response to Callamard: An indication of disrespect for human rights
A Press Statement by
June 3, 2020
On 01 June 2020, the
Duterte government tried to discredit the observations made by UN
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution
Agnes Callamard on law enforcement officials in countries such as
the Philippines acting ‘beyond international law’ and allowing the
use of force in implementing government strategies to deter the
spread of COVID-19. Her observations were among those aired by
independent experts and rights defenders during a webinar organized
by the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the
Philippines (EcuVoice) last 29 May 2020.
spokesperson justified police abuse and brutality by invoking that
“(t)he use of force is not prohibited by the State provided it is
necessary and it is proportional” under international law and that
the government’s responses satisfy the criteria of necessity and
proportionality. However, we at EcuVoice see nothing proportionate
nor necessary in the use of force by state agents in the
implementation of COVID-19 measures in the past three months. The
observations raised by Callamard are all warranted and reasonable,
based on the numerous cases reported before the public.
Photos and videos
published on the internet and in various media reveal how the
Philippine National Police and local government officials employed
excessive force in questionable and baseless arrests. These state
agents have also imposed degrading, humiliating, and inhumane
punishment to supposed violators of quarantine protocols.
According to the PNP,
there have been more than 57,177 individuals arrested for allegedly
violating the government’s enhanced community quarantine such as not
wearing face masks or foraying immediately outside one’s homes for
valid reasons. Many were subjected to arbitrary arrests and cruel,
degrading and inhuman treatment such as beatings, being put in dog
cages, being made to kiss, sing and dance before authorities, forced
to do strenuous physical exercises, made to march or put under the
scorching heat of the sun, or being placed in coffins to teach them
a lesson, or forced to have sex with police officials in exchange
for money or quarantine pass, or outrightly murdered.
Also appalling is the
apparent misuse and abuse of legal processes, as police continuously
cite laws which do not specifically define nor penalize the alleged
violations committed by those arrested and detained who are thrown
in already impossibly congested and even subhuman jails. How these
actions can be deemed necessary and proportionate escape us.
EcuVoice also condemns the
disrespect shown by the presidential spokesperson to the UN Special
Rapporteur in his attempt to rebuff her observations. His
inappropriate debasement of Callamard’s credentials is consistent
with how the President has shunned and rejected international human
rights protection mechanisms by resorting to ad hominem attacks.
Such action has underscored the current administration’s utter and
obvious disregard of well-established human rights mechanisms and
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
May 28, 2020
HOW important it is that
we have a clear idea of the relationship between God and freedom,
and between freedom and love. Given our very confusing times, when
the distinction between truth and falsehood, good and evil, moral
and immoral is blurred, it’s very urgent that we get hold of this
distinction, if we wish to be on the right track in our life!
Everything true, good and
beautiful comes from God. There’s no question about that. Nothing
can be true, good and beautiful if God is not at the core of it.
Anything that is not true, good and beautiful does not come from
God, even if it has appearances of what we subjectively consider as
truth, goodness and beauty. And sad to say, we often get caught in
this trap of an anomaly.
Of course, in the rough
and tumble of our actual life in this world, truth and falsehood,
good and evil, beauty and ugliness can get mixed up in us but never
in the same aspects. One may be good in looks but bad in manners, to
cite an obvious example. So we have to be extremely discerning to be
able to distinguish, since this mixing can be very subtly confusing.
We may not even realize we are confused, let alone, wrong.
We have to realize more
deeply then that our freedom, if it has to be real freedom, has to
come from God. It has to be related to him, to his will, to his laws
and commandments. Freedom is not real freedom if it would just be a
matter of doing our own will. Our will has to conform to God’s will
for us to enjoy true freedom.
We need to strengthen our
conviction about this essential relationship between God and our
freedom. This is the truth about freedom. This is the truth referred
to when Christ told the Jews who believed him, “If you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8,31-32)
From here, we can already
realize that our living and true relationship with God is very
indispensable. Without this relationship in place, we simply would
be left to our own devices. And that realization should already egg
us to really take care of our relationship with God, knowing how
limited and prone to confusion and error our unguided human powers
With the relationship
between God and freedom clarified, we have to realize next that
freedom is what enables us to love, just as God’s love for us and
all of his creation was an act of freedom on his part. He was not
forced to create anything or anyone. There absolutely was no
necessity for him to create us. But He did it just the same, out of
In other words, he created
us and the whole universe out of pure love, a total self-giving that
can never be reciprocated equally by his creatures. This is the
essence of love which, according to the First Letter of St. John, is
the very essence of God: “God is love.” (4,8)
In short, for us to truly
love, it has to be an act of freedom. And to be able to love in true
freedom and not false freedom, it has to be based on God, rooted on
his will and commandments, and empowered by his Spirit. Thus, Christ
said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14,15)
So, we should know where
we can find true love and what would constitute as authentic love,
and not fake love. This is the love that Christ himself has shown
us. It’s a love that culminated in his passion and death in total
obedience to the Father’s will so our sins can be forgiven. This is
the love that he commands us to do!
Freedom of the
Press belongs to the people
A statement of unity on the
closure of ABS-CBN by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All (FMFA)
May 6, 2020
As the country battles a
pandemic, the government has found it more important to press on its
assault on media freedom through the cease and desist order issued
by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against
broadcast network ABS-CBN.
The timing borders on the
bizarre when on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Solicitor General
Jose Calida warned of graft charges against the NTC if it allowed
the network to operate beyond May 4, the date its 25-year franchise
It is doubly despicable
that it happens as our people battle a deadly pandemic, which they
will need timely and accurate information to defeat. To take away a
network with a reach so broad there are areas where it is the only
source of information could prove fatal during this plague.
While Congress professed
surprise and reacted with anger at what it saw as the NTC's
disregard for its sovereign authority to decide on franchises, it
cannot wash its hands of this travesty. Lawmakers themselves had the
whole time to deliberate on the bills to renew ABS-CBN's franchise
but did not.
But let us not forget
where the ultimate responsibility for the silencing of ABS-CBN lies:
President Rodrigo Duterte. Irked by the network's failure – since
explained – to air his ads during the 2016 presidential campaign, he
personally and repeatedly vowed in public to block the renewal of
And now ABS-CBN has gone
dark. The message is clear: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets.
It is just as clear that
Duterte's real intent is to silence the critical media and
intimidate everyone else into submission. And this we should not and
As a people, we must
understand and recognize that this goes beyond ABS-CBN. Government's
decision to close a major media network places the narrow personal
and political interests of those in power over the welfare of the
people. The fourth estate under attack, the silencing of dissent,
are symptoms of a virus that has found its way inside a weak system
Whatever complaints have
been lodged against the network, there are agencies in which these
should be threshed out. If anything needs to be corrected, these can
and should be undertaken with a greater respect and without
violation of the fundamental protection provided in the Constitution
for freedom of expression and press freedom.
While we expect the matter
to be brought before the judiciary and hope for a just resolution,
we must go beyond clearly damaged institutions to defend our rights
In this period of crisis,
when there is worsening poverty and hunger, we must all work
together, set aside differences, ease the lines of communication and
resist, condemn and speak out against government's attempt to
trample on our freedoms. Our people's lives could well depend on
this. For sure, democracy does.
We, the community of
independent Filipino journalists, call on all Filipinos who cherish
democracy and liberty to stand with us. This is our common cause.
Freedom of the press does
not belong to us, the media, but to you, the people. It is a freedom
we wield in the service of the people's right to know and to help
ensure that you enjoy your right to free expression.
We triumphed once over a
tyrant who thought he could silence our collective voices for long.
We can do so again.
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAMAMAHAYAG!
IPAGTANGGOL ANG MALAYANG PAGPAPAHAYAG!
MABUHAY ANG PILIPINO!
Beware of the
May 2, 2020
I’m referring to that
episode in the gospel where Christ was accosted by a man possessed
by many devils who called themselves, Legion, precisely because they
were many. (cfr. Mk 5,1-20)
It is said that the
possessed man was so unwieldy that no chain nor fetters nor man was
strong enough to control him. And that was because he was so
dominated by many devils that nothing and no one could help him.
Only Christ could.
That gospel story somehow
demonstrates what can happen to us individually or collectively as a
society. If we are not careful, we can allow the devil to enter and
possess us. And things can get worse when, God forbid, a demonic
infestation can occur.
We should always be wary
of the devils and be ready to handle them properly. They exist. And
their only purpose in their existence is to do evil, to go against
God and to everyone and everything that God loves. They were
originally good angels who rebelled against God upon their creation.
Being pure spirits and
therefore are free and intelligent beings, the devils misused their
intelligence and freedom by choosing to replace God upon their
creation. That choice has plunged them, being pure spirits, into an
irreversible eternal state of enmity against God and against
everything else that comes from God and is still with God.
Many if not all the
temptations that come our way originate or are being orchestrated by
devils. The proper attitude we should have when temptations come is
to reject these temptations immediately, never giving them a chance
to advance in their plot by dialoguing with them, and to go to God
Let’s remember that when
temptations come, it is because we have let down our guard. It means
that our union with God has loosened, if not completely broken,
often without even our noticing it.
Thus, when temptations
come, we really should intensify our prayers and presence of God,
since with God can we resist them. We should also submit our body to
some severe discipline because when tempted the body easily falls
and drags our spirit with it.
And given the way the
world is now, we can readily say that the devil is having a heyday.
That’s because with all the developments we are having today, we
often are easily intoxicated by them and we become quite worldly, a
perfect condition for the devils to pull their tricks.
That is why we have a lot
of disorders around – people into addictions, violence, terrorism,
suicide, envy, greed, laziness, pride, vanity, etc.
We should try our best not
to be swallowed by the worldly allure of these developments. While
these developments are good and serve a good purpose, we have to see
to it that they are always offered to God. Their use should be an
expression of our belief, love and thanksgiving to God. Otherwise,
they can only take us away from God.
In fact, we have to figure
out how these new developments play in the abiding providence of God
over us. They just cannot be allowed to flow according to worldly
laws and values. That is why we have to spend time praying and
asking God for enlightenment and strength.
There is also a need for
constant purification, since we cannot deny that in spite of our
good efforts, we cannot avoid some moral and spiritual dirt. Not
only should we rectify our intentions constantly. We should also
purify our thoughts, memory and imagination, our feelings and
passions, and our senses.
From time to time, we may
have to have recourse to some extraordinary corporal mortifications
like fasting, abstinence, denying ourselves some comfort, etc.,
since the body really needs to be properly subdued.
Lastly, regular and
frequent recourse to the sacraments of confession and the Holy
Eucharist would do a lot of wonders for us.
future of our agri heroes
JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP
CARD MRI Founder and Chairman Emeritus
May 1, 2020
Not all heroes wear capes;
many of them spend days under the heat of the sun ensuring that
every family in the country can have enough food on the table.
In this time of COVID-19
pandemic, every Filipino household face an equalizing basic need:
enough and steady supply of food so that their families will not go
hungry. More than ever, the important role of our farmers now is
highlighted as they serve as one of the frontline heroes in this
However, not all
agricultural workers and businesses have the capacity to run their
livelihood during this crisis. From Day 1 of the community
quarantine, farmers are deeply distressed by the health threat and
hampered by the necessary measures laid out by the government in
containing the virus. The agricultural sector, which is heavily
reliant on transportation facilities, faces the challenge of
transferring goods from farms to markets.
Additionally, peddlers and
vendors cannot simply roam around to sell their products due to
restricted movement. They encounter financial losses even as their
perishable products could not be sold, hence were either consumed,
given away to the neighbors and sadly, left to rot. If not for
institutions and organizations who protected our food security
frontliners, the agricultural sector would have been on the brink of
government has timely put in place programs that support the sector.
On the forefront is the Department of Agriculture who has been
implementing initiatives in order to respond to the needs of
agricultural and fisheries workers. DA has announced the provision
of cash subsidies and other financial assistance to farmers which
can be used for farm inputs or their families’ basic needs. In
partnership with TESDA, DA is offering online training on the “new
normal” in terms of food production and food value chain. Another
important initiative is Kadiwa, an online shop for agricultural
produce. Through this, the general public has greater access to
cheaper and healthy food supplies. This approach will directly
connect the farmer-producers to the consumers which will lessen the
cost of the agri-products.
On the other hand, a
number of LGUs have started distributing seeds to encourage
residents to plant in their backyards. In addition, they have been
buying produce from local farmers to include in the package of
relief goods that they are distributing to their communities.
These initiatives to
support farmers have greatly inspired us in CARD Mutually
Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement similar meaningful
programs for our clients in the agricultural sector.
Rebuilding small agri-businesses
CARD MRI has long
recognized the significant contributions of farmers from the time it
initially provided its services to landless farmers during its
establishment in 1986. The COVID-19 pandemic has called us to go
back to our roots and come up with innovative solutions to the
challenges our farmers are facing now.
It all started with one
CARD MRI client who supplied agricultural products as part of relief
packages to a local government unit in Panabo, Davao del Norte. It
sparked the idea of consolidating all CARD MRI clients with on-going
businesses through a Facebook buy and sell group. As CARD MRI
strives to create impact on a bigger scale, CARD MRI partnered with
DA to serve as a consolidator to the Kadiwa online shops through our
network of microfinance and SME clients all over the Philippines.
With the accreditation, our clients will be indirectly supplying
commercial volumes of agri-products to local government units (LGUs.
Through this, CARD MRI hopes to support many microfinance and SME
As the health crisis
greatly changes our buying habits, we also saw an opportunity to
ease the delivery and distribution of food supply more locally. We
recently launched Likha ni Inay Palengke on Wheels to help our
farmer-producers and vendors earn during the pandemic while
providing the general community greater accessibility to basic farm
products while on quarantine. The food lane pass granted to CARD MRI
allows us to bridge several producers and vendors to consumers. This
virtual initiative is hoped to significantly help in reducing the
spread of the virus. The Palengke on Wheels is now available in San
Pablo City in Laguna, Lipa City in Batangas, San Fernando City in
Pampanga, Bais City in Negros Oriental and Mati City in Davao
Securing the Future of our Agri Frontliners
As many of our farmers,
vendors and peddlers are crippled by the crisis, they will need
greater assistance to help their family and the whole nation in
taking small steps forward towards the “new normal” way of life.
While ‘high-risk’ areas in
Luzon remain on lockdown until May 15, CARD MRI will gradually bring
back its normal operations on May 4 in some areas in Luzon, Visayas,
and Mindanao to help its clients slowly restart their business after
more than a month of confinement and amidst financial difficulties.
The financial institutions
under CARD MRI will resume offering agricultural loans to its
clients to use as capital as they start the planting season. Looking
at the picture holistically, this will help the agricultural sector
address food security of the country especially those in lockdown
areas. As Department of Agriculture Secretary Dar correctly points
out, “While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for
food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real
as the threat of the virus.”
the key to strengthening resiliency
JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP
CARD MRI Founder and Chairman Emeritus
April 14, 2020
While the global community
seeks for ways to stop the COVID-19 outbreak, keeping free from the
virus is just one of several anxieties faced by the low-income
sector in their everyday lives these days. Accidents, illness and
deaths remain a reality for the poor.
Ninfa E. Beraminde has
been a client of CARD, Inc. for almost five years in Isabela,
Basilan. When her husband died on March 23, 2020, she did not expect
to be able to claim her death benefits as mobility was hampered with
the imposition of community quarantine. Likewise, CARD MRI members
or their dependents get sick, figure in a fire, or die even in the
midst of the pandemic. Four of our clients are now part of the
statistics of COVID-19 positive patients who succumbed to the
Clients of CARD MRI
automatically become members of CARD Mutual Benefit Association
(CARD MBA), which enables them and their families to become covered
under its life insurance. From Aparri to Zamboanga, Ninfa’s story
mirrors every poor families’ struggles amidst the pandemic.
beneficiaries are required to submit documents for claims
settlements in the Mi-MBA offices. However, through online claims
validation by fellow members who serve as Claims Processor right
there in their communities and submission of death and marriage
certificates through the Messenger app, members’ survivors were able
to receive from P30,000 to P55,000, depending on length of
Combined data from CARD
MBA and CARD Pioneer Microinsurance Inc. (CPMI), which are both
microinsurance companies that are part of CARD MRI, show an average
of 161 claims payment made amounting to P6 million per day from
March 16 to April 3, 2020. Industry-wide, the 18-member Mi-MBA
Association in the Philippines, RIMANSI, also pay claims in this
time of crisis Without microinsurance, less fortunate families will
plunge deeper into poverty due to the lack of safety nets from
Response to the pandemic
Resiliency is a common
theme for microinsurance companies. As such, member-institutions of
RIMANSI has been showing its flexibility to cater to the needs of
its members even during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since members of
Mi-MBAs are mostly from the bottom of the pyramid, the industry
declared a moratorium on the weekly insurance payments until April
12, 2020. During this period, the members will remain covered under
the life insurance offered by the Mi-MBAs. As the ECQ was declared
extended up to April 30, 2020, the microinsurance industry is
compelled to extend the moratorium until the ECQ is lifted.
Further, Mi-MBAs vows to
continue to provide fast claims settlements. The process is relaxed
such that claims validation are made through phone calls while
documentary requirements can be submitted online through messenger
platforms. As one member’s survivor from Batangas attested through a
text message, “Gusto ko lang pong magpasalamat sa CARD MBA sa
benepisyong nakuha ng aking ina na si Joy Austria.
Napakalakingtulong po nito para samen lalong lalona at wala kami
financially. Sa kabila po ng COVID nanararanasan ng bansa naten
ngayon, di ko po inaasahan na mabilis na mapaprocess ng CARD
insurance ang benepisyong ito ng aking ina through online. Madale
namen itong na claim… kaya nagamit naming ito pangbayad sa lote na
paglalagyan ng aking ina.”
Using technology and
available remittance services, claims payments are done within 24
hours, where physical barriers allow, a feat that is especially
appreciated by the survivors.
A tool for empowerment
With the emergence of
COVID-19, not only health but also the livelihood of small
entrepreneurs are jeopardized. The Mi-MBA industry with the
microinsurance industry plan to formulate new policies to address
the needs of the poor during a pandemic. The industry aims to
improve its regulation to provide a wider range of insurance
products for the poor in protecting them not only from death,
injury, and illnesses but also to the potential losses of their
income due to a national crisis.
To be able to do so, the
help and support of the national government will be much needed by
Mi-MBA and other microinsurance players to fulfill their duty in
providing extensive protection coverage to the most vulnerable
sectors in the country. The industry recognizes the current efforts
of the Insurance Commission headed by Commissioner Dennis B. Funa to
enable Mi-MBAs to be as responsive to clients’ needs under normal
times as the regulations allow. However, the industry’s services
need to be more proactive in times of national emergencies and
crisis and it will happen if other government agencies adopt
policies that will strengthen the Mi-MBAs and microinsurance
companies in the country. For example, tax exemption for Mi-MBAs
owned by the communities should be upheld so that they can have
adequate funds to create better products that will address the
insurance needs of the marginalized sectors during extraordinary
In the case of non-life
insurance (i.e. disaster insurance, agriculture insurance, and
property insurance among others) for the poor, a 2% reduction in tax
on premium will be a welcome development. In addition, a calamity
fund to assist its millions of members in times of national state of
emergency should be established.
As CARD MBA and CPMI,
together with the rest of the microinsurance industry, provide
affordable and relevant risk protection to more than 27 million poor
and low-income individuals in the country, they have become a
partner of the government in empowering the poor and creating
resilient communities. With the government’s continued support,
microinsurance will remain a beacon of hope in this time of distress
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 also
serves as the chairman emeritus of RIMANSI, the MI-MBAs Association
in the Philippines. He is the recipient of the 2019 Ramon V. del
Rosario Award for Nation Building.
Christ’s 7 last
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
April 8, 2020
IN case you will miss the
broadcast of the seven last words of Christ, given our present
condition, I am repeating them here with some commentaries for
whatever it is worth.
Indeed, I must say that
the seven last words of Christ have a special and unique importance,
and are always relevant to all of us, since they represent the
ultimate desire of Christ for us, summarizing everything that he did
and said that were all meant for our redemption.
They have the power to
instantly bring us back to the most fundamental reality about our
life from whatever man-made Lalaland we have gone. Or they can
correct our tone-deaf religiosity.
These are words that
simply drip with pure and completely gratuitous love, a love that is
meant also for us to learn and live. They speak of God’s mercy for
us, his assurance and guarantee of our salvation, the comfort we can
have by providing us with the care of Our Lady, Our Mother, the cost
involved in saving us, etc.
The first one, “Father,
forgive them for they know not what they do,” (Lk 23,34) cannot but
be a sheer show of magnanimity, of unmitigated goodness. Not only is
he asking for forgiveness for those who crucified him, who in the
end are all of us. He looks for an excuse for all of us. There we
can already see how much he loves us.
This supreme goodness is
reiterated in the second one, “Today, you will be with me in
paradise,” (Lk 23,43) addressed to the good thief who just had the
audacity to ask for a favor, never mind what he had been accused of.
This word simply validates what is said of God, that even if he can
get angry due to our sin, he is always ready and quick to forgive.
The third one, “Woman,
behold thy son…Behold thy mother,” (Jn 19,26-27) is a very endearing
one where even in the middle of extreme pain, Christ has that
mindfulness to give us whatever would provide with some comfort in
this vale of tears of ours. He gives us his own mother to be our own
mother too, a mother who will always be a mother to us all
Mary will not only be a
temporal and earthly mother to us, whose motherhood is subject to
time. She will be a mother to us even beyond time. And her
motherhood would not be confined only to our earthly needs, but also
and most especially to our spiritual needs.
The fourth one, “My God,
my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27,46) speaks to us of the
depth of suffering Christ had to undergo to save us. He feels that
God, the source of all goodness, has abandoned him, and that
therefore all the pain as the consequence of all the evil of this
world is what he is experiencing.
Try to imagine a situation
where all is dark, all is pain, all is evil, without a dot of
goodness! If we suffer in some way, just remind yourselves of this
word of Christ. For sure, somehow we would feel lightened.
The fifth one, “I thirst,”
(Jn 19,28) to be sure is not an expression of physical thirst, but
rather of his thirst for souls, his ardent desire to fulfill his
mission to save mankind.
The sixth one, “It is
finished,” (Jn 19,30) simply expresses that he has fulfilled his
mission, whatever it cost him. This word should remind us that we
should finish what we have begun, though we know it is God who
started everything and it will also be him who will complete and
The last one, “Father,
into thy hands I commend my spirit,” (Lk 23,46) shows the proper way
of ending things, especially when we see our life ending.
It would be good if each
of us makes his own personal considerations from Christ’s seven last