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Living with Christ

Transparency and accountability

Hey, sex is sacred!

Pride always spoils dialogue

Stop the attacks on Missionaries

We need to be with Christ always

Talking about hell

“Keep the doors of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks open”

Duterte’s ‘revolutionary government’ is nothing but dictatorship

Is the President driving us to rebel?






Beyond the Outbreak

Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. AlipDr. JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP
CARD MRI Founder and Chair Emeritus
March 29, 2020

It is around this time of the year when our farmers would harvest the produce they have tirelessly worked hard on for months. Instead of a full table and an income that would support their family until the next harvest season, they are left with uncertainty and instability due to the COVID-19 outbreak that none of us expected.

Focusing on protecting people from COVID-19, the local and national government declared lockdowns and community quarantines in many cities and municipalities across the nation. This severely curtailed movement and public gatherings that made the operations of microfinance institutions untenable. In response, microfinance institutions, declared a suspension of operations in their covered areas, including moratorium on loan payments while the community quarantine is in effect. Many of these institutions are members of APPEND and MCPI whose combined outreach is 9 million poor and low-income families served by more than 50,000 staff and an estimated 70B loan portfolio.

With the expected decrease in business activities, the reprieve will allow clients to channel their budget to basic needs. Even so, an unsettling voice still lingers: is the delay in the collection of loan payments ever enough to sustain their needs after all of this is over?

The bigger picture

With significant experience in community development, microfinance institutions (MFIs) have seen poverty-stricken families rise above poverty through access to and ownership of financial and non-financial services. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, all of this could potentially go down the drain. The low-income sector, who are mostly clients of MFIs, are greatly distressed by the effects of the pandemic and the necessary measures imposed by the government.

Since main bank branches of CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) nationwide are still open for services like withdrawals and remittances, our skeleton workforce still has interactions with our clients. Field staff have also remained connected with clients through cell phones and/or social media that enabled them to communicate to management what was happening to their communities. Our Regional Directors have reported that many of the clients are experiencing devastating effects on their livelihoods. Most of them have products to sell but are restricted by the physical barriers of community quarantine, severely affecting their income to support their own families. For example, in the National Capital Region and elsewhere, in order to implement social distancing, marketing hours were imposed, compelling many small eateries and stalls in the public markets to close.

Microentrepreneurs in the agriculture sector also have a crucial role in society. Most of our farmer-clients in Luzon end up selling their produce at bargain prices, or giving them away to neighbors, or worse, leaving them to rot because they could not travel to the market due to strict rules on movement being implemented. In Masbate and Marinduque, our clients can neither send their seafood products to key cities nor let their wholesale buyers come because seagoing vessels are no longer allowed to leave or enter their ports.

Come post-quarantine, enough capital would be needed by these farmers to buy inputs such as seeds and fertilizers. But given the situation we have today, transporting and selling their produce becomes a challenge. If they cannot sell their products, then they would not be able to farm again. Ultimately, it is not only the farmers who would face the consequences. We might be dealing with a possible food shortage if our supply is not enough to meet our country’s demands.

Some of these microentrepreneurs also employ other members of the community, therefore contributing to the enrichment of the local economy. While the success of one microentrepreneur has proven to affect a community positively, its downfall can also ripple to many families and eventually, to the whole community.

Post-quarantine dilemma

With all these challenges faced by microentrepreneurs, the microfinance industry anticipates reduced capacity of clients to pay after the outbreak. Even with the high risk of low repayment, MFIs continue to provide financial and non-financial services to the low-income sector during the period of quarantine. In fact, industry leaders continuously think of ways that could still support the economic activity of these microentrepreneurs.

However, we recognize that we could not do it alone. Expecting negative effects on liquidity, MFIs are seeking for potential interventions to continue its business of eradicating poverty in the country.

MFIs are looking for support from organizations and institutions who can provide additional credit facilities and funding to support its cause in helping people improve their lives while facing this global health emergency. We are also convening partners and industry leaders to discuss this pressing issue to mitigate the effect of the pandemic in the industry.

Most importantly, the support from the government is most crucial at this time. The Philippines has proven to be a conducive environment to implement microfinance. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has repeatedly recognized MFIs as champions for financial inclusion. Further, laws such as RA 10693 or the Microfinance NGOs Act, which was signed on November 2015, enables Microfinance NGOs to expand outreach to greater number of poor people especially in the hard-to-reach areas and implement community development programs funded by tax incentives. These programs include medical missions, scholarships, and livelihood trainings, among others.

We encourage you to think about the low-income sector; the landless farm workers, the small farmers, the fisherfolks, the maglalako, the sari-sari store owners, and other microentrepreneurs. The lockdown and community quarantine may end soon but if we do not act now, their sufferings will worsen even after the outbreak. Because health protection and financial inclusion goes hand in hand, may we not forget to balance the scale in favor of one over the other. Let’s ensure no one gets left behind.

As a Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest blog concludes: “It seems likely that without significant support and concerted action, many MFIs are at risk in the coming storm. The question is: what steps can we take now to ensure the industry survives and can contribute to the eventual economic recovery? Without taking on hard questions and beginning to put plans in place for COVID-19, it won’t be poverty that is in a museum, but potentially the modern microfinance movement.”

About the Author:
Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip is the founder and chairman emeritus of CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions, a group of 23 institutions that envisions to eradicate poverty in the Philippines. He is the recipient of the 2019 Ramon V. del Rosario Award for Nation Building.





There’s life after death

March 27, 2020

WE need to strengthen our faith in our life after death. We need to reinforce that belief especially because nowadays there is clearly an ebbing away from that truth of our Christian faith. We tend to get distracted by the things of this world, and worse, to get too attached to them as to ignore our life after death.

The readings of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A, clearly tell us about this truth. We are meant for eternal life. We are meant for a life with God forever. But we have to be ready for it, deeply realizing that what we have now in our earthly life is precisely the means and the path, not an obstacle, for us to enter into eternal life. We need to see the vital link between time and eternity, the material and the spiritual, the natural and supernatural.

From the Book of Ezekiel, we read: “The Lord Yahweh says this, I am now going to open your graves. I shall raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel.” (37,12) Here, we already have an allusion of the truth about life after death.

This truth is reiterated in the second reading from the Letter to the Romans: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead has made his home in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.” (8,11)

And all this point is rounded off with that beautiful story of the raising of Lazarus where Christ clearly said: “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” (Jn 11,25-26)

We need to develop a sense of the eternal life, making ourselves eternity-ready all the time, knowing how to connect our earthly time with the heavenly eternity. We have to constantly remind ourselves of what the Letter to the Hebrews has told us clearly. “We don’t have a permanent city here on earth, but we are looking for the city that we will have in the future.” (13,14)

We have to train our mind and heart, as well as our feelings and senses, to conform themselves to this truth of our faith. In our personal prayers and meditations, let us consider from time to time the reality of heaven and reinforce that primitive yearning we have in our heart for a life without end, for a happiness that has no limits, which can only take place in heaven.

Let us remind ourselves frequently that our faith tells us that we actually come from God, and not just from our parents, and that we are meant to be with God forever in heaven after our earthly sojourn which is meant to test us if we want to be with God or just with ourselves.

We have to learn how to link our earthly time with the eternity of heaven by nourishing our belief that there is God and that he is our Creator who gives us our very existence and that he continually, without any gap or break, is intervening our life. We have to be more aware of this truth, and more importantly, know how to deal with it.

We have to know what is of absolute value in this life and what only has a relative value. We have to be more aware of the ever-abiding providence of God. That way, we would always have optimism despite the difficulties, challenges and possible mistakes we can commit.

Thus, it is important that we know how to pray, how to strengthen our faith, hope and charity, how to relate everything in our life to the ultimate eternal life. We need to be eternity-ready, not just future-ready, with the figurative go-bag always by our side.





When forced indoors

March 16, 2020

WITH all this talk about lockdown, quarantine and voluntary self-isolation for about a month or so due to this Corona virus, we need to learn how to make good use of our time when we are forced to be indoors.

We have to welcome this rare opportunity. It at least offers us a chance to rehearse when due to some emergency situation we are made to stay put in a place longer than usual.

We can never tell what the future holds for us. So far, we already had a volcano eruption, some earthquakes, and we are still in the first quarter of the year. We can expect typhoons sooner or later. And there might still be more. Who knows? It’s always good to be prepared for any eventuality.

At the very least, what we can do is to grow in the inside when on the outside we cannot do much and our movements are restricted, or when we are practically confined and yet we are still in normal condition physically, mentally and even emotionally.

Most important of all would be that we be spiritually fit and healthy, and still productive in a sense. This aspect of our life is fundamental and should not be compromised just because of these forced restrictive measures imposed on us.

Definitely, we can make use of the time praying and studying better than usual. These very important human necessities are usually taken for granted during ordinary days. Now is the time to make up. Besides, we have a very good and immediate reason to pray and study more, given the current situation.

When we are more with God, we can see things better. We can always make good use of any situation that humanly speaking may be considered as a disaster. With God, we would know how to adjust and adapt. With God, everything, including some negative events, will always work out for the good, as St. Paul once said. (cfr. Rom 8,28)

It would be a good idea to pick up some spiritual books, to know more about the life of Christ and those of the saints. It’s also a good time to live a more intense spirit of sacrifice and penance, and to practice the different works of mercy, if not directly then by virtual means through the Internet, by spreading good pieces of news or just good spirit. We would be doing a great service that way, given the conditions of people these days.

We can also attend to certain concerns to which we only paid a lick and a promise during our normal working days. There may still be some books to be read, some assignments to be done, some repairs to be made in the house. The garden may need better attention and care than what was given it before. There will always be items that we left behind because we cannot attend to them during normal days.

Family life definitely can be given more attention too. Parents who still have children at home can spend more time with them, though this would require of them more creative initiatives so that the children would learn how to take advantage of their forced vacation. The parents have the grave duty to give good example to their children. They would also have more time to show affection to their children.

Let’s consider these days of confinement like the gestation period of a living being that needs to be well taken care of precisely at that most crucial stage for its development, so that when the time comes for it to be born, it comes out very healthy.

Let’s have a very positive outlook at this turn of events. There’s no use lamenting over this somewhat drastic change of circumstance. That would only be counter-productive, a pure waste of time.

Let’s never forget that if we are forced indoors, God must have allowed it to happen. And if he allows it, there must be a reason and a greater good that can be derived from it.





Fear, panic, paranoia

March 11, 2020

FEAR, of course, is one of our emotions. It is our natural reaction when we perceive something to be a danger to us or is so incomprehensible that we feel helpless. Fear is one of our natural and instantaneous defense mechanisms.

Since we are exposed to all kinds of things in this world, we should not be surprised that fear comes to the surface from time to time. We can even fall into panic. But we should relieve ourselves of it as soon as we can.

We just have to see to it that like the other emotions, we do not let it stay simply in the level of raw, unprocessed instincts or that of a reflex reaction. It has to be processed and has to be dominated and directed by reason, and ultimately by our faith in God. Fear that is unguided by reason and faith would not be a healthy one. It would destroy us rather than defend us.

Amid the spreading scare of the Corona virus that we are having these days, we need to distinguish between a healthy fear and an unhealthy one, a normal fear and what may be described as a paranoia that is already a mental disorder.

A healthy fear does not freeze us into inaction for long. It would immediately lead us to study things well so that we can act with prudence, and as a consequence we can manage to have peace of mind and continue with our duties and responsibilities in spite of the ongoing danger or scare.

When our fear is of the unhealthy type or, worse, has degenerated into panic and paranoia, we continue to feel helpless and unable to function well as we should. It is kind of obsessive that leaves us feeling insecure and always in the state of fright. It’s a fear that finds no relief. It is actually an over-reaction that does not seek support from reason, and much less from faith. It makes things worse.

What we have to do is to immediately go to God. He has the answer to all the questions that we may even be unable to ask. He has all the solutions to all the problems that we may not know we have. He will enlighten us as to what concrete steps we can do. He will reassure us and will infuse courage to our weakening or wavering heart.

Let’s remember what Christ said once: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33) These reassuring and comforting words of Christ had always been repeated many times in the gospel. “Fear not, it is I,” Christ said to the disciples when they saw him walking on the water. (Jn 6,20)

From the Book of Isaiah, we have these reassuring words from God: “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (41,10) We really have no reason to be afraid of anything for long.

We just have to be strong in our faith that in turn will guide our reasoning and strengthen our emotions, especially when we encounter situations and problems that humanly speaking seem to have no more solutions. We have to expect this possibility to take place and we should just abandon ourselves in the wise and omnipotent providence of God.

We are told that God is always in control of things and that there is always time for everything to happen, “a time to be born and a time to die…a time to kill and a time to heal…a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3)

To repeat we should not allow our fears to stay long on the level of raw, unprocessed instincts and reflex reactions. With God, we will find a reason for everything, and that everything will somehow work out for the good. (cfr. Rom 8,28)





The homily

February 20, 2020

PEOPLE have been asking me about how the homily in the Mass should be. I, of course, find it difficult to answer that question, knowing that behind that question are often critical observations people make, and that every priest has his own style, has his own merits and limits which should be respected.

But what I can say is that, first of all, the homily is an integral part of the Mass, and as much as possible, should not be omitted, especially on Sundays and holy days of obligation. It should be given its due importance and understood properly by both the priests and the faithful attending the Mass.

Pope Francis said that the homily “is not a casual discourse, nor a conference or a lesson, but a way of ‘taking up anew that dialogue which has already been opened between the Lord and his people.’” In other words, the homily is a continuing dialogue that Christ initiates with the people, applying the perennials truths of faith to the current circumstances of the people.

The homily is not therefore some kind of class or lecture, but rather Christ continuing his redemptive work on us, inspiring and edifying us. Pope Francis said that priests should deliver good homilies so that the “Good News” of the Gospel can take root in people’s hearts and help them live holier lives.

What is clear is that the priests in delivering the homily should be very conscious that he is assuming the very person of Christ as head of the Church. He has to project and channel Christ there, not himself. He should be careful not to “steal the spotlight” from Christ.

And the priest should be most aware that he is speaking to the people with the view of helping them to become more and more like Christ, who is pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity. He is not there to entertain them, or to give them a class.

While the priest, of course, can and should make full use of whatever would help the people to listen to him during the homily, the net effect should be that it is Christ whom the people listen, and not just him. The priest should regularly examine himself if such is the case when he delivers the homily.

In this regard, it might be helpful to make use of some words of St. John the Baptist who said, “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3,30) Or some words of St. Paul who said, “It is no longer who lives but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2,20)

The priest should find a way of how he can put these words into his life, into his over-all attitude toward things, and especially when he is giving the homily. He should know well the art of passing unnoticed so that only Christ would shine out.

Indeed, he has to spend time meditating on how he can assume the mind and the presence of Christ wherever he is and especially when he is celebrating the Holy Mass and giving the homily.

He should try his best never to depart from this state of mind, since he is already sacramentally conformed to Christ head of the Church whether he is saying Mass, walking in the street, or doing sport, etc.

Yes, he has to spend time studying the gospel thoroughly so that he can truly incarnate it in himself and express it in ways that can really present Christ who would like to continue his redemptive dialogue with the people of our times.

There should never be room for improvisation. And when for some reason one is caught unprepared because of some emergency situation, he should implore the Holy Spirit to guide him, and let the tremendous wonder of the Spirit speaking through him take place.





The indispensability of the cross

February 19, 2020

That’s right. The cross, given our human condition, is absolutely necessary in our life here on earth. We cannot even be human, much less, Christian, without the cross.

Without the cross, we think that we can be absolutely on our own. Without the cross, the only possibility we have is to sin, to go against God, to demean our dignity as a human person and a child of God, meant to be in God’s image and likeness.

Without the cross, our freedom would easily go haywire, get unhinged and proceed to pursue false, albeit quite attractive goals. Without the cross, pride, vanity and their cohorts would easily dominate us. Humility and the privations and sufferings that it occasions automatically become a disvalue and are thrown out of the window.

That’s the reason why Christ, who only has our own good in his mind and heart, commanded us that if we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) We need the cross more than we need air to breathe, food to eat.

We have to understand then that the cross is not something optional, though it has to be embraced as freely as possible. We should avoid thinking that since the cross is necessary, we should just force ourselves to accept it. That would be a wrong and dangerous attitude to have.

Thus, we have to spend time meditating on this indispensability of the cross in our life so we can form the proper attitude and the relevant skills. We cannot deny that our human condition at the moment is quite averse even to the mere mention of the cross. But this condition has to be overcome, with God’s grace, of course, but also with our own effort.

Just like anything else in life that we want to master, we need some training here. Thus, instead of just waiting for the cross to come, we should actively look for it. At the beginning, it is understandable that we take on small crosses so we can be prepared for the big ones. There has to be gradual assimilation of the importance of the cross in our daily life until the cross becomes an organic part of our life.

I remember a saint who wrote on the first page of his personal diary the following words: “In laetitia, nulla dies sine cruce.” (In joy, there is no day without the cross.) I think it’s a good motto to have and to guide us. We really should try our best to look, find and love the cross everyday.

The cross, of course, can come in many forms. There are the physical ones, the internal and external ones, the emotional and mental ones, the spiritual and moral ones. There also are the ordinary, small ones and the extraordinary, corporal and special ones.

We can start with the small crosses like eating less of what we like, guarding our senses like our eyes and mouth. We can put a tighter grip on our imagination and judgments, etc. Perhaps a relevant mortification would be to limit our use of the internet and the many gadgets that tend to distract us from our more important duties.

The more subtle forms of mortification are to develop the ability to put order into all the things of our day, observing the proper priorities, while at the same time, trying to be as productive as possible by learning how to put together in some kind of synergy the different tasks we have during the day.

When we are faithful in bearing these little crosses, then we can be more ready for the big ones, as when we are severely misunderstood and mistreated, when we fall into some serious sickness, when we suffer some crisis of one kind or another.

That’s when we can be ready for the final one: when we face our death and our transition to eternal life.





Philippines: Police reforms cannot be achieved through ultra-violent methods

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
February 12, 2020

The South China Morning Post recently published a report quoting Colonel Romeo Caramat stating that the Philippines’ ultra-violent approach in curbing drugs has not been effective. He further went on to say that "shock and awe definitely did not work”. The drug supply is still widespread and illicit drugs can be obtained anywhere, anytime in the Philippines.

Colonel Caramat, earlier on, was one of the toughest enforcers of President Duterte's ultra-violent Illicit Drug Policy. He was responsible for the killing of 32 people. These killings took place within 24 hours in a Province north of Manila when he was Chief of Police there. Now he is the head of drug enforcement for the Philippine National Police. He had to admit the failure of President Duterte’s policy pursued for three to five years. President Duterte's spokesman claimed that the drug policy was winning. However, President Duterte himself, on several occasions, recently admitted that the war on drugs, with a call to kill addicts and traffickers, has failed in many key objectives. He attributed the failure to rampant corruption prevalent in the Philippines.

It was predictable that President Duterte's ultra-violent approach to curb the Entry/Illicit Drug Policy was doomed to fail. What has to be achieved, through significant reforms in the Institutions of Justice, particularly in the Policing System, cannot be achieved with the extreme violence existing in the Philippines. The root cause of the failure to curb the spreading of illicit drugs was that a LAW ENFORCEMENT capacity does not exist in the Philippines. This is due to the failure of the Justice System as a whole and in particular the Policing System. The extent of the corruption within the Policing System as well as the complete ineffectiveness of the system is widely known.

The Asian Human Rights Commission, in one of their reports published in their quarterly magazine, Article 2, entitles its report as the Philippines having a ROTTEN system of justice. It is this rotten system that has to be cleansed as the substantial menace of the spread of drugs is being handled by ineffective law enforcement personnel. However, neither President Duterte not his predecessors have shown any political will in this situation. They need to touch on these important areas of national life and protection of the people. They need the return of a RESPONSIBLE Police Force together with reform in other sections of its Justice System.

The overall perception in political circles is that dealing with the Policing System is far more difficult than dealing with the illicit drug problem. Therefore, a shortcut was attempted by using ultra-violent means to curb the illicit drugs. However, such shortcuts cannot work in a country where law enforcement itself is the UMBRELLA under which the drug dealers and traffickers take shelter.

Not only the illicit drugs problem but also every other major problem in the Philippines is rooted in the ineffective administration of its Justice System. It is the primary evil that prevails in the country as a whole, giving rise to other evils like the spread of illicit drugs. Without addressing the root causes of the most significant aspects of their nation's failures, it is not possible to overcome any major problems that come up. The ultimate result of this bad Justice System affecting every area negatively, is the ever-increasing increasing POVERTY of the people in the Philippines. Extreme poverty creates victims who take refuge in the use of drugs. However, the extreme poverty issue cannot be dealt with without the support of a WELL-FUNCTIONING ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

It is not only the Government which has failed to realize the importance of dealing with the issue of a failed Justice System. Even the Civil Society has not demonstrated a will to fight this pronounced evil which effects every aspect of Philippine life. Great achievements were made through “People's Power” to overthrow the President Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. But, attempts were not made to achieve structural changes that supported authoritarianism. Thus, the emergence of authoritarian methods and authoritarian rule have been operative up to the present. The challenge facing the Philippine people is that there will be sufficient political will within the population to address the paramount problem they are fronting nation-wide.

This failure is their SYSTEM OF JUSTICE, particularly the failure within their POLICING SYSTEM.





Fake news - a major threat to the work for promotion of rule of law and human rights

By Asian Human Rights Commission
January 23, 2020

The world over a great threat has emerged against civilization as a whole. This is the power of fake news used with the technological assistance of a highly sophisticated modern technological industry. A vast body of daily reports of all types are spread through the internet and social media.

These publications cannot be held accountable for the truth or falsehood of what they publish. There are so many ways of circumventing even a proper attribution of a credible source for such information. All the legal principles used earlier regarding print media cannot be used effectively against the spread of false news items. Examples are the Laws of deformation, fraud or misinformation leading to damage for individuals or property. And this legal vacuum cannot be easily overcome. The fake news makers are aware of these limitations with regard to accountability. They can spread whatever they wish to spread without accepting any responsibility for their acts.

What makes such fake news so powerful is the fact that such news can be spread instantly to vast audiences within a very short time, counted by minutes or seconds. The very fact of publishing and distributing material on a vast scale creates a kind of impression--if the news is so spread there must be some truth behind whatever is being published. These impressions are the stuff with which credibility is attained about any sort of news. And now fake news uses this situation to their advantage.

Countering fake news is a very difficult, arduous and time-consuming exercise. To erase the impressions created by a single news item or a fake letter sent to a number of persons can take years. Fake news writers professionalize the creation of such fake news. Out of their own imagination they make up a variety of stories looking at which is impossible to dismiss altogether. Most people who get such news do not have the time to look for verification. They may even dismiss such news items at a conscious level. However such information does make impressions. These impressions give rise to doubts which lead to behavior and reactions which may affect other persons adversely or irately.

There are different tactics adapted by fake news writers, such as selecting words, that may arouse a certain dislike or repugnance on just hearing them. For example, a fake news writer may refer to a person as not credit-worthy, with a bad reputation or having engaged in activities which society may condemn. Or, perhaps, calling someone an anti-Semite or a sexual abuser when there is no basis for these accusations or others like embezzlement, fraud or similar allegations. With that, goes adjectives, which create the feeling that the person or the organization referred to, is quite bad. By using such questionable words they can create mass impressions. These impressions are in articles which of themselves do not have any kind of real information or any provable actual information.

All over the world today we are seeing this in terms of electoral politics, whether it be in the United States of America or in Great Britain. This also includes almost every other country where enormous amounts of false accusations are lodged against popular political leaders. The main idea in promulgating such fake news items is to create bad and wrong impressions. As a result, at the polls, people may have doubts in supporting such a person or cause.

In third world countries this situation is even worse. A few persons who may have access to mass media channels could create a virtual reality which has nothing to do with the actual situation of a country. They effect this by hiring persons with an ability to engage in this kind of manufacture and distribution of particular fake news stories.

The worst aspect is that criminal justice institutions when manipulated by authoritarian governments can develop its own fake news industry. Before a person is arrested or exposed to some serious charges a huge campaign could be developed. So, when the actual violation of the rights takes place many people begin to have doubts as to whether these allegations can, in fact, be true. Such doubts prevent immediate reactions to what appears to be blatantly unjust and violative acts of the basic rights of the individual. This lack of resistance can also be a factor in discouraging persons who are more knowledgeable about the situation. Their intention was to place the truth before people in society as the fake news industry overtakes them and creates false impressions at every turn.

Worse affected in this are the people who express dissent. In the past the very fact of representing dissent carried a certain moral prestige. Today, more and more with the use of fake news, industrial dissent can be discredited by attributing multiple motives to it. How do they do it? They portray a person or organization as agents of people having such agendas. They represent such dissent not as people who are exposing a worthy cause. They are doing these things for their own personal or political agendas.

This situation creates enormous demoralization and discouragement among persons who want to stand up for what they think is right and reasonable. Standing up to what they think is wrong, morally wrong and unreasonable, is less and less attractive. Any efforts in getting involved in genuine protests against people raises more problems than could be imagined.

Both the fake news industry and the criminal underground often have very close links. When the fake news industry portrays some person or organization as not credit-worthy or having anti-social or anti- patriotic agendas, then the criminal gangs could be mobilized to attack such persons. This is constantly taking place with many reports coming in weekly of such attacks. Here the interested parties mobilize the criminal gangs to do what they want. If any blame is placed it will be on the criminal gangs rather than on individual persons who are the real motivators of such attacks.

The direct victim of the fake news industry is the Criminal Justice System as a whole. This means the Police investigating systems, Attorney General’s Department (Prosecutor’s office) and the Judiciary itself. The fake news industry could even attack the Courts because they could hide their identities. The Courts themselves, by their very profession, are unable to engage in such activities as social media in order to defend themselves. While cases are filed for wrong reasons by interested parties, massive propaganda that percolates through the fake news may create another kind of trial. Serious crimes committed by accused persons thereby develops another kind of attack on the criminal justice system which is the trial by publicity.

There are two ways that a trial by publicity takes place. One is to portray a person or any group as guilty of what they are being accused of, thereby making them the target of social attacks. Then exert pressure on them. They would rather seek to find a compromise or a sentence of mitigation rather than to fight their cases in public. Public trials on sensitive cases become more and more dangerous for the public.

The second way the fake news industry affects criminal trials is by making or portraying the complainant as not a credit-worthy person. Therefore, the whole story about the violation is in fact made up. For example, if a murder takes place, this sensational type of news spreads quickly. Perhaps it was due to some personal affair than to a deliberate, intentional killing of someone in particularly. But it could be that someone happens to be a politically interested person, trying to achieve his or her aims through murder. Or it may be a woman subjected to rape or even gang rape. The fake news industry then will begin to spread derogatory remarks about the complainant. In such cases they make them appear to be persons of a bad character or a person making up these stories for some other dubious purpose.

A further way by which the fake news industry affects criminal trials is through various pressures created through false news events in the investigation of crimes. The investigators themselves get these investigations accredited without any real grounds for doing so. It makes the whole exercise of the investigation simply due to political purposes. And for a particular crime, things such as the murder of a journalist or an attack on some groups or persons or corruption are not motivated by genuine reasons.

The result of all these explorations is: the investigators themselves running an investigation are otherwise punished. This is based on a massive propaganda campaign which goes to discredit persons who are involved in investigations.

Another section of people who are seriously affected by the fake news industry are the human rights defenders themselves. Human rights defenders are engaged in numerous activities which include: defending the civil and political rights of others, defending environmental rights, fighting against corruption, defending the right of freedom of expression or assembly and lastly the rights for education and health. All these persons could be brought under severe attacks by the fake news spreading that all these activities are motivated not for altruistic reasons but for personal gain. In addition, there is corruption and other things involved in these activities or these activities are purely the propaganda work of interested powerful countries whose sole ambition is to destabilize other countries. Therefore, nationalism could be evoked against the human rights defenders who are often brought into disrepute and doubts about their work. The fake news even reaches the agencies funding support for these groups. They provide completely false information about allegations such as sexual abuse which has never happened or corruption or fraud or the like for which there is not the slightest evidence. And quite manipulatively these fake news makers use the languages or ethics that are respected in the West. They are trying to show that the ethical codes honored in the West have been violated by the groups that they support.

The fake news industry is not only widespread but it is also sophisticated and very subtle. Therefore, in the years to come, protecting and promoting the work towards the Rule of Law and human rights, will certainly be attacked manifold through these fake news channels and individuals. So we see that what is needed is to develop ways of dealing with these issues. In particular, the human rights and democratic organizations themselves should develop their own capacity to deal with in-coming information. They need a way to capably counteract problems in their initial stages, thus controlling the damage easily created by the fake news conglomerates.

Discussions by the public should necessarily involve discussions on the impact of fake news. Specifically, impact on humane causes, ways of evolving global consensus and dealing with this enormous threat--not only to the work of human rights and democracy but to civilization as a whole.





Sex should be taboo no more!

January 7, 2020

WHAT I mean is that the open discussion of sex in public should not anymore be considered as taboo. Given the terrible state in which this basic human faculty is massively abused and misused today, we should proclaim the true gospel about sex relentlessly, “in season and out of season” as St. Paul once said. (cfr. 2 Tim 4,2)

I believe that a great contributing and aggravating factor to this mess is precisely to consider talking about sex in public as taboo, a no-no. This allows the demons to pull their tricks on us unchecked. They would have a heyday. And we, of course, become their sitting duck.

Of course, the discussion should be done with tact and prudence. This is always the case whatever the topic or issue is involved. But such tact and prudence should not be taken to mean that we should be shy about talking openly about sex.

Given the fact that people nowadays can talk openly about anything, including the frivolous and inane topics, we should be quite open also in talking about sex which plays a very important role in our life.

The gospel truth about sex is that it is a God-given human faculty that is charged with the procreation itself of man. What that means is that through sex, man cooperates with God in the creation of another man. It is therefore a very sacred faculty, given the fact that of all God’s creation, it is man who is considered his masterpiece.

This gospel truth about sex should sink in deep in the consciousness of everyone. It should produce the appropriate attitude, skills and virtues to conform ourselves to such truth. It should be the seed for the development of a very important virtue of chastity.

How to make this gospel truth about sex to sink in deep in the mind and heart of everyone should be challenge to all of us. We really should help one another here, and find effective ways to counter, if not remedy and heal the many disorders and anomalies associated with the grave abuses of human sexuality.

We cannot deny that for many people, especially the young, their understanding of human sexuality is practically detached from the law and nature of sex as defined by our faith and as lived in union with Christ. It is all at the mercy of their blind and erratic bodily and earthly conditions.

There is a lot of sexual addiction and aberrations and perversions nowadays. People are starting to even legalize and normalize them. Even little children are not spared from this mess. Pornography is rampant and easily accessible. Many people are not anymore in control of their sexuality that has gone practically amok, in runaway wildness.

But despite this very dark development in the world today, there is always hope. God never leaves us despite terrible things we do to go against his will. In fact, this serious world predicament of ours can occasion a great and strong intervention of God.

But, definitely, we have to do our part. Aside from relentlessly proclaiming the gospel truth about sex in public and in private, let us promote the practice of spiritual direction and confession, impart the skill of developing a true spiritual life of prayer, sacrifice and recourse to the sacraments, the development of virtues, especially chastity. The virtue of chastity has to be ceaselessly given witness to and taught.

The usual problem we have is that we are not with God, although God is always with us. With that condition, we have no way to resist the temptations that come from our wounded flesh, the sinful allurements of the world, and the tricks of the devil.

We have to understand that we are nothing with God, a truth that up to now seems still to be a breaking news to many people.





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Priests are overworked, isolated, etc.

December 11, 2019

A NEWS item recently from the US reported that many American priests are stressed out, burned out due to the load they carry, and that many of them feel isolated. To top it all, they are assailed now by a lot of scandals ranging from financial mismanagement and sexual abuses.

My immediate reaction to this item is, of course, to pray for them. Let us hope that both the concerned Church authorities and the priests themselves would find some effective solutions to these problems.

I also felt that there must be some relation between these problems of overwork and isolation, and the consequent scandals that now stain the image of priests in the US. When one is tired, exhausted, feeling isolated and uncared for, I believe we have a terrible mix that makes one most susceptible to all kinds of anomalies and disorders.

What also came to my mind is that more or less the same problems beset many of our local priests also. At least the few I know complain about having so much work that they can hardly cope and that they want to have someone who can listen to them and share their plight. They want to vent out some bad air that is compressing in their heart.

These problems are always a challenge to the Church authorities who should come up and animate appropriate programs, structures and networks. More than these, they should find ways of how to go to the personal level of each of the priests in their care.

The care for priests should step out of the impersonal bureaucratic mold. The relation between bishops and priests and among priests should be fraternal and friendly. If this atmosphere is missing, something drastic and immediate should be done to resolve it.

One idea in this direction could be the promotion of priestly societies that would foster priestly fraternity that is vivified by a particular charism or spirituality. All priests should be encouraged to join these societies. These societies can help eliminate or at least minimize that dangerous situation where priests would feel isolated and uncared for.

The practice of spiritual direction, confession or just friendly chats where issues, problems and difficulties are brought out should be constantly encouraged. It cannot be denied that many of the priests have the tendency to keep to themselves, not wanting to open up to anyone.

In that way, they do not become transparent which is a condition the enemies of God and of our soul like so much. Priests should learn to be brutally sincere about the condition of their spiritual and priestly life. They have to call a spade a spade. Hiding things that are significant in priestly life would be like keeping a pact with the devil.

It is when priests have spiritual direction, confession or chat with a friend that they can be better helped in their life of prayers and sacrifice, so indispensable in priestly life and ministry. It is undebatable that when a priest’s life of prayer and sacrifice is not in order, his priestly life and ministry will simply collapse sooner or later.

In spiritual direction, confession or chats, priestly problems and issues can be better sorted out and given appropriate solutions, suggestions and action.

I know that dioceses hold for their ongoing formation for priests regular annual retreats and monthly days of recollection. These means of formation are always good, except that many priests attend them mainly for compliance purposes.

Hardly anything about spiritual conversion or growth and enrichment is achieved. How to have the proper effects of these means of formation is indeed a great challenge for everyone! But no matter how daunting the challenge is, both Church authorities and priests themselves should just persist in finding the appropriate solutions.





“Dialogue and Peace Talks: The Way Forward”

Statement of its 8th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace
December 8, 2019

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), gathered for the 8th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace in Silang, Cavite, under the theme: “Being a Church for Transformative Peace in these Challenging Times”. The Summit brought together 110 church leaders – clergy, women religious, and lay – from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao representing five major religious federations/groups* in the Philippines with the participation of international partners, youth and other peace advocates from civil society and other faith traditions.

The Summit participants heard testimonies from the three (3) major regions of the country, expressing the common experience of worsening poverty, especially among rice farmers, and intensifying violence, with seemingly no end in sight. There was shared sadness over the loss of innocent lives, those who by virtue of serving the poor and oppressed, are maligned as supporters or members of front organizations labelled as “Communist Terrorist Groups”. There was shared recognition that dialogue and peace talks are urgently needed but effectively unworkable when the Government of the Republic of the Philippines through the Department of National Defense (DND), has demonized the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)/New People’s Army (NPA)/National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as a Communist Terrorist Group.

The PEPP Summit took time to pray and remember those peace advocates who have been incarcerated and even murdered for their principled commitments to work for peace and justice. The Summit lifted up Atty. Benjamin Ramos assassinated in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, whose murder remains unsolved. Mr. Rey Claro Casambre, of the Philippine Peace Center, who was arrested on December 7, 2018 and is languishing in jail for a year, due to charges he denies and is presently proving in court to be false accusations against him. The Summit unanimously voted to call for his immediate release and those of other peace consultants as well. The participants also prayed for and expressed deep concern for Sister Ellen Belardo facing a warrant of arrest following a perjury case filed against the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

The PEPP Summit entered a process of discernment on how to be a light and salt of the earth for transformative peace. It drew out suggestions from the delegates, strategies and best practices for peace. The recurring theme was dialogue, reconstituting the Peace Panels and the resumption of the Peace Talks as the only way forward.

The discernment process also emboldened the delegates to continue expanding and reaching out to the Filipino people and offering a message of positive peace. A peace that is not won by the barrel of a gun, nor by demonizing the enemy, but through constructive dialogue. This is through the pursuit of a peace agreement that is mutually acceptable and will address the root causes of the longest-running armed conflict in Asia to date.

The PEPP Summit welcomed and celebrated the recent news reports received on December 5, 2019, that President Rodrigo R. Duterte is sending his emissary, Labor Secretary and erstwhile head of the government peace panel, Sec. Silvestre Bello III, to meet with the NDFP leadership in Utrecht, Netherlands, to commence back channel negotiations toward the possible resumption of the formal peace negotiations. The news was also positively welcomed by NDFP Chief Political Consultant, Prof. Jose Ma. Sison. The PEPP Summit hopes that these developments will pave the way for the immediate resumption of formal peace talks.

After three days of reflection and discernment, our calls remain resolute:

For the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to work towards the resumption of the formal peace talks to address the roots of the armed conflict. To immediately work for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

For the Government to immediately release Rey Claro Casambre and other political prisoners including NDFP peace consultants on humanitarian grounds and for the CPP-NPA-NDF to release prisoners of war as well.

For faith communities to expand the effort to conduct creative activities (formal and non-formal education, both in public and private schools) and dialogue under the banner of PEPP, and to further broaden the support for resumption of the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks.

We vow to continue to use our faith resources and moral leadership to further expand the work of PEPP throughout the Philippines. We will not stop and we will break the walls among religions and build bridges instead. As we pursue the promise of peace and the reign of God, we affirm the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

Issued and signed on this 6th day of December 2019.

[ **The PEPP is a platform for 5 church institutions/groups, namely, the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) with organizations of Religious, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum (EBF), in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the GRP-NDFP. ]





No more compromises!

Message of Filipino youth to world leaders on the 25th UN Conference of Parties by the Stewards and Volunteers for the Earth Philippines (SAVE Philippines)
December 4, 2019

We are sending this message from the Philippines where currently, we are being hit by typhoon Tisoy’s (Kammuri) heavy rainfall and flooding.

We are sending this message to all of you, our supposed leaders, who have the time to gather and do prestigious planning while many of us here are preparing for what could be another rock bottom for us and our countrymen. This may just be the last time that some of us in the Global South will ever have the chance to relay this message of urgency where climate-induced disasters have become the new normal.

You all constantly speak of development. You all speak of eternal economic growth. You all make promises of wealth, abundance and change, which get our hopes high at first. But your promises fade just as quick as the time you pronounced them leaving us desperately hanging with all your empty talk.

You talk and forget, but we remember.

We remember the lives that have been washed away by your criminal neglect and compromises. All the nameless numbers that drowned in heavy floods, the poor who died of hunger in droughts, and the indigenous and urban communities displaced for the sake of your “development” projects.

The science has always been clear: it is the profit-centered economy that is destroying our planet. Call it whatever you want: business, entrepreneurship, capitalism, whatever. One thing is clear: the unhindered pursuit of outrageous amounts of super profits for a powerful few is what brings about disaster and even death to the global population.

Life is even more difficult for us here in the Philippines. We are a tiny, archipelagic nation with the least carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, yet we are among the ones who suffer the worst impacts of this climate crisis. We who live in the Pacific bear the amplified effects of unstable climate conditions.

And for this, we would like to address in particular our dear leader, President Duterte. Pay attention.

The moment you became the 16th President of the Philippines, we knew change has come. But not in a way that is favorable to us. Your campaign was very promising on letter, but you did not deliver. Poverty is still rampant. Ecological devastation has worsened, and is increasing at an alarming rate.

You even had the nerve to tell ASEAN leaders to “not sacrifice environmental for progress,” and you wanted to enforce “sanctions vs. violators” of the Paris Agreement on climate action. But how about the continuing operations and expansions of coal-fired power plants here in our country? How about the development projects under your Build, Build, Build program to entice foreign investments at the expense of our biodiversity?

We would like to remind you of how empty and devoid of meaning your words are. We would also like to remind you of your responsibility, as the sworn leader of this nation, to ensure the welfare of your constituents and our environmental integrity.

We expect nothing less but the declaration of a climate emergency. We shall see you amend all policies that exacerbate our already vulnerable situation, and allocate all resources for ordinary Filipinos to successfully adapt to the impacts of climate change. We demand that you, as well as your delegates, hold accountable the rich developed countries in the Global North to pay their climate debt and push for maximum reduction in their GHG emissions.

For you, and for the rest of our global leaders in the 25th Conference of Parties, our message is simple: NO MORE COMPROMISES.

Act now, or we will. We are watching you.





The value of the vocal prayers

November 15, 2019

WE should never underestimate the power of the vocal prayers. They may sound trite and worn-out after years of simply mechanically praying them, but they actually are the quickest and easiest way we can make use of to put ourselves truly and divinely inspired.

And the simple reason is that these prayers are truly inspired prayers. They are not just human inventions, products of our pious creativity. They come directly from Christ, as is the case of the Lord’s Prayer, or from the lips of important biblical characters as is the case of the Hail Mary and many other prayers.

Of course, there are also many other vocal prayers that are composed by saints and by Church authorities who are given such power by Christ himself. The liturgical prayers at Mass and in the celebration of the other sacraments, as well as breviary of the priests, are very enlightening and helpful, to say the least.

If we would just put our mind and heart into praying them, if we would just pray them with faith and piety, there is no way but for us to be transported deep into the spiritual and supernatural world where our deepest yearnings are satisfied, at least for a time.

These prayers also teach us what to say when we pray, what to ask from God, what attitudes and sentiments we ought to have toward God, others and everything else in this life, especially the different situations and predicaments that we can encounter in life.

They have the power to educate our mind and heart, conforming them to the mind and heart of Christ, which is what actually is proper to us, since we are being created and redeemed to be God’s image and likeness, children of his in Christ.

In fact, when we pray the vocal prayers, we would praying together with and through the Holy Spirit. Our prayer would not just be our own prayer, but also that of the Holy Spirit, of Christ and of his Church, since the Church is the mystical body of Christ! We should never feel alone when we pray the vocal prayers. We have to realize that we are in very good company when we pray them.

If we only know what is involved when we pray the vocal prayers, I am sure that we would be deeply motivated to make use of them very often, especially in our moments of difficulty and special need.

That is why the vocal prayers should be taught to everybody as early as possible, as in teaching them to little children, explaining well their importance and effectiveness, and supporting such catechesis with clear examples of the elders.

Let’s remember that the little ones learn more from what they see than from what they hear. When they see their parents and older siblings praying the vocal prayers with fervor and piety, it would not take long before these kids would do the same. Their capacity to follow or imitate what they see is big. Thus, the practice of the family rosary is most recommendable.

Of course, we should pray these vocal prayers with naturalness, without exaggerated gestures that can only betray some hidden motives of a misunderstood sense of holy pride, vanity and piosity, the caricature of piety.

But naturalness does not mean that we shy away from some public display in praying the vocal prayers, as when we do pilgrimages, etc. The vocal prayers should not be considered as simply something personal and private. They have a strong social and public character also. They actually do a lot of good to people in general.

These prayers should not be regarded as only for children or old women who have nothing better to do than to pray the whole day. Such attitude can only betray one’s ignorance of the value of the vocal prayers, if not one’s defense mechanism to justify his laziness, lack of faith, etc.






ACT human barricade outside their office
Teachers form human barricade outside their office vs. threat of AFP-PNP office raid. Tarp behind them says, "AFP-PNP, Back Off! Bawal magtanim ng ebidensya rito!"

Stop state terrorism! Defend rights and freedom! Uphold democracy!

A Press Statement by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on the AFP-PNP crackdown on activists
November 7, 2019

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines condemns the Duterte administration’s intensifying attacks on the Filipino people who continue to struggle for peace and democracy in the country. The series of raids and arrests of progressive organizations in Negros and Metro Manila aims to sow terror among dissidents and to quell the growing unrest of the people who have long been suffering due to state neglect.

The crackdown on civilian, unarmed, and legitimate activists and organizations expose the sham that is President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 which supposedly aims to end local armed conflict in the country, but is a mere cover-up for the administration’s more vicious attempts at establishing a tyrannical rule. This is further exemplified by the exposed connivance between the state’s machinery for war, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) – particularly the NCRPO – and a member of the judiciary, the Quezon City RTC Executive Judge Cecilyn E. Burgos-Villavert. Such proves that Philippine democracy is under attack.

We, as teacher-unionists, are not spared from these state attacks. Two teachers have been gunned down, 2 more were attempted to be killed, and one ACT coordinator is jailed on a trumped-up charge in a period of less than a month. Offices and homes of teachers’ organizations as well as leaders who are vocal in advancing their rights and welfare face the threat of raids, harassments, and other rights violations. Mouthpieces of the state mock legal and legitimate teachers as 'teacher-actors' while they hurl us with red tags and despicable lies that only aim to smear the teaching profession and our rightful unionism. These have persisted since the state launched the illegal nationwide profiling against ACT late last year, upon the signing of EO 70 or the whole-of-nation approach on counterinsurgency.

As educators, it is our duty to uphold democracy and defend people’s rights and freedoms. We teach our students to practice critical thinking for the pursuit of social justice. Our fight for livable wages, better working conditions, and better social services is an exercise of all that we espouse in class. It is therefore imperative that we continue to stand our ground and assert our rights. We shall continue to build unities within our ranks and forge solidarities with other sectors as we jointly register our strong resistance and defiance of the increasingly fascist Duterte regime.

We likewise call on all freedom- and democracy-loving members of the local and international community to join us in this fight. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. We must stand together and fight back against oppressive and tyrannical regimes. Stop state terrorism!





Fear the cross no more

October 15, 2019

WE have to learn to lose any fear of the cross. That instinct of ours to be afraid and to flee from the cross has to be reversed, and made into an instinct of love for the cross.

This may take time and effort, this may require a lot of thinking and discipline, this may involve some drastic and even painful adjustments in our understanding of things, but it is all worthwhile to do so.

When we lose the fear of the cross and develop the love for it instead we would have the proper light to guide us in our life here on earth. Not only that, we can have the invincible peace and joy that is proper to us as persons and as children of God.

Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, often repeated the motto, “Lux in cruce, gaudium in cruce, requies in cruce,” (light in the cross, joy in the cross, peace in the cross), to remind himself and everybody else that it is in the cross of Christ where we have the path and the instrument of our human salvation.

Again it’s good to be theological in our understanding of the cross because the mere human attitude toward the cross can never fathom the crucial and indispensable significance the cross of Christ possesses.

Christ’s cross, which Christ himself told us to carry (cfr. Mt 16,24), converts that tree of death that led to the downfall of our pristine humanity in Adam and Eve into a tree of life that brings us back again to God, our Father and Creator.

It is this cross that assumes all the sins of men and destroys them. It is this cross that reopens the gates of heaven to us after it was closed due to our sins. We need to engrave these theological truths of the cross so we can be guided properly.

In other words, this cross enables us to handle the worst condition that can happen to us in this life, and to convert that condition into a means of our salvation. Thus, whenever we have the cross, in whatever concrete form it comes – whether physical, moral or spiritual – we have to bear it with Christ always. It would then become Christ’s cross, and not just any cross, and as such it is a redemptive cross.

It would also be a cross that is not simply ours, borne only by our own selves. It becomes the cross of Christ who has assumed all the sinfulness of men without committing sin. (cfr. 2 Cor 5,21) Somehow it is a cross that is not as heavy as when it is simply ours, carrying it without Christ carrying it for and with us.

We obviously have to adapt our attitude, thinking and reactions towards the cross according to what our faith teaches us. We have to go theological in this, not merely physical, emotional or mental. Thus, we have to be ready to follow what Christ told us whenever we encounter crosses in our life.

Like, we have to learn to love our enemies, to pray for them. We have to offer the other cheek when we are slapped in one cheek. We have to learn to be charitable and magnanimous when we are misunderstood, mistreated, insulted, offended. We have to learn to be patient and humble when humiliated. We have to regard others as better than us, always concerned about their interest rather than focusing simply on ours.

There are many more forms of how to bear our cross the way Christ bore his, and thus make our cross also the cross of Christ, a cross that is redemptive and worthy of being loved and exalted.

We should not only lose fear of the cross, but rather love it, and actively look for it, since that is the only way to our salvation, given our wounded and sinful condition.





Postponing the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) remains inadequately justified, and will extend terms of office without voters' consent

A press statement by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)
September 24, 2019

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) reiterates its position that the May 2020 Barangay and SK Elections be held as scheduled.

Moving the date of the BSKE:

• Contravenes the principle of regularity in the conduct of an election;

• Extends the terms of elected officials without a fresh mandate from the electorate;

• Deprives the electorate of seeking accountability from elected officials through the ballot.

Periodic elections are an institutionalized governance feature in countries that have chosen democracy as their form of government. The Philippines has an obligation under international law to conduct periodic and genuine elections, as articulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, the ICCPR stipulates that every citizen must be provided the right and “vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections.” Thus, the regularity of elections is important to establish the mandate, legitimacy and moral authority of elected leaders. Not holding elections regularly could undermine the democratic process of ensuring the citizens’ right to choose their leaders and make them accountable.

On postponing BSKE to save P5 billion to P6 billion: Recent reports said that the country loses P700 Billion annually due to corruption, P50 Billion annually due to illegal wildlife trade, P105.7 Billion annually due to road crashes, and P3.5 Billion daily due to traffic congestion in NCR alone, among others. These reports indicate that the government can source enough funds by addressing several key issues. Why do so at the expense of a Constitution-mandated process?

On postponing BSKE due to election fatigue and not having enough time to prepare: The May 2020 BSKE comes a full year after the May 2019 elections. Preparations for a manual election is not as complex and as time-pressured as that of an automated one. The Comelec has acknowledged that they are implementing the 2020 BSKE calendar and are in the thick of preparations (ie. voter registration, outreach to IPs, voters’ education, etc.). Comelec's request is just to not conduct the BSKE at the same time or less than a year before or after national elections.

On postponing BSKE because terms of office will be cut short: When the sitting barangay and SK officials filed for their candidacy for the May 2018 BSKE, they were fully aware of and accepted a shortened term, itself brought on by a previous postponement of BSKE. NAMFREL believes that, instead of length of term, a major determinant of success besides qualified and committed elected local officials is the existence and proper execution of concrete plans for the barangay, guided by established guidelines and implementing rules and regulations. In the absence of these, no amount of term extensions would ensure accomplishment of expectations and deliverables. If they do a good job in their shortened term, let their constituents judge them through the election.

Moreover, moving the date of elections set by law can only be justified when any of the conditions mentioned in Section 5 of the Philippine Omnibus Election Code exist: any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision. It is the task of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make such determination, which in turn should be through public hearings. None of these conditions exist, and no such consultations with the voting public ever took place.





End Duterte’s martial law! Resist dictatorship and attacks on people’s rights!

A Press Statement by KARAPATAN on the 47th anniversary of martial law
September 20, 2019

47 years ago, darkness reigned, but it did not prevail against the force of a united people.

Darkness may reign now, but it will be defied.

47 years ago, the Filipino people went through one of the darkest and bloodiest periods in our nation’s history. With the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972, the late Ferdinand Marcos unleashed the horrors of a brutal fascist dictatorship: civil liberties and people’s rights were brazenly attacked and violated; democratic institutions were dismantled in consolidating authoritarian rule; the free press was shut down; millions were plundered from the country’s coffers to fatten the pockets of the Marcoses and their corrupt cronies as the nation suffered under extreme poverty; and hundreds of political opponents and critics along with thousands of activists, organizers, and unionists were illegally abducted and detained, tortured, killed or forcibly disappeared – some of whom are still missing to this day.

Today, September 20, on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, Karapatan joins the Filipino people in remembering all the victims and martyrs of the Marcos dictatorship. We remember their lives, we remember their sacrifices, and we remember their struggle for democracy, freedom, and justice – culminating in the toppling of the Marcos regime by a united Filipino people against tyranny and dictatorship. However, the fight for a just and humane society is far from over.

Today, we are confronted yet again with the horrors and brutalities of Marcos’ martial law, as we see a creeping dictatorship taking form, helmed by dictator wannabe Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte is an altogether different monster. He has coddled the Marcoses and enabled them to shamelessly return to power and escape accountability, with Imee Marcos even securing a seat in the Senate while Imelda Marcos was able to walk free despite being convicted of 7 counts of graft. Duterte, like a true Marcos fanboy, is now eagerly following the Marcosian playbook of repression and oppression. We are once again promised a golden age, no doubt marked by a ballooning debt and worsening economic crisis.

Martial law and de facto martial law have been put in place. Martial law in Mindanao has been repeatedly extended without basis, and has enabled State forces to commit more atrocities with astounding impunity. The Lumad and Moro people have been subjected to killings and intensified militarization, justified by the military through scare tactics and feeding public paranoia. Transparency is not the priority of fascist regimes. This same arrangement, sans the formal declaration, is also creating havoc in the regions of Negros, Samar, and Bicol under Memorandum Order No. 32. Whatever the name, the impact of formal and de factor martial law remains salient – unhampered human rights violations.

Alongside this, the Duterte regime is preparing a long list of repressive policies. Under Executive Order No. 70, coupled with efforts to revive the Anti-Subversion Law, mandatory Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC), death penalty, and plans to amend the Human Security Act, the fascist Duterte regime is parroting the Marcosian tactic of propping up a McCarythite communist hysteria to justify its draconian measures and crackdown on opponents and critics. To the greedy who want to tighten their grip on power, every resistance is akin to sedition and all – including church leaders and workers, journalists, youth activists, and human rights defenders – are tagged as terrorists.

This is all under the framework of Oplan Kapanatagan. The bloodbath happening in all regions of the country are systematic and orchestrated attacks. This “whole-of-nation” approach seeks to penetrate the core of government, to blur civilian and military functions, to remove civilian and combatant distinctions.

Despite these draconian measures, the people, who have been long suffering under extreme poverty, joblessness, and landlessness only find more reason to fight and resist with the exposition of the regime’s corruption and brazen abuse of power – from the freeing of big-time criminals convicted of heinous and drug-related charges to the increase in pork barrel funds of Duterte’s allies in Congress, as well as his own pork and P2.5 billion worth of confidential intelligence funds. Moreover, in the face of anti-poor economic policies, Duterte’s puppetry and surrender of national sovereignty to the interests of China and the United States, and the ballooning infrastructure debt with his billions worth of loans from China, plunges the country deeper and deeper into an economic crisis. This regime is a sham, a sell-out, and a failure.

The people are made to suffer for speaking out. As the people grow more and more disgruntled with the fascist regime every day, we are moving closer to the tipping point.

We have been here before, and we are treading dark times once again, with our hard-won freedom under threat of being taken away from us. In these trying times, we are once again called to stand united in resisting the new dictatorship and its attacks on people’s rights. On September 20, on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, we return to the streets with our clenched fists raised in defiance. We march as one to Luneta once more, united in the call to demand accountability and justice from the plunder and atrocities of the Marcoses and Duterte, and to resist the darkness of tyranny and dictatorship under Duterte’s de facto martial rule.

Darkness may reign now, but it will never prevail against the force of a united people.





Judge not to judge

September 3, 2019

JUDGING, of course, is basic and indispensable to us. It is the first step we do to know things. As soon as our senses apprehend certain things, our intelligence is immediately activated and starts to make judgments so we can start knowing. From there, we can make many other intellectual operations – like more judgments and reasoning – to be able to know more things and in a better way.

We have to take this basic fact of life into consideration whenever we try to understand Christ’s words when he said, “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” (Mt 7,1) He did not mean that we should not judge at all, because that would be inhuman, that would be against the very nature God designed for us.

In fact, the succeeding passages of those words of Christ presume that we make judgments as a natural thing we do. “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged,” he said. “And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (7,2)

From these words, what we can conclude is that we should be careful with our judgments. We should see to it that our judgments are in accordance with our dignity as children of God who have to judge people and things the way God judges them, that is, full of charity and everything else that flows as a consequence of charity. Most prominent in these consequences of charity would be prudence and discretion.
This can mean that there must be times when we have to judge not to judge because we have no basis for making such judgments. Otherwise, we would commit what is called rash judgments. In other words, there are times when we have to withhold our judgment, or at least make only a tentative one that has to be handled with a lot of discretion.

Of course, we can have suspicions, which are already a form of judgment. We can also theorize and hypothesize, if only to understand something to a certain extent or to be able to deal in some practical way with a certain issue. These are already forms of judgment, albeit tentative and not definitive.

We have to be always wary of the need to judge not to judge when the occasion calls for it. We should not be “trigger-happy” with our judgments. We need to study and weigh things first before we make any judgments or we decide to withhold making any.

This is especially so when we are fed only with gossips and hearsays, or when we are confronted with questions and issues that are beyond our competence. Especially in the area of politics, where there is intense bias and prejudice because of its extremely partisan character, the need to judge not to judge should be deeply felt.

At best, we can only make tentative judgments that, as said above, should be handled with discretion. We need to have a good grip of our emotions and passions, because otherwise, they would usually lead us to make rash judgments.

We also have to be careful with our “small talks” that usually are none other than gossips and other inane, frivolous chats that cause harm on the name of others.

What is most important is that we fill our mind and heart with the spirit of Christ so that in everything that we think, judge and speak, there is always charity and prudence and discretion.

Let’s remember what St. Paul said about having the spirit of Christ in this regard: “The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment. For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him. But we have the mind of Christ…” (1 Cor 2,15-16)

In other words, the only way we can judge properly is when we are truly identified with Christ, animated by the same spirit, having the same mind as he has.





Stepping into the supernatural world

August 21, 2019

WE need to realize more deeply that everytime we participate in any liturgical act, we are actually stepping into the supernatural world of God. We are made contemporaries with Christ as he continues his work of human redemption until the end of time.

And that’s simply because in the liturgy, as in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, Christ is made present and continues to act. The liturgy is a divine initiative, not ours. It’s God who brings us to his supernatural world. Ours is simply to express and articulate in human forms this divine initiative as commanded by Christ, and to participate in its supernatural dynamics.

This is why we should develop and keep a very special consideration, attention and devotion to the liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. In it, we have to give our all, carrying out what Christ commanded us to do: to love God with all our might, and our neighbor as ourselves, which he later perfected by saying that we have to love one another as he himself has loved us.

If this truth about the liturgy is understood and upheld properly, you can just imagine how we ought to behave when we participate in a liturgical act! We can never exaggerate the intensity of our devotion, prayer and worship to God. Our best will always be found wanting. But the point is that we just have to do our best even if our best can still be made better.

We need to do a more effective and abiding catechesis on this very important aspect of our Christian life. We cannot deny that there are many things that indicate that the people’s understanding and attitude toward the liturgy is inadequate, marked by ignorance, confusion and error.

This sorry state about how the liturgy is understood can even start among the clergy. Though we cannot generalize, neither can we deny that in many instances the sacredness of the liturgical acts appears to be missing due to the way they are celebrated. More than faithful ministers of Christ, some clerics reduce their status into simply being performers and actors.

Being a divine initiative, the liturgy, as in the celebration of the sacraments, derives its supernatural effectiveness more from God’s power (ex opere operato) rather than from our dispositions (ex opere operantis). Just the same, it will always demand of us the best dispositions that we can give. So we cannot overemphasize the need for the appropriate preparation we ought to have before celebrating or participating in a liturgical act.

Our participation in it can be likened to the most pliable clay in the hands of the potter (God) so that we can be as God wants us to be. We need to be as malleable as possible to God’s will and ways. He is very eager to make us like him.

Our participation in it can also be likened to the relation that good labourers have toward God, the owner of the vineyard or faithful servants in God’s household. We need to work with the will of God as owner always in mind.

We therefore cannot overemphasize the need to participate in the liturgical acts as actively as possible. In this regard, it would be helpful if we familiarize ourselves with the prayers and the different parts involved in the liturgy. We need to spend time for this purpose so that hopefully we can go along with the liturgy actively aware of what is happening and not just coasting along passively.

The prayers involved usually are most inspired prayers that will always be helpful to us. They express the proper attitude and sentiments we ought to have toward God. They are always worthwhile to be internalized so that we can truly enter into the spirit of the liturgy and not just get entangled in its externals.





The pro-choice position

July 10, 2019

WE have to be familiar with the so-called pro-choice position that is now becoming the prevalent ideology affecting many countries and especially the young ones, the so-called millennials. We need to be familiar with it so that we can be better prepared to deal with it, since it is now invading our own country. In fact, there is now a strong foreign-funded pressure to instil this kind of liberal pro-choice view on us.

The pro-choice position, of course, refers to the so-called life-issues, like abortion, population control, same-sex marriage, divorce, euthanasia, etc. It has an eminently moral question that we need to be clear about.

We need to understand that there are moral principles that derive from the very nature of things, and especially of our own. And they have a universal applicability, going beyond our natural and artificial differences in race, culture, religion and other categories.

In a nutshell, the pro-choice position can be expressed in the following words as expressed by many of its advocates and followers: “I am pro-choice, even if that means abortion. I am also for same-sex unions, and I also support legalizing divorce. What people want to do with their lives and their body should not be controlled by other people’s religious beliefs.

“If you do not want abortion, don’t get one. If you don’t want to marry one of the same sex, by all means, don’t. Don’t divorce if that’s what you prefer. But to take away other people’s choices because you don’t agree with them is evil and wrong. The terrible thing is that many people can only imagine a world where their religion is absolute. What tyranny!”

It’s incredible that this view can be held even by very educated people, and people who are even products of Catholic schools and other very prestigious centers of learning.

At least two possibilities can explain this disturbing phenomenon. One is that these schools are not anymore teaching morals and are just focusing on technical things. And two, that the students may be taught morals but are not internalizing them. Of course, there are still many other possible explanations.

With this pro-choice position, one is practically saying that there are no absolute moral principles with a universal applicability, that everyone is absolutely free to do whatever he wants to do. In other words, one makes himself his own lawgiver, if not his own god. He cannot be told and taught anything. He has to be left alone. He can do anything he likes.

It is amazing that many people with this position do not realize that they are going against even the very basics of common sense. We are never alone. We can never be alone. We have to live by certain laws. We cannot escape the fact that we have to submit to certain do’s and don’ts.

Abortion is not about exercising the right over a woman’s body. Whether one is a believer or not, abortion is simply killing a human person. A fetus inside the mother’s womb is not just a clump of cells. A fetus just cannot be but a baby.

And the so-called same-sex marriage is a contradiction since marriage can only be between a man and woman. It is not meant only for good-time, for giving in to what our flesh desires. It is meant for procreation, for education and upbringing of children and family, and the good of society.

Divorce simply goes against the very nature of marriage. It is rejecting one’s commitment of love however the marriage may go. The concerned parties in marriage promise “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”

Let’s hope that families, churches, schools, offices and the government units help in clarifying these moral life issues both with clarity and charity always. Hardly anything is gained when we start fighting.





Philippines: Failure to investigate killings demands UN action

A statement by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), urging the UN Human Rights Council to take action on the reported human rights violations in the Philippines
July 3, 2019

The ICJ today joined other NGOs in urging the UN Human Rights Council to take action on the Philippines.

The joint oral statement was delivered by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) on behalf of OMCT, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Franciscans International, Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), FORUM-Asia. It read as follows:

“In March 2019, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that several sources “estimate that up to 27,000 people may have been killed in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs since mid-2016.”

Unlawful killings, including of children, carry on, and President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration continue to explicitly encourage these acts. In June 2019, the scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations prompted 11 UN human rights experts to call on the Council to establish an independent investigation into such violations.

Intimidations by government officials at the highest levels against politicians, human rights defenders, journalists, and several Special Procedures mandate holders have also been rising.

At the 35th, 36th, and 38th sessions of the Council, Iceland, on behalf of a group of States, explicitly called on the government “to take all necessary measures to bring killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs to an end and cooperate with the international community to investigate all related deaths and hold perpetrators accountable.”

In light of the failure of the government to effectively investigate and bring to justice those responsible, we urge all States to support the adoption of a resolution on the Philippines at this session, mandating the OHCHR to monitor and provide regular updates on the human rights situation to the Council, as the first step toward establishing an independent international investigation into extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations committed in the government’s ‘war on drugs.’.

Such a response is all the more important given the Philippines obligations to uphold the highest standards in human rights as a member of the Council.”





Abolish the priesthood?

June 28, 2019

SOMEONE sent me an article that was proposing for the abolition of the priesthood. The reason behind are the many clerical scandals that have been plaguing the Church for years now, mostly in the US and other countries but also – at least a few cases – in the local scene.

Of course, my immediate reaction was that while it is unfortunate to hear about these scandals, abolishing the priesthood is not the solution at all to the problem. Rather, it will make things worse.

And that is because abolishing the priesthood is practically like abolishing the Church, or worse, abolishing Christ in our life, since the priest, in spite of his unworthiness, is the sacramental representation of Christ, head of the Church.

Abolishing the priesthood is like throwing the baby together with the bath water. Yes, we have to do something about what is wrong in these scandals. It may be a long, painful process, but it is all worthwhile. But what we cannot do is to abolish the priesthood.

The priest, of course, should be constantly aware of his sacramental identity and try his best to live up to that dignity. He should be keenly aware that with his ordination he is conformed to Christ as head of the Church, and not just a member of the Church capable of participating in the one sacrifice of Christ to his Father for our salvation.

His priesthood, which is called ministerial or hierarchical, is different from the common priesthood of the lay faithful of the Church that is based on his baptismal status, not only in degree but in essence. The priest acts “in persona Christi capitis,” in the person of Christ as head of the Church.

As such, he renews in the whole course of time till the end the very sacrifice of Christ, and everything else that is oriented to that sacrifice of Christ. He makes present the whole redemptive work of Christ.

The lay faithful who have the common priesthood do not have the power to renew this sacrifice. What their priesthood empowers them is to offer their whole life as a sacrifice to God, doing so by uniting their sacrifice with the sacrifice of Christ as renewed in the Mass that is celebrated by the priest.

Of course, human as we are, the priest will always have his own share of shortcomings, weaknesses, and yes, sin. This should not surprise anyone. Even Christ was not spared of Judas, one of his original apostles. But like anybody else, and in a sense, even more than anybody else, the priest should really take extreme care of his spiritual life.

The priest should be keenly aware that the lay faithful depend on them. How he is somehow determines how the lay faithful will be. If he is faithful to his identity as another Christ head of the Church, then the lay faithful will also most likely be like Christ as they should.

But such state of affairs should not make the priest feel superior to the lay faithful, but rather should keenly feel the duty to serve them, as Christ loved and served all of us by offering his life on the cross. Like Christ, he should have the attitude of wanting to serve and not to be served. (cfr. Mt 20,28)

He should never feel privileged, assuming the mentality of entitlement or falling into the anomaly called clericalism. Rather he has to assume the mind of Christ, a servant and a willing sacrificial lamb for all of us.

He has to continually wage a personal spiritual struggle to keep his priestly identity intact. For this, he has to continually purify himself and renew his dedication frequently.

Of course, it would be most helpful if the lay faithful will also help in making the priest a priest through and through, totally living out his sacramental identity as Christ head of the Church.





How can I look after my children during a divorce?

One of the biggest worries that couples who are considering or going through a divorce have is the worry about the impact it will have on their children. Divorce can be a stressful process for all involved, especially if you don’t agree on certain aspects. You’ll want to do all you can to minimise the impact on your children, so these issues have to be dealt with carefully and sensitively. Above all, you must remember to put the children first.

In this article, we’re going to go over some of the biggest questions about divorce and children.

How will my children cope with divorce?

A relationship breakdown can have a big emotional impact on children, even if it doesn’t initially seem like they’re affected. It can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, bewilderment, anxiety, loneliness and more. Children can also feel like they are the cause of the issues between their parents.

Children can also become confused, wondering if the separation is temporary. Younger children may even cling on to the hope that their parents will suddenly get back together, even after long periods of separation.

It’s important to be aware that children may try to hide their feelings or may even tell each parent something different, depending on what they think that parent wants to hear. Parents can sometimes believe that it’s not having much impact on their children when, in reality, the situation is far worse than they think.

How can I help my children through a divorce?

Always try to give your children as much reassurance as possible and try to clearly explain what is happening in a way that they can understand. Try to avoid changing the family routine and encourage them to still have a relationship with both of you. Make them aware that it’s ok to talk about their feelings with you and how they feel about the other parent so that they don’t feel like they have divided loyalties.

What you should never do is be critical of the other parent in front of the child, or do anything that will undermine their relationship with said parent. Never ignore your children’s feelings, and even ask older children for their advice on the situation. Above all, never involve the children in your battles with the other parent or try to use your children against your partner.

How do I ensure my children’s interests are put first?

The simple answer is to remember that, regardless of what has happened between you and your partner, you will still need to work together as parents in the future. It does children no good to see their parents constantly fighting. So your first responsibility will be to minimise conflict with your partner and support each other in the future.

It may be useful to discuss a parenting plan with your partner.

What if we don’t agree about our children?

With such an emotionally charged situation, it’s unsurprising that parents may not agree with arrangements regarding children. As mentioned earlier, ensuring that putting children first is always on your mind, is the key to maintaining a friendly and civil relationship with your partner. This will allow the practicalities of childcare to be discussed freely. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go that smoothly.

If you can’t come to an agreement over your children, mediation or collaborative law (in which each parent hires a solicitor who will sit in with you on a series of ‘four-way meetings’ between you, your solicitor, your partner and their solicitor) may be introduced. It may also help if you attend counselling sessions or family therapy. Going to court should always be a last resort.

Even if you already agree with how you will handle the arrangements around children, it’s still important for parents to get expert legal advice from a family law solicitor, to help understand their position and consider all the options available to them.





The Philippines: Conduct an investigation into the killings of activists, and take genuine steps towards addressing the violence

A joint press statement by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Front Line Defenders
Bangkok, June 21, 2019

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Front Line Defenders strongly condemn the unabated killings and violence against activists, human rights defenders, and civil society organisations in the Philippines, particularly those of Leonides ‘Dennis’ Suquena, Ryan Hubilla, Nelly Bagasa, Nonoy Palma, and Neptali Morada earlier this month. FORUM-ASIA and Front Line Defenders urge the Government of the Philippines to immediately conduct a transparent investigation into these killings, to take genuine steps towards addressing the continuous violence, and to provide justice for all victims.

On 2 June, labour union organiser Leonides ‘Dennis’ Sequena was gunned down by unidentified men in the province of Cavite. Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasa, members of the human rights network Karapatan, were killed on 15 June. Hubilla, along with other Karapatan members had earlier raised concerns about being subjected to state surveillance. On the same day, Nonoy Palma, a member of a farmers' group was killed in Bukidnon province. Two days later on 17 June, the former campaign leader of the leftist group Bayan, Neptali Morada, was gunned down in the Bicol region, also by unidentified individuals.

The ongoing ‘war on drugs’, which has resulted in an estimated 27,000 extrajudicial killings, has further exacerbated the culture of violence in the country. Human rights groups have long expressed concern that tactics used in the ‘war on drugs’ are now being used to target political activists, human rights defenders and other critics of the Government, in efforts to instil fear and stifle dissent.

These killings continue to occur within an environment of impunity, where both police officers and civilians overwhelmingly escape accountability for extrajudicial killings. The normalisation of the violence has gone so far that even the former police chief responsible for the operationalisation of the ‘war on drugs’, Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, will take his seat as an elected Senator in July 2019. Of the killings against activists and ordinary individuals within recent years, only a few have led to criminal prosecutions or convictions.

Civil society organisations have also raised concerns over the heightened use of red-tagging and terrorist-tagging. In such cases, individuals appear, with their name and organisational affiliation, on lists drawn up by the security sector. Having your name appear on such a list basically declares you to be a legitimate target for harassment and violence from both state and non-state actors. Many of these killings have been conducted under the cover of the country’s counter-insurgency programme, with very little transparency. Security sector officials behind these actions continue to face little to no accountability for their actions.

FORUM-ASIA and Front Line Defenders call on the Government of the Philippines to address the rise in the killings, including through acknowledging its role in the continuous violence, taking steps to provide protection, and ensuring accountability. Ahead of the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council, FORUM-ASIA and Front Line Defenders reiterate their call to States to actively support a resolution establishing an independent, international investigation into the extrajudicial killings in the ‘war on drugs’, and mandating the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the situation in the country, including the targeting of activists, human rights defenders and civil society.





Battling fears, worries, sadness

June 5, 2019

IT’S really a matter of faith, of how strong our faith is. With faith, we know that whatever be our condition and situation in life, God is always there and will never abandon us. He is there to help us. He actually takes care of everything.

It’s this faith that springs and strengthens our hope and charity, which is the essence, purpose and fullness of our life. With faith, we can manage to be at peace all the time, to experience joy and awe even in the midst of our unavoidable earthly suffering, and to go on and move on despite whatever.

To battle our fears, worries and sadness, we need to strengthen our faith and live it to the hilt. And let us allow it to educate all our human powers and faculties – our intelligence and will, our emotions and passions, our memory and imagination, etc. Let us take time and learn the relevant skills to achieve this ideal.

Let us remember that we are a composite of body and soul. And since our soul is spiritual, it has its life and origin in the Spirit of God himself. We need to develop our life following the ways that would reinforce the unity of the composite parts of our life in their proper order. We have to realize that our life is mainly spiritual and supernatural, not simply material and natural.

That way, we remove ourselves from being entirely dependent on merely human, earthly and temporal factors. We allow ourselves to be governed by a much powerful agency that can effectively cruise us through our life’s ocean of mysteries. Faith enables us to cope with the reality of our life that includes the spiritual and the supernatural.

With faith we will never feel alone. We will always feel accompanied by God, by his angels and saints, all helping and interceding for us. With faith, we know that everything that happens to us, good or bad, has a reason and a purpose, and all of them working for our own good. (cfr. Rom 8,28)

We really have no reason to fear, nor to wallow in worries, anxieties and sadness. Let’s remember that these unfortunate states are fertile ground for the enemies of our soul, especially the devil, to take advantage of us.

About the only reason to fear, worry and be sad is when we lose our faith, when we lose touch with God. We have to pray and pray so that our doubts and fears would not undermine our faith.

What also helps is to develop a sporting attitude in life, because, to be realistic about it, we will always have frustrations, disappointments, mistakes, failures, sins and defeats in our life. But we just have to learn how to move on, just like a good sportsman.

We should always be cheerful in life, and strive to show it even externally with smiles and happy, warm and encouraging dispositions. Even in our grief and mourning, we should manage to learn how to be serene, knowing that suffering and death have already been redeemed by Christ and are now endowed with redemptive power.

Let’s not waste time and energy by falling into the grips of fears, worries and sadness. When we notice that we are having some languid moments, it can be a sign that our faith is not working, and that we are succumbing to the laws of the flesh and the world, if not, to the tricks of the devil.

We have to extricate ourselves as quickly as possible from that predicament. The ideal to have is to be always cheerful and eager to do things, no matter what the cost involved.

We should be doing a lot of good, constructive work, rather than stuck in the mode of ruing and brooding, sinking in self-pity, etc.





Statement of ICRC President Peter Maurer following visit to the Philippines
4 June 2019

ICRC President Peter Maurer visit to the Philippines
In his visit to Bualan spring, ICRC President Peter Maurer met community leader Datu Caloy Amer, who let the organization improve the water and sanitation facility on the land his family owns. (ICRC/Alecs Ongcal)

The remarkable resilience of the Filipino people became clear to me when I first visited after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. I returned this week to listen, to discuss, to offer support and encourage action as the country again embraces challenges and assists those in need.

This second visit affirms my view that the suffering people endure in natural and manmade disasters is universal. People lose loved ones. People lose their homes. Individuals and whole communities face an uncertain future.

In my interactions with conflict-affected people around the globe, their questions are strikingly similar: When are we going to be safe from fighting? When can I rebuild my house? How can I earn a more stable income? Where can I get clean water today? When can I be reunited with my loved one?

The 2017 devastation of Marawi City brought the Philippines’ armed conflicts to the global forefront. But for decades, many more communities in Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and portions of eastern Mindanao have been forced to flee their homes multiple times. Sporadic clashes deeply affect these families’ livelihoods, their ability to put food on the table, and their ability to send their children to school. It is a life of instability and uncertainty, and many people are living it daily, often long after the news headlines move on to another crisis or emergency.

In my visit to Marawi City this week, I saw a community dealing with the physical and psychological impact of conflict. I met a family of a missing person that hasn’t lost hope that news about their relative will arrive soon. I also saw how people we are assisting are making the most of that support, for instance a mother that has opened a small business selling food. I observed firsthand a people that will not let the conflict of 2017 defeat their spirit. Local Red Cross volunteers I met have been unrelenting in their support to the displaced people.

In my discussions with high-ranking officials, I felt a commitment and resolve to find effective, long-term solutions to humanitarian issues of concern, despite considerable constraints they deal with. The people need to be able to count on the authorities to be responsive to their needs.

I see indicators of hope, fortitude, and of shared determination to rise from the ravages of the conflict in Marawi and other areas in Mindanao still affected by sporadic armed fighting.

Nevertheless, in talking to victims, responders and authorities, I can see that the work is not yet done. Though responding to humanitarian needs due to conflict is the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I believe equally that all members of society have a shared responsibility to provide reprieve to those affected by fighting.

We all need to do more in our respective roles. We need to do better at addressing the consequences of conflict, but also, we need to do better in preventing or reducing those consequences.

The ICRC has long experience in dealing with conflict situations, as an impartial and neutral organization. We offer our varied expertise and support. Together with our partners in the Red Cross, we will strive to reach and assist those affected by conflict, no matter who or how far they are.

The ICRC will continue to promote principles of humanity and maintain our positive collaboration with the Philippine authorities at national and local levels, as they have the primary responsibility to address humanitarian concerns of their people.

If our common aspiration is that no person suffering the consequences of conflict is left behind, then let’s all get to work.





NAMFREL to COMELEC: Heed the President’s advice to junk Smartmatic

A press statement by the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)
May 31, 2019

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) calls on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to heed President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s advise to “dispose” of Smartmatic.

NAMFREL has taken note that the conduct of the automated elections since 2010 is not without the participation of Smartmatic, a foreign company. The conduct of Philippine elections, automated or not, should be left at the hands of Filipinos.

The President’s pronouncement opens up the opportunity to look for other election technologies. It should be noted, however, that Republic Act No. 9369 (RA9369) or the Automated Election Law prescribes that the automated election system “x x x must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad.” This provision effectively prevents local systems developers from participating in the development and supply of an automated election system. RA9369 needs to be revisited and amended to open up opportunities for local technology providers to supply locally developed election solutions that protects the secrecy of the ballot and ensures transparency of the vote count.

NAMFREL has proposed going back to manual voting and counting. NAMFREL clarifies that it does not mean going back to the old manual vote counting process. The proposed process involves the following:

1) Manual voting using ballots with blank spaces per contest where the voter writes the names of this choices and the ballot to be dropped in a ballot box,

2) Computer assisted vote counting using laptops and LCD projectors to publicly display the progress of the vote tally, thereby doing away with the tally boards pasted on all four walls of school classrooms that served as voting precincts.

3) Electronic generation of the election return based on the computer assisted vote count followed by printing of the election returns. The contents of the printed copy of the election returns may be compared with its electronic counterpart displayed via LCD projector,

4) Electronic transmission of election returns to the corresponding city/municipal canvassing server, and

5) Automated canvassing and consolidation of election results through the ladderized canvassing hierarchy.

It is high time that the Philippines’ IT talents are harnessed for our elections. While our IT community works on the appropriate responsive technology, interested stakeholders should push for the law to be amended.

NAMFREL calls on election lawyers, IT experts, election reform organizations, and other interested groups to come together and work with the COMELEC to look for the appropriate responsive, election technology solution.





We are not God’s puppets

May 28, 2019

WE are children of God, and not his puppets or robots. The freedom he gives us is real freedom because it can even enable us to go against the true nature, source, meaning and purpose of freedom itself. We can use it – or better said, misuse or abuse it – to go against God himself.

While it is true that God is always on top of things, he allows us to use our freedom the way we want it. Remember those famous lines in the Book of Ecclesiastes that articulate this truth: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (3,1)

Even if he is on top of everything, he does not treat us as his puppets or robots whom he controls. He treats us as his children, for that is how he has created and designed us. We are supposed to be his image and likeness.

As such, his dominion over us is a dominion of love. It is a dominion that is akin to that of the parents over their children, but much, much better than that. In fact, it is infinitely better.

There is some forcefulness involved there, but one that is not coercive. There is obedience and docility involved also, but one that does not compromise freedom. When we obey God and follow his will and ways, we do it because we want it and we know that it is good for us. Yes, there is some fear involved, but not of the servile kind, but rather of the filial type.

This dominion of love comes as a result of the abundant and gratuitous outpouring of God’s goodness over us – his grace, his blessings, his inspirations, etc. He is full of compassion, slow to anger, quick to forgive.

He provides us with everything that we need, especially the things that we most need in our quest for true happiness, our ultimate salvation, our fulfillment as image and likeness of God, children of his.

It is because God loves us first that we learn to love him and others in return. It is this love that enables us to live and use our freedom properly. And this love-inspired freedom leads us to our true joy where truth, beauty and everything that is good for us are integrated.

This love-inspired freedom makes us realistic with the realities of our earthly life where there will always be mixture of good and evil, successes and failures, joy and sorrows, health and sickness. It’s not afraid of suffering. In fact, it welcomes suffering. Neither does it spoil us when we happen to have good things in life.

We understand that freedom as the freedom of the children of God, where we are willing to unite our will with the will of God. We would never feel that we are enslaved or tied down by God.

The unavoidable conditionings that our earthly life entails will never be regarded as limitations. They would be assumed willingly and lovingly. They would be regarded as means and occasions to further our development as a person and a child of God, despite the cost, inconveniences and sacrifices that they may involve. In short, they are seen as what would enhance our freedom, not what would deter it.

To be sure, God does not want us to be mere puppets and robots of his. He wants us to be like him, full of love and goodness. We just have to understand that for our freedom to be true freedom, we have to live and exercise it always with God’s will and ways in mind.

That is why we need to develop a close relationship with him who actually initiated an intimate relationship with us. It was he who started that relationship. We just have to try our best to correspond to that relationship, in spite of our weaknesses and mistakes.


Last updated: 05/24/2020

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