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Professional independence of judges and lawyers central to the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Asia

MPC Statement on the 45th Anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre

Statement on the Lahad Datu situation

Problems in enforcing Anti-Torture and Cybercrime Laws

The Express Publications, completing a Silver Jubilee of media service

Effectiveness of divine healing


Two sets of jewels

Reforms started by Robredo crucial for nation-building

Frequently Asked Questions on Executive Order 79 (Mining Reform)




PCID Statement on the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing

July 17, 2013

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) congratulates the negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing. We laud the panels’ steadfast resolve to achieve a compromise regarding such a contentious and important issue. PCID welcomes the signing of this annex as a step forward towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. PCID hopes that this annex will strengthen the foundation for genuine fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro. PCID believes that this signing of the annex will boost the people’s optimism that a final peace agreement is within reach, this year.

Although challenges are in the horizon as talks about Power Sharing and Normalization are about to commence, PCID acknowledges that the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing is a good sign that both panels are committed towards achieving a just and fair agreement. PCID, however, sees that the annex is just an initial step towards fiscal autonomy and economic development in the Bangsamoro. PCID considers fiscal autonomy as an integral part of genuine autonomy but it also recognizes that achieving this would require fiscal responsibility from the people and their officials.

PCID recommends that in order to fully actualize the visions in this annex, the Bangsamoro and National Governments must capacitate local officials to adequately implement the taxation provisions in what would be the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We also hope that the Transition Commission will develop the appropriate implementing and monitoring mechanisms as part of the Basic Law. There is also a need to educate the people on how these taxes will facilitate development in their region, and to train them to expect transparency and accountability from their government.

Lastly, we assert the primacy of the peace process and ask both Panels to continue fast-tracking the remaining Annexes of the negotiations. We also ask the Transition Commission to conduct parallel efforts in preparing for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law. We, as civil society, are prepared to assist in any way.





Pecuniary decency

July 14, 2013

Ferdinand Marcos’ coconut levy robbed impoverished farmers blind long after the dictatorship collapsed in 1986. The Supreme Court, last week, shredded crony Eduardo Cojuangco’s claim for sequestered 700 million San Miguel Corporation shares. Should we cheer?

President Benigno Aquino froze tapping into the SMC kitty, until the high court handed a final decision. That came Tuesday.

In a unanimous resolution, the Court declared Cojuangco shares in United Coconut Planters Bank as government-owned. It affirmed the July 2003 Sandiganbayan decision that his UCPB shares were swiped coco levies. The SC upheld shredded “with finality” a May 1975 Philippine Coconut Administration decision: “Compensate” Cojuangco with 10 percent from the 72 percent First United Bank (now UCPB) stocks.

“Farmers hail court ruling in UCPB case,” an Inquirer banner read. Government will sell P14.4 billion worth of the stocks, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. president Valentin Araneta said. That’d go into a trust fund for coconut farmers.

Under martial law, Marcos signed Presidential Decree 276. It directed that “coco levies” be clamped in 68 provinces. These would be owned by cronies “in their private capacities.” Taxes became individual loot.

If PD 276 is not scrubbed as unconstitutional, “Marcos found a legal and valid way to steal,” wrote then columnist Antonio Carpio. As Supreme Court justice today, Carpio finds himself vindicated.

Cojuangco was martial law coconut czar, until People Power drove him into Haiwaiian exile with the dictator. In between, levies bankrolled a hydra of coco mills, a bank, even a producers’ federation that never mustered names of supposed one million members.

Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, in August 1998, presented to President Joseph Estrada a Catholic Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference memo. “Abuse of state power” wrung those monies from impoverished coconut farmers, it said. They should be returned.

But just before People Power II, Erap signed Executive Orders 313 and 315. These delivered the levy – estimated at over P100 billion then – to cronies,” “It was grand larceny that needed ever-larger doses of hypocrisy. Today, Manila Mayor Estrada pledges honest government.

Led by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, the Supreme Court ruled the levy were public funds. A furious Cojuangco unleashed, in November 2003, a “Brat Pack” of Nationalist People's Coalition congressmen to impeach Davide.

”Is this a coalition of cretins?” snapped Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. “The conundrum of the House is: how to climb, out of the shit hole in which a third of its members descended with such stealth…” The House spurned Cojuangco’s “hitmen”.

On the coco levy, the Corona Supreme Court flip-flopped four times. It somersaulted also four times on the bill that turned 16 unqualified towns into cities. Flight attendants, won final judgement on their case, were stunned to learn it had been reversed – by a “final judgment”.

The Corona Court issued March 2011, an “entry of judgment”: Cojuangco’s P56.3-billion SMC shares are now “final.” SMC stock certificates in blank, found in a Malacañang vault when the Marcoses scrammed for Hawaii, “legally” belong to Cojuangco.

“The joke of the century,” snapped then Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. Cojuangco “used for his personal benefit the very same funds entrusted to him,” Morales’ dissenting opinion states. “[These] were released to him through illegal and improper machination of loan transactions. [His] contravention of corporation laws … indicates a clear violation of fiduciary duty…”

Before Tuesday’s decision, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad suggested in an Inquirer interview: Go through the fine print of proposed conversion of SMC shares. It had a curiously “stitched-in qualification”: Should the government sell its shares, San Miguel Corp. “shall have (a) exclusive option to buy said shares and (b) at P75 per share.”

Wait! Isn’t that a Court-sanctioned fire sale for a cozy monopoly? A share commanded P114 at the stock exchange at that time, Coconut Industry Investment Fund chair Wigberto Tañada said. In a free market, government would probably earn P87 billion for the small farmers. But this booby-trapped provision would shackle the government into settling for only P57 billion.

Who’d pocket the P30 billion “diff” this time around?. Farmers would be suckered again – That “joke of the century 2.” But, Tuesday’s decision scrubs that rewind.

This greed plays out in a country where the richest 10 per cent, in mansions, with four-wheel drives and bodyguards, consume 31 centavos out of every peso. In contrast, the poorest 10 per cent, huddled in slums, make do with three centavos. When a crisis hits, the poor pare that down to two centavos. The rich rearrange their menus.

“Here, net worth equals self-worth,” a banker explained. Bank balances and car models set the pecking order. You cornered the coconut levy? You get first places at table, plus a Supreme Court justice or two as bonus.

Some call that “pecuniary decency”. And poverty becomes the original sin. Transporting gold to the grave is the end-all and be-all. Official position evolves into a tool for conserving perks of the elite.

What does it profit a man if he grabs all the levy but in the end have the poor piss on his grave?





Time for magnanimity

May 16, 2013

IT’S either a bright sunny day or the blues. That’s what happens after the elections. Not everyone can be winners. There will always be losers. But whether one is in or out, what we should try to avoid is to become spoiled winners or sore losers.

The political exercises we just had are just that – some kind of sports. We play to win, we do our best, yet in spite of all, we should not be surprised if we lose. And we just have to move on. Of course, if we win, then we should also be ready for the usual bad elements that go with the winning.

Now is the time for magnanimity, deleting the heady, intoxicating surge of victory or the depressing load of defeat. This is not the end of the world yet. And while we are still on the road, we just have to try our best to learn precious lessons along the way.

We need to enlarge our heart, to make it more universal to accommodate everyone and any situation and condition properly. We should evade being caught by the grip of our strong views, and even our positions that we think are so essential that they are not anymore subject to opinion.

This is our usual pitfall that we should try to be wary about always. We have the strong tendency to dominate others especially in a game or exercise for which we give an all-out interest and spend so much money and effort.

In the first place, we really need to purify our intentions before, during and after any race or contest. The intention should be to give glory to God, to show our love for him and for everyone, the common good, through acts of service.

When that intention is corrupted, that is, when it orients itself to oneself rather than on the common good based on God’s will, then we enter into a predicament, a highly toxic situation. We actually would be setting ourselves for a most painful fall.

We need to be very attentive to this need because many are the elements and factors every step of the way that would tend to grab us to make rash judgments, uncharitable thoughts, petty envies, raging anger and hatred.

We are prone to fall into what is called as bitter zeal and self-righteousness, and a spiral of worries, anxieties and resentments. That’s when we think we are the sole owner of what is right, true and fair. We would become Machiavellian to protect and defend our positions.

Without magnanimity, we easily become emotional, that is, we think with our emotions rather than with reason, and much less, with our faith, hope and charity. We caricaturize the positions of opponents while canonizing ours.

Without magnanimity, we fail to understand why others think the way they do. There’s always some reason, perhaps flimsy to us but very convincing to them, as to why they think they do. But we tend to make our own views the absolute truth.

In short, without magnanimity, we become rigid, short-sighted and narrow-minded, unable to go through the humane process of analyzing and clarifying issues. Obviously, it would be difficult for us to be tactful and courteous in the discussions and argumentations.

Let’s be sport and magnanimous. We should think well of the others no matter how different and even in conflict our views may be. The ideal is that while we can have different and even conflicting views, we manage to be friendly to everyone. We would have no enemies.

We should focus more on what is essential rather than on the incidentals. And if the discussion centers more on what is essential and what is incidental, then we should proceed with extreme caution and prudence, knowing to choose the right words and the right timing.

We need to have a firm grip on our feelings and passions. That’s why we should make part of system the practice of self-discipline. We cannot overemphasize this. A person who may be bright and articulate but lacks self-discipline would be a pure pain in the neck.

There are times when that self-discipline expresses itself in just absorbing all the dirt that can be thrown to us without reacting immediately. Self-discipline enables us to see things in a much wider perspective, and equips us with the skill to know when to wait and when to move, when to speak and when to keep quiet.

Let’s take advantage of the little daily opportunities to practice and grow in magnanimity in our dealings with people.





“Persevere in Walking and Talking Peace”

A press statement by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
May 8, 2013

From the beginning, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), has been praying for and supporting the peace negotiations. We celebrated every step forward both parties made. We were disappointed each time peace negotiations were suspended or fell into an impasse. But, we never lost hope. Our statement in November 13, 2002, affirmed this prayerful support saying “it is better to talk peace rather than engage in war”. The NCCP supports the principled negotiations to thresh out the issues, unearth and address the root causes of the conflict. The peace negotiation is a way to just and lasting peace. It is a way to end the armed conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of Filipinos, combatants and non-combatants alike.

The NCCP is very much concerned over the recent statements of the Chairperson of the Philippine government panel, Atty. Alex Padilla of the “collapse” of the peace talks between the Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). From our perspective, a government instituted for the peace and welfare of the people, should be the last to give up on any measure intended for a just and lasting peace. The NCCP recognizes the frustrations arising from the interruptions and we hold no illusion that the process is easy. But we know that obstacles are surmountable. The peace negotiation is itself our example. The statement of Atty. Padilla that “nothing happened in the last 27 years” fails to take into account of the achievements of the peace negotiations.

Most assuredly, the people have long awaited the current segment of the peace negotiations. On top of its agenda is the second one – a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms. Beyond doubt, this agenda is the most essential of the substantive agenda agreed on by both parties in The Hague Joint Declaration. A comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms is a major breakthrough in addressing the issue why there is an armed conflict in the first place. We hope the statement that the peace negotiations collapsed is not an indication of a refusal to address the fundamental issue that has fostered unpeace and injustice in our country for a long time.

The NCCP holds that the approach taken by both panels from the start of the peace negotiations was painstaking but worth holding on to. These are mutually agreed principles which when complied with faithfully by both parties, can propel our country to what we all long for – Shalom upon our land. This approach, we maintain, leads to peace.

We urge both parties to hold on to mutually agreed processes and persevere in talking and walking peace. Beyond the exigencies of the present is our serious accountability to future generations. Their welfare cannot be ensured by calling for the elimination of Filipinos who dissent with government on principled grounds. Rather, it is for government to take leadership that future generations will not “learn of war anymore”.

Even as we make this appeal, we likewise call on the churches, faith communities and the general public to pray and support the resumption of the formal peace talks. Just and lasting peace is our collective legacy to those after us. We have everything to gain especially if the panels of both parties are resolute in ushering in the peace of God, which may be beyond our understanding but which we can experience when there is justice.

Let us, everyone, unite our voices and efforts for the common good and “because everyone will work for justice, there will be peace and security forever”. (Isaiah 32:17)





Permit for illusion?

April 28, 2013

It’s dolled up as “permit to campaign”. In remote Northern Luzon outposts or Mindanao backwaters, candidates cough up cash for a clearance, from armed groups, before they pitch for votes.

“”The permit is exchanged for a cash “contribution” to the kilusan (movement),” wrote Inquirer’s Randy David.“ “(That’s) a cryptic reference to… the Communist Party and New People’s Army…But some may be no more than extortionists, posing as revolutionaries…”.

NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Command spokesman apologized for their attack on 78-year old Gingoog Mayor Ruth de Lara-Guingona and companions. Self defense, he claimed, and repeated warnings against armed escorts. “There’s no mention of the permit-to-campaign fee”, David writes. “But…that is what this is about.”

The assault came at an NPA roadblock collecting “revolutionary taxes”, Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros wrote. Fine, if you accept NPA has every right to mount checkpoints to fleece candidates. “The NPA calls it tax, everybody else calls it extortion”.

There is only one government and one president, (former Vice President and Foreign Secretary) Teofisto Guingiona said. “That’s not the NPA”. Understandably, TG is unforgiving of the NPA. Laudably, he looks beyond retribution. “It is only when we have a genuine peace agreement that we can move forward.”

Peace talks resumed in Norway 2011 – six years after they broke down. The Oslo negotiations aim at ending the “longest-running Maoist insurgency in the world.” Diana Rodriguez and Soliman M. Santos, Jr wrote in their 2010 book “Primed and Purposeful.”

Armed clashes, across almost five decades left 4,745 killed and injured 1,534, incomplete tallies claim. Most were civilians. And 1.2 million became refugees. Bogged down in strategic defense of it’s ‘protracted people’s war’, the Reds never achieved a “great leap forward” of mass adherents, Rodriguez and Soliman add.

Will events on the ground outpace the Oslo initiative?

NPA still reels from paranoid purges of the late 80s. Over 1,400 were slaughtered, from ‘Cadena de Amor', in Bicol-Quezon zone, in 1982 to “Olympia” in Metro Manila in 1989. A “Cannibal Revolution” devoured its own children, noted Inquirer (Jan. 2, 2004) “Remains of comrades” killed without pretense of trials molder today in unmarked graves, reminiscent of Cambodia's “killing fields”.

Some NPA executioners today are button-down executives in Metro Manila offices. “The Party already condemned the abuses,” wrote Anne Buenaventura of the party's information bureau to Inquirer. But it shredded names of the victims and location of their graves.

From it’s peak in the 1980s, CPP ‘withered and splintered”, Australian National University’s Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet wrote in “Philippine Human Development Report”. Weakened by internal pogroms, an CPP evaluation confirms "ideological superficiality.”

Mindanao’s communism party building was notably weak. Communist ideology is part of leaders’ vocabulary. But even among students, analytical sophistication and ideological understanding was inadequate. Cadre training was limited, never systematic.

Lack of ideological cohesion and policy disagreements, after “People Power” toppled the Marcos dictatorship, “contributed to splits and splits-within-splits” in the CPP into the 2000s. That trigged clones of Luzon pogroms. Hundreds died and chaos rocked the party.

Studies in Mindanao, Negros, Nueve Ecija or Cordillera show a large majority of guerrillas and supporters have neither been CPP members, believers in communism nor seekers of a communist run state.

“Their framework in most NPA areas is systematic oppression of the many by a few in Philippine society. And they speak in terms of “no rich and no poor”, rights to land and decent human living conditions.

“In recent years, some analysts find that the guerrilla organization has become a kind of business enterprise. (It) sells protection in exchange for money and other compensation. Customers include corporations, gambling and drug syndicates, government agencies and large landowners…

"Some NPAs are akin to employees who receive monthly wages. Local NPA leaders (resemble) branch managers. And high NPA officials are the enterprise’s central managers and board members.” Kerkvliet urges further studies into this corrosion. But there is hard and repeated evidence of cash for permits to campaign.

Conflict-weary Filipinos make up a constituency for peace, PulseAsia says. Out of every 100 respondents, 35 cited “peace in the country as an urgent national concern. That ranked up there, with inflation (45%) and graft (36%).

Time and history have moved on. Communism as an ideology has collapsed. “It is glorious to be rich,” Den Ziao Peng said. Rebel leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni (a Dutch citizen) are in their late 70s. They wage “revolution” by fax, then Internet, now by twitter and Facebook from Holland.

Their contact, let alone control over NPA units in backwaters here, are tenuous at best. Few NPA units would carry their signatures on “permits to campaign”. JoMa’s ill-disguised bid is to sit down with President Aquno, one on one, as MILF leader Mohagher Iqbal did. This is illusion at it’s most intense.

“In Europe, only two communists are left,” the late Indonesian editor Sumono Mustoffa mused over coffee. “Both are Filipinos.”





Is the Church in crisis?

April 16, 2013

To give a quick, blunt reply, the Church has always been in crisis. That’s its character, it goes with the territory, since it has to deal with all kinds of people, some brilliant and faithful, others not so, etc. That it appears in crisis today is no breaking news.

I suspect that the question is raised today because of that survey that reportedly showed dwindling numbers of churchgoers. But I consider that question moot and academic, with hardly any practical use other than to provoke or embarrass some people.

Ok, there is some supposedly serious reason why such decline is happening. But that’s precisely the reason why the Church continues to be in some trouble. Even with Christ, there already was severe crisis. He had Judas and some Jews pestering him. He was crucified, remember, for carrying out his mission.

After him with the Church established, the crisis has not stopped but continues to fester under different forms and ways and in different circumstances. The problem the Church has to contend up to the end of time will be lack of faith and everything that follows it.

Try imagining persuading people about a supernaturally mysterious God, about spiritual and supernatural realities like faith, hope and charity, God becomes man who is Christ, the role of the Holy Spirit, the nature and mission of the Church, etc.

To top it all, try imagining making people understand about our weakened human condition, the reality of the devil, sin and temptations, and the need for abiding ascetical struggle, the development of virtues, the recourse to the sacraments, etc.

But remember Christ and his apostles. Many times, Christ had to scold his apostles for their lack of faith even in the face of the obvious. Such will be our predicament. We just have to learn to live with it, and continue to do something about it, always with the help of grace. It’s an exciting life, what we have.

The survey, I suspect, was clearly politically motivated. It came out all of a sudden. I’ll see if I have enough motive to bother to check who were behind it. It was meant to be like the North Korean threat, to pressure the Church to bend to the preferences of some politicians.

Remember that we are in an election campaign season, and the RH issue is kind of hot. Even some clerics put themselves at odds with the official Church stand on it and are twitting and facebooking their questionable views among which is precisely the claim that with the Church position on RH, many people are deserting the churches.

Critics of the Church will always exhume past scandals, slamming it with the current ones and even inventing some, to support their claim. Well, we are in this imperfect world. Nothing is new. We just have to try our best to be hopeful and do whatever we can to spread the truth in charity and goodness.

As to the survey result that many are deserting the Church, many of my friends echo the same observation that I have. The churches here in the country are filled with people. More Masses are scheduled. The churches have to be expanded. And during big feasts, one has to be blind not to see the tremendous popular piety flooding even the streets.

That there are many imperfections in this public display of piety should not surprise us. We just have to look at our individual selves and see how even with our best efforts we are still short of what we ourselves consider to be the ideal Christian life.

And try to extrapolate this situation to the whole of society, and, thus, we should not be surprised to see the many gaping imperfections around. But it would be wrong to stop there. What we have to do is to continue with the effort to improve in all aspects and in all levels of Christian life.

Christian life is a matter of faith, hope and charity put into action. It’s not just something to be desired and professed. And we are given all the means so we can truly live it.

It can be both easy and difficult, depending on how we look at it. It’s easy because God is behind it. Difficult, because there are truly tremendous challenges involved plus our weaknesses and temptations and the complications we ourselves make.

At the moment, we have to figure out how to go about untangling those under the spell of atheism, agnosticism, relativism, etc. These are the ones deserting the Church.



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