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

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Removing Lady Justice’s blindfold

Our sexual identity

Impeachment: What to Expect?

Agenda item for 2012

Enact Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill now!

RH is unreasonably expensive!

A stranger's thoughts of a place in her country

Laudable efforts of Kaisampalad Inc.

Basey Water District finally audited by LWUA

A blatant display of animosity from the South Wing






Good Friday people

March 29, 2012

 “Ironically, it is often non-believers who seem closest to following Christ.”

[ Looking for a book that will carry you beyond Palm Sunday?, we asked a few Lents back. Written by Dr. Shiela Cassidy, “Good Friday People” looks at broken men and women – and the grace that shines through them. She was jailed and tortured by the Chilean military, for treating rebels. Dr Cassidy is a UK hospice medical director – JLM ]

"Good Friday people is a phrase I coined, for those who find themselves called to powerlessness and suffering,” she writes. “(These) are men and women, broken in body and assaulted in mind – deprived not merely of things we take for granted.

"God calls them to walk the same road His Son trod.... I have no clever answer to the eternal 'Why' of suffering. But whatever its cause and outcome, it is never without meaning."

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel captures this “sense of the absence of God”, Cassidy notes. Then 14-years old, Weisel was forced along with other Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, to watch the Gestapo execute a child.

"Where is God? Where is He now?’ someone behind me asked, Weisel recalls in his book: Night "And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is – He is here hanging on this gallows.

“Never shall I forget these moments which murdered my God and turned my dreams into dust," Weisel added.  "Never shall I forget even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

Weisel had the look of a “Lazarus, risen from the dead yet still a prisoner…stumbling among shameful corpses,” recalled Catholic philosopher Francois Mauriac. In his foreword to Night, Mauriac wrote: "And I, who believed that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which appeared on the face of the hanged child?

"Did I speak to him of that other Israeli, his brother – the Crucified, whose cross conquered the world? Did I affirm that conformity to the Cross and suffering was, in my eyes, the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished?

"We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child," Mauriac adds. "But I could only embrace him weeping."

In her book, Cassidy accompanies "Good Friday people" – from El Salvador’s Oscar Romero, the timid priest who emerged into a fearless defender of the descamisados, sick people, Maryknoll nun Eta Ford to Marxist folk singer Victor Jara.

Their suffering "make us want to screen our faces, to turn away," Cassidy writes. "Yet, is through them that the grace of God flows to our arid souls... There is a terrible agony in watching someone hollowed out with a knife… even if the end result is an instrument on which is played the music of the universe”.

There is Beth and her third bout with cancer. "Unable to wait for her to die, her man had gone off with another woman. She “spent a life of drawing short straws'." Or the dying Katie. "Day after day, she waited. But the visitor never came: not her mother, nor her lovers, not even her children."

Catherine’s tumor had spread to her brain. She had few symptoms but soon she’d be in deep trouble. Radio therapy could only buy time. “I just want whatever is best for my daughter,” she said as tears fell.

“There is rare beauty in selflessness of this kind,” Cassidy writes. “Some go to their deaths grasping everything. These are people who will call you away from another patient’s deathbed to adjust their television.”

Jesuit priest Rutilo Grande insisted his El Salvador seminarians live among slum dwellers and landless peasants. “However much one may know about poverty and oppression at an intellectual level, meeting the poor themselves is something quite other.”

Like that of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Father Grande’s efforts, helped the poor "rediscover the Old Testament concept of God as liberator of his oppressed people." It was the poor who showed Grande and Romero “what they required of their church,” Cassidy notes. “Not just the catechism and the sacraments but something much harder: to speak out against injustice.”

The military junta goons killed both of them, of course.

But Grande’s system of exposure to “Good Friday people” anchors seminary training today, including the Philippines. And Romero’s address, on receiving the Nobel Peace prize in 1980, still resounds: “There are those who sell a just man for money and a poor man for a pair of sandals…It is the poor who force us to understand what is really taking place…The poor are the body of Christ. Through them, He lives on in history.”

Ironically, it is often non-believers who seem closest to following Christ. Chilean singer Victor Jara abandoned studies for the priesthood “and put his ‘honest guitar’ to work on behalf of the marginalized. He too was killed.

“Should I be speaking of a Marxist folk-singer in the same breath as Jesus?,” Cassidy asks. “The answer is surely yes. For did he not embark on his road to Calvary in response to a call to serve the poor.”

"(Yet), we are all potentially Good Friday people. We are all frail earthen vessels who, should the potter choose, be fashioned in His image and for his own mysterious purposes….And we tremble because we too may be called to powerlessness... “





ANAD warns NPA: Do not ever provoke us!

By ANAD Partylist
March 21, 2012

The goriest of all killings of innocent and helpless Filipinos are justified by the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front as revolutionary acts (sic!). Yet they have the stomach to demand justice from the government that they’re obsessed in destroying! They recklessly murder people without serving out the required due process mandated by international covenants on the protection and promotion of people’s right and welfare! This, notwithstanding the guarantees and mandates enshrined by our country’s constitution that the Maoist terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF blatantly defied, time and again!

The statement by a certain Simon Santiago, self-claimed Political Director of the NPA’s Medardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao, last March 16, sends more chilling signals against our people’s peace instead of giving adequate and clear responses to the unfettered violence and inhumanity they purposely committed and permeated, in the countryside.

There is no instance that the Maoist terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF could easily justify their killing of helpless civilians, extorting money and goods from hapless civilians and legitimate businesses, proliferation and use of the prohibited improvised explosive devices (IEDs), recruit minors and exploit them as child warriors in combat, and in spreading scurrilous lies and deceptions to mislead our people and sway public opinion against the constitutionally mandated government of the Republic of the Philippines!

Democratic processes demands the institutionalization of due process and the observance of the equal protection clause before any penalty is meted out against anyone. Sad is the fact that this is strikingly most violated and was never complied by the Maoist CPP-NPA-NDF! They’ve maintained their propensity to shoot first before justifying (sic!) any of their acts against humanity! They shamelessly cower behind the issues raised by their minions, in the political sectoral-front groups, against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan to hide their dastard and irresponsible conduct against humanity! This surely is ‘COLD BLOODED’ murder!

In the case of Patrick Winiger, his death was indeed one of the many coldblooded killings perpetrated with impunity by the terrorist NPAs. Contrary to the sickening allegations made by Santiago, an acolyte of Maoist terrorism’s demonic icon, Jose Ma. Sison, Patrick’s strong faith in God did it all for him! His unswerving love for and loyalty to our Creator and his fellowmen, in North Cotabato, fueled the outburst of the NPA’s hate on him. Again, his unwavering faith in God that he obligingly shared with the people of Makilala, North Cotabato, caused thousands of its residents to directly refute the NPA Medardo Arce Command’s mischievous accusation that he masterminded the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio. Instead, the people raised their accusing finger and pointed it against the NPAs as behind Fr. Tentorio’s death.

The NPA’s lies and pretensions persists in the same manner that their comrades in the Maoist sectoral front and pseudo partylist groups deliberately displayed, while the latter prominently manifesting viciousness in the hallowed halls of the House of the Peoples Representatives!

We should not forget that the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) still maintains its full adherence to a non-violent advocacy in confronting and opposing the evils of Maoist terrorism methodically spread by the tentacles of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), e.g. violent of the New Peoples Army (NPA), and the lies and deceptions of the National Democratic Front (NDF) through its legal front organizations under Bagong Alyansa Makabayan (BAYAN), pseudo partylist groups led by Bayan Muna (BM), and its political party Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (MAKABAYAN).

Nevertheless, ANAD officers and members will not be prevented from protecting themselves against any forms of threat from the violent NPA. Indeed, violence begets violence! We dread that day when the situation shall be - - TOOTH FOR A TOOTH!

If and when this condition and situation happens because of government’s abject failure to protect her citizens from harms way, then we shall be compelled to protect ourselves! We are reminded of that situation, in the middle and late 70’s, when the residents of Agdao, Davao City banded themselves and formed the widely known Alsa Masa of Davao. They stood firm against the barbarism of the Maoist terrorist NPAs. This fervor spread like wildfire, all over the country.

We strongly warn the Maoist terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF not to start the fire!

Surely, ANAD will not douse water to put out the fire but shall hit back once provoked. We know your weak points! Surely, retribution shall be initiated against your political and legal-sectoral personalities in the community, all over the country.

We hope and pray that Patrick shall be the last one in the long list of the thousands of ANAD officers and members killed in cold-blood by the NPAs.

Do not ever provoke us!





Everyone especially the government should be concerned with the welfare of the poor

A Lenten message by the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group
March 20, 2012

We, the bishops and clergy of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group are one with Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message to be “concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

This Lenten Season, the Holy Father invites us to reflect on the heart of Christian life which is charity. “Being concerned” means being responsible for our brothers and sisters and not being indifferent to their plight. The true followers of Christ hold the griefs and sufferings of the poor as their own (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 1).

In the context of the Philippine society, we witness the miserable situation of a sizeable number of our people who are hungry, jobless and homeless. The unabated oil price increases result to the skyrocketing price of basic commodities, which in turn, add a heavier burden to our already suffering people.

Pope Benedict XVI also exhorted in his Lenten message that we must not remain silent before evil.

With the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He conquered sin, death and the law. His resurrection spells hope and total salvation, the salvation of the whole person.

A challenging implication of this is that God chose to partner with us in his project of salvation. Since salvation is both a gift and a task, we have to struggle untiringly for the salvation of all.

In this light, we echo Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation in Caritas in Veritate that governments must safeguard and value the human person who is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 25).

Independent research institutions, however, have recently reported that oil companies have overpriced the pump price of oil by 8% - 43%. In addition, the government is said to have benefited from the unregulated oil price increases as it earned revenues of P48 billion pesos annually or a total of P239.6 B in the last five years due to the 12% VAT on oil.

We thus call on the Aquino Government to manifest that it is indeed concerned with the well-being of the Filipino people by taking steps to alleviate their sufferings such as: regulating the oil industry so that oil companies will be stopped from overpricing the price of oil; removing the VAT on oil; and instituting price control over basic commodities.

May Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection inspire all of us to work for a transformed world: a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more hunger, injustice, oil price hike, exorbitant taxes, skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, graft and corruption, unfair labor practice, land monopoly, profit-orientedness and insatiable greed; where all people enjoy the fullness of life, truth, justice and genuine peace.

As Christ lives,

Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro/ Head Convenor of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG)





An ecumenical pledge to condemn and oppose large-scale mining in Eastern Visayas, Masbate province and all over the country

A unity statement by the Eastern Visayas Ecumenical Forum during the People’s Mining Forum at the Cawaksi Learning Center, San Jose, Tacloban City
March 19, 2012

Biblical Text: Romans 8:22-24a - “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

With this FORUM, we are launching in our churches and communities in Eastern Visayas and Masbate province our sacred crusade to stop large-scale commercial mining and thereby preserve what is left of the natural wealth of the land, rivers, seas God has endowed Eastern Visayas and the province of Masbate. We believe it is a demand of our faith to show our commitment to uplift the poor and the hungry in the rural areas using the resources of our land and seas to our advantage.

The integrity of God’s creation given to the people of Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Masbate has been desecrated and destroyed for ages now by a few and powerful mining foreign investors with their Filipino counterparts as their dummies and in cahoots with the government. This problem has been with the Eastern Visayanos and Masbateños for almost a century now. This has made impossible the distribution of unused public lands and the tenanted lands of the rural landlords to the landless farmers. In spite of all this exploitation that could be valued in billions, we know there are still trillions of pesos worth of bauxite, chromites, pyrite, nickel, copper, gold, uranium, coal, aluminium, vanadium, titanium, and 20 other mineral deposits left in the whole of Eastern Visayas.

To be more specific, they are in the municipalities of Laoang, Mapanas and Palapag of Northern Samar province; Guiuan, Salcedo, Gen. McArthur, Hernani, Llorente, Maydolong and Borongan of Eastern Samar province; Gandara, Jiabong, Motiong, Paranas, San Jose de Buan, Hinabangan, Calbiga and Basey of Western Samar province; Ormoc, Albuera, Abuyog, Mahaplag, McArthur, Baybay, Inopacan of Leyte province; Hilongos, Bato, Matalom, Tomas Oppus, Bontoc, Macrohon, Pintuyan, Hinunangan, Hinundayan, and the Panaon Islands in Southern Leyte province; the island province of Biliran; and, Aroroy, Masbate.

There are still close to half a million hectares of virgin forests and centuries-old trees in our hinterlands, plus the hundred thousand metric tons of fish and sea resources in our ten seas, bays and rivers. With the lifting of the 1995 ban on mining, the “revitalization program”, and the transfer of direct and exclusive control on mining to the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, this remaining wealth of God’s creation meant for us and those coming after us is in serious danger of being taken away again, even with planned Executive Order on Mining by the P-Noy government.

We believe it is an imperative of the faith of the religious in our region to join hands and lives to preserve and defend the wealth God has bestowed on the people of Eastern Visayas and Masbate. We are happy with the six Bishops and their clergy in the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Catarman, Calbayog, Borongan, Palo, Naval, and Maasin; with the Conference Ministers, Pastors and Lay Leaders led by the Area Bishop in the East Visayas Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines; and with the Bishops and Priests of the Diocese of BILLESA (Biliran, Leyte and Samar) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. They have already shown their unequivocal position against the large-scale mining in more ways than one. We join hands with them and the religious organizations and groups in Eastern Visayas and all over the country in this action of protest against destructive mining operations.

With this FORUM, we want this CALL:

1. Stop the wanton anti-people exploitation of our wealth by foreign and local mining companies;

2. Junk or repeal Mining Act of 1995;

3. Support and uphold People’s Mining Bill 4315

4. For all parishioners of Roman Catholic, Iglesia Filipinas Independiente and United Church of Christ in the Philippines to participate in the education, mobilization and organization programs and activities on upholding the People’s Mining Bill 4315.

We must remember that we are part of the four million people of the region in their collective efforts to sustain, develop and make these natural resources useful to our quest for survival and decent living.

Indeed, the region’s natural wealth of mines and lumber is estimated to be more than $33.33 billion or P1.833 trillion, or 27% of the natural resources of the entire country.  Yes, the region is rich, but the people are poor and hungry. Out of the 4.2 million people in Eastern Visayas alone, 1.9 million have no work, under-employed, and under-salaried. Most of them earn P100 a day, far below the minimum wage of P238, and P496 as family wage. Ninety percent (90%) of these who are without work, under-employed and under-salaried are rural peasants, tenants and agricultural workers. Ten percent (10%) are urban poor: the region’s counterpart of the national sectors of the teachers, the students, and the government employees, the transport drivers of buses, vans, jeeps and tricycles, as already mentioned earlier.

We appeal for steadfastness and perseverance in this crusade to obey God’s mandate to take organized care of our land, its minerals and trees, our seas and rivers here in Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Masbate. With this, we will all the more strongly expose, oppose and stop the exploitative mining activities of any corporation, foreign and local, in Eastern Visayas and Masbate.

The problem of mining and in the rural areas in Eastern Visayas, Masbate and the entire archipelago is a clear challenge to us Christians to show to the world that the churches we have decided to belong to are indeed the churches of the poor!





“Wang-Wang” two

March 16, 2012

“Reform is the last thing in many politicians’ minds.”

“Is this Wang-Wang Two?”, some people ask.  The query masks deeper concerns that anchor Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s most recent memo-circular.

Don’t plaster your names – or mug shots – on Government’s Conditional Cash Transfer projects, Robredo reminded local government officials. Otherwise known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, CCT provides direct help to the poorest.

In 2012, President Benigno Aquino proposes to pump P49.2 billion into this center piece program.  Cash transfer are made directly to poorest families. In return, the families commit to keep children in school and undertake health checks.

Do we really grasp the desperate straits of the country’s poor?  We know the “stats” by note.

Poverty incidence exceeds 33 percent, we say. Thus, only six out of 10 kids tip the scales for normal weight-for-age standards. Over 162 mothers die in every 100,000 live births. Only 70 percent of students, who enroll in Grade 1, make it to Grade 6. And one in five kids, between 6-11 years of age, are not in school.

Thus, the country lags in meeting 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets. The gaps are in key areas: universal primary education, maternal mortality, and access to reproductive health services.

Few of us really sense the pain in the cold data of men and women deprived.  “Who made him dead to rapture and despair?, Edwin Markham wrote.  “A thing that grieves not and that never hopes… Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Government sold the poor short.  In the twilight of the Arroyo regime, “national government spending on social services was only 5.9% of gross domestic product”. Asian Development Bank notes spending on social protection dipped even lower to only 1.2%”.

These crumbs were “further compromised by weak targeting systems to identify beneficiaries and high leakages to the non-poor.”  Escalating food prices whittled down by over 9 percent average standard of living. Severity of poverty doubled in the absence of appropriate safety nets.

Both World Bank and Asian Development Bank support President Aquino’ CCT program, now in its second year. Robredo has moved to insulate this program further from deeply-engrained self-aggrandizement practices of politicians.

“It was sickening”, wrote Rolly Espina of Visayan Daily Star.  “Earthquake victims in Guihulngan, Jimalalud, Tayasan, and La Libertad lined for relief items bearing the slogan of Governor Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental. President Aquino, Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Red Cross Governor Migz Zubiri appealed to politicians not to fight for the credit.”

Scores of poiticians posters still dot Zamboanga del Norte or Davao del Sur, among others. Reform is the last thing in many politicians’ minds.

Senate Bill 1967, filed by of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago if approved, would become an “Anti-Epal Law”. These provide penal sanctions for horn-tooting by politicians. Until then, ”we cannot sanction them,” Robredo said.“ But we can rip the streamers that have their names and photos.”

President Aquino set the pattern on Day One of his administration.  “Enroute to take his oath, as the Republic’s 15th president, Benigno Aquino III yanked the plug on his car’s wang-wang, this column noted in “Contrast Tutorials” (Sept 27, 2010). That silenced car sirens of politicians elsewhere.

“Convoys of Ampatuan warlords would “wang-wang” citizens aside when they barreled through Maguindanao’s rutted streets. They’ve stopped. “Example moves the world more than doctrine”, says author Henry Miller.

In his first State of the Nation message, Aquino deployed the wang-wang as symbol for a mindset of privilege. “Utak wang wang”, he said gouges a people of wealth – and worse of values.

That theme resonates today in the impeachment of Supreme Court chief Justice Renato Corona. “We’ve had hints as to the Chief Justice’s character, “Inquirer’s Rina Jimenez David wrote.

One is his penchant for special treatment, whether it be a doctoral degree “summa cum laude” without putting in the requisite academic work or appointment as Chief Justice even it fractured the Constitution.

Will we find out later about his using power to sway decisions of high court colleagues?, Jimenez David wonders.  For now, we have stories about his use of power to prevail over his wife’s family members – what P-Noy calls the “wang-wang mentality”.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt calls normalizing of the unthinkable the “banality of evil.”  Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann ensured that “cobblestones, which paved the path to Auschwitz’s gas chambers, where six million died, were perfectly scrubbed.” And are Mr. Corona’s Statement of Assets and Liabilities equally polished?





Surface Artemio and Ruel Labong!

A press statement by KATUNGOD-SB-KARAPATAN
March 11, 2012

Last March 4, 2012 at around midnight, a group of soldiers from 87th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army abducted Barangay Kagawad Artemio Labong, of Brgy. Pagsang-an, Paranas, Samar and his son Ruel, 21 years old.  Barangay Kagawad Labong was interrogated and was tortured in front of his 12 year old daughter. That was the last time that Artemio and Ruel was seen.

The family members of Artemio and Ruel saw that those who have taken them were members of the Philippine Army. They were in full battle gear and in uniform.

The Regional Alliance for the advancement and promotion of human rights, KATUNGOD-SB-KARAPATAN condemns this act of abduction by the members of the 87th Infantry Battalion and demands the immediate release of the two.

The Regional Alliance is in apprehension that the two will be surfaced as members of the NPA caught in the alleged raid of an NPA camp at the boundary of Pagsang-an and Anagasi in Paranas Samar last March 5, 2012. This practice of implicating innocent civilian has been a long practice of the 8th Infantry Division of Armed Forces of the Philippines.

We call on all concern government office and agencies: the Commission on Human Rights, the Local Government of Paranas, the Provincial Government of Samar, to name a few, to look after the welfare of the people and took decisive steps for the resurfacing Barangay Kagawad Artemio Labong ang his son Ruel Labong. Further, to strike down with condemnation the continued violation by the military on the human rights of the people.



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