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



Beware of the excesses of idealism

November 28, 2020

TO pursue ideals is always good. In fact, we have to encourage everyone to do so. It would show in some way that we are driven with love, with a desire to do good. That would be the best condition for us to be in. It would keep us from falling into lukewarmness, complacency and laziness. And, to be sure, we would be productive and fruitful that way. We fulfill God’s will for us.

Just the same, we have to be aware of the dangers that this attitude can also occasion. And that happens when we become too idealistic that we fail to be realistic. We get too attached to the ideal that we avoid considering the bare realities on the ground.

In a sense we fall into the excesses of idealism. That’s when we tend to build some kind of ivory tower, enclosing ourselves in our own ideas, theories and doctrines that, while useful to a certain extent, always need to be adapted properly to the objective situation or issue at hand.

That’s when we become armchair players in the drama of life, not realizing that ideas, theories and doctrines are no cold, frozen things, but are meant to dynamic, subject always to some development, deepening, and evolution.

What is worse is that when our ideals are not attained precisely because they are badly applied and adapted to the realities on the ground, then we can either fall into a deep state of disappointment and depression or into the other extreme of forcing the ideal by using violence and even terrorism.

Both can be a consequence of perfectionism brought about when we are too idealistic. Sad to say, we are actually seeing both cases taking place in the world today.

Another danger of idealism is the common tendency to make people associate themselves only with those who hold the same ideas as they have. This is not just a matter of having the legitimate specialization that all of us have, but rather of becoming a closed group that is unmindful of the objective needs of the others. Thus, we can have the anomaly of elitism.

It’s a subtle form of self-indulgence that can make people unaware of their failure to serve the real and objective needs of others because of the badly-based self-esteem they have due to their erroneous sense of idealism. In other words, they will not serve others if they fail to meet the standards and criteria of their idealism.

We have to be most careful with these dangers of idealism. What we should rather do is to be always mindful, thoughtful and eager to know, love and serve the others in their objective needs. In a sense, we have to get dirty with them, because no matter how sublime our human dignity is, we cannot deny that we always have weaknesses, failures and sins.

We have to understand that the road to our proper human and Christian perfection, which is to be like God as God wants us to be, is by truly serving others in their needs.

Of course, we have to see to it that our serving them should be oriented in the end to the glorification of God, and not just the meeting of some human, natural and temporal needs. But we have to do it by considering them in their objective condition and circumstances in life, no matter how difficult.





Do justice without delay

A press statement by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on the slaying of Atty. Eric Jay Magcamit of Palawan
November 26, 2020

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines welcomes the filing of criminal charges against the suspects in the slaying of Atty. Eric Jay Magcamit of Palawan.

IBP leaders at the national and provincial levels and his brother- lawyers have been quietly in touch with his bereaved family and have coordinated with intelligence, law enforcement, investigation, and prosecution agencies under our Lawyer Security Program. Within a week, the suspected killers and their cohorts were identified, arrested, and charged. We appreciate and commend the swift action and all those who helped bring the suspected murderers before the bar of justice. We are working for similar results in the more recent killing of Atty. Joey Luis Wee in Cebu City.

Beyond the consistent condemnation and justified outrage, we must act resolutely on lawyer-killings because violence against judges, prosecutors, lawyers and our fellow-workers in the justice sector mocks and erodes the rule of law. For if those who administer justice are themselves killed with impunity, how can the ordinary citizen believe in due process or feel safe and secure?

There are other lawyer-killings that remain unsolved by law enforcers or unresolved in the courts of law. We share the fear and frustrations of many about the brazen violence, continuing criminality and appalling impunity in our country. Justice is distant and delayed for too many victims. Since lawyers administer the justice system and occupy key positions in government, we must humbly recognize our individual and collective responsibility and shortcomings so that we may courageously do JUSTICE WITHOUT DELAY. Let us promptly finish the long-pending cases, pass the much-needed remedial laws and rules, enforce the law fairly and without favor. Accountability and “justice bilis” are long-term and sustainable solutions to our nation’s dilemma.

As Filipino lawyers do their sworn duty, we seek the vigilance, cooperation, and involvement of all sectors. Justice, and ultimately peace, are everyone’s business.

Atty. Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa
National President and Chairman of the 24th Board of Governors
Integrated Bar of the Philippines





The challenge of journalism today

November 23, 2020

WE cannot deny the very important and crucial role journalism plays in our life. It is supposed to bring us relevant pieces of news and information daily or in some regular fashion.

Journalism exerts tremendous influence in forming and shaping public opinion which is always a very dynamic thing, marked by many different and even conflicting views. It definitely is a necessity in any given society, let alone, the whole world. That is why it has to be practiced with a lot of care and sensitivity.

Given its fast-moving and delicate character, it behooves everyone engaged in it to really find the proper spirit that should animate his journalism. It should not just be at the mercy of first impressions, knee-jerk reactions, off-the-cuff comments or shooting from the hips. It requires a lot of study and research.

Neither should journalism be at the mercy of mere common sense and the possession of some so-called facts and data. These things, while having their legitimate value, can hardly capture the whole or global significance of any event that journalism is supposed to report on.

Facts and data need to be carefully verified. And more than that, they need to have the motives, reason, if not the spirit behind them probed thoroughly. Just citing facts and data is not a standard of objectivity, and much less, of fairness. A lot more than merely presenting them is required.

We need to realize that facts and data are not purely inert things that would simply tell us the whole truth. They spring from our human condition that would necessarily involve spiritual and even supernatural realities. Thus, they depend also on how we select them, how we present them, how we understand them, etc. Given this condition, facts and data can indeed come up with a great variety of consequences.

And neither should journalism be inspired merely by some ideological mindset. Again, ideologies can offer some help in analyzing and explaining certain events. But they do not and cannot capture the whole significance of the things reported.

Sad to say, because of this ideological flavoring of today’s journalism, we end up very divided and confused, as people become too partisan, biased and with deep prejudices. News items and commentaries can give out completely different and contradicting reports and views.

As a result, we are now fragmented into liberals or conservatives, progressives or traditional, capitalist, socialist or communist, etc. We do not anymore would know which is right. And this, of course, is no good news for all of us!

There is now a crying need for everyone engaged in journalism to return to God, to have a good, healthy relation with God, for only then can journalism be in its best condition. It’s amazing that this fundamental requirement for journalism, as in any other human endeavor, is often flouted by so-called professional and veteran journalists.

With God as the beginning and end of journalism, one would know how to be a good journalist, having a clear understanding of what his contribution to the common good is, what means, resources and possibilities he can make use of, as well as the limitations he has to contend with.

He would present things with great tact and delicacy. He would avoid absolutizing what only has a relative value, dogmatizing what only is an opinion, etc. In the end, he should do journalism such that God is brought to the people in the different issues of the times.





Delineating the socio-economic impact of coal-fired power plants on everyday life

November 10, 2020

Against the backdrop of controversy surrounding the effects of coal-fired power plants on people’s lives, I embarked on an original study regarding the socio-economic impact of 4 major Philippine coal-fueled power plants in Luzon and Visayas Islands. The data generated highlighted the personal perspective of residents living in close proximity to the coal plants.

Included in my research were the Calaca Power Plant in Batangas, Luzon (600 megawatts); the Mariveles Power Station in Bataan, Luzon (651.6 megawatts); the La Paz Coal Plant in Iloilo, Visayas (164 megawatts); and the Masinloc Coal Station in Zambales, Luzon (630 megawatts).

I limited my study to residents living with a quarter of a mile from the coal plants and randomly sampled 410 out of 3,000 households, resulting in a 99 percent confidence level, with a 6-percentage-point margin of error. Personal interviews were guided by a questionnaire tapping perceptions of coal operations’ impact on the environment, health, income, and life satisfaction, as well as, evaluation of the value and future of coal plants.

Environmentally, an average of 92 percent of respondents felt that they enjoyed cleaner air before the coal plant's establishment in their villages. Sounder sleep, pre-coal plant, was reported by 89 percent of respondents. A sizeable majority of 74 percent observed that overall environmental quality deteriorated post-coal plant; only 16 percent thought otherwise.

Health-wise, an average of 80 percent of the sample believed that they had better health before the coal plant's installation. Fewer illnesses, pre-coal plant, were indicated by 77 percent of the sample. The most frequently cited diseases were lung disease, asthma, primary complex, cough, colds, skin allergies, cardiovascular diseases, fever, infections, headache, and diarrhea. The root cause of these diseases was the coal plant, according to 69 percent of the sample.

As to economic well-being, the average daily income of respondents from Calaca, La Paz, and Mariveles decreased with statistical significance from P199 pre-coal plant to P105 post-coal plant.

Masinloc's average daily income increased from P285 pre-coal plant to P623 post-coal plant. Statistically, however, this increase was not significant. In effect, there was no change in the average daily income.

Life satisfaction was negatively impacted by the coal plant. Seventy percent of declared that they were happier, pre-coal plant. Only 14 percent disagreed. Seventy percent said that their quality of life was better, pre-coal plant. Only 11 percent believed otherwise. Nineteen percent were uncertain about the coal plants’ impact on life satisfaction.

Regarding the usefulness of coal plants, 45 percent opined that these energy sources brought about more costs than benefits. Only 21 percent saw coal plants as more beneficial than detrimental.

Asked about the future of the coal plants, 61 percent preferred a future without coal plants. Only 17 percent desired a future with coal plants. Fifty-seven percent signified that if they had the power, they would shut down coal plants as soon as possible. Only 20 percent expressed support for continued power plant operations.

In conclusion, it is my hope that environmental decision-makers worldwide consider scientifically-derived data before crafting and implementing environmental policies and laws. An integral part of these processes must be grassroots consultation. My research reveals that only 45 percent of households were consulted by government agencies. Participatory democracy must be ingrained in the political zeitgeist for countries to succeed in their complex search for cleaner but reliable and economically viable renewable energy which benefits the public weal.

• FREDDIE R. OBLIGACION. The author, a senior management consultant, mentor and scholar of the environment, gender, race, and social psychology, holds a PhD and MA in sociology from the Ohio State University-Columbus, MBA and BS Psychology (magna cum laude) from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He is currently studying the social-psychological correlates of environmental activism, gender inequality, and racism, as well as, presidential polling techniques and leadership preferences.





Beware of the Judas Iscariot syndrome

October 28, 2020

THIS is about people who are close to us but who can betray us, much like what Judas Iscariot did to Christ. Imagine, Judas was already one of the apostles, so close to Christ that he must have directly experienced the goodness of Christ. And yet he managed to betray him!

Of course, God’s providence is so wise and powerful that a greater good was derived from this truly horrible act. It’s nothing less than gaining the possibility of our own salvation, the reopening of heaven for us. But it should never be for this reason that we can even be cavalier in our attitude toward this possibility of betrayal.

Certainly, this possibility can also happen to us when we only go through the motions of friendship, especially with God, but only up to there. It’s just appearances that we would be making, giving lip service left and right, but not the real thing. When the opportunity comes, we can betray them.

To be sure, this is not just a simple act of infidelity. It’s a much graver type of infidelity that is played out in deceit. Its other name is treachery. It involves a network of hypocrisy, cheating and double-dealing, hidden and unexpressed critical thoughts, etc. Sincerity and transparency are thrown out of the window while retaining their masks.

This possibility is always around. We cannot dismiss it as something impossible to happen. Our human condition here on earth where we are always engaged in the constant battle between good and evil, between grace and our weaknesses and temptations around, can always make this possibility to happen.

When we are not true to our word and to our commitments, renewing and strengthening our fidelity to them from time to time, or when we do not correct our mistakes and sins as soon as we can, or when we are not sincere and transparent, we would actually be giving an opening for such possibility to happen. If we are not careful, the slide to betrayal can come quietly and surely.

We have to be most guarded against this possibility and try to nip in the bud whatever slight traces of its symptoms come to our awareness. This is also true in our duty to take care of others who can also succumb to such possibility. Once we notice the symptoms in others, we should already start thinking, praying and devising some strategy to help them.

In this regard, we can never overemphasize the need to be constantly vigilant in our responsibility over our own spiritual lives and those of the others. When we notice the onset of complacency and spiritual lukewarmness whose signs can easily be detected, we should already be amply warned and start to do something about it.

When we notice certain inconsistencies between the expressed intentions and words, on one hand, and deeds, on the other, we should already consider them as ample warnings.

Truth is all of us have the duty to take care of everyone else, especially those who are close to us. And one concrete way to carry out this duty is to consciously bring to our prayer each person with whom we have some special or close relations, or with whom some commitments are involved.

This is not, of course, a matter of spying, but rather an expression of genuine love and concern for the others. We should never be indifferent to anyone. Once we notice some symptoms of what we may refer to as the Judas Iscariot syndrome, we have to start to do something, praying first, asking God for some light and guidance, and coming up with some action plan.

Usually, what is just needed is to shower the person concerned with more affection and understanding, giving him always good example. In other words, to drown him with a lot of goodness with the view of leading him to a conversion!





The UNHRC resolution on the Philippines: A time of reckoning shall soon come

A press statement by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
October 8, 2020

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), as a co-convener of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice), has engaged in international advocacy and lobbying, including in the UN Human Rights Council, in relation to human rights violations in the Philippines since 2008. In light of the dismal human rights situation under the government of President Duterte, the NCCP, along with other human rights organizations, lobbied the UNHRC and its member states vigorously because domestic remedies have failed and we are compelled to seek to justice for victims and survivors as well as accountability from those responsible for such violations.

The UNHRC resolution on technical cooperation and capacity building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines falls short of our expectation. Truth be told, it does not mirror the findings and recommendations in the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This is most apparent in that it does not answer our fervent call for an independent international investigation. Still, this resolution does not exonerate the Philippine government from accountability for its many human rights violations among its citizens. It is, in fact, an acknowledgement that there is a serious human rights problem in the country: a crisis that is not being adequately addressed by the Philippine government.

Furthermore, we are disappointed that the resolution does not guarantee the entry of UN Special Rapporteurs and other special procedures to the Philippines. For example, this means that the new Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Jose Francisco “Pancho” Cali Tzay, will not necessarily be allowed to see first-hand the plight of the Lumad in Haran, a church-declared sanctuary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). As such, his much-needed assistance in correcting the false accusations made by Sec. Carlito Galvez that Haran, a church ministry, is allegedly being used by communist rebels to solicit support from international donors, can still be impeded by the Duterte administration.

This latest resolution only strengthens our call for the Philippine government to stop the killings and other human rights violations. We will maximize any venue opened by this resolution that can advance the pursuit of justice for the victims and survivors of human rights violations; however, we will continue to advocate for an independent international investigation. The NCCP is resolved to uphold God’s gift of human dignity. We will pursue our work with other rights defenders and with the international ecumenical community to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, the International Criminal Court, various governments and intergovernmental forums, so that those who violate human rights and undermine civil liberties will face justice and be held accountable for their transgressions. A time of reckoning shall soon come and God will “…let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).





Giving and receiving Christ

September 16, 2020

REMEMBER Christ telling his disciples, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Mt 10,40) These words clearly show that we are meant to be so identified with Christ that anyone who receives us receives Christ.

In another gospel, Christ said something similar also. “He who hears you hears me. He who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Lk 10,16) These words tell us that there has to be some kind of organic continuity between Christ and us.

Tremendous words, indeed, pointing to a tremendous reality about ourselves! And these words are meant not only for the original apostles or for a few people. They are meant for all of us, since we are supposed to be patterned after Christ, the Son of God who is the perfect image God has of his own self.

Since we have been created in God’s image and likeness, we can say that we are patterned after Christ. We are supposed to be like Christ, or as some theologians have described it, we are supposed to be “alter Christus,” (another Christ).

We can never overemphasize our need to be so identified with Christ that we really have to do everything to acquire the very mind and spirit of Christ which are where our identification with Christ takes place. In fact, we are meant to have the very sentiments of Christ as we face all the possible situations of our life.

The identification with Christ should be such that whatever we think, say and do, it is always Christ that we perceive, understand, follow and live. It is his goodness, wisdom, mercy, charity, compassion, etc. that should guide the way we understand and react to things. The way he reacted to things should also be the way we react to them.

No matter how mundane and technical the things are that we get involved in, it should always be Christ that we give or receive. Not in the sense of the physical Christ, of course, but rather in his mind and spirit. This way, we live out what Christ told his first disciples: “He who receives you receives me…”

This, of course, will require a lot of discipline on our part, since we always and strongly tend to be guided only by our human estimation of things. We get contented with just staying in that level. And often as a consequence, we find ourselves unable to handle our differences and conflicts, and the many difficulties and mysteries in our life. We find it difficult, if not impossible, to love everyone as we should.

Little by little, but in a lifelong and continuous way, we have to know more about Christ, as he presents himself in the gospels, in the teachings of the Church, in the sacraments, and in the many other acts of piety. We should pursue this path until we can say with St. Paul that we already have the mind of Christ. (cfr. 1 Cor 2,16) We have to remember that we can never know him enough, no matter how much we study him.

Anyway, we should not worry too much since Christ himself will take care of everything in the end. He will be the one to finish and perfect everything. Ours is simply to try to be with him. We may still commit some mistakes along the way. But if committed in good faith, it will be Christ who will correct them.

We have to overcome the usual awkwardness we feel when we take this truth of our faith seriously and start to act on it. If we simply persist with faith and humility, time will surely come when this identification with Christ becomes second nature to us.

And whatever we think, say and do, whatever we give or receive, it is always Christ who is presented and perceived, followed and lived!





Let’s always have civil discourse

August 28, 2020

WE have to convince ourselves that the best way to resolve our unavoidable differences and conflicts in the area of politics, social life, and other fields prone to contention and controversies, is for us to always engage in civil discourse, in cordial dialogue.

We have to avoid as much as possible engaging in discussions where we think our views and positions are the only correct ones, the only fair ones, etc., and those of the others have no validity whatsoever. That’s definitely the wrong way to look at things.

It’s unbelievable that some politicians, for example, claim that they have all the truth, that they are practically infallible about their views and ways, and that their opponents have nothing whatsoever of what may be considered as true and fair.

We need to listen to everyone, no matter how different and even in conflict their views are from ours. They will also have some good reason for their opinions and we just have to learn to respect them.

Even in their clearly wrong views, as in being immoral and sinful, they can always be handled properly without sacrificing charity, since evil can only have a power that is borrowed from what pertains to its corresponding good. All we have to do to rebut evil is to appeal to the good and the truth that is being distorted or denied.

It’s important that we presume that everyone has good intentions. We have to avoid calling to question the intentions behind the views of others, unless it can be clearly ascertained that there is malice.

And even if that is the case, it should be brought up in as cordial a manner as possible. To be avoided are the ways of sarcasm and ironies, direct, frontal attacks, insults and mockeries, name-calling, etc. In other words, to respond without charity. Charity and good manners should never be abandoned.

Let’s never forget what Christ told us about loving our enemies. St. Paul reiterated that point when he said, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge…but leave room for God’s wrath…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12,17-21) St. Peter also said something similar. (cfr. 1 Pt 3,9)

While we can have our partisan position in political issues, we have to remember that such condition should not undermine our universal goal for the common good that can be pursued in different and even in legitimately and morally conflicting ways.

Let’s not forget that temporal matters, as in politics, can follow some political doctrines that at best can only have a tentative effectivity and varying interpretations, and are always in need of updating, purifying and contextualizing.

These temporal matters hardly have dogmas where everyone is supposed to agree and to follow all the time. Temporal matters do not have the same status as religious faith and creed. And even in the latter, their dogmas are not supposed to be forced on anyone.

We all have to create the proper environment and atmosphere for a civil discourse, a cordial dialogue to take place. This is especially incumbent on our leaders, both the civil and the spiritual. Everything should be done to keep this environment as it should be – clean, open, welcoming, always working for unity.

The different actors and parties should do their part. The media especially should be fair and balanced in monitoring the developments. Everyone should have a clear idea of what can be tolerated and what not in the exchanges of opinions. Everyone should agree that some compromises may have to be made to reach a certain consensus, so everyone can move on.

There has to be some set of ground rules that everyone should accept. Of course, these ground rules may also be modified as we go along, but such modification should also be done gradually, not violently!





On the killing of human rights worker Zara Alvarez

A press statement by KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights
August 17, 2020

We are in deep grief and indignation. Today, we laid to rest Ka Randy Echanis, one of those who helped established Karapatan and staunch peacebuilder and land rights defender. Tonight, we learned of the sad news that our former campaign and education director and paralegal in Negros, Zara Alvarez, was killed in Bacolod City.

Zara, 39, was imprisoned for nearly two years and after her release, she continued to work as Karapatan’s paralegal and as research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program.

Like Ka Randy, she was included as among those tagged as “terrorists” in proscription case of the Department of Justice filed in 2018. Her name and that of many others were stricken off the list, but the threats against her by alleged State forces continued.

We extend our condolences to Zara’s family and friends, as we and many other colleagues mourn the killing of a beloved human rights and health worker. We will never relent in pursuing justice for Zara, Ka Randy and all victims of extrajudicial killings. We will honor Zara’s legacy as a passionate, selfless and dedicated human rights worker, by continuing the struggle for the realization of people’s rights.

Justice for Zara Alvarez!

Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings!

human rights worker Zara Alvarez
Zara Alvarez (center) together with Rev. Jeong Jin Woo (second from left) in a high-level delegation visit in Negros Island last December. (Photo by ICHRP)




◄◄home I next►►

Web Hosting as low as $1 per month