22 July 2008

A Call for Common Ground and Moderate Voices in the Population Debate

Defining Population Growth.
In the heat of the population debate, credible facts are a much needed commodity. Sadly, it is not uncommon that hard line representatives from both sides tend not to mention data deemed unfavorable for their positions.

Below are some relatively reliable data from Index Mundi that may help:

While the general population of the Philippines may have surged from 81.16 million in 2000 to 92.68 million in 2008, certain other data need to be considered:

1. The country's population growth rate is in steady decline, from 2.07 in 2000 to 1.728 in 2008.

2. The birth rate, too, has lowered from 27.85/1000 population in 2000 to 24.07/1000 in 2008.

3. The infant mortality rate, a key issue in the reproductive health debate, has also lowered from as high as 29.52/1000 live births in 2000 to 21.45/1000 live births in 2008.

4. Life expectancy has improved from age 67.48 in 2000 to age 70.8 in 2008.

5. Now here's the clincher, the total fertility rate (TFR) is also in steady decline, from 3.48 in 2000 to around 3.0 in 2008.

The site gives a helpful definition of TFR: "This entry gives a figure for the average number of children that would be born per woman if all women lived to the end of their childbearing years and bore children according to a given fertility rate at each age. The total fertility rate (TFR) is a more direct measure of the level of fertility than the crude birth rate, since it refers to births per woman. This indicator shows the potential for population change in the country. A rate of two children per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population, resulting in relative stability in terms of total numbers. Rates above two children indicate populations growing in size and whose median age is declining. Higher rates may also indicate difficulties for families, in some situations, to feed and educate their children and for women to enter the labor force. Rates below two children indicate populations decreasing in size and growing older. Global fertility rates are in general decline and this trend is most pronounced in industrialized countries, especially Western Europe, where populations are projected to decline dramatically over the next 50 years."

6. On the matter of HIV-AIDS cases, the adult (age 15-49) prevalence rate of .07% of the general population in 2001 has surged and then plateaued at .1% since 2003 till the present. The number of people living with HIV-AIDS has significantly decreased from around 28,000 in 2001 to around 9,000 in 2004 till the present. The number of deaths due to AIDS has also significantly lowered, from 1,200 in 2001 to 500 in 2004 till the present.

A caveat: The Index Mundi data is based from the CIA World Factbook. In a 2005 committee hearing on the reproductive health bills, Rep. Lagman and other proponents insisted on the "accuracy" of the "official" NSO data of 2.36% population growth rate, as opposed to the 1.61% growth rate of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, which the CBCP quoted.

Defining Abortion. The Church and pro-life groups have consistently accused the consolidated bill of promoting abortifacients, while its supporters have vigorously denied the claim. The key to understanding the polemic lies on which definition of abortion you are holding.

During the 2005 congressional hearings, supporters of the reproductive health bills seemed to favor the definitions provided by
Dr. Marita Reyes, Chancellor of UP Manila, who in turn quoted two "official" medical definitions.

1. For the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetrics (FIGO), abortion is defined as “the termination of pregnancy after implantation and before the conception has become independently viable.”

2. The Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Inc. (POGS) defines abortion as "the expulsion of a non-viable fetus or product of conception on or before the 20th week of gestation."

These definitions, of course, were strongly contested by the Church, which solidly teaches that life begins at conception, and, therefore, any act that causes the termination of unborn life after conception is considered abortion. In the battle of quotable quotes, pro-life groups are also not wanting of formidable experts:

1. Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School: “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception.”

2. Prof. Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of

3. Dr. Jerome Lejeune, (known as the Father of Fundamental Genetics), University of Paris: “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being…This is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” Further, “if the human zygote was not already an independent and fully human and viable being, then – in vitro fertilization would be impossible… embryo transfer could not be performed.”

Thus, Church and pro-life groups howl in protest at the explanatory note in page 2 of HB 17 which states that “this bill does not only protect the life of the unborn from the moment of implantation…”. The statement apparently even runs against Section 12, Article II of the Constitution, which states: “(The State) shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

The bill admittedly does promote contraceptives that prevent implantation of fertilized egg or zygote after conception. Thus, such contraceptives are branded by pro-life groups as abortifacients. Pro-"quality of life" supporters, on the other hand, stand by the standard FIGO and POGS definitions of abortion which enable them to argue that such contraceptives are not, in fact, abortifacients.

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Quality of Life?

"It's lunchtime in Vitas, the sprawling slum built on the City of Manila's garbage dump. Flies swarm as Bing, a 34-year-old mother of five, prepares a meal of salted rice for her children. While she feeds them, her husband sifts through the mounds of grease-stained cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and broken glass that crowd their home. He'll sell his rotten harvest for about $3.50. For their family of seven, that’s 50 cents per person, per day. The arithmetic is simple, Bing says. 'With every child I have, there is less rice each. I can’t give them all a good life.'"

This is the opening paragraph of the Time article "The Philippines' Birth Control Battle" by Emily Rauhala.

to be continued...

More stats and ruminations...

Kids in the wings

By Juan Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:25:00 07/22/2008

In today’s shrill population debate, has the “youth bulge” vanished like the “eerie missing voice of poor Filipino women”? “Youth bulge” is scientists’ shorthand for large clusters of potential parents: those between 15 and 30 years of age.

“Their hormones will soon be in overdrive,” the Sun Star noted. Children from their albeit delayed marriages could form a “boomlet.” But like women driven to abortion by lack of family planning options, these children in the wings are “invisible” in current exchanges.

Archbishop Jesus Dosado of Ozamiz casts into “exterior darkness” reproductive health bill backers. They’ll be denied Communion in his archdiocese. “Who is without sin” should be first to deny the Eucharist to others, snapped columnist Orlando Carvajal.

The bills “don’t legalize abortion,” scoffed Albay province’s Rep. Edcel Lagman. True. But Lagman and Co. copied from foreign laws abortion-on-demand provisions for their first draft. Alarm bells were clanging when they spiked offending paragraphs.

A conspiracy of silence” shrouds women who, denied family planning services, induce abortion, Professor Mary Racelis of Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last July 18. About 473,400 women had abortions in 2000.

Does that even out at 1,265 aborted babies daily? Hard to tell. Abortionists slink in illegality’s murky world. Reports by 1,658 hospitals, in contrast, provide hard data on abortion’s consequences.

Over 105,000 women were hospitalized due to complications, mainly hemorrhaging and infections, Racelis noted. “And 12 percent, or 12,600, died. How many more never made it to a hospital… or suffer lifelong disabilities is anyone’s guess.”

The UN Human Development Report reveals that 170 mothers die out of every 100,000 deliveries. The “preventable major causes” are: abortion, hemorrhage and hypertension. At this rate, maternal death rates will dip to 140, come 2015. This will sharply cut the 209 fatalities recorded in the 1990s. But we will flunk the Millennium Development Goal for trimming deaths to 52.

Abortions, meanwhile, have ratcheted higher, new partial data indicate. Do they now crest at 1,930 daily? Who knows? “Sino ba ang babaeng magpapalista na nagpa-aborsyon siya?” Racelis quoted a Catholic Bishops’ National Rural Congress participant. What woman, in her right mind, would admit she had an abortion?

This is glossed over slaughter of innocents. “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,” Matthew wrote. “Rachel weeping for her children … because they were no more.”

“The Philippines is in the midst of a ‘youth bulge,’” note Filipino demographers Corazon Raymundo of University of the Philippines (UP) and Socorro Gultiano of San Carlos University. Age distribution tables, from the 2007 census, haven’t been released. But projections based on the previous census say these youngsters may top 18 million.

“Teenage pregnancies have been rising,” the savvy UP demographer Mercedes Concepcion says. “If the proportion of those bearing children at ages 15-19 escalate, we may see a minor baby boom—unless these teenage mothers resort to abortions. Some of their elders did. No one wants that.”

Even a “boomlet” would further burden 79 provinces that haven’t started, in earnest, its “demographic transition” to lower birth rates.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, called for a new dialogue. “But did this dialogue ever leave square one?” the Bohol Chronicle asked.

“For more than 30 years now, the ‘population debate’ divided segments of society,” sociologist John Carroll, SJ writes. It has been marred “by mutual suspicions, one-sided arguments and caricatures of opposing positions. The outcome has been two groups, each dominated by more ‘hard-line’ spokespersons… They talk past each other without taking time to listen. (Ex-secretary of health Alberto Romualdez, for example, would gag citizens from commenting on population, if they are priests or religious, and constitutional right to free speech be damned.) “We must move past the deadlocked debate into an area of respectful discussion…”

How? Use undisputed facts.

There are four of us today where in 1948, there was one. Daily, about 5,800 babies are born. They’re equal to three villages. No crystal bowl is needed to tally how much more food, water, shelter, medicine, etc. an additional 1,098 villages will need in a year.

Poor families that haven’t spaced children find it tougher to break out of penury. Two out of every 10 married women want no more children for now, surveys show. Many cannot access family planning services.

Keeping in mind the common good, couples determine their family size, says the Vatican II Council document, “The Church in the Modern World.”

“Procreation and parenthood do not entail a right to have as many children as one desires,” writes theologian Fr. Aloysius Cartagenas. “The former need not take moral precedence over the later all the time.”

Informed discussion will enable “families to choose their preferred family planning methods, consistent with the Second Vatican Council’s teaching: the final arbiter of one’s decision is informed and responsible conscience,” 17 UP economists said earlier.

The Catholic Church supports family planning but bucks contraception. The Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay prelature and Cagayan de Oro archdiocese implement an All- Natural Family Planning program. Do other dioceses have comparable programs? Or do they stop at “anathemas”?

There’s far more common ground than the hard-liners indicate. And the consequences of failing to find areas of agreement will be dire.

21 July 2008

Responsible mining drives growth?

A Response to "Responsible mining drives growth - Jose Leviste Jr."

Trust a miner to talk about the hopes and dreams of a better Philippines pinned upon a measly 2% excise tax on mining, and then to belittle the Catholic Church's and "international welfare agencies"' anti-mining polemics as nothing but appeals to romantic ideals of national patrimony, and then conveniently lump them with certain seedy local powers-that-be who just want the money for themselves.

The issue for Mr. Leviste is money. What about sustainable development? And are we forgetting something else, like the environment? By the way Mr. Leviste analyzed things, it seemed like the environment was never an issue. The word was mentioned not even once in his article. Okay, the article was just an excerpt, so there just might be some other things left out. And he did use "responsible mining", the one motherhood statement pro-miners rally about.

Could mining be ever responsible in a corruption-mired industry, with a corrupt and inept State monitoring and regulatory system? Could mining be ever responsible when indigenous peoples and local communities are, at turns, deceived, threatened and their rights violated? Could mining be ever responsible in such ecologically fragile islands as Rapu-Rapu, Sibuyan and Palawan?

But for Mr. Leviste, the main issue is money. Let's talk about money then. In most countries around the world, where there is mining, there exist the State's pre-tax share of the cash flow generated by a mining project, representing the national patrimony, which averages a hefty 38% (Chile 15.00%, Bolivia 27.06%, Venezuela 32.82%, Peru 36.52%, United States 36.61%, Mexico 37.21%, Botswana 40.10%, Brazil 40.85%, Argentina 46.13%, Canada 46.71%, Guyana 48.16%, Australia 50.60%)! In the Philippines , the share representing the national patrimony is exactly zero percent.

If this government is giddy about the financial benefits of mining, and mining companies are harping about following international standards, then why is nobody from both sides talking about a 38% pre-tax share from mining? Of course, the issue is money, more money for themselves. Obviously, mining companies and certain seedy national government powers-that-be want the rest of us to believe a 2% excise tax is the best deal we could ever have.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church and Mr. Leviste's "
international welfare agencies" don't think so. Unfortunately though, no matter how they whine about the bad rep they're getting, mining companies and corrupt government officials are already getting the money, while the rest of the Filipinos are left with an environment irreparably damaged and patrimony irreversibly wasted.

Responsible mining drives growth - Jose Leviste Jr.

The report of the Fraser Institute of Canada shows that the Philippines ranks among the highest in the world in terms of prospectivity and among the lowest in the world in terms of investability.

I have some difficulty with that position and I will tell you why. First, if the Philippines is bad as they say, why is that companies are still fighting to get a piece of the action in the Philippines? Sure, much of the promised investment on the ground is still waiting to happen but on the exchanges of Sydney, London, Toronto and elsewhere, the stocks of
companies that have projects in the Philippines are much sought after.

The fact is that despite the noise, quite a deal is happening in the Philippines and much of it for the good of the industry. We may not have seen much of the promised investment actually hit the ground as yet but we have certainly seen quite a deal of activity in regard to the shares of international companies that are developing local projects.

Only around 30 percent of the Philippines has been properly surveyed and yet already it is regarded as the fifth most mineralized country in the world. The total value of those minerals in today’s market is estimated at more than $840 billion.

If “exploited” in the proper way, with an excise tax of 2 percent being paid to government, that is $16.8 billion in royalty payments alone, of which $6.7 billion would be paid to local government units; plus a further one percent in royalties to indigenous communities—$8.4 billion.

Those numbers would start to make a real difference, especially if they provided the catalyst for further downstream investment. Mining, responsible mining that is, is an important driver of future growth of the Philippines.

Bad news

You hear much about the bad news on mining in the Philippines but much less about the good news. That is the nature of journalism. Anything unfortunate that happens is considered newsworthy. Anything good that happens is regarded as corporate propaganda.

What is the true story of what is happening with mining in the Philippines?

The fact is that there continues to be a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of the Philippines over the efficacy of the 1995 Mining Act which back in late 2004 was declared to be constitutional ‘with finality’ by the Supreme Court and which allows foreign companies to enter into agreements with the government of the Philippines to explore and develop local mineral deposits on behalf of the people of the Philippines.

At root, and in the context of responsible mining, it is all about money. This is not an issue that is unique to the Philippines. Fights over money and who gets what are as old as time and mining companies are used to such fights.

To exploit known mineral reserves in a manner consistent with international best practice requires both money and technology that is not available locally. International best practice is locked in battle right now (in some places) with vested local interests who wish to exploit these resources for themselves. Their argument is couched in terms of “national patrimony” and “Filipino first.” These are terms that appeal to certain elements of the Catholic Church and to international welfare agencies who echo the refrain—but the truth of the matter is somewhat different.

What these people really mean by the terms they use is that they do not wish to share local wealth but keep it for themselves. Remember that small-scale miners (ostensibly pick-and-shovel stuff but in fact many so-called small-scale miners are anything but small-scale) do not report their income to the national government, do not pay excise taxes and often pay their “taxes” not by cheque but in cash—without the corresponding receipts.

So the real battle is between a system whereby earnings from mining will be returned to the national and local governments as well as the people of the Philippines through defined revenue sharing formula and in a manner that will redistribute wealth throughout the Philippines versus a system which enriches a few local oligarchs and the politicians that support them while keeping the mass of the people impoverished.

Pockets of resistance

Among the various “stakeholders,” some of the opposition to national mining policy is brought about through ignorance while other opposition is ideological in nature—vested interests are under threat.

At the national level, the fight has already been won. The national government is firmly behind the minerals industry as a future driver of our growth. What you are seeing now are the mopping up operations of that fight—pockets of resistance that are holding out and fighting ferociously in the process. And yes, sadly, there are delays and occasional road blocks in some prospective mining areas of the country.

But these delays and occasional road blocks, as unfortunate as they are, should not discourage us but should steel us in our resolve to win the fight on behalf of the legitimate industry.

Indeed, the situation is changing for the better and the legitimate industry is slowly again gaining the upper hand. We say “again” because it was a battle already won back in 2005 but which was set back immeasurably by the incidents at the Rapu Rapu mine in Albay province. The response to those incidents and the manner in which they were handled by the previous management at the time damaged not only the company but set back the entire industry. It was caught flat-footed.

Rapu Rapu got new Filipino management, was rehabilitated and is now under new Korean and Malaysian ownership and management and it remains to be seen how the new owners handle things from this point.

Certainly the industry cannot afford another setback of this nature.

Revenues for local government

Evidently, “enough is enough” and mining companies, traditionally wanting to keep a low profile and needing to refer any public comment back to their corporate headquarters, are now starting to realize that profiles can sometimes be too low.

The key issue of course again comes back to money and the need to ensure that revenues from mining activities flow back to local government in a transparent and timely fashion. There is some validity to the complaint of many local officials that they have yet to see any benefit from allowing foreign mining companies to undertake activities in their areas. That has to change and is changing.

So while the Philippines may not represent the best of all possible worlds, it is far from being the worst either. Our international credibility is starting to improve.

But in the Philippines as in any business venture, the time to get in is when things are just starting to move. Wait too long and you will assuredly miss the boat.

These are excerpts from the speech of the author in Brisbane, Australia on June 26, 2008. He is resident representative of the Australia-Philippine Business Council and chairman of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.

04 March 2008

An EO 464 catechism

Sounding Board
By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:05:00 03/03/2008

[Legislative] hearings have served an important role in ventilating issues of profound national concern. In fact, the modern function of hearings is often simply to focus the national attention and place a pressing issue on the nation’s agenda. Some might say that, in certain legislative sessions, such consciousness-raising ranks among Congress’ most constructive accomplishments. —Lawrence Tribe

MANILA, Philippines - Pardon me if the catechist in me should come out, but there is so much confusion about EO 464 that I thought the catechetical method might be the clearest approach. So, here goes:

Q. Is Executive Order 464 still alive?

A. The Supreme Court in Senate v. Ermita said: “Sections 2(b) and 3 of Executive Order No. 464 ... are declared VOID. Sections 1 and 2(a) are, however, VALID.”

Q. What does the voided Sections 3 say?

A. It says: “All public officials enumerated in Section 2 (b) hereof shall secure prior consent of the President prior to appearing before either House of Congress to ensure the observance of the principle of separation of powers, adherence to the rule on executive privilege and respect for the rights of public officials appearing in inquiries in aid of legislation.”

Q. Who are the officials in Section 2(b) referred to in Section 3.

A. They are:

“Senior officials of executive departments who in the judgment of the department heads are covered by the executive privilege;

“Generals and flag officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and such other officers who in the judgment of the Chief of Staff are covered by the executive privilege;

“Philippine National Police (PNP) officers with rank of chief superintendent or higher and such other officers who in the judgment of the Chief of the PNP are covered by the executive privilege;

“Senior national security officials who in the judgment of the National Security Adviser are covered by the executive privilege; and

“Such other officers as may be determined by the President.”

Q. Are there any officials whom the President may prevent from testifying?

A. If the hearing is an inquiry in the exercise of congressional “oversight function” under Article VI, Section 22, Department Secretaries may not appear without the prior consent of the President. This is repeated in Section 1 of EO 464 which the Supreme Court declared valid.

If the hearing is “in aid of legislation” under Article VI, Section 21 of the Constitution, anyone, except the President and Justices of the Supreme Court, may be summoned.

Q. If the President cannot use EO 464 to block the testimony of officials enumerated in Section 2(b) above, can she still prevent testimony?

A. Yes, by claiming that the testimony being sought is covered by “executive privilege.”

Q. What is “executive privilege”?

A. It is the constitutionally recognized right of the President to withhold certain types of information from Congress, the courts or from the public.

Q. What types of information can be covered by executive privilege?

A. Section 2(a) of EO 464, upheld as valid by the Supreme Court, enumerates the following which are taken from earlier decisions:

1. Conversations and correspondence between the President and the public official covered by this executive order

2. Military, diplomatic and other national security matters which in the interest of national security should not be divulged;

3. Information between inter-government agencies prior to the conclusion of treaties and executive agreements;

4. Discussion in closed-door Cabinet meetings;

5. Matters affecting national security and public order.

Q. Who may claim executive privilege?

A. Only the President or a high official who, after consultation with the President, is authorized by her to claim the privilege.

Q. Must every claim of executive privilege based on the above enumeration be honored?

A. No. The Court in Senate v. Ermita said that in determining the validity of a claim of privilege, the question that must be asked is not only whether the requested information falls within one of the traditional privileges, but also whether that privilege should be honored in a given procedural setting. Thus it is not for one claiming executive privilege “to unilaterally determine that a duly-issued Subpoena should be totally disregarded.”

Q. Who then determines whether the claimed privilege should be honored?

A. The Court. Thus, for instance, when the Nixon administration claimed privilege for certain tapes about the Watergate break-in, the Court, after looking at the claimed privilege behind closed doors, held that the tapes were not covered by privilege and should be released.

For this reason, our Court also said that “Absent then a statement of the specific basis of a claim of executive privilege, there is no way of determining whether it falls under one of the traditional privileges, or whether, given the circumstances in which it is made, it should be respected.” The lack of specificity renders an assessment of the potential harm resulting from disclosure impossible.

Q. What was the opening sentence of the Court in its decision on EO 464?

A. “A transparent government is one of the hallmarks of a truly republican state.”

Q. The President has formed a legal team to study what to do with the appeal of the Bishops to abandon EO 464. What should they say?

A. They should say, “Madam President, read Senate v. Ermita and obey it and thereby begin the process of your salvation.”

03 March 2008

Should bishops lead political actions?

Public Lives
By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:44:00 02/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial Friday, titled “Checkmated bishops,” sharply rebukes the Catholic bishops for refusing to take up the activist role that the late Jaime Cardinal Sin had played in past political crises: i.e., “to make clear to the populace what should be done,” and “to lead the people.” The editorial echoes a popular, if dangerous, view. I am sure the editors will not mind this rejoinder in the spirit of democratic debate.

But, first, a disclosure. My younger brother, Pablo Virgilio David, is auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of San Fernando City in Pampanga province. He is also a member of the permanent council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The proper role of the clergy in the modern world has been a recurrent topic of our conversations. We have looked at the question critically from the perspective of social theory and of Catholic doctrine. I can say in all candor that my bishop-brother is more open to the idea of the clergy playing an activist role in Philippine political matters during crucial moments, than I am willing to concede as a secular democrat.

The Inquirer editorial states: “If there’s any sector that should have the intellectual sophistication and moral conviction to make clear to the populace what should be done, it should be the Catholic bishops.” I grant the intellectual sophistication and moral conviction of many of our Catholic bishops, but I would not want them, as religious leaders, to tell me what to do or what to believe in politics, or law, or science, or art, etc.

To beg them to tell us what to do or to lead us in the fight against an abusive regime is to authorize them to substitute their judgment for the public’s own evolving opinion. It is one thing to welcome a reading of events from the moral standpoint of the clergy, but it is another to allow that interpretation -- for all its sophistication and conviction -- to dominate the entire horizon of our understanding of the world. I am glad that today’s bishops no longer treat us like children. They have prodded us to form “circles of discernment,” to draw strength from the solidarity we can offer to those who risk their lives as they speak the truth, and to decide as a community what forms of action we should undertake. It is all they should do in a society that aspires to be a democracy. That is not an abdication of their moral duty; it is a prudent recognition of the limits of their authority.

Nations that put religious leaders at the forefront of the State are becoming a thing of the past, notwithstanding the resurgence of a kind of religious fundamentalism that seeks to colonize every sphere of society. Our break from such a tradition was decisive at the very moment of our birth as an independent nation -- in the drafting of the Malolos Constitution. We cannot return to it. No doubt, we continue to feel the influence in our modern lives of a moral code supplied by religion. As an element of our moral identity as a people, it has a positive impact on our society. Be that as it may, I think it is a great setback to be waiting for new Cardinal Sins to make clarion calls summoning us to the EDSA highway [site of people power uprisings -- Editor] or to anywhere else, just as I think it is a setback politically when religious leaders dictate government policy to those they have helped install to power.

I share everything else that the Inquirer editorial expresses in urgent tones. “If the administration has become a constitutional wrecking crew, then what should people of conscience do?” the Inquirer asks. We should trust that conscience is not a monopoly of the bishops. Pope Benedict XVI once said that the role of the clergy is to form and educate consciences, and not to substitute their conscience for that of the laity’s. In the face of a political crisis, many of us will find this papal reminder conservative. But, insofar as it springs from a respect for the autonomy of functional spheres, it is correct, modern, and democratic.

To ask the bishops to instruct us to do more, on account of the moral influence they wield, is to follow a shortcut. It is analogous to begging the military to launch a coup to topple a government, using the armed power that the Constitution has placed in their hands. These are shortcuts because they bypass the longer and circuitous route of political conscientization and organization. Consequently, the regime change that is the fruit of the journey cannot be the achievement of the people themselves. They are brought to where they are without knowing where they are. The journey does not teach them anything about themselves or about politics. A new government is formed in their name, but they cannot see themselves as its authors or its stewards.

If all this sounds familiar, it is because we’ve been there before. In our impatience, we, who think of ourselves as intellectually sophisticated, lead the march for change and leave the rest of the people behind. When the dust settles down, seeing that the people are back to where they came from, we ask, perplexed, why they have gone back to their old ways. The fact is they never left. We did not give them the chance to think for themselves, find their own way, and free themselves.

It bothers me to have to write like this when we appear once more on the verge of a regime change, and all that is needed, it seems, is to get our moral elders to lead the way. I beg to disagree. At the risk of being misunderstood, I consider political action resulting from the slow boil of the people’s anger ultimately more enduring than any dish we can cook with microwave heat.

February 29 Inter-Faith Rally for Truth and Accountability in Legazpi City

While thousands gather in Makati City for the Inter-Faith Rally on 29 February, similar, albeit relatively smaller rallies, were also held in many cities around the country, Legazpi City included. The nation wants to know the whole truth about the NBN-ZTE scam and the extent of corruption in government.

Scenes from the Via Crucis for Truth and Justice in Legazpi City on 29 February 2008. The activity was organized by the Krusada para sa Katotoohan asin Katanosan, and participated by different Church groups, Catholic schools and parish organizations in the city . A separate rally organized by militant groups was held in Daraga, Albay. The two rallies traversed Rizal Street from opposite directions and converged at Peñaranda Park at Old Albay District.

29 February 2008

Diocese of Legazpi holds mass for truth

Melo M. Acuña
CBCP News Online

LEGAZPI CITY, February 28, 2008—The Diocese of Legazpi under its Apostolic Administrator Bishop Lucilo B. Quiambao held its Mass for Truth yesterday at St. Stephen Parish in Ligao City, hometown of ZTE-NBN star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., which drew hundreds of students, lay leaders and various sectoral representatives.

CMN-DWBS Reporter Susan Balane in her report to Radio Veritas early Thursday morning said 41 priests concelebrated with Bishop Quiambao.

In his homily, Legazpi vicar general Msgr. Ramon Tronqued, said their activities in the diocese form part of the communal action called for by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Msgr. Tronqued said Albayanos have been reeling from natural disasters which sent people to evacuation centers known as staging areas and “could no longer take man-made calamities” brought about by graft and corrupt practices by people in government.

ZTE-NBN star witness Jun Lozada spoke to the crowd at St. Stephen parish through his cellphone.

Another activity is scheduled tomorrow, in time for the big interfaith prayer rally in Makati. It will feature the Stations of the Cross from St. Raphael Parish at the Legazpi Port District until Peñaranda Park in front of the Albay Provincial Capitol and Legazpi City Hall.

Crisis of truth

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:46:00 02/28/2008

The pastoral statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), issued Tuesday, takes a few small steps forward and one large step back. No wonder the public is confused. What, in fact, are the bishops saying?

Let’s begin with the obvious. The bishops, meeting in an emergency plenary session, did not call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign. But whoever expected the bishops to make such an appeal is either a political innocent or an incompetent strategist. Even bishops who are politically active against the Arroyo administration had told their friends in the media beforehand that a resignation call was not—and could not have been—in the cards. Politics, even of the episcopal variety, is the art of the possible.

Short of that unrealistic expectation, however, the much-anticipated statement still managed to disappoint.

Don’t get us wrong. The statement is a calm and reasoned argument for greater public accountability. It makes several telling points, both in its introductory passages and in its specific recommendations.

It acknowledges that the entire country faces “a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption.” This is a significant departure, or rather development, from the CBCP pastoral statement only last month, when the bishops took pains to distinguish the concerns of Metro Manila from those of the provinces. We are all, indeed, in the throes of a crisis of truth.

In recognizing that “the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless,” the statement also accepts—even if it does not endorse—that what is in question in this crisis is the “moral ascendancy of the present government.” We may have different answers, but we are all, indeed, weighing not the political or economic but the very moral viability of the Arroyo administration.

The Feb. 26 statement also calls on the President to strike Executive Order 464 off the books. Some analysts, not all of them partial to the opposition, think this appeal is redundant or downright useless. The Supreme Court in 2006 famously invalidated two provisions in the EO that could be construed as gag orders. But there’s the rub. The administration and its allies continue to invoke EO 464, or at least their interpretation of the Court’s ruling. In other words, the order, which widened the scope of executive privilege to include even rank-and-file soldiers, continues to have its political uses. Thus, we can only agree: To encourage “those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government” to join the search for truth, EO 464 must be lifted.

The pastoral statement also called on both the Senate and the Office of the Ombudsman to “use their distinct and different powers of inquiry” to discover the truth, “not for their own interests but for the common good.” We read the bishops’ recommendation as an appeal for fairness. (So with the recommendation that the media serve as a “positive resource.”) We agree: The truth is ill-served by a partial or partisan process.

So much to agree with, and much to reflect on. But why is the statement ultimately disappointing? Not because it seeks to redefine People Power as communal action at the grassroots level (the bishops are actually on to something), but because it asks the leader whose moral ascendancy is in question to “take the lead” in forging an answer.

This seems to us to privilege hierarchy—or what in theology is called the state of grace of a person in high position—over the “determined and relentless” search for truth. If a bishop were confronted with persistent allegations of wrongdoing, would the Pope ask him to take the lead in resolving the allegations against his own person? In such an event, process becomes more important than position.

We realize that, in itself, the language of the recommendation (“Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found”) seems to be neutral. But in the present context, it actually disregards a fundamental reality. In the scandal over the National Broadband Network, the President and her men have been less than forthright in telling the truth. That, in fact, is one of the reasons we have a crisis in the first place.

Sulat Pastoral ni Bishop Socrates Villegas ng Balanga

Ang may paningin ay tumingin at magmasid. Ang may paningin ay magbantay at magtanod. Tunay nga na ang pagbabantay at pagtatanod ay maliit na kabayaran nating kapalit ng pananatiling maging lahing malaya at bayang marangal.

Ang may paningin ay tumingin at magmasid. Ang may paningin ay magbantay at magtanod. Tunay nga na ang pagbabantay at pagtatanod ay maliit na kabayaran nating kapalit ng pananatiling maging lahing malaya at bayang marangal.

Maingay na naman ang bayan. Kailangan nga tayong mag-ingay sapagkat ang nakawan sa kaban ng bayan ay tahimik na nagaganap nang hindi natin namamalayan. Dahan dahan tayong nasasanay sa mga gawi ng mga sinungaling. Tahimik tayong nadadala sa mga gawi ng mga mandarambong. Ang nasa kapangyarihan ay halos ginawa ng hanapbuhay ang pangungurakot. Ang mga kalaban naman ay parang naglalaway na naghihintay sa kanilang panahong mangurakot din kapag napatalsik na ang kasalukuyang pinuno.

Ang may paningin ay tumingin at magmasid. Pati na marahil ang mga bulag ay alam ang kurakot sa ating pamahalaan. Ang hindi na lamang nakakaalam ang mga nagbubulag-bulagan.

Marami nga ang nagbubulag-bulagan na lamang. Wika ng mga nagbubulag-bulagan: “Marami namang gumagawa niyan. Tumutulong naman sila sa amin kahit nangungurakot sila. Wala naman silang masamang ginagawa laban sa pamilya ko. Matagal ng ganyan yan. Hindi na mababago yan”.

Ang masama ay nagwawagi sapagkat ang mga taong may paningin ay nagbubulag-bulagan.


Sa harap ng dilim na hatid ng pagiging bulag, ang ating unang lunas ay panalangin. Lumapit tayo kay Jesus na liwanag at sabihin natin “Nais ko pong makakita” Maaari nating ibulong kay Jesus na buksan ang mata ng lahat upang makakita. Tingnan sana natin ang lahat mula sa pananaw ng Panginoon.

Hindi sapat ang panalangin. Ang panalangin ay dapat na magbunsod sa atin upang magpakasakit. Hindi rin sapat ang pagpapakasakit. Ang pagpapakasakit ay dapat na maghatid sa atin sa kawang gawa at pagmamalasakit sa kapwa. Ang tunay na palanangin ay dapat na maghatid tungo sa pag-aalay sa kapwa.


Ito ang kailangan ng bayan—panalanging may pagkilos. Ang pagkilos ay bunga ng matiyagang pag-aaral at pagninilay. Ang pagkilos na hindi nagmumula sa panalangin at pagninilay ay madalas na mahina ang ugat at mapait ang bunga.

Ano ang mga pagkilos na dapat natin gawin?

Ang lahat ng pagkilos ay dapat na maghatid sa atin sa paghihilom ng ating lipunan. Ang lahat ng pagkilos ay dapat na umakay sa atin sa pagpapanumbalik ng pamumuhay na marangal at malinis. Ang anumang ating pagkilos ay dapat na maglantad sa buong katotohahan.

Kung napag-isipan ninyo na ang panawagan para sa pagbibitiw ng mga may kinalaman sa nakawan sa pamahalaan ay siyang lunas, maaari kayong manawagan nang gayon subalit gawin ito sa paraang mapayapa at makatotohahan at ayon sa batas. Kung udyok ng inyong konsensiya na mag noise barrage o mag rally, humayo kayo at gawin ito subalit tiyakin nating malinis ang kalooban.

Kung ang inyo namang pananaw ay itaguyod muna ang pagpapanibago at huwag manawagan para sa pagbibitiw, maaari rin ninyo itong gawin subalit tiyaking ang inyong panawagan ay pinakikinggan, ang mga pangako ay natutupad at hindi napaglalaruan lamang.

Anuman ang inyong ipasyang pagkilos, tiyaking ito ay galing sa panalangin! Tiyaking ito ay may may paggalang sa batas at hindi marahas! Tiyaking ito ay para sa bayan at hindi para sa sariling kapakanan.

Liwanagan nawa ni Jesus ang ating pananaw at paningin! Paghilumin nawa ni Jesus ang sugat ng ating bayan. Kailangan natin ng liwanag! Amen!

Mula sa Katedral ng San Jose, Lungsod ng Balanga, Ikalawa ng Marso, 2008

Obispo ng Balanga

27 February 2008

Moro-Moro at Cenakulo

The bishops have spoken.
The palace have been quick to exploit it - not unexpectedly.
A strong backing delivered on a silver platter.
And the vicious cycle of corruption whirled its happy whirl again.

Dear bishops, what would you do if the President doesn't follow your "urgings"? Or simply go through the motions of fighting corruption for the next two years but doesn't really mean it?

How could you simply dismiss the possibility that she is behind, and beneficiary of, many of these corruption cases? How could you?

You ask the flock to be brave, to get involved, to create "circles of discernment". Should we then seek the truth with the same level of zeal that you have sought it? Should we fight corruption with the same amount of risk-taking that you have shown us? Should we toil for our conversion and that of the nation's soul in the same manner that you have tried to redeem yourselves in the eyes of the people?

Should you just have said: Follow what we preach, not what we do?

Palace forms legal team to study possible lifting of EO 464 as recommended by CBCP

Malacañang is forming a legal team which will study the possible lifting of Executive Order 464 in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he was directed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to “immediately” form the legal group before she left Malacañang to visit Davao City this morning.

The President’s instruction was for him to immediately call a meeting with the team at 4 p.m. today to study the CBCP’s recommendation on EO 464, Ermita said at his weekly press conference at Malacañang’s New Executive Building (NEB) this afternoon.

The legal team will be composed of the Secretary of the Department of Justice, the Solicitor General, the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, the Deputy Executive Secretary for legal affairs, and the legal officers of government corporate counsels.

“All these things (CBCP recommendations) will be reviewed by the legal team so that we can come up with a very substantial recommendation to the President to respond to the recommendation of the CBCP,” Ermita said.

“You can be sure that this will be presented to the President very well,” he added.

On Tuesday, the CBCP called on the President to revoke EO 464 and allow members of her official family and other top government officials to testify before congressional hearings to shed light on alleged irregularities involving the government.

The CBCP also said that the search for truth must be pursued relentlessly amid the pervading cancer of corruption.

EO 464 bans government officials from testifying in congressional inquiries without the President’s permission.

Ermita recalled that the President issued EO 464 after National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales Jr. was humiliated when he appeared before a Senate inquiry.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez clarified that abolishing EO 464 would require “careful study because there are laws and jurisprudence that have to be considered before we come up with a decision."

He said EO 464 bans the disclosure of highly confidential information such as trade secrets and national security. The Supreme Court, in its 2006 decision, upheld Malacañang on the confidentiality issue involving first level officials of the government.

Gonzalez also clarified that the President was not prohibiting her officials from appearing before legislative inquiries. However, he noted that legislators oftentimes go beyond their authority when questioning ranking officials of the government.

"They must show respect to the people they invite," Gonzalez said.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye welcomed the CBCP statement and thanked the church leaders “for not succumbing to the propaganda of rabid oppositionists who are bent on overturning the gains of the country’s strong economy.”

“We welcome the statement of the CBCP which exhorts everyone to fight corruption and search for truth. The recommendations addressed to the executive, the legislative and the media certainly deserve very serious consideration,” Bunye said in a statement.

He pointed out that the “Philippines deserves a respite from frantic, irrational and dangerous calls for the President to resign, while the real truth has yet to be established by the court of law.”

“Let us be discerning about the motives of detractors while maintaining a sharp focus on uplifting the lives of the greater peaceful majority,” he added.

Palace expects political tension to dissipate after CBCP refuses to call on PGMA to step down

Malacañang expressed confidence today that the country’s volatile political situation would lose some of its tension after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) chose not to join the renewed calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down.

The CBCP, in a marathon 11-hour long meeting to discuss measures it could take to address the turmoil affecting the country’s political system, came out with a pastoral statement yesterday urging the President instead to take the lead in the fight against graft and corruption “wherever they are found.”

In his weekly press conference this afternoon, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the CBCP’s position and their strong influence on the Catholic population will “guide” their followers to be more “discernible” and temper their emotions from joining further protest actions.

“We are hoping it will result to that because the CBCP, speaking on behalf of the Catholic population of the Philippines, definitely wield a lot of influence and therefore, with this position taken in their special meeting yesterday, we are very hopeful and with the grace of God, indeed there will be more discerning people who will not add any more tension to the prevailing situation,” Ermita said.

He added that the CBCP’s statement was very “significant” in the light of mounting calls for the President to resign her post because it urges the continued search for truth.

“It is very significant that the CBCP had taken this position and I am sure that a great majority of our people will be guided by this,” Ermita said.

Misa para sa Katotoohan asin Paninimbagan

More pictures from the Misa para sa Katotoohan asin Paninimbagan (Mass for Truth and Accountability) at the St. Stephen Martyr Parish patio, 27 February 2008, 4 pm, Ligao City, Albay.

Bishop Quiambao presided, together with 40+ priest concelebrants. Monsignor Tronqued delivered the homily.

Statements were read from the Aquinas University of Legazpi (Jun Lozada's high school alma mater) and Divine Word College of Legazpi, as well as the CBCP Statement "Seeking the Truth, Restoring Identity", and the Pastoral Letter of the diocese "Communal Action for Truth and Accountability". Jun Lozada also gave a phone-patch message.

The participants, with lighted candles, sang Heal our Land and Bayan Ko.


Msgr. Ramon C. Tronqued, Vicar General of Legazpi, reading the Pastoral Letter on Communal Action for Truth and Accountability at the Misa para sa Katotoohan asin Paninimbagan, 27 February 2008, Ligao City, Albay


P.O. Box 38
, Legazpi City 4500, Philippines

PASTORAL BULLETIN NO. 2, Series of 2008

To: People of God in Legazpi, All Men and Women of Good Will and Faith

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (Rom 12,9)

The recent allegation of new cases of corruption committed by high government officials and influential personalities, notably in the ZTE-NBN deal, has once again put our country at a moral and political crossroad.

One of the more crucial testimonies comes from whistleblower, Mr. Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, a technical consultant in several government projects who hails from Ligao City in our diocese.

The great majority of our people clamors for a peaceful and meaningful resolution to this latest scandal. For that to happen, truth has to be revealed and justice, particularly accountability, has to hold sway.

Unfortunately, there is so much distrust in the present leadership of our country. Democratic institutions that are duty-bound to promote truth and accountability are seen by many to function mainly as instruments to maintain the hold of those in power.

In the face of this recent turn of events, what should we, as People of God, do?

The bishops of the Philippines, after our recent Plenary Assembly this January, released the Pastoral Statement: “Reform yourselves and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1,15)”. In it we expressed our conviction that the patent subordination of the common good to the good of the few – the dark stain of our social and political life – may yet be conquered by a burning desire for genuine conversion first as individuals, then as communities of faith.

We need first to recognize and beg forgiveness for our sinfulness and our complicity, in one way or another, to the tangled web of corruption that afflicts our nation. And then rise to commit ourselves to make our “love genuine; hate what is evil; and hold fast to what is good” (Rom 12,9).

We support Mr. Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada for his decision to find redemption by embracing the truth. We encourage others who are also privy to such acts of corruption to also come out and speak up in order to set things right for themselves and for our country.

We appeal especially to our public officials, from lowly government functionaries to the President and her Cabinet, to heed the call of genuine social transformation by truth-telling and accepting accountability, even if it may come to making the painful sacrifice of stepping down from power if the interest of the common good demands it.

We exhort our parishes, schools, religious organizations, basic ecclesial communities (BECs), various groups and, especially, families to form ourselves into circles of prayer, discernment and action. We echo the words we used in 1986 after the Snap Election: we need to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together”.

By our communal prayer, discernment and action let us find effective ways to let the truth be revealed, let those in power be held accountable, let social responsibility be the mark of our citizenry and let immoderate greed and corruption be a thing of the past.

This may not be the shortcut to another attempt at regime change that some sectors would like to happen, but this painstaking process is precisely what we need. Trust God to let our steadfast commitment to communal prayer and action, done in “Spirit and truth” (Jn 4,24), bear the fruit of meaningful change that we all long for.

To help our discernment, we propose that we read, reflect on and discuss the CBCP Pastoral Statement “Reform yourselves and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1,15)” and the short monograph “Corruption and Communion: Struggling for Integrity in Philippine Church and Society” by Rev. Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J., convenor of the Ehem! Anti-Corruption Movement.

We are also distributing to our parishes and religious communities, a special Prayers of the Faithful, in English and Bikol, composed specifically to respond to our present situation. The theme of our traditional Siete Palabras reflections this Good Friday will be our “Reverence to Human Life and Nature”.

May this season of Lent and these turbulent times be a graced moment of genuine conversion and pave the way for a new Easter for each of us and for our country.

Sincerely in His service,

Bishop Administrator of Legazpi

27 February 2008

Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity

Statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

Bishop Quiambao, reading the CBCP Statement to the crowd gathered at the Misa para sa Katotoohan asin Paninimbagan, 27 February 2008, Ligao City, Albay.

Beloved People of God:

Greetings in the peace of the Lord!

Today in the midst of restlessness and confusion, we come to you as pastors, for that is our precise role. We do not come as politicians whose vocation it is to order society towards the common good. Our message contributes to the flourishing of a democracy which must not be built only on political formulae.

We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity. These are moral values needing spiritual and moral insights.

Therefore, we address this pastoral statement to everyone particularly you our beloved people and in a special way to our political rulers and officials.

We are convinced that the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless, and that the way to truth and integrity must be untrammeled, especially at the present time when questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government are being raised.

For this reason, we strongly:

1. Condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder;

2. Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found;

3. Recommend the abolition of EO 464 so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government, may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies;

4. Ask the President to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved;

5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;

6. Call on media to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts;

For the long term we reiterate our call for “circles of discernment” at the grassroots level, in our parishes, Basic Ecclesial Communities, recognized lay organizations and movements, religious institutions, schools, seminaries and universities. It is through internal conversion into the maturity of Christ through communal and prayerful discernment and action that the roots of corruption are discovered and destroyed. We believe that such communal action will perpetuate at the grassroots level the spirit of People Power so brilliantly demonstrated to the world at EDSA I. It is People Power with a difference. From the grassroots will come out a culture of truth and integrity we so deeply seek and build. We instruct our CBCP Commissions to take active role including networking for this purpose.

May the Lord bless us in this sacred undertaking to build a new kind of Philippines and may our Blessed Mother be our companion and guide in this journey to truth and integrity.

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+Angel Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
February 26, 2008


"Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found..."


EDSA 22nd Anniversary Mass at Baclaran Church

Laban para sa Katotohanan at Pagbabago

Homilya ni Pde. Joey Echano, CSsR
Misa sa paggunita sa ika-22 Anibersaryo
ng mapayapang rebolusyon sa EDSA

Simbahan ng Bacalaran, ika-25 ng Pebrero 2008

Una sa lahat, sa ngalan po ng Redemptorist community dito sa Baclaran malugod ko kayong tinatanggap at wini-welcome sa Pambansang Dambana ng Ina ng Laging Saklolo. Tayo ngayon ay nasa harap ng banal na larawan ng ating Mahal na Ina ng Laging Saklolo. Tunay na ang ating mahal na Ina ay saksi sa mga makasaysayang pangyayari sa ating bansa.

Noong 1986, ang mga Comelec computer encoders na nagtatabulate ng boto ng snap elections ay humingi ng kanlungan dito sa dambana ng ating mahal na ina pagkatapos na sila ay nag walk out sa kanilang mga computer consoles sa PICC sapagkat ipinapagawa sa kanila ang isang bagay na di nila kayang masikmura – ang pagdaya at pagtakip sa katotohanan. Alam naman nating lahat na ang walk out na ito para sa katotohanan ang isa sa mga naging mitsa ng people power noong EDSA 1.

Ngayon tayo muli ay lumalapit sa kanyang banal na larawan sa panahong pilit na itinatago at pinagtatakpan sa atin ang katotohanan. Tayo ay nahaharap sa isang krisis ng katotohanan at moralidad sa pamamahala na nagbabadya ng panganib at kapahamakan. Subalit ito rin ang naging mitsa upang muli ang sambayanan ay magsama-sama at mapukaw sa pagkakahimbing.

Sa paglapit natin kay Maria sa gitna ng paghahanap natin ng katotohanan, si Maria sa kanyang larawan ay itinuturo tayo sa kanyang anak na si Jesus. Lagi tayong pinapa-alalahanan ni Maria na dapat tayong naka-sentro kay Kristo. Narinig natin si Jesus sa ebanghelyo: "Kung tinutupad ninyo ang aking aral, kayo nga'y tunay na mga alagad ko; v32makikilala ninyo ang katotohanan, at ang katotohanan ang magpapalaya sa inyo." Kung tayo’y nakasentro kay Kristo malalaman natin ang katotohanan. Malalaman natin ang katotohanan kung tayo lamang ay nakasentro kay Jesus. Si Jesus ang katotohanan. Si Jesus ang tunay na laging saklolo ni Maria. Samakatuwid, si Jesus ang katotohanan, ang ating walang hanggang saklolo.

Mga kapatid, tunay na maraming kasinungalingan at pagtakip sa katotohanan sa ating bansa ngayon hindi lamang sa pinakamataas pati na rin sa pinakamababa, mula sa lipunan hanggang sa personal. Isa sa pinakamalaking sakit na yata ng ating bansa ngayon ay “Truth Decay.” Malala na masyado ang truth decay kaya hindi na kaya ng pasta at root canal na lamang, kailangan nang bunutin ito.

Ang sinasabi nila: “Huwag na nating pag-usapan ang katotohanan. Mag move on na lang tayo.” Oo masakit ang katotohanan, pero kailangan natin ang katotohanan upang tayo ay umunlad. Sinasabi nila na tayo daw ay nag-iingay at nanggugulo lamang. Bakit di na lang tayo sumabay sa pag-unlad ng ekonomiya?

Ang sinasabi natin ay walang tunay na kaunlaran kung walang katotohanan. Ang ating bansa ay di makakamove-on kung nababalot ng kasinungalingan at kaplastikan. Mas mabuti pang gobyerno na may mababang pag-unlad subalit ang nakikinabang ay ang mga mahihirap, pero isang gobyernong na totoo naman keysa isang gobyerno na may mataas na pag-unlad kuno subalit ang nakikinabang naman ay ang mga makapangyarihan at mayayaman, pero isang gobyernong sinungaling naman.

Marami tayong gustong malaman na katotohanan, maliban sa nakakagimbal na NBN-ZTE deal, gusto natin malaman ang katotohanan sa likod ng extra-judicial killing – humigit kumulang 800 na ang pinaslang ng walang pangkatarungang proseso, at 100 na ang sapilitang nawawala, sa fertilizer scam, sa Hello Garci scam, sa north rail at south rail.

Ngayon tuloy lang ba tayo sa pag-unlad samantalang maraming dumi na itinatago sa ilalim ng carpet? Hindi sapat laman na malaman natin ang katotohanan. Ang katotohanan ay may kaalinsunod na pananagutan. Kailangang panagutin ang may sala at palayain ang walang sala. Hindi kalimutan na lang natin at magkasundo na tayo. Ang mahirap sa ating mga Pilipino, maikli ang ating memorya. Kay dali nating makalimot at mabagal tayong matuto.

“Makikilala ninyo ang katotohanan, at ang katotohanan ang magpapalaya sa inyo." Sa ating pagtuklas sa katotohanan, tayo ay nagiging malaya. Dahil sa katotohanan muli ang buong bansa ngayon ay nagising at nagsasama-sama at nilalanghap ang matamis na simoy ng kalayaan.

Ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon ang ika 22 taon ng people power. Marami sa atin ay nagsesentimento. Nasaan na ba ang mga pangunahing personalidad ng EDSA 1? Maraming nagsabi sa akin, Fr. Nami-miss namin si Cardinal Sin. Tanong ng iba: Bakit ang ating mga Obispo ngayon ay di mag-ala Cardinal Sin?

Si FVR at Enrile ay may kanya-kanya nang landas. Pero si Tita Cory ay nandito pa rin, hindi ka nag-iisa. At mayroon naman tayong mga bagong bayani – nandyan si Jun Lozada ang uragon kong kababayan. Jun, ngayon ikaw ang Philippine idol – lalong-lalo na sa mga nagtitiktik sayo. Si Juan de la Cruz ay nakatagpo ng kanyang kapuso at kapamilya kay Jun Lozada. Si Juan de la Cruz ay malayo sa pagiging perfecto, katulad ni Jun Lozada. Subalit si Jun Lozada ay pilit na di bumibitiw sa natitirang dangal ng kanyang gula-gulanit na kalooban at pangalan. Kaya’t hindi nakapagtataka na kay Jun Lozada si Juan de la Cruz ay nais maging bayani sa kabila ng kanyang pangkaraniwang pagkatao at maraming sablay sa daan ng kanyang paglalakbay.

Kung kaya’t, higit sa lahat ay nandyan kayo, ang taumbayan. Mayroong bayani kung titingin lamang kayo sa loob ng inyong sarili. Ang pagiging bayani sa loob ng inyong sarili ay umuugnay sa bayani na nasa loob ng inyong kapwa Pilipino. Ang pagpapalabas at pagbabahaginan ng ating pagiging bayani ay ang simula ng people power. Ang bayanihan – ito ang people power. Ang people power ay tayo. Tayo ang people power. Ang pagbabago ay tayo, tayo ang pagbabago.

Ngayon pagkatapos ng 22 taon, nasaan na tayo? Nakakalungkot isipin na kaunti ang pagbabago lalo na sa pamamaraan ng pagpapatakbo ng ating bansa. Ang mga family dynasties ang siya pa ring naghahari sa ating politika samantalang ang corruption at ganid ay malalim nang nakabaon sa ating sistema ng politika.

Kung kaya’t sabi nila di na pahihintulutan muli ng mundo ang panibagong “People Power”. Sabi naman ng iba bigo ang people power sapagkat malinaw na hindi ito nakapagdulot ng pangmatagalang pagbabago sa ating sistema political.

Patay na ba ang People Power? Noong nanawagan ang mga obispo ng isang “communal action” bilang tugon sa mga nagaganap sa ating bansa parang mabagal at mababaw ang ating pagtugon. Bagama’t mayroong nagaganap na maliliit na mga pagkilos sa iba’t ibang lugar, hindi ito katulad ng mga nakaraang pagkilos na puno ng ingay, sigla sa gitna ng pagkabalisa at diskuntento bago mag-EDSA 1 o EDSA 2.

Napagod na ba tayo sa people power? O Natuto tayo sa mga nakaraan nating kamalian?

Kung naghahanap tayo ng dating ekspresyon ng people power, wala na ito. Ang mga naglalakihang rali at demonstrasyon, ang mga slogang puno ng paghihikayat at pagsisiwalat, ang pagsasanib ng iba’t ibang sektor sa isang tukoy na panawagang pulitikal ay wala na.

Subalit huwag tayong magpalinlang na ang people power ay wala na, katulad ng nais ipaniwala sa atin ng mga may kapangyarihan. Ang pagkabalisa, pagkabigo, ang matinding pagnanais ng pagbabago, ang paghahangad ng pagkakaisa ay buhay na buhay. Datapawat, ang lahat ng ito ay naghahanap ng bagong ekspresyon ng pagpapahayag, ng bagong pamamaraan, ng bagong simbolo.

Isang aral na napulot natin sa nakaraan ay ang samasamang pagkilos o communal action ay hindi nakabatay sa malalaking personalidad at mga politiko. Gayundin naman ang mga kaparian at Obispo ay hindi taga-likha ng direksyon para sa mga tao. Sila ay moral na gabay sa mga tao at tagapagbigay sigla’t lakas sa mga laykong kasapi ng simbahan na siyang pangunahing responsable sa paghuhubog ng pulitikal at pang-ekonomiyang larangan ng ating lipunan. Ang samasamang pagkilos ay dapat talagang isang proseso ng samasamang pagninilay at pagtugon ng bawat kasapi ng komunidad.

Hindi patay ang people power. Ito ay sisibol sa tamang panahon na may malakas na kapangyarihan at mas mayamang kahulugan. Ang people power ay hindi nagtatapos sa pagtanggal sa luklukan ng mga may kapangyarihan at wala ng moralidad na umupo. Ang people power ay ang pagbabago ng buong sistema sa ating lipunan at sarili.

Mga kapatid, isang dakilang biyaya ang nagaganap sa ating bansa. Huwag lamang tayong maging usisero. Wag tayong tagapagkutya lamang sa mga nangyayari. Sabi nga ng makatang si Dante Alighieri: “Ang pinakamainit na apoy sa impyerno ay nakalaan doon sa mga taong nagsawalang kibo sa panahon ng krisis ng moralidad.” Tama na, sobra na, kumilos na!

Mahal na Ina ng Laging Saklolo, ipanalangin mo kami sa aming pagsunod kay Kristo ang katotohanan at aming laging saklolo patungo sa landas ng pagbabago ng aming sarili at aming bayan.

26 February 2008

Communal Action according to GMA's spin doctors and the bishops who love her

Here is a 1-page ad which appeared today on the Phil Star. It's a selection of quotable quotes from Catholic Church officials, many of them bishops, collated to create the impression of a consensus favoring a rather narrow interpretation of what "communal action" means, i.e., pray, organize, cry yourself hoarse, do anything so long as it won't lead to the President stepping down from office.

"We in the Mindanao block want GMA to finish her term until 2010." (Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan)

"I support the Arroyo administration". (Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan)

"There was 'not enough reason' to support the calls for Mrs. Arroyo's resignation, but her administration should rectify the purported corruption. My own stand is no resignation." (Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato)

Suffice it to say I am deeply embarrassed by these statements' collective assault against sensibility, reason and morals.

As to my other sentiments, charity and prudence dictate that I speak no more.

People Power Anniversary Rally in Legazpi City - 25 February 2008

Photos courtesy of Bayan Bikol

Consider this post my vicarious participation in the EDSA Day celebration here in Legazpi. Too bad I was holed-in the whole morning inside the Chancery. We had a meeting of the Board of Consultors. The Redemptorist priests in the pictures are Fr. Brian Espejo, CSsR and Fr. Oliver Castor, CSsR, respectively.