a political career and expect to emerge from it with clean hands”.  She quoted the Bible – “He who is without sin cast the first stone”. While this is an indirect admission of her participation in the rotten political system it expresses her lament that could mean that her conscience desires reform and reparation.

Let us therefore be careful and wise so that in trying to patch the hole of corruption we are not making the other hole of poverty bigger by driving foreign capital away.   Let us be careful and wise not to allow ourselves to be used by the opposition’s own self-interests.  Let us join hands in removing the rotten political system instead of just one person in it.  We need to spend more of our energy and resources in repairing the hole of poverty while searching for the right replacement to GMA.

We therefore invite you to join the GLOBAL FILIPINOS FOR PROGRESS with its economic program of “NON-VIOLENT REVOLUTION FOR A PROGRESSIVE PHILIPPINES”. (visit and read about the program under the same title and the article:  “HELP WANTED:  A SUPERHERO FOR PRESIDENT” and other related articles.)





End the State of Emergency now and resign immediately!

A Statement by the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW)
March 2, 2006

We Filipinos, whether based in many countries throughout the world, or at home in the Philippines will always remember where we were when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a State of Emergency on February 24, 2006. Just as we will always remember where we stood in 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial law.

Whether it is called Proclamation 1017, or Proclamation 1081 (Marcos Martial Law decree), it means the same for the Filipino people. It is a gross violation of people’s rights; arrest and imprisonment without warrant; prohibition of public assembly; violent dispersal of rallies; being bundled away in unmarked cars and military troops deployed in public spaces and around TV stations.

The deep bitterness in all this is that the 20th Anniversary of the Ouster of the Marcos dictatorship is the moment chosen by Arroyo and her government to declare Proclamation 1017. The outstanding achievement of the people’s struggle had been the ending of the Marcos dictatorship. GMA is showing her utter disregard for the thousands who sacrificed their lives to ensure that the people would regain their freedom and that we would never again experience martial law. With this sweeping away of our freedoms and democracy, GMA is showing her utter disregard for the peoples struggle and victory against dictatorship.

In these dark times we are heartened by the many thousands who have come out to defy the government ban and to protest this assault on our freedoms and democracy. We have been inspired by the outpouring of protest against this outrageous act of usurpation of power.

As Overseas Filipinos, we add our voices to this growing protest even as we re-iterate that this Proclamation of the State of Emergency does not blind us to the fact that the resignation of GMA is long overdue.

We will spread our protest among our migrant communities and ask the support of our co-migrants of other nationalities as well as our host countries to bring our message to their governments and peoples.

We demand your immediate resignation as President even as we join our efforts with the democratic movement and civil society to work for your ouster.

You have lost the trust of the people – whether we live inside or outside the Philippines.

Oppose and Resist Proclamation 1017!

Resign President Arroyo and government!

Long live the Filipino People!





The chutzpah of thick-skinned commissioners

February 9, 2006

The stinging indictment of the Supreme Court, the Senate and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines against the Commission on Elections remains carelessly unheeded. The siren calls for the resignation of the Comelec officials headed by Chair Benjamin Abalos have fallen into hearing-impaired ears whose callous insensitivity, and mischievous minds are wrapped around thick-skinned public personalities.

By stonewalling, they could not, to paraphrase President Ramon Magasaysay’s dictum, defend this at Plaza Miranda. These officials who have methodically stripped themselves of the vestiges of respectability, decency, decorum and morality have lost the faith and confidence of a concerned and aroused citizenry. Why? Because the credibility of elections – honest, peaceful and orderly – the cornerstone of the people’s faith in a democracy “has been put in jeopardy by the illegal and gravely abusive acts of the Comelec.”

[1]The Supreme Court ruled that Comelec was not only in clear violation of law and jurisprudence but also in reckless disregard of its own bidding rules and procedure. In the words of Senate Committee Report No. 44[2] “[T]he COMELEC’s irresponsibility and dereliction of its sworn duty to safeguard the sanctity of the electoral exercise is staggering.” But the unrepentant Commissioners would stay put and not vacate their posts. What barefaced shamelessness! And the chutzpah to hang on to power, influence and notoriety! What brazen insolence!

In different climes, people have been stoned to shame or even lined up against the wall to be summarily dealt with, or disgracefully impeached, or at the very least, hauled off to jail where they properly belong. In olden Japan, “hara-kiri,” which was slitting one’s stomach, was regarded as a “great honor.” In “seppuku,” the man sits before an admiring circle of friends and colleagues, at the crack of dawn, facing the rising sun. He was allowed to write down a small farewell poem. Then he accepts the inevitable and honorable death – by the sword of a friend or colleague. This was regarded as an act of sincere penance for a shameful conduct.

In this country, we have a time-honored Filipino value known as “sense of delicadeza.” It used to be a badge of honor for government officials. It is a sense of propriety on how to act or behave in all circumstances in public or private. In essence, it is etiquette or well-mannered conduct and a code of righteous behavior or protocol. Besmirch the good name of a government official, or even hint a misgiving or doubt about his integrity, or associate him with scandal or abuse of power – whether true or not – and he would be ready to offer his resignation rather than dishonor his family’s name and reputation or malign the institution he was connected with.

In the face of the Commissioners’ bungling of the multi billion automated counting machines on taxpayers’ money, their refuge under the constitution becomes unavailing and of no moment. Their disastrous handling of the last elections, all the more makes them ineffectual, abortive, unproductive and untrustworthy.

What is so sacrosanct about the Commissioners’ clinging to their posts? Is it to make amends and cushion the impact of their plunderous deeds through Johnny-come-lately-Presidential Adviser Hilario Davide? Is it their generous allowances, perks and privileges, including the hefty retirement pay and other emoluments? Or is it the hallucinogenic electoral power or the kaleidoscopic partisan influence that goes with the job? Or the quid pro quo idea of payback in the concept of “utang na loob”? Or, is it because the Commissioners can be trusted to politically overlay – in concrete asphalt – the road map upon which the rhythmical steps of Cha Cha will breeze through? That’s why I signed up at  Tuesday, February 7, 2006.

[ Author was a 3-term Governor of Eastern Samar; was Senate Secretary and Clerk of Senate Impeachment Court during the trial of President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. He was also the Chief of Staff and General Counsel of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. He worked briefly as Undersecretary, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. He is now a Faculty Member of the Ateneo School of Government, Rockwell, Makati City and a Guest Lecturer, UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, Diliman, Q. C. [1]Information Technology of the Philippines, et al v. COMELEC. et al, G. R. No. 159139, Jan. 13, 2004. [2]Dated 12 December 2005, and signed by 14 Senators. ]




◄◄home I next►►