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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
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
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.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
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
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.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
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
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
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
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…”
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)
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
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
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
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
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.
indispensability of the cross
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
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
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
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.
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
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
This failure is their
SYSTEM OF JUSTICE, particularly the failure within their POLICING