Time for US to step
aside and let the Philippines give peace a chance
A press statement by the
Pilgrims for Peace
June 7, 2016
As peace advocates, the last
month has been encouraging. Incoming President Duterte continued to
underscore his intention to pursue peace in our nation, most
immediately by resuming Peace Talks with the National Democratic
Front-Philippines (NDFP). In fact, Duterte’s negotiating panel chair
Secretary Silvestre Bello III, peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza
and panel member Hernani Braganza are being sent to Oslo, Norway to
engage in preliminary talks on June 16, 2016, even before our new
president’s inauguration to office.
Given these positive
efforts, we must protest the June 2016 US “terrorist” listing of the
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
As reported, such listings are based on US interests in our country –
we are tired of US interests been peddled as priority over the
interests of our people, most especially when we are gearing up for
reinvigorated peace negotiations.
This so-called “terrorist”
listing is nothing new and we must not let it influence our openness
to the pursuit of a just and enduring peace in the Philippines. As has
been done for generations, United States intelligence groups regularly
label and tag those who do not capitulate to their agenda and primacy
in the world; after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New
York City, the US launched an intensified campaign of foreign
domination under the guise of a “War on Terror.” Sadly, such campaigns
are often successful in bending Philippine policies and priorities to
the benefit of US interests in our nation.
Incoming President Duterte
seeks to address historical injustices and to address the roots of
armed conflicts through peace negotiations; thus, his plan to
establish independent, foreign-relations strategies is essential. The
United States is undoubtedly concerned about their interests. After
more than a century as colonial and neo-colonial subjects of US
Imperialism, the Philippines still struggles to break free from US
interests and express our right to self-determination as a people.
Duterte is sending a message that instead of pandering to the
directives and dictates of the United States, the Philippines will be
going our own way in prioritizing Peace Talks with the NDFP. Both
Duterte and the NDFP express a daring desire to work for peace based
on justice that promotes the interests of the Filipino people and
values the sovereignty of the Philippines.
If the United States cares,
even an iota, for the peace of our nation and people, they will remove
their “terrorist” tagging. Such can impede travel and make it
dangerous for Professor Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the CPP,
to attend any activity related to the talks in the Philippines, as
requested by our incoming president.
But even more than this, the
United States should have the decency to let the Philippines tread our
own course in the pursuit of the peace we want. If they desire to be
our ally, they should see that Filipinos long to develop a more
inclusive, democratic, and economically vibrant nation. Dr. Jose
Rizal’s plea “Noli Me Tangere” still echoes across the archipelago to
insist that the United States step aside, so that our nation can give
peace a chance, even as Andres Bonifacio spurs us forward, “Panahon na
ngayong dapat na lumitaw ang liwanag ng katotohanan; panahon ng dapat
nating ipakilala na tayo’y may sariling pagdaramdam, may puri, may
hiya, at may pagdadamayan.”
Let us give peace a chance.
An Open Letter to
By ABRAHAM V. LLERA
May 27, 2016
I didn’t vote for you
because my close friends from high school asked me not to, and I just
couldn’t refuse their request.
But in my heart of hearts, I
rooted for you.
Right from the start, I knew
you would run despite the “urong-sulong” press statements. Not only
that, I just knew you’d win. About these two, I never had an iota of
doubt, never mind that you essentially came from behind, and you were
initially the least likely to win because of lack of machinery.
If I may add, I rooted for
you despite your less-than-sterling personal life. I rooted for you
despite my having been roundly reviled by my pro-life, pro-Church
buddies. Yes, I rooted for you despite your cursing of the Pope.
I saw in you the country’s
sole hope for change. I kept on saying: “Duterte will be the next
President of the Philippines, and he will make a good President,
converting many starting with himself (and myself, too).
Now, I’m not very sure you
Because if there’s anything
that’ll guarantee failure, it’s one’s going against God. In your case,
not only are you going against God, you have been viciously attacking
I’d like to see the Filipino
people finally freed from the bondage of grasping oligarchs, rapacious
corrupt officials, and emboldened criminals.
Please fulfill the destiny
that’s yours even before you were born. Do not do anything to
Stop attacking the Church.
The most serious
threat against the Church
By ABRAHAM V. LLERA
May 26, 2016
The most formidable threat
to the pre-Vatican II Church came in the early 4th century from a
Catholic priest named Arius.
Arius’ heresy shook the
Church at her very foundation, and threatened to split the Church
right down the middle. Arius did this by striking at the very heart of
the Catholic faith by twisting the most fundamental message of the
Gospel. Arius questioned the divinity of Christ.
The Church teaches that
Jesus Christ is consubstantial with the Father, every bit God as the
Father and the Holy Spirit is. Not so, according to Arius.
Thus started a rift in the
Church that even outlasted the author of the heresy, the heresiarch
Arius. It was a frenzied battle which pitted bishop against bishop,
brother against brother, a war fought by intelligent men from both
sides with such fervor that would make the present-day faithful blush.
Plainly, Arius was the
Devil’s personal choice for this attempt to destroy the Church.
Clearly, the Devil made an excellent choice in Arius. Everything about
him was made for seduction: his rugged good looks, his almost
self-deprecating demeanor, his intelligence.
His speech was serene, but
had an attention-commanding intensity. He was one many would today
call “seductive,” and, indeed, counted fanatical young women among his
An expert debater, he would
make mincemeat of his opponents. He was given to penitential and
ascetic practices and seemed so virtuous an aura of sanctity almost
Alas, he was not Christ’s,
but the Devil’s, clearly on a mission to destroy the Church from
And he was a hair’s breadth
away from doing exactly that. Being such an irresistible personality,
Arius had no problem getting Church officials – notably the grasping
and ambitious Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia – and even Emperor
Constantine the Great himself to believe him.
The Council of Nicaea had to
be convened in A.D. 325 to settle the question. It was a resounding
defeat for Arius and his sizeable followers. The Council came up with
the Nicene Creed, the same one we recite today during the Holy Mass,
defining the Son to be “consubstantial” with the Father.
But the Devil was not done
yet. Twelve years of intrigue, gossips, and back-biting chiefly by
Arian forces aimed at orthodoxy climaxed in the Synod of Tyre in A.D.
335 which exiled St. Athanasius, the staunchest defender of Catholic
orthodoxy, and the Synod of Jerusalem in A.D. 336 which restored the
heresiarch Arius into full communion with the Church.
The Emperor told Arius: “If
thy faith is orthodox, thou hast well sworn; but if thy faith is
impious and yet thou hast sworn, let God from heaven judge thee.'
Well, judging from
subsequent events, it looks like God did just that. On the day before
the Sunday that Arius was to receive Holy Communion, a most
extraordinary thing happened.
Here’s how the historian
Socrates Scholasticus describes it:
“It was then Saturday, and
Arius was expecting to assemble with the church on the day following:
but divine retribution overtook his daring criminalities.
“For going out of the
imperial palace, attended by a crowd of Eusebian partisans like
guards, he paraded proudly through the midst of the city, attracting
the notice of all the people.
“As he approached the place
called Constantine’s Forum, where the column of porphyry is erected, a
terror arising from the remorse of conscience seized Arius, and with
the terror a violent relaxation of the bowels: he therefore enquired
whether there was a convenient bathroom nearby, and being directed to
the back of Constantine’s Forum, he hastened thither.
“Soon after a faintness came
over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded,
followed by a copious hemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller
intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off
in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died.”
By ABRAHAM V. LLERA
May 24, 2016
I don’t know how the
incessant attacks by Rodrigo Roa Duterte will play out, but of one
thing I’m certain: he will miserably fail if it’s the destruction of
the Church he is after.
From the word go, the
Catholic Church has been buffeted by tempests of all kinds from all
sorts. Heretics from her own ranks from the infamous Arius to various
Roman emperors messed up with her.
Paradoxically, it was the
best Roman emperors who were also her worst persecutors: Trajan,
Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, and Decius, not counting the madmen
Nero and Domitian.
And it was brilliant
theologians who were a constant thorn on the side of the early Church:
Arius, Eusebius, Nestorius.
But the Church triumphed.
Today, the faithful numbered 1.2 billion. She is in more countries
than ever, united in an uncontested and popular hierarchy, proclaiming
the Good News to all corners of the world.
Duterte will deal the local
Church a serious blow. Count on the Devil to know precisely where to
squeeze where it will hurt most. In this particular case, it is
pitting Duterte against the Church, and putting the considerable
resources of the government behind Duterte.
But Duterte will fail, even
if he initially succeeds in his attacks against the Church. And
Duterte, his rah rah boys, and his Duterte government will find out
like Julian the Apostate did how the Church always triumphs in the
For readers who have not
come across the name before, Julian the Apostate was a Roman emperor
shortly after Constantine the Great, his uncle who ended the Roman
persecution of the early Christians by allowing their religion
Raised a Christian, Julian
the Apostate was a pagan at heart, and early on in his short
eighteen-year reign brought back the persecution. But he was wounded
in battle against the Sassanid army in June 363, from the hands of one
of his soldiers according to the historian Libianus.
His physician Oribasius of
Pergamum fought to treat his slashed liver and suture his damaged
intestines to no avail. Julian the Apostate died, supposedly gasping
“Vicisti, Galilaee,” “Thou hast triumphed, Galilaeen” with his last
I don’t know how this
Duterte episode in the life of the Church will play out. Like
everywhere else that contraception, abortion, same-sex unions,
fornication, and euthanasia have been made a state religion, we might
probably see a Philippines reel under the moral devastation wrought by
the general loosening of morals and the pouring out the contents of
Pandora’s box: pornography, divorce, same-sex unions, emptying of
churches, making illegal the display of crucifixes, abortion,
euthanasia, rape, and drugs.
But the Church will emerge
triumphant from this somehow.
Of that I’m certain. I can
only hope it will not be at the cost of Duterte’s soul.
Peace is Welcome:
Open Letter to President-Elect Duterte
May 19, 2016
H. E. Rodrigo Duterte
Republic of The Philippines
Dear President Rody,
We congratulate you for a resounding leadership mandate from the
voting population of our country. Your commitment to address the roots
or armed conflicts in our nation through peace negotiations and to
correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people is
commendable. Addressing the situation of different communities, Moro,
Christian, non-Christian and Lumad – specially as the Lumad suffer
forcible displacement and urgently clamor for an end to militarization
and the disbanding of paramilitaries in their ancestral lands – is
imperative. Prospects for peace throughout the nation are rising and
we are excited and energized by your very positive pronouncements on
resuming peace talks.
Pilgrims for Peace is a multi-sectoral alliance of advocates for a
just and lasting peace based on freedom, democracy, and social
justice. Pilgrims appreciates that in your campaign platform you
prioritized peace, in general, as well as explicitly outlined your
openness to concrete steps in moving the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations
forward. Your appointment of Jesus Dureza as peace adviser and
Silvestre Bello as chief negotiator with the National Democratic Front
underscores your resolve.
We encourage you to place the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations on firm
footing by respecting previously signed agreements and continue
forward with the substantive agenda outlined in The Hague Joint
Declaration. Not only do we affirm the value of the Comprehensive
Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in our justice, peace and human rights
advocacy, peace advocates have been preparing themselves to support
the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms
(CASER) and look forward to its fruition.
We are heartened of your willingness to release all political
prisoners. Even during your campaign, we noted that your new
government would review their status and release those necessary for
the NDFP negotiating panel; we affirm that such action will be greatly
beneficial, if not essential, to successful peace negotiations. This
can also bring to good order and re-operationalize the Joint Agreement
on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Even more, your action to
release political prisoners on humanitarian grounds would surely go a
long way as a confidence-building measure.
With anticipation for what is to come, we are revving up our network
of peace advocates to contribute in the work of peace-building. Our
people understand the need to address the roots of armed conflict in
building a just and enduring peace. We hope that with your presidency,
we can also contribute to creating and focusing energy around the
PILGRIMS FOR PEACE
populi, vox Dei”
April 28, 2016
IN a previous column some
years ago, I said that the “vox populi,” the voice of the people, need
not be “vox Dei,” the voice of God. I cited as an example the crowd
who welcomed Christ with hosannas when he entered Jerusalem for the
last time. (cfr Mt 21,9) It was the same crowd, more or less, who
later would shout, “Crucify him, crucify him,” during his trial with
Pilate. (cfr Mt 27,16-26)
Precisely because of that
episode, I said that the “vox populi” can, in fact, be the “vox diaboli,” the voice of the devil, instead of the voice of God. I still
maintain that view, except that it has to be taken now from a broader
perspective, that of faith, that gives us another level of
Yes, it can happen that the
“vox populi” can be the “vox diaboli” in the short run and yet it can
still be part of the “vox Dei” in the long run. That’s simply because
God allows us to think, say and do whatever we want, including going
against Him. That permission, which is given to trigger the dynamics
of a greater good that would show God’s omnipotent mercy, can be
considered also as “vox Dei.”
In allowing the worst evil
to take place, that of killing the very Son of God, the greatest good
insofar as we are concerned has taken place – our very own salvation.
This is so because as the Book of Ecclesiastes has already articulated
for us, God is always in control of everything, no matter how we mess
up his plans and work.
“The thing that has been it
is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be
done. And there is no new thing under the sun.” (1,9) Thus the same
book says that there is time for everything. “...a time to be born and
a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill
and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build...”
In view of this truth of our
faith, a practical conclusion to learn is that while we do our best to
shape our life and destiny insofar as we are able, always in truth and
charity, we should not take things too seriously as to be a bad sport
when what we want, in pursuit of what we consider as doing God’s will,
Let’s just allow ourselves
to be thwarted just as Christ was thwarted when he had to accept the
cross, convinced that a greater good will surely come out of it. Yes,
let’s just accept the greatest evil that can come to us, i.e., death
and martyrdom, if it comes to us, convinced that if we die with
Christ, we will also resurrect with him.
Let us avoid falling into
the traps of bitter zeal and bigotry that can seduce us with an
appearance of an irresistible goodness when in fact the very soul of
goodness, charity, is absent.
Remember that episode when
Christ upbraided two of his disciples for being over-zealous at the
expense of charity. “When his disciples James and John saw it, they
said, ‘Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and
consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them.” (Lk 9,54-55)
God always has the last
word. Goodness and mercy always have the last say. Love always wins,
if not now then later. We just have to be patient, learning how to
suffer the temporary setbacks, disappointments and frustrations we can
encounter in life.
Obviously, this Christian
way of reacting to adverse events is not a call to be complacent and
passive. We have to exhaust all possible means to conform our affairs
according to the will of God, but always within the framework of
In those occasions, when we
become helpless before an evil thing, let us intensify our prayers,
our spirit of sacrifice, our virtues of patience and optimism. In
those occasions, let us continue to do a lot of good, drowning evil
with an abundance of good. These painful moments are privileged
occasions to be intimate with Christ on the cross.
Let us clarify issues calmly
and charitably, proclaiming the truth in season and out of season, as
St. Paul once said. Let us see to it that we do not lose our peace and
joy, and our capacity to love and to be merciful. We should have no
enemies, since we have to love everybody, including our enemies, as
Christ himself commanded us.