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

insight 43


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Message of MGen. Arthur I. Tabaquero during the signing of Manifesto Against Violence

MGen. Arthur Tabaquero’s response to the open letter of Atty. Kathrina Castillo

Press Statement of the City Government of Catbalogan on cityhood issue

Where will a Tacloban HUC get its water supply?

Military terrorizes residents of San Jorge, Western Samar and San Jose de Buan, Samar

When peace is an elusive victim

The internet reaction on the wrath of Santo Niño

RP government’s report to the UPR inconsequential to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances

CCJP calls for immediate release of Ka Randy

Bias for Life vs. Demands of (National) Security?





OB listing by the military in Northern Samar exposed

A Press Statement by KATUNGOD-Sinirangan Bisayas
October 21, 2009

A copy of an Order of Battle (OB) list was given to the National Fact Finding team who was investigating the killing of human rights advocate priest Fr. Cecilio Lucero last October 9, 2009 in Northern Samar.  An unidentified state forces asset handed over the copy of the document to one member of the team. The OB list revealed that the military listed several members and former members of legal progressive organizations in the province of Northern Samar.

The document revealed that it was a MONTHLY INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY (Period Covered 06 July 2009 - 09 August 2009) dated August 9, 2009 submitted by Cpt. Husain A. Esmael, Acting Brigade S2. It stated that the Task Group Peacemaker, from the 803rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army, based in Catarman, Northern Samar “was deployed to the area of Catarman” and has conducted “information drives on AFP Education and Awareness program” and from these activities, “knowledge on CT (communist-terrorist) dominated organizations and activities from some of the students and residents came out.” Because of the “activities initiated by the task group” they have “inflicted fear unto the CT dominated organizations.”

In this report, names of personalities of progressive and party-list organizations in Northern Samar were listed in the OB of the Philippine Army. The organizations listed were Gabriela, Bayan Muna and BAYAN. Included in the list is Bayan Muna Partylist member Dr. Bartolome Resuello who was ambushed-killed last April 1, 2009 in Pambujan, Northern Samar by still unidentified men while Fr. Cecilio Lucero who was also ambushed-killed last September 6, 2009 in San Jose, Northern Samar was also mentioned.

Furthermore, students of the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) who are members of the University Student Council (USC) and also affiliated with the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and the university’s student publication who are affiliated with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) are also included in the OB list.

The report also reflected the Task Group Peacemaker’s move in “neutralizing” some members of the LFS by talking to their parents and showing them videos like “Knowing the Enemy” which links legal progressive organizations to the revolutionary group New People’s Army (NPA).

This military intelligence report is quite alarming because names listed under the military’s OB are subjected to surveillance, especially the students, while two of the mentioned names in the list turned out dead this year. It has been experienced in the past that names that are listed in an OB experienced harassment, some were abducted, and worst, killed. This has been experienced, not only in the region but also in other parts of the country where human rights violations is rampant.

The disclosure of this military intelligence report only further proves our claims that under the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya II, members and leaders of legal progressive organizations are equated with the armed revolutionary group to justify the killings and abductions of legal personalities and other human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S.-Arroyo regime.

We must not be deceived by the lies that the Army’s 8th Infantry Division is propagating that they respect human rights because victims of military abuses and their own documents says otherwise.

The situation tells us the need for our firm resolve and unity to defend and promote human rights in order to prevent further human rights violations committed by state forces. Only through the united effort of the people of Eastern Visayas will we be able to defeat Oplan Bantay Laya II.





Beware of the technocratic ideology

October 22, 2009

PHENOMENA like young men and even women already taking beer at 6 in the morning in convenience stores, seminarians engrossed in Facebook but cannot master the Latin declensions even after one year of classes, etc., are getting rampant these days.

They indicate a big, worrying shift not only in behavior but also of attitudes and values that is now asking to be regulated properly. This is a challenge for everyone. Of course, the elders and those in authority – parents, teachers, clergy, public officials – should take the lead.

Those call center workers are inverting their days and nights. To some extent this can be done and is necessary. But identifying the limits, and respecting basic, unchangeable values can be a tricky problem. They tend to invert things indiscriminately.

Those young seminarians remiss in their academic requirements while immersed in cyberdistractions are just a thumbnail image of a widening problem besetting our youth today. Obviously, the computers and the internet can stimulate their thinking, but they can also stimulate other unwelcome practices in them.

The predicament actually has deeper causes and needs to be framed within a wider perspective. Pope Benedict hits it bull’s eye when he said in his encyclical “Caritas in veritate” (Charity in the truth):

“Technological development can give rise to the idea that technology is self-sufficient when too much attention is given to the ‘how’ questions, and not enough to the many ‘why’ questions underlying human activity.” (70)

This is the problem we have to tackle. We are slowly being lulled and intoxicated by the many wonders of the technological potentials. We are being detached from our true human foundation as we are slowly being made into slaves, victims and preys of the predatory side of our increasingly technocratic culture.

With this frame of mind, our grip of reality hardly goes beyond what is instantly practical, pleasurable, popular. We get hooked to a knee-jerk, Pavlovian way of reacting, without giving any thought to long-range effects.

We get restricted to the material and sensual aspects of our life, forgetting the spiritual and supernatural. We find it harder nowadays to pray, to find leisure time with family and friends, etc. We get prodded to act without giving due attention to thinking and planning.

In its wake, we can find the debris of disorder not only in the physical and external order, but also and more seriously in the internal side, since our sense of values and priorities are pressured to go haywire.

In short, we are being emptied of our substance as persons and as children of God, and are massaged to become hollow automatons, reacting only to external or mechanical stimuli, and not anymore acting from a soul.

For sure, technology offers us a lot of advantages. As the Pope says, technology “draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon.” But we have to make sure that technology is used properly, that is, directed by a solid sense of moral responsibility on our part.

It should not just be allowed to fascinate us with its many possibilities. The immense sense of freedom that it gives should be accompanied by a well-grounded sense of responsibility.

Therefore, we have to work out a program of formation on the “ethically responsible use of technology.” This obviously will require an interdisciplinary approach, since the requirements of our spiritual and material dimensions, of faith and science should be met.

There can be the usual learning-curve involved here, where the beginning of the process would involve a lot of effort, investments, the mess of the trial-and-error or the experimentation stage, etc. But the basic principles and goals should be made clear.

Technology should serve us in our objective needs, and not the other way around. It should make us better persons, better parents and children, better workers and students.

Most of all, it should make us better children of God, who know how to live the fullness of charity in the very midst of our mundane and temporal affairs that now rely a lot on technology.

The program of formation should focus on how virtues can be pursued and continually developed amid many competing values. The skill of discernment should be enhanced. When to say, yes and go, and when to say, no and stop and reject, should be learned.

Again for Christians, the ultimate test is whether the use of technology will make us be more like Christ! Short of that, we open ourselves to danger.





Saints as suicide bombers

October 12, 2009

SORRY to hijack your attention. But let me explain.

Precisely because of a biting sense of helplessness, of being on the brink, we often wonder what to do with suicide bombers. We try to understand these creatures. We overwhelmingly disagree with their actions and motivations. But we cannot deny the glaring fact that they do it out of a sense of commitment.

Distorted, completely wrong… These can immediately come to mind to describe that sense of commitment. Still, the reality remains that, right or wrong, they do it in their own subjective calculation as an act of heroism. It can be their ideal for sainthood.

We even try to downgrade that part by claiming that these suicide bombers are mad, out of their own will, completely deprived of reason, made an automaton, etc.

Granted they are true, still the people around them, those who manage and direct them undeniably hold a burning sense of commitment that they extend to a human instrument, whose freedom cannot be totally wiped out no matter what the conditioning.

This realization certainly disturbs us. The often unspoken conclusion is whether we too can have that sense of commitment, of the kind that goes all the way to death, even if we follow a route different from the terrorists’ kind of life offering.

In my reading of the lives of saints, the answer can be found. A common element in many of them is precisely their willingness to offer their lives for the salvation of souls.

It’s their ultimate and total sacrifice, which they do consciously and freely. Of course, the standard here is no one else than Christ himself who offered his life lovingly for our redemption. Remember what our Lord said:

‘No man takes my life away from me. I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again.” (Jn 10,18)

The saints believe in these words of Christ, and follow them. They are convinced that if they die with Christ, they also will rise with Christ. Death for them acquires a very special meaning, infused with powerful redemptive value.

We need to penetrate into this reality of our life and death. We cannot remain in the superficial, in the level of self-serving reasoning, confined only in the fields of politics, diplomacy, pragmatism, etc. They certainly are important, and also indispensable, but they are not meant to be everything.

Death, to a consistent Christian believer, is not simply the end of one’s earthly life. It can be his final act of love and reconciliation with God. It has tremendous nuclear power to effect goodness in the whole network of humanity known in Christian doctrine as the communion of saints.

The little act of love, done even in isolation, affects not only the one who does it, but also everybody else. And somehow an element of dying is involved in loving, not matter how little that loving is.

This is simply because love involves a certain self-denial to be able to give oneself to others. That is the ultimate essence of love. It entails a dying to oneself to be able to give oneself to the other.

Thus, the example of our Lord who told us to learn of him, “for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11,29) There’s a mysterious constructive force that is released whenever one dies to himself through humility, obedience, meekness, and ultimately our physical death. This is what St. Paul said to refer to this truth:

“The foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise. The weak things of the world has God chosen that he may confound the strong.

“And the base things of the world, the things that are contemptible, has God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are.” (1 Cor 1,27-28)

We have to learn to relate all our human efforts to solve our problems here on earth, including terrorism, to the requirements of the spiritual and supernatural character of our human condition.

Our life cannot be viewed only on its temporal and material dimensions alone. Our life is one and indivisible. It has natural and supernatural dimensions that we need to learn how to integrate together. Death is actually not an end nor a rupture, but a transition, a passage from time to eternity.

That’s why saints are not afraid to die. They welcome it.

Chaplain, Center for Industrial Technology and
Enterprise (CITE)
Talamban, Cebu City





Prophet in politics

September 28, 2009

WE have to clarify the concept of prophet these days. Sadly, even as a word, it’s now hardly heard. No one talks nowadays about being a prophet. That’s unfortunate because to be a prophet is an integral part of our Christian identity.

We all share in different ways in the prophetic mission of Christ and the Church, because we are made in God’s image and likeness, raised to the level of grace to be God’s children, and somehow commissioned also by Christ to go “preach to all nations….”

The ideal is that we all think and speak as God thinks and speaks. That’s God’s will. That’s how we are also made. Obviously, given our human condition this ideal has to be pursued in stages, in varying levels and degrees, and to contend with all sorts of factors, conditions and challenges.

It’s also because of this that certain persons are given special gifts of prophecy to help others to become prophets themselves eventually. St. Paul says:

“He that speaks in a tongue, edifies himself, but he that prophesies, edifies the church.” (1 Cor 14,4)

But we should never understand this to mean only a few are meant to be prophets. All of us are meant to be prophets!

What makes this whole business more exciting these days is that it seems to be prophetic is concerned almost exclusively about politics. We get the impression that prophesying is reduced to things political.

Some priests and religious talk about being prophets only when they want to say something about political issues. Now that elections are coming, we hear this word more often in that context.

Some portray themselves as mystic-prophets, often to denounce and condemn both persons and problems, many times straying already into partisan politics. Others are organizing seminars to know how to be a prophet in politics.

Not that they can’t. In fact, they should in some opportune moments. To be sure, to be a real prophet in politics can be considered as one of the highest, if most difficult, way of exercising the prophetic mission. It’s just that being a prophet involves a lot more than what they so far are showing in public.

It requires not only the sacraments, but also the doctrine well assimilated and lived. It requires a living union with God, a real sanctity and genuine integrity, and not just put-on patina of righteousness.

It requires a lot of patience, broadness of mind, prudence, flexibility, capacity to integrate varying and often competing factors. It requires discretion, fortitude, rectitude of intention, good manners and even cheerfulness, and, of course, charity.

It also involves a constant effort to evangelize, not only in the big things like business, politics and other social concerns, but also and mainly in the little and ordinary things that are with us always.

To be a prophet in politics is actually a must. We just need also how to respect the nature and character of politics, just like any other temporal and earthly affairs we have.

There is a certain autonomy in politics that needs to be understood and handled well. It’s this autonomy that precludes easy dogmatization of views and positions that in itself are open to opinion. It attracts pluralism of views that should be respected.

We have to be understand well that the subject of rights that should be respected always are the persons who have to be considered in their concrete circumstances, with all their positive and negative traits.

It’s not the “truth” understood as the many views and opinions we have regarding certain issues that have the rights. Thus, even if we are sure that our views are the correct ones, we need to learn to discuss, dialogue, negotiate, practice tolerance, etc., in the political space that should be given to all of us.

Preaching Christ in politics is in this kind of attitude and practice. It’s not in ramming our views on others just because we think they are the right ones. That would be a kind of tyranny and dictatorship, of unhealthy clericalism. Christ preferred to die on the cross than fall to these practices.

Besides, if present examples are to be considered, many of these views are outright partisan and often based on biases, hearsays, anger, etc.

We need to learn how to be real prophets in politics! We need to purify and upgrade our understanding and culture regarding our prophetic mission in politics.





Basic Justice

Fr. Roy CimagalaBy Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
September 21, 2009

LIKE love and freedom, justice is a big word that means many things to many people.

It has suffered so much stretching that it often appears distorted, warped and made use of. Its basic element is forgotten under so much clever overlays, questionable leavenings or sheer malice. Sometimes we are not even aware of it.

These distortions and selfish use of justice, of course, generate their own drama that leads us to extended conflicts, usually framed within the arena of the inconsequential aspects of the issue, but not the root of the issues itself.

There’s often much ado about nothing. Only self-interests are disturbed, feelings strained, biting discord generated. The higher common good is ignored, the bigger picture neglected, blinding passions revved up.

They remind us of what St. James says in his Letter: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” (3,16-17)

What is this basic element, or the nucleus of justice? It is none other than an abiding sense of what we owe to others – first to God, then to others. Our main problem is that when we see others, we tend to think only of what they mean or have to do with us.

Instead of others-oriented, we are self-oriented. This is a predicament we have to be more aware of, so we can be properly guided and reminded of our duties. We need to continually indulge in certain exercises to put us in the right track. Hopefully the proper attitude becomes second nature in the future.

Let us examine ourselves: What do I think every time I see a person, or consider a person in my mind? If it’s duties we owe to them, then we are starting to live justice. If we get stuck in the externals and, worse, pursue thoughts about how they can mean to us, we are taking the wrong turn of the crossroad.

We also need to realize ever deeply that justice is an always concern. We don’t think of it only when big problems – usually causing us some discomfort – erupt. It has to be a permanent attitude which we put in active mode both in ordinary and extraordinary situations. It should never be allowed to sleep.

Obviously, all this will depend on an objective law of right and wrong, good and evil. This law just cannot be generated from within oneself. It has to come from outside us – more correctly, from above us, God himself.

Thus, we need to understand that justice can only be properly lived if there is an abiding relationship between a person and God, between a society and God, between our legal system and God, etc.

For sure, this is going to be a dynamic relationship which can admit some errors and confusion. So we need to give allowance to these possibilities. But if it is earnestly pursued, I’m sure we can see the true face of justice.

Short of that, let’s not deceive ourselves and say we have justice. We will never have justice. At best, we can have an appearance of justice, which can be worse, since it will be a very treacherous kind of justice.

Sad to say, this is what we have aplenty. Without a strong mooring on God, we go about trying to have justice in our own conflicting terms. Things can get worse when the media come in, since another agenda alien to the original intent of justice can be pursued.

The recent Simala controversy is an illustrative example. I suppose all parties involved have a point to make, as in all other controversies. When the media joins in, usually already with a defined, if hidden, bias, the picture which in the first place is not supposed to be seen by all, gets more muddled.

I wonder what kind of justice will be achieved here. Just the same, some good can always come out. In this particular case, I’m happy that allegations about gay presentations within the shrine are emerging, so that these anomalies can be corrected, if painfully.

In one Christmas clergy party (not in Cebu), I was devastated to see a priest, who acted as the emcee, dressed as a girl with wigs, screaming make-up and revealing off-shoulder gown. Some bishops were there, and a good number of the laity also.

This kind of jest is simply foul!





An Open Letter to Commissioner Leila De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
September 17, 2009

Basil FernandoMs. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg.,
Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City

Dear Commissioner De Lima:

The Commission on Human Rights is urged to initiate a dialogue with President Arroyo asking her to sign the Anti-Torture law promptly.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to express its appreciation of the recent developments that the bill, which seeks to criminalize torture, has been ratified by the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives on August 17, 2009. Though the bill has already been ratified, it has yet to be signed by the President into law.

The bill would make it possible to prosecute members of the security forces and state agents for committing acts of torture, as defined by the Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Since the Philippines is a signatory to the CAT, it is incumbent upon the state to ensure domestic legislation in compliance with the Convention.

The AHRC is aware that your office is one of the government agencies monitoring this legislation process.

As you are aware, freedom from torture has long been recognized under the Article 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. This is a Constitutional right; thus, this measure criminalizing torture, once signed into law, would certainly uphold the Constitutional right of the victims and facilitate the possibility for them to seek legal redress, compensation and rehabilitation, of which they have been deprived for decades.

However, a month after the legislative body ratified the bill there has been no substantial progress. In fact, the bill has yet to reach the Office of the President (OP) in order for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to sign it into law. Furthermore, even before the bill reaches her office for signature there has been an 'unofficial announcement' that it might be vetoed.

Once again, the AHRC expresses its deep concern about this delay merely, as it appears, due to the 'procedural issues'. After over two decades of failing to have a domestic law on torture legislated, and now that the legislative body has come out with a commonly agreed version and has ratified it, any further delay merely on the 'procedural issues' cannot be tolerated.

The AHRC is aware of the CHR's proactive measures in recent times. An excellent example is the investigation about the vigilante killings in southern Mindanao and there have been others which have often yielded positive results. We are of the opinion that your office can play an important role, in addition to monitoring the legislation process, by lobbying to ensure that this bill is signed into law promptly.

Thus, we are once again urging the CHR to use your power and authority by way of taking the lobbying further. We urge you to exercise your power under section 3 of Executive Order No. 163, in particular, of "request(ing) the assistance of any department, bureau, office or agency in the performance of its functions".

The CHR, as an independent body, would have had enormous weight in terms of influencing policy made on the part of the executive branch. Thus, we urge you to initiate a direct dialogue with President Macapagal-Arroyo so as to emphasise to her the importance and necessity of having this law signed promptly.

The AHRC shares your observations that the lack of domestic legislation criminalizing torture is one of the obstacles as to why victims cannot obtain legal remedies and prosecute the perpetrators who violate their rights. To have this bill signed into law is a crucial step, fundamental to the protection of human rights in the country.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission,
Hong Kong





Religion in school

Fr. Roy CimagalaBy Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
September 16, 2009

THE role of religion in school is fast becoming a controversial topic these days. To me, this is one more sign of the bleeding secularist mentality that’s emanating from many so-called developed, but actually troubled, countries like the US and those in Europe.

What’s a secularist mentality? That’s a mindset that has driven away God and anything related to him, the spiritual and supernatural truths, from their man-made world. Not only, driven away. Some have gone berserk in their hostility toward God.

Obviously, this is a sociological assertion at best, a generalized view that admits of a lot of exceptions, some small, but others can be qualified as significant.

So we should approach this topic with a grain of salt. We should never be too negative and pessimistic about the problem. There’s always hope. We just have to continue supplying reasons for our beliefs, and to keep the channels of healthy dialogue with different parties open and active.

Truth is there are expanding sectors that, for example, would not like to have any kind of prayer done in public or religious figures displayed. Obama, for example, had the crucifix covered when he gave a speech in Notre Dame U.

That, to them in their so-called enlightened logic, would already constitute a breach of freedom and human rights. It certainly is an issue worth pursuing in a cordial dialogue.

This disturbing development has led the Vatican, particularly its Congregation for Catholic Education, to recently send a circular letter to Bishops and those involved in education all over the world.

In it, basic principles about the nature, character, function and purpose of Catholic education or, in short, the role of religion in school, are reiterated.

It might be good to go over them, also because in our midst, though we still can brand ourselves as a religious and pious country, there are indications of neglect, confusion, even outright error, in this delicate area of concern.

There are four main parts of the letter, each of them quite self-explanatory but worthwhile re-articulating, since with all the information overdrive we have, we tend to have only partial, incomplete and unsystematic grasp of the issue.

These parts are: (1) the role of schools in the Catholic formation of new generations; (2) nature and identity of the Catholic school – the right to a Catholic education for families and pupils; subsidiarity and educational collaboration; (3) religious education in schools; and (4) educational freedom, religious freedom and Catholic education.

Perhaps to put these four parts in a more organic whole, we can say that while schools are needed for the Catholic education of children, Catholic schools, mainly established by parents who are the primary educators, have a right to exist.

These Catholic schools should not be subjected to undue pressures. Quite the contrary, they should be not only welcomed but encouraged by the civil authorities who also have a right to check on them for some basic civil requirements.

This parental right is not meant to contravene other initiatives originating from the state or special groupings that may wish to put up schools. It’s just a basic right that needs to be recognized, respected and where possible fostered and assisted by higher entities.

These schools highlight the crucial role of religion in the education of children. While they respect those with different views, those behind these schools believe religion is indispensable in forming children to be mature, responsible citizens and believers.

Thus, these schools should not treat religion as a marginal subject, but should rather treat it as the queen of all the sciences taught there. That might sound too big to say, but it has real basis. It just needs to be reiterated, renewed and constantly revalidated, especially by the life-witness of those involved.

This has to be said because there are now so-called Catholic schools that are increasingly diminishing the importance of religion in their educational efforts. Their Catholic identity is wavering, as if gripped in fear or shame.

It also has to be said that these schools are a result of educational and religious freedom. But it’s a freedom that is not of the anything-goes type, but recognizes the authority of the Church that has the duty to set standards.

There are questionable ideas of academic freedom that need to be corrected. Sadly, they can sometimes dominate in some big Catholic centers of learning.

In short, there are many things to be taken care of to see that the nature, rights and duties of Catholic schools in teaching religion in schools are respected.

Chaplain, Center for Industrial Technology and
Enterprise (CITE)
Talamban, Cebu City




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