for Filipinos – signing of peace agreement ending the conflict in
Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
March 27, 2014
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) wishes to congratulate the Filipino people, notably
the people of Mindanao, for the landmark signing of the Comprehensive
Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine Government
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today. The MILF is the
biggest rebel group in Mindanao.
After 17 years of protracted
negotiations, the MILF and the Government of the Philippines (GPH)
have finally agreed to end the conflict in Mindanao in lieu of the
creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), a Bangsamoro region
with greater structure and form of autonomy. This would-be Bangsamoro
region will absorb the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The establishment of the BJE
is anchored "on the recognition of the right of the Bangsamoro to have
their own government." The BJE will be governed by a Basic Law,
containing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, their fundamental
freedoms and rights to self determination, under the Philippines
The island of Mindanao and
the people living in it, who, not only suffer but have witnessed
decades of wars – by the loss of their fathers, mothers, siblings,
children and neighbours – due to war, will now have a chance to enjoy
peace. The people and the island have shown to us that despite fear,
distrust and deep divisions in the past, by way of dialogue and
negotiations, political, social and cultural differences will always
have a place for a political solution.
Today is not only a
historical moment for the Bangsamoro, whereby their long struggle,
their aspirations for self determination, have now become a reality;
but also for the Filipino people – inside and outside the country –
who continue to dream for the end of the conflict in Mindanao.
As the AHRC welcomes this
political settlement, ending four decades of insurgencies in Mindanao,
it urges both parties to ensure that the institutions of justice, to
which the aspirations of the Bangsamoro's would be realize, are
developed, function and work. The signing of agreement is only the
beginning. The tedious and hard work to ensure the people's
aspirations are transformed into a reality lies ahead.
For now, the entire Filipino
people, notably the people in Mindanao, should enjoy and be
congratulated on achieving this historical moment for peace.
Pursue the peace
talks and genuine post-Yolanda reconstruction, free Benito Tiamzon and
A Press Statement by the
National Democratic Front (NDF) Eastern Visayas
March 26, 2014
In behalf of the worst-hit
region of the Supertyphoon Yolanda, we in the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Eastern Visayas express our
strongest condemnation of the illegal arrest by the Aquino regime's
security forces of Comrade Benito Tiamzon and Comrade Wilma Austria,
senior leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),
together with five other comrades last March 22. We join the peace
advocates in demanding their immediate release in accordance with the
Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the
NDFP and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). We condemn the
Aquino regime for fabricating criminal charges against the married
couple and their companions, and for falsely claiming that such common
crimes will negate the JASIG, among other contemptible excuses to deny
the comrades their freedom.
To refresh the public's mind, after the supertyphoon hit last Nov. 8,
the national leadership of the CPP declared a unilateral ceasefire in
the affected regions in solidarity with the suffering people and for
the facilitation of humanitarian aid. In Eastern Visayas, the NPA
strictly observed a unilateral ceasefire that lasted for 60 days even
while the Armed Forces of the Philippines carried out its brutal Oplan
Bayanihan. The CPP leadership also directed the New People's Army (NPA)
and other revolutionary forces to carry out relief, rehabilitation and
reconstruction efforts in the affected regions. The NPA continues to
help in the tilling of communal farms, promotion of quick-growing food
and cash crops, rebuilding of ravaged communities, and other struggles
to uplift the people's conditions in the wake of Supertyphoon Yolanda.
It is therefore a gross insult to the survivors of Supertyphoon
Yolanda for the GPH to arrest Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria while
they were performing their duties as CPP leaders overseeing how
revolutionary work was helping the recovery in the storm-stricken
areas in the Visayas. We are outraged at the depths that the Aquino
regime can stoop to in bastardizing the peace process and the
post-Yolanda reconstruction. While the NPA observed a unilateral
ceasefire after the storm to concentrate on helping the people, the
Aquino regime was sending armed troops to Tacloban City to quell the
people's dissatisfaction at the absence of immediate relief. Without
any shred of sympathy for the plight of the people, the GPH also
refused a reciprocal ceasefire with the NPA whom it scorned as the
“enemy of the state.” The Aquino regime also used the calamity to give
license to the violation of national sovereignty by thousands of
foreign troops using the pretext of humanitarian aid, as well as
justify the forging of a new military agreement with the US allowing
the virtually permanent basing of the latter's troops.
The Aquino regime also faces increasing criticisms, if not over the
lack or wastage of relief goods, then over the distribution as well of
rotten and worm-ridden goods in Eastern Visayas, among its other sins
to the victims. The regime is engaged in high-level corruption with
the private sector comprising the firms of the comprador big
bourgeoisie and the imperialists that are monopolizing the
post-Yolanda reconstruction. Even the so-called Reconstruction
Assistance for Yolanda is a sell-out program diminishing, among
others, the P75 billion damage to agri-fisheries, and thus denying the
people's economic well-being. Meanwhile, the high government
officials, compradors and imperialists are happy with the government
reconstruction program assuring them of fat public works contracts.
Coastal communities are also banned from rebuilding, thus displacing
hundreds of thousands of urban poor and fisherfolk in favor of big
business. If the people were already suffering even before
Supertyphoon Yolanda struck, they are certainly worse off today and
not just because of the storm. Survivors of calamity, they are now
victims of the Aquino regime's anti-people reconstruction program.
The refusal to release Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria as NDFP peace
consultants highlights the grim social conditions where the Aquino
government's fascism and criminal negligence oppress the Yolanda
survivors and the Filipino people. Even while the Yolanda survivors
struggle to rebuild their lives in Eastern Visayas, the Aquino
government pursues widespread militarization through Oplan Bayanihan
to oppress the struggling people and retain exploitative conditions.
Furthermore, the Yolanda survivors will not truly recover when
government reconstruction means the further entrenchment of the big
landlords, compradors, foreign mining capitalists and other
The arrival at an agreement for socio-economic reforms is long overdue
in the peace talks between the NDFP and GPH. Thus, if the Aquino
government is at all interested in genuine recovery for the Yolanda
survivors, it should speedily release Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria
along with other peace consultants to resume the peace talks and
tackle the highly significant subject of post-Yolanda reconstruction,
among other socio-economic reforms. All political prisoners must
likewise be released as a matter of justice. The longer the Aquino
regime refuses to resume the peace talks, the more indignant will the
Yolanda survivors and the people become, and the more militant in
advancing their interests through the revolutionary armed struggle and
the revolutionary mass movement.
PCID Statement on
the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro
March 26, 2014
The Philippine Center for
Islam and Democracy (PCID) welcomes the historic signing of the
Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the national
government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The agreement
sets the parameters for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the drafting of
which is anticipated to be completed before Congress opens. After over
17 years of the peace process between the government and MILF,
sustainable peace seems to be within reach and with it, the
transformation of Bangsamoro and Mindanao dreams to reality.
Through the years, we have
seen the initiatives and efforts to establish a peaceful and
democratic relationship between national government and the Muslim
liberation movements, from the MNLF to the MILF. We have been
witnesses to the Bangsamoro’s struggle for their identity, for fair
and good governance, and for inclusive growth and development. We hope
that with this agreement in place, the government can now work on the
convergence of the two peace agreements forged with the MNLF and the
MILF, and proceed to focus much needed attention on the socio-economic
and political development of the region to attain genuine autonomy.
We at PCID believe that this
agreement, if realized, will provide a strong foundation for
prosperity and inclusive growth, not just for the Bangsamoro but for
all peoples of Mindanao and the entire country as well. We pray that
the spirit of the Agreement will permeate the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We
congratulate and thank our government, the MILF, the Bangsamoro and
peace advocates, Malaysia for facilitating the negotiations, the ICG
as well as all of those who supported the GPH-MILF peace process to
its the successful conclusion.
We give special thanks to
the men and women of the negotiating panels for their unwavering
commitment to peace, patience and perseverance as well as the men and
women in the Office of the Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process.
Let’s surrender to
Roy Cimagala, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 26, 2014
MANY people today, sad to
say, are having difficulty sleeping, eating and, worse, achieving a
certain balance and stability in their life because of the many new
things that lead them to long bouts of distraction, self-seeking and
eventually utter self-exhaustion.
They are losing the proper
focus in life, and their sense of priority has practically become a
big mess, since they are slowly realizing that they are getting
enslaved by gadgets and held hostage by the strong, almost
irresistible impulses of the flesh and the varied allurements of the
Many of them know these
impulses and allurements go against reason and their common sense, let
alone, their Christian faith. They know they are showing symptoms of
Depending on the degree of
severity, some can handle this predicament and can manage to come out
of it. But there are others who find it hard, if not impossible. They
seem to be under the total control of these errant impulses and
It’s time to remind
ourselves of the truth that we need to surrender ourselves to God if
we want to live our life properly. We cannot serve two masters, we are
told, and God is the only Master we have.
Christ precisely told us:
“He who is not with me is against me. And he who gathers not with me
scatters.” (Lk 11,23) In short, we need to be with Christ if we want
to avoid dispersion and dissipation, and to achieve unity, coherence
and effectiveness in life.
A case in point are the many
young people hooked to games in the computer and in their mobile
phones. Many times they lose sleep, they eat at odd times, fail to
study, pray and live normal family life. They fail to carry out even
their basic duties, like keeping good hygiene.
Older people are not
exempted from this predicament. Many have fallen into activism,
‘professionalitis’ and similar discrepancies, and all kinds of vices,
difficult to extricate from. There is now a clear surge of inordinate,
immoderate attachment to technology that fascinates people externally
but impoverishes them internally.
We have to be wary of these
developments and learn to take up the appropriate antidote. This is
none other than learning the art of surrendering ourselves to God from
whom, we are told, “all good things come.”
We should not be afraid to
be “servants” of God, yielding ourselves to him rather than to our
flesh, world and the devil. We have to be convinced that it is in
surrendering to God that we would have our true joy and peace. He is
the true source and keeper of life, power, wisdom, rest, etc.
This art of surrendering to
God echoes what Christ himself constantly taught: that we need to die
to ourselves or to lose our life to allow the life of God to take root
and blossom in our life.
As intelligent and free
beings, we always have to make a choice between God and ourselves,
between good and evil, etc. This choice is done every step of our
May we always make the right
choice and know how to detect the subtle tricks of our wounded flesh,
the fugitive world and the clever devil. We have to be clear as to
whom we ought to be beholden. We need to feel indebted, because
obviously we were not the ones who gave what we have.
Is it God, or is it
ourselves, the world, or worse, the devil? Our problem is that we tend
to feel self-sufficient, to make ourselves our own god, the standard
and measure of things. We tend to think that our freedom begins and
ends with ourselves, otherwise it would not be freedom.
That’s why there is a great
need for us to surrender ourselves. The most difficult enemy that we
have is our own selves, and specifically our will that often refuses
to be subjected to God’s will, its creator and lawgiver. We prefer to
make our will absolutely our own.
This is obviously a
distortion of reality. Our will is a creature. It is not
self-generated. It cannot simply be by itself. It has to submit itself
to its Creator who gives it its proper law and direction.
Many people, especially the
saints among them, have testified that it is when they surrender their
will to God’s will they enjoy true joy and peace in spite of the
unavoidable sacrifices involved.
Those sacrifices serve as
purifying and expiating agents that would put our will in its proper
orbit with God at the center.
Sense of sin
March 25, 2014
IT is inherent in our
rational nature that we develop an idea of what is right and wrong. As
soon as we are old enough to use our reason, aside from perceiving and
knowing things, we start to distinguish what is good and evil.
Obviously, our capacity to
distinguish good from bad starts in a primitive stage, kind of shallow
and very limited in scope, based solely what we see and feel, and not
much more. But with time, experience and education, this capacity
grows and hopefully matures.
It is for this reason that
we all have the need to base ourselves on the very foundation of
reality, the very source of what is moral and immoral. This is none
other than God, the author and creator of the universe.
Grounding our capacity to
distinguish between right and wrong on another basis would set us on
the offside. Sadly, this is what is happening these days. There seems
to be a systematic distancing from God and a growing dependence on our
own ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and other methods that
practically ignore or are even hostile to God.
We need to remind ourselves
strongly these days that we need God for us to know and judge
properly. We just cannot depend entirely on our legal and
technological systems, for example, no matter how sophisticated they
have been developed.
For this to happen, we need
faith to give substance and direction to our reason. Reason cannot
stand on its own. It is incomplete without faith. In practical terms,
this means we need to overcome our tendency to make ourselves the
standard, the ultimate lawgiver.
It is God who is all of
these, and we need to enter into an intimate relation with him to know
and judge things properly. Thus, we need to pray, to talk to him and
get to know and love him more and more. We need to study his teaching,
now the doctrine of the Church. We need to develop virtues, have
recourse to the sacraments. Only then can we be intimate with God, and
live and work always with him.
One big problem that the
world today faces is the loss of the sense of sin. Many people do not
anymore know what sin really is. Many think sin is only a matter of
what is legally prohibited, socially tabooed, politically incorrect,
or what is unpopular, what turns out to be a failure in some sense,
This loss of the sense of
sin, greatly lamented by many saints and popes, is mainly due to our
drifting away from God. Thus, we are now even legalizing what are
actually outright sins like abortion, contraception, many forms of
sensuality and corruption, etc.
These developments reflect
what St. Paul once said: “For many…are enemies of the cross of Christ,
whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is
in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil 3,17)
To have the proper sense of
sin, we need to meditate on the passion, death and resurrection of
Christ. There we can see both the ugliness of sin as well as the
unending mercy of God, since as St. Paul also said, “where sin has
abounded, grace has abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)
Yes, it’s our faith more
than our reason alone that captures the true essence of what is
sinful. It’s also our faith that gives us hope where reason tends to
plunge us into despair whenever we consider our attitude toward our
Our faith teaches us how to
deal with sin. It tells us that whenever we are tempted, let us be
tempted always with Christ and not simply by ourselves, so that we
would know how to overcome the devil with Christ also. We cannot do
this just by ourselves.
Let’s be convinced that in
this life we cannot avoid temptations. But as St. Augustine once
expressed it, if we are with Christ, the temptations can serve to
occasion spiritual progress, since “no one knows himself except
through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives
except against an enemy or temptations.”
As St. James said in his
letter, we are put to the test to make us patient, since patience
would make us “fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.” (1,4)
We just have to humbly
accept our guilt, but neither should we forget the unfailing mercy of
God. We should not be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge our sin. But we
should neither be despondent of God’s mercy. His delight is to forgive
Cruising the digital
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
March 20, 2014
have to learn how to cruise the digital world. It’s practically part
of everyone’s life now, offering a lot of good but also a lot of
dangers. We should know how to make use of it without compromising our
dignity as persons and children of God.
This highly technological world introduces us to a virtual environment
that is like a super-superhighway with much heavier and more
complicated traffic than what we experience in our busiest
thoroughfares. Its range and scope is not local but global, and it
touches on practically all aspects of our life.
If in our transport systems, we need regulations like registration of
vehicles, licensing of drivers with their respective periodic
renewals, and other things like traffic road signs and traffic aides,
etc., we have to realize that we need more or less the same set of
regulations in our digital world.
Obviously, the regulations here would be more extensive and
comprehensive than what we have in our transport systems. They should
cover not only considerations of practicality and convenience in our
needs of knowledge and communication, but also and more importantly,
considerations of appropriateness, morality and spirituality.
Everyone knows that the digital world can have two effects. It is good
to those who are good, and in fact, it will improve them. But it is
bad also to those who are bad or weak, and it tends to worsen them.
Digital citizens and users should therefore be clear about their
identity and dignity as persons and children of God who are supposed
to be ruled by truth and love, and all their consequences of justice,
mercy, compassion, and of concern for one another and for
strengthening our relation with God, etc.
The ideal would be that every time they are in the digital
environment, they should learn to see God there and to be motivated
only by love for God and for others. They should ask themselves after
using the Internet, “Am I now a better person and child of God with
what I have seen and done in the Internet?”
Unless this basic requirement is met, one would enter into a highway
that is a slippery slope toward all forms of self-seeking with their
usual company of greed, envy, vanity, lust, gluttony, sloth, etc.
Conflict and contention would not be remote in this arena.
Unrestrained competition and rivalry would surge.
That is why, this identity of the digital citizens as persons and
children of God who are necessarily connected with everybody else and
governed by truth and love should always be protected, maintained and
Toward this end, it stands to reason that digital citizens and users
should be men and women of prayer, of virtues, of clear criteria based
on sound human and Christian moral principles. They should know the
true nature and meaning of freedom, avoiding using freedom as “a cloak
for malice,” as St. Peter said in his first letter. (2,16)
Otherwise, they would be confused and lost, and an easy prey to the
many subtle conditionings all of us are exposed to – physical,
emotional, psychological, social, cultural, historical, economic,
And since many young people are very much involved in the digital
world, the elders and others of authority and influence should do
everything to inculcate in them very deeply this proper identity and
dignity of being persons and children of God, brothers and sisters
with one another, ruled by truth and love.
These youngsters are typically highly driven by their curiosities, but
with curiosities that spring and are maintained usually by unpurified
impulses and peer pressure. They really need to be taken care of, but
in an appropriate way, since they also do not like to be treated like
If before a youngster is allowed to drive a car in our public road
system, he has to have the proper age requirement, the appropriate
physical and health condition, and has to be trained and tested, then
it stands to reason that this youngster all the more would need a
similar kind of requirements before he is allowed to cruise in the
more dangerous digital thoroughfares.
This attitude toward the digital world should be developed first of
all in the family, then in churches and schools, and then in other
public places like offices, hospitals, etc.
We should understand that the digital world is not a free-for-all
world. It would be a deadly understanding of freedom if that is how we
understand the freedom we enjoy in our digital world.
It has to be properly regulated so we can cruise it safely and
In the face of
government neglect, Yolanda survivors clamor for continuing aid
A press statement by the
March 3, 2014
In five days, this March 8,
the Yolanda survivors will be marking the fourth month of the
disaster. And genuine help from the government remains bleak. The
recent news show the real state of the survivors. In one the most
badly-hit areas, the municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, all the
survivors could do is pin their hopes on the micro-lending facilities
promised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
But why would the government
need to lend money to the survivors? Why make profit out of the dire
conditions of the survivors? Why won’t the government simply give
survivors financial capital to start their lives anew, such as in the
immediate cash assistance for the survivors that People Surge is
In Eastern Samar where 59%
of the population is poor, there is too little possibility that the
survivors would be able to pay the interest rates and even the capital
of the credit that would be loaned to them. What is more alarming are
the consequences the survivors will have to pay in case they would not
be able to pay back their debts.
The President’s recent visit
to the calamity-stricken areas should have shown him the depth and
gravity the disaster had wrought upon the citizens, and how these
conditions continue to worsen with each day that the government is not
implementing genuine help for the survivors. Had he truly looked
closely at the survivors, he would have realized the justness of the
demands of People Surge for the distribution of the P40,000 immediate
cash relief for every affected family, and the need for continuing
It is of great help to the
survivors that there are members of the Lower House who feel the need
to support the campaign of the survivors for the said demands. The
survivors hope there will be more lawmakers who will support their
cause and pass the necessary bills and resolutions to directly hand
over to the survivors the funds that were raised in their names. It is
the survivors who know what they truly need and they have every right
to claim what is theirs. And what they have long needed is sufficient
government aid to get back to their feet.
The continuing help from
international agencies are most welcome to the survivors. But their
presence is not a valid reason for the government to be largely
absent. The survivors persist in their clamor for the accountability
of the Aquino government to identify and address the most immediate
needs of the survivors, and strongly condemn its continuous negligence
and lack of sincerity in alleviating the lives of the survivors. The
President should know that the survivors will persevere in their
clamor until true justice and genuine help from the government will