We need to be
with Christ always
April 26, 207
CHRIST himself said it so
clearly. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not
gather with me scatters.” (Lk 11,23) “I am the vine, you are the
branches.” (Jn 15,5)
There is no way we can
have a life that is proper to us other than to be with Christ and to
work with him. After all, Christ is actually the pattern of our
humanity and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. We cannot be what
we ought to be outside of Christ.
Without Christ, everything
will be vanity. “Vanity of vanities,” as the Book of Ecclesiastes
says. Without Christ, we would simply be falling into
self-indulgence which can be mesmerizing for a while, even a long
while. But in the end it would lead us nowhere.
This is a truth of faith
that has to filter down to the ends of the world. We may have to do
it slowly and with great effort, but also steadily, never stopping
because of certain difficulties and resistance. To be sure, this is
a truth of our nature, let alone, a truth of faith. Our nature is
not just biological, social, etc. It is first of all spiritual that
relates to the supernatural world in a knowing and loving way.
Yes, we have to respect
the freedom of men, but we also have to make everyone realize that
we need to respect freedom itself. And that can only mean that we
have to conform ourselves to Christ because he is the very author
and personification of freedom. This is a natural truth that should
lead us to the spiritual and supernatural world.
Remember Christ saying, “I
am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except
through me.” Well, if Christ is the truth, then he is also freedom,
since it is the truth that will set us free. (cfr. Jn 8,32)
In other words, we cannot
be in the truth and be free if we are not with Christ. Let’s
remember that truth and freedom are not self-generated things. They
are not our inventions. They come from our Creator.
We have to strive all our
life that we be with him. That is why, in the Mass, we always are
reminded, “The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.” It is to
make us realize that we cannot be without God.
For his part, he already
reassured us that he will always be with us. “Behold, I am with you
everyday, even unto the end of time,” he said. (Mt 28,20) And we can
be sure that his omnipresence in us is never passive. It is a
presence that is full of love, of solicitude.
The challenge and the task
are enormous, indeed. Convincing people about this truth, especially
those who are not inclined toward things like religion and faith,
can seem impossible. But it simply has to be done.
We may have to start from
very basic things without mentioning anything yet about faith, God
and the spiritual and supernatural realities. The so-called classes
on apologetics really have to be carried out without let-up. Let’s
hope that the task of catechesis and evangelization never stops.
There has to be a gradual
process of introducing the indispensable role of faith, of God and
of spiritual and supernatural realities to the people, making them
understand that these are essential elements in our life.
We need to demonstrate the
validity and necessity of faith and the spiritual and supernatural
realities. Obviously, a lot of prayer and sacrifice should be done
before, during and after every effort we make for this purpose.
But we cannot deny that
talking about faith and the spiritual and supernatural realities
will always involve some mysteries that can overwhelm what our
senses can discern and what our intelligence can understand. We need
to help everybody develop a sense of mystery in life.
Witness under the
Statement of the Ecumenical
Bishops’ Forum (EBF) on the arrest and detention of Australian
Missionary Sr. Patricia Fox
April 18, 2018
“Be alert and vigilant.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for
someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Peter
The Church in the
Philippines lives in perilous times as an increasing number of
clergy, religious and church workers face unspeakable violence and
whose rights are violated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s
administration. Church people who join the pilgrimage of poor
communities and support their struggle for justice, peace and human
dignity suffer state-perpetuated political persecution.
The assault against Sister
Patricia Fox, who is an Australian religious missionary and the
regional superior of the Our Lady of Sion Sisters in the
Philippines, is the most recent blow against church workers and
religious institutions. For the past 27 years, she has immersed
herself in the arms of the toiling Filipino masses and worked
hand-in-hand with farmers, supporting through her prayers and
selfless service their struggle for land and life.
Sr. Pat, as she is known
in the ecumenical community, was illegally arrested by elements of
the Bureau of Immigration at her residence in Quezon City. She was
detained for two days, from April 16 to 17, following allegations of
her participation in political actions against the Philippine
government. The soft-spoken and good-natured missionary nun was
released, following the strong condemnation of faith communities,
the human rights defenders, and members of civil society groups and
The Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum strongly denounces this absurd action
taken by Duterte’s administration against Sr. Pat. We express
outrage at this evil-doing and demand that all politically motivated
harassment against human rights defenders, peace and justice
advocates, political activists, and church workers be put to stop.
We cannot comprehend why
church people become targets of political persecution. When has it
become a crime to accompany the poor and the oppressed in their
struggle? When has it become a crime to preach the words of God and
live-out the works of Christ?
Recent events manifest a
systematic state-sponsored attack on church people. On December 4
last year, Catholic priest Marcelito Paez was killed after
facilitating the release of a political prisoner. On May 11, 2017,
Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and peace advocate Carlo
Morales was arrested, detained for nearly a year, and was recently
released upon the granting of his bail plea.
We hold the Duterte
government accountable for the many cases, documented or otherwise,
on the persecution of church people. This situation only reveals the
hands of a despotic government that seeks to suppress the Church’s
role as a moral compass of the society.
We vehemently condemn the
mounting cases of political and religious persecution under
Duterte’s tyrannical and dictatorial rule. We demand that this
administration stop the increasing and increasingly hostile attempts
at silencing church people who accompany those that experience far
more greater historical and structural injustices.
The plight of Sr. Pat
sends a chilling message to everyone. The persecution of church
people does not only reveal the sword of a despotic government that
seeks to suppress the Church’s role as a moral compass of society.
It is a demonstration of this administration’s noxious attempts to
criminalize legitimate dissent. This serves as a prelude to more
intensified state perpetuated violence against those who work for
peace, justice and the promotion of human rights.
We, therefore, call upon
all Christians and to all people of good will to boldly resist state
violence and political oppression, and continue to stand up for and
work in solidarity with the poor, deprived and oppressed, so that
justice and peace may reign and life, in all its sanctity and
dignity, can be enjoyed.
Statement on the
arrest and detention of Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS
A press statement by the
Promotion of Church People's Response
April 17, 2018
The Promotion of Church
People's Response indignantly condemns the Bureau of Immigration's
arrest and detention of Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS, without due process
and respect for her fundamental rights and rights as a Church
Sr. Pat belongs to the
religious congregation of Notre Dame de Sion. Her congregation sent
her here as a missionary in 1990.
Impelled by the Christian
faith and the mandate of the Church, she has obediently accepted the
mission of preaching the Good News and be in solidarity with the
poor. Inspired by Church teachings and especially encouraged by Pope
Francis' admonition to be Church of the Poor and be present at the
periphery, Sr. Pat "gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty.
She visited the sick and those in prison". She lives simply and
works tirelessly with the poor.
Yesterday afternoon, April
16, agents from the Bureau of Immigration arrested her in her
convent and brought her to the BI detention room without any court
order. She was shown pictures of herself joining rallies and present
in fact-finding and mercy missions among the indigenous peoples and
the plundered ecological environment.
When has it become a crime
for Church people to exercise their right to preach the Gospel and
be in solidarity with the poor?
The PCPR is most deeply
thankful for the support accorded to Sr. Pat by the poor peasants,
the urban poor, the lay movements and human rights advocates and
Church people, especially the consoling presence and inspiring
intervention of Bishop Broderick Pabillo, D.D. and of the Papal
Nuncio through his representative.
The PCPR calls on Church
People to stand our ground, assert our rights to preach the Gospel
and be in solidarity with the poor and to pursue the Gospel
imperative to respond effectively to human needs and to the cry of
creation with love and compassion, truth and freedom in the pursuit
of and Peace.
The PCPR calls on the
Philippine Government through its Bureau of Immigration to set Sr.
Pat free so she continue to bless the people and our country with
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
April 14, 2018
THAT is one thing for
sure. Never think that to be a saint, one has to be spotlessly clean
from beginning to end. We need to disabuse ourselves from this false
idea of holiness.
In fact, the opposite is
quite true. To be a saint, one has to be prepared to be hounded by
all sorts of temptations and to be buffeted by all kinds of
weaknesses. And yes, from time to time, he might fall and commit
even a grave sin. But he also knows how to bounce back.
This is the real secret of
becoming a saint – his capacity to begin and begin again, never
allowing himself to get discouraged by his defects and sins, always
quick to go back to God asking for forgiveness and for more grace,
and also fast to learn precious lessons from his mistakes and sins.
In fact, in a certain way,
his defects, the temptations around, and the sins he may commit
would constitute as a strong urge to go back to God as quickly as
possible. He does not allow them to separate him from his Father
And on the part of God, we
can be sure that he would be filled with tremendous joy when we come
back to him after we fall. This is what we can conclude from those
very consoling parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the
Pope Francis, in his
latest Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, echoed the same
truth. “Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the
Gospel,” he said. “Not everything he or she does is authentic or
perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life,
their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus
Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a
On our part, we should try
our best to be very faithful. But it is also understood that our
best efforts can sometimes fail us. We can still commit errors and
even grave ones. But there’s always hope. God does not abandon us.
He is willing to go through the complicated process of becoming man
and dying for us on the cross and remaining with us for all time in
the Church and with the sacraments just to bring us back to him.
This truth of faith should
fill us with joy and confidence, and instead of mainly worrying
about how to avoid sin, we should be more interested in doing what
is good, what God wants us to do and to accomplish in this world.
True sanctity is not so much a matter of being too concerned about
sin as of doing the will of God. Sanctity is more joy than worry,
more action than caution, although the latter have their role to
Let us remember that God
wants all men to be saved. (cfr. 1 Tim 2,4) He created us for that
purpose, to be like him and to be with him for all eternity. And
even if we spoiled the original design God had for us, he has
repaired so well that we can say that we are better off this time
after sin than before sin.
That’s because with our
sin, God became man and gave us a better deal of how to be with him
in spite of our tendency to go against him. Somehow our dignity as
children of God enjoys a greater status since by becoming man God
shares our nature so we can more intimately share with his divine
It goes without saying
that we should not trivialize our tendency to sin. We should fight
it as much as we can. But that reality should not undermine God’s
will that he is bent on saving us – of course, with our cooperation
Duterte has power
to ban all forms of contractualization
A Counter-statement by
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino to Deputy Executive Secretary
Menardo Guevarra deceptive claim
April 5, 2018
Deputy Executive Secretary
Menardo Guevarra’s statement that President Duterte has no power to
ban contractualization because Congress must first amend the Labor
Code is an April Fool’s joke.
This is a joke for the
controversial provisions of the Labor Code on contractualization –
Articles 106 to 109 – explicitly delegates the power of prohibition
to the Secretary of Labor (who is directly under the President).
Article 106 states: “The
Secretary of Labor and Employment may, by appropriate regulations,
restrict or prohibit the contracting-out of labor to protect the
rights of workers established under this Code.”
Since Labor Secretary
Silvestre Bello is a mere alter ego of President Duterte, this means
that Duterte himself has the power, through the issuance of an
Executive Order, to ban all forms of contractualization.
BMP and all other labor
groups in the Philippines has submitted said Executive Order on the
very day Duterte took power as President – an Executive Order that
does not merely “regulate” contractualization, but an Executive
Order that bans contractualization in its entirety, which entails
the immediate closure of all third-party labor contractors –
agencies, cooperatives, manpower companies – like PALSCON, AsiaPro,
Paramount, and many more whose only business is to sell workers to
with these “agencies” is by nature contractual, hence, they deserve
to be closed. DOLE’s Department Order 174 (D.O. 174) is a farce
because it legitimizes contractualization even more by allowing
“agencies” with ‘’substantial capital” to operate. This
capitalization – P5 million – is too small and is equivalent to a
small restaurant, that is why under this order, “agencies” will
proliferate. It is also not enough to “regularize” workers under
agencies for they will inevitably lose their jobs as well if the
principal company opts to terminate or end contract with the
“agency.” Hence, D.O. 174 is a farce.
What workers want is
direct hiring without these “agencies,” then regularize workers
after six months of continuous or intermittent work.
If DOLE can regularize
thousands of workers with just one directive, just like how it
regularized more than 6,000 workers of Jollibee last April 4, 2018,
why can’t it regularize all contractual workers in the Philippines?
regularization only shows that DOLE and the President have the power
to end contractualization even without the amendment of the Labor
Code, precisely because the Labor Code allows them to do so.
Regularization of all would be easier if Duterte will fulfill his
promise of ending contractualization and this is through an
While we demand this from
Duterte, BMP will not stop from calling on Congress to junk Articles
106 to 109 of the Labor Code for it allows contractualization
(though it also allows its prohibition through the Executive
branch). Deletion of these Articles will ensure that
contractualization will no longer exist.
But the process of
amending this law will be slow considering that our lawmakers will
focus on the campaign for next year’s election. In short, we have
nothing to expect from them at this point.
While Congress is slow on
this, an Executive Order for the total ban of all forms of
contractualization and the closure of all third party manpower
agencies and cooperatives from Duterte no less is a “quick-quick
solution” to regularize all downtrodden contractuals in the
ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
March 7, 2018
NO, it’s not the Visayan
way of pronouncing the word, “upscaling.” It’s really a legitimate
word, coined, I suppose, recently in view of the many new
developments around, especially in the digital world.
It means “to teach
additional skills” or to upgrade one’s skills. It is closely related
to the word, “reskill,” which means “to teach new work skills
especially to those who are unemployed.
I suppose these are
nowadays the ‘in’ words in the labor world, given the many new
developments today. Let’s hope that many people, both young and old,
take up the challenge of upskilling and reskilling. It’s never too
late to do these things.
But let us also remind
ourselves that more than just upgrading and learning new work or
technical skills, we need to upgrade our skills in the spiritual and
moral aspects of our life.
These, in fact, are the
more necessary things to learn, given the way the world is
developing today which, while giving us many good and beneficial
things, also occasion many and worse evils. It’s in the spiritual
and moral sphere of our life that would give meaning and direction
to all the practical skills that we have to learn.
For example, we have to
upskill or reskill our ability to pray such that we can keep an
abiding conversation with God while immersed in the things of the
world. We have to learn to see God in all things and to turn all
these worldly and temporal things into means and occasions, not
obstacles, in our loving dialogue with God.
For this, we have to
remind ourselves that God is actually in everything because he is
the giver and the maintainer of the very existence of these things.
We have to overcome the myth of thinking that there are things where
God is not present.
This can happen when we
think that our new inventions are just ours, and that God has
nothing to do with them. That’s wrong simply because the very
material and laws that allow us to discover and invent new things
come from God. God is right there at the very core of all things
that we work on or discover and invent.
We certainly would be
confused and lost if we fail to pray while handling the things of
the world. When we pray we avoid what St. Paul once warned us about:
“We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves,
and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the
cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (Eph
Another area to upskill
and reskill is in our moral struggle against the many subtle evils
of the modern world. These modern evils are subtle because they are
usually dressed as good, charming, practical and the like. We need
to upgrade our combat skills that definitely would include the
ability to smell dangerous occasions that can lead us to big sins,
the strength to say no to temptations, etc.
In this regard, we also
have to upskill the different virtues that we always need. Order is
one of the more urgent virtues to upgrade, since we really have to
have a strong sense of priorities, given the many competing options
posed before us.
Besides, nowadays we are
always pressured to do multi-tasking since there are just so many
things to attend to and to orchestrate, and there are only 24 hours
in a day and 7 days in a week. We are in an age of urgency, and we
just have to learn to cope with it. So, there’s no choice but to
upskill and reskill.
cooperate with ICC in line with international obligations
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission
February 13, 2018
On 8 February 2018, Fatou
Bensoula, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at
the Hague announced her decision “to open a preliminary examination”
into the Philippine government’s war on drugs, which ‘potentially
falls within the Court’s jurisdiction’ (read full text of her speech
here). The Republic of the Philippines is State party to the Rome
Statute, which established the ICC to investigate international
crimes, since 2011.
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) welcomes Prosecutor Bensoula’s decision to
“analyse crimes allegedly committed in the context of the war on
drugs”. Her “preliminary examination” could provide a platform to
initiate an impartial and independent inquiry into allegations of
extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals, drug dealers and
addicts in the context of war on drugs. Bensoula has stated that
this preliminary examination is not an investigation, but a “process
of examining the information available” to ascertain if “there is a
reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation”. In other words,
it is the equivalent of an investigation by a public prosecutor with
the mandate to determine whether or not there is “probable cause”
that a crime has been committed.
It is of concern however,
that President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, has
described the ICC’s decision as “a waste of the court’s time and
resources”. If the Philippine government is committed to clearing
its name and ending allegations of extrajudicial killings, it should
fully cooperate with the ICC. Roque’s remark is not helpful as it
undermines the international human rights mechanism, which the
Philippines has a duty and obligation to support.
Bensoula has said that the ICC’s examination still acknowledges the
national jurisdiction’s primary responsibility to investigate and
prosecute those responsible for international crimes, it must be
asked whether an impartial and independent investigation is possible
in the Philippines. It is already widely reported that President
Duterte has openly intimidated the Supreme Court, the Commission on
Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman. The Department of
Justice, the agency with power to prosecute, has openly defended
President Duterte’s war on drugs, and denies there were
extrajudicial killings. It is under these circumstances, with the
repressive political climate and the politicization of ordinary
criminal procedures, that intervention by international human rights
bodies seem to be necessary.
The AHRC has already
observed that even if there are national investigations and
prosecutions, as in the case of teenager Kian delos Santos, who was
last seen alive on CCTV on 16 August 2017 being taken by policemen
in Caloocan, they can occur only after strong local and
international condemnation. But what about the cases in which the
arrest and killings were never captured by CCTV? To clear the
government of its alleged involvement, either through the direct
actions of the security forces, or through actively endorsing the
killing of criminals so President Duterte could fulfill his election
promise, it is imperative that the government fully cooperates with
the ICC. The ICC should be allowed to examine allegations to
determine whether or not the government has criminal liability.
The Philippine government,
as party to ICC and numerous international covenants on the
protection of human rights, should demonstrate its full commitment
to the international human rights system. Any remarks that go
against the intention of the ICC will only indicate that the
government is either unwilling or incapable of conducting an
impartial and effective investigation and prosecution of
constitutional change ignores protection of rights
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission
February 6, 2018
As widely reported, the
Philippines House of Representatives (Congress), the country’s
legislative body, is lobbying to change the political system by
amending the 1987 Constitution. President Rodrigo Duterte’s
political allies in Congress are proposing to change from a
presidential form of government, to a federal one. The main reasons
given for this are twofold: first, to devolve power to local
government; second, a federal state would allow equal distribution
of wealth among local government units.
According to the
proponents of federalism, their constituencies have been neglected
by “Imperial Manila”. This supposed governmental neglect and unequal
distribution of resources by the national government is being blamed
for poor performance. This argument is not entirely accurate, as a
Local Government Code empowering local government units already
exists. As former chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. had said, to
amend the distribution of resources from the national government
does not require amending the Constitution, only the Local
The Asian Human Rights
Commission (AHRC) is thus curious as to why President Rodrigo
Duterte’s political allies are so bent on changing the 1987
Constitution within his term. The 1987 Constitution contains the
aspirations of the Filipino people in reaction to the Marcos
dictatorship: notably the Bill of Rights, and provisions on social
justice. Ignored by Marcos, these were inscribed and explicitly
written down afterward. It is unfortunate that over three decades
after Marcos’ dictatorship ended, these aspirations are yet to be
realized. In fact, the current debate on the proposed constitutional
change is silent on constitutional rights. Moreover, the
institutions built to protect these aspirations are being
The Commission on Human
Rights (CHR) and the Office of the Ombudsman, two independent
constitutional bodies created by the 1987 Constitution, have
recently been targeted by President Duterte’s political allies in
Congress. The Congress attempted to deprived the CHR of its
operational budget by funding it only P1,000 pesos. Had it not been
for the protests against it, the lawmakers would not have
reconsidered the funding. Since assuming office, CHR chairperson
Jose Luis Martin Gascon has been a target of President Duterte’s
harsh critics, for standing in his way on the drug war. Meanwhile,
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales recently locked horns with
President Duterte as she refused to implement his order suspending
her Overall Deputy Ombudsman, Melchor Arthur Carandang. He
reportedly leaked the bank transactions of Duterte and his family
without their consent.
Whether or not President
Duterte’s allies will succeed in their plan to change the political
system from a presidential to federal one, the current debate
excludes any discussion on how constitutional rights should be
protected. This is hardly surprising, given President Duterte’s
rejection of human rights as values, and his intimidation of
institutions that check abuses. The current administration and its
political allies have no thoughts of protecting the constitutional
rights of their constituencies. This can only worsen in a federal
state, with local bosses lording over their constituents in complete
disregard of their rights.
Any debate on
constitutional change must include discussion on the protection of
constitutional rights. Where are Filipinos to turn to seek
protection for their yet to be fulfilled aspirations? Those
proposing amendments to the constitution owe an explanation to the
people they intend to rule in a federal state. Those who oppose
constitutional amendments, also owe it to the Filipino people, to
discuss what it means to overhaul the Constitution without any
dialogue on the protection of constitutional rights. The pain,
suffering, insights, and aspirations of those who suffered the
dictatorship must be taken into account in any political change.