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

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An invitation to a formal debate

Police torture video affirms police stations are 'torture chambers'

Freedom of religion under threat

Sex Ed a wedge issue

What’s wrong with sex education in schools?

What do YOUTHink?

Condoms a dead man walking

Manganese, Copper… and other questions

Movie making from Waray’s olden history should begin now

Electric Vehicles will end Climate Change





Yellowing journalism

October 10, 2010

EVERYONE is familiar with what is called “yellow journalism,” that kind that is screaming and sensationalistic, not averse to exaggerating things and even inventing and staging events to grab people’s attention.

Yellowing journalism is the process involved in making it. It’s a dynamic mix of many elements and factors, conditions and circumstances, multi-layered and multi-threaded, whose course is uncharted, like an adventure that gives suspense and excitement, except that it can end in a big destructive mess.

The media coverage of the current RH bill controversy reminds me of this yellowing journalism. All the ingredients seem to be present and made to stew. There’s passion and emotion, slogans and buzz words, myths and speculations. Biases and questionable ideologies are the driving forces.

If reason is ever used, it is made to serve the passions. Faith, that is supposed to guide reason, is considered Public Enemy Number One in what is supposed to be an objective pursuit for what is good for us. In fact, there’s a shrill cry for liberation from Church, faith, religion and the like.

This yellowing journalism is not associated with the tabloids. It affects more the broadsheets, the more standard and mainstream brand of journalism. They have become vulnerable because of certain journalistic requirements that have been neglected.

Most of the media practitioners, from publishers down to the reporters, do not know the relation between faith and reason, between religion and their work, the spiritual and material aspects of man, Church and state, etc.

These things are considered abstract and academic and are kept that way, with no effort to convert them into something concrete and practical. If ever they have to acknowledge these values, it’s mainly just lip service, for photo-ops, and not much more.

Those who still care about their faith are ashamed to show it, let alone, to shape and define the character of their work and their life. So they become easy target to atheistic and agnostic sophistries that are often stuffed with immediate practical benefits.

In fact, they usually frame issues like the RH Bill within a strictly economic or social point of view, as if problems are solved only in these levels. Purely human means are flaunted as our authentic savior. This is the tyranny of this kind of attitude. It shuts out the inputs of faith.

Besides, they cite the scandals in the Church as reason to discredit the faith, a clear example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. As if there are no scandals in other places, forgetting we are all humans, with our own share of shortcomings irrespective of where we are placed.

Remember that there was a Judas among the apostles. And Judases can spring up anywhere anytime. That’s always a possibility, given our weakened human condition.

Our attitude should rather be to help one another, and be objective in distinguishing between the truths involved in an issue, derived from faith and our human sciences, and the personalities involved, between the office and the occupant, between the doctrine and the way it is lived.

Faith-based morality is placed at the margins, since nowadays it seems to be the fad to deem morality to be nothing other than a result of economic, social, political and other human and earthly considerations. Sorry, but with this attitude, we are in deepening trouble. We won’t be getting nowhere.

Since faith requires grace, then effort, often torturous, and even sacrifice, it’s no surprise it many times loses to the practicality of reason unburdened by faith.

What aggravates this situation is the phenomenon of strange creatures who call themselves Catholics only to go against the Catholic faith. Their Catholicism is self-produced, self-arrogated and self-inflicted. They go around proudly proclaiming they are Catholics for Choice.

These, I think, are the deadly elements present in yellowing journalism. They thrive in an environment stirred by emotions and passions, with reason playing second fiddle. Faith is ridiculed and ostracized. The crisis is at bottom a question of faith in relation to our earthly affairs.

Worsening things is the emerging reality that much of what we see in the press today regarding the RH Bill seems to be orchestrated by a tremendous machinery of public relation outfits, clearly funded by moneyed international groups and helped by their local lackeys, the NGOs, etc. The fingerprints are all over.

Unless faith is given a fair hearing in this debate, I don’t think we can really resolve this issue properly. Faith, the very soul of our reason, has to be given its proper place.





What we can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change

October 7, 2010

Could people in Samar and Leyte do something to at least mitigate the effects of climate change or global warming?  Better still, could the Warays contribute to world efforts to STOP global warming?

Last Sunday (October 3), I thesisized on the need to make farmers understand these threats to human lives.

Yes, Dr. Jenny Lyn R. Almeria, agriculture department’s operations division chief for Region VIII, has urged for “multi-stakeholders partnerships”.  That was why, I called upon the local government units and the private sector.  Well, we can include elementary and high school students, college students, businessmen, the religious sector, and ALL OTHERS.  We should partner with each other.

No, we do not need to wait for Dr. Almeria to start all these up for us.  In fact, we also do not need our mayors to make pronouncements on these.  All we need is start choosing the partnership idea as a major topic each time we sit down with our friends or with other groups.

Of course, many may say the topics global warming and partnering with others to combat the ill effects of climate change will soon become as sonorous, at first, and monotonous, next, as the topic death itself that we forget about it altogether.  Yes, because many humans today don’t care about dying; they only care to live, survive and be successful all the time.  And, mind you, that’s what the Devil wants humanity to do and become.  Our proclivity to fall into this Devil’s trip and trap will soon make all of us realize that the Devil is winning over God, and that we are ourselves to blame.

Dr. Almeria has pointed out that the global efforts to solve this impending disaster from global warming and climate change seek to attain two common goals: first, that of building the adaptive capacity of communities and increasing the resilience of natural ecosystems to climate change, and second, that of optimizing mitigation opportunities towards sustainable development.

Across sectors and areas of ecosystems, energy, food, water, health, human society and  infrastructure, people around Planet Earth must take adaptation and mitigation strategies to start with.

In adaptation, Dr. Almeria enumerates these global suggestions:  enhanced vulnerability and adaptation assessments, integrated ecosystems-based management, climate-responsive agriculture, water governance and management, climate-responsive health sector, disaster risk reduction, and climate-proofing infrastructure.

Mitigation can come in the way of energy efficiency and conservation, including sustainable infrastructure, and then via renewable energy such as waste management and environmentally sustainable transport.

Cross-cutting these adaptive and mitigating measures should be the following interventions:  capacity development, knowledge management, IEC (information, education and communication) and advocacy, research and development/technology transfer, and gender mainstreaming.

The multi-stakeholder partnerships should also look into the essentials for attaining the twin goals.  These are financing, valuation, ad policy, planning and mainstreaming. These are the means of implementation.

This is the picture of what Dr. Almeria describes as the “climate change impacts and vulnerabilities”.

The challenges and opportunities in climate change impacts is presented as follows:

The Department of Agriculture has taken on its role in disaster risk reduction, to wit: disaster risk profiling, disaster prevention and mitigation, and disaster preparedness.  In disaster risk profiling, the DA goes into hazard assessment – it identifies the typology, frequency and potential severity of an hazard; vulnerability mapping – it identifies geographical areas and communities that are most vulnerable to those hazards; then it identifies the key factors of vulnerability and local coping and adaptive strategies and capacities; and assesses gaps in national policies, legislation and institutional capacity for DRR.

In the prevention and mitigation, the DA promotes appropriate crop selection (testing and introducing new varieties, and choosing drought / flood / saline resistant crops); improved cropping systems and cultivation methods (which includes crop diversification, intercropping, adjustment of crop, and soil conservation); post-harvest management (which consists of storage, food drying, and food processing); pest control; sustainable water management (improved design, construction and maintenance of irrigation and water control infrastructures; rainwater harvesting; and water conservation techniques); afforestation / reforestry and agroforestry; early warning system (by detecting, forecasting and issuing the alert relating to impending hazard event to allow for contingency cropping plans); risk sharing and transfer instruments (which consist of crops / livestock / fishery insurance, and compensation and calamity funds); livelihood diversification (promoting small scale enterprise development, and introducing new farming activities or promoting non-farm activities); and training and awareness raising.

But wait, we cannot leave the DA and the agriculture personnel all alone by themselves.  We have to do our share.  While indeed we may follow all their recommendations, let us also initiate other helpful contributions.  Most importantly, let us not wait. If we do not know so much yet, let’s consult someone knowledgeable in the neighborhood, or let’s read or research.  If someone is already up among us, let’s see how we can help and strengthen the advocacy pursued.  If we have extra cash, let’s chip in some amount for the furtherance of the advocacy.

Okey ba?





A smaller but purer Church

October 3, 2010

When Jesus’ disciples started to peter out one by one because of Jesus’ “hard teaching” about the faithful having to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood to have eternal life, did Jesus stop them?  No, Jesus allowed them to go.

Today, we see before us unfold a similar situation – Catholics of every stripe and hue refusing to heed the Church’s “hard teaching” on contraception, claiming “My conscience tells me that we have an overpopulation.  We must assure full availability of contraceptives. (P-Noy)” or complaining “Can someone tell me where in the bible it say's you are NOT allowed to use contraceptives? How can helping the less fortunate, by giving them a choice be the ‘selling out of their soul? (a Facebook reader)’"

Should the Church go out of her way to stop them?  No. I say the Church should try to reason with them up to a certain point, but beyond that to let them go hang.

We should remember that, although Christ died for all (cf John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Titus 2:11; 1 John 2:2), making heaven possible for all, yet not all will make it, for the simple reason that God will not force us to love him. Salvation, in other words, does not happen in a mechanistic way without the free participation of each human being.  It’s perhaps a recognition of this certainty that the synoptic Gospels (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24) – in conjunction with Is 53:11-12 – in their institution narratives use “for many,” not the “for all” found in the translations into the vernacular of the formula “pro multis” that has been in use in the Roman Rite in Latin for centuries.

In other words, the Church can be likened to a membership club, where individuals who share similar beliefs band together, but who are free to go whenever membership doesn’t appeal to them anymore.

In other words, everyone who’s lucky to have been born Catholic or fortunate enough to have converted to Catholicism should be ready to accept what the Church teaches as something which Jesus himself would confirm were Jesus here with us the same way he was when he taught with his Apostles.

This is because it’s one of the three requirements for membership in the Church.  For those who may not know it yet, there are three requirements before one can be considered inside the Church.  First, he must have been baptized a Catholic.  Second, he must accept everything that the Church teaches as God’s truth.  Third, he must accept the authority of the Pope.  If all of the above are present, one’s a Catholic.  If just one of the three is absent, one is not Catholic.

Now contraception is something that has been taught by the Church consistently for 2,000 years.  Detractors might insist that to be a dogma, the teaching must be declared by the Pope ex-cathedra, one of the requirements being that the Pope have the intention of deciding finally a teaching of Faith or Morals, so that it will be held by all the faithful, that without this intention, which must be made clear in the formulation, or by the circumstances, a decision ex-cathedra is not complete. Now since contraception has not reached this point, it could not be considered binding to Catholics.

This objection by detractors, notwithstanding, the faithful are bound to obey this teaching by the Church.  In the first place, the fact that it is not dogma now in the sense described above doesn’t mean it couldn’t become one, ever. It should be remembered, dogmas are normally pronounced when questions about an issue reach a point that the Pope would have to step in to clarify. Dogmas are not pronounced simply because the Pope woke up one morning feeling like making something a dogma.

Besides, we have to remember, that when a Pope teaches, all the faithful should listen, and popes have consistently taught against contraception for 2,000 years.

In the present controversy, it is clear that it will be wistful thinking to hope that P-Noy, any of the multitude of women on contraceptives, the doctors and health workers who prescribe them, the pharmaceutical companies which make them, the med-reps who push them, and the drug stores which sell them would change their stance in the near future.

That being the case, I believe the Church should simply announce one Sunday Holy Mass, that anyone who has anything to do with contraception is NOT a Catholic, and has no business attending Holy Mass, or availing of any of the sacraments.  Anytime, however, that he or she decides to stop having anything to do with contraceptives, the Church will welcome him back with open arms, much like the Father did with the Prodigal Son.

The measure will decimate the ranks of the faithful, but then, this is not about numbers. It’s about obedience, which is at the heart of love.





Open Letter by NDF-EV to the People on the Diatribes of the Northern Samar Peace and Development Forum

September 30, 2010

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas would like to answer the "Statement of condemnation of the inhuman killing of the eight police officers and barangay councilman" by the Northern Samar Peace and Development Forum dated August 21. The statement was allegedly issued on the day of the tactical offensive by the New People's Army in Catarman, but came to light suspiciously only recently.

The NSPDF statement maliciously makes it appear that human rights violations were committed by the New People's Army in its Aug. 21 tactical offensive against the Philippine National Police in Brgy. Imelda, Catarman, Northern Samar. As the NPA's Rodante Urtal Command has already clarified, T/Sgt. Rolando de Guia was punished for being a military intelligence handler of the 63rd Infantry Battalion, acting under cover as a village councilor of Brgy. Imelda. Moreover, the eight PNP elements who were killed in action were legitimate targets for the NPA. The entire operation against De Guia and the PNP was therefore a legitimate act of war. The NPA has also asserted its firm adherence to human rights and international humanitarian law.

It is thus sheer hypocrisy and manipulation for the NSPDF to pontificate about the NPA's taking away the right to life of the casualties. That is certainly ridiculous, because were not De Guia and the policemen clearly combatants in the armed services of the state, who themselves were ready and authorized to take away the right to life of enemies of the state such as the NPA? We also remind NSPDF that as far as respecting the right to life is concerned, the Philippine government remains a pariah in the international community for more than 1,200 unsolved political killings under Oplan Bantay Laya since 2001. The silence of the Aquino regime on bringing Gloria Arroyo to account for these crimes becomes all the more damning because these continue: at least 12 political killings have been committed by state security forces even before Aquino's one hundred days in office.

The NSPDF also grossly distorts the facts in misrepresenting that the heavily-armed policemen were not combat-ready but only on police investigation, as if even that would not make them legitimate targets as members of the armed services. Much more maliciously, the NSPDF claims the NPA finished off the policemen by shooting them in the head and burning their vehicle. But despite the serious allegation, no credible evidence, or even a formal complaint whether to reactionary or revolutionary authorities, have been presented more than a month after the incident.

The NSPDF statement feigns concern for human rights, but its contents reveal gross distortions, manipulations, and lies that all amount to similar fascist diatribes by the military against the revolutionary movement. It raises questions, such as what is NSPDF, and who benefits from this fascist statement pretending to avow human rights?

To the knowledge of NDF-EV, the NSPDF is a hollow organization but claims to represent, as per its statement, the Church, government, academe, civil society and youth in Northern Samar. In reality, the NSPDF is a puppet organization being manipulated behind the scenes by reactionary government officials and the military in the province to present a pro-fascist united front. They use the NSPDF for parallel political maneuvers in support of the "counter-insurgency" program Oplan Bantay Laya and other reactionary government projects. They have even duped the Church and other members of the community into supporting the NSPDF. The military in fact gave away its leading role in NSPDF in 2009, when it denied responsibility for the assassination of political activist Fr. Cecilio Lucero, and insisted Fr. Lucero supported the military because he participated in the NSPDF. But it is also known Fr. Lucero had distanced himself from NSPDF upon knowing its reactionary nature, refused to cooperate with the military, and was actually investigating human rights violations by the 63rd IB in Catubig, Northern Samar when he was killed.

The latest diatribes by the NSPDF are not for genuine peace and development and thus do not benefit the people. Such a statement intends to obscure the observance of human rights and international humanitarian law in the armed conflict, by disparaging the NPA while ignoring the decade-long impunity of Oplan Bantay Laya. By doing so, the NSPDF also helps to justify the government's escalation of human rights violations, as is being done by the Aquino regime in pursuing Oplan Bantay Laya until Junary 2011, and in planning to supplant it with a new scheme based on the 2009 US Counter-insurgency Guide. Thus, the NSPDF plays a part in sugarcoating "counter-insurgency": massive psywar deception going with brutal military suppression.

We appeal to the Catholic Church and other sectors in Northern Samar: Listen to the sufferings of the people under Oplan Bantay Laya and discern the preponderant influence of the reactionary politicians and the military in the NSPDF. Such an organization only deceives and isolates the Catholic Church and other sectors from the masses of the people. This can only lead to unwitting participation in spreading government-instigated fear and violence among the people because of Oplan Bantay Laya and whatever new "counter-insurgency" scheme of the Aquino regime.

Let us not be like sheep lying down with wolves; let us reject NSPDF now, and oppose Oplan Bantay Laya and the US Counter-insurgency Guide. Instead, let us support the people in genuine struggle for human rights, justice, peace, democracy and national sovereignty.

Fr. Santiago Salas, Spokesperson

National Democratic Front of the Philippines

Eastern Visayas

Reference:  Roy Santos, NDF-EV Media Officer, Email: ,





Statement of condemnation of the inhuman killing of the eight police officers and barangay councilman

By Northern Samar Peace and Development Forum (NSPDF)
A multi-sectoral partnership of the Church, Government, Academe, Civil Society and Youth
21 August 2010

We, the members of the Northern Samar Peace and Development Forum (NSPDF), a multi-sectoral partnership of the Church, Government, Academe, Civil Society and Youth in Northern Samar, Philippines, in grief and solidarity, issue this statement of condemnation on the brutal killing of eight (8) members of our Northern Samar Philippine National Police (PNP) and a barangay councilman on august 21, 2010, Saturday at Barangay Imelda, Catarman.  We mourn the death of our brothers and continue to be in union with their families and all the others who are directly pained by their murder. When we kill, we collaborate with evil, we destroy our humanity that makes us worthy of a life that God alone can give or take.

Mr. Rolando de Guia, a councilman of Brgy. Imelda, Catarman was shot to death for unknown reasons around 5:30 in the morning by armed men whose identities are unknown up to this writing.  Philippine National Police (PNP) Officers were immediately deployed to investigate the incident.  However, close to a hundred (100 m) from the victim’s house, a landmine exploded beneath their vehicle followed by a burst of fire from the assailants around 7:45 a.m. And to make things worse, the assailants shot the police officers on the head and burned the police vehicle to ensure their deaths. PSI Nicasio Lavapie San Antonio, SPO3 Junito Tingzon Julio, SPO1 Juancho Malimban Esteron, PO2 Marcial Espelimbergo Velarde, PO2 Marlon Genio Estremera, PO2 Rodel Martires Balag, PO1 Arnil Olango Saludario and PO1 Edgar Cabales Catunhay died brutally that Saturday morning.  The PNP Officers were not performing combat operations when they were waylaid by an armed group, they were just performing police duties to investigate the killing. A total of nine (9) individuals died that fateful day. (cf. 803rd Infantry Brigade, 8ID, PA, Press Statement, 23 August 2010)

We are all Nortehanons, whatever our belief or ideology, or whatever government agency or institution we are working with, no one among us have the right to kill any fellow human being.  We all want freedom, development, justice and peace. But, we need to work together, and reach for these values through legal means.

We call on everyone to help stop the brutal killings that destroy our humanity by taking the law into our hands.  The evil spirit wants us to be divided and kill one another, the Spirit of God wants us untied and save one another.  These brutal killings violate our human rights and endanger our democratic institutions.  There is nothing in this world that can justify the killing of any human being or anything that harms physical, psychological and spiritual welfare of anyone. We are rational human beings, not beasts who can just harm and eliminate permanently those whom we hate or wish to take revenge on.  Most of all, we are men and women created by God to love and care for one another. We have the law of the land that ensures a system to make a better world.  We all need freedom, but we have to make sure that the way we exercise our freedom does not take the freedom and the right to life of anyone.

We urge all of us to pray hard and never cease to discern in faith, truth and justice to know the difference between good and evil.  We ask everyone to continue to pray for the eternal repose of the souls of our brothers and all others who perished as a result of inhuman needs.

We are confident that the law enforcement authorities will soon restore the peace and order that will reinforce justice in the land.

Again, we condemn the act of lawlessness that killed PSI Nicasio Lavapie San Antonio, SP03 Junito Tingzon Julio, SP01 Juancho Malimban Esteron, P02 Marcial Espelimbergo Velarde, P02 Marlon Genio Estremera, P02 Rodel Martires Balag, P01 Arnil Olango Saludario, and P01 Edgar Cabales Catunhay and to the barangay councilman of Brgy. Imelda, Catarman, Mr. Rolando de Guia.  We offer our prayers for them, and we extend our sincere condolences to their families, friends and companions at work.

God bless us and have mercy on us all.



Task Force on Good Governance

Task Force on Peace and Order

Task Force on environment


Northern Samar Peace and Development Forum

Diocesan Catholic Center (DCC)

Cathedral compound

Catarman, Northern Samar

6400 Philippines





PCID Statement on the formation of the MILF Peace Panel

By Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy
September 14, 2010

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Monday has announced the constitution of its peace panel headed by Mohagder Iqbal.

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) welcomes the return to the negotiating panel of Mohagher Iqbal, as chairman; and Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, Maulana Bobby Alonto, and Abdullah Camlian as members. Their collective wealth of experience in political negotiation and their shared passion for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro will be important as the peace process enters a new phase.

We, at the PCID, are hopeful that the choice of Mr. Camlian who is a native of Basilan will provide representation for Muslims living the island provinces of Muslim Mindanao.

We are likewise pleased with the inclusion to the peace panel of Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, chairman of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, whose intellectual capability and probity should be of big help to the negotiations.

The government had earlier stated that it is prepared to talk peace with the completion of its peace panel headed by UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen.

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) welcomes these positive developments in the GRP-MILF peace process. After the MOA-AD debacle as well as the uncertainty with the new administration's peace approach, the formation of the two negotiating panels represents a constructive direction towards the attainment of lasting peace.

It is PCID's hope that the peace negotiations under the new government will build upon the goodwill and successes of previous negotiations as well as learn from the lessons of the MOA-AD controversy.

We are also encouraged by the announcement of President Aquino III on the formation of an advisory body to be "composed of members from both Houses of Congress, retired justices of the Supreme Court, members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission, local governments in strife-affected areas, nongovernment organizations, and the former chairpersons of previous peace panels."

This will hopefully ensure that the peace process would be inclusive and participatory. The inclusion of members of Congress, for instance, solves a problem in the past where an agreement that was signed by both panels are derailed in Congress.

In PCID's analysis of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement, for instance, we noted how a party--the legislature--crucial to the implementation of the terms of the peace agreement was largely absent in the negotiation phase.

We urge government to treat the peace negotiations not as an occasion to simply manage the conflict but as an opportunity to address the root causes of the conflict that hopefully will lead to sustainable and just peace.

We also urge both sides to seriously consider putting in place an effective social communications strategy that would help the peace process in terms of seeking public support for the peace agreement to be forged.

We appeal to everyone--especially government officials and politicians--to exercise circumspection when issuing statements relative to the peace process. Irresponsible statements bordering on grandstanding and fear mongering can become distractions to the peace process.



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