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more articles...

Stop the killings! End impunity! Human rights for all!

Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

EJK and human rights

Cultivating a sense of media responsibility

Time for US to step aside and let the Philippines give peace a chance

When religion is abused

Loving the cross is genuine sign of hope

Pinoy in Rome: At the Door of the Jubilee Year of Mercy (IV)

Outgoing regime, unaddressed violations

Two years Leyte

 

MATA-Samar

 

 

 

Christ’s cross opens heaven’s gate

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
July 23, 2017

INDEED, it is Christ’s cross that does the trick. Our own salvation, our capacity to open heaven’s gate has to pass through the cross of Christ, and not just any cross. Christ’s cross is the key.

It’s in Christ’s cross that all our sins are borne by Christ himself and forgiven. It’s where our death leads to our life everlasting. It’s where we can truly say we are united with Christ.

We need to carry that cross, as Christ himself said. "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mk 8,34) We need to do everything to fulfill this indication of Christ everyday.

Any suffering we have in this life, be it physical, moral or whatever, can be considered as the cross of Christ as long as we unite that suffering to Christ’s redemptive suffering and death on the cross. That’s simply because Christ has made as his own all the suffering we can have.

We can make use of some human devices so that we can be reminded of this wonderful truth of our faith. One such device can be the practice of carrying a little crucifix in our wallet, and taking it up from time to time to kiss it.

This can be done especially just before going to bed so that we can associate the ending of our day with this sublime sacrifice of Christ which we should try to reflect in our life. We should try to end our day the way Christ ended his life here on earth.

We can also do it upon waking up in the morning to signify our intention to carry the cross the whole day. It should mean that we are willing to suffer the way Christ suffered. We should be willing to take on any offense the way Christ accepted all the offenses and sins of men by accepting his death on the cross.

We should try not to over-react to any suffering that can come our way. As long as we unite with the suffering of Christ, we can manage to echo what St. Paul once said:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor 4,8-10)

These words were spoken by St. Paul in the context of showing how our weakness and suffering – the fragile clay jars that we are, as St. Paul describes us – can actually show God’s power working in us. In the same letter, St. Paul precisely said that it’s when we are weak that we are strong. (cfr 12,10)

It’s important that our attitude and reactions to suffering of whatever kind conform to this reasoning of faith expressed by St. Paul. It’s a reasoning that perfectly captures the reason behind Christ’s willing acceptance of his suffering and death.

It is this kind of suffering, this kind of cross that led to Christ’s resurrection, and that will lead to our resurrection too. This is the kind of cross that opens the gates of heaven for us!

 

 

 

 

 

President Duterte meeting with Bayan leaders
The delegation included BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr, former Representative Neri Colmenares. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao, Rep. Sarah Elago fo Kabataan, Jerome Adonis, KMU Secretary General, Antonio Flores of KMP, Gabriela sec gen Joms Salvador, Lumad leaders Michelle Campos and Eufemia Cullamat, and Mindanao activists led by Sheena Duazon of BAYAN SMR. We were joined by NAPC Convenor Liza Maza who helped arrange the meeting.

On President Duterte’s meeting with Bayan leaders ahead of the SONA rallies

A press statement by BAYAN
July 19, 2017

We thank President Rodrigo Duterte for taking time to meet with Bayan leaders in Malacanang last July 18, 2017. We sought a meeting to inform the President of the planned nationwide SONA protest actions on July 24 and to relay to him 20 urgent people’s demands. The meeting lasted for nearly two hours. The Bayan delegation consisted of representatives from workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, Mindanao activists and progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan coalition.

Unlike past meetings, the atmosphere was somewhat tense, more serious and revealed glaring differences on major issues. After the meeting, it was clear why there should be nationwide mass protests during the SONA. The people must persevere in the fight for genuine change.

After a brief introduction, we went straight to the issue of Martial Law. The President is bent on extending it. We have consistently opposed it. He said that it was not intended to target the Left. The Mindanao activists said that that was not reality on the ground. They related how Martial Law is being used to militarize communities and attack Lumad schools. Several communities have been displaced as a result. Lumad leaders showed the President pictures and other documentation.

On the issue of the stalled peace talks with the NDFP, the President echoed the line of his security cluster that there should first be a prolonged ceasefire before there could be any talk of reforms. We reiterated our position that the peace talks must continue because it is in the interest of the people and that the surest way to achieve peace is through socio-economic and political reforms. It appears that the fate of the talks and the people’s desire for a just peace will again be held hostage by the ceasefire issue.

The President gave no commitment on the issue of militarization of communities, saying that this was a reality in the ongoing civil war. For our part, a condition of extended Martial Law can only mean that military abuses and attacks will increase.

While there remain openings and agreements in principle on several issues, these will still require firm government commitment and militant struggle by the people. During the meeting, we sought to find common ground on the issue labor contractualization, free tuition for State Universities and Colleges, land reform and the issue of destructive mining. There is no clear indication that the President will fulfill his pledge of upholding an independent foreign policy by abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement any time soon. Meanwhile, he was responsive to calls for the release of elderly and sickly political prisoners and received personal letters and appeals form them.

We again informed the President of the upcoming SONA rallies. He said he will not stop these and will allow protesters to air their demands near Batasan.

After the meeting, we returned to Mendiola to report the results to the Mindanao workers and other sectors who were camped-out since Monday. We would have wanted to bring more good news to them, but such was not the case.

From the foregoing discussion – with Martial Law’s extension under way and the people’s economic conditions worsening – the people are more than ever justified in waging militant struggle for change. We are determined to further expand people’s resistance to the anti-people and anti-national policies of the regime.

The SONA rally will see huge delegations from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila, as well as delegations from Mindanao. Protests will be conducted in almost every urban center in the country, from Ilocos to General Santos. On July 23, participants for the SONA rally will begin arriving in Quezon City and hold vigils near Commonwealth Avenue.

On July 22, we are calling on the people to gather at Batasan to protest the Congress special session to railroad the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

 

 

 

 

CHINA: A state built on graves will not last

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
July 14, 2017

China has lost yesterday one of its great sons, Nobel Laurate Mr. Liu Xiaobo. Indeed, Liu Xiaobo was a criminal for the Chinese administration. They had sentenced him to undergo a prison term of 11 years, after being convicted by what is passed off as ‘judicial process’ in China. The crime for which Liu Xiaobo was convicted is ‘inciting subversion of state power’ by co-authoring the Charter 08 pro-democracy manifesto, which called for the Communist Party in China to uphold the commitments made in the constitution.

Anything that is even remotely possible to be interpreted by Beijing as ‘organising for a cause’ is perceived as a threat by the Chinese administration. This approach is the defining character of a state that feels weekend internally and a government that has no moral standing to remain in power. The legislation Beijing enacted controlling all civil society activities, internal and those that are supported from external sources is a legislated evidence to this fear. So much so, today, a non-Chinese seeking a language interpreter’s service within China has to be reported to the authorities. Failing to do so is a crime.

Since its formation, China has used its courts and the prosecutorial department to silence all forms of public opinion, that the administration conceives as a threat that could over time challenge the absolute authority of the Central Party. Even lawyers appearing for their clients are not spared.

Make no mistake. What is passed off as ‘judicial proceedings’ in China has no justice element in it. It is merely a process, that serves the absolute authority of the state and nothing more. Besides, the individuals who run these institutions are deeply corrupt, like those in the administration. And many of them are known to have ‘parked’ their ill-gotten wealth outside the country.

China is one of the worst economic examples of today. Its riches are built upon absolute negation of freedom of the silenced. Anyone engaging in business with China is merely supporting this inhuman process. This includes international agencies, business houses and governments across the world.

The only way for China to change, is for the international community to call the black pot, black. No government has dared to do this, as was in the case of Liu Xiaobo. There has been not a single co-ordinated and sustained attempt by the governments of the world, to publically place pressure upon China to allow Liu Xiaobo to obtain proper medical treatment. At the age of 61, his life rotted in detention.

Today heads of states have made public statements condemning Liu Xiaobo’s untimely death. They should also perhaps ask themselves in what length they have contributed to this murder when they rolled out red carpets to Chinese leaders visiting them?

 

 

 

 

Our spiritual and supernatural world

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
July 9, 2017

WE need to be more adept in attending to the world of the spiritual and the supernatural which is where we also live, whether we like it or not, aware of it or not.

That it’s part of our objective reality can be verified from the fact that we can think and reason out, discover and invent things, and do many others that tell us we are capable of spiritual operations that presume that we also live in the world of the spiritual.

The supernatural aspect of our objective reality can be verified by the fact that there are many mysterious, naturally inexplicable things that take place in our life. There are miracles and other wonders that simply go beyond the limits of our nature.

We have to learn how to deal with our spiritual and supernatural world because that is where the real action is and where our ultimate goal is. That’s where we are truly defined, where our radical dignity is established. That’s where we can have our encounter with God.

For us, the material and natural world is nothing if not related to the spiritual and the supernatural world. Our material and natural world can only have meaning and purpose if related to the spiritual and the supernatural, that is, if related ultimately to God.

Of course, God made himself man in Jesus Christ so that our material and natural world, damaged by sin, can have a way to reconnect with our Creator and our Father. And Christ’s presence and redemptive action continues to take place with the action of the Holy Spirit.

This is a truth of our faith that should ever be made alive in us, kept sharp in our mind, and deeply felt in our heart. For this, we have to submit to a certain discipline that may involve a number of things.

We have to learn to be recollected all the time, keeping effective control and supervision of our senses and other faculties so that wherever we are, we could manage to be always in the presence of God.

We have to learn to pray and meditate on the word of God, for it is there where we begin to get in touch with Him on a day-to-day basis. If we truly exercise our faith, our prayer should always be exciting since we would be dealing with the Holy Spirit who knows all the truth and who can tell us of things to come.

We need to do everything to make sure our prayer is a real encounter with God, a direct conversation with the Holy Spirit who always intervenes in our life with his constant promptings.

For this, it is truly helpful to know more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit so we may be able to correspond to those gifts properly. Obviously to be most docile to the Holy Spirit, we need to clean up our mind and heart through penance. Let’s see to it that our heart is rid of any impurity that could prevent us from discerning the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

These are, at least, a few of the things we can do to take care of our spiritual and supernatural world.

 

 

 

 

Release of cops in rub-out case in Leyte, non-release of political prisoners, clear signs of impunity under Duterte

A press statement by KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
June 20, 2017

“We express our condemnation and extreme disappointment on the release on bail of police officers involved in the Espinosa case, as among the clear indications of prevailing impunity under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. We remind the President that his job as commander-in-chief does not entail protecting State security forces from accountability on their crimes,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay on the release of the nineteen (19) accused policemen involved in the killing of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa.

Former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos, along with 18 others, were initially charged with murder after they launched an operation to serve a warrant against Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa last November 5, 2016; the operation led to the killing of Espinosa inside his jail in Baybay, Leyte. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the senate investigation ruled the case as a “rub-out.”

On June 2, 2017, the Department of Justice downgraded the charges against the 19 cops from murder to homicide, with the regional trial court allowing bail of P40,000 each. On June 16, all the accused were released on bail. Earlier last April, President Duterte said that he will not only pardon cops involved in the Espinosa slay case should they be convicted, but that he will also promote them.

“Duterte apparently remains true to his words when it entails ensuring the continued support of institutions who might be detrimental to his presidency. When it comes to promises he made for the welfare and benefit of the marginalized, however, he falls short, or at numerous occasions, makes a reversal. This is true for the issue of the release of political prisoners, especially those for humanitarian considerations,” said Palabay.

As of May 15, 2017, Karapatan puts the number of political prisoners in the country to 402 – with 39 political detainees arrested under the Duterte administration. Palabay added that “there is a clear State policy of absolving culpable policemen in the war on drugs campaign and soldiers in their counter-insurgency war against the people, while maintaining the continued imprisonment of political prisoners jailed for trumped-up charges. It is deplorable to see scalawags being out on bail while those unjustly kept behind bars remain fighting for justice.”

“The Filipino people have been promised change, and we hold Duterte accountable that these changes be for the better. Instead, we now have martial law in Mindanao, aerial bombings and other community violations committed with impunity, the non-release of political prisoners, a militarized bureaucracy, a war on drugs that has claimed the lives of thousands, and an enabled and abusive State security forces with guaranteed protection. We urge Duterte to look closer, because for the most part, he has largely contributed to the worsening of the same oppressive and repressive system inherited from his predecessors,” concluded Palabay.

 

 

 

 

Joint statement on Marawi, martial law and internet freedom

By CPU, TXTPOWER and AGHAM
June 15, 2017

After Camp Aguinaldo spokesman Colonel Edward Arevalo warned that the military would exercise an alleged “right to censure”, DICT Head Rodolfo Salalima has announced arrests for “cyber sedition”.

It must be clear by now: Whether you’re in Marawi, Mindanao or Manila, we’re all unsafe from martial law’s effects on our basic rights. And nowhere is this more obvious than the internet and the basic rights we enjoy online and offline.

These threats by the military and DICT don’t strike fear at the heart of terrorists. They dampen civic engagement and attempt to negate the public’s right and duty to see to it that martial law is required, that martial law is actually aimed at the terrorists, and that martial law is not being implemented against the public.

We warn the military and the DICT not to overstep their bounds. Censorship, whether prior restraint or subsequent punishment, does not help combat terrorists. We urge the military to revisit their claim of a “right to censure”. It is an invention, with no legal provenance or constitutional basis.

We also warn against network shutdowns under martial law. Network shutdowns in Mindanao are unacceptable. It would isolate and disconnect Mindanao from the rest of the country and the world. Mindanaoans should not be silenced. It would be bad for business, commerce, education, governance and other aspects of our daily lives.

The dress rehearsals for turning off our internet have started many years back. In the name of counter-terrorism, the police, the military and the government have taken down mobile and internet access in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and other parts of the country.

All the shutdowns have been applied for and granted in an questionable manner, without hearing and without assessment. It is not farfetched that the government would use this if the “online noise” of widespread criticism becomes intolerable to them.

If there’s any event and place where the public would understand a network shutdown, it is this incident and Marawi City from the very start. Based on "practice", shutting down all communications there would deprive the terrorists any means to communicate among themselves and the outside world. It is now a virtual ghost town, with most of its 200,000 inhabitants already transformed into evacuees.

But this appears to be impossible. Because it would affect the military operations, coordination between the Commander-in-Chief in Manila and the ground forces in Marawi and media reportage that has been so kind to the military.

We urge citizens and organizations to be vigilant and jealous of the rights we enjoy, offline or online, against any arrogant overreach by the military and government. They have a track record of abuse, and have also made threats of doing under martial law.

Let’s keep the Philippines' and the internet free.

 

 

 

 

Tender Mercies

By ROBERT Z. CORTES
June 12, 2017

Three Saturdays ago, I and two of my friends met a lady who can easily qualify as the coolest and funniest octogenarian of our lives - even if she could hardly walk. (She's not in the picture though :) )

She lived in a house also occupied by her older brother and his wife who, she later told us, both hardly minded her. She had one little corner in that house but it was practically a separate unit since it had its own private entrance from one side of the house.

Our random meeting happened through the recommendation of a barangay counsellor-friend who knew her semi-abandoned plight. That first meeting was unforgettable. There was a kind middle-aged lady who led us to Lola, and what followed was easily an hour of laughter and deep insight when we thought it was just going to be 10 minutes of expressing our piety and pity.

The upshot of that first meeting was that we resolved we were going to visit Lola more regularly - bringing our other friends. Pope Francis, after all, has been very clear about not abandoning our elderly – they’re one of those in the peripheries of the Church. And here was one who would not only give us an opportunity to obey the Pope; she was even one who could make our and our friends’ Saturday mornings much more meaningful. Most importantly she pleaded with us to please come again.

Last Saturday, we made that next visit. It was raining but it didn't matter. When we arrived at Lola's side of the house we saw that the main door was open, but the screen door was locked. We then called out to Lola. However, instead of her, someone else heard us who came out from another door. Seeing the apparition was like an encounter with Medusa: we froze.

And it was not because she had snakes on her head (in fact, she only had a fake flower stuck on top of her left ear). It was rather because she was someone we knew as the "pious lady" of the parish church nearby: always hopping around busily fixing things on the altar, approaching people nicely, making sure shawls were placed on "errant" girls who insisted on wearing sleeveless tops, etc. But she was now anything but that. She had been transformed to the imperious lady boss of the compound.

Looking at us like we were masked men about to take Lola hostage, she asked us what we were doing there. When we told her we were going to talk to Lola she asked what for. And before we could answer, she asked what we were going to do after we talked to her. And while we were formulating the answer to that last question – wondering if we were still going to answer the previous – she asked how long we were going to talk to Lola. This time one of us was quick enough to say “around 30 minutes,” and she replied, "one hour?" I then realized she really was paying attention. And very interested in our answers.

Seemingly satisfied that she had made quite an impression on us, she then pounded on Lola's door with all the vigor that her imperiousness could muster, as if she were demanding the Maute rebels to come out or else. She muttered impatiently under her breath why on earth Lola locked her door. (I thought I saw some flames coming out of her nostrils, but most probably I was just seeing things.) Very condescendingly, as if taking pity on the suffering we were about to be subjected in the visit, she advised us to be patient with Lola since Lola was "baliw." She then walked away.

I was interiorly shaken when I entered Lola's unit. I had begun to understand that Lola was around someone who didn't regard her the same way we did and wondered what other sort of abuses she received from this woman the rest of the time. Thankfully, Lola was her old self the last time we met her. We again laughed and learned from each other. We soon found out that she was the ignoble sister-in-law (ISIL) and Lola gestured that the lady was "baliw" by waving her two hands in circles near her head. The feeling was clearly mutual. That fact was a source of a good laugh for all of us and we continued our gossip in whispers. It was good, albeit innocently mean conspiratorial fun.

Pretty soon the meeting had to end earlier than we had wanted. After all, we were painfully aware that someone was timing our stay. When we went out of the door, planning to pay our respects to the ISIL before we left, we realized she was nowhere to be found. We then headed to the gate fearing she didn’t want to be disturbed anymore. And just when we were opening the gate, she made her second apparition – and she was definitely no Lady of Fatima.

Nope, after all, she caught us "red-handed" leaving without even the decency to say goodbye to her. Didn't she see us opening the gate, and we never even bothered to look for her? There’s a door, you should’ve knocked! Is this how you do things - you are welcomed like decent guests and you sneak out like thieves? Don't do that to me or anyone else ever again you understand? Sige, umalis na kayo!"

That was the end of the rope for me. As we were out of earshot I said, “What a disgusting creature.”

One of my friends asked me, “Why do you say that?”

I said, “Don’t you realize that the Gospel this morning was about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who paraded their piety outside but were full of wickedness inside? Didn’t she hear the priest’s homily this morning? She was right there in front, piously folding her hands.”

My friend meekly answered, “Well, maybe she needs a visit herself.”

Well... yes.

His reply gave me pause, and I immediately knew where it was going. She’s one of those in the peripheries, too.

I also quickly realized that he was right, but I just wasn't willing to fully admit it. Not yet. Darn it – how can someone so mean be in the same peripheries as such nice people as Lola? In fact, I wanted to resist the idea so much I managed to quip, “Well, I can ask a psychiatrist to visit her.”

But a few more steps, I had to accept a fact that was as clear as day: I was now like her. By putting her in the category of the disgusting, I was now in that same category. What a sad thing: many times we don't realize that we who think ourselves very much within the Church are in reality in its peripheries.

But with acceptance comes hope. Thankfully, the source of hope is clear. "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." It's the very same idea that brought me to the coolest and funniest octogenarian I've ever met. Only now I understand better how much more deeply I still need to understand that word "mercy."

 

 

 

 

The goal of education

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
May 31, 2017

THIS is none other than for us to be another Christ. After all, he is the very pattern of our humanity in the beginning and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. If education is for us to achieve the fullness of our humanity, we should not look at anything, no matter how lofty and useful, other than at Christ.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, describes it this way: “His (Christ’s) gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ...” (4,11-13)

Yes, education is not simply about acquiring some worldly knowledge and skills. It’s about achieving this “mature manhood” St. Paul was talking about, a mature manhood that is “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Obviously, knowledge and skills are important and are, in fact, indispensable. But they have to be oriented toward the ultimate goal of education which is the pursuit for the fullness of Christ in us.

We have to be wary of the strong, almost irresistible temptation to downgrade the purpose of education to simply achieving some worldly values like wealth, honor, popularity, efficiency, etc.

These worldly goals, if not related to the ultimate goal, can very well be sweet poisons that can corrupt the process of education.

Some sectors may claim that putting Christ as the main goal of education undermines the technical rigor that should accompany the task of learning the sciences and the arts. They claim that that approach would be too other-worldly as to restrain us to go to the last consequences of our studies.

We should not be deceived by such claim, because the opposite is, in fact, the case. When we put Christ on top of everything else in our education, we would be most motivated and pressured to be thoroughly exacting in our studies. Christ himself would require nothing less than that.

Thus, the ultimate goal of education is when we learn to deal in an abiding way with the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of God, who will remind us of everything Christ taught us, who will lead us to the complete truth and would tell us of things to come.

At this time of the world’s life, we should do much better than the early Christians who, when asked by St. Paul whether they have received the Holy Spirit, answered that “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” (Acts 19,2)

All the technical things involved in our education should somehow tend to the learning of how to deal with the Holy Spirit. For this, it might be useful also to know the gifts of the Holy Spirit which enable us to know things the way the Holy Spirit knows them.

We should never marginalize, much less, ignore, the Holy Spirit in our education.

 

 

 

 

Statement on the Marawi Crisis

By Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy
May 25, 2017

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy strongly condemns the violent attacks perpetrated by lawless elements in the Islamic city of Marawi and Lanao del Sur, made more heinous as it occurred as the Muslim faithful are preparing for the holy month of Ramadhan. Any act inciting to terror in the hearts of defenseless civilians, the destruction of places of worship and properties, the murder of innocent men, women, and children irrespective of one’s faith are all forbidden and detestable acts according to Islam. Sowing terror through force and violence has always been an invalid means of attaining societal changes, and cannot be justified through faith or religion. The Qur'an says: "If any one slays a person- unless it be as punishment for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all people. And if any one saves a life, it would be as if he saved the lives of all people." (Surah 5, verse 32).

We urge the Philippine Government to ensure that the declaration of Martial Law will not, in any way, compromise the lives of our people and the principles of democracy that we hold dear. PCID believes that the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict Marawi is needed, through tempered and calibrated responses that will prevent further casualties and damage to property and livelihoods.

We ask fellow Filipinos to stay informed based on facts, especially with the prevalence of unverified information and unsupported theories regarding the crisis. We also ask the media to take extra precautions in their reporting, and to prevent framing the crisis as a binary conflict between Muslims and Christians. We should focus on uniting and working together for just peace and human rights, instead of holding unfair and preemptory judgments that can only lead to a perilous cycle of fear, ignorance, and worse, more violence.

More than ever, preventing violent extremism is needed, so we are urging all sectors to immediately address the worsening issue at its roots. First and foremost, our government officials, particularly the elected leaders, should be accountable for good governance and rule of law as well as the deterioration of the peace and order condition in conflict affected communities of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Without good governance and the rule of law, government cannot be effective in improving the socio-economic and political conditions of our people, and the delivery of basic services long denied in the Bangsamoro.

As the Muslim ummah enters Ramadhan, we can only pray for wisdom, peace, and understanding.

 

 

 

 

Workers’ group rejects military rule in Mindanao

A press statement by Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
May 24, 2017

The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), a socialist national labor center, added its voice today to all those who oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. Our position in based on the following grounds:

1. Mindanao is not in a state of lawless violence, nor is it facing invasion or rebellion, which are the only cases where Martial Law could be legally imposed.

The Marawi attack does not justify the imposition of military rule in a region that is now pursuing peace through revived negotiations between the Philippine government and the various armed groups of the Moro self-determination movement.

2. Unlike in the 1973 and 1935 constitutions, where imminent danger or mere threat to public safety is enough to justify military rule and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the 1987 Constitution requires that there has to be an actual uprising or insurrection in the entire Mindanao region before a justified declaration of Martial Law.

In forty eight (48) hours, Duterte is required, by law, to reveal to Congress the factual and legal basis of his imposition of Martial Law.

We demand that Malacañang to also present its case on why military rule is its solution to the terror attacks, as it is contradictory to statements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which declared that the situation in Marawi is now “under control”, and to declarations by Rodrigo Duterte himself, who has said that a purely military solution will not address the historical roots of the Mindanao conflict.

3. The legal minds of Malacañang – especially President Duterte – may argue that safeguards to civil liberties and political rights are in place even with the imposition of Martial Law. But formal recognition is different from actual realities. The Bill of Rights is often illusory in a warlord-ridden region such as Mindanao, even during peace-time but certainly more so during martial rule.

Since the imposition of martial law in Mindanao has no factual and legal basis and because Malacañang rushed into martial rule, without exhausting all other options, we fear that the fascist tendency of the Duterte regime is nearing its full bloom, through the re-imposition of open dictatorship in the entire country, which Digong has repeatedly threatened to do during the campaign and throughout his first year in office.

The BMP demands that the Duterte administration immediately (a) end the martial law in Mindanao; (b) uphold civilian supremacy over the military; (c) protect people’s rights – especially the rights to freedom of association and legitimate dissent; and, (d) address the longstanding conflicts in Mindanao by satisfying the Filipino people’s demand for peace and equality and the Bangsamoro people’s right for self-determination.

 

 

 

 

Priests should only talk about God!

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
May 14, 2017

THAT’S right. And especially, when it involves bishops. When they, we – me included, stray into commenting about politics, even if we have the good intention of evangelizing it but cannot avoid taking a partisan position, we would be doing wrong and be causing great harm to everyone.

Christ himself, living at a time and place where the political conditions were far from ideal, refrained from making any comments about politics. About the only time he could be said to have made a political comment was when he referred to Herod as a fox. (cfr Lk 13,32) Other than that he was silent and resisted any attempt to drag him to the political scene.

In fact, he submitted himself to the prevailing laws at the time, highly imperfect as they were, even if as the Son of God and our Redeemer, he could have been exempted from them. This was the case of whether he had to pay the temple tax or not. (cfr, Mt 17,24-27)

Current Church laws and praxis have always discouraged the clergy from getting mixed up in political issues. Part of the reason is the autonomy that temporal matters like politics enjoys and has to be respected no matter how much we may disagree with certain political views.

But the other part of the reason is the obvious danger of alienating some people. Priests, consecrated to be the sacramental personification of Christ as head of the Church, should always be an agent of unity and redemption, concerned mainly with the spiritual and supernatural life of the people.

Even if we have the better political view, we do not have the privilege to participate actively in the political discussions. Even when the issues involved already have direct repercussions on faith and morals, we should refrain from making comments that can be interpreted as politically partisan.

The reason behind is that even in the worst scenario, there is always some good that can be derived from it. If we follow by our faith, if we follow by the example of Christ, we just have to go along with whatever political temper there may be at a given time and place and focus more on what we are supposed to do.

Of course, we as pastors can make moral judgments on political issues that clearly violate faith and morals, but these should be done with utmost delicacy and charity.

In this regard, we should not be afraid to be misunderstood and to suffer all kinds of persecution, reflecting Christ’s character as a sign of contradiction. What we cannot do is to fall into a kind of bitter zeal that would leave charity behind in pursuit of what we consider to be the truth and the requirements of justice.

Actually, talking only about God already entails a lot of things and can demand everything from the clergy. It covers everything that is of real and eternal importance to us. Preaching the mysteries of our faith alone is no small matter. This is not to mention that we have to journey pastorally with the people, both in their collective and individual/personal aspects.

All these require nothing less than full identification with Christ in whose priesthood we participate. The social-action aspect of the clergy’s work should never be interpreted as a ticket to get involved in partisan politics.

 

 

 

 

National ID system, amid militarization of gov’t bureaucracy, will lead to wholesale rights violations

A Press Statement by the KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
May 12, 2017

Amid the growing number of military generals holding top posts in the government bureaucracy, the proposed bill on the national ID system, which was recently approved by the House Committee on Population, is bound to lead to wholesale violation of people’s rights to freedom of movement and privacy, right against surveillance, and right to unhampered and non-discriminatory provision of social services.

Such proposed measures will legitimize the already existing violations of the rights of the people. Many activists and political dissenters were subjected to surveillance by the state. Worse, their names were listed in the so-called “order of battle” by the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) and other similar lists as part of the counter-insurgency program of the government. With the continuing spate of illegal arrests and detention of activists, we believe that this policy and practice continues to this day.

The proposed National ID system will aggravate the already bleak human rights situation in the country where human rights defenders and political dissenters are subjects of surveillance, threats, illegal arrests and detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Its conspicuous timing is also in the context of increased militarization of the civilian bureaucracy, the continuing implementation of counter-insurgency programs, and killings in line with the war on drugs.

We take exception that such draconian measures are being pursued in the guise of purportedly addresses problems in the bureaucracy on the delivery of social services. The inefficiency in government transactions is deeply rooted in a corrupt system. A more productive response to the need for an efficient system of delivering government service to the people is through the prioritization and allocation of necessary funds for the social services, instead of giving a lion’s share of public funds to the unproductive concerns of the defense sector. A more comprehensive response to criminal activities should start with the investigation and prosecution of criminal elements mostly in the Philippine National Police itself and the political biggies who protect these syndicates.

 

 

 

 

Statement of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on vote to Gina Lopez

By Office of Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano
May 5, 2017

Good evening everyone! Greetings from Geneva.

I will always decide on what is right and not what is popular.

Senator Alan Peter CayetanoI'm not surprised to see so much support and so much opposition to the voting of the C.A. re DENR Secretary Nominee Gina Lopez. I thank those who are open minded and asking why? I'm not surprised that Sec. Gina and her group will go so low as to cast aspersions on why I voted the way I did and even accuse me of being in the pockets of the mining industry.

Since the 2007 campaign my stand on responsible mining and the strictest, highest standards for industries that affect the environment has been consistent.

At the time of the voting, I felt that for me to explain my vote at that time would be like rubbing salt in a wound, because I would have to enumerate all the reasons why she is not fit to be DENR secretary. I felt it would be cruel to reject then put her down.

Yet she now singles me out when a vast majority of the CA voted to reject (after giving her a year to prove herself) her appointment.

I want to clarify that I gave Ms. Lopez enough chances to dispel fears that she would not observe the legal process in regulating the mining industry. I supported her in closing down mining sites that were not compliant with the highest standards. Moreover, illegal mining and logging continue to proliferate, while other sectors that need both strict regulation continue to destroy the environment.

Unfortunately, the Secretary was adamant in defending her illegal actions. If she had carried on with her mindset, it would have embarrassed the Duterte Administration sooner or later. She would have placed the administration in a predicament that would be hard to defend.

I respect Ms. Lopez's passion as an advocate for the environment, but she fails to understand that she cannot arrogate unto herself Constitutional powers reserved exclusively for Congress.

Many officials have invoked good intentions when they violated our anti-graft and corruption laws, and President Rodrigo Duterte was left with no choice but to terminate them. Ms. Lopez's recent acts already bordered along these lines. Going by her unwillingness to comply with institutional processes, she is not fit to head the DENR. She would have embarrassed the President in no time.

We are all for alleviating poverty and the strict enforcement of our laws, but we cannot and should not do so by being whimsical in imposing regulations that violate Constitutional processes.

I hope that the President will appoint another Ms. Lopez with the same zeal, yet still mindful of the requisite that one must be faithful to the mandate and dictates of our laws and processes.

 

 

 

 

God and evil

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
April 23, 2017

A usual question many people ask is, If God is good, is goodness himself, if he is truly omnipotent and provident, why is there evil? It’s definitely a very complex question that is hard to answer. In fact, the Catechism recognizes this.

“To this question, as painful and mysterious as it is”, the Catechism explains, “only the whole of Christian faith can constitute a response.” (Compendium 57) It hastens to reassure us that “God is not in any way – directly or indirectly – the cause of evil. He illuminates the mystery of evil in his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose in order to vanquish that great moral evil, human sin, which is at the root of all other evils.”

Then in the next point, it says: “Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil. This was realized in a wondrous way by God in the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son) he has brought forth the greatest of all goods (the glorification of Christ and our redemption). (Compendium 58)

We also know about the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, in the Old Testament who was sold by his own brothers out of envy but who later became a prominent man in Egypt. When that dramatic reunion between him and his father and brothers took place, the brothers were very apologetic for what they did to him and expected to be duly punished.

But Joseph, with utmost magnanimity, the magnanimity of God, simply told them: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50,20) Once again, the divine principle that God knows how to derive good from evil finds its proof.

It’s important that when we consider the very many different forms of evil that can come to us and that we see around, we should immediately have recourse to our faith and not stay too long in our merely human estimations that are usually based on our emotions only, our prejudices, our sciences that cannot fathom the many mysteries in life, etc.

We should not waste too much time lamenting and complaining, and worse, drifting towards the loss of faith. We need to go to our faith as soon as possible, and there find some refuge for our troubled souls.

But for this to happen, we need to practice some emotional and intellectual humility, otherwise that faith cannot shed its proper light, and we would be held captive by our limited ways of understanding things. We cannot deny the fact that our emotions and our intellectual pride can easily dominate the way we think and react to things.

We have to find ways of embedding this attitude in the people and in our culture itself. We should not be too afraid when some forms of evil come our way. We just have to ask: “Lord, what do you want me to learn from these?”

 

 

 

 

What the Holy Week teaches

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
April 9, 2017

MANY precious insights and lessons can be derived if we enter into the spirit of the Holy Week. Let us thank God for all of them and strengthen our resolve to go through the Holy Week keeping our faith and piety as vibrant as possible. That way, we can predispose ourselves to continually discern these insights and lessons, refining, polishing and deepening them as we go along.

Among these precious insights and lessons is the idea of human and Christian perfection which, I believe, is patently shown by Christ as we liturgically celebrate his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

For many of us, our usual understanding of what is perfect and complete is when we manage to pass a certain test, conquer a certain battle, win in a certain contest, all measured in human terms.

That is to say, that the victory and conquest is measured in terms of points scored, wealth earned, popularity gained, or in terms of mere physical and mechanical perfection.

Those standards of perfection and completion obviously have their proper value and place in the sun, but they definitely are still far from what is ideal to us as persons and as children of God.

They are far too exclusive, not inclusive, and are unable to find value in suffering, and reason and meaning in the many human imperfections and natural limitations that we all have.

It’s an understanding of perfection that is not realistic, given our wounded human nature and damaged condition. It fails to consider many other things that are unavoidable in our earthly life.

In this Holy Week, from Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, to his death on the cross and resurrection, what we see is Christ’s determination to perfect and complete his redemptive work by obeying the will of his Father, no matter what it costs.

Our idea of human and Christian perfection has to conform to that model shown to us by Christ. It can be very strict and demanding insofar as the human and natural standards are concerned, but all of that should not in any way undermine the charity and mercy that has to be extended to everyone no matter how they are.

We have to realize that our human and Christian perfection is achieved to the extent that we follow Christ all the way to the cross so that we too can share in his resurrection. It is a perfection that will always involve suffering, that is, the cross of Christ that paved the way to his resurrection.

What the Holy Week teaches us is to train ourselves to suffer with Christ, to take up the cross of Christ without fear. We should be reassured of the victory that can be the consequence of this attitude, banking also on the reassurance that was once expressed by St. Paul:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Cor 10,13)

 

 

 

 

Our CAB. Our Peace. Our Future

A Press Statement by All-Out Peace (AOP) & Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) on CAB’s 3rd Anniversary
March 27, 2017

As we commemorate today’s 3rd Anniversary of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the All-Out Peace (AOP) and Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) renew and further strengthen our support for this historic peace agreement, and reiterate our collective resolve for a genuinely inclusive peace roadmap that secures the present and the future not just of Bangsamoro but of the whole nation.

AOP and MPW believe that CAB, an instrument of genuine peace, “embodies and recognizes the “justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and prosperity, and allow for meaningful self-governance”. It is in this context that we register our support and call for the immediate enactment of a Bangsamoro enabling law that reflects all principled and meaningful solutions to seek a final answer to the Bangsamoro question and resolve the decades-old Mindanao conflict.

Today, we re-affirm with utmost urgency, our commitment to contribute, more significantly, to peacebuilding – a strategy crucial to finding a viable peace formula to help see through the conclusion of the Bangsamoro peace process that would finally seal the democratic aspirations of the Bangsamoro for their inherent right to self-determination towards a meaningful and enduring peace.

Despite the setbacks suffered by the CAB in recent years, starting with the unfortunate incident in Mamasapano and the failure of the 16th Congress to pass a BBL, we believe that the CAB, and those who believe in it, have weathered the storm. Believing that the CAB is a product not only of political negotiations between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government but of the peacebuilding communities’ decades of peacemaking, we are here today, stronger and with a firmer resolve to persevere and defend the political promise and peaceful vision of what we claim as Our CAB.

In the immediate, we respectfully urge the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the implementing peace panels, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to fast track the peace process as we cannot afford anymore delay. The strategy of the new administration to actually build on what has been accomplished in the past and to continue previous commitments, including the implementation of signed agreements from past administrations is a welcome development.

Already, even if an enabling law is yet to be hammered by the BTC and enacted by Congress, a Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission mandated by the CAB has delivered on its major task by issuing a report and proposing recommendations primarily based on extensive consultations in the Bangsamoro areas. We urge President Duterte to heed its recommendations particularly of establishing a Transitional Justice and Reconcilation Commission for the Bangsamoro (NTJRCB) that shall ensure the implementation of the ‘dealing with the past’ framework and promote healing and reconciliation.

Now, more than ever, we are optimistic and hopeful that in the spirit and principles of the CAB and other related peace agreements, history will be on our side and will offer a new round of golden opportunity for the enactment of a Bangsamoro enabling law to rectify the injustices committed not just against the Bangsamoro, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, but for all the oppressed peoples of our nation. We are determined to win this ‘war’ against war. In the success of the peace process rests our peaceful and democratic future.

 

 

 

 

Political killings in the Philippines – complicity in murder

By ANDREW ANDERSON, Executive Director, Front Line Defenders
March 10, 2017

On Thursday, 2 March, Jimboy Tapdasan Pesadilla was contacted by a neighbour to go to his parents’ house urgently. When he got to the house, he found several neighbours outside the house and a team of police inside, taking pictures. His father and mother had both been shot dead.

Ramon Dagaas Pesadilla and his wife Leonila Tapdasan Pesadilla were both active members of the Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA). The CFA has been vocal in its opposition to major mining projects in the area, and as a result their members have been regular targets for the security forces and thugs hired by the mining companies. Ramon and Leonila had recently donated land for a Lumad (the non Muslim indigenous people of the southern Philippines) community school. This had made them a particular target for attack as the security forces accuse indigenous community schools of fostering support for the New People’s Army, the NPA. Human rights groups have reported an upward trend in human rights violations against indigenous people ever since fighting resumed between communist rebels and government forces following the termination of both parties' unilateral ceasefires early last month.

These latest killings bring to 17 the number of HRDs killed since the start of 2017.

When President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines left office in June 2016, he could at least claim some credit for a significant drop in the number of extra-judicial executions, even through the activities of government-backed death squads still remained a major cause for concern. Since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, killings are once more on the increase. These crimes are rarely investigated or the perpetrators held to account. According to Human Rights Watch's 2016 Annual Report “Among the reasons are lack of political will to investigate and prosecute abuses by state security forces; a corrupt and politicised criminal justice system; and a traditional “patronage politics” system that protects officials and security forces”.

In its 2016 Annual Report, Front Line Defenders reported 281 killings of human rights defenders (HRDs) around the world. Thirty-one of those killings took place in the Philippines, the largest number of killings of HRDs in any country outside the Americas. By calling for the extra-judicial killing of those involved, or suspected of being involved, in the drug trade, President Duterte has sent a signal that murder is an acceptable way of dealing with certain social problems. The ending of the peace talks and the ceasefire has made an already volatile situation even more dangerous, especially for indigenous peoples or environmental HRDs who object to mining or other polluting industries.

The Philippines is now one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a HRD and the government of President Duterte must act urgently to break the cycle of violence, ensure the security forces operate within the rule of law and bring the perpetrators to justice or stand accused of complicity in murder.

The recent decision to involve the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the war on drugs, especially in the lands of indigenous peoples, is a dangerous development which will do nothing to solve the drug problem or resolve the decades-old conflict, but will certainly increase the death toll.

Since the beginning of February there has been a catalogue of killings of Lumad community leaders. On 3 February, Matanem Lorendo Pocuan and Renato Anglao, were gunned down in separate incidents. On 6 February, Emelito Rotimas was shot eight times by suspected military agents, while later the same day Glenn Ramos, was shot dead by personnel of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). On 16 February, Edweno ‘Edwin’ Catog, was shot by two men, believed to be linked to the 46th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA). He had previously been warned by a relative that he should go into hiding because he was on a military hit list. On 19 February, Willerme Agorde of Mailuminado Farmers’ Association Incorporated (MAFAI) was shot by suspected members of the Bagani paramilitary group.

According to Cristina Palabay of human rights organisation Karapatan, “There is a consistent pattern in these killings. Every political killing is justified by the military with claims that victims are members of the New People’s Army (NPA), and have been killed during ‘legitimate’ encounters’. In the cities, we are being fed a similar narrative – with the police justifying drug-related killings during ‘legitimate’ police operations. These killings are perpetrated by state security forces who seem to think that they have been granted the right to kill indiscriminately.

President Duterte has encouraged the killers and must be held responsible for his actions. The international community must challenge President Duterte’s endorsement of murder. Failure to do so will send a signal to dictators everywhere that they can wage war on their own people with impunity.

The number of killings is not just a measure of entrenched violence, but an indicator of the failure of successive Philippine governments to deal with issues of poverty, corruption and discrimination, as well as the lack of economic or social opportunities for the vast majority of the people of the Philippines. A key step towards addressing this issue is for the government to recognise the key role of HRDs in helping to create a more just and equal society in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

Why do we fast?

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 9, 2017

CHRIST was once asked this question. The disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees wondered why they had to fast much while those of Christ did not. (cfr Mt 9,14-15)

The answer came immediately. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

I suppose Christ was referring to himself as the bridegroom. In fact, in his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul referred Christ as the groom of the Church, that is, us. (cfr 5,22-32)

Christ can be regarded as the bridegroom who actually is with us always, but also not yet fully with us, given our human and temporal condition as of yet. We are still on our pilgrim way on earth toward our eternal destiny in heaven where Christ will be fully with us.

That is why Christ can be considered somehow as not yet with us, and that’s the reason why we have to fast. It is to train ourselves to seek him. It is to make us realize we need him, and that we actually will find our true and lasting joy with him. At the moment, we are still kind of mourning, as Christ said, because we are not yet fully with him.

We have to be clear about the reason why we fast. We should not just fast because we have been commanded to do so. We have to fast because, especially at these times when we are easily carried away by earthly pleasures, we need to sharpen our longing for Christ.

Fasting has a dual effect. One is the passive or the negative effect, which is that of disciplining ourselves – especially our senses and our other bodily faculties. This is the self-denial part. And the other is the active or the positive one, which is that of honing our hunger for Christ. This is the following part, as illustrated in the very words of Christ: “If any man wants to follow me, he must deny himself, carry the cross, and follow me.”

This two should go together, mutually affecting each other. One without the other would distort the true character and purpose of fasting.

And nowadays, we have to understand that fasting should not be limited to matters of food and drinks. It has to be extended now most especially in the use of the many conveniences that we now enjoy, like our new technologies, that have an effective way of enslaving us and blunting our love for God and for others.

We need to concretize our resolutions with regard to this need for fasting. This may mean that we have to set aside our cellphones from time to time, that we use the gadgets with clear rectitude of intention, that we refrain from complaining when these same gadgets give us problems as they often do also, etc.

We have to understand that everyday, the element of fasting as a sacrifice is actually a necessity to all of us.

 

 

 

 

PMCJ’s statement on President Duterte’s signing of the Paris Agreement

March 6, 2017

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) welcomes President Duterte’s signing of the Paris Agreement as a step towards the Philippines commitment to the 1.5 degree aspirational goal laid out in the Paris Agreement.

However, signing the Paris Accord still will not ensure a world beyond the climate crisis and the Philippines climate-proofed from extreme weather events. However, the Philippine Government will once again lead the various countries in demanding the historical responsibilities of rich countries and the higher commitments in polluter countries in mitigation action. As of now, the NDCs submitted by all countries which ratified the Paris Agreement falls short of preventing catastrophic climate change.

With this, PMCJ stands firm that the Paris Agreement is not enough to enact effective and genuine climate actions. The group calls for stronger and concrete policy actions that can directly address and develop programs towards Philippine economy achieving growth not tied with increased consumption of coal.

We demand the president’s full support in implementing policies to reduce the dependence of our country to the use of dirty fossil fuels and spearhead the transition towards 100% renewable energy. Moreover, we call on the President to use its mandate to ensure that government agencies will be working hand-in-hand and will serve and protect the interest of the people who are being directly hit by the impacts of the exacerbating global climate change.

So far, the Philippines energy consumption exhibits an increasing CO2 emission due to undesirably increasing number of existing coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) in the country – counting 26 operational and 36 more CFPPs in the pipeline. In fact, President Duterte himself has inaugurated 3 CFPPs in his term.

The Philippines still remains as one of the most vulnerable countries. According to the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index our country ranked 4th globally after being visited by strong typhoons like Typhoon Yolanda for the past decade and the succeeding typhoons. As a result it exacerbated further poverty, massive inequality due to the extent of damage and dislocation. The continued burning of coal and other fossil fuels globally will be detrimental to most climate vulnerable countries like the Philippines where economic growth are being eaten up by destruction and devastation.

Typhoon Yolanda’s effects and impacts include high percentage of destruction of framed homes, total roof failure and wall collapse, isolation of residential areas due to fallen trees and power poles and power outages (NOAA, 2013c), and left the country with 6,201 dead, 1,785 missing and 28,626 injured. All of these resulted to P296 million total damages in agriculture and infrastructure which caused a 1% total decrease in gross domestic product (GDP).

 

 

 

 

Lent, seeing the light in darkness

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 5, 2017

WE are now again the in season of Lent. It’s important that we know how to see the good, bright and happy side of this season that otherwise is usually considered as dark, and also associated almost exclusively with pain, suffering and sacrifice.

We need to confront the dark reality of our sinfulness as well as the reassuring reality of God’s mercy. These two realities should go together, and the Lenten period is the good time to strengthen our conviction about the helpful relationship these two should have with each other.

Whenever we feel the sting of our weaknesses and sinfulness, together with their antecedents and consequences, their causes and effects, let’s never forget to consider also God’s mercy that is always given to us, and, in fact, given to us abundantly.

We have to avoid getting stuck with one while ignoring the other. Our sinfulness should be viewed in the context of divine mercy. And vice-versa: God’s mercy should be regarded in the context of our unavoidable sinfulness.

And from there, let us develop the unshakable conviction that no matter what sins we commit, no matter how ugly they are, there is always hope. God’s mercy is never lacking.

May it be that while our sinfulness would have the understandable effect of making us feel bad and sad, we should not allow it to scandalize ourselves to the point of running away from Christ rather than going back to him contrite.

Let’s strengthen our conviction that Christ has a special attraction to sinners, that he is ever willing to forgive us as long as we show some signs of repentance that he himself, through his grace, will stir in us.

Let’s play the part of Peter who, after denying Christ three times, realized his mistake and wept bitterly in repentance. Christ looked kindly on him and forgave him and even made him the prince of the apostles.

But we have to learn how to handle our weaknesses and temptations. And the secret is always to be with God. The more we are stirred and bombarded by them, the more we should be with God. That’s the secret. To distance ourselves from him can only mean disaster.

Truth is, we always need God in our battle against temptations. We should disabuse ourselves from the thought that with our good intentions and our best efforts alone, we can manage to tame the urges of temptations.

We cannot! That’s the naked truth about it. We only can if we are with God. And we have to be with him in a strong, determined way, not in a passive or lukewarm way. Do flies flock on a hot soup? No. But they do on a cold or lukewarm soup.

We need to do everything to be with God. Our mind and heart should be fully and constantly engaged with him. We always have reason to do so – at least, we can thank him for what we are having at the moment: health, food, air, work, etc. Let’s never leave him!

 

 

 

 

God yes but religion no?

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 22, 2017

WE have to be clear about this. We cannot have God without religion. They go together as far as we are concerned. Religion is precisely our relationship with God. It’s an unavoidable thing, whether we like it or not. It has its laws and requirements that flow from God himself and that ought to be followed. Without religion, what would God be to us?

There are some people who profess that they believe in God but not in religion. Perhaps what they mean is that they indeed believe in God but do not want to be hampered by certain “requirements” that religion demands from them. Or they do not want what they call as “organized religion” with its doctrine and practices.

It’s like saying that they want a God that is according to their own liking, their own designs, their own terms. They do not want to be told what to do in their own so-called relation with God.

Of course, they are quick to say that these “requirements” are simply man-made, or are mere legalisms that really have nothing to do with the essence of our relation with God. They seem to be the only ones capable of knowing how their relation with God should be. No one should intervene.

Worse, they are quick to point out the many inconsistencies that people who occupy positions in the Church and those who call themselves as pious, holy and religious make, to justify their rejection of their own idea of religion. They are deflecting the issue, as if the mistakes and sins of these men and women detract from the objective need for religion.

This is unfortunate because such understanding of God and religion is fatally flawed. While religion is personal in the sense that it is unique to each individual, it is also personal in the sense that it is by definition relational and subject to the laws of God and the laws that the divinely founded Church stipulates.

To be personal is not only to be a unique individual but also to be related to God and to everybody else. A person is always a religious and social being. That is how a person is wired, and in these relations, there are universal God-given laws that need to be followed.

Of course, these laws are articulated in human terms and therefore cannot fully capture the mysterious laws of God. That is why they need to be updated, improved, polished, enriched, etc. as time goes on. But they have to be followed just the same, unless it’s clear that a particular law does not apply to a concrete situation of the person.

Some people say that they believe in God but they do not want to do anything with the Church. But God without the Church is not God. He would be a man-made god. The bishop-martyr St. Cyprian expresses this truth well: “You cannot have God as your Father if you do not have the Church as your mother.”

 

 

 

 

Souls of prayer

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 11, 2017

We really need to be souls of prayer. This is what is proper to us. It’s a fundamental need because when we pray we connect ourselves with our ultimate life source who is God. Our need for prayer is infinitely more than our need for air and food. Before anything else, it is what truly makes us a human person and a child of God.

That is why Christ preached abundantly about it, and encouraged us always to pray. He himself, who is both God and man, prayed all the time. He prayed before he started his public life, when he began his day of work as well as at the end of the day, when he performed miracles, when he had to make big decisions.

In the end, he clearly told us to pray always and not to lose heart when he talked about the parable of the persistent widow (cfr Lk 18,1ff). He also told us about the basic characteristics of our prayer – that it should be sincere, confident, humble and constant.

We have to be wary of our great tendency to be dominated by worldly and temporal concerns such that we fail to pray. That would be a disaster since that would be like being deluded that we are doing well in life when in fact we are failing big time.

We have to start to pick up the rudiments of prayer and begin the process of becoming authentic souls of prayer, such that wherever we are, whatever situation we may be in, somehow we are always praying, we are always in touch with God.

This should not be difficult because we know that God is always around. He is everywhere. Besides, he is always solicitous of us. He cannot fail to love us. We may fail him and earn his anger, but that anger would only be for a while, since his mercy is forever. We can always manage to pray any time any place if we just would have the proper disposition.

Definitely, we need to exercise our faith and be willing to exert effort and make sacrifices. That is how we can aspire to make our prayer alive always. We should put ourselves in God’s presence always so we avoid anonymity in our intimate conversations with him.

What can also help is to train and use our imagination in our prayer. In fact, we have to use all our human powers and faculties – our intelligence and will, our feelings and memory, etc. – in our prayer.

And we should be ready to handle the unavoidable difficulties in our prayer. There will be times when we would feel dry and uninspired or when we would be tempted to think that our prayer is going nowhere.

Those difficulties are actually opportunities to improve our prayer and to grow in our spiritual life. If we persevere in praying, using all the means that are always available, we will see how this improvement and growth are taking place, and be filled with joy and satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

Uninformed or misinformed?

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
February 7, 2017

APPARENTLY an American actor expressed the view recently that if he does not read the newspapers, he obviously would be uninformed of developments around. But if he reads them, he most likely would also get misinformed, considering the way the papers are now, he said. He found himself in a dilemma.

This is the challenge we all face at present. The truth is that we have to get informed, but informed properly. We simply have to find ways of how to get out of the state of being uninformed and misinformed.

This will require some skills, of course. But the basic and relevant virtue to live here is that of prudence. That’s what would enable us to judge whether we should read the papers or not, now or later, or to “smell” whether a piece of information is good or not, useful or useless, relevant or irrelevant, true or false.

Nowadays, the need to be most discerning is getting urgent precisely because of the proliferation of useless information, not to mention, misleading and deceptive ones and fake news that are laced with all sorts of biases and prejudices of those who make them. It’s not only political partisanship that occasions this phenomenon. It’s deeper than that. It’s now ideological partisanship.

This virtue of prudence, of course, presumes some criteria to guide our judgments. In this regard, it has to be made clear that we have to start with God’s moral law. We just cannot set aside this indispensable requirement and plunge immediately to merely earthly and temporal values like practicality, profitability, popularity, etc., to guide us. That would be like sailing a boat without the North Star, or the GPS.

Prudence, of course, presumes a certain hierarchy of values that we should respect, uphold and defend. It should be vitally connected with wisdom that in the end connects us with God and all others, as well as all things in the world, through love and truth.

We have to make sure that our prudence is not only motivated by secondary criteria, like efficiency, effectiveness, practicality, profitability, convenience, etc. If these criteria do not lead us to a closer relation with God, with others and the rest of the world, but would rather reinforce our self-absorption, then it would not be true prudence.

We might enjoy some perks that these secondary standards may give us, but it would not be true prudence when it fails to lead us to our proper relationship with God, others and the rest of the world.

Of course, true prudence springs first of all from our intimate personal relation with God, the source of all good things, of all truth, of all love. Without that foundation, our prudence would be limited to mere appearances of prudence that would be nothing other than the prudence of the world and the prudence of the flesh, if not the prudence of the devil.

Again, we cannot overemphasize the need to be vitally united with God for us to be truly prudent and able to discern all types of information that are being fed to us these days.

 

 

 

 

In the name of Jesus

By Fr. Roy Cimagala, roycimagala@gmail.com
January 12, 2017

WE should form the habit of frequently invoking the name of Jesus. If there’s any name that we should call most often, it should be that of Jesus. It is the most important and necessary name we can call, as attested by St. Paul himself who said:

“God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2,10-11)

jesus christCalling his name, for sure, is never just an empty form of pietism, or some kind of superstition. Calling his name corresponds to a basic necessity of ours who always need to be helped, enlightened, strengthened and ultimately redeemed.

We are assured that Jesus always listens to us and promptly attends to our needs, although in ways that may be different from our own expectations. It’s not in Jesus to be indifferent to our needs, no matter how unworthy and undeserving we are. His great love for us will always lead him to intervene always in our life.

The name of Jesus means “God saves.” Invoking that name will always remind us of our need for salvation, that is, our ultimate salvation from sin, from death, from all pain and suffering. It’s not simply liberation from some transitory hunger or worldly need. It’s liberation to eternal life.

If invoked with faith and love, if done with great piety, calling the name Jesus can only give us a lot of good. It can even give us an immediate relieving and calming effect.

I remember that one time, I had some muscle pain in my legs and in my back. A ‘manghihilot’ was recommended to me, and he told me to have strong faith and to follow him in calling the name of Jesus as he did his therapy. I must say that it worked.

But more importantly, we need to call Jesus’ name when we are faced with big challenges and difficult, if not irresistible, temptations. Somehow doing so generates a certain kind of spiritual strength that would enable us to handle these situations effectively.

When we feel our weaknesses stirred up, or when, for some mysterious reasons, we seem to be strongly drawn or lured to do something sinful, calling the name of Jesus would really help. More than just recovering our senses, we can feel a strong mysterious spiritual force that will enable us to do what we ought to do.

And if, in spite of everything, we still manage to fall, then calling Jesus’ name facilitates our repentance and reconciliation with God and with others. We do not actually need to go far or do extraordinary things for us to be helped, guided, enlightened, strengthened and redeemed. We just need to call Jesus’ name, and the process of healing starts.

Some people question whether it is practicable to be truly holy in the middle of the world that is full of sin and temptations. The answer to that is a resounding, ‘yes.’ Christ would not command us to be holy if that is not doable. And the practicability of holiness can start simply by calling the name of Jesus – with faith, love and piety.

The lives of saints can attest to this. And even our own personal experiences can prove it. Calling Jesus’ name can immediately soften our mind and heart that can tend to harden due to the pressures of life, not to mention, the temptations and sin around.

Calling Jesus’ name will always remind us to be good to others, to be charitable, understanding and compassionate with them. It will prod us to think well of the others, to be quick to serve and help them. It will push us to do a lot of good, never saying enough.

Calling Jesus’ name will help us to be quick to ask for forgiveness if we commit a mistake as well as to forgive others. It will lead us along the way of humility and patience.

Calling Jesus’ name will strengthen us so we can tackle the many and endless challenges and problems of life. It will help us to handle situations when we are insulted, mocked and offended. It will encourage us to identify with him on the cross when we suffer all kinds of injustice.

Calling Jesus’ name will also show us what else to do to follow him all the way to the end.

 

 

 

 

Prostitutes entering heaven

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
January 8, 2017

LEST you get scandalized, it was Christ himself who said so. Let us cite the exact quotation: ‘“Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” (Mt 21,31)

Of course, the context was the precious lesson Christ wanted to highlight as to what would comprise fulfilling God’s will. He mentioned about two brothers. The first was asked to work in the vineyard, and said no, but later on, changed his mind and went to work. The second said yes, but actually did not go.

The precious lesson Christ wanted to impart is that what really matters is doing and not simply saying to do God’s will, even if at the beginning one declines to do God’s will. An important part of this lesson is the need for repentance and conversion in our life.

So the prostitutes referred to in this particular episode are those who repented and who actually did what Christ wanted them to do. They did not enter as prostitutes, but as sinners who have repented.

A significant lesson we can also gather from this particular story, and one that should serve as a constant warning to all of us, is that we have to be most careful when we think we are already good enough because of certain good things we have or have done, but still have failed to be very faithful to God’s will.

This is the lesson embedded in that saying that “the good is the enemy of the best,” that is the very germ of that most insidious spiritual illness called spiritual complacency and lukewarmness. That’s when we think we are good enough. There’s no need to be better.

We have to understand that conversion is a continuing need for all of us. We can never say that we are good enough and that we do not need further conversions. We should not forget that we are all sinners even in the best condition of our earthly life.

For this to happen, we need to be humble, which can be the result of the keen awareness of our sinfulness. It’s when we think we are sinless or with little and negligible sin that we fail to realize the need for conversion.

We should never allow whatever good we have done to lull us to think that we are good enough and that we don’t need another conversion.

I refer more to people who have been doing good all these years, but somehow are stuck at a certain point in their spiritual life. Doing good for them has become a kind of set routine that is turning to be more mechanical than spiritual, leaving an impressive shell but slowly being deprived of substance, desensitizing them from the urge for another conversion.

The mark of true saints is precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion. Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud. They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made, and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes, faults, infidelities, etc.

It’s not that they led a miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father, but aware of their total dependence on God.

It’s their driving love for God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see more things that they need to do. It’s this love for God and souls that would make them feel that they have to go further than what so far they have accomplished.

This love has no limits. It does not have the word ‘enough’ in its vocabulary. It always urges them to do more to be more and better.

That is why it is often given as a spiritual advice that one forgets himself completely and just thinks of God and the others. Not only that, but also that one’s true growth and development toward human maturity and Christian perfection is measured to the extent that one thinks of God and the others and does things for them.

It might be good to replicate in oneself a true act of contrition that is involved in a conversion of a prostitute.

 

 

 

 

Good news and the fake news

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 13, 2016

There's a new scourge in the media today. It's called the fake news. It had its most devastating display during the last US presidential election where one candidate was touted practically by all the major news sources to be the winner, hands down.

The outcome was, of course, different. The upset was shocking. And the world woke up to the realization that it has been fed, maliciously or not, systematically or not, with fake news.

That this phenomenon happened certainly deserves a more in-depth study. How could such powerful news agencies, pollsters, etc., fail to read the mind of the people in general? What an epic, big-time fail it was!

There can be many, endless reasons behind it. But offhand, what I can say is that there certainly was a very devious virus of bias and prejudice involved among the media people that now include millions of netizens with their blogs and social media accounts.

It was a virus that found its host in the passion-filled arena of the political warfare, where the light that was shed blinded more than made people see things properly. It generated what may be termed as agenda-dictated journalism, where self-serving slanting of data and the objective assessment and the fair treatment of the issues were set aside.

Words were inflated or deflated to serve the biases and prejudices of those in media. More than words, ideologies corrupted the minds of people to the extent that the people could not judge things properly anymore and resorted instead to a simplistic black-and-white tack on the issues.

These ideologies tried to be the core basis for the people's faith and reasoning. But we know that for all their valid points, no ideology has exclusive right to be the sole holder and owner of what is true, right and fair in our human affairs. It's amazing that many people now turn to ideologies as the bedrock of their beliefs.

God, his word, his will and ways – in short, the Good News – are all but dismissed completely. They are considered irrelevant, a drag and an unnecessary baggage in resolving issues political or otherwise.

Many people have not come any closer to the realization that in fact God has to be in the middle of all our earthly affairs, be it business or politics, etc. No ideology, no personal convictions can replace him.

In short, we have to listen to the Good News God has given us through Christ and now in the Holy Spirit that animates the Church and its many instrumentalities. We have to understand that this Good News is the foundation of whatever opinion, view, philosophy, ideology that we may use to pursue our temporal affairs.

In other words, God’s word is the first and last word. Any word we coin and use in the fields of our sciences, arts, technologies, politics, business, culture, etc., should begin and end with God’s word. Otherwise it will have no proper foundation and orientation.

St. Paul has amply warned us about arrogating our words to be simply our own. “Let no man deceive himself,” he said. “If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…Let no man therefore glory in men.” (1 Cor 3,19-21)

That's simply because God's word or the Good News, as described in the Letter to the Hebrews, is “living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (4,12)

Its primary purpose is to bring us back to God through our temporal affaris. And so more than just giving us some helpful earthly knowledge, it gives us the ultimate spiritual knowledge we need to return to God, even through the very contentious field of politics.

Christ himself said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mk 13,31) We need to echo that response of St. Peter who, when asked if the apostles would also go away from Christ when he talked about himself as the bread of life, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)

We certainly have to sit down and see how we can be more aware of grounding and orienting our words with God’s word, the Good News. Otherwise, we will be wallowing in fake news.

 

 

 

 

Heroes and saints

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
December 8, 2016

HEROES need not be saints, but saints are always heroes in the sense that whatever their vocation and mission, they always live them with heroicity even if their heroic lives may not be publicly known in some political, social, historical or cultural terms.

Saints can even live their heroicity hidden from the public eye, and often they live it by going against the current obtaining in a certain society. They can be unpopular, in fact, as St. Paul once said: “We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world...” (1 Cor 4,13)

Heroes obviously can be saints too, as long as they live their vocation and mission in strict and heroic obedience to God's will and ways. They definitely have done some acts that we consider as heroic. They serve a certain purpose in the world.

But what we usually consider heroes are defined more in political, social, historical and cultural terms, and need not accord with the spiritual and supernatural criteria of sainthood.

In fact, there are many heroes now who can hardly qualify as saints, precisely because their heroism may go against spiritual and supernatural standards. Heroes work for some worldly values like nationalism, save-and-rescue operations, efficiency and effectiveness, etc. Saints work only for the fidelity to God's will.

While heroes are always involved in some extraordinary events, saints need not get involved in those kind of events. Most of them become saints simply doing very ordinary things but doing them extraordinarily well, that is, with great love of God and of others, with extreme fidelity to their vocation and mission.

Most saints live their heroic lives in secret. They don't show off their goodness, imitating Christ who said: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you...And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men...” (Mt 6,6&16)

Saints live their heroic lives consistently, in season and out of season, when times are favorable and when they are not. They hardly are influenced by the opinions of people. They can go against the general trends, if need be. Theirs is in strict obedience and fidelity to God's will.

The distinction between heroes and saints is crucial because we need to realize that we have to aim more at becoming saints than at becoming heroes. If we happen to end up both saints and heroes, then that's good. It's quite a privilege. But if given a choice, we have to opt for sainthood rather than for being a hero.

What is truly important is that we are with God rather than with our own selves. We have to aim at heaven rather than some earthly advantage. “What does it profit a man,” Christ says, “to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” (Mk 8,36)

This does not mean that we have to belittle the value of the world. Not at all. The world and the things in it, our temporal affairs, are important and even indispensable in the pursuit of sanctity. But the world and things in it are simply means. They are never the end.

Thus, the call to holiness and sanctity is universal. It's meant for everyone, while the call to be heroes is quite selective. Not everyone can be heroes, but everyone is expected to be a saint. The occasions to become saints are always available, while those to become heroes are few and far between.

That is why even with his apostles, Christ would just choose practically anyone at random, including the one who would betray him later. And the reason is simply because all of us come from God and belong to him.

To become a saint is not so much a matter of the kind of skill, talent, position, etc. that one has. It's simply a matter of a total self-giving to God and to others, irrespective of the conditions and circumstances one may be in.

In this regard, we have to develop the appropriate passion. That's simply because to become a saint just cannot happen without fully involving all our faculties, including our passions. Let's remember what Christ told us about the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22,37)

To become a saint is to achieve the fullness of our humanity. Our fullness is not to become a hero simply.

   

Last updated: 08/17/2017

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