When religion is
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
April 13, 2015
WE are already familiar with
the problem of secularization. That’s when God is set aside not only
in society – as in business and politics – but also in one’s personal
life. This is the anomaly besetting many developed Western countries
that are entering what is known as post-Christian or post-religion
That means religion is
already considered as passé and obsolete. Any mention of God is likely
met with a laugh, a derision if not an open hostility. In these
places, men are convinced there’s no other source of light, wisdom and
guidance than their own selves, their own ideas and devices.
Under this category, we can
cite isms like atheism, agnosticism, relativism, skepticism, deism,
But another anomaly can also
be found in the other end, precisely happening in places known for
religious zeal. Our country falls largely under this classification.
Here, religion tends to be abused and exploited. In the end, religion
is used to deform, emasculate and even kill religion itself.
This happens when religion
is detached from a living relationship with God, with his Church, his
doctrine and sacraments, and personal struggle. It is driven more by
one’s ideas and efforts. Faith becomes mere philosophizing and
theologizing, full of form without substance.
Spiritual life freezes into
mere external appearances, reduced to a lifeless set of pietistic
practices. Sanctity deteriorates into sanctimony and into what is
considered as politically correct. Hypocrisy, calculation, pretension,
treachery abound. There’s bigotry instead of broad-mindedness,
rigidity and intolerance instead of respect for freedom and variety.
This irregularity has many
faces. To mention a few, we can cite religious fanaticism and bitter
zeal, fundamentalism, clericalism, superstitious beliefs and
practices, simony or commercialization of sacred things, pietism and
quietism, fideism and a string of other heresies. There’s also petty
jealousy among religious groups.
I suppose we can cite our
Lord’s own experience at the hands of those who crucified him as the
extreme form of religious abuse. Imagine, they were convinced they
were doing it out of a keen sense of religious duty itself.
Our Lord himself said: “The
hour comes when whoever kills you will think that he does a service to
God.” (Jn 16,2) This is the ultimate in religious abuse.
One can readily suspect
religion is abused when all those calls for goodness and holiness are
full of sound and fury and bombast, but lacking in charity, patience,
mercy, humility, meekness, etc. It drips with self-righteousness, ever
eager to flaunt itself and have its authority felt.
There is clear bias and
prejudice in the understanding and application of the doctrine. Unfair
and discriminatory selectiveness marks the study and practice of the
A holistic approach to
religion and freedom of consciences are often compromised in the
pursuit of holiness. There’s an absence of balance and openness. Even
the elementary norms of naturalness are violated.
Of course, religion will
always involve a specific way of life, marked even by a special
charism. But it’s a uniqueness that does not annul religion’s
universal and common end, but rather enriches it in an original way.
In abuse of religion,
coercion is subtly made and can lead to brainwashing and to
manipulative isolation of people from others. People are made to do
religious practices just for the heck of it.
They do these practices more
out of fear than of love, more for some ulterior motives than out of a
sincere desire to know, love and serve God and others.
The virtues are pursued
mechanically, not organically in the sense that they are vitally
motivated by charity as they ought to be. Sincerity, for example, can
be understood as simply telling the truth, the whole truth, but
without any mention about charity, prudence and discretion. Truth is
divorced from charity.
When religion is abused,
prayer turns into a soliloquy rather than a loving dialogue with God.
Love for sacrifice does not spring from the spirit, but is merely a
When religion is abused,
priesthood is less an office for a total holocaust of self-giving, and
more an occasion for privileges. The scandals that black-eyed the
Church these past years involving some clerics arise from this
We need to be wary of these
tendencies and possibilities that are open to all of us. We can even
fall into them without noticing it, since the decline to religious
abuse can mimic the process of osmosis.
We have to ask our Lady to
teach us how to truly deal with God without being deluded by the wily
ways of religious abuse. Like her, we need to be always simple and
humble to be able to stick to what is authentic religion.
No to the election
of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Bongbong)!
Press statement of Campaign
Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang - Samar Island (CARMMA-Samar
April 11, 2016
More than 40 years ago,
Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. We all know what happened – in
one sweep, he perpetuated himself as president and usurped the powers
of congress and the supreme court unto himself. He crushed the
opposition, jailing senators, congressmen, labor leaders, students,
journalists – all who opposed him.
In Samar Island, with his
martial law powers, he carved more than half a million hectares of
forests into logging concessions which he awarded to his cronies,
supporters and friends and to keep the politicians under his
patronage. Whole villages were massacred (barangay Sagod in Las Navas,
Gebarin in Marabut) to keep people away from these logging
concessions. In one stroke of a pen, he declared that all areas in
Samar Island rich in bauxite be part of a Bauxite Mining Reserve (PD
1615). Gold deposits in Samar were mined and flown directly to the
Thousands were arrested,
tortured, raped, killed and disappeared. The video of the Commission
of Human Rights entitled “So, Why Samar?” reported the atrocious and
unimaginable human rights abuses – people were cooked as “lechon”;
women were not only raped but their breasts were sliced off; human
livers were cut off to be grilled and eaten by soldiers; fathers were
buried standing in the ground with only the head left above ground,
then burned down. Unimaginable atrocities!
The plunder of our forests
and minerals left us with untold agonies of our families whose
parents, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers were jailed, tortured,
and killed, and disappeared. And long after the dictatorship was
defeated by our anti-dictatorship struggle, the loss of half a million
of forests during martial law led to flash floods, landslides, loss of
crops, people killed, livelihoods lost – just what happened in 1989.
The plunder of our forests was only stopped when an indefinite logging
moratorium in Samar Island was declared in 1989 by Sec. Fulgecio
Today, were are now
confronted with this issue: will we allow the Marcos family back to
Malacañang? Will we allow the election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the
vice president of our nation? NO!
Let us not forget the loss
of lives of thousands of Samareños.
Let us not forget the loss
of our forests and valuable minerals that only left us poorer.
Let us not be blinded by the
glint of gold that was stolen from us!
No to the election of
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Bongbong)!
30th year of the
Hawaii Class Suit
Amaryllis Hilao-Enriquez, sister of Liliosa Hilao, on the 30th year of
the filing of the historic class action suit against President Marcos
and his estate, or the human rights litigation MDL-840 (US Federal
Court of Honolulu, Hawaii)
April 7, 2016
Exactly 30 years ago today,
on April 7, 1986, a historic class action suit was filed by the
Filipino victims of human rights violations during the martial law
regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The organization of the
victims, now renamed Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at
Aresto or SELDA, deemed it wise to lead the class action suit against
the dictator who was flown to Hawaii by the US government that, up to
the time the former and his family were booted out of power by the
Filipinos in a people power uprising, considered him an ally.
SELDA, whose members were tortured and detained, took it upon itself
to seek ways to make the dictator, including his family, accountable
for the sins they committed against the Filipino people because no one
seemed bent to punish the dictator. Everyone was simply euphoric when
the Marcoses fled and a new regime was being formed.
For SELDA, the charges filed against Marcos sought to demand justice
for the victims of human rights violations or as the Court described
them – crimes against humanity – like summary execution or “salvaging”
(a martial law euphemism), disappearances, and torture. SELDA wanted
to let the nation and the world know of the human rights violations
experienced by Filipinos during martial law.
SELDA leaders sought the help of their president, Atty. Jose Mari
Velez, to find out how best to file charges against the dictator. In
one of his travels to the US, Atty. Velez met an American lawyer,
Atty. Robert Swift, whose law firm agreed to shoulder the costs of
litigation and later to be repaid with money to be recovered from the
dictator. SELDA immediately set to work by helping Atty. Swift get the
depositions of the named plaintiffs who happened to be with SELDA. I
convinced my parents – Mr. Maximo H. Hilao and Mrs. Celsa R. Hilao to
be the lead plaintiff for the murder of my detained sister, Liliosa R.
Hilao. (Thus, the suit is also known as Hilao et al vs. Ferdinand
Marcos.) I also convinced our youngest sister, Ms. Josefina
Hilao-Forcadilla, to be one of the 10 named plaintiffs in the historic
class action suit. My former common-law husband and I were likewise
plaintiffs in class suit.
We won a favorable judgment in 1992. I give my highest salute to the
men, women, minors, especially the elderly who are not with us anymore
as we struggled hard to make the Marcoses accountable for the human
rights violations and plunder they committed against the Filipino
people. When Atty. Velez died in 1991, Justice Romeo T. Capulong
became SELDA’s counsel and the first thing he asked of us was the
written agreement between SELDA and Atty. Swift. When SELDA chair Mr.
Danilo Vizmanos and I wrote Atty. Swift about this, he got angry with
all of us. In spite of a bitter tiff with our American lawyer, we
still consider our winning the suit a historic landmark as it
highlighted the struggle of a big number of martial law victims to
make one dictator accountable for his crimes. The favorable judgment
also served well the campaigns of other human rights violations
victims in other parts of the world. That is why, we had wanted the
judgment to be final and executory and refused Ms. Imelda Marcos’
offer of a US$150M settlement agreement in 1995 when the judgment was
not yet final and executory.
It is indeed sad that Marcos, the leader who rode roughshod over our
people’s rights, has not yet been made fully accountable for his sins;
and the victims are still crying for justice. The struggle for justice
is long and hard and the Filipino people must never forget those who
are not among us anymore. Indeed, they must go on fighting for their
rights so that impunity will not again be the hallmark of another
Now, the son of the dictator is running for the second highest
position in the land. We hope that on this 30th year of the filing of
the historic class action suit by the victims themselves, Filipinos,
especially the young voters called millenials. or those who did not
experience martial law, will always remember the shining hour that the
youths before them faced; that they rose to the occasion and struggled
hard to allow the coming generations, including them, to achieve the
basic rights they now enjoy.
We, too, commend the group that is now bent on reliving the plunder
charges against Bongbong Marcos in relation to the pork barrel scam.
May they win their case and we fervently hope that Bongbong Marcos
will not win in this election!
NEVER AGAIN TO ANOTHER MARCOS IN MALACAÑANG!!!
CHERISH THE PEOPLES’ HEROES AND MARTYRS!!!
When too much
goodness is bad
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
April 2, 2016
WE should be more aware of
this phenomenon and then act accordingly. We are prone to easily get
spoiled when we enjoy many good things. This has been proven even in
the times of Adam and Eve, and all through the ages. We have to be
properly guarded against this subtle danger.
Yes, even in food, if we are
not careful and would just let our animal instincts to lead us in our
eating, our life would be over in a while, like those pigs that cannot
last more than 5 years. They are either slaughtered or explode to
death on their own.
And since from our
conception in the womb of our mothers to our birth and childhood, we
are always doted and pampered and showered with everything that is
considered good, comfortable, convenient, we should be wary not to
develop a lifestyle of softness, laziness, and selfishness.
While it’s true that we
should always be taken care of, especially when we are still babies,
we should just see to it that we do not go overboard and develop a
monster instead of a human being with a healthy mind and heart.
A more serious problem in
this regard is in the department of our spiritual and moral life.
Since from the beginning of our thinking life, we have been taught to
be good and nice and, if possible, perfect, we should also see to it
that that we do not fall into the snare of self-righteousness which is
the usual problem with the so-called “good people.”
That’s when what seems to be
good is actually evil, and what seems to be evil is actually good. We
have to be more aware of this tricky phenomenon, and more adept as
well in handling it well. This can be an abiding challenge for all of
us. This phenomenon, actually very common, is iconized in the parable
of the Pharisee and the publican. (cfr Lk 18,10-14)
The Pharisee was the epitome
of goodness and correctness. He fasted twice a week, gave tithes of
all what he possessed. But his righteousness converted his prayer into
a boast, and it simply showed he was separated from God.
The publican considered
himself the receptacle of all possible moral sewage. He could hardly
lift up his eyes toward heaven. His prayer dripped with compunction,
but it reconciled him with God.
We have to understand that
good and evil is a matter of whether one is with God or not. Good is
good because one is with God. Evil is evil because he is not with God.
It’s as simple as that.
Our problem is that instead
of referring things – our thoughts, words and actions – to God, we
refer them only to our own idea of what is good and evil.
Not much wrong there really.
After all, all things we do have to be referred to our own idea of
good and evil. Except that many times it’s an idea that has been
severed from its proper source and basis – God himself whose
perfection is not so much in the physical and technical as in the
spiritual and moral that will always include humility, patience,
mercy, compassion, etc.
In short, we make ourselves
our own God, our ultimate source of what is good and bad, what is
correct and wrong. That’s where the problems come in, where the bugs
and viruses enter to corrupt our otherwise good idea.
That is why, everyday and
very often during the day we need to check whether our idea of good
and evil is still vitally linked with God. We have to be wary with our
tendency to just flow in a certain routine and inertia of goodness
that has already deadened our living connection with God.
How many times have we
observed people who are bright but are proud and vain, wise but
sarcastic, bursting with good intentions but painfully lacking in
charity? They have become self-righteous.
There have been cases where
we see objectively good qualities, like their high intelligence,
superb eloquence, admirable work habits, etc., ceasing to be a
blessing and becoming instead a curse to them and to others.
These qualities have become
an occasion to dominate others, to so distort their proper use that
they stop serving God and others but have become self-serving or an
exercise in ego-tripping. They can even degenerate into sick
obsessive-compulsive complexes (OC).
People with this disorder do
not like to be wrong or embarrassed or humiliated. They always want to
be right and dominant all the time, even resorting to cheating. What a
Build toward Peace:
Address the Roots of Armed Conflict and Implement CARHRIHL
A statement by the Citizens
Alliance for Just Peace
March 15, 2016
As March 16, 2016 marks the
18th anniversary of the hallmark Comprehensive Agreement on Respect
for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the
first substantive agreement between the Government of the Philippines
and the National Democratic Front-Philippines, the Citizen’s Alliance
for Just Peace raises a collective voice to urge continued efforts to
build toward peace, justice and human rights in the Philippines.
The Government of the
Philippines including political parties, election candidates and the
electorate should prioritize the people’s peace agenda in the election
process. By reinvigorating expression of a common aspiration for a
just and enduring peace, we hope to nurture the seeds of peace so
dearly needed in our nation. Not only is this a fertile opportunity
for Filipinos to discern and act on the peace platforms of national
leaders, but it is also an essential time to continue the clamor for
tangible efforts and concrete actions in building peace that addresses
the roots of armed conflict.
As peace advocates, we also
continue our call for a thorough and vibrant implementation of
CARHRIHL as an essential building block of the peace process between
the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front -
Through embracing a common
desire for the respect of human rights and international humanitarian
law, we believe that both parties can be inspired to continue on the
journey toward a negotiated political settlement through Peace Talks.
We encourage confidence building measures, principled and innovative
resolution of issues and impasses, as well as creative spaces that
welcome and promote dynamic participation from the peace constituency.
We choose hope for the
future of our nation and will continue to pursue the road to a just
and enduring peace for the Filipino people. Their cry for land to the
tillers, decent jobs with decent pay, food on every table, equitable
access to basic social services, and respect of the collective rights
of indigenous peoples and the human rights of all persons will not be
thwarted by hollow rhetoric. We must overcome every penchant for
patronage driven, privileged centered politics and respond with
integrity to the Filipino people’s clamor to build toward peace by
addressing the roots of armed conflict in our nation.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
March 7, 2016
DEMOCRACY, of course, is the
best form of government because it allows the people to have a voice
of how they ought to be governed.
Yes, while the Church
traditionally maintains that no form of government is imposed on man
by God, it somehow values the democratic system precisely because “it
ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices,
guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and
holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them
through peaceful means when appropriate.”
This was expressed
explicitly in St. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical “Centesimus annus”
(46) that also went on to say that the Church “cannot encourage the
formation of narrow ruling groups which usurp the power of the State
for individual interests or for ideological ends.”
As to the requirements for
democracy to work properly, it articulated the following conditions:
“Authentic democracy is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on
the basis of a correct conception of the human person.
“It requires that the
necessary condition be present for the advancement both of the
individual through education and formation in the true ideals, and of
the ‘subjectivity’ of society through the creation of structures of
participation and shared responsibility.”
We need to go through these
words slowly to understand them well and discern the many practical
implications they contain. Nowadays, these implications are important
because some sectors are distorting the true face of democracy.
Among the more notorious
misconceptions brought about by the misreading of the implications of
democracy is that democracy should be completely devoid of any
religious favoritism, or that religion or God should have no part in
it, or that because of the so-called Church-state separation,
democracy should avoid religious issues and stand completely neutral.
Right from the beginning,
such understanding of democracy is already wrong, for how can it be
democratic if the religious sentiments of the people or of some people
at least, are silenced, when they feel that their religious beliefs
should be respected in the way they are governed?
Of course, in a democracy,
those who have no religion, who are non-believers, also have a voice
and they deserve to be heard. But we should not silence those who
would like to voice out their religious sentiments and beliefs when
they feel these are relevant in the way a society is government.
We have to understand
democracy as a means not an end, a forum or an arena where all the
opinions, preferences, and even beliefs and faiths of the people are
given due attention hopefully in civil dialogues and exchanges.
This implication of
democracy is somehow highlighted these days when a candidate, who is
supposed to be Catholic, openly goes against Catholic teaching on
same-sex marriage because, according to the candidate, in a democracy
“we should not favor any religion.”
While it’s true that we
should not favor any religion, we expect candidates to be true and
faithful to their religious beliefs or, at least, their religious
affiliation, and defend them in a democratic way when issues touching
on their beliefs come their way.
Democracy should not be an
excuse for them to betray their religious beliefs just because it may
be the more practical, convenient or popular thing to do. Such
betrayal can only mean that the candidate is only Catholic by name, or
is one who claims that it is also Catholic to betray one’s Catholic
beliefs, an absurdity that is somehow also gaining traction these
Of course, there can be
other possible ways to describe this phenomenon. One could be merely a
coward not to stand up for his faith, or he is simply Machiavellian
willing to sacrifice some eternal truths or the long-held sacred
traditions of the people, etc, just to pander on a passing popular
sentiment and thereby gain power, wealth, popularity.
Or one could simply be so
blinded by some distorted sense of loyalty to a candidate or to an
ideology, etc., that he is willing to go against his religion when
certain aspects of that religion become a contentious and unpopular
part of a political issue.
In a democracy, every
participant is expected to be clear about his positions, his views and
preferences, and enter into some dialogue and exchange with civility,
willing to listen to others, including those with the opposite views,
while articulating and defending his in a civil manner.
Part of a healthy democracy
is to be humble enough to modify one’s position when more inputs get
to be known, and to graciously accept, at least for the meantime, a
setback even if the struggle to push undeniable religious truths