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

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




Torturers and their victims: how the Anti-torture law is failing, and why

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
August 29, 2013

After 22 years of advocacy and lobbying, the Philippines enacted the Anti-Torture Law in November 2009. This law is not an ordinary law. The Philippines became the first country in Southeast Asia to enact a domestic law on torture. In effect, this law means the country commits itself legally to the international community to enforce the principles of jus cogens or peremptory norm. It means freedom from torture is an absolute right.

Nearly four years after the law was enforced, no one from the police, military or public civil service, found to have committed acts of torture, was convicted for violating the Anti-Torture Law. There was also no consideration given to the severity of the physical and psychological pain they inflicted upon their victims. Regardless, of who the torturers were and who their victims were, none of the torture cases resulted in just punishment under this law.

The AHRC has concluded that, in the Philippines, torture forms part of the security apparatus and is used as a method to investigate and to impose social control. It is perceived by the government de facto as needed and required; therefore, whether torture is accepted as a jus cogens norm by the international community or the country's constitution and domestic law, it doesn’t really matter. The police, military and public officials are expected to torture in violation of their suspects' right to due process. The norm has been: not to torture suspects is psychologically unthinkable.

This is not an exaggeration. After examining the cases that the AHRC has carefully documented and analysed after the Anti-torture Law was enforced, a pattern was observed. How and why the practice of torture continues to be part of the fabric of Filipino society with or without a law, is obvious.

No accountability for not investigating

Not to investigate a complaint of torture is very common. The absence of any sort of accountability by investigating bodies is not seen as anything wrong. This would include neglect, failure and inability to investigate as would be expected. By law, any public official could be laid with administrative charges for not performing their duty. But, in practice, not to investigate is the norm, rather than the exception.

If a victim or their family files an administrative case against the officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or the Public Attorney Office (PAO), for not investigating a complaint, they would be further ignored. A recent example is the public torture committed by a former Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim. In this case, it means the torture victims and their families, in practice, have to wait until these agencies are good and ready to investigate and finally do their job.

Excessive delay in investigation

And even when the complaint is investigated, the completion requirement of 60 days for the investigation never happens. The case of Darius Evangelista, a victim whose torture was caught on video in 2010, has taken over a year to be completed. In comparison to other torture cases, the progress of this case is quicker than usual, simply because of public pressure urging that the policemen involved be punished.

In other cases we have documented, from December 2009 onwards, the agencies investigating these cases have yet to conclude any of their investigations. Thus, the precedent established so far on the length of a torture investigation to reach a conclusion, appears to be one year at the earliest. It explains why, the CHR and PAO, could afford to ignore demands to have former Manila Mayor Lim investigated for torture two months ago.

No protection to victims and their families

The lack of complaint of torture does not mean there are no cases of torture. Torture victims and their families choose not to complain for fear of reprisals together with the absence of protection during the process of complaint making. In the case of John Paul Nerio, a boy who was tortured in police custody in December 2010, he and his family decided to withdraw their complaint because of lack of protection.

There is a law which protects witnesses, as envisaged under the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; however, this law only protects witnesses, not the complainants or their family members. Thus, once victims and their families face threats, their protection would still, as it exists in the present structures, come from the institution who committed the torture: the police. In the case of Nerio, it did not work because in his remote area there are only a few policemen. And most of those accused in his case already formed nearly half of the police force in his community.

Distorted interpretation of the crime of torture

Under the Anti-Torture Law, an act of torture is defined in line with the Convention against Torture (CAT), which means inflicting physical and psychological pain on a victim for purposes of extracting a confession. But the investigators, prosecutors and the judges put a personal interpretation on the violation of torture which effectively defeats any sort of remedy to eliminate torture. Some of examples are:

In Nerio's case, the PAO lawyer refused to prosecute this as a criminal case of torture because he could not see any 'political motivation' as to why the police would torture the boy. Torture is political for this lawyer. The boy is an ordinary person who was not involved in any kind of political activism; therefore, for this lawyer, what the victim suffered could not be torture. This is despite compelling evidence that pain was inflicted to force a confession.

In the case of Lenin and others, the prosecutor refused to indict the policemen in a criminal case of torture. The reason they gave was this: the victims, blindfolded when taken into police custody and tortured, failed to see with their own eyes who perpetrated the torture on them. The prosecutor deliberately ignored other materials and circumstantial evidence that could have led to the indictment of the policemen involved in the torture.

These are only a few of the many observations that the AHRC has surfaced by examining the cases of torture since the Anti-Torture Law was enforced. We are deeply concerned about how fast the enforcement of this law is deteriorating. If the violators of the Anti-Torture Law are not punished, the absolute freedom from torture, and the Constitutional and Statutory right not to be tortured, would continue to be meaningless.





Directory for priests

August 26, 2013

I’M happy to know that the Vatican issued early this year a new edition of the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests. The first edition came in 1994, under Blessed John Paul II’s watch, after an extensive review of all pertinent documents and reports on priesthood that came from different places. It was a very rich document.

This new edition is one of the last documents that Pope Benedict XVI approved before he resigned in February. It puts in more data as to the new challenges priests today face.

Let’s hope that this directory gets to reach all the clergy, from bishops to priests and even to those studying for the priesthood, since it truly gives a global picture of who the priest is and how he should be. Now with all the communication technologies we have, that concern should be no problem at all.

Still, priests need to be encouraged to study and assimilate this manual. Thus, I encourage even our lay faithful, especially those who occupy some positions of prominence in society, to be familiar with its content.

The laity can do a lot in helping the clergy, just as clergy can also do a lot in helping the laity. This, I believe, is part of what is called as organic mutual relation between clergy and laity that is highly valued in the Church.

Next time you see priest, I suggest that you ask him if he has read the document. I don’t think that would be an impertinent intrusion into his privacy. With the proper words, tone and timing, it can only mean genuine care for him, and I am sure the priest would be thankful for the gesture.

Truth is with all the complicating elements around – unfavourable bishops/priests, clergy/laity ratios, inadequacies in seminary training, increasingly secularized world, etc. – it’s important that priests be adequately equipped to face the formidable challenges.

At this time, so sensitive and delicate, it’s indispensable that we, priests, really know who we are and how we are supposed to behave. In fact, as much as possible, everybody should know this, so everyone can help promote, protect and defend the true identity of priests.

We cannot deny that in many occasions, the identity of priests has been blurred and distorted, and cases of anomalies in priestly ministry and lifestyles have multiplied. That’s why we have been having scandals right and left in the recent past, and they are still evolving.

Obviously, we cannot expect that all problems, irregularities and anomalies regarding priestly life and ministry will disappear, but hopefully they can be minimized and reduced to what we may call as “tolerable” levels.

The directory has three main parts. The first one is on priestly identity that traces the basis in concentric levels of who a priest is. There’s the Trinitarian level, the Christological level and the Pneumatic (Spirit) level. Let’s hope these roots of the priestly identity cease to remain mere abstract ideas.

Then the second part is on priestly spirituality, which is very important, since that is how a priest corresponds to his identity and mission. Without this spirituality, or with a spirituality that is not suited to his status, we will just do things badly. No doubt about that.

Yes, there are priests who do not pray, who just act like performers when administering the sacraments, etc. – why deny it – and these simply have to be corrected, obviously also in an appropriate way. No forcing, of course, and as much as possible, no scolding, but yes, a lot of reminders, suggestions and even paternal or fraternal corrections.

Then the third part is on priestly formation, which should always be ongoing. It’s something that never stops, and in fact, it has to go to more subtle points and ways the older and the more exposed to the world we, priests, become. Woe to us when we feel we already have enough of formation!

This is a big and endless challenge, and the appropriate attitudes, practices and structures have to be put in place. Truth is at the moment, though a lot of improvement has taken place in this respect, still a lot of things need to be done.

We have to remember that the role of priests in the Church and the world is strategic, indispensable and irreplaceable. Everything has to be done to keep the priests as they should be according to the mind of Christ, for they are nothing less than other Christs as head of the Church. Where they are, that’s where Christ is.

Priesthood is a tremendous reality!





A statement against the pork barrel scam

By Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro and Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG) Head Convenor
August 21, 2013

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” - Luke 16:10

We, bishops and priests of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group, ask President Benigno Aquino III (PNOY), the Senators and Lower House Representatives to show to the Filipino people that they honor the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino by taking steps in truly ending the culture of corruption and impunity in our country.

We join Luis Cardinal Tagle’s call for a thorough investigation, and appropriate punishment for the culprits of the Pork Barrel Scam. PNOY must go after the guilty lawmakers and other perpetrators, be they his allies or foes. Furthermore, we suggest the following: Take the budget for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) amounting to P25.240 billion away from the hands of the Senators and Lower House Representatives. We also call on PNOY to give up his office’s corresponding “pork barrel” which the Commission on Audit identified as the Special Purpose Funds (P310.1 billion for 2014) and the Unprogrammed Funds (P139.9 billion for 2014), totaling P499 billion!

These funds must be entrusted to and managed by the sovereign people who are the REAL BOSS of our ELECTED SERVANTS. It is unfortunate that our elected servants can no longer be trusted with our people’s money, which we own. The pork barrel system is one of the ROOT CANCERS that breeds the other lethal diseases of corruption. It is not enough for the “Daang Matuwid” to run after corrupt people AFTER THE DASTARDLY DEED HAS BEEN DONE. IT is better to nip in the bud the ROOT of corruption. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Moreover, everybody knows that whatever guidelines Congress and the Executive might craft regarding the pork barrel WILL NOT WORK; the system itself, which was copied from the U.S.A., has been scrapped by their federal government.

During the World Youth Day in July 2013, Pope Francis urged the Faithful to change a world where food is discarded while millions go hungry, where politics is more associated with corruption than service.

We therefore call on all concerned sectors of the Philippine society to study and propose appropriate mechanisms to RE-CLAIM OWNERSHIP of, and MANAGE the “pork barrel” funds. The people’s money should be spent for the benefit of the majority; especially for lifting the poor out of poverty, as enjoined by our beloved Pope Francis.

Programs for genuine agrarian reform, decent shelter for the informal settlers, free education for our youth, and health services for our people must be prioritized.

As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, may PNOY, the lawmakers and all of us prove that indeed, Ninoy was not martyred in vain; and that we are truly committed to a straight path by giving to the people, especially the poor, what is due to them.





Should universities find jobs for their graduates?

August 20, 2013

This was the “Question of the day” CNN posed for its’ viewers on April 4, 2013. It’s a question that is increasingly being asked, in different ways, by graduates, their families, and the public. It’s a question we should have been asking at least twenty years ago. If we had, we would have significantly fewer unemployed/underemployed graduates today. Universities have been shortchanging their graduates for years and the main culprits are the senior bureaucrats who are in charge of our education system and the senior administrators in charge of our post secondary institutes.

These people have never missed a paycheque in their lives and their own work environment doesn’t look any different from what it did fifty years ago. They have no affinity whatever with the challenges their graduates are facing in trying to find meaningful employment in today’s workplace.

Here are a few examples of how universities/colleges can help their graduates:

In 2011, Tom Friedman, the bestselling author and New York Times columnist, was in India where he met Prem Kalra, the director of the Indian Institute of Technology in Rajasthan. He told Friedman that he tells recruiters for major companies to stay away from his campus. He wants his Indian students to think about inventing their first jobs, not applying for them.

In the U.K., the heads of five Further Education Colleges are working with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to help their graduates create their own jobs. Fintan Donohue, the head of North Hertfordshire College said: “Everyone is in favour of entrepreneurship, but we’re saying is that colleges like ours need to embrace an entrepreneurial culture. We need to be producing students who embrace self-employment and who are prepared to walk out and create their own businesses.

Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2012 that six U.S. undergraduate business schools require students to attend classes that prepare them for the process of finding work. Most significantly, these classes are embedded in the curriculum and students must complete them, just like all their other classes, before they can graduate.

In World War II, the U.S. was facing a critical shortage of ships. Henry Kaiser, the famed industrialist, said he would solve the problem by building ships in six weeks. The experts in the shipbuilding industry said he was a fool; that this was impossible. But he did build his Liberty Ships in six weeks.

That’s the kind of bold, visionary initiative we need to help today’s graduates. It won’t come from the government or the education sector. Not from a politician. Not from a senior bureaucrat. Not from a senior educator: but from another Henry Kaiser.

Ron McGowan is the author of the international bestseller “How to Find WORK – In the 21st Century”. The 2013 edition has just been released by Thames River Press and is available from Amazon and other booksellers.





Scrap the pork barrel, the fount of patronage politics

A press statement by NCCP on the Pork Barrel System issue
August 14, 2013

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

The amount involved, the outrageous sense of betrayal felt by the general public and the total insensitivity of those involved to the greater majority of the people boggle the mind. The scandal provokes sadness and anger. Sadness at the plight of the people in the hands of its leaders. Anger over the way people’s taxes have been misused.

This political decadence brought about by the pork barrel is not new. It is a part of the patronage politics that has plagued the electoral and political system in this country. No less than the Budget Secretary himself said in June 2012 that the “context of pork is ‘patronage politics’ and the logic that drives the selection of projects and the disbursement of many politicians’ pork funds, ‘pautakan lang ‘yan’ or ‘just play it smart’” (PCIJ, July 22, 2013). The previous dispensation was an example of patronage politics.

Thus, there is every reason to be upset that the President who was elected via an anti-corruption drive and a platform of “daang matuwid” is not keen on removing this scourge. Instead, it will remain and may even be increased. Aside from the P25 Billion for Congress, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) also reported that the office of the President is allotted about P317.5B for special purpose funds and P117.5B for unprogrammed funds in the proposed General Appropriation Act of 2013. PCIJ said “disbursement record on these funds have hardly been published online or disclosed to the citizens, despite repeated requests.”

There is neither justification for the misuse of public funds by leaders while the majority of the people wallow in want and vulnerability to disasters, nor any moral ground in the failure of our leaders to be accountable.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the groundswell to scrap the pork barrel system. Let the funds be channelled to education, health, housing and other social services. Let us be vigilant that the calls for investigation will not be muddled by the patronage system. Let us remain focused on the issue of corruption in high places diverted as we are often by other issues.

To our leaders take heed when you become dealers of the posterity and patrimony of this country: “When the wicked are in authority, transgression increases; but the righteous will look upon their downfall” (Proverbs 29:16). Take heed that callous insensitivity and betrayal of the public trust has led many of our people from imploring arms to defiant clenched fists. The downfall of the foolish is swift.

Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary

The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Chairperson, NCCP





Anti-greed campaign

August 5, 2013

YES, why not? Why not launch an anti-greed campaign and keep it going like some lifelong maintenance mechanism in a world that has become rickety with all sorts of moral sicknesses, with greed among the prominent ones?

We just have to look around, and see greed and avarice and their many faces proliferating like anything, from the individual level to the farthest global ends.

Many people are trapped in an almost invincible grip of selfishness, pursuing nothing other than their own self-interest and throwing any consideration for the common good to the wind.

This is not to mention that many have forgotten to relate their earthly business to God, to consider it as a prayer and even an act of worship that is not only pleasing to God but also most beneficial to everybody else.

We have been reminded in the gospel about this aspect of our life. “Take care to guard against all greed,” Christ said, “for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possession.” (Lk 12,14) We have been warned against storing up treasure for oneself but not being rich in what matters to God.

Nowadays, many, in fact, do not even know the idea of common good. And if there is anything they do that would contribute one way or another to the common good, it’s by sheer coincidence that it happens. Any deliberate effort to do things for the common good is practically absent, if not openly avoided.

The world is drowning in a sea of materialism and consumerism, with the spiritual values and the supernatural destination of human life all but forgotten. It’s still working under an increasing infusion of deceptive economic tricks, but the illusion is also getting so increasingly untenable that things now are approaching breaking point.

It seems that we are being set up higher and higher in our materialistic and consumeristic ways for a deeper and more painful crash sooner or later. The signs are already there, and many of our leaders in politics, business, media and even in the church are hesitant to give the bad news. The predicament is practically left unattended.

Productivity is dropping, even in an accelerated rate in some places, mainly because without the support of the spiritual and supernatural elements of our life, people have no way but to tend to become lazy, and simply wanting to be comfortable, rich and continually entertained, and with narrow and shallow understanding of things.

In the corridors of power and influence, graft and corruption have practically become the SOP. Just read the papers, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The banking and financial sector continues to blow bubbles in the hope of stimulating productive economic activity. But they now seem to pop out soon after being launched.

We need to go back to God and seriously relate our earthly business affairs to him and to his plan and providence. We have to reassure ourselves that this is the proper way to do business, taking us away from the tendency to be swallowed up by the logic of the flesh and the world that cannot help but lead us to greed and its ilk.

God and economics are not two mutually exclusive realities. God’s eternal law includes the economic laws proper to us as image and likeness of his, and children of his.

At the moment, we seem to do economics by practically ignoring God, or even openly opposing his laws. The supreme law of charity is often considered as impractical and impracticable. In short, that it is inhuman, anti-business and all that.

We need to change that mindset. God and charity should be the be-all and end-all of our economic affairs. We just cannot stop at the level of profitability or practicality, making them the supreme goal of our businesses.

Without discarding them, we need to go beyond them and aim at what really is the goal for us – God and charity, which is the very essence of God and also the essence meant for us precisely because we are God’s image and likeness, and God’s children.

Doing business with God as the origin, way and end in no way harms our economic activities. On the contrary, it will broaden our perspective, sharpen our creativity, foster our productivity, and increase our capacity to tackle whatever challenges, burden or trials we may meet along the way.

Doing business with God in mind and heart melts away the fears and doubts that often lead us to be greedy and to pursue only our self-interests at the expense of the common good.





From lego to reality

July 19, 2013

Many children come to me and talk very fondly about their lego toys. I must say that I had to do a little research on lego, since in my kidhood years, there were no such toys.

Thus, I discovered why they like lego so much. It’s a child’s plastic construction set to make mechanical models. It stirs their imagination and creativity, and stimulates their liking for building things and making believe. It challenges their ability to put into concrete form what they have in their mind.

They can choose either to be very faithful to the models they want to copy, or they can introduce innovations and even combinations. But still, lego is just a toy. It’s more for fun and making fantasies or science fictions. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.

Nowadays, though, lego has acquired another meaning, a figurative reference to a make-believe world that we seem to be making in many aspects of our life. Thus, we can hear people talking about the lego world in the global economy that is supposed to be a far cry from what is really happening in that area of the world’s life.

It seems that what was not supposed to be taken seriously is now taken seriously. Fiction is now made true-to-life. Fantasy is now considered real.

Which brings us to a much deeper issue. And that is how do we correctly define reality? What is reality, in the first place? Would things in one’s imagination and dreams not qualify as part of reality?

Would reality be simply defined as anything that has physical and material existence, anything that can be measured, seen, weighed, smelled, felt, etc.? How about ideas, judgments, reasonings, values, and other abstract or non-tangible things? Would they not be considered real?

We need to tackle these questions to resolve the issue of what reality is. We are supposed to live in reality, we are supposed to be realistic, we are supposed to be and to act real, but what is reality?

With the distinction between objective and subjective, we can wonder whether one of them is real and the other not. But it would seem unfair that what is subjective would be considered wholesale as not real, just because it is subjective.

For sure, reality has infinite aspects and possibilities, because it simply does not only include material and tangible things. It also covers non-tangible things that can lend themselves to an infinity of levels, aspects, possibilities, etc.

If we just consider our ideas and what consequences, implications and possibilities they can spawn, then we would somehow be convinced that reality is indeed a very complicated thing.

I imagine that to simplify the need to effectively grapple with reality, we need to go to the very author of reality, which in the end is definitely not us, nor somebody or something else that is merely sensible or even intelligible, but a supreme, eternal being whom we consider to be God.

He is the creator and therefore is the very author of the whole of creation. In short, he is the very author of reality in all its levels, aspects and possibilities. In short, if we have to effectively deal with reality, then we need to engage ourselves with the Creator, who is God.

This would require some faith, which again should be part of reality, since this God as the creator of all things simply cannot be fully grasped by us, and yet he is real. In fact, he is the very foundation of reality, and all reality must revolve around him.

But he is beyond the world of the sensible and the intelligible. Not that he is not in the sensible and the intelligible. He is right there as he is everywhere, but he also transcends them. That’s why, we can somehow sense and understand him, but we cannot fully comprehend him.

In other words, to effectively grapple with reality involves developing in us a certain piety, a certain intimacy in our relation with God the Creator. It cannot be any other way, since ignoring him can only at best let us touch reality by mere coincidence.

Ignoring God the Creator would lead us to the great danger of having a shallow, narrow, rigid if not distorted and even wrong grasp of reality. Though these latter situations would still be part of reality, they are that part that is not supposed to be.

Vitally engaging with God our Creator, through prayer and study of his doctrine, brings us to the dynamism of reality that God himself maintains and directs both in time and eternity.



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