31 January 2008

Pastoral Bulletin 1, s. 2008: Gambling in Legazpi

This is Legazpi's latest "issue". And the diocese's first pastoral bulletin this year. The first two paragraphs have already became moot since it turned out the "certificate of no objection" was not required of Play Planet, the gambling operator, by the PAGCOR.

It was an "if then-else" requirement. If there is an existing city ordinance banning a gambling operation within 200 meters of schools and/or churches, a certificate of no objection would have to be secured from the city council. Else, only a "certificate of no ordinance" is needed. There is no city ordinance to such effect.

It turned out the public hearing conducted by the concerned committees of the city council was not necessary at all. Waste of time for them maybe, though not so much for us. It got us informed and interested about this seemingly innocuous business request.

Since Play Planet will most likely be granted a permit by PAGCOR, the next stop will be for them to secure a business permit from the city mayor. And we will be ready for that.

Bingo, however, turned out to be a "lesser" issue. A few meters away and a block across away, while the Legazpi City Council was on session, the Albay Provincial Board was also conducting its regular session. Among its agenda was the entry of Small Town Lottery (STL), another nice legal trickery concocted by the present dispensation that effectively "legalized jueteng" and instantly provided a legal cover to jueteng's continued operations by gambling lords.

Marx obviously knew not enough about gambling. Otherwise, he wouldn't have called religion the opium of the masses. Here is the real opium of the masses today: "paturon on the streets; small gambling dens in neighborhoods; cockfights, jueteng, STL and lotteries in towns and cities; and on-line gambling in internet cafes and private homes". And our government officials have appointed themselves the new drug lords.


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

PASTORAL BULLETIN NO. 1, Series of 2008

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

“Take no part in fruitless works of darkness, rather expose them.” (Eph 5,11)

Recently, a request has been handed to the Legazpi City Council to issue a “certificate of no objection” to a planned Bingo hall operation inside the Gaisano Pacific Mall. If granted, the certificate will pave the way for the start of the Bingo hall’s operation.

As pastors, we are expressing our opposition to the planned Bingo operation in Legazpi City. And we urge our city councilors to do the same by not issuing a “certificate of no objection”.

Two arguments are being advanced to justify the proposed Bingo operation: that it is nothing but a benign form of entertainment and that the city stands to gain economic benefits from it.

Gambling is anything but benign. There is no dearth of reliable scientific studies that have conclusively proven the ill effects of institutionalized gambling, including Bingo halls, on persons, families, communities and the larger society. Some of these are: personal enslavement to vice, economic deprivation of families, broken marriages, and exploitation of the poor.

PAGCOR’s regulations may mitigate some of these adverse effects but only to a certain extent. The contradiction of the State’s promotion of gambling and its mandate to protect its citizens will always rear its ugly head sooner or later.

These studies are easily available on the internet and in any respectable library with materials on the topic of social problems. It will be most irresponsible for our elected officials not to consider these studies on gambling before forming judgment on this issue.

The proposed Bingo operation’s perceived economic benefits are questionable and deceptive. Its economic contribution to the city and to the province is, at this point, vague and, at best, minimal. Its corollary benefits to other industries like transportation, tourism and small businesses are not as significant, nor as certain, as some people would have us believe. What is certain though is that it will not raise the standard of living in the city, nor will it raise the quality of entertainment venues around.

On the other hand, money spent on Bingo means money taken away from the needs of the family. At a time when families groan about their poverty, when the community is only rising from the destruction wrought by supertyphoons Milenyo and Reming, when Bicol is ranked among the poorest regions in the country, it will be most irresponsible for our elected officials to allow any business to operate that will put at risk the economic prospects of families.

The Church is taking the side of the family and the common good by expressing opposition to the proposed Bingo operation in Legazpi City. Whose side is the City Council taking in turn: that of the people or that of socially irresponsible business interest?

Gambling activities, legal and illegal, already abound: paturon on the streets; small gambling dens in neighborhoods; cockfights, jueteng, STL and lotteries in towns and cities; and on-line gambling in internet cafes and private homes. These activities are already doing more than enough damage to the community’s social and moral fiber. Must the city council burden the community with one more gambling operation?

Gambling and sustainable development do not go hand in hand. Gambling and healthy living do not jive. Gambling does not provide good entertainment. Gambling, in the long run, harms persons and families. The Bingo operation’s vague economic promise to the city will not equal the social cost of risking cases of personal addiction, dysfunctional families, financial loss, juvenile delinquency and other social ills associated with gambling.

The Municipality of Daraga has only recently got of rid of Bingo in their place. Will Legazpi City move a step backward by allowing Bingo to operate in its place instead?

We strongly urge the Legazpi City Council not to allow the proposed Bingo operation in the city to proceed.

We ask our parishioners, Catholic schools, religious organizations and movements, all men and women of faith and good will, to pray that this plan will not push through and to support the cause of opposing the establishment of a Bingo operation in Legazpi City.

May Our Lady of Salvation guide our elected officials and protect our families from harm.

Sincerely in His service,

Apostolic Administrator

21January 2008

28 January 2008

CBCP Statement : "Reform Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel!" - in other words...

Talk about a different view. How many times have we read and heard the lament that bishops and priests no longer speak up against the ills that plague our country, particularly the wrongdoings of the current dispensation, the way bishops and priests in the past used to? In a way, this latest CBCP statement answers such lament in three ways:

1. All of us are to blame for the mire of corruption our country has sinked itself in. And it starts by the way most of our voters elect bad politicians, despite their fully knowing those they are voting for are bad. Simply put, such an act constitutes "political mortal sin". Our catechism tells us, mortal sins are sins that kill. Political mortal sins are killing the soul of this nation.

2. The transformation of our society begins with everyone of us working hard for it. The bishops dug up the 1986 CBCP post-snap election statement, calling everyone once again to "pray together, reason together, decide together, act together." Why, indeed, pin the responsibility on bishops for checking out governmental abuses, when the truth is it is everyone's job?

3. There is hope. Things are not as bad as they seem. Many people in many parts of this country are doing positive things, coming out with bright effective ideas to make lives better, and inspiring more and more to do the same.

Nice words. Then again, are all bishops and priests really sold into it? I mean, not just sold enough to let the CBCP president release this pastoral statement with these bold (though at the same time, admittedly MalacaƱang spin-friendly) words in it, but sold enough to risk time, effort and reputation to get these national pastoral suggestions into actual concrete diocesan programs and priorities? Are bishops and priests in dioceses and parishes ready to inspire, support, and call for the creation of such laity movements as corruption watchdogs, anti-mining campaigns, human rights advocacies, election modernization lobbies, extra-judicial killing safe havens, agrarian reform promotion, etc? And I mean not just to inspire and support in a one-time event or pastoral letter but to really "journey together" with the people?

The reality is not all bishops and priests are that sold into it. And a few reluctant priests, and bishops most especially, are always one too many. The test of the pudding is in the eating. In which case, the oft-repeated lament stated in the beginning is not that off-tangent after all. And we have not even delved into the reasons as to why some bishops and priests don't feel right partaking of the pudding they are serving.

I am all praises for the drafters, promoters and supporters of this latest CBCP statement. What about the riders, bystanders and fence-sitters in the hierarchy and the rest of the clergy? Don't you find it odd that the pastoral statement said almost every safe and wise thing that could be said about our present situation, almost, that is, except this one thing?

And, no, the question isn't rhetorical at all. The answer to it may actually spell the difference between a truly effective pastoral letter and one that just feels a tad too obligatory to come up with after every CBCP plenary assembly.

CBCP Statement : "Reform Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel!" (Mark 1:15)

Beloved People of God:

Our Holy Father in his most recent letter to us reminds us of the gift of faith and hope: that when we believe, we hope; and that when we hope, we live differently (see Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, November 30, 2007, no. 2). These convictions on faith and hope set the tone of our own letter to you in the present pastoral situation.

The Darkness of Our Situation-the Common Good Subordinated

For we live today as a people almost without hope, it would seem. We look at our landscape and see darkness everywhere. Many of us are more than aware that many problems are simply rumors, fears, suspicions, imagined wrongs. Because these are reported in the newspapers, we begin to believe that they are true.

In such a pastoral situation we are being asked again for guidance on various specific problems currently bothering us. The following have been brought to our attention:

(a) the perception that corruption in government is at its worst, fraudulent projects going on unchecked despite the bad publicity given them in the media, investigations into the truth of allegations of bribery often stymied or their results unreported;

(b) the suspicion that martial law will be imposed as a response to the likelihood that destabilizing coups against the government are still being planned by disgruntled elements of the military allegedly with some civilian support;

(c) the constant talk about plans and moves for Charter change being made by politicians which to all intents and purposes appear to be nothing but a ploy for the sole purpose of their staying on in power-not the kind and method of making the right kind of change in the nation's basic law;

(d) the "extra-judicial" killing of suspected leftists and their sympathizers, as well as media men, and the inexplicable lack of action on them despite strong suspicions about their perpetrators in the military establishment;

(e) the imminence of a law establishing a national ID system and the fear of some that this is being pushed simply for easier control of socially active elements of the general population.

The above are more or less the problems of the nation as seen from the center that is Manila. They are by no means universal as far as the entirety of our people is concerned. What emerge from the periphery-the provinces-are concerns quite different from the above. The following were brought to our attention by many of our people:

(a) the appreciation of the peso against the dollar resulting in the depreciation of OFWs' remittances, contributing not a little to the continuance and exacerbation of the endemic poverty of the countryside;

(b) the lack of support for the improvement of the general welfare of rural folk, the slow progress especially of the land-reform program which is due to end this year unsatisfactorily funded and implemented;

(c) the bad peace and order situation obtaining in areas where the unabated fighting-or the threat of it-between the military and the NPA and the MILF/MNLF continues to cause unrest;

(d) the long-awaited and fought over reform of COMELEC which up to now has not been enacted;

(e) the pushing of mining concerns against the best interests of our people, especially of indigenous groups in disregard of the provisions in their behalf that the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act guarantees;

(f) the continuing abuse of our natural resources, of forest and marine life in particular, and the corruption in agencies that are meant to protect these resources; and

(g) the growth and proliferation of family political dynasties in many provinces and cities which only serve to institutionalize more intensely the concentration of power and unsavory economic opportunity in the hands of the few.

In the two sets of problems that have been listed above, for all their apparent differences, we see nothing new. They are the same old problems, or variations of them, which have been plaguing our nation for years on end, through successive political administrations. Nothing or very little seems to have been done about them.

In them all we see the all too patent subordination of the common good to private good.

This is the basic fault in our country's political culture that the Church in its preaching of Christ's Gospel of social justice and charity has been bringing to our attention all these years and asking us and our communities to respond to as effectively as we can. It is the reason we make concern for the common good a crucial criterion for the choice of public officials. The persistence of that deep-seated fault pushes us to conclude in sorrow that we as a people are still devoid of a real social conscience.

Today we often hear that "closure" has to be made to various issues ranging from the elections of 2004 to present charges of corruption in high places. That the political order is accused too often with moral bankruptcy with nary an exception is a sad sign of the general cynicism and frustration of our people. Most unfortunately there does not seem to be any way of achieving closure. For the process and results of standard democratic inquiries, sometimes including those by the Supreme Court, are received with skepticism and cynicism, given political interests, alliances, and allegiances.

And we hear the general cry from the periphery: "Enough of the paralyzing divisions in the body politic. Bring issues to the courts and trust them to do their jobs. And help us get on with our lives, with our concern for livelihood."

In the Darkness, Light

In such a pastoral situation of frustration, cynicism and apparent hopelessness, we need to be aware of the deep resources of our faith in the Lord for whom all things are possible. We take our faith for granted in daily life. Often we act and behave contrary to faith. We resort to faith as a last resort and not as a daily catalyst.

Yet it is only from the perspective of faith and hope that we are able to see light in the darkness, liberation from darkness.

So if what we have brought to your attention seems to be only the dark side of our national situation, we should be able in the same faith and hope to see glimmers of light shining through-glimmers that must be of our own creation. But not entirely: for despite the prevailing darkness, we see everything is not thoroughly evil. There is good everywhere, even in those we often criticize, and it is our task to critically collaborate with them even as we critically oppose the not too good. This is integral to the challenge being put to us.

Journey to the Light-Start with Ourselves

If you agree with what we said above that the lack of a social conscience is, indeed, our common sin, is there anything we can do about it?

To journey to the light, we need first to realize that we have contributed not a little to the common malaise-because of decisions we have made, decisions that flowed from what we have become and because of our unconcern, inaction, apathy, often thinking only of our interests. And so with little sense of the future of our country, we vote for people we should not vote for.

Therefore, in the much needed regeneration of our politics and social life, this is where we have to start: with ourselves, as individuals, families, communities.

We have always put the blame on people we have chosen to govern us. Today we have become more aware that despite efforts, successful or not, to remove the incompetent or corrupt, our problems have remained. We have looked at the enemy as only outside of us.

But now we ask: In the face of the many persistent and unresolved crises of today can we together make a determined start, by making a conscious effort at changing our mind-sets towards a greater and more efficacious concern for the good of the nation?

Personal and Communal Conversion towards a Social Conscience

We are asking you, our beloved people, to be with us in the moral-spiritual reform of our nation by beginning with ourselves. This is what we need-conversion, real conversion, to put it in terms of our faith, for all of us to deliberately, consciously develop that social conscience that we say we sorely lack and to begin subordinating our private interests to the common good. This conversion is for all of us: laity, religious, priests, bishops.

But we have to go about it not only as individuals but just as importantly as whole communities. We have to face a common problem and map out deliberately and communally how to go about the work of self-reform. It is nothing less than what St. Paul speaks about: "Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God-what is good and pleasing to him and is perfect" (Rom. 12: 2).

Renewal of Faith-Communities, Civil Society, Political Leaders

We have to come together then as communities of faith, as we your Bishops said back in 1986 after the Snap Elections of that year, to "pray together, reason together, decide together, act together," form groups of thinking and praying people-in our schools, seminaries, parishes, mandated organizations, lay movements, social action groups, most especially in basic ecclesial communities which the Rural Congress we will be holding this year looks to as a crucial instrument in the forbidding task of rural development.

We zero in on what we say is the basic fault in our communities' political and social life: the subordinating of the common good to private good. We see how this flaw in our national character evinces itself in our community life. We need to seek ways and mean of correcting it in whatever way we can-but always according to the principles of active-non violence-together, creatively and imaginatively, as we bishops exhorted in 1986. We have to form ourselves into real communities of faith-discernment and -action.

We ask this of explicitly Church groups. But we will ask it too of all citizens who have a concern for the nation's good, especially those who hold the reins of power, from MalacaƱang on to Congress, provincial and municipal governments, all the way down to barangay councils. People in government-and as well as all other civic and business groupings-can they too reflect together in all manner of associations and look into themselves to see if, in all their actuations, the demands of the common good are in fact captive to merely personal and selfish interests? And if they are, can they rise up to the challenge and decide themselves to contribute to the general effort?

This must sound like a preposterous request, but we make it anyway for we believe that what it seeks is the critical need of the moment. Already it is being responded to here and there by various concerned groups such as those that have been organized and trained to fight corruption. So we seek a wider response from all our faithful towards a more vigorous work for good governance and a more active promotion of responsible citizenship in our society in the light of the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church.

If in your minds, corruption-the worst offender against our common good-is rampant today, sparing no level of social and political life, and most glaringly and reportedly so in the various corridors of power, we have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people. But if it goes on unhindered, it is because, as we have had occasion to point out in the past, we all too often condone it as part of the perquisites of power and public office.

Lent-the Time to Journey Together toward Transformation

Lent will soon be upon us, a time of penance, of sorrow for sin, of self-reform. Soon we shall hear again the clarion call of the Lord Jesus: "Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!" (Mk 1: 15). This season is the appropriate beginning for profound reform and conversion. It is the time for a spiritual combat against the enemy within, our pride and greed, our lust for power and wealth, etc.

And so we exhort you, our beloved people: As a special project for this year's Lenten observance and in the spirit of penance, let us come together in little groups of reflection and discernment. In these groups we look seriously at our part in the many evils of our day-as individuals, as families, as communities- and discern what action we can do together.

Alay Kapwa is our traditional Lenten Program of sharing time, treasure and talent for evangelization. This Lent, without forgetting the treasure part, we zero in, in a very special way, on time and talent, asking what we can offer of these for the common effort towards the correction of our social ills. These would be evangelization of the most authentic kind. For it means a real acceptance of the Lord's mandate to us as Christians to be concerned about one another, to go beyond ourselves and reach out to others. This attitude in the pattern of Christ himself is at the heart of Christian identity.

Hence other already existing movements and efforts (like the Pondo ng Pinoy) aimed at the transformation of Filipino culture through little acts of kindness for the neighbor and motivated only by the love of God-these too must be intensified as essential to our Lenten program of reform.

In our coming together, in our exchanging of ideas and discerning on them, in our praying and acting together, we bring hope to our despairing land-the hope that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, says in his most recent encyclical is the great need of our modern world.

With Mary, Mother of Hope, on the Journey of Renewal

We beg Mary to intercede for us with her Son Jesus. In the midst of the disciples who hoped for the renewal of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, she stood as their Mother, our Mother, of hope. Mary, Star of the Sea, guide us on our journey of renewal that we may more faithfully follow your Son Jesus in his loving care of all our brothers and sisters.

For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
January 27, 2008

02 January 2008

Latest Update on Lafayette

Carlos Dominguez of Lafayette Philippines Inc. has been oft-quoted in press releases as saying: “this temporary legal process we are going through is actually a blessing for the Rapu Rapu project because it will resolve the financial issues the local management team has been urging LML to address.”

Somehow, the truth has an uncanny way of surfacing out, like dead fishes. No matter how much you try to scoop 'em & bury 'em as quickly and stealthily as you can, at one point, Murphy's Law will catch up on you. When that happens, you won't just have to contend with a respectable fish kill, but also big investor pull-out, creditors coming out of the woodwork, activists breathing down your neck... You know what they say about the weather these days in Albay: when it rains, it pours.

Here's an excerpt from the "Full Statement of Lafayette Mining Ltd. to the Administrators Ferrier Hodgson", dated 20 December 2007, but released today 020108. (From http://saverapurapu.blogspot.com/)

"6. On 17 December 2007, Rapu Rapu Minerals Inc ("RRMI"), an associate of Lafayette, received a default notice from its mining contractor Leighton Contractor (Philippines) Inc ("Leighton"). Lafayette is a co-guarantor of the payment of money due under the mining contract with Leighton and while there was a cure period for default provided under the terms of the contract, Lafayette could not be certain that either RRMI or Lafayette would be in a position to settle this claim by Leighton at the expiry of the cure period, given the delayed nature and inherent uncertainty in the Bank Group's processes.

7. By 17 December 2007, it was also evident that Lafayette's cash reserves would be insufficient to meet corporate expenses beyond 31 December 2007. While the Bank Group had in the past provided the necessary financial support to Lafayette to continue to meet its obligations, (including as recently as 11 December 2007 when a further US$300,000 was made available to the Company to fund expenses expected to be incurred in December 2007) the availability of this continued support was uncertain, creating further doubt for Directors about the ability of the Company to continue to meet it obligations.

8. Given all of the above, the Board of Lafayette met on 18 December 2007, and being of the view that they no longer had reasonable grounds to believe that the Company could meet its obligations as and when they fell due resolved to voluntarily appoint Messrs Sutton and McCluskey of Ferrier Hodgson to the role of Administrator. In making this appointment, the Board expected that the Administration process would allow all options for either the sale of the Project or a restructure and recapitalization of the Lafayette group to be fully explored."

So Lafayette is not bankcrupt.
  • It just won't be able to pay Leighton just yet.
  • It just couldn't make ends meet by 31 December 2007.
  • Its parent company in Australia just won't be able to meet its obligations.
  • It's now just being ran by the banks.
I get the feeling that "it is a hoax!" will soon be joined by "we are not bankcrupt!" as the new company "it-mantra". But no matter how you make yourself hoarse shouting it, somehow the picture of the boy who cried wolf just couldn't be shooed away from the mind.

I wonder what the Lafayette people will say about this interesting piece of news. I wonder what text messages will I be getting this time.