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Paglambo Project: Promoting financial inclusion for Muslim communities

Creating Jobs

Economic recovery and going back to the basics

Measuring the impact of advocacy programmes

Financial inclusion and Shari’ah financing

Our Nanays, our community heroes

SRI LANKA: Black Sunday - Mourning the death of criminal investigating capacity

Beware of the excesses of idealism






Tribute to LALA: A Lumad Activist, Artist, and Fighter

Kaerlan “Lala” Fanagel

By BEVERLY L. LONGID, National Convener, Katribu
September 18, 2023

It is with a heavy heart that we receive the news of the passing of our colleague and fellow Indigenous Peoples activist, artist, and fighter, Kaerlan “Lala” Fanagel.

On behalf of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, we extend our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the grieving family, relatives, tribe, and cherished friends who are mourning the loss of Kaerlan "Lala" Fanaguel. According to the military's report, Lala was among the six individuals killed during an encounter between the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the New People’s Army in Bilar, Bohol, last September 7.

We recognize and acknowledge that the right to self-determination and the pursuit of justice in the face of oppression are fundamental principles that guide the paths of many. We hold in high regard Lala's decision to join the New People’s Army (NPA). It was a conscientious, difficult, and mature choice made in response to the relentless threats and harassment he endured from the state. In his eyes, the conventional avenues for seeking justice appeared insufficient to address the escalating attacks on the Indigenous and Moro Peoples. We pay tribute to his unwavering dedication, particularly to the Lumad to which he belonged.

Lala, a native of Barangay Poblacion, Malapatan in Sarangani Province, had previously served as the secretary-general of PASAKA Pasakaday Salugpungan Kalimudan (Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao). He was also a former council member of Katribu, a national alliance of Indigenous Peoples organizations in the Philippines; Kalumaran Mindanao-wide organization of Lumad; and the Sandugo, an alliance uniting Moro and Indigenous Peoples organizations. In these roles, Lala diligently led various activities and protests both in Davao and Metro Manila, tirelessly working to shed light on the challenging circumstances faced by Indigenous Peoples in his region.

The escalating acts of plunder, militarization, bombings, enforced disappearances, criminalization, and the unjust labeling of Indigenous Peoples leaders and activists as terrorists have only fueled the flames of the ongoing armed conflict. In light of this, we fervently advocate for a sincere and collective effort to address the root causes of this conflict. It is our hope that, through such concerted endeavors, we may pave for a future that is more just and equitable future where the suffering endured by many may find its end.





ICHRP welcomes acquittal of Maria Ressa in Philippine tax evasion case

A press statement by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
September 16, 2023

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) welcomes journalist and Nobel Prize recipient Maria Ressa’s acquittal from a Philippine tax evasion case. The decision was promulgated by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 157 on September 12.

“Ressa’s acquittal serves not just a victory for Philippine news website Rappler, but also for journalism and democracy at large. This legal triumph proves the politically motivated character of the charges, which sought to silence those who were critical of the grave human rights violations of the Duterte administration,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the ICHRP Global Council.

“While we welcome this development, in no way does it absolve the Duterte government of the crimes it perpetrated against the Philippine press. It must be remembered that his administration was openly hostile to the media, resulting in countless attacks on journalists and on press freedom,” continued Murphy.

It should be noted that while Ressa and Rappler have emerged victorious on their fifth and last tax evasion case, Rappler still faces two charges – an appeal on its closure order before the Philippine Court of Appeals, and a pending appeal on a cyber libel case before the Philippine Supreme Court. Under Ressa's leadership, Rappler was consistently critical of Duterte’s policies, especially his infamous “war on drugs”. This attracted the administration’s ire and prompted a string of legal attacks intended to silence and intimidate all journalists critical of his brutal regime.

Ressa’s acquittal is a small but important victory among the numerous cases of attacks against the press under the Duterte government. As documented by INVESTIGATE PH, his government saw the killing of 23 journalists, the shutdown of free-to-air broadcasts by media giant ABS-CBN, and the threat to sue Philippine Daily Inquirer journalist Tetch Torres-Tupas over her report on 2 indigenous peoples who were the first to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

This war on dissent has continued with no let up under the Marcos Jr. government. Some of the prominent cases include the brutal slay of broadcaster Percy Lapid on October 3, 2022, the ambush which led to the killing of editorial cartoonist Benharl Kahil on November 5, 2022, and Rappler journalist Frank Cimatu’s conviction of cyber libel on December 14, 2022.

“We call on the Marcos Jr. government to cease forthwith its abuse of the judicial process and its entire policy of political repression. It must actively put a stop to the attacks not just on press freedom but also on anyone who is critical of its policies. The Philippine government should stop making trumped-up charges against those who are defending the rights of the oppressed people. ICHRP will continue to keep watch and expose the Philippine government’s human rights and international humanitarian law violations,” concluded Murphy.





CARMMA condemns DepEd’s whitewashing of Marcos dictatorship in Matatag curriculum

A press statement by the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA)
September 11, 2023

Allow us to reiterate a basic historical fact: the two-decade rule of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. is a dictatorship. The culpability of the crimes against the Filipino people during that dark and bloody period in our history rests primarily on the Marcoses.

We at the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law flag and condemn in the strongest possible terms the Department of Education’s shameless scheme to whitewash and distort our history with its September 6, 2023 memo to change “Diktadurang Marcos” to “Diktadura” in the Grade 6 Araling Panlipunan curriculum of the newly-launched Matatag curriculum.

It is now undeniable that historical distortion and mass disinformation are being raised to the institutional level. The Marcos Jr. administration is no longer hiding behind its army of online trolls and spin doctors; education is now miseducation. Semantically divorcing the Marcoses from the term “dictatorship” – in a curriculum, no less – is obviously a calculated and sinister plot to absolve the Marcoses of their brutalities during their despotic rule, especially among our youth.

Who is ultimately responsible for the murders, torture, illegal incarceration, and disappearances of thousands of activists, among them youth leaders, during martial law? Who signed the orders to dissolve Congress and for the military to take over media outlets 50 years ago on September 21, 1972? Who ultimately benefitted from the plunder of our nation’s coffers, burdening Filipinos with debt that will be paid by generations to come? The answer to these questions are simple: the Marcoses.

Hence, the compound term “Marcos dictatorship” is different from merely calling the period a “dictatorship” alone. How would the people and particularly the children know who was responsible for the plunder and atrocities of martial law if Marcos is not named? He cannot be Voldemort, he who must not be named! The Marcos dictatorship is a truth that cannot be and should not be denied. It is a truth as well that the people rose in defiance against the Marcos dictatorship that eventually led to their overthrow in the 1986 People Power uprising.

This brazen assault on truth at the cultural level goes hand-in-hand and with the huge so-called confidential and intelligence funds being greedily gobbled up by Department of Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte – the spending of which, cannot be scrutinized publicly, and will most likely be for surveilling, harassing, and threatening educators and students who will defy this directive to distort history.

We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos, especially our teachers and students to denounce this deplorable ploy by the Department of Education to distort history and miseducate the youth. We enjoin all to continue holding the Marcoses and their cronies and allies accountable for their crimes against the Filipino people. Remembering is resistance, and we will never forget.





Marriage, divorce and the gender issue

August 18, 2023

THAT part of the gospel where Christ was asked about marriage and divorce and that also talked a little about man being created man and woman (cfr. Mt 19,3-12) gives us an occasion to clarify certain points that have become today’s hot button issues due to some ideological controversies.

We cannot deny that these days some ideologies are redefining things that are clearly set forth by our Christian faith and that can be clearly validated by an objective analysis of our human nature. One is that marriage can only be between one man and one woman, and that it is exclusive and is meant to be a lifetime commitment.

Why is that? It’s because for marriage to be true marriage, true love should be involved, a love that includes the use of the body and not just a spiritual love that can and should be given to as many persons as possible.

It’s an exclusive kind of love because once the body is given to another, it cannot be shared with anybody else. And if true love animates it, then everything is involved, and so there is a lifetime commitment involved.

Divorce is therefore a no-no. What can happen instead is what is known as nullity of marriage. That’s when it can be proven that the marriage was entered into with some impediments. Thus, marriage should be entered into with full knowledge of what it is and what it entails.

Marriage is also between a man and a woman because it is meant mainly for procreation, and not just enjoyment of some conveniences and pleasures, though these can also be reasons why people marry.

Of course, they should also realize that marriage has its own burdens for which they have to be ready to bear. It is also meant to raise a family where children are formed to be real persons and children of God as we are all meant to be – a tall order, indeed, but which can be borne as long as those concerned tackle this responsibility with God’s grace and their all-out effort.

Regarding the gender issue, it’s kind of funny that nowadays some people are finding it difficult to define what a woman is and what pronoun to assign to those who think they are women when biologically they are men.

Of course, given our human condition that is always a work in progress, to be consistent to one’s gender at birth requires some effort and work. Masculinity for men and femininity for women have to be taught and learned, knowing that given our human condition that is replete with weaknesses, inconsistencies can easily take place.

There can be same-sex attraction which can happen to anyone anytime, but if one is guided properly by a good understanding of our human nature and of our Christian faith, one would know what to do. It’s when one prefers to be guided simply by his own feelings and estimation of things that he or she or they can get into error.

Anyway, we all know that our human condition in this life requires constant vigilance and struggle precisely because of our human weakness and limitations. But we should try our best to follow the objective guide provided by natural law, moral law and the spiritual and supernatural law provided by our Christian faith.

In any case, charity should always prevail, especially in situations when we have to deal with controversial issues. Our differences and conflicts should not be reason to set aside charity. It’s precisely in situations like these that charity should be best lived.





Statement of the IBP in support of the integrity and independence of the Supreme Court of the Philippines

By Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
August 17, 2023

In a television interview on One News Channel, a disbarred lawyer claimed that his disbarment is part of Justice Marvic Leonen’s alleged vendetta against him. He likewise claimed that he was targeted by Justice Marvic Leonen because he is a BBM supporter.

Such claims are baseless, malicious and untrue. The Supreme Court is a collegial body. It takes at least one (1) division, or the Court sitting en banc to render a valid judgment. Statements that give the impression that Justices of the Supreme Court can be influenced by one Justice, or that the Supreme Court’s decision is tainted by politics are most unfair and contemptuous.

The disbarred lawyer’s claim that he can re-apply or file a motion for reconsideration “kapag namatay si Justice Leonen” is equally contemptuous.

More troubling is the disbarred lawyer’s claim that some people in the Supreme Court actually called him the day before his disbarment was announced to the media. The call was supposedly to convince him to request Pres. BBM to call the Supreme Court to withhold the issuance of the decision ordering his disbarment. He insinuates that certain personalities in the Supreme Court wanted to leverage his disbarment for certain favors from the President. Such claims are malicious, disrespectful and also contemptuous.

His tirades, insinuations and accusations have no place in a civilized and democratic country like the Philippines.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) abhors such unprecedented conduct of a former lawyer. The IBP stands by the Supreme Court as it continues to discharge its constitutionally guaranteed procedures and jurisdiction on matters relating to the discipline of errant members of the Bar.

If there ever was any uncertainty about whether this person deserved to be disbarred, his television interview is clear proof that the Supreme Court made the right decision.

The IBP stands squarely behind the Honorable Supreme Court, particularly the Court’s integrity and independence in the discharge of its functions.





If privileged, never feel entitled

July 25, 2023

WE are reminded of this aspect of Christian life in that gospel episode where the mother of the apostles, James and John, requested Christ to have her sons sit beside him, one on his right and the other on his left, at the Kingdom. (cfr. Mt 20,20-28)

Of course, mothers will always be mothers. They will try to give the best for their children. And so, Christ responded to her delicately that those seats were already reserved for those whom God the Father had chosen.

In the meantime, Christ reminded the mother and the two apostles if they were willing to suffer with him, making them understand that heaven can only be reached through the cross. And to the apostles’ credit, they readily responded, “We can!”

We have to realize then that any privilege, honor or praise given to us is a call for us to be more generous in our self-giving to such an extent that we would not run away from making the supreme sacrifice of giving our life for God and the others, just like what Christ did.

Our attitude should be to sharpen even more our desire to serve and not to be served. Christ made it clear to the mother and the brother-apostles when he said, “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20,28)

Reiterating the same idea, he told them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. Not so is it among you. On the contrary, whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

We should never feel entitled. Christ himself was the first one to live by this principle. Being God, he emptied himself to become man and to bear all the sins of men by dying on the cross, all for the purpose of saving mankind. (cfr. Phil 2,7)

He reiterated this point when he lamented about the domineering sense of entitlement of some of the leading Jews of his time while praising the poor widow who put all that she had into the temple treasury. (cfr. Mk 12,38-44)

While it’s true that we obviously are entitled to our rights, we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful. But we should immediately realize that when privileges and favors come our way, we are being called to serve more.

Let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us. We always have to be guarded against this danger.

We need to acquire the mentality of a servant which is actually the mentality of Christ himself. Let us readjust our human standards to conform to what is actually proper to us as taught and lived by Christ. We usually look down on the status of servants. This has to change! We should be convinced that by becoming a servant we would be making ourselves like Christ. Let’s say NO to entitlements.





Financial aspect of the priestly ministry

July 13, 2023

“WITHOUT cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10,8)

These words of Christ should be the guiding principle when considering the financial aspect of the priestly ministry. It cannot be denied that this financial aspect of a priest’s ministry can pose a very tricky challenge to the men of the cloth.

We know that money and anything that gives us honor and privilege have the tendency, if we are not careful, to corrupt us. It is important that in dealing with them, we have to take care of the purity of our intention which can only be achieved if everything that we do is meant for the glory and love of God and love and concern for everybody else. Otherwise, there’s no other way but for us to fall into some spiritual and moral anomalies.

Given our unquestionable weaknesses and proneness to sin, we have to realize that we really need to have accountability and transparency in dealing with financial matters.

While it’s true that Christ’s ministers are also men who have material necessities, we have to be clear that our ministry should never be used mainly, or worse, purely for some financial or economic gain.

As Christ clearly said, given the completely gratuitous character of our vocation and mission, we need to dedicate ourselves to our ministry also gratuitously, without counting the cost.

This concern can be a very tricky thing to deal with. Priests are no spiritual beings with no need for financial support. We need money also. In a sense, we need to earn, but seeing to it that such financial concern should be pursued with utmost purity of intention.

In this regard, what can be most helpful is to develop a strong conviction that we should not create artificial needs beyond what we truly need to survive, leading a decent life, and to carry out our duties properly.

If done properly, this concern for the financial aspect of the priestly ministry can blend well a lifestyle that can be both personally austere and yet magnificently generous with respect to our dedication to the ministry.

We can truly live the Christian poverty that practices detachment from earthly goods and yet is unafraid and even creative and judiciously enterprising to acquire whatever goods and money are needed to further sincere spiritual and moral help to others.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Thus, there is always that need for regular checking or some kind of auditing to see if indeed the true spirit of Christian poverty is lived while handling money in our priestly ministry.

Some signs that can tell us whether we would already be deviating from the proper spirit of Christian poverty are when we have some items that can be considered already as luxurious or above the common standard of what is proper for priests to fulfill their ministry. These items can be the kind of cars that we use, the places that we go for our needed rest and recreation, etc.

But with respect to items directly related to liturgy and to apostolate, we can be as lavish as we can to show how much we truly care for God and for others. In this area, we should not be sparing or stinting. We have to give as much as we can. And it is for this reason that we can ask also for more donations and support from those who can.





What is to pray properly

June 22, 2023

CHRIST told us how to pray properly. “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words,” he said. “Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6,7-8)

In other words, we have to pray sincerely, avoiding just going through the motions of praying. We should see to it that that when we pray, we get to have an intimate and direct conversation with God who is always with us and, like a father, treats us with love and solicitude. He actually is eager to talk with us always. Our problem is that we often ignore him, something that we should correct.

This will require faith, of course, since without it there is no way we can have a real conversation with God. Even if our faith is not that strong, we still can manage to strike a good conversation with God, precisely by asking with all humility and importunity for that faith, echoing what a father of an epileptic son told Christ, “I believe, but help my unbelief.” (Mk 9,24)

And it’s interesting to note that after Christ told his disciples not to babble when praying, he told them the Lord’s Prayer which we usually refer to as the “Our Father.” “This is how you are to pray…,” (cfr. Mt 6,9-15) he said. It’s as if that prayer is the model prayer we have to follow in any personal prayer we do. We should express the same beliefs, attitude, intentions and petitions articulated in that prayer.

We therefore have to realize that prayer is how we maintain and nourish our relationship with God, and that relationship should be that of a father and a child. Prayer keeps alive our desire for God, a desire to be like God as we are meant to be.

We have to realize that praying is to our spiritual life what breathing and the beating of the heart are to our biological life. That is why St. Paul clearly said, “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5,17-18)

When we manage to truly pray, we can also manage to protect ourselves from all kinds of evil, and to heal whatever wounds and weaknesses we may have because of our sins. A sense of holy invulnerability can come to us. We can find peace and joy in spite of the drama of our life.

We have to be careful not to convert our prayer into something that is meant only to foster our pursuit for some self-interest that is separated from our desire to be like God. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we address God as our Father, and we express the desire that his kingdom come here on earth and that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And while we have many things to ask because of our personal needs, we should not forget that the more important thing to ask is forgiveness of our sins which will always be given as long as we also forgive others.

We just cannot resort to prayer during special occasions when we are faced with some difficulty. Prayer is not meant to be the remedy of last resort. It is what we have to do always, both in good times and bad.





Get to know who Christ truly is

June 9, 2023

WITH all the antagonistic questionings Christ received from some of the leading Jews, he instead offered some clarification about who really was. “How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?” he asked those around him. (Mk 12,35)

And so, he himself also provided the answer. “David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him ‘Lord’; so how is he his son?” (Mk 12,36-37)

The problem with these leading Jews was that they had a narrow if not wrong understanding of the identity of Christ. They could not believe that Christ is first of all God before he also became man. And that his mission is not only something earthly and temporal – the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage – but is something spiritual and supernatural in keeping with the true dignity of man as children of God.

It is important that we too have a good and correct understanding of who Christ truly is and of the real mission he is carrying out with us. Quite often, even if we already are Christian believers, we still have wrong notions and attitudes toward Christ. We expect Christ to work under our own terms instead of the other way around.

It’s good that from time to time we ask ourselves the question of who is Christ to us. I think that’s a very legitimate question to ask ourselves daily. If Christ is truly alive and is actively intervening in our lives, we should ask ourselves if we manage to see him and deal with him today and always. We know all too well that very often we are good in words only, but not in deeds, in theory but not in practice. We need to close the gap.

Let’s remember that Christ himself said: “I am always with you until the end of time.” (Mt 28,20) If we have faith, these words should never be considered as mere bluff. They are true and operative. We have to learn to conform ourselves to that reality and to behave accordingly.

Christ should not just be a Christ of faith or a Christ of history, as some theologians have described him. The Christ of faith and the Christ of history is one and the same person, and he continues not only to be with us but also to work with us, showing us the way how to live, how to work, how to decide, how to choose, etc.

Christ is actually leading us the way in our life so that we can reach our final destination. He is never indifferent to us, even if we are indifferent to him. He will always find a way to be with us always and somehow lead us in his own mysterious ways.

But we need to be more aware of his presence and more active in cooperating with his will and ways. For this, we have to learn to discipline ourselves to be able to see Christ everyday. He is actually in all things and in all situations.

Our faith in him should be such that we can contemplate him always. He has to enter in our life not only intellectually and spiritually, but also emotionally and physically. We have to wean ourselves from that stage where we think that we are just living on our own. We are living with Christ, and in fact, with everybody else.





On Slater Young: Sexual fantasy and Christian morality

May 17, 2023

About three weeks before the Slater Young turmoil broke out, an interesting debate came out in Youtube between Matt Frad, a Catholic influencer and Dennis Prager, an Orthodox Jew pundit. In the debate, Prager argued that it was not in se immoral to sexually fantasize about persons or to view pornography (PROVIDED that no exploitation was involved -eg, annimated) so long as this was not acted out as immoral sexual behavior. This is because the ethics of the Law of Moses is in principle, behavioral. Frad, however, argued that such was inherently immoral using of course the words of Christ in Mathew 5;28 and arguing that pornography damages the individual and contributes exploitation (which although relevant, is really a slippery-slope argument)-a position mainly based on Catholic Morality.

At the outset, it was too bad that Frad, as he admitted, was not able to argue as well as he could have and was constantly caught off guard by the sharp mind of Prager. The debate left the impression that Dennis Prager seemed like the Ethics of Ancient Philosophy (perhaps Aristotle) without the Christian Faith while Frad represented Moral Theology (though he wasn’t able to argue very well).

Interestingly, in the said debate, Prager made a distinction between lust and sexual desire -but that's not relevant as of the moment. Nonetheless, it does bring to the table some interesting questions in ethics and moral philosophy as well as some distinctions between moral theology (or Christian ethics).

Christ, in Mt 5:28, said that “whoever looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery in his heart.” However, it is important to note that He preceded this with the phrase that “However, this I say to you.” This notes that before he gave this new interpretation of the Law of Moses (or to be theologically consistent, perfected the Law), this was not how it was interpreted. Hence, Sexual Thoughts only began to be recognized to be sinful when Christ revealed them to be so. In other words, sexual thoughts are only sinful in Christian Ethics or in Moral Theology but not in Moral Philosophy. This is because the law of Moses which is the interpretation of the Ten Commandments, are the privileged expression of Natural Moral Law or Moral Law without yet the light of Christian Faith -hence Christ gave the Beatitudes in his ethical teachings to supplement the Ten Commandments (a subject perhaps more appropriate on another article about a Christian Gentleman).

Thus, just as pride is a virtue in the moral philosophy of Aristotle but a sin in the moral theology of Thomas Aquinas, Sexual Fantasy insofar as natural moral philosophy is concerned, not inherently wrong (although it can be under certain circumstances such as exploitation) but is only a sin in Christian Morality.

In short, insofar as Moral Philosophy is concerned, there is nothing wrong with Slater Young’s statement about men fantasizing about women -so long as this does not involve trafficking or abuse or other such circumstances. Slater Young’s statement is only wrong for those who hold to Christian Morality -who profess faith in Christ. Slater seems to be, at best, a cultural catholic rather than a devout one -though rooting for him to be so.

The funny thing however, is this: will those (especially the woke mob) who strongly reacted against Slater Young’s statement on the basis of Christian Morality be also willing to profess the other tenets of Christian Morality on perhaps -abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc.- and not just cherry pick? Christian Morality goes beyond the observance of natural law but is calls even further into self-sacrificing love as expressed in the Beatitudes.

**Lance Patrick Enad, A Cebuano in Manila, Bachelor of Philosophy, Student of Theology.





Our need for the cross

April 7, 2023

IT’S Good Friday! The mood, the atmosphere takes on a very dark hue. And despite the many secularizing and paganizing elements around these days, somehow we assume a most serious face as we commemorate, bring to mind, and liturgically make present, the very passion and death by crucifixion of the Son of God, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Yes, the readings are long, (cfr. Jn 18,1-19,42) but thanks to God, we have learned how to bear the experience and to make alive and be part of the very events narrated in those readings. We try to draw meaningful and spiritually vivifying insights from the prayers offered on this day.

The main lesson we can derive from this celebration of the death of Christ is that we have a great and essential need for the cross of Christ. We need to know the purpose of the cross because the cross, through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, is where everything in our life is resolved. Christ’s passion, death and resurrection is the culmination of Christ’s redemptive mission on earth.

Yes, Christ preached. He performed miracles. But in the end, he had to offer his life on the cross because no matter what he did, our sins are such that they simply cannot be undone and forgiven through the preaching of the truths of our faith and the tremendous effects of the miracles. Christ has to offer his life on the cross!

In other words, the cross and all the suffering it involves are the consequences of our sins which need to be forgiven and undone. And that can only happen when with Christ, we go through the consequences of our sin by suffering them with Christ on the cross. Thus, the cross of our sins has been converted by Christ into the cross of our salvation. That’s how we have to understand the cross and all the suffering it involves.

We should not be afraid of the cross. In fact, we should be looking forward to have it if only to help in Christ’s continuing work of our redemption. We need to understand that unless we love the cross, we can never say that we are loving enough. Of course, we have to qualify that assertion. It’s when we love the cross the way God wills it – the way Christ loves it – that we can really say that we are loving as we should, or loving with the fullness of love.

We have to be wary of our tendency to limit our loving to ways and forms that give us some benefits alone, be it material, moral or spiritual. While they are also a form of love, they are not yet the fullness of love.

We have to realize more deeply that the cross heals what is sick and wounded in us, resurrects what is dead, forgives what is sinful. There is no evil in man and in the world that cannot be handled properly by Christ’s cross. That’s why we should not feel at all hopeless when we find ourselves in a deep mess, often created by our own selves, our own foolishness.

The cross symbolizes all evil and sin, and with Christ embracing it and dying on it, the cross gets transformed from being a tree of death to a tree of life. It effects our redemption. We should not be afraid of the cross. In fact, we should learn to love it.





Christ is everything to us

March 22, 2023

“IF I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.” (Jn 5, 31-32)

These are words of Christ that express his effort to identify who he really is and how he is related to God and us. St. John the Baptist had already given his testimony about him, and during his baptism in the River Jordan, nothing less than a voice from heaven was heard, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3,17) Besides, he did so many miracles and his teachings were so sublime that one can easily conclude that Christ must be at least some special person.

We need to strengthen our belief that Christ is everything to us. He is the God-man that offers us “the way, the truth and the life” so that we can recover our dignity and ultimate identity as children of God, made in God’s image and likeness, and meant to share God’s very life and nature.

We therefore need to develop the instinct of always looking for Christ, making him alive in our life and patterning our life after his. This business of always looking for Christ is a basic duty of ours, a grave responsibility, in fact. Without him, we would just be on our own, relying simply on our own light and powers that, no matter how excellent, can never accomplish our real ultimate need of our own salvation, our own perfection as a person and as a child of God.

We need to look for Christ so we can find him, and in finding him, we can start to love and serve him which is what we are expected to do to be ‘another Christ’ as we ought. This has basis on what Christ himself said: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you…” (Mt 7,7)

And finding him means that we make Christ alive in our life. He is not just a historical figure. Let’s remember that before he went up to heaven, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would bring to us everything that Christ did and said. More than that, the Holy Spirit brings Christ alive in us.

We just have to remember that with Christ, it is not enough to know him. We also have to love him. With Christ, to know him truly is to love him also. In fact, we cannot say we really know him unless we love him too.

With him, these two spiritual operations of ours merge into a unity, although they have different directions. In knowing, the object known is in the knower. It has an inward movement. The knower possesses the known object.

In loving, the lover is in the beloved. It has an outward movement. It is the beloved that possesses the lover. The lover gets identified with the beloved. The lover becomes what he loves. When we love Christ, we are with him, and become one with him.

For this, we need to exercise our faith to the hilt. When we exercise our faith, we enter into a reality that goes beyond what we simply can see and touch and understand. With faith we can have hope in pursuing our ultimate goal of becoming like Christ. With faith we can manage to live the highest virtue, which is charity, with God as its object and others as its unavoidable co-object.





Forgiving others likens us to God

March 14, 2023

THAT’S what we can learn from that parable about a servant whose debt with his master was forgiven but could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant. (cfr. Mt 18,21-35)

The parable was said because St. Peter asked Christ how many times one should forgive his neighbor. He was trying to be magnanimous when he asked if one should forgive his neighbor 7 times, which in the culture of that time meant many. Christ corrected him by saying, not only 7 times, but 70 times 7, which means always.

In that parable, the master clearly told the servant who could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant that he should forgive the debt of his fellow servant as he himself, the master, forgave servant’s debt.

“You wicked servant,” the master told the servant. “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”

Again, we have to remember that since we have been created in God’s image and likeness, we should try our best to be like God who has fully manifested himself in Christ. How God is, how Christ is, should also be how we should be. In short, we can only have that forgiving heart if we truly identify with Christ.

That surely would require grace which is actually abundantly and gratuitously given. But that grace requires our human cooperation. We need to develop in ourselves, no matter difficult the challenge is, the appropriate attitude and virtues for this purpose.

We have to learn how to be always forgiving. Yes, the requirements of justice also have to be met, but forgiveness should always be given even while the requirements of justice still have to be processed.

One may ask: why should that be? Why should forgiveness be given even if the cause of justice is not yet resolved? The answer can only be seen when we consider who we really are. We are men and women, made in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of how we are, whether sinner or saint, that basic dignity of man cannot be erased.

This dignity of man is alluded to in one of the psalms: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Ps 8,4-6)

Yes, we have the dignity of being children of God, and not just one more creature of his. No matter how much we misbehave, God, being a father, will do everything to bring us back to him. And that’s what Christ precisely did for us. He even went to offer his life on the cross, offering forgiveness to those who crucified him.

God cannot forget and abandon us just because of our sins. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Is 49,15)

Indeed, God will do everything to bring us back to him. And it’s up to us to show at least some signs of repentance for our sins and to accept the eternal mercy of God. If we do the same to one another, we obviously would make ourselves like God as we ought to be!





“Stop red-tagging our bishops and our ministries, instead, seek ways that shall make peace”

A statement by the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) on the red-tagging of Bishop Gerardo Alminaza
March 6, 2023

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos City was maliciously red-tagged by SMNI hosts Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy in their program “Laban Kasama ng Bayan” on February 22, 2023, calling the bishops’ peace advocacy and appeal for the resumption of the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP diabolical and demonic.

These utterances are not only malicious but are utterly despicable and malevolent. The SMNI as a network and its hosts Celiz and Badoy are known to have been in the business of badmouthing rights defenders, church peoples, pastors and priests, peace advocates, and even activists. These malevolent acts of willfully spreading lies through their media platforms to serve their masters in high offices of the government only promote devastation, that endangers the lives of the very people that truly promote truth, justice, and peace. Ultimately, these also belittle such meaningful efforts that would take us closer to peace.

The lies that the SMNI spread in bad mouthing people tell of the fullness of their heart as Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”-Matthew 12:34.

Peace advocacy is integral in the ministry of the Church. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP Peace talks is a Christian imperative with the end in view of resolving the roots of armed conflict and ushering just peace in our land. Bishop Alminaza’s call to peace-making and ministry is something that the people of the land needed. Therefore, it should be heard and heeded.

Peace makers are children of God. Calling Bishop Alminaza’s appeal for the resumption of the peace talks, “diabolical and demonic” betrays Celiz’ and Badoy’ true selves.

No amount of red-tagging and badmouthing will deter peace advocates to pursue the path that shall make for peace. The Church will never abandon her task in peace-making no matter what, because her Master and Lord said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”-Matthew 5:11-12

In this breadth, the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) fervently supports Bishop Gerard Alminaza’s peace advocacy and call for the resumption of peace talks. The call towards peacemaking is an action that is most needed in our society, most especially when people’s safety and lives are at stake. We vehemently denounce the bedeviling and outright irresponsible and malignment by SMNI television hosts Celiz and Badoy.

Issued and signed on the day, 6th of March 2023.

(Sgd.)BISHOP Emeritus Ciriaco Q. Francisco, UMC
Co-chairperson, EBF

(Sgd.) THE RT. REVD. Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy, IFI
CO-chairperson, EBF

(Sgd.) THE RT. REVD. Dindo de la Cruz Ranojo, IFI
General Secretary, IFI

(Sgd.) BISHOP Emeritus Joel E. Tendero, UCCP
Treasurer, EBF

(Sgd.) BISHOP Emeritus Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., DD.
Auditor, EBF





Humanizing God, divinizing man

March 4, 2023

THE amazing gospel story of the Transfiguration of the Lord (cfr. Mt 17,1-9) reminds us that in the end Christian life involves a dual process of how to humanize God and at the same time, how to divinize man.

And that’s because if Christ was transfigured, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming white as light, we can expect ourselves to be so transfigured also, since we are actually patterned after him. We have some basis to conclude that the ultimate condition of our life in heaven would look like that of the transfigured Christ.

For this to take place, we have to follow the example of Our Lady whose faith enabled her to conceive the very Son of God in her womb. She made God man. And we can also say – and this is not a gratuitous affirmation – that God wants to be born in each one of us, to be incarnated in each one of us, precisely because we are meant to be his image and likeness, sharers of his divine life and nature.

That God wants to be one with us can be supported by the fact that God became man to recover us from our state of alienation from him. He gave his all for this to happen and continues to do so up to now and till the end of time. Not only did he become man, he also assumed all the sins of men without committing them, conquering them ultimately with his passion, death and resurrection.

For us to incarnate God in us, we should try our best to have the same faith as that of Mary, that faith that was described at one point by her cousin, Elizabeth, in these words: “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Lk 1,45) It’s a faith that shows total and unconditional belief in everything God tells us through Christ and now through the Church as always inspired by the Holy Spirit.

To which, Mary responded with her Magnificat that expressed what she glorified the most in her life: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Lk 1,46-47) We should also glorify the Lord in that way.

With God wanting to be born and incarnated in us, we now have to learn how to divinize our humanity. And for this, Christ offers us “the way, the truth and the life.”

Christ not only showed us the way of how to handle our human condition here on earth, nor did he only teach us the whole truth about ourselves. He also instituted the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, so that his very own life, which is both human and divine, could also be possessed by us.

We have to do our best to follow the very teaching and life of Christ. Our faith in him should not only be a matter of profession, intention and nice words. It should be expressed in deeds in a consistent and abiding manner. As St. James said in his Letter, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2,14)

When we follow Christ and Mary, we can develop a taste and even an appetite for the supernatural life with God and of things supernatural in general. We would be on our way to our own transfiguration and be like God himself in our ultimate home in heaven since we are children of his!





Prayer sustains our faith

February 20, 2023

“HIS disciples asked him in private, ‘Why could we not drive the spirit out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer.’” (Mk 9,28-29)

This is the concluding part of that gospel episode where Christ was approached by the father of a boy possessed by a mute spirit. (cfr. Mk 9,14-29) According to the father, “wherever the mute spirit seized the boy, it threw him down; he foamed at the mouth, ground his teeth, and became rigid.” It must have been a terrible sight!

But the father complained that when he asked Christ’s disciples to drive it out, they were unable to do so. That’s when Christ retorted, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?”

Somehow Christ was highlighting the need for faith for the disciples to be able to drive the spirit out. “Everything is possible to one who has faith,” he said. And then he asked the father of the boy if he too had faith that the spirit can be driven out.

That’s when the father said the famous words: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” He somehow captured the usual condition we have in relation to our faith. We like to profess that we have faith, but we also know that our faith is oftentimes wavering.

When Christ finally drove out the spirit from the boy, the disciples asked why they could not do it. That’s when Christ made it clear that “this kind can only come out through prayer.”

Somehow from this episode we can make the following conclusion: for us to share in the very power of God, especially when we are faced with extraordinary challenges and problems, we need to have a strong faith. And for that faith to be a working faith, it has to be sustained always through prayer.

In other words, to live our life with God and share in everything that he has as we are meant to be, we need pray to keep our faith going. Prayer should be a constant activity for us. It should be like the very beating of our heart.

We have to realize more deeply that it is a basic need of ours to pray. If we understand our life to be a life always with God, as our Christian faith tells us, then we need to pray always.

Prayer is actually more important and necessary than the air we breathe, the food we eat or the water we drink. We should do everything to learn to pray always. On this, St. Paul clearly said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17)

In fact, in that Pauline passage, what went before and after it are very interesting. St. Paul says that we have to rejoice always and be thankful in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us. (cfr 1 Thes 5,16.18)

We have to find ways of how to conform ourselves to this clear indication of St. Paul. We have to learn how to pray always, converting everything in our life, including those that we consider as negative or bad elements, into an occasion, a means, a reason for praying.

We need to go beyond that common understanding of prayer that pegs it only to the recitation of some vocal prayers or to spending time in some special places to do meditation or contemplation. While these forms of prayer are important and, in fact, are indispensable, they do not have the exclusive ownership, so to speak, of the ways of praying.





The truth about Christ

February 13, 2023

THE Pharisees argued with Christ asking him for a sign from heaven to test him. So, Christ got exasperated and said: “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left. (cfr. Mk 8,11-13)

This gospel episode reminds us that we should never dare to test God. We have to believe God first if we want to know the truth about anything and everything, especially about God, about Christ, and about us.

Human as he also was and is, Christ could also feel exasperated when he was questioned about something the proof and evidence of which are all over. He performed miracles, his teaching was very sublime, he showed compassion with everyone, mercy with sinners.

As St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

It’s always a question of faith if we want to know the truth about God, ourselves and everything else. Without faith, we would just be inventing things. Even if we what we think and invent can appear convincing, without faith we will always miss the truth of anything we consider.

Let’s remember that faith is God, who is truth himself, the creator of everything, the first and last lawgiver, sharing what he knows with us. It’s a tremendous gift that would set us on the right path on the many confusing ways of the world.

We cannot deny that we often get entangled with our worldly ways. This is the real problem of inflation that many people today complain about, but limiting it to its economic terms only. That’s when people complain about high prices and cost of production, because of some increase of money of supply that is not properly spread out and shared by the people, or without the corresponding productivity that money supply is supposed to generate.

Inflation in common terms can be described as that phenomenon where there is a lot of hot air in some persons or in some situation without the corresponding substance that such air should come as an effect.

In terms of our spiritual life and our relation of God, there can also be some kind of inflation – the real and ultimate inflation, in fact – when precisely things are done without faith and, thus, we can appear to be making and producing a lot of things and yet miss the real goal of our life. Christ articulated this phenomenon when he said: “What does it a profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?” (Mk 8,36)

We should take care of our faith because that is the first means we have to establish our relation with God and to truly get in touch with the true reality of things, not just the reality of our own making.

Faith unites us with God in whose image and likeness we have been made. It gives us the whole truth about ourselves, about who we really are. It provides us with all the means we need to face all the challenges of our life.

It is indispensable in our life as we go through the drama of our earthly pilgrimage. With it, we can manage to have hope even in our worst hopeless predicament, as well as charity especially in those moments when we don’t see or feel love around and instead hatred prevails.

What faith also does is to enlighten our mind, enabling us to see and understand things beyond the simply material, temporal and the natural. It lets us enter into the spiritual and supernatural world to which we are poised.





Doing good attracts more customers

February 6, 2023

THIS is, of course, a common phenomenon. When we do good, we will attract more customers and favor-seekers. When we give some favors to some people, there is always a tendency that more people will come begging for the same favors. We need to be prepared to complicate our life.

This was classically illustrated in that gospel episode where Christ went to Gennesaret, and once the people recognized him, they immediately brought their sick, begging Christ to heal them. (cfr. Mk 6,53-56) The people must already have heard of the many miracles Christ performed, and so they pursued him wherever he went.

It’s always good to do good as much as we can. We just have to make sure that we also do it with a certain prudence, otherwise we might be spoiling people and end ourselves bankrupt, reduced to a miserable state that would need help from others.

Doing good with prudence is compatible with giving ourselves to others wholeheartedly. True prudence does not undermine charity. It would make sure that charity will go all the way. It helps sustain charity to the end.

We can only persevere in doing good with prudence when everything that we do in charity is done always with Christ in mind and in our heart. We should follow his example. Yes, he was compassionate with everyone, but he also saw to it that he had time to separate himself from the crowd in order to pray and to have some intimate time with the apostles and disciples, teaching them things and clarifying certain issues. He also refused to stay too long in a place in order to go to other places.

Let’s make sure that our prudence is not a mask for getting attached to the things of this world. Christ wants us to be detached completely from the things of this world, but such detachment is not so much a matter of how much we have or do not have in possession as of a spiritual detachment from the things of this world.

We can be a millionaire or a billionaire and still be detached from the things of this world. We should not be afraid to be rich in material things as long as we are detached from them, showing such detachment by being completely generous to the needs of the others and in giving glory to God in the end.

This will require a certain discipline, of course, given the obvious fact that we have the tendency to get attached to the things of this world. In this regard, we should clearly etch in our mind and heart the words of Christ who said that if we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) These are clear signs of detachment.

Everyday, let us examine our conscience to see if our charity which should go all the way is also done with prudence. It’s a tricky combination to make. Thus, we truly need to study things well and to pray hard, asking for grace and light from God so we can be properly guided.

There will always be difficult decisions to make, but as long as we make those decisions in God’s presence, everything will always work out for the good, even if in the short run, some mistakes or miscalculations may be committed.

We should also be ready for this possibility, and assume the Christian spirit of sportsmanship, where we can continue to move on, ever hopeful and cheerful, despite certain mistakes and defeats along the way.





Love unites, hatred divides

January 23, 2023

THAT’S true! Love and all its different manifestations always work for unity among ourselves, irrespective of our unavoidable differences and conflicts. In fact, these latter conditions can occasion a greater and purer brand of love.

At the same time, hatred and all its cohorts do nothing other than divide us. They inflict wounds in us – mental, emotional, moral, etc. – with hardly any care to bind those wounds. In fact, they tend to make those wounds fester even more.

We are reminded of this fact of life when in the gospel, some scribes, filled with envy, suspicion and anger against Christ, made that clearly self-contradicting accusation that “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” (Mk 3,22)

Of course, Christ was quick to note the fallacy and clarified the issue by saying, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him.” (Mk 3,23-26)

Clearly, when one does not believe in God, the very essence of love, and is driven instead by hatred, his reasoning can go off the rails. Even the simplest of logic is thrown out. We need to do everything to always strengthen our belief in God, the very cause, origin and pattern of unity amid the vast and increasing diversity and variety of elements we can have in this world.

Nowadays, we are seeing the intriguing phenomenon of asserting what is right and moral as wrong and immoral, and vice-versa. What is clearly an expression of true freedom is now called slavery, and vice-versa. What should clearly be considered as taboo is now regarded as a human right. The forms of self-contradictions go on and on.

To correct this situation or, at least, to deal properly with it, we need to take care and strengthen our belief and our charity. We cannot take this duty for granted, especially now when the world is sinking in confusion and error as it distances itself farther from God.

And since we cannot avoid having differences and conflicts among ourselves, our attitude should be that instead of being afraid, irritated and stressed out by them, let’s be welcoming to them and take advantage of them. A lot of good can actually be derived from them, even if we are not exempted from being pained and mortified by them.

Our differences and conflicts, which by the way are unavoidable in our life, can actually occasion genuine love and many other virtues to develop and grow. They can purify us, smoothing out the rough edges of our personality, and fine-tuning our views, opinions and preferences.

They can give rise to the development of patience and compassion, and the pursuit for the truth and justice is guaranteed to be more authentic even if it is also arduous.

They can actually expand our world of knowledge and understanding, and trigger the dynamics of a more meaningful unity among ourselves, not in spite of but rather because of our differences and conflicts. The unity we are speaking of here is not uniformity, but one that is richly nuanced and capable of accommodating everyone.

Love develops in us a universal heart. Hatred makes us an isolated heart.




What the Sto. Niño tells us

January 14, 2023

ON this Feast of the Sto. Niño, we are reminded that irrespective of whatever status we have in this life, it is always necessary that we be like children. Why?

Christ told his disciples clearly: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Mt 18,3-5)

Christ reiterated this necessity of being childlike a number of times during his preaching. “Let the children come to me. Do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10,15) St. James, in his letter, made the same affirmation. “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (4,6)

We can ask what it is in children that Christ would want us to be like them? I suppose what can come to mind are the qualities of simplicity, transparency, complete trust to elders, etc.

It’s quite clear that we all need to be childlike even as we grow in age and stature, and even as we accumulate already quite a significant amount of knowledge with our exposure to the world and to life in general.

Yes, children and heaven are almost synonymous to each other. No wonder we feel like we are in heaven every time we see children around. Every time a baby is born, we are very happy because we somehow know that he just did not come out of his mother’s womb, but rather from the very hands of God who created him before the parents procreated him.

In spite of the many limitations of children, what makes them always desirable is their pure, innocent heart, incapable of malice, ambition, pride and haughtiness. They are a source of many other good things.

Their heart is always trusting in the Lord, just like a little kid is always confident with his father. Faith and hope easily grow and acquire strength when nurtured in a child's heart. It's this attitude that leads them to go on and move on no matter what, for life to them could only be an adventure of discoveries.

This feast of the Sto. Niño also reminds us that we really need to take care of the children, teaching them the basic virtues that hopefully will branch out to more virtues until they can have a strong sense of religion. Let’s remember that as a poet once said, the child is the father of the man. How the child is trained and raised will determine how he will be when he grows up.

How important it is therefore to teach the children the basic virtues and values. The teaching has to be done patiently and in a most gradual but persistent way. For this purpose, parents may have to undertake some study to know how to go about this most delicate duty. But, for sure, all that effort and sacrifice involved would be all worth it.

Children definitely need to be constantly accompanied. Especially these days when the environment can be very confusing, it’s important that children are closely supervised so that their inherent innocence can be kept even as they get to know more and more things.

Let’s hope that we manage to train children to be always God-fearing and loving of everyone even as they unavoidably face all kinds of trials and challenges as they go along in life.





The importance of a healthy family life

December 30, 2022

WITH the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are reminded of our duty to make our family life as healthy as possible. And by healthy, we mean that we animate our family life with the love that reigned in the Holy Family.

Lest we think that animating our family life with love is something purely theoretical if not impracticable, we have to realize that there are specific and concrete things we can do to make our family life vibrant and healthy.

Obviously, a healthy family life means that time is spent with the family. There have to be customs and practices where the family can be together. It would be good if, for example, all the members can take some meals together, like dinner, after which a little family get-together can take place.

This is important because that’s the way all the members can truly know each other and monitor developments as they come. Life offers endless situations, conditions, challenges, trials, etc. Everyone in the family, but especially the parents, should help one another go through these varying circumstances properly.

With time together, they can see each other’s strengths and weaknesses, peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, and would be in better position to help in some way for the proper growth of each one.

One of the things we can do is first of all to teach everyone as early as possible to be always thoughtful, mindful and caring of one another in the family. This will require some training that ideally should start when the children are still small. Of course, the parents take the primary role in this regard.

Let’s remember that the child is the father of the man. How the child is, how he is trained, will show the kind of man he will be when he grows up. Thus, virtues should be imparted and learned as early as possible.

Children, for example, should be taught how to serve the others, how to deal with the unavoidable differences and conflicts among themselves. They have to learn how to educate their emotions and effectively blend the different faculties and powers they have, so they can attain some degree of inner harmony and move toward human maturity.

Most important, of course, is to train them to develop a working life of piety. As early as possible, children should learn how to pray and how to maintain an intimate relationship with God that is also translated into their proper relationship with others. Obviously, some practices of piety have to be inculcated in them in a way that is most attractive and that befits their conditions.

There has to be a way of regularly assessing how each one is growing. It should be a way that is clear about what criteria, standards and norms to use. With the many confusing things that are at play in the world today, it might be prudent to seek professional and expert advice in this regard.

What is clear also is that to make family life healthy, we have to use both human and supernatural means. Everyone has to be taught to use both reason and faith, feelings and intelligence, study and work on the one hand, and prayer, sacrifice, recourse to the sacraments, ascetical struggle on the other.

The natural and the supernatural, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eternal have to blended properly!





No mercy for Joma until every CPP-NPA-NDF member surrenders

A press statement by the Eastern Visayas Peace Builders’ and Development Federation (EVPBDF)
December 19, 2022

The Eastern Visayas Peace Builders’ and Development Federation (EVPBDF), a group of former leaders and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF in Eastern Visayas, feel pleased but unsatisfied with the death of Jose Maria Sison.

Pleased because he can no longer advise whenever the communist terrorist group needs crucial guidance on its ideological, political, and organizational disputes. With the king of deception to lure patriotic Filipinos to take up violent armed struggle gone, the CPP-NPA-NDF now is left with two options -- first, the remaining leaders to advance the ultra-left tendency and second, to return to the folds of the law. Ultraleft tendency means more violent means to force the support of the Filipino masses.

As former leaders and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF, our lives were destroyed by the havoc brought by armed struggle. We are extremely unsatisfied with his peaceful death because it is not enough for the lives lost and ruined due to the senseless violence instilled in the minds of Filipinos. Joma should have rotten in jail and felt the agony of losing liberty.

His death is dishonorable and should not be used by the communist terrorist group to advance their ill intention of gathering sympathy from the Filipinos against the government. If they want to bring Joma’s cadaver back to the Philippines, the CPP International Department at the very least should surrender first to our authorities. Upon surrender, they should call on their remnants here in the country to lay their arms down. Only then unity toward just and lasting peace will be achieved.





Beware of false prophets and false Christs

December 14, 2022

WE are reminded of this warning in that gospel episode where St. John the Baptist told his disciples to ask Christ if he truly was the “who is to come, or should we look for another?” (cfr. Lk 7,19)

And the response of Christ was classic. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Lk 7,22-23)

Since we are patterned after Christ, we should expect that we would somehow share the prophetic, priestly and kingly powers of Christ. This obviously would be a work in progress in life, requiring a lifelong process that would involve a lot of things.

While each one of us can claim to be “another Christ,” if not “Christ himself,” we should not forget that we cannot yet be definitively, fully and immutably “another Christ” for as long as we are still living in this vale of tears, where we are still being tested.

We may manifest our identification with Christ to a greater or lesser degree. But we should avoid claiming to be fully Christ already, since we are still in some drama where we can expect some measure of success as well as failure in our effort to be “another Christ.”

We should be wary then when somebody would already claim that he is Christ himself. Obviously, we should still love and care for him. He is still a brother of ours. And if we have a chance to talk to him, we should try to explain things to him calmly and charitably.

In this, Christ himself warned us: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt 24,24) In another instance, he said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7,15)

We have to be wary of these characters because the world is now awash with false prophets and false Christs. It even looks like we have an infestation. Whether we look at the fields of politics, business, the sciences, sports and entertainment, and yes, even in religion, we can readily find dishonest and corrupt leaders, false prophets and lying teachers.

In this life, we can only be disciples of Christ struggling, with God’s grace, to be like him. We may strive as best that we can to identify ourselves with him to such an extent that we can say “I am like Christ,” but we can never replace Christ himself. The fullness of our identification of Christ which we are expected and empowered to be, can only take place with and in Christ, but never replacing Christ.

As disciples and ambassadors of Christ, we can only do things always in reference to Christ and in the name of Christ, and never just on our own. And like Christ, we do things with humility, patience, charity and mercy, compatible with being precise in our teaching. We would know how to blend the exclusivity of truth with the inclusivity of charity.

We would know how to be both active and contemplative, bold and yet knowing how to pass unnoticed, teaching the truth always in charity.





The State of Human Rights in the Country, A State of Brokenness

A press statement of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines on the International Human Rights Day 2022
December 10, 2022

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31:8-9, NIV

For the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the state of human rights in our country is in a state of brokenness. When human rights are denied and violated, God’s image is also violated in us, as we are created in God’s image. It is therefore our continuing duty as Christians to claim, restore and defend whatever rights have been denied and trampled upon.

December 10, 2022, is the 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration recognizes dignity and rights as inherent and inalienable to all human beings. The Philippines was among the 48 countries that voted for the Declaration and has its principles enshrined in our Constitution.

However, the full enjoyment of human rights by the Filipino people remains elusive.

Prices of food continue to soar especially on agricultural products that were affected by various policies on import liberalization including that of the Rice Tariffication Law. Thus, many families are going hungry each day, as prices of basic commodities shoot up, and people continue to suffer.

Sadly, the solution of the government under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is to resort to more borrowing despite a P12.1 trillion debt that it inherited from the Duterte administration, and to come up with highly dubious financial schemes like the much-criticized Maharlika Wealth Fund.

Meanwhile, the climate of impunity continues to worsen. According to the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center, there have been 127 deaths connected with the war on drugs from July 1 to November 7 this year, mostly attributed to state security forces.

President Marcos Jr. has also inherited his predecessor’s machinery against legitimate dissent like the Anti-Terrorism Law and the Anti-Terrorist Financing Law. Thus, the constriction of civic and democratic spaces continues and there are more vicious patterns of attacks against human rights defenders. According to Karapatan, 937 human rights defenders have been killed since 2001.

The practice of filing trumped-up charges against activists, and human rights defenders, including among church people, continues in many parts of the country. Rev. Glofie S. Baluntong, of the United Methodist Church who has been serving our Mangyan sisters and brothers on the island of Mindoro for many years, has recently been falsely charged with violation of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The other church people who are facing trumped-up charges and are currently detained are Pastor Jimmy Teves, a lay pastor of UCCP; Rev. Nathaniel “Dodo” Vallente, of the UCCP, a peasant advocate, and, Aldeem Yanez of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), former NCCP Vice Chairperson for Youth and a composer of hymns.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the UCCP Haran and UCCP Fatima in Bohol are facing cases related to the Anti-Terrorism Financing Act.

Meanwhile, the NTF-ELCAC continues its red-tagging overdrive of various individuals and groups including churches and church leaders. They conduct smear drives and disinformation in online and offline spaces. The military also “visits” communities and parishes only to sow fear in the people, branding activists, church leaders, and organizations as supporters or members of communist terrorist groups. Recent subjects of their attacks include the UCCP, and Bishop Emelyn Dacuycuy of the IFI Diocese of Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Rev. Edwin Egar, UCCP pastor, and Karapatan Southern Tagalog Interim Officer was visited by elements of the 59th Infantry Battalion of the AFP. He was asked to surrender and was also told that he was a target of a search warrant. He and his wife, Rev. Julieta Egar, and former barangay captain Ronald Ramos, a UCCP member, filed for a writ of amparo against several ranking military officials.

We thus call on the government of President Marcos, Jr. to follow all international human rights standards and to heed the various recommendations made by member states during the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Councils. Especially recommendations calling for a stop to red-tagging, a review of the Anti-Terrorism Law, and even the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC.

As bearers of Christ's love and righteousness, we fervently call on the churches for continued prayer and action in championing and defending human rights, especially of those who are poor and oppressed and to be united in restoring wholeness and the image of God in all of us.


December 10, 2022

Rev. Felipe B. Ehican, Jr.

Rt. Rev. Joel O. Porlares

Dr. Gay B. Manodon

Ma. Kay Catherine F. Almario

Ms. Minnie Ann Mata-Calub
Acting General Secretary





Approaching heaven by doing good on earth

November 16, 2022

THAT parable Christ told his disciples about a certain nobleman who was in a journey to obtain a kingship somewhere and leaving his servants with certain amounts for them to do business with (cfr. Lk 19,11-28), gives us the precious lesson that the way to heaven is through the path of generosity and fruitfulness in our earthly affairs.

The parable was occasioned when the people thought that with Christ speaking to them, the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately. It was meant to tell them that the way to heaven was to take care of their earthly and temporal affairs.

It was meant to tell us that our earthly affairs are actually designed by God to bring us back to him, and it would be up to us to follow that design or not. Of course, knowing how we are, there is always the tendency to follow simply our own designs rather than God’s. And that’s something we have to be wary of and to correct.

We should be very clear about this basic truth about the world in general or about the whole of nature that has been created by God. We need to realize that as God’s creation, the whole world of nature has been imprinted with God’s laws that are meant to give glory to God and to lead us also to him, giving him glory as well. In other words, depending on how we see the world, it is actually a pathway to heaven, to God.

Everything that we discover and make use of in the world should lead us to ask ourselves whether what we are discovering are truly in accordance to God’s will, to his true designs of the world, and whether we can discern how they can be used to give glory to God, which is a matter of loving him and serving the whole of humanity.

We have to be wary of the danger of discovering and using things simply in accordance to our own understanding of them and also to our own interest only. This is a common and abiding danger that we have to be most wary about. We have to do everything to avoid and overcome that danger.

Thus, we have to develop that strong and deep attitude of always referring things to God before we put our hands on them. That way, we would be putting ourselves on the right track that hopefully will lead us to God and to see and use things the way they should be seen and used.

This attitude, of course, would require of us to be guided always by our Christian faith, instead of just being guided by our human estimation of things. And for that faith to be effective in us, we obviously need to be humble. Without humility, there is no way faith can have any effect on us.

Everyday, we should be keenly aware that we need to be fruitful and productive. That’s simply because even from the beginning of our creation in Adam and Even, this has always been God’s will for us.

We should be looking for God always in everything that we get involved in. In all the things that we do or handle, we should be conscious that all those things are for God, rather than being interested only on what are there in those things that are for us.

Let’s always remember what Christ himself said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mt 6,33)





Tall tales on human rights situation expected from PH gov’t on 4th UPR

A press statement by KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights on the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council
November 14, 2022

There is nothing new with the Philippine government’s report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, when it is subjected to the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council.

We expect the tall tales and big words – “transformational reform,” “real justice in real time” – which are empty rhetoric. The same words were used during diplomatic briefings, statements, and reports to the UN Human Rights Committee.

But facts, experiences and implementation of policies on the ground reveal the realities.

According to the UP Third World Studies Center, from July 1, 2022 to November 7, 2022, 127 individuals died in Marcos Jr.’s drug war. Majority of them were killed by state agents, despite the Philippine National Police’s claims of “bloodless” anti-narcotics operations under the Marcos Jr. administration.

There is almost no successful prosecution and zero final convictions of perpetrators in the sham drug war of former President Rodrigo Duterte. The drug war review panel has been reporting investigations on a number of cases – but then again, investigations on extrajudicial killings incidents since 2016 can barely be considered as “real justice in real time.”

Karapatan agrees with International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan, in his statements in September 2022, that the Philippine government has not demonstrated that it has conducted or is conducting national investigations on the thousands of cases of extrajudicial killings in the drug war that mirror the probe previously authorized by the ICC’s pre-trial chamber. And hence, the ICC chamber should commence investigations, despite the Philippine government’s refusal to be subjected to such.

Karapatan documented 442 civilians, mostly peasants, indigenous and Moro peoples killed during the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency campaign. At least 222 of them are human rights defenders. Ten civilians have been reportedly killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the first three months of the Marcos Jr. administration, while four defenders have been forcibly disappeared.

According to a report in June 2020, the Task Force on Administrative Order 35 mechanism, which has been mandated to solve cases of political violence in the form of extra-legal killings (EJKs), enforced disappearances (ED), torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons, handled 385 cases since 2001, with 270 cases of extrajudicial killings, 28 cases of enforced disappearance, 7 cases on international humanitarian law, and 80 cases of torture. During the said period, Karapatan has documented 1,953 extrajudicial killings, 252 enforced disappearances, and 1,570 victims of torture.

In the TF’s ten years, it has attained convictions in only 13 cases, that is about only 3% of the 385 cases. It was also cited that in at least 127 cases, perpetrators have been cleared through acquittals and dismissals in court, or through dismissals by the Ombudsman, or through dismissals or provisional dismissals by the prosecution. This number comprises 33% of the 385 cases being handled by the AO35 IAC, while the rest continue to be under investigation.

Injustice and the climate of impunity clearly prevail, and the Marcos Jr. administration perpetuates it by continuing Duterte’s draconian policies. There have been no reversals of police memoranda on the drug war, nor is the administration backing down on the existence and operations of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

To date, there are 842 political prisoners in the Philippines, with 15 of them arrested and detained under the current administration. The government continues the practice of filing trumped up charges against political dissidents through spurious search warrants, planted evidence, perjured testimonies and inaccessibility of due process, and thereby putting more human rights defenders in jail.

Red- and terror-tagging, along with the use of terror laws, have become the default responses of the government against any form of dissent and criticism. Freedom of expression and press freedom remain in peril, with journalists among those killed in the first months of the Marcos Jr. administration. There is gross disregard of international humanitarian law as bombings, forcible evacuation and forced or coerced surrenders of poor civilian communities continue.

All these occur amid an intensifying economic crisis and the pandemic affecting the poorest of the poor, with high inflation rates, unemployment and underemployment rates, dirt-poor wages and decreased public funding for social services.

The Marcos Jr. administration cannot hide behind empty platitudes, nor can it be window-dressed by a Joint Program with the UN. It cannot sugar-coat the dire lack of effective domestic mechanisms for redress, nor can it spin tales using a religious fundamentalist network, trolls, and disinformation machines. The bare, glaring realities are there.

In this 4th cycle of the UPR on the Philippines, we expect various States to once again call for an end to the killings and all human rights violations. We expect stronger demands for justice and accountability. We expect stronger advocacy for the issuance of standing invitations to UN Special Procedures. We call on the UN Human Rights Council to walk the talk in their recommendations in the UPR, and finally pave the way for the long overdue independent investigation on the Philippine human rights situation.





Marriage and human sexuality

November 6, 2022

THAT gospel episode where Christ was asked about marriage and divorce (cfr. Lk 20,27-38) gives us an occasion to clarify the true nature and purpose of both human sexuality and marriage. It’s a clarification that, I believe, is most urgent these days, considering the widespread ignorance, confusion and error these aspects of our human life now suffer.

Our main problem with respect to our understanding and attitude toward human sexuality is that this has been reduced to a purely biological and human aspect of hormones, passions, urges, instincts, sensual stimuli and genital activity, and a naturalistic sense of decency and nothing more.

This is giving it an incomplete, inadequate if not distorted and dangerous treatment. We need to bring it to the terra firma of its true nature and character, its authentic beginning, purpose and end, away from the swamps and marshes of the sensually, if not genitally, dominated aspect.

Sexuality is reduced to sex. Worse, sex is made the end-all of our sexuality. All other considerations are made secondary, and even ignored, ridiculed and finally rejected. Thus, there is that growing, headlong drift toward an erotic and pornographic culture, at first hidden and later open.

Because of this phenomenon, sexuality is not anymore inspired by reason, let alone, by faith and love. Instead, the savagery of the passions and urges is given free rein, with the matching fruits of all kinds of anomalies and perversions.

Many people are abandoning even the basic natural idea of masculinity and femininity. That our sexuality is first of all a gift from God, meant to enable men and women to complement each other not only for human development but ultimately for the final communion among ourselves and with God, is forgotten.

As to marriage, there is no doubt that we need to revisit its true nature and purpose, since this basic human and Christian institution is now besieged with so many misconceptions and malpractices.

There is a need to realize and appreciate more deeply that marriage, not only as a natural institution but also and especially as a sacrament, is a path to sanctity not only for the husband and wife but also for the family, and from the family, for the society and the Church in general.

We need to see the organic link among these key elements: the marriage between man and woman, and the family they generate, as well as the society of which the family is the basic cell and the universal Church of which the family is considered the domestic church.

Seeing that link, we would appreciate the strategic role that marriage plays in the life of men and women in the world. We would appreciate the tremendous potential good that marriage can give to all of us.

That is why everything has to be done to make marriage achieve its fullest dignity. And that means that we have to purify and elevate the love that is the very germ of marriage to the supernatural order.

That love has to develop from simply being natural and body-emotion-world reliant to being more and more spiritual and supernatural, driven by grace rather than by merely natural forces.

With the sacrament of marriage, the love between husband and wife is already guaranteed to have all the graces needed to make that marriage reach its fullness. What is needed is the faithful and generous correspondence of the parties concerned to those graces.





The art of holy insistence

October 9, 2022

YES, there is such thing as the art of holy insistence. This was shown, for example, in that story Christ told his disciples about someone who went to his friend-store-owner in the middle of the night asking for bread because a friend of his just arrived and was hungry. He was refused at first by the store-owner, but due to his insistence, he was given what he asked for. (cfr. Lk 11,5-13)

The lesson Christ wanted to impart to his disciples in this particular gospel is encapsulated in these words of his: “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

And the reason why such insistence is recommended is because God is always a father who can never be indifferent to the needs of men. He may ask us for some requirements or choose to test us for a time, but he in the end will always give what is best for us. This point was articulated by Christ in a most dramatic way when he said:

“What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

This truth of our faith is also highlighted in that gospel episode about a Canaanite woman who begged Christ to drive the demon that vexed her daughter. (cfr. Mt 15,21-18) Christ at first did not respond favorably. He even sounded harsh on her. But due to the faith-driven insistence of the woman, Christ finally gave in.

We should just be insistent in our petitions to God. No matter how hard or even impossible our requests would seem, we should not hesitate to go to God to present such petition. God will always listen and answers us in the way that is best for us, which may not be the one we like or expect.

We should never think that we are bothering God by asking for some favors. Our prayers will never go unnoticed with God who is all generous with us. In fact, he will give us much more than what we may be asking for.

So, let’s just be insistent and persevering in our prayer. Besides, doing so will eventually give us new lights, insights and impulses that will leave us amazed at the goodness and kindness of God, his mercy and all-embracing love. It will rekindle or at least fan into a flame our dying fire of love for God and for others.

When we persevere in meditating on the words of God found in the gospel, for example, we would be astonished at how old familiar passages and ideas acquire new meaning and open to us practically a whole new world of insights that can inspire us to action and different initiatives.

And if God seems to ignore us, we have to realize that he is simply testing us for a number of reasons – to strengthen our faith, to purify our intentions, to grow in the other virtues, etc.





Deepening our belief in angels

September 27, 2022

WE might wonder why on the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, celebrated on September 29, the gospel reading used is about the vocation of Nathanael as one of Christ’s apostles. (cfr. Jn 1,47-51)

As that gospel narrates, Nathanael who was praised by Christ as a man with no guile since he said that famous line, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” referring to Christ, finally came to believe in Christ when Christ told him that Christ saw him under the fig tree. That was when Nathanael recognized Christ as the “Son of God, the King of Israel.”

The only reference to angels in that gospel episode was when Christ said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” addressing these words to the bewildered Nathanael.

So, the thought can come to us that the reason Nathanael came to recognize Christ was because he must have seen some extraordinary things while he was under the fig tree. And the possibility of angels ministering to the Son of God who is also the Son of Man must have taken place there.

Whatever may be the case, we cannot deny that there must be some relation between being transparent and simple like Nathanael, even to the point of being childishly impertinent, and the capacity or the privilege to see some extraordinary events.

It’s always worthwhile to remain simple and humble like children because, as Christ himself said, the things of God are hidden from the wise the learned and are revealed instead to the little children. (cfr. Mt 11,25)

In any event, it is also important that our belief in angels and archangels grows strong and abiding. In fact, we have to popularize their devotion. The archangels, for example, are great allies that we can count on especially during our difficult moments. They are so close and so identified with God that we can refer to them as God’s organic or vital extensions of his own self, if we may describe them that.

Remember what Christ said about angels in general? It was when he talked about the angels of little children whom the disciples wanted to shoo away from Christ for being a disturbance. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones,” he said. “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 18,10)

Angels, to be sure, are real beings. They are not fictional, figments of our imagination, projections of what we like to have. They are pure spirits who have entirely identified themselves with God. They are not God themselves, but creatures of God who upon their creation have chosen to be with God for all eternity.

And among them are the archangels. They are especially chosen by God to undertake some special tasks. They help us in our constant struggle against temptations and sin, in receiving some special messages from God and in healing some difficult sicknesses.

It’s important that we be aware of the existence of these very powerful archangels who, for sure, would be most willing and most happy to help us in their own way. We just have to enliven our faith in them and develop the appropriate devotion.





Observing the International Day of Peace in the context of the 50th year of Martial Law

A statement by the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace on the 50th year of Martial Law
September 21, 2022

Today, September 21, 2022, the world will observe the annual International Day of Peace. Forty-one years ago, in 1981, the United Nations issued the “declaration on the right to peace” which affirmed peace as a sacred right of all people and a primary prerequisite for the material wellbeing, development and the progress of countries. The UN also emphasized that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each state.

While this year’s theme, “End racism. Build peace.” is not directly related to the internal armed conflict in our country, the United Nations´ message of ending discrimination and intolerance resonates in our context in terms of the rampant red-tagging and vilification often directed towards critics of the immediate past administration and even under the current dispensation. Many government officials especially those involved in the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have resorted to demonizing human rights and peace advocates as “communist terrorists” instead of nurturing a culture of dialogue and principled negotiations.

In the Philippines, September 21, 2022 is also the 50th anniversary of the imposition of Martial Law by the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. In those dark years, many fell victim to human rights violations. Many others also died defending our democratic rights. Marcos Sr. imposed Martial Law to “nip the communist insurgency in the bud,” however, it only fanned the flames of the armed conflict between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Now, 50 years later, and after succeeding administrations intensified their respective counter-insurgency programs aimed at defeating the communist rebellion, the armed conflict has continued to rage particularly in the countryside causing internal displacement in the most vulnerable communities. This long-running conflict only mirrors how deeply embedded are its roots in social and structural injustice.

This is compounded by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA), with its vague and broad definition of terrorism. Red-baiting is now paired with terrorist-labelling. The draconian law grants police and military personnel the power to detain suspects “for investigation” without a warrant or charge up to 24 days. Moreover, the ATA virtually negates the accountability of law enforcement agents for violating the rights of suspects.

The NTF-ELCAC and the ATA have brought about stepped-up political repression against the political opposition, trade unionists, community organizers, journalists, artists and writers, peace and human rights advocates and ordinary people. This includes red-tagging of social activists including church people and churches; attacks on indigenous communities and their schools; and harassment of humanitarian aid groups and their workers. Sadly, the wielding of both the NTF-ELCAC and the ATA continue under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte.

It was thus a breath of fresh air when Sen. Loren Legarda called for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and a review of the ATA at the Senate floor. Her speech is a call for sobriety, unity and openness amidst an atmosphere of hatred and war that is being pushed by war mongers even among her colleagues.

Let us mark the International Day of Peace and the 50th year of Martial Law on September 21 with the call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks. Peace is a continuing aspiration of our people. Calling for the ways of peace through principled negotiations is to reject a militarist solution, of martial rule in any guise.

Thus, the Citizens Alliance for Just Peace, the biggest network of peace advocates in the country, enjoins the public in this historic occasion by calling on the GRP and NDFP to return to the negotiating table and together put an end to the increasing human rights violations and the loss of lives as a result of this conflict and arrive at a just and enduring peace in the country.

Issued and signed on this day, 21 September 2022.

Archbishop Emeritus Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.
Co-chairperson, PEPP

The Rt. Revd. Rex B. Reyes, Jr.
Co-chairperson, PEPP

Dr. Carol Araullo
Convenor, Pilgrims for Peace

Ms. Karen Tanada
Convenor, Waging Peace

Mike Pante, Ph.D.
Act for Peace





Even Christ needed to pray

August 2, 2022

“JESUS made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.” (Mt 14,22-23)

As can be clearly seen in this gospel passage, even Christ had need to pray. As God, we can say that he had no need to pray. As man, of course, he had to. But Christ is one divine person. When he prayed, we have to understand that he prayed both as God and man.

This consideration can only mean that prayer is an essential and indispensable element in God and man who has been created in God’s image and likeness. We need to realize that prayer is an essential and indispensable element in our life. Without prayer, we would actually violate our humanity.

We need to understand that we need prayer more than we need air or water or food. Prayer is what connects us and likens us to God. Prayer is what makes our life a life with God as it should be. We should, therefore, cultivate a life of prayer, making prayer like an instinct, such that whatever we are doing, whatever situation we may be in, we should be praying.

To be sure, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere. Praying is not simply a matter of reciting some vocal prayers or participating in liturgical prayers. It is not only a matter of meditating on some truths of our faith. All of these are very important, of course, and highly recommended. They are the basics to learn if we wish to develop a working life of prayer.

The ultimate prayer is when our very consciousness always has God in Christ through the Holy Spirit as its core. This may be described as contemplative prayer which will have its definitive state in heaven when we see God face to face and when our identification with him becomes perfect. This is when we will have the beatific vision.

We have to understand that it’s when we pray, that is, when we truly pray and not just going through the motions of praying, that we would be engaging ourselves with the most important person in our life, God himself. He is absolutely our everything, without whom nothing and no one has any importance.

It’s when we pray that we manage to relate who we are, what we have, what we do, etc. to our ultimate end which, to be sure, is not something only natural but is also supernatural. Nothing therefore can rival the importance of prayer. In other words, prayer is irreplaceable, unsubstitutable, indispensable. It’s never optional, though it has to be done freely if we want our prayer to be real prayer.

The absolutely important thing that makes prayer real prayer is when we manage to give all our mind and heart to God in whatever thing we do or in whatever situation we may find ourselves in. That’s why St. Paul once said, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes 5,17) That’s simply because our whole life has to be a prayer, since it is meant to be in constant and intimate relationship with God.

So, even our work and all our earthly concerns can be made into prayer as long as we have the proper motive and frame of mind.





‘Absolute Savagery’

Philippine solidarity groups denounce Myanmar junta’s execution of four democracy activists

Statement by the Burma Solidarity Philippines (BSP) on military junta’s execution of activists in Myanmar
July 29, 2022

We, members of various civil society and solidarity organizations belonging to the Burma Solidarity Philippines (BSP) coalition, today join the world and the international community in strongly condemning the illegitimate military rulers of Myanmar for its ‘barbaric’ execution of four pro-democracy activists and extend our deepest condolences to their families and heartfelt solidarity to the peoples of Burma/Myanmar in their continuing quest for genuine democracy, peace, and social justice.

The international community, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), must hold the junta accountable for its casual disregard for human life and for its continuing violation of human rights as part of its crackdown on dissent after illegally seizing state power from the democratically elected civilian government in February 2021.

Among the four who were sentenced to death after series of secretive military trials were democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Jimmy, and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, an ally of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. All 4 were accused by the junta of aiding ‘terror acts’ which reportedly stemmed from helping the protest movement sparked by last year's military coup and bloody crackdown on nationwide protests.

Solidarity movements like the Burma Solidarity Philippines (BSP), have been calling out the ASEAN to swiftly act to de-escalate the political crisis which has now become a full-blown human rights crisis, and ‘to save the peoples of Myanmar’ from the onslaught of its errant member Myanmar under its coup rulers.

The military junta in June announced that it will resume executing prisoners with 113 more who have been sentenced to death, although 41 of those were convicted in absentia, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a non-governmental organization that tracks killing and arrests of activists in Myanmar. At the same time, 2,120 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military takeover according to AAPP.

The execution of the 4 martyr-activists in Myanmar is a clear indication that the military rulers of Myanmar have zero intent to heed international appeals to even try to implement the five-point consensus it has committed to achieve with the ASEAN last year calling for dialogue among all concerned parties, provision of humanitarian assistance, an immediate cessation of violence and a visit by a special envoy to meet all parties.

The execution is just another proof of the junta’s absolute savagery in ruling the country and the people through lies, impunity and massive human rights violations. The international community, including the ASEAN, must instead ensure that the junta will not be accorded any semblance of legitimacy.

Certainly, the execution of activists is a death sentence to democracy in Myanmar and may derail any attempts to peacefully resolve the crisis but we hope that this would serve as an eye-opener for those who have been treating the junta with kid gloves. Another dialogue initiative, without a clear framework for exacting accountability from the military rulers will only mean condoning and becoming complicit of the junta’s murderous actions.

We call on the ASEAN and the international community to help in amplifying the demands of the peoples of Myanmar for the immediate return to democracy, investigation of crimes against humanity, release of all political prisoners and those who were tortured and illegally detained, and protection to human rights by applying more pressure to the junta.

Today, the Burma Solidarity Philippines stands united with the peoples of Burma/Myanmar.





The cost in pursuing heaven

July 27, 2022

CHRIST said it clearly. To pursue the kingdom of God, we should be willing to rid ourselves of things that can cause us some drag in that effort, or to sell off what we have at the moment to get the real thing.

Thus, he said: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Reiterating the same idea, he continued to say, “Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mt 13,44-46)

There will always be some sacrifice involved in pursuing our ultimate goal which is to be with God, our Creator, in whose image and likeness we have been created, and in whose life we are meant to share. In this regard, let’s try to be generous, not sparing in our effort. It’s all worth it!

We have to be wary of our tendency to get attached and trapped in the things of this world at the expense of our real treasure. We have to remember that it is actually the best deal we can have to “sell off” what we have in this world to be able to get the real thing.

Some words of Christ can be relevant in this regard. He said: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19,29)

All these Christ-dictated indications do not mean that we have to hate the things of this world. The things of this world are also God’s creation and therefore are good. God created them in such a way that they become pathways for us to go to God. They too deserve to be loved in a certain way. They are means to get to God, and not the end itself. Thus, we should be careful not to get entangled with them.

How important therefore that we realize that our first priority should be God and our relationship with him which should be sustained with the constant effort to know, love and serve him! We should be ready to throw away everything else that can stand in the way.

We have to make some adjustments in the way we order our objective needs. We have to distinguish them from our subjective likes and desires that can only be the product of some personal or social preferences. In this we have to employ the appropriate means, the relevant programs and operations. We should be demanding on ourselves insofar as this matter is concerned.

We have to do some drastic effort here because we cannot deny that nowadays, there are just too many things that can seduce us and take us away from God.

We need God first of all, and, in fact, all the time. He is our most important objective need, much more and infinitely more than we need air, food, rest, pleasures, etc. For without God, we are nothing. But with him, we can have everything. That is why, St. Teresa Avila boldly said: “He who has God lacks nothing. God alone is sufficient.”





Act of Terror and Brutality

Tatmadaw execute four pro-democracy activists

A press statement by the Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
July 25, 2022

The Asia Democracy Network and its members all over Asia condemns the execution by the Myanmar Junta of four Myanmar activists. The four activists – former NLD lawmaker and hiphop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, democracy campaigner Kyaw Min Yu also known as "Ko Jimmy ", activists Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw – were executed by the Myanmar Junta for their roles in the anti-coup protests, an act which the Junta deemed as "terror acts". All four were sentenced to death by hanging in closed-door and largely unfair trials held sometime January to April this year, with their exact date of execution kept secret.

Such brutality is an escalation of the Tatmadaw's reign of brutality in Myanmar, something which has already claimed the lives of more than 2,100 since the coup started, according to Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP). We ask the international community to be more resolute in their actions regarding the situation of democracy in Myanmar. This hesitance to act only provides the Military Junta to claim more lives and enact more suffering to the people of Myanmar whose freedoms continue to be held captive. We send our condolences to the family of the four victims, and we pledge our resolute effort and solidarity with pro-democracy forces in Myanmar who continue to work to attain freedom from the Tatmadaw's brutality.

Seoul, South Korea



Last updated: 03/01/2024

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