Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region


Transparency and accountability

March 12, 2019

IF we want our life to be good, we need to develop a keen sense of transparency and accountability. These traits assure us that we are on the right path. That is to say, we have nothing bad to hide, and more, we are seeing to it that we are responsible for what God has given us, making these God-given gifts fruitful and productive.

A good sense of transparency will help us develop and sustain our integrity in life. It means that everything that we do is good, that is, morally good. This sense of transparency can only take root when it is based on our faith in God who sets all the laws in our life, and therefore, all that is good for us.

Besides, God actually sees everything. Before him, nothing can be hidden. We therefore have to adapt a lifestyle that would make us do everything in his presence. In fact, we are not simply meant to do things in his presence. It is more to do everything for God’s glory. Thus, when we do things without God in mind, let us be warned that we are already doing things wrongly.

We should not base our sense of transparency on human, natural and worldly criteria alone. These latter standards do not capture all the good that is proper to us. At best, they may just be silent about the finer nuances and consequences of what is generally good for us. We have to remember that many mysteries shroud our understanding of things.

But what is bad is that our human laws and worldly standards have started to go against God’s will. This, of course, can be due to our limitations in truly understanding God’s law. But it can also be due to our sinfulness and malice. Nowadays, I believe it is the latter that has led us to make laws that are openly against God’s law.

We can try to do something about this problem by teaching the children to be transparent always, first to God, then to their lawful authorities: their parents, teachers, elders, etc. And with the adults, let us remind them often of the importance and the great many benefits that a working sense of transparency brings.

The same with the sense of accountability. This has to be inculcated in the children as early as when they can be understand it. In the gospel, many are the references that talk about this need for accountability. One is the parable of the talents where a master gave his three servants different amounts to do business with while he went away. (cfr. Mt 25,14-30) The master asked for an accounting when he returned.

We even have to account for the words we speak, as attested in this passage of St. Matthew’s gospel: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (12,36-37)

St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans also said that “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (14,12) And in his second letter to the Corinthians, he said: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (5,10)

We have to prepare for this judgment when we have to give account of what we have done with what God has given us. Let’s remember that God has given us everything that is good to us, even the way to recover our dignity as children of God once we lose it due to our sins. He has given us life, talents, the theological virtues, mercy, etc.

We should be ready to face God to give an accounting of our life with eagerness, not with fear.





Stop discriminating ACT members in election service!

A press statement by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
March 6, 2019

Over the last few weeks, teacher-unionists under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) have reported alarming cases of disinformation in various regions, where some local officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) have been declaring the ineligibility of ACT union members to serve as part of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) in the upcoming midterm polls. This is yet another attack against teachers’ right to self-organization and a dirty attempt to persecute ACT.

In Central Luzon and Eastern Samar, DepEd officials have purportedly been announcing in meeting with school heads and in teachers’ seminars that ACT members are prohibited from being part of the BEI for the 2019 elections. In Laguna, a document that made rounds among teachers detailed the qualifications of BEI members, which explicitly noted that members of the “Allegiance of Concerned Teachers” are not qualified.

The outright singling out of ACT members in election service has no legal basis. No law or policy allows for the wholesale disqualification of BEI members – especially not on the grounds of their affiliation to any organization, as such would be a case of political discrimination prohibited by the law. Furthermore, barring teachers from serving as poll workers is a violation of R.A. 10756 or the Election Service Reform Act (ESRA) which states that public school teachers shall be prioritized in election service.

This is a vicious attack against teachers’ economic rights. For underpaid teachers, the P6,000 honorarium they receive as workers during elections is a significant addition to their scant income. The accordance of a just compensation to the difficult and perilous job they take on every elections is a product of their determined and consistent effort to push for the enactment of the ESRA, and to prohibit them now from participating as BEIs is to deny them of their hard-earned victory.

This is a malicious strike against teachers’ right to unionize, a clear attempt at union-busting. Such efforts are aimed at forcing teachers to dissociate themselves from our union by stifling their work and compensation.

As the surveillance and harassment suffered by our members continue to intensify, another dirty tactic of vilification and persecution is employed by the state in a futile attempt to enfeeble us and our organization.

We call on DepEd to clarify this issue involving their local officials. DepEd must state for the record if there is such a national order to discriminate ACT members in election service. If so, how is this related to the meeting mentioned by retired DepEd Region 3 Director Torno which was supposedly held between DepEd and the National Police Commission on the government’s counter-terrorism campaign? The central office shall effect measures to correct the unlawful and misinformed pronouncements of its local officials.

We also urge the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to take urgent action to resolve this issue. As the commission with the exclusive authority to appoint or disqualify BEI members, we urge you to provide clarification on this matter.

We demand the immediate termination of all acts of terrorism launched by the state against us in the form of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and terrorist-tagging of our organization and our members. ACT Philippines and ACT unions are legal and legitimate organizations of teachers, administrative staff, and advocates who have consistently lobbied for and advanced the rights and welfare of education workers. Such are not acts of rebellion or terrorism, but are mere exercises of democracy.

The state, instead of subjecting teachers to intimidation and repression, should honor and dignify teachers for their unparalleled commitment and sacrifice in the fulfillment of their vital role in people’s education amid dire conditions.





Spending a Good Lent

By Seminarian LANCE ENAD,
February 28, 2019

Venerable Prosper Guerranger OSB tells us that the principal effect Lent should have in us is the renovation of our spiritual lives. In this sense, a person who comes out of a well spent lent should be a better catholic, a person who loves God more, a person more identical to Jesus Christ.

For most of us, spiritual perfection is the work of a life time. If we at least try to conquer a particular vice or defect and to acquire a particular virtue or to make a particular resolution for each lent, we would at least have a stable growth in our spiritual life – in the spiritual life, mind you, according to St. Augustine, not to move forward is to move backward.

It is a pity though how lent is almost not noticed nowadays and how the spirit of lent is chocked by the thorn bushes of the world. That is why it is interesting how in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (Tridentine Mass), lent is preceded by Septuagessima season – a prelude to lent – so that the faithful may be better prepared to spend a good lent.

In line with this, here are some things useful to spend a good lent.

Root out a vice or defect. Catholic Spirituality would tell us that each of us have a predominant fault – which is an obstacle in our spiritual life. Lent would be high time to remove these so as to advance in the spiritual life. If for example, one has the vice of intemperance in eating or drinking, lent would be the time to confront this, to purge ourselves of this vice, this capital sin which lead us to much graver sins. It would be a mistake to think that one would give up, let’s say, drinking in lent, and would return to unrestrained drunkenness after lent. A man with the vice of intemperance taking lent seriously should come out of it a man who has, or at least is sincerely trying to have, the virtue of temperance not only for this particular lent, or for this particular liturgical year but for the rest of his life.

Acquire a virtue. St. Augustine tells us that virtue is just another form of Charity – here I do not mean philanthropy but Charity, the theological virtue that has God for its object, that is, the Love of God. St. Francis de Sales also tells us that the devout life – the spiritual life – consists in loving God. In this sense, the renovation of our spiritual life would mean that we would love God more, that we will acquire more virtues – not for their own sake but because they are a means to prove our love for God. For instance, a young man, may use this lent to acquire the virtue of chastity – he would have to do some spiritual reading, a lot of prayer, a lot of mortification, a lot of devotion to the Mother of God during this season of lent to acquire this virtue so threatened by the world today. It is to be noted that virtue for us is not merely the fruit of personal struggle alone but virtue is not possible without the grace of God. If each person, at least in a city, decided to acquire a virtue each year, that city would probably become a city of saints.

Prayer and penance. Lent would be the time to form the habit of prayer or for those with this already, to intensify their prayer. The spiritual life is not possible without prayer. Prayer, apart from being the great means of salvation and spiritual perfection, is the means by which we acquire graces. Without grace, the spiritual life is not possible. Lent would also be the time to acquire or to strengthen the virtue of penance. There are so many reasons to do penance (something I discussed at length in my other essays). It would, perhaps, suffice to say here that lent is the best time to unite ourselves to our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross by means of penance and that the penance, along with prayer, is a pillar of the spiritual life.





Crucifixion time again

February 20, 2019

WITH new scandals assailing parts of the Church today (mainly in the US), we are reminded that we are into another round of crucifixion time for our Mother, the Church. We should not be surprised anymore by this development. But we should be prepared to handle this predicament properly and learn some precious lessons.

The life of the Church cannot help but reflect the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ, its founder and its body into which we, Christian believers, are incorporated. Yes, we cannot escape the curse of sin in our life as well as in the life of the Church as a whole.

Like Christ, the Church has to bear all the sins of men, including those committed by its temporal leaders. Christ did all he could to sanctify us. He preached, performed miracles, instituted the sacraments and founded the Church, etc. But in the end, due to our hard-headedness and all kinds of weaknesses, he just had to offer his life to save us. The Church cannot do no less. She has to suffer the same fate.

It is, of course, painful to experience all these scandals, but we should not over-react to the point of making things worse. These scandals, a consequence of human weaknesses that can afflict even our Church leaders, are actually a call for another conversion, which is something that is meant to be a continuing, life-long process for each one of us. Something very good can be derived from these scandals.

We just have to focus more on what we can gain from these scandals in terms of what can favor another conversion rather than on getting hooked on their purely negative aspects. Of course, there will be elements that will rub it in on us. Some sectors of the media will have a field day in this. But this should also be expected.

We just have to be ready to react to all this properly, as shown by Christ himself. And that is simply to suffer together with Christ – a suffering that is in accordance to the will of the Father. In a sense, the suffering caused by the scandals is another concrete way of identifying ourselves more intimately with Christ. In a way, it is a welcome development.

In the meantime, we have to do the continuing task of cleaning up our own selves and the Church as an institution. We cannot deny that weaknesses, temptations and sins will always hound us. We have to identify more clearly the deficiencies in Christian life that give rise to these scandals and come up with the appropriate measures to address them.

Offhand, we can take another review of how the formation of priests and seminarians is done. What improvement can be made in that department? How should priests be more effectively accompanied in their ministry so that their spiritual life would remain healthy as they carry out their heavy responsibilities?

And since transparency is also a goal to be pursued, how should this be done without compromising the basic human rights of all the parties involved? How should Church authorities handle cases where the legal rights of persons are involved? Justice, charity and mercy should go hand in hand.

These, I suppose, are some of the things that have to be looked into if only to minimize the cases of scandals that can unnecessarily disturb the people in general. It cannot be denied that the Church authorities have to install appropriate means and structures to be in step with the rightful expectations of the world.

It’s about time for the Church authorities to air out the hidden dirty closets. Transparency and accountability should be lived strictly. It certainly will be a very painful and unpleasant task, but it will definitely be for the common good, and will give due glory to God!





Preparing for Lent

February 15, 2019

February 17 this year, in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (Tridentine Latin Mass) Septuagesima Sunday –seventy days before Easter. The two Sundays after this would be Sexagesima Sunday (sixty), and Quinquagesima Sunday (fifty). These three weeks are a prelude to lent –in Latin, Quadragesima (forty). On that day, in the extraordinary form, the Gloria and the Alleluia are omitted, and purple becomes the Liturgical color. This season though is not yet lent but is a means to prepare for lent.

In the Parable of the sower, we see the seeds that are sown into the thorny bushes. They grow yet the thorns choke them. As we know, the seeds are the word of God and the thorns symbolize the world and all the things opposed to our salvation and sanctification. In this we can see the purpose of the Septuagesima: Lent is a very important season and that we ought to prepare ourselves for it to make the most out of it.

On the feast of Epiphany there is the tradition of announcing the movable feasts for the year. In the announcement of the date for Ash Wednesday, the cantor says “the beginning of the fast of the most sacred Lenten season.” This shows how the church has regarded lent as a very important season.

An authority no less that Dom Prosper Guerranger O.S.B., in his magnum opus, “the Liturgical year” that the Church wants us to make the most out of lent, a season of penance, that it may produce its work in our souls: “the renovation of our spiritual life.”

Oftentimes the distractions, the comforts, and the pleasures of the world render us indisposed to enter into the season of penance. Perhaps, before we know it, lent would arrive and it would catch us off guard. The Church invites us, therefore, to prepare the soil for the sowing. We ought to remove all that could impede or make difficult our observance of lent.

Dom Propser Guerranger O.S.B. tells us: “Now, the Feast of Easter must be prepared for by a forty-days’ recollectedness and penance. Those forty-days are one of the principal Seasons of the Liturgical Year, and one of the most powerful means employed by the Church for exciting in the hearts of her children the spirit of their Christian vocation. It is of the utmost importance, that such a Season of penance should produce its work in our souls – the renovation of the whole spiritual life. The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.”

Although Septuagesima has been abolished by the liturgical reforms. The values behind it, however, remain valid. The devil, the flesh, and the world remain opposed to our salvation and sanctification no matter how these are almost no longer mentioned. We need to prepare ourselves to lent. Lent should be the time for those who do not have a spiritual life to live one, for those who have, to advance. We need to pay attention to the affairs of our soul, to our spiritual life. These would not be possible of we are distracted and choked by the thorns of the devil, the flesh, the world, and all those opposed to our sanctification. Let the remaining weeks be a time to prepare for lent so that lent this year would be the best lent we ever had.





New imagination needed to understand global human rights situation

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
January 23, 2019

After two world wars, the first world elite realized the necessity of a global human rights movement, and cooperated with each other to bring that about. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a product of this imagination and determination not to allow past rights violations to recur. Subsequent UN conventions all followed from this imagination.

Unfortunately, today, that imagination is no longer manifested in the first world. The political elite in developed countries is now dominated by a narrow perspective that does not consider the conditions of the third world, where life is truly nasty, brutal and short. The first world is willingly turning a blind eye to the massive loss of human rights in the third world. Their attitude is almost cynical. This is most clearly noticed in the bilateral ties first world countries have with developing countries, all but ignoring human rights concerns. It is also visible in current UN forums, including the Human Rights Council. As Human Rights Watch noted in a statement earlier this month, when states with poor human rights records were joining the Council as members, “The Human Rights Council should not be a place where violators come to seek shelter. It should be a profoundly uncomfortable place for rights violators; a place where they know they will be held to a higher standard and put under the spotlight for their abuses. Membership has its consequences.”

There are several probable reasons as to why the first world has become so indifferent to the human rights violations in the third world. One reason may be the end of the Cold War. When the Cold War prevailed, there was a fear of a territorial shift in favour of Communist opponents. This threat no longer exists, with the elite in the first world and former Communist countries now sitting at the table together. The first world is therefore willing not to make any fuss about the suffering of the ordinary folk living in these countries.

The economic crises affecting the first world could be another reason for its myopia. With first world countries all preoccupied with their own problems, and an increase in isolationist practices, there is little united leadership toward human rights issues shown by the first world.

Aside from any other reasons, it is necessary to note that there is something radically wrong with the imagination and leadership regarding human rights in the third world. It is ironic that while today the first world knows more about the third world than ever before with the advancement in world communication networks, this very knowledge that the world possesses may be producing negative results. It seems as though the more the problems of the third world become known, the more pusillanimous and insular the first world becomes. Perhaps the feeling is that it is not within our power or capacity to deal with such horrendous violence and human rights abuse.

The result of this attitude is that people in third world countries who are fighting to improve their rights are today more isolated than ever before. As governments of third world countries are fully aware that the first world is turning a blind eye to the human rights violations in their countries, they are emboldened to attack their poor and marginalized communities. The present global impunity for human rights abuse creates political leaders who violate the rights of their own people without any fear or shame.

The few fine individuals and intellectuals in the first world who are concerned with global human rights situation are disoriented due to a lack of support in their own countries. Critical discourse is therefore necessary regarding the Human Rights struggles throughout the world. American lawyer Gary Haugen has captured this situation marvellously in his book, The Locust Effect. In spite of a few who are making strong efforts, the general situation of the first world is that it does not care about the global human rights situation anymore.

It is this that needs to become the focus of discussion among those who care for the lives and rights of everyone, in order to fire up new imagination on this issue.




True Devotion

January 18, 2019

In his book, “True Devotion to Mary,” – which every serious catholic should read – St. Louis de Montfort explains that True Devotion to our Lady is interior, tender, holy, constant, and disinterested.

Perhaps, we who labor for our salvation can use these characteristics for our benefit. It seems that these characteristics can be used as a checklist for devotion in general.

True devotion is holy. First, this would mean that true devotion (to the Blessed Sacrament, to the saints, etc.) would lead us to God. True devotion to Mary, for example, would lead us to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Second, this would mean that true devotion would lead us to abhor sin thereby loving God more. A person habitually in the state of mortal sin, for example, who prays the rosary devoutly every day, would one day either give up mortal sin or the rosary.

True devotion is interior. This means that true devotion comes from the heart and does not consist merely of reciting prayers and waving hands.

True devotion is constant. This means that true devotion is not impulsive but is stable. A person who has a devotion to our Lady, for example, ought to have a fixed program for his devotional acts and should be faithful to that. This could mean praying the rosary every day.

True devotion is disinterested. This means that a true devotee does not have -or at least is trying to do away- with self-serving motives but is selfless in doing his devotions and is motivated by love.

True devotion is tender. This means that true devotion entails childlike confidence. True devotion to our Lady, for example, means childlike trust in our Lady.

Moreover, St. Louis de Montfort continues to explain that True Devotion to Our Lady, consists in the imitation of our Lady’s virtues. I suppose this applies to all other devotions. Devotion to the Sto. Niño for example, would consist in imitating the virtues of our Lord in his childhood –meekness, humility, obedience to the Father, and all those virtues a good meditation on the Childhood of Our Lord will tell us. The Sto. Niño is also viewed as a symbol of the Christian Faith in our country. Devotion to the Sto. Niño then would compel the devotee to study the faith, to be firmer in their conviction to live and die in the catholic faith.

Let the words of St. Louis de Montfort be an examination of conscience for us. Are these characteristics present in my devotion? Am I trying to imitate the virtues of the Child Jesus? Do I study the my Faith? Do I read the catechism? If by the end of your examination you find out that your devotion fails to meet this, resolve to try hard –an harder if needed- to meet this aided by the grace of God. By the end of your life, having done these things, you would have been a better person –that is, more identical to Jesus Christ-, a better catholic, a virtuous person, and, by the graces God bestows upon you because of your devotion, a person meriting a canonization.





Celebrating Sinulog right

January 15, 2019

Holy days, have always been, at least on paper, sacred times. In these holy times, anything that could be a distraction from the worship of God is to be avoided –hence we abstain from work (although with exceptions) on Sundays so that we can spend the day for God, with our families, and for rest.

We see in the catechisms and in the preaching of many saints, especially St. John Mary Vianney, the phrase “desecration of Sundays.” St. John Mary Vianney often preached against it. Being the pastor of the village of Ars, he lamented how people worked on Sundays and neglected to come to Mass. On Sundays too, dances were held in the town –dances which fostered immorality and other occasions of sin.

Obviously, Sundays and holy days are days for our Lord. Holy days are especially set apart for the worship of God, for doing good works, for the family. Anything that would be an obstacle to those would be an abuse of these sacred times. Any sinful act or vice on these days –parties, or street parties, dances, etc. that endanger purity, that are occasions of sin- would be a desecration of these sacred times.

It is rather lamentable to think how Cebu City on the feast day of the Sto. Niño instead of being filled with grace, becomes a cesspool of sin, vice, and immorality. While we supposedly enthrone the Christ Child, the City becomes a pit of sin –so many souls that are in the darkness of mortal sin commit still more on this day and perhaps so many souls on that day, lose the grace of God.

You, Christian Reader, redeemed by Jesus Christ, would you tolerate how God is offended on the time that should be for him? On birthdays, we always try to be nice to the celebrant. On the day of the Lord, why is it that we offend God all the more. It is like how those engaged in theNi demonic mock God at 3am and how we remember the death of Our Lord at 3pm. God is offended, what is your reaction, Christian soul?

For this reason, it is important to give some advice on how to celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño well.

(1) Attend / assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is Sunday, you are obliged to assist in the Most Holy Sacrifice. Offer this mass for the salvation of souls, for the conversion of sinners, especially for those who will have the misfortune of committing a mortal sin on the feast of the Sto. Niño. Offer this mass as a reparation for each time God is offended.

(2) Pray the Rosary. This is a powerful weapon for our times. The Rosary is a meditation on the life of Our Lord. If you pray it every day, Sinulog would be a great day to pray all the mysteries. If you don’t pray it every day, it is high time to begin. Commend your soul and the souls of your loved ones to our Lady so that you will always be kept in the grace of God.

(3) Holy hour. So many graces flow from an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Spend an hour before Jesus. Offer it in reparation for the sins committed today and in homage to the Sto. Niño.

(4) Read the Bible. Read the Gospels. How fruitful it is for us to read the life of our Lord! While so many people do not think of God on that day –and so many even offend him-, you reading the Bible make it one person less.

(5) Preparation. Prepare yourself for the feast day of the Sto. Niño. Pray the Novena and meditate on the Childhood of Our Lord.

Sinulog, before it is a festival, before it is a time for culture, is a time for God, a sacred time- we ought not to forget that.





On Duterte’s statement that human rights groups are enemies of the state

A press statement by KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
January 10, 2019

Only tyrants and human rights violators consider human rights defenders as enemies, to justify their killing and other worse violations against them. It is actually those in government who order, encourage and perpetuate extrajudicial killings, illegal or arbitrary arrests, rape, torture, and other grave violations, as well as those who engender impunity and poverty and promote the sell-out of our country’s patrimony, who are considered by the people as their enemies.

We reiterate - Duterte’s sham drug war and its consequences cannot be justified by the government’s inability to resolve criminality and its distorted and unscientific analysis on the roots of the problem of the illegal drug trade. As long as the government sees that the solution to social woes is through its kill, kill, kill approach, as long it does not nip corruption in government in the bud by being complicit in the entry and proliferation of illegal drugs in the streets, as long as it doesn’t solve the root causes of poverty, it will always face criticism and opposition from the people.

Human rights defense is not the sole purview of human rights groups. Every day, every hour, several communities and individuals uphold and defend their individual and collective rights. The people are defending our rights. As long as Duterte continues to disregard these rights, he will be made accountable by the people.



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