CONTAK Philippines Weekly



CBCP: What partnership with government?

MANILA, Philippines—Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said on Wednesday he did not accept an offer from Malacañang for Church leaders to "partner" with government in the monitoring of public projects.

Lagdameo said what Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya promised was to give the CBCP a list of all government projects in each province.

He said prelates would be informed about the projects "so they can have a certain expectation about the plans for each province."

But informing them about ongoing government projects would not constitute a "radical reform" that he and four other bishops called for when they condemned the "rampant and systemic" corruption in the Arroyo government, Lagdameo said.

Andaya and two government officials were dispatched to meet with Lagdameo last Tuesday after the archbishop released a statement jointly with four other prelates condemning government corruption and calling for a "new government."

Andaya told reporters after the meeting that an offer was extended to the CBCP to "partner" with government in fighting corruption.

He said Lagdameo agreed to Malacañang’s offer.

"No, that was their offer, not partnership but giving us information about projects that are being done in each province," Lagdameo said in an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas.

First posted 20:46:55 (Mla time) November 05, 2008
Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer


CBCP head rejects “political ceasefire” call

A top Roman Catholic Church official rejected offer of President Arroyo for “political ceasefire”, saying their advocacy against alleged corruption in the government must persist.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said theirs is not political after all but for moral.

He said that what is needed is ceasefire instead of corruption currently plaguing not just in the government but in the society as a whole.

Lagdameo said the uphill battle against corruption should continue and should not only be limited to government and political institutions.

“Kung ang ating sinasabi ay pagpuna sa mga maling gawain, hindi lang naman yan sa government kundi sa lahat na pati sa lahat ng antas or level ng ating society. Sapagkat ang corruption ay hindi lang naman nasa gobyerno kundi maging sa iba’t-ibang antas ng ating society,” Lagdameo said over Church-run Radio Veritas.

Arroyo yesterday called for a “political ceasefire” amid left and right criticisms from the opposition, militant organizations and civil society groups, adding that the coming Yuletide season should encourage the Filipinos to “set aside personal differences and focus on improving the lives of the people”.

Lagdameo, last week, issued a statement calling for a radical form in government, which he said is already stricken by a social and moral cancer called corruption.

The Jaro archbishop had said the kind of corruption that has become endemic, rampant and systemic in the country.

He added that the nationwide fight against corruption must be without letup and should be made genuinely.

“Itong pagtalikod sa gawang masama, pagtalikod sa pagawa ng korupsyon, pagtalikod sa kasalanan, yan ay patuloy na dapat na gawin. Ang call for conversion, call for change of mind, conversion of mind, conversion of heart ay dapat ipagpatuloy hanggang makarating tayo ng langit,” Lagdameo said.

The bishop, however, agreed with Arroyo in saying there is a need for a ceasefire in politicking especially with the Christmas season just around the corner.

“Hindi lang dapat dahil sa nalalapit na ang Pasko. It should be for all times. Kinakailangan natin ay kapayapaan. Kinakailangan natin ay magandang pakikitungo at pakikiisa,” Lagdameo said.

Roy Lagarde

MANILA, November 7, 2008


Carmelites demand “radical reforms” against corruption

Filipino Carmelite priests (Order of Carmelites) are demanding “radical reforms” against corruption and hold current corrupt-ridden administration accountable to the people,” said Fr. Jerry Sabado, Convenor, Carmelites-Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in a press statement.

To this day, the truth about the NBN-ZTE deal and other strings of corruption charges did not see the light. The people were again scandalized by the euro generals, he said.

“And now we continue to witness shameless cover-up of the multi-million fertilizer scam. Even as Joc-Joc Bolante finally arrived, truth, justice and accountability remain beyond reach. Families of victims of human rights violations cry out for justice,” Sabado said.

“What happened to the decision of the Supreme Court affirming the involvement of General Jovito Palparan in the spate of extra-judicial killings and persecution of human rights advocates?” the priest asked.

The Filipino people have had enough of the government’s lies and undelivered promises.

“We live in a world full of injustice and disquiet. It is our duty to contribute to the search for an understanding of the causes of these evils,” he said.

Order of Carmelites fully supports the calls of the five Catholic Bishops “to form a citizen’s council to promote public awareness, to monitor the use of public funds, and to initiate charges against guilt officials,” Sabado said.

Quoting the Carmelite Constitution statutes, “It is about time that we contribute to the search for an understanding of the causes of these evils,” said the priest, adding, “We pledge to do our part by conducting wider discussions at the grassroots level on the corruption in governance and social evils affecting our people today.”

With BCC-BEC communities as JPIC’s vehicle, Carmelites will deepen the understanding of Catholics, seminarians, priests and religious and others on confronting the roots of these evils.

In support of the Bishops’ call, we will not waver in our quest for truth, justice and accountability. JPIC will continue to join the interfaith communities in communal prayer, study and actions to demand radical reforms and hold this corrupt-ridden administration accountable to the people,” Sabado said.

Sabado said that JPIC will continue to pray and act in solidarity with the poor as the Order of Carmelite demand the scrapping of oil deregulation and excessive taxes, farmers crying out for genuine land reform, workers crying out for substantial wage hike, migrant workers seeking better jobs so they won’t be forced to work abroad, youth and all marginalized sectors who deserve a government that is truly for the people.

“We will abide with the people’s mandate and be steadfast in standing for the sovereign will of the people,” he said.

Santosh Digal

MANILA, November 7, 2008


“Radical change” needed to uplift country’s poor, says CBCP official

 “Radical change” has to be pushed through to uplift the country’s poor, said the head of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)

This was said by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo during the 76th Alumni Homecoming of San Carlos Seminary, in Makati City November 3, with the theme "Saksi ng Pag-Asa, Ebanghelyo sa Sambayanan".

“There are three major issues confronted by the rural poor: good governance, land, and environment. Nothing is new about these issues, except that ‘radical change’ has to be pushed through in order to uplift their lives,” said Pabillo who is the chairman of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) of CBCP.

“On good governance, there is a need for transparency and involvement in the parishes, political education, campaigning for truth, and monitoring of taxes and public funds. There are laws that are supposed to uplift the lives of the rural poor, yet remain improperly attended or unimplemented," Pabillo said.

Environment, organic farming and small-and-medium-economic activities should be promoted, he stressed.

“The spirituality of stewardship should be stressed, and the campaign against dynamite fishing, mining, and logging should be pushed through evenly. Concerning land, there should be extension of the CARP, discussion of issues on ancestral domains (i.e. of Muslims and indigenous people), and support for fisher folks and farmers,” he said.

Pabillo talked on the Second National Rural Congress (NRC-II), which was a convocation of more than 300 participants, representing the clergy and the rural poor, organized by CBCP last July 7-8, 2008 here in San Carlos Seminary, Makati.

Key issues affecting the rural poor communities around the country were discussed at the NRC-II, which strengthened the bond of the Church and the rural poor, a linkage that started during the first National Rural Congress.

Pabillo, who attended the 12th Synod of Bishops in Rome last October, he stressed the importance of the Word of God.

“Through creation, we all came from the Word of God. The Word of God is the reason why the Church exists, and it is her duty that the Word is preached to the world,” he said.

Pabillo did not limit the Word of God to mere Scriptures, but rather extended this phrase as the “voice of God” prompting us to reflect on God’s Word in personal and national events in our present times.

“We need to have sense of God in our society. Nowadays, many people live their lives as if there is no God. It is, thus, through accepting his presence in our lives that we may be able to foster a better society. If we don’t have God, we can never have a “sense of poor,” said Manila bishop.


The Philippines ranked 5th in a list of countries for the number of people going hungry in the past year, according to a survey by Gallup International-Voice of the People 2008. Four out of every ten Filipinos reportedly have little or no food at all on their tables in the last 12 months.

The survey indicated that hunger was a fact of life for 40 per cent of Filipinos. It also showed that the hunger rate was highest in Metro Manila, where at least 550,000 families lacked food.

Gallup’s survey reflects a similar study conducted for the third quarter of the year by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), an independent survey organization based in Manila.

According to the SWS 24-27 September survey, the number of families who experienced hunger at least once in the previous three months rose to 18 per cent or around 3.3 million households.

“The latest hunger record is six points above the ten-year average of 12.3 per cent, and is the highest in the four quarters after the record-high 21.5 per cent in September 2007,” SWS said in its survey analysis.

The hunger average for 2008 was 16.8 per cent, only slightly lower than the 2007 average of 17.9 per cent.

Like Gallup the SWS survey showed that more families felt hunger in Metro Manila than anywhere else in the country.

Some government officials blamed overpopulation of the country as the cause of hunger among Filipinos. But the leadership of the CBCP firmly points endemic corruption and bad governance as the root cause of hunger.

Santosh Digal

MANILA, November 9, 2008



World Council of Churches, Indigenous Peoples Urge Arroyo Gov’t to Surface Missing Activist

Representatives of Protestant churches and indigenous peoples all over the world condemned the abduction of missing activist James Balao, an indigenous Ibaloi of Benguet.

Fifty participants from various regions of the world gathered at the Igorot Lodge of Camp John Hay here on October 21 to 26 for the International Consultation and Social Visions of Indigenous Peoples, the first international gathering of indigenous peoples sponsored by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC).

The conference also condemned atrocities committed by various states against indigenous peoples who struggle to keep their lands from forces of so-called development aggression.

“We have heard a litany of abuses committed against indigenous peoples. Worst of these are the killings and enforced disappearances, the latest of which is the case of (James) Balao,” read their strongly worded joint statement.

For many years, Balao is active in advocacy for indigenous peoples rights.

Some participants to the international consultation also joined the international solidarity mission that held a dialogue with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region and conducted interviews of witnesses to the abduction.

The participants deemed that police or military elements could have perpetrated the abduction based on the traits of the persons involved and the precision of the operation against Balao.


The participants to the international mission are pushing for an expeditious investigation on the enforced disappearance of Balao and have urged government authorities to locate and surface him at the soonest possible time.

An American Indian said high government officials have to answer for the disappearance. “This (abduction) is not a small operation. It is carried out by powerful forces,” said Dr. Richard Grounds, a member of the Euchee Indians of Oklahoma, U.S.A.

“We join the Balao family in their call to surface James,” added Grounds, who is a co-chair of Cultural Survival, an organization actively involved in the campaign for the recognition of Indian rights in his country.

Grounds claimed that the abductions of political activists are ‘a shame to a government that claims to be democratic.’ He was one of those who joined the international solidarity mission that met with Gen. Eugene Martin of the Regional PNP, October 23.

Churches condemn human rights abuses

The WCC has consistently condemned extrajudicial killings and other atrocities among indigenous peoples as contained in its position papers presented to the Universal Periodic Review, a new United Nations Human Rights Council mechanism.

Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala said, “This is a part of our program against atrocities and discrimination of indigenous peoples, which has been going on for two decades.”

He said that the WCC adopted their support for indigenous peoples’ issues during their 7th Assembly in Vancouver, Canada in 1987.

The largest and most represented gathering of Protestant and Orthodox churches, the WCC has 342 member churches in 110 countries with headquarters based in Geneva, Switzerland. (Northern Dispatch/Bulatlat)

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

PUBLISHED ON October 25, 2008 AT 5:11 PM

Bishop blames Gov't for Itogon Disasters

The recent mining tragedy in Northern Luzon must become a launching pad for the Church to further strengthen its campaign against mining, a Catholic bishop has said.

Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena said what happened to 14 trapped miners inside a collapsed mining tunnel in Itogon, Benguet must not happen again.

“This particular incident proves strongly our conviction and contention that mining, particularly in upland areas, should not be done because mining in the country, are still irresponsible,” he said.

The bishop is known for his advocacy against a mining operation in Kasibu town in Nueva Viscaya that resulted to a violent conflict between a tribal group and an Australian mining firm.

He said tragedy in Itogon must be blamed on the Benguet Corporation’s socially and environmentally destructive mining operations since 1903 and the government for allowing it.

Villena claimed that “irresponsible mining” in the uplands are doubly hazardous as it is more prone to flashfloods and landslides thus endangering the inhabitants in the lower grounds.

“They always claim responsible mining is already there but that is not a reality based on our experience here (in Nueva Vizcaya),” Villena added. “As you can see, those miners in there are already trapped because of flooding”.

Last week, 14 miners got trapped inside a gold mine in Itogon, Benguet after water rose inside the underground tunnel at the height of typhoon Niña.

As of Tuesday, a total of four survivors were already rescued and were immediately sent to Baguio General Hospital for immediate treatment.

The prelate appealed to both the mining companies and the government to prioritize first development of the environment and the populace in their conduct of mining operations.

“For mining companies, what is important is development, which centers on environment and people. When it is centered on economic, it will be worse as it will be the cause of destruction,” Villena said.

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and local authorities should be very strict and, if possible, not relax about this matter and not allow themselves be bribed in releasing permits lest be called contributory to incidents such as these,” he said.

CBCP News October 1, 2008


Church wants laity to lead fight vs graft

Catholic Church officials exhorted lay people to take the lead in fighting graft and corruption, especially with the 2010 elections just around the corner.

Online news site The News Today reported that the call was made at the national convention of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines that ended Wednesday.

"The convention is very practical because this is a good preparation for the forthcoming national elections," said Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

Lagdameo said graft and corruption remains one of the most pressing problems of the country.

"The Church encourages the vigorous participation of the laity in governance not only in the Church but also of society. The laity must be at the forefront in solving our social problems," he said.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes, who chairs the CBCP's Episcopal Commission on the Laity, said lay people can help minimize if not eradicate corruption.

"Bishops and priests can only exhort them to do it and to provide spiritual formation, but they should be at the forefront," Reyes said.

He said that based on reports and stories of lay people, graft and corruption in government is worsening.

"The challenge to all government officials in all levels of governance is to live the faith," said Reyes.

In his homily during a Mass, Reyes acknowledged that corruption in government has been institutionalized in the country.

"It must be hard to be a good, to be a Christian politician in the Philippines," he said.

Reyes admitted that corruption exists even in the Church.

"There is corruption in the Church… but not as much as in government," he said drawing laughter and applause from the audience.

Reyes said the practice of giving an "SOP," or standard operating procedure, which involves an automatic kickback to officials in government projects, purchases or transactions, should be stopped.

He said it seems that the practice has already become acceptable to the people and they have stopped opposing it.

"There must be a change in mindset. It is not acceptable. It is wrong," he said.

Also, the Council of the Laity of the Philippines threw its support for Pampanga Gov. Eddie "Ed" Panlilio against a recall campaign to oust him from office.

In the statement issued at the culmination of the three-day national convention, the national organization of lay people said they are supporting Panlilio's campaign to "promote integrity and honesty in government."

"We are backing him in his fight for good governance and his battle against the proposed recall, which will bring to naught his noble and difficult work against graft and corruption," the group said in a statement.

Panlilio, who is on leave from his duties as priest, was one of the speakers in the convention.

But he is facing a recall bid initiated by a non-government organization led by a former election campaigner of Lilia Pineda.

GMANews.TV 10/03/2008 | 06:58 AM



Land reform, terrorist tag highlights PEPP-NDFP dialogues


The question of implementation of land reform and the removal from the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) listing were the highlights of the September 3 Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) dialogue, in the former’s international office in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

In an e-mail sent to this writer by Luis G. Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, he said that Cagayan De Oro Archbishop Antonio S. Ledesma, SJ was the one who raiseD the question of land reform.

“The PEPP, in particular Archbishop Ledesma, brought up the question of land reform. He asked the NDFP side what is its view on land reform and on the conflicting views regarding CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms) and GARB (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill). The NDFP side said that its view on land reform is contained in its 12-point program and in the NDFP Draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),” Jalandoni said

He said that the said program (CASER) was announced in 1973 and further elaborated in 1977.

Eleven years later, the NDFP Draft on CASER was presented to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel in March 1998.

Aquino’s CARP is not good to farmers

He said that on the side of the NDFP they saw Corazon C. Aquino’s CARP has not been beneficial at all to the peasants.

“Prof. Jose Maria Sison pointed out the various anti-peasant schemes such as the stock distribution scheme (used against Hacienda Luisita peasants and farmworkers), the VOS [voluntary offer to sell], land conversion [to industrial or commercial estates],” Jalandoni explained in his letter.

Jalandoni said that the NDFP does not think that CARP, which is basically flawed and in practice anti-peasant, can be reformed. He expressed the opinion that GARB would be more for the benefit of the peasants.

However, Archbishop Ledesma said that quite a number of bishops are supporting CARPER (CARP Extension with Reforms) and landlords are benefiting from the non-extension of CARP, he furthered.

On the other hand, Archbishop Ledesma suggested a kind of monitoring committee on land reform.

“The NDFP side suggested communication and dialogue between PEPP and the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) chaired by Julieta de Lima, member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel. Email addresses were exchanged to facilitate communication,” said Jalandoni.

Killings on Bondoc Peninsula, Masbate

On the same meeting, Jalandoni disclosed, that the PEPP brought up the issue of alleged killings of peasants in Masbate and the Bondoc Peninsula.

“The NDFP side said that it is important to carry out investigation on what has happened, pointing out that the New People's Army (NPA) in Masbate has issued a statement on the question,” he said.

Jalandoni was referring to the statement released by the Jose Rapsing Command of the NPA published in the Philippine Revolution Web Central ( last June 5.

On revolutionary taxation

The question of revolutionary taxation was also brought up by one from the PEPP side. Prof. Sison stated that collecting taxes is a function of a government. The revolutionary government, he said, is collecting taxes to provide services to the people. It is part of its function to administer the [social, economic and cultural] programs of the revolutionary movement.

Jalandoni stated that the GRP must consider in the peace talks that the NDFP is working in 120 guerrilla areas or fronts, has seventeen revolutionary allied organizations, with land reform, health, literacy, cultural and other programs in more than 800 municipalities in 70 out of 81 provinces throughout the country.

On the terrorist tag

Jalondoni told Bulatlat that the PEPP listened carefully when Prof. Sison explained that the terrorist listing was misused by the GRP side to pressure the NDFP to sign a Final Peace Accord which was a document of capitulation, a violation of the Hague Joint Declaration which provides that no precondition may be imposed that negates the inherent character and purpose of peace negotiations.

“Furthermore, Prof. Sison explained that the NDFP was not demanding that the GRP ask the US to remove the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison from the terrorist list. What the NDFP is asking is that the GRP make a joint declaration [with the NDFP] against the breach of national sovereignty and territorial integrity by foreign government which imposes their anti-terrorist policies and laws on matters that are strictly internal to the Philippines,” says Jalandoni.

The PEPP did not make a specific reaction to this question of the lifting of the terrorist tag on the CPP, NPA and Prof. Sison, he added.

No specific date yet for the second dialogue

While the NDFP considers the said meeting very important and should be considered just the beginning of a process, no date was set for a second meeting, though both sides agreed to keep in touch, Jalandoni said.

Bishop Deogracias Iniguez Jr. said: "Dialogue is good."

He said that the NDFP invited the PEPP delegates to visit them again and that there was a consensus that the dialogue should continue.

Noel Sales Barcelona;

September 29, 2008

Youth groups sign unity statement for peace in Mindanao

Youth coming from different organizations, including two (2) university student councils, signed an interfaith unity statement seeking peace based on justice in Mindanao.

Signatories include the Christian lay organization, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), Liga ng Kabataang Moro (Moro Youth League or LKM), St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary-Student Body Organization, Kabataan para sa Katutubong Pilipino (Katribu), University of the Philippines Muslim Students’ Association (UP MSA), UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA), Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas (Philippine Christian Youth Federation), Tignayan Dagiti Agtutubo ti Kordilyera para iti Demokrasya (TAKDER), UP Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid, Polytechnic University of the Philippines SR Sophia Prado, and TANGGULAN Youth Network for Human Rights and Civil Liberties.

“In unity for peace based on justice, we, Christians, Muslims and indigenous youth, call to stop the total war in Mindanao,” reads the introductory part of the Youth Interfaith Unity Statement, sent to CBCP News.

Current conflict not simple

The signatories said that they believe the current conflict is not a simple conflict between Christians or Muslims or indigenous peoples.

“We learn, even as it is often concealed in our history books, that this is a struggle on the right of the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation or peoples) to self-determination and the right to their ancestral lands. The rights taken away from them have become a historical neglect that has been passed on from one generation to another,” said the statement.

They say, many thought that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) will address the problems in Mindanao and of the Bangsamoro people but as events unfold, they’ve witnessed how the Macapagal-Arroyo government used the MOA-AD to push its agenda for Charter Change.

“Revived and scrapped for a number of times throughout Arroyo’s presidency, a Charter Change at present is seen to grant Arroyo a term extension beyond 2010 and the inclusion of anti-people provisions, such as allowing foreign investors to own and acquire 100 percent of our country’s natural resources—including the ancestral lands claimed by the Moro and indigenous peoples,” the unity statement said.

Saddened by the peace negotiations stop

“We are saddened that the peace negotiations have been stalled. We are even more dismayed that the government dismantled its peace panel. We continuously urge both parties, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to resume the Peace Negotiations and address the centuries-old roots of dissidence in Mindanao,” say the signatories adding, as government offensives have developed into a total war, the casualties, hungry and internally displaced evacuees grow every day.

They’ve also stated that the halt in the signing of the MOA then provoked the escalation of hostilities.

War hurt, kill people especially children

“Media reports account that the conflict in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao has brought the death toll to more than 70 individuals, majority of them due to indiscriminate firing and shelling, and the forced displacement of more than 500,000 people to crowded and evacuation centers,” the statement furthered.

This statement was supported by the reports from the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, a non-governmental organization which helps war-shocked and abused children to recover.

As of their last count, more than 10,000 children have been affected by the war. The CRC said that the “myth” of the MILF child soldiers has escalated the human rights violations against children, ages 14 and below.

Due to this, the signatories said, “We express our deepest concern towards our brothers and sisters in Mindanao, especially the young people. We share the sufferings that our Muslim brothers and sisters have to endure while observing the holy month of Ramadhan (which ends up tomorrow, October 1).

“We call the attention of fellow youth organizations, churches, non-governmental organizations and volunteer citizens to extend assistance in whatever way to our internally displaced brothers and sisters in Mindanao.”

Urging the government to stop total war

On the other hand, they have urged the Macapagal-Arroyo government to stop using the MILF’s alleged attacks against civilians to justify its total war, saying that they’ve witnessed in the past weeks how the recent offensives by military forces have brought more civilian casualties.

“We appeal for an immediate Independent Mission to investigate and take into account the human rights violations committed in the course of this conflict, whether by the MILF or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). We also call to dismantle paramilitary groups such as the notorious Ilaga vigilante group. We stand firm that the alleged attacks against civilians should not be used to open the doors for wider confrontation, and push for a full-blown war,” it stated further.

Furthermore, the said organizations believe that the Arroyo government’s total war stance towards the Mindanao conflict is contrary to the achievement of genuine peace based on justice, especially for the Bangsamoro. Its strategy of “disarmament” and “neutralization” towards the MILF defeats the much-aspired resolution of the conflict. It downplays the legitimacy of the struggle of the Bangsamoro people, further reads the statement.

“As youth, we must understand that peace does not only mean silence amidst injustice. It is one that recognizes the right to life and human dignity, a peace that is based on the common aspirations for a free and just society—which include the right for self-determination of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples, the bone of contention of this centuries-old conflict in Mindanao,” it added.

Still no to Cha-Cha

“We continue to support the calls of various sectors of society in opposing Charter Change. The Bangsamoro struggle should not be used and made as a ploy to pursue the interests of the current administration, including the few foreign and local businesses and landlords who have vested interests in the rich blessed land of Mindanao.

The groups also called for the ending of the alleged intervention by the United States government in an internal affair such as the conflict in Mindanao.

“We call on the Filipino youth to pray together for genuine peace based on justice in Mindanao . Let us not get into the trap of anti-Muslim prejudice and hatred that causes division among our people. Let us work together in love, hope, peace and justice to be able to understand the roots of this conflict, and be able to present long-term solutions for the present generation, and the future generations to come. As freedom-loving people, let us link arms and call to stop the total war and recognize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and right to ancestral homeland, so that genuine justice may be genuinely achieved,” the statement ended.

Noel Sales Barcelona;

September 30, 2008


CBCP head blasts granting of ECC to coal power plant

A coal-power plant in an area earmarked for eco-tourism is yet to get-off the ground but already it is stoking up anger among several groups.

The most vocal opponents to the approved 164-megawatt coal plant at the heart of Iloilo City are groups of environmentalists and influential leaders of the Catholic Church.

They fear the plant will do more harm than good for them and the environment stretching from inside a 4-hectare property of the Panay Power Corp. in Barangay Ingore in Lapaz District to other nearby towns.

The plant would be completed in 2010.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo admitted fear among them that the power plant owned by the PPC and a Metrobank subsidiary, Global Business Power Corp. will soon operate in the area.

“It’s really saddening because people here (in Iloilo) are really against it,” he said.

Lagdameo, also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said they want power but a “clean power.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recently granted an environment certificate of compliance to the proposed project.

The Jaro archdiocese has yet to see any detailed ECC for the project but is embarking on a public campaign to make local people aware of the dangers of coal fuel toxins.

Lagdameo said it’s hardly complicated for them to understand why the government is pushing such project that has long been proven to be environmentally risky.

He said it is also contrary to a government campaign for renewable energy.

“There is no such thing as clean coal fired power plant especially here (in our country) where the process of giving approval (by the authorities) is often questionable,” the archbishop said.

The international environmental group Greenpeace also lashed at the DENR for approving the project.

In a statement, Greenpeace Southeast Asian campaign manager Beau Baconguis said that in granting permit, DENR secretary Lito Atienza “has revealed his monumental hypocrisy, pretending to talk about climate change” while approving coal plant projects.

“By approving the ECC of the Iloilo City coal plant project, Secretary Atienza has shown his true colors—it’s as black and dirty as the coal plants he promotes,” he said.

Roy Lagarde


Peace Advocates Hold Dialogue with NDFP Panel

A delegation of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) held a dialogue with the negotiating panel and consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Sept. 2, in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The PEPP delegation was composed of co-convenors Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, and members Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Bishop Efren Tendero, Sister Cres Lucero and Ofelia Cantor. Fr. Michel Beckers of the Norwegian Ecumenical Peace Platform joined the PEPP delegation.

They met with Luis Jalandoni, chairperson of the NDFP negotiating panel, and panel members Fidel Agcaoili, Julieta de Lima and Coni Ledesma, Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison, member of the NDFP Monitoring Committee Danilo Borjal and Ruth de Leon, head of the NDFP panel secretariat.

The PEPP and the NDFP agreed that there is an urgent need to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations and such resumption must be based on prior agreements between the two parties. They also agreed that ‘a just and lasting peace in the Philippines could only be attained by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.’

Jalandoni said that the NDFP is willing to hold informal talks in order to prepare the resumption of formal talks as soon as possible in accordance with the existing agreements between the GRP and NDFP.

Jalandoni informed the PEPP delegation that the NDFP had proposed to the GRP a10-point concise agreement on the principles for immediate peace, but unfortunately, the GRP did not respond.

Sison said that the basic problem in pushing the resumption of formal talks is the lack of interest of Ms. Gloria Arroyo in the peace negotiations, and the heavy hand of militarists like Eduardo Ermita and Norberto Gonzales in the GRP Negotiating Panel. He observed that Arroyo had apparently closed the door to peace negotiations by demanding demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation as preconditions. He noted that this latest of the GRP preconditions aggravated the previous precondition of prolonged ceasefire, which was already a gross violation of The Hague Joint Declaration.

Sison pointed out that all impediments to the peace negotiations can be resolved by complying with existing agreements. He said that the GRP and NDFP can overcome the terrorist blacklisting of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People's Army (NPA) and the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, in accordance with the Oslo Statements I and II, by simply making a joint declaration that no foreign government should breach Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity by interfering with legal and political matters that are strictly internal to the Philippines.

The NDFP panel requested the PEPP to call on the GRP to comply with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and release NDFP consultants Angie Ipong, Elizabeth Principe and Randall Echanis. The NDFP also urged the PEPP to call for the surfacing of consultants who have been involuntarily disappeared and the lifting of false charges against Sison and consultants like Vicente Ladlad and Rafael Baylosis.

September 8, 2008 – 1:53 p.m.


Detained Pastor Ordered Released by CA

Detained Pastor Berlin Guerrero was ordered released to the custody of his lawyers this morning by the Court of Appeals (CA).

A United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) pastor, Guerrero was abducted May 27, 2007 by elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces. He was allegedly tortured before being turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP). Only then was he shown a copy of a warrant of arrest for murder charges.

The Court of Appeals began hearing petitions filed by Guerrero's lawyers former Sen.Jovito Salonga and Emilio Capulong after the case was remanded to the appelate court by the Supreme Court. Court of Appeals Associate Justice Martin Villarama granted a temporary restraining order barring the Cavite Regional Court Branch 19 from proceeding with the hearings on the murder case and directed government lawyers to submit more evidence to justify the trial of Guerrero.

Capulong said that while they were hoping for the dismissal of the case, he deemed that the court's decision is already favorable. "Bagamat hindi pa tapos, lumiliwanag na ang ating ipinaglalaban para sa katarungan." (Although the case is not yet over, we are seeing light in our struggle for justice.)

In an interview, Guerrero said, "Bagamat naghihintay pa ng final resolution, magandang patunay na talagang walang batayan ang kaso." (Although we are still awaiting for the final resolution, today's decision is proof that the charges filed against me have no basis at all.)

Guerrero was detained for one year, three months and 15 days. Bulatlat

September 11, 2008 - 1:47 p.m.


Church concerned about 'rise' in abortions in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines—A senior Roman Catholic prelate on Friday expressed concern over what he said was the rise in abortions warning that anyone carrying out or receiving an abortion would be excommunicated.

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, where 80 percent of the country's 90 million people are Catholics.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, head of the Manila archdiocese, said recent reports of dead fetuses being dumped in sewers, bins, public toilets and in one instance in a basket intended for cash donations that was passed around during mass at a Manila church, were "bad news".

He told reporters abortion was "a sin and those who commit the act know that it is not right to kill, particularly an innocent child.

"Church law also dictates that whoever caused it (abortion) will be excommunicated."

He did not give any evidence to back up his assertion that abortion was on the rise. The Health Department says some 500,000 abortions are carried out each year in the country.

The figure differs from those by the UN Population Fund, which has put the figure at 473,000, and the World Health organization at 800,000.

The donation basket fetus was discovered by a priest at the Black Nazarene church in central Manila last month.

First posted 19:50:16 (Mla time) August 29, 2008
Agence France-Presse


Muslim, Christian students

do Sandugo for Bangsamoro struggle

QUEZON CITY, August 23, 2008—Islamic and Christian students of the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD) held a Sandugo or blood compact to show their unity and support to the legitimate struggles of the Bangsamoro (Moro nation) for self-determination and their quest for true and lasting peace, as well as to show their unity against the proposed charter change (Cha-Cha) by the Arroyo government.

In a protest action held in UPD last August 19, headed by the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (Stand-UP), the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) held a Sandugo to express their unity as a people and vow to work together for the true and lasting peace in Mindanao, now in the middle of a war.

Fudge Tajar, Stand-UP’s deputy secretary-general, said in a statement that since Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s assumption to power in 2001 through the peaceful uprising in Edsa and her reelection in 2004, the lumads, Christians and Muslim in Mindanao have long been suffering due to the administration’s schemes to perpetuate in power.

She lambasted the attempts of the Arroyo government to use the Memorandum of Agreement for Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) and the current intensified armed conflict between the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Islamic revolutionary forces under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to push for Cha-Cha.

In earlier reports, Malacañang expressed the willingness to support the Senate Resolution No. 10, or the establishment of 11 federal states in the Philippines, including the Federal State of Bangsamoro.

It fired up a debate in the Senate and has resulted to withdrawal of support of some senators who have signed the said Resolution. Lately, the counterpart bill in the House of Representatives was withdrawn by its author himself, former San Sebastian-Recoletos College of Law dean and now Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, stating that he doesn’t want his bill to be used by Malacañang for its selfish intentions.

Bangsamoro will won’ t have peace under the Arroyo

“Cha-Cha shall ostensibly commence the shift to federalism to accommodate the demands of the Bangsamoro people's call for autonomy, but it shall only help perpetuate the Arroyo regime in power further than 2010,” explains Tajar,

She added that the tally of human violations committed by government forces against the Bangsamoro people and Arroyo's manipulation of anti-Moro hysteria are but testaments to the government's insincerity in granting the Muslims the community they envision.”

Furthermore, the students also lambasted the regime for pitting the Bangsamoro and Christian peoples against one another and consider it as another diversionary tactic to obscure the intensifying cries for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ouster.

“We, mga Iskolar ng Bayan, will never condone the atrocities Arroyo and her cohorts have committed against the people. While we unite with the Bangsamoro people's quest for genuine autonomy and peace, we also seek Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ouster as instrumental to ending both the Bangsamoro people and the Filipino people's plight,” the youth leader stressed.

Continued protest by youths vs. Cha-Cha, martial rule
Meanwhile, youth groups vowed to launch series of protest to spoil Mrs. Arroyo’s Cha-Cha.

On Friday member organizations of Youth ACT Now! (Youth for Accountability and Truth Now!) led simultaneous class walkouts in different schools and universities to mark the youth's protest against Arroyo's moves to perpetuate herself in power.

Students from the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, College of St. Benilde, St. Scholastica, Ateneo, University of the East, University of Sto. Tomas, Far Eastern University, Adamson, Philippine Christian University, Lyceum, Letran, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Philippine Normal University, Jose Rizal University, Technological Institute of the Philippines and some public high schools around Metro Manila held simultaneous programs in their respective schools before converging in Plaza Salamanca in Taft by 12:00 noon for a centralized youth program.

The said walkouts were organized by local chapters of National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Student Christian Movement (SCM), Kabataang Pinoy, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), KARATULA, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, Youth Revolt and Kristiyanong Kabataan para sa Bayan, all were conveners of the Youth ACT Now!

After the series of programs, the youth protesters are expected to proceed to Roxas Boulevard to merge with other sectors for the broad Truth Festival rally, which was organized by different cause-oriented groups, including the Association of Women Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AWMRSP), headed by Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB.

Youth ACT Now! Spokesperson and NUSP national president Alvin Peters said in a statement that they oppose Mrs. Arroyo’s Cha-Cha and any moves of the government to put the country under martial rule for these would allow the extension of a corrupt, treacherous and unrepentant regime.

On the other hand, SCMP chairperson Biyaya Quizon condemned the Arroyo administration's posturing for peace when clearly it has more sinister and divisive tactics in mind.

“We strongly condemn the Arroyo administration for intensifying the conflict with our Moro brothers as a result of its double-speak and ulterior motives,” the lay leader said.

Meanwhile, CEGP national president Vijae Alquisola warned Mrs. Arroyo against using the present Mindanao conflict as a pretext for martial rule and calls “on our fellow youth to be ever vigilant against attempts to attack our freedoms and civil liberties." Metro Manila has been reportedly placed under 'red alert' and the military has been justifying the deployment of checkpoints around the city.”

Furthermore, LFS chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said that Arroyo's 'game plan and scenario-building' are becoming more obvious by the minute. "First, charter change, then Arroyo and her militarist-thinking advisers are now manipulating the Mindanao conflict to sow an atmosphere of panic and chaos even in Manila and other regions."

"Either way you look at it, cha-cha or martial rule, both serve Arroyo's motives to prolong power and evade accountability for the numerous unresolved cases of corruption and human rights violations," said Kabataang Pinoy president Dion Cerrafon.

Anakbayan chairperson Ken Ramos said, "Instead of self-serving schemes, Mrs. Arroyo should address the present economic crisis burdening the people. Last we checked oil prices are still at record-high levels, the lines at NFA retail shops are not getting any shorter and the government is earning more windfalls via the VAT at the expense of our poor countrymen."

Noel Sales Barcelona


NCCP: Cha-cha won’t bring peace in Mindanao

MANILA, August 16, 2008—A conciliar body of various Christian churches said extending the term of President Arroyo through Charter change is “not that the way to lasting peace” in Mindanao.

In a statement, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines said such move will only exacerbate the crisis the country is facing at present.

The organization claimed amending the Constitution under the present administration is “wrought mainly with the motive for political survival.”

“Charter Change threatens seriously the remaining nationalist provisions of the Constitution especially with respect to national patrimony,” the statement read.

“It will further liberalize the economy and exacerbate the plunder of the remaining natural wealth in Mindanao and elsewhere in the archipelago to advance foreign business interests at the people's expense,” it added.

President Arroyo recently said she is supporting a shift to federal form of government to ensure lasting peace in Mindanao —a process perceived by her critics as her way to stay in power beyond 2010.

The NCCP said they full supports the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front provided such course should only be through a “principled negotiations”.

They said the issues on the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination are “complex” and the issue on ancestral domain is one of them.

The religious organization said the memorandum of agreement (MoA) between the two parties is a positive step towards resolving the conflict.

“But the MoA has raised many serious and legitimate questions and doubts are now cast on the sincerity of Malacañang in the light of the simultaneous resurgence of the moves for Charter Change,” the statement said.

“Principled negotiations start in facing squarely the issues that gave rise to the long festering conflict. Grounded on this, we must continue to push for genuine peace talks even as we pray that wars may cease and all people will enjoy divine providence more abundantly,” it added. (CBCPNews)


Bishop nixes resumption of mining in Rapu-Rapu

A Catholic bishop continues to strongly oppose the resumption of mining operations by Lafayette Philippines Inc. in Rapu-rapu Island, Albay.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said the mining company brought environmental destruction than the perceived economic boom.

He said the catastrophic havoc is very evident in the island after years of operations by the LPI.

“No. I repeat our position that (mining in) Rapu-rapu should not be opened because it has no benefit to the community,” Bastes said.

He claimed that majority of people not only in Rapu-rapu but in the entire Bicol region are against mining.

Bastes said the government is being imprudent again for allowing the said mining firm to operate despite its bad track record.

“It’s not wise for the government to allow them,” he said.

The religious leader said he already warned Environment Secretary Lito Atienza of the “terrible things” that are about to happen for allowing the LPI to operate again.

“I will blame him for that. That’s what I told him,” he said.

The LPI pulled out its copper and zinc mining operation last March over environmental issues.

The bishop claimed the mining firm got “bankrupt” after its investors backed off due to public clamor against the LPI.

“They (LPI) have no more investors. They can’t even pay their personnel anymore. It’s no longer financially viable,” he added.

According to Bastes the mining in Rapu-rapu was supposed to be the government’s “flagship” project in its revitalized mining industry program but it turned out to be a “fiasco.”

Bastes also said the Lafayette still has over P130 million pesos balance of taxes payable to the government.

“The government should impose total closure of the mining there. It has ruined not only the environment but also our economy,” he Bastes said.

Under new management, LPI will resume in its controversial polymetallic mining site this month with an assurance that the repeat of a toxic tailings spill is avoided so that its operations are not jeopardized.

The operations will be under the Malaysia Smelting Corp. Berhad (MSC), a Malaysian industrial firm that has acquired 30 per cent share in the Australian-owned mining venture.

MSC director Dr. Mohammed Ajib Anuar said the new operations will be targeting an output of 50,000 ounces of gold, 600,000 ounces of silver, 14,000 tons of zinc and 10,000 tons of copper per year that would be marketed in China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and other international markets.

Roy Lagarde  MANILA, August 9, 2008 __________________________________________________________________________________________

Muslims, Christians to stage protests vs gov't-MILF deal

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines--Muslims and Christians in the Southern Philippines have assailed the "landmark deal" between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks to expand Moro autonomy in Mindanao.

None other than Sultan Esmail Kiram, the heir of Sultanate of Sulu, expressed disgust over what he called government's insensitive action of offering the areas which have been part of the ancestral domain of Sultanate of Sulu, to the MILF without prior consultation.

"I feel really very bad. What we know prior to the agreement, the MILF was claiming ancestral land somewhere in Central Mindanao. The government committed a very drastic move by offering areas, including our ancestral domain which, unfortunately, the MILF approved," Kiram said in an interview.

"Ano ba talaga ang aim ng Philippine government, papag-awayin ang mga Muslim at Kristyano dito sa Mindanao? [What is the true aim of the Philippine government? Get the Muslims and Christians to fight each other?] Do they want us here to fight each other over ancestral domain?" Kiram said.

Kiram said he had nothing against the MILF. "We support them, but for Allah's sake, no one has full authority to seek historical rights or encroaching over it," Kiram said about the impending agreement on ancestral domain.

In a press conference on Saturday night, Sheikh Abdul Wakil Tanjil, deputy mufti for Western Mindanao and executive director of Salamat Islamic Institute, also questioned the memorandum of agreement (MOA).

Tanjil said even the Sultanate of Sulu, which "has all the rights for Ancestral Domain claim, respected certain territories."

"People have the right to be consulted before agreeing and signing any deal," he said.

Datu Albi Julkarnain, chair of the Council of Royal Datus, said the MOA on ancestral domain would "encroach in areas supposedly under the Sultanate."

Kiram and the other Muslim leaders said they would support the protest action in Zamboanga City on Monday, a day before the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said he was expecting thousands of residents, not just from this city but as well as from neighboring towns and provinces, to join the protest action to "dramatize our opposition to the inclusion in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (JBE)."

Spearheaded by Lobregat, the protest rally will coincide with the city's formal filing of a case before the Supreme Court.

The case seeks for a stop to the signing of the proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The rally will be the first since the mass protest in 2001 when residents, then led by Celso's mother, the late Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat, also marched on the streets expressing their opposition to the proposal to include Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the transition government for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"We, Christians and Muslims alike, have spoken and resoundingly voted against this," Lobregat said.

Idjirani likened the MOA to modern colonization.

"Before Mindanao or the Philippines was colonized by foreigners. Now Muslim counterparts, not foreigners, are colonizing our own people," he said.

Ustadz Shariff Mohsin Julabbi, chairman of the MILF in Western Mindanao, objected to the idea of giving parts of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi to the MILF.

"I am an official of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I am a spiritual leader. Now I can say that those agreeing to the territories given by the government are not MILF like me, they are Maguindanaoan Iranon Liberation Front," Julabbi said.

Julabbi was referring to the MILF leaders who belong to the Maguindanao and Iranon Muslim tribes.

Citing the Quran, Julabbi said no one had the sole right to own a place except to take care of the resources.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE. There are Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon.

Covered by the BJE are Lobregat's ancestral home, the Fort Pilar shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

Teresita Sebastian, vice chair of the Mindanao Business Conference and regional governor of the Zamboanga Peninsula Philippine Chamber of Commerce, said the BJE would be "divisive and only sow confusion among the people."

"When we were young, we did not highlight the differences in us. We looked at the commonalities and appreciated it. With this ongoing development, we are now seeing differently. The government should have done something to make people meet and see on common ground, not further divide them," Sebastian said.

Sebastian said the business community did not deal with people based on differences. "We engage actively in business not because they are Muslims, Christians or Lumads [indigenous peoples]. In fact, our co-existence is not just mere toleration, but appreciation."

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, assured that they would uphold the rights of people, particularly Christians, upon signing a deal with government.

"We are not barbaric. We guarantee that we will respect their rights. While we are in Islamic State, we will still follow a democratic form of government," Kabalu said.

"We are asking the people of Mindanao to widen their thinking and not to entertain selfish desires. The past administrations tried but failed to address the Bangsamoro problem. Now, the agreement we will sign in Malaysia on August 5 will not benefit the people of Mindanao but the entire nation," he added.

Despite Kabalu's appeal for an open mind, protests will be held in various parts of Mindanao, including Iligan City on Monday.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the protest action would be their way of expressing their opposition to the inclusion of eight upland villages in the proposed BJE.

The Iligan City villages that were included in the proposed BJE are Rogongon, Panoroganan, Mainit, Dulag, Lanipao, Kalilangan, Hindang and Diigkilaan.

Cruz said these villages have been engaged in agricultural food production.

"Why should we be included again in another referendum when Iligan City twice rejected the move to include the city in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?" Cruz asked.

"We are not against the peace process nor are we against the expansion of the ARMM. However, we cannot allow divisions to destroy the harmonious relationship among Muslims, Christians and lumad," Cruz added.

In North Cotabato, Vice Governor Manny Piñol said they would stage protests on Tuesday, the day of the MOA signing.

First posted 18:23:49 (Mla time) August 03, 2008
Mindanao Bureau


Protestant, Catholic bishops call for peace talks with Reds

MANILA, Philippines - Catholic and Protestant bishops on Wednesday urged government to work to resume talks with communist rebels.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), an alliance of bishops coming from different Christian denominations in the country, said that it was high time that government resume pending peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

"We join our people's calls… To resume the GRP-NDFP formal peace talks aimed at attaining a just and lasting peace by addressing the social, economic and political roots of the armed conflict, reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL)," read the EBF statement.

The joint pastoral statement was released after the three-day peace conference held in Cebu City last July 24-26.

Excerpts of the statement were posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

Reading the statement were Caloocan bishop and CBCP public affairs unit head Deogracias Iñiguez Jr.; and bishop Solito Toquero of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

The group also called for the scrapping of the value-added tax, especially on oil products; and the oil deregulation law.

It also called for a stop to militarization of the countryside as it makes the people victims of state power, especially women and children.

Also, it sought the approval and implementation of the proposed P125 across-the-board wage increase nationwide.

Likewise, it demanded an effective and genuine land reform program that will address the long-standing problem of landlessness of poor and marginalized Filipino farmers.

"With the vision of a Philippine society enjoying the fruits of genuine democracy and freedom from dehumanizing poverty, we add our voices to all peace-loving Filipinos in demanding Economic Justice for the sake of Peace!," the EBF statement said. - GMANews.TV

All Rights Reserved. 2006 © GMA Network Inc.

Article posted July 30, 2008 - 05:02 PM


Bishops Say Neoliberal Policies Have Worsened, ‘Institutionalized’ Plunder of Nation’s Resources


The neoliberal economic policies implemented by the Philippine government over the last 20 years have “aggravated and institutionalized the plunder by foreign corporations” of the country’s human and natural resources,” the leaders of an ecumenical forum of Catholic, Protestant and Aglipayan bishops have said.

The neoliberal economic policies implemented by the Philippine government over the last 20 years have “aggravated and institutionalized the plunder by foreign corporations” of the country’s human and natural resources,” the leaders of an ecumenical forum of Catholic, Protestant and Aglipayan bishops have said.

In a statement, Roman Catholic Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero, co-chairmen of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), the plunder of the Philippines, also decried the “poverty and want” afflicting the Filipino people.

“We are very much saddened that while our nation is richly endowed with vast natural resources and hard working and resilient human resources, most of our farmers are landless and hungry, our sisters and brothers in workplaces are denied of their right to just wages, our indigenous peoples are denied of their rights to ancestral domain and self-determination, our fisherfolk are left without enjoying God-given marine resources, our women and children are subject to commodification and abuse and many of our young workers and professionals are forced to earn a living abroad away from their homes and families,” the EBF co-chairmen said.

Inequality and poverty

Based on the United Nations’ (UN) Human Development Report 2007/2008, the Philippines has a Gini coefficient of 44.5 – with 0 representing absolute equality and 100 representing absolute inequality.

Among the 177 countries ranked in the Human Development Report 2007/2008, there are only 37 countries with higher Gini coefficients, meaning having more inequality, than the Philippines: Argentina, Panama, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Malaysia, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, China, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Jamaica, Honduras, Bolivia, Guatemala, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Nepal, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Togo, Uganda, Cote d'loivre, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made much of the economic growth posted by the country under her administration. In a speech on Jan. 11, she said:

“Today, the Philippines is on a path to permanent economic growth and stability. We’ve created seven million new jobs in seven years... We’ve achieved 28 consecutive quarters of economic growth in the last seven years. And that’s something that even our neighbors cannot say. There were times during this 28 quarters that the… Singapore for instance, experienced negative growth and many of our neighbors and even the United States, there were quarters when they experienced negative growth.

“And in the last, in the three quarters of 2007 for which we have had our accounting completed, our economy rose 7.3 percent and this is the fastest growth in more than a decade, in a very, very long time.”

This economic growth, however, has been criticized by no less than the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as “among the most inequitable” in Southeast Asia. The ADB also noted that the Philippines has one of the highest Gini coefficients in Southeast Asia.

The ADB’s findings on inequality of income distribution are bolstered by data recently released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), which show that the number of poor Filipinos increased by 3.8 million from 2003 to 2006. Even with its low poverty threshold of P41.25 ($0.94 at the July 2 5exchange rate of $1:P44.07) for each individual Filipino – which is much lower than the living wage estimates of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) – the rise in poverty rates from 2003 to 2006 is visible.

Corruption and neglect

They also assailed the rampant corruption and political horse-trading in the Arroyo administration, as well as the government’s “collusion” with big foreign and local corporations engaged in profiteering.

“We are outraged that in the midst of serious socio-economic and political crisis besetting the country, the highest government officials are engaged in corruption, self-aggrandizement, and political maneuvering,” Iñiguez and Toquero said. “Furthermore, they collude with big foreign and local businesses such as oil companies, mining corporations, rice cartel and pharmaceutical firms in acquiring bigger profits at the expense of and in gross disregard for the welfare and interest of the people.”

The Philippines has been enduring unabated jumps in the prices of petroleum products. Prices of diesel and gasoline have gone up by more than 20 times since last January alone.

Oil price hikes severely affect the prices of commodities, as petroleum products are used in the production and transportation of goods.

Data from the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) shows that from April 2007 to April 2008, prices of prime commodities have increased by a range of 7.33-88.89 percent.

These price increases took place even as the peso is supposed to have grown stronger against the dollar from April 2007 to April 2008. Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP or Central Bank of the Philippines) shows that from $1:P47.82 in April 2007, the peso registered at $1:P41.82 in April 2008.

Last May alone, food prices soared by 14 percent, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), with commercial rice now costing no less than P32 ($0.73 as of July 25) a kilo.

The inflation rate nearly doubled from December 2007 to March this year. From 3.9 percent in December 2007, the inflation rate shot up in the succeeding three months to 6.4 percent. Last May, the inflation rate reached a nine-year high. Inflation in June reached 11.4 percent.

Oil firms have claimed that the frequent spikes in the prices of their products are offshoots of their supposed need to recover losses from the jumps in world oil prices. They have recently implemented weekly price hikes of P1.50.

But frequent oil price hikes are nothing new in the Philippines. The Philippines has been suffering from increasingly frequent oil price hikes since the deregulation of the downstream oil industry.

The downstream oil industry was deregulated in April 1996, upon the passage of Republic Act No. 8180. Two years later, RA 8180 would be replaced with RA 8479, which eliminated the first law’s provisions on tariff differential, stocking of inventories, and predatory pricing.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was a senator in 1995-1998, authored RA 8479 among other laws paving the way for the Philippines’ entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.

Human rights

The two bishops also condemned the human rights violations under the Arroyo regime.

“We are disturbed that our people’s collective action to express peacefully their discontentment and desire for meaningful social change are subject to repression by government resulting in various human rights violations such as, coercion, intimidation, political persecution, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings against those who voice dissent, including peace advocates and church people,” they said.

“We are further disturbed that the armed conflict continues to intensify due to the worsening social, economic and political crisis. This is all the more aggravated by the growing militarization of the countryside in the name of development aggression resulting in displacement of entire communities, with thousands of families denied of their rights to land, livelihood and life.”

Data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) show that from January 2001 to June 30, 2008, there have been 910 victims of extrajudicial killings and 193 victims of enforced disappearances.

From 2001 to 2008, the three regions with the most victims of extrajudicial killings are Southern Tagalog with 165, Central Luzon with 137, and the Bicol Region with 128. Most of the victims are peasants (numbering 424) and indigenous people (85). Among political organizations, the party-list group Bayan Muna (People First) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) have the highest number of victims, with 132 and 106, respectively.

Meanwhile, the three regions with the victims of enforced disappearances are Central Luzon with 62, Southern Tagalog with 28, and Eastern Visayas with 24.

Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, the Bicol Region, and Eastern Visayas are all marked as “priority areas” in the government’s counter-insurgency operations dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch).

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston went on a mission to the Philippines in 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and came up with a report specifically pointing to the military’s involvement in these. “In some parts of the country, the armed forces have followed a deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the leaders of leftist organizations,” Alston, who is also a professor at New York University (NYU), said.


The two bishops, in their statement, put forward the following demands:

·    Resumption the GRP-NDFP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) formal peace talks aimed at “attaining a just and lasting peace by addressing the social, economic and political roots of the armed conflict,” reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee and the full implementation of CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law);

·    Scrapping of the VAT (value-added tax), especially the VAT on oil products, being “unjust and onerous impositions by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) designed to ascertain capacity to service foreign debts, and resulting in increasingly unbearable tax burden on the Filipino people”;

·    Repeal the Oil Deregulation Law, since this law makes the government “fully supportive of the transnational corporations’ unstoppable profiteering on oil prices that puts our people in abject poverty”;

·    A stop to the militarization of the countryside as it “makes the people victims of state power, especially women and children,” and has resulted in numerous human rights violations;

·    Hastening the approval and implementation of the proposed P125 across-the-board wage increase nationwide; and

·    An effective and genuine land reform program that will address the long-standing problem of landlessness of poor and marginalized Filipino farmers.

Bulatlat Vol. VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008


Bishop Asks DAR: Where Did CARP Funds Go?

MAKATI CITY — Manila Auxiliary Bishop and Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace , Broderick Pabillo, D.D., grilled a Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) official during a press conference held at the San Carlos Seminary here by asking him where the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) funds went.

The press conference is part of the two-day National Rural Congess II spearheaded by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“I want to ask Usec. (Gerundio) Madueño here, about the statement of Sen. Gringo Honasan when we went to the Senate to dialogue about the extension of CARP with reforms, that your office did not submit any report of how the money for the agrarian reform program is used” Pabillo said. “For he (Honasan) said that the program as been there for so long but there is no transparency of how the money allocated for it was used.”

Madueño, the undersecretary for policy, planning and external affairs, categorically denied  Honasan’s allegations that they have never submitted a report, explaining how the money for CARP has been used.

However, Pabillo said, maybe Honasan’s committee in the Senate — the Committee on Agrarian Reform — is not satisfied with the report submitted by the DAR.

Peasant organizations and farmer-support groups like the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform), and Amihan (National Federation of Peasant Women) have criticized the DAR for misuse or misappropriation of funds.

KMP vice-chairperson Imelda Lacandazo, one of the delegates to the two-day congress, said that CARP extension will only give corrupt officials, who are involved in the implementation of the program, more opportunities to “steal the people’s money.”

Her group is batting for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, which is now pending at the House of Representatives. The law, which activist groups are promoting as a replacement for the CARP, seeks to expand land reform coverage and distribute lands to peasants for free.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Posted 6:28 p.m., July 8, 2008


Graft causes hunger--bishop

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines -- Graft and corruption in government, not a growing population, is among the reasons why poor Filipinos cannot buy enough rice and other food to eat, San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said in a homily here on Sunday.

"It is graft and corruption ... that is causing hunger in many of our families, not the growing population," Aniceto, 71, said in Kapampangan during the Mass for the Feast of the Blessed Trinity.

Aniceto, chair of the family life committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, tackled what he called the "crisis" of Filipino families as policymakers and legislators renew calls to arrest the country's population growth in order to avert a rice shortage.

The bishop did not cite specific corruption issues in the Arroyo administration, but said government leaders "must instead exert more institutional policies and political will" to deliver basic social services, ensure the land tenure of farmers, spend more public resources on agricultural production and raise wages.

He called House Bill No. 17 "disastrous," lamenting that it was following the "wrong stand" of the United Nations.

The bill, called the "Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2007," has been pending in the House committee on health since July 2007. Its principal author is Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

"The proponents say it is for reproductive health and for the freedom of women. When substances poison [the] body of a woman or kill a baby, that is not healthy, that is not freedom. That is death," Aniceto said.

He cited a recent encounter with a woman who confided to him that she bled when she took pills.

"Families should not be told to resort to artificial contraceptives to stop population growth and have lesser mouths to feed. They don't understand that the poor have more children because they help in the farm and they will take care of their parents in old age," Aniceto said.

He said the government's food security program "must not kill families but should focus on giving lands and support for farmers and workers."

A "culture of life" should be the policy adopted amid the tight rice supply and high prices of food, he said.

Lagman had recently said the population growth rate of 2.36 percent "outpaces" the annual growth in rice production of 1.9 percent recorded from 1990 to 2000.

"The country's inordinately huge population growth rate threatens food security and aggravates the looming rice shortage," Lagman said in a statement.

"The politics of rice is a numbers' game -- the number of mouths to feed and the number on the price tag," he said.

The Philippines' population in 2007 was pegged at 88.7 million, and is projected to reach 90.4 million in 2008.

Rafael Mariano, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and president of the Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party-list, said the "rice crisis cannot be solved easily by increased rice importation and by pouring money on agriculture."

In a statement, Mariano warned that the "second wave of the rice crisis will be felt by July and will last for three years" because palay prices are still low and government funds are lost to graft.

First posted 17:23:08 (Mla time) May 19, 2008
Tonette Orejas

Central Luzon Desk


CBCP asked to invite Pope to RP to see state of human rights


MANILA, Philippines - The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) appealed to the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to invite Pope Benedict XVI to the country to discover the “true state of human rights and civil liberties" in the Philippines.

The humanitarian appeal stemmed from the landmark address of 81-year old German pontiff to the United Nation General Assembly who said that human rights are the common language and ethical substratum of international relations and promoting these rights is the best way to eliminate inequalities.

“We strongly appeal to archbishops and bishops of CBCP and to CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo to invite and convince Pope Benedict XVI to come to the country so he could listen to the voices of the grassroots people and their defenders who are suffering from state-sponsored terrorism, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and political persecution," Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

“We will officially write the CBCP and the Vatican to formalize our request for Pope Benedict XVI about our request for the latter to have an audience with the surviving victims, relatives of victims and persecuted defenders of human rights, civil liberties and
people’s interests in the country," the Pamalakaya leader added.

CBCP should know about the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council to the Philippine government during the Universal Periodic Review to completely eliminate tortures and enforced disappearances, intensity efforts at investigating, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, he said.

“For CBCP and Pope Benedict’s information, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, tortures, political persecution and other forms of human rights violations are part of the government’s counter-insurgency program and policy known as Bantay
Laya 1 and 2," Hicap added.

Citing the date provided by the human rights watchdog Karapatan from 2001 up to present, there are about 902 victims of summary executions and 180 enforced disappearance during the last seven years.

Pamalakaya said Bayan Muna Party list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, Gabriela party list lawmaker Liza Maza and former Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano are facing possible arrests within this week for the alleged three cases of murder cases committed in Nueva Ecija province. –



04/20/2008 | 12:04 PM


CBCP to Pagcor: ‘Find other ways to aid the poor’


MANILA, Philippines—The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, yesterday reiterated the Church’s stand against gambling and challenged the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) to find other alternatives to directly help the poor.

“We stand against all forms of gambling, legal or illegal,” Lagdameo told the Inquirer in a phone interview, two days after Pagcor broke ground for a multibillion-dollar Las Vegas-style gaming and entertainment center on reclaimed land on Manila Bay.


Lagdameo stressed the CBCP was not completely opposed to the Bagong Nayong Pilipino-Manila Bay Integrated City but only the “element of gambling” in the planned tourism complex.


Pagcor Chair Efraim Genuino had said the project would bring in as much as $15 billion in investments from partners, casino operators and tourism firms from Japan, Malaysia and the British Virgin Islands. It would create thousands of new jobs, he added.


In an interview aired yesterday over church-run Radio Veritas, Lagdameo said the project was both “good and not so good.”


He said the project was impressive in that it is anticipated to house hotels, residential villages, a cultural center, a museum, a sports arena and a park, and is expected to create “a thousand jobs.”

“But we know that one of the intentions, gambling, will also be there—something we are trying to discourage because gambling is a very great temptation for both rich and poor and therefore it will contribute to the development of a culture of gambling,” Lagdameo said.


Pagcor channels its earnings to various government charities, including the President’s social fund.

Bishops found it difficult


But Lagdameo said Pagcor should find other means to help the poor rather than encourage gambling.


“Pagcor and the rich should directly channel the money to the needy instead of giving it through gambling, if they really want to help,” Lagdameo said, adding, “If they want, they can just give the money to the poor to enable them to buy rice, which is expensive now.”


Referring to the three Catholic bishops who had graced the gambling complex’s ground-breaking rites, Lagdameo said, “They may have found it difficult to make a distinction as to whether the project was good or bad because there were no buildings yet.”


Bishops Maximiano Cruz of Calbayog, Cirilo Almario of Malolos and Manuel Sobreviñas of Imus blessed the project’s corner stones.


Another objector to the Pagcor complex, the militant fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, complained the project led to the demolition of some 3,500 shanties in Pasay and Parañaque.


Meanwhile, Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco revealed that Pagcor had sought his approval to set up a casino-hotel at the fish port.


Tiangco told the Inquirer that Pagcor president and chief operating officer Rafael Francisco wrote him a letter asking for his approval to operate a casino-hotel in right inside Navotas Fish Port Complex (NFPC).


Navotas eyed, says mayor


“(The letter) only asked for my expressed approval so they could start the process of acquiring permits to build a hotel inside the complex,” Tiangco said.

He said he had reservations on the project, although it would surely generate additional income for the city.


“We would consider their proposal to build a hotel casino in the city, but definitely not inside the fish port,” Tiangco replied when asked if he would approve the proposal.


He said that with the daily cash transactions at the fish port, a casino nearby would leave fish brokers and vendors vulnerable.


“It’s like tempting them to gamble their hard earned money,” Tiangco said.

He said they were still in the process of weighing the benefits and disadvantages of Pagcor’s proposal.


Tiangco explained that although the NFPC is under the control and supervision of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA), the city has the final say on the use of the 47.5 hectares of reclaimed land where the complex is located.


He said portions of the complex which were not being used for fish landing and trading purposes were currently leased to private companies. Approximately 20 hectares are now being leased to various fisheries and fisheries-related industries.

NFPC, is the largest fish port in the country and one of the largest in Asia. With reports by Nancy Carvajal, Jerome Aning and Dax Lucas.


By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:21:00 04/06/2008


Church Concern on Mining 'Ignored'

When it comes to mining issues, the Catholic bishops' formidable foes are not the mining firms, but the deaf ears in the government.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines lamented Wednesday the government's continuing promotion of mining, despite a growing chorus of those who are against it.

Laoag Bishop Sergio Utleg, CBCP Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples chairman, said the government never cared to listen despite strong concerns from the locals and the Church.

"It has been a decade since the CBCP first released a statement of concern regarding mining, and yet through these years, the government has been unwavering in implementing 'development aggression,'" he said.

Utleg said mining, in the Philippine experience, not only destroys the environment but has become the vehicle for the violation of human rights, "ethnocide" of IP communities, "and even deaths."

He criticized the government for adhering to business interests over the welfare of the people who suffer much from the ill effects of mining operations.

"Here, we see the effects of pressure from business companies and foreign money over the government that nothing is happening to our request even if we've made it known long ago," he said.

The unceasing invitation for foreigners and local governments to enter into or accept mining ventures, he said, is against the Constitution.

The law of the land, Utleg noted, explicitly states that the environmental and human rights should be nurtured in communities, especially in those of the IPs.

Thus, the prelate reiterated an earlier appeal of the CBCP for the government to repeal the Mining Act of 1995.

"We are calling for the cancellation of all types of mining applications and the revocation of approved mining agreements," he said.

He also called on for the "stoppage of all mining operations" especially those in ancestral lands.


Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 7, March 16-29, 2008


Bishops, youth to take rallies for truth to the provinces


MANILA, Philippines - After the Holy Week, bishops and youth groups will bring their campaign for truth and accountability to the provinces, according to Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

Cruz on Saturday belied text messages that the bishops had already abandoned calls for the government to expose truth behind alleged anomalies, particularly in the botched $329.48-million National Broadband Network project with China's Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Corp.

"Yong nangyari ngayon, ayaw namin sa Metro Manila lang ang rally. Ang rally gusto namin sa mga probinsya dumami rin ... Sa
summer na ito ang kabataan ra-rally sa kanilang probinsyang inuuwian (We cannot limit our rallies to Metro Manila. We have to bring it to the provinces too. Some youth groups already told us they were going to bring their rallies to the provinces during the summer vacation)," Cruz said in an interview on dzXL radio.

He said ZTE scandal whistleblower Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr was able to disprove Malacañang's claim that people in provinces were not keen on rallies, after Lozada got a warm welcome wherever he went.

Lozada received a warm welcome in Iloilo province when he went there Friday, amid Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez's claim that Lozada was not welcome there.

Cruz also said Catholic bishops would actively participate in provincial rallies for truth and accountability led by Lozada.

"Sasama ang mga bishops, sigurado 'yan (Yes the bishops will join. That's for sure)," he said when asked if bishops will join future rallies.

He said Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) missed Friday's rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila because of his bad health condition at the time.

He also belied text messages claiming Lagdameo was pressured or bribed into not attending Friday's rally.

"Tungkol kay Archbishop Lagdameo, ako naninindigan ang taong 'yan matuwid, di pwedeng takutin at lalo nang di pwedeng lagyan (I will vouch for Lagdameo's integrity. He is straight and cannot be pressured, much less bought)," he added.

According to Cruz, Lagdameo was already feeling bad when the CBCP held an emergency meeting last February 26 and came out with a pastoral letter calling for the repeal of Executive Order 464.

The participation of the bishops in mass assemblies for truth and accountability is in line with their pastoral statement calling for a stop to the culture of corruption, according to Cruz.

He said bishops were particularly against the insatiable greed of some government officials.

"Ang greed di nabubusog 'yan, hanggang nagkakaroon ng pera sa bulsa lumalalim ang bulsa. Walang katapusan ang
greed (Greed is never-ending. The more money one steals, the deeper his or her pockets go. Greed does not become satisfied)," he said.

"Tayo rin ay nagpapasan ng mabigat na krus at nagdurusa ... May katapusan ang ating pinapasan na krus at pasyon (This Holy Week we should just bear our crosses, but we must remember this is not the end. Even Christ was resurrected)," he added. - GMANews.TV



03/15/2008 | 07:32 AM



Bishop urges new kind of people power


MANILA, Philippines -- The head of an influential group of Roman Catholic bishops Tuesday raised the possibility of a new brand of "people power" that would spur people to bring out the truth and end corruption that had kept the country hostage to the "greed of power-holders."


Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said that a "convergence of bearers of truths" could save the country.


Backed by the Church hierarchy, Jaime Cardinal Sin called on people power and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos responded and toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.


Lagdameo told reporters after meeting with about 50 civic, student and business groups that the massive anticorruption movement that ousted President Joseph Estrada in 2001 was a disappointment because it "installed a President who later on was judged by surveys as the most corrupt president."


Lagdameo was apparently referring to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who became President after Estrada was ousted.


"We went from one frying pan to a worse frying pan," he said.


Referring to the recent CBCP call for "communal action," Lagdameo said that if, by consensus, "the communal action is people power, it will have to be a different 'brand.' It will not be simply a repeat of the past ... The movements of some groups for a national campaign against corruption may be a sign."


At the meeting, civil society groups asked the Church leadership to guide and spearhead "communal actions."


"They want clearer guidance and leadership. They want to see us with them," said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz after he, Lagdameo and Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez held a dialogue with various sectoral groups.


Cruz said the bishops listened in order to know the "what, how and when" of the planned communal actions.


Lagdameo made the comments amid mounting calls for Ms Arroyo to resign as a Senate inquiry looks into alleged bribery in the scrapped $329-million broadband deal with China's ZTE Corp.


Priests and nuns have offered refuge to a key witness in the Senate investigation -- a former consultant for the project, Rodolfo Lozada Jr. -- amid threats to his life. They have also organized prayer protests and joined street rallies calling for Ms Arroyo's resignation and a clean government.


Who's who


Lagdameo called for a "brand new people power" and said a campaign against corruption in government may be a start.


Among those who attended the dialogue were representatives of the Black and White Movement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Makati Business Club, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Kubol Pag-Asa, Gabriela, Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation, Bangon Pilipinas, National Council of Churches of the Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, Solidarity Philippines and the La Salle Brothers.


But even Lagdameo's presence at the meeting does not signify that the CBCP has already joined the movement against the Arroyo administration.


Lagdameo said he attended the meeting only as the archbishop of Jaro.


"That's why I attended this meeting, because I will bring this message to my brother bishops," he said.


On Monday, Lagdameo lauded the successful holding of "communal action" undertaken by civil society in response to the bishops' call.


Apparently referring to Lozada, Lagdameo said in a statement: "Imagine, with just one courageous person willing to witness to the Truth, some good things are already starting to happen, like the exposition of other scams, lies, deceits, 'moderate and immoderate greed'.


"We hope and encourage that other courageous and inspired persons will emerge to tell or expose or humbly face the truth, whose concealment had made our country captive to corruption and greed of power-holders."


Lagdameo told reporters the challenge to Filipinos today was to find "how to express its new brand of people power."


He said he was optimistic that the civil society groups he met may have already found some of the answers to this challenge.


Not just talking


Cruz said that no clear action had yet resulted from the meeting.


Both sides, he said, only committed themselves to a continuing dialogue but would come out with a more concrete agenda soon.


"This is not the end of this. Our agreement does not stop here. And this will not be just talking but definitely there will be doing and acting," said Cruz.


He said the dialogue with civil society was gaining ground because more people were joining it.


Beverly T. Natividad
First posted 04:53:46 (Mla time) February 20, 2008
Philippine Daily Inquirer

With a report from Associated Press




Pinoys heed bishops' call


MANILA, Philippines — Following their successful showings of "communal action" in support of broadband deal witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., Filipinos are ready for a new brand of "People Power," according to a Catholic prelate.


Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Jaro (Iloilo) Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, in an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas on Monday, lauded the people's overwhelming response to their call for communal action amid corruption allegations hounding the Arroyo administration.


He said the large crowd who attended the mass for Lozada on Sunday showed that the political conscience of the Filipino people was stirred by the expose of the star witness about the overpricing and kickbacks in the National Broadband Network deal.


"This means that the people are slowly converging towards the truth. If one person could be so brave as to be willing to tell the truth, then there are good things happening in the country. It is like the political conscience of the people is being stirred," said Lagdameo.


Lagdameo was unfazed by comments that CBCP took a soft stand on the issue and would rather emphasize the success of the masses and protest actions last week.


He said the Social Doctrine of the Church provided that the lay people and the civil society have been called to take from a specific text of the Church's social teaching and "put into practice the principle and value proper to life and society."


"This means that according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, the Bishops are not the only ones who should talk but that the civil society should identify ways on how to fight corruption in society," said Lagdameo.


Lagdameo said the people should now discover "a new brand of People Power" to reflect the civil society's new "paradigm shift."


"We should discover a new brand of People Power. The people's thinking is different now even if they want to fight corruption. There have been many changes. This is what we need to discover," Lagdameo said in Pilipino.


Lagdameo added that the positive response from the people was expected to improve if more government officials involved in the cancelled NBN contract would come out to speak the truth.


First posted 14:17:34 (Mla time)

February 19, 2008
Cebu Daily News





Cavite workers center gets peace award in South Korea


MANILA, Philippines – The Workers Assistance Center, a militant group advocating the protection of laborers' rights, has been awarded the 2008 Justice and Peace Award by the Tji Hak-soon Justice and Peace Foundation (THSJPF) based in South Korea.


"The award is a fitting tribute to the more than 12 years of WAC's unwavering advocacy for the rights and welfare of the Filipino working class," Bishop Ephraim S. Fajutagana of the Philippine Independent Church and WAC chair, said in a press statement sent to the Inquirer.


Fajutagana said the principles practiced by WAC for the benefit of thousands of workers who are exploited, manipulated, harassed and exposed to various forms of human rights violations are worthy of the prestigious award given by the foundation.


Workers' defense


WAC was established in 1995 in Rosario, Cavite to empower, assist and defend the workers against all forms of human and labor rights violations for the realization of their socioeconomic well-being.


The center has offices in Cavite and Batangas provinces.


It is the 11th Justice and Peace awardee of the Korean foundation since it was founded in 1997.


The award consists of $10,000 and a medal, which will be formally presented to WAC in a ceremony to be held in Seoul, South Korea on March 10.


Fr. Jose Dizon, WAC executive director, will accept the award on behalf of the center.


"The WAC is not only honored by the award. It is also deeply inspired by this kind of recognition coming from a Korean foundation whose own compatriots investing at the Cavite economic zones are the biggest number of cases handled by WAC in terms of labor rights violations," said Fajutagana.


He said that with the award, former WAC chairperson Bishop Alberto Ramento, who was murdered in 2006 in Tarlac City, "has already been provided a share of his justice even not from the rule of law but by way of recognition for what he had fought and died for as one of the staunchest advocates of the workers rights."




Msgr. Kim Byung-Sang, THSJPF chair, in his letter to WAC on Jan. 28, said: "We were very impressed by your organization that has been continuously fighting for the rights and welfare of [day] laborers, no matter what hardships your organization has undergone."


The award is presented annually by the THSJPF to individuals and organizations who fight for justice, peace, and human rights even in the face of an oppressive system and at the great risk of their lives.


It was set up to honor the late Bishop Daniel Tji Hak-soon, a forerunner of the human rights movement in Korean Catholic Church and who had campaigned for justice and peace in Korea since the 1970s and died in 1993.



First posted 02:26:36 (Mla time) February 12, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer




Bill banning religious tags on suspects passed by House


MANILA, Philippines -- A proposed law banning media from using the terms “Muslim” and “Christian” to describe a suspect or a convicted person has been approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

House Bill 100, principally authored by Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, was passed Tuesday along with bills seeking a ban on gender-insensitive ads and pornography.


House Bill 2811 seeks to penalize advertising agencies, television and radio stations and publications that exploit women and “glorify sexual violence.”

Under House Bill 3305, the production, printing, publication, importation, sale, distribution, and exhibition of obscene and pornographic materials, and the exhibition of live sexual acts will be prohibited.

Filipino World War II veterans, under House Bill 322, would be allowed to continue receiving Philippine government pensions and benefits even if they also get pensions and benefits from the US government.

House Bill 2420, meanwhile, is also known as “An Act amending Article 75 of Title IV of Executive Order 209, as amended by EO 227 otherwise known as the Family Code of the Philippines.”

Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia, principal author of House Bill 2420, said that under the proposed measure the individual properties of a married couple will no longer be considered conjugal properties.

The five measures will then be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence


By Maila Ager
First Posted 18:38:00 02/06/2008




The bishops want peace, but the military seems to want something else.


The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last week called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resume peace talks.


It also advised both parties to refrain from imposing preconditions that would imperil the resumption of the talks.


Peace groups welcomed the bishops' call. They said it is about time for the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to go back to the negotiating table and address the roots of the armed conflict.


However, the peace initiative was immediately rejected by top security officials who demanded that the CPP and its armed guerillas first agree to a ceasefire or lay down their arms before the talks resume.


Human Rights Violations Continue


The Roman Catholic Church and the interfaith community in the Philippines have seen the ill-effects of the military’s counter-insurgency program. From 1999 to 2000, ousted President Joseph Estrada unleashed an all-out war in the southern Philippines against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and displaced more than one million Muslims from their homes and farmlands.


Under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2006, the war against the administration’s perceived enemies resulted in extrajudicial killings of 889 activists and the enforced disappearances of almost 200. The killings and other forms of human rights violations still continue.


The church people believe that the resumption of peace talks could reduce, if not prevent, human rights violations, especially against those living in the countryside.


The resumption of peace talks between the government and the CPP was further jeopardized when Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr., whose term was extended for another three months, declared that the next three months would be “bloody” because the military plans to escalate its assault against the CPP’s armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).


While the Roman Catholic Church, sensing that a bloody war is in the offing, is asking for the revival of peace talks to avert full-blown military operations, Esperon is preparing the armed forces for a major bloodbath.


In contrast to the government's all-out war, the NDFP has expressed willingness to resume peace talks, adding that informal exploratory talks with the Arroyo administration might pave the way. The NDFP peace negotiators proposed that the exploratory talks be held in Oslo, Norway, which has been the third party facilitator in the peace talks between them.


The Philippine government has signed 17 bilateral agreements with the NDFP between 1992 and 2004, which it is bound to honor. However, it appears that the civilian bureaucracy is overpowered and held hostage by the military, as indicated by the administration's approval of the military position on peace talks, despite public condemnation of the hostile response to the proposed revival of peace talks.


Arrest of Randall Echanis


Showing direct contempt of the Church's call for peace talks, the military arrested one of the members of the NDFP peace panel last January 28.


AFP operatives arrested peasant leader Randall Echanis, a member of the NDFP peace panel, during a meeting with agricultural workers' unions in Bago City in Negros Occidental last week. He is charged with murder in relation to an incident dating back to the mid-1980s. According to Esperon, the arrest of Echanis was a big blow to the communist movement.


In the Netherlands, Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, described the illegal arrest as a flagrant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a view supported by the local human rights community in the Philippines. It is public knowledge that Echanis is a member of the NDFP's official delegation to the peace talks and known to officials of the Norwegian government. He is thus protected by the JASIG, Jalandoni said in a statement.


The NDFP said that the arrested peasant leader participated in formal peace talks in Oslo and has taken part in discussions toward a draft tentative agreement on social and economic reforms, the second substantive agenda in the peace negotiations.


"He has played a key role in developing the NDFP draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms, especially with regard to the peasant question and land reform," Jalandoni said.


He added that the filing of common criminal charges against Echanis and others accused in relation to an alleged mass grave found in the city of Hilongos violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The mass grave allegedly contained bodies of 13 CPP members killed in the 1980s for being military informants.


It seems the Philippine military will continue to reject the Roman Catholic bishops' call for the peace talks to resume. Arroyo, currently battered with charges of betrayal, corruption and mass murder by her critics, sees an opportunity in waging an unjust and senseless war to divert the attention of the military away from the corruption scandals besetting her administration and focus their minds on the war against the perceived enemies of the state.


The international community of peace advocates and human rights and their local counterparts must vigorously pursue their campaign for justice and human rights in the Philippines, and do whatever they can do to avert the bloody war sponsored by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. Bulatlat



Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 2, February 10-16, 2008





Bishops seek closure to 'Hello Garci' scandal


MANILA, Philippines -- Saying that Filipinos were tired of "paralyzing divisions," the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said on Monday it was time to resolve the "Hello Garci" wiretapping scandal and the new Commission on Elections chair was best suited to do the job.


"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," the CBCP said in a statement issued at the close of its two-day 96th plenary assembly.


The general cry, the three-page statement signed by CBCP president Angel Lagdameo said, was: "Enough of the paralyzing divisions in the body politic. Bring issues to the courts and trust them to do their jobs."


Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said in a press conference later that the CBCP was hopeful that former Supreme Court Justice Jose A.R. Melo, who on Friday was appointed Comelec chair, would reopen the wiretapping controversy.


"We are confident the new leadership might take a look into that and try to bring about that closure because the general public and all of us are still waiting for some resolution on the questions that have been raised," Ledesma said.


Melo, 75, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday that the Comelec should investigate the "Hello Garci" case. But he also feared it could serve as a distraction in pursuing his main objectives -- automation of the 2010 presidential balloting and restoring the credibility of the commission.


Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Monday said that he had no objection to the reopening of the inquiry but said it was all up to Melo. He also said the problem was the proliferation of audio tapes and determining which one of them was "authentic."


Tapes purportedly containing bugged telephone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano during the canvassing of votes in the 2004 presidential election surfaced in 2005. The opposition said the tapes were evidence Ms Arroyo rigged the balloting -- a charge she has steadfastly denied.


The controversy prompted calls for Ms Arroyo's resignation and two impeachment attempts in Congress, which her allies quickly killed.


In a pastoral letter issued in January 2006, the CBCP urged Ms Arroyo to pursue relentlessly the truth behind the "Hello Garci" scandal. Before the May 2007 elections, the prelates also warned that the country could ill afford another similar controversy.

Moral bankruptcy


In the three-page statement Monday, the 120-member CBCP said: "That the political order is accused too often of 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."


"We have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people," it added.


The CBCP outlined problems which it said had been brought to its attention, including the perception that corruption was "at its worst," fears that martial law would be imposed as a response to coup threats, constant talk of amending the Constitution as a means of maintaining power, extrajudicial executions and the establishment of a national ID system to control "socially active elements."


In the countryside, the CBCP said concerns centered on the appreciation of the peso against the dollar that had depreciated remittances of overseas Filipino workers and exacerbated endemic poverty, lack of support of rural folk and the slow progress of the agrarian reform program, the communist and Muslim insurgencies, abuse of natural resources, the adverse impact of mining on indigenous peoples and the growth of political dynasties.


Same old problems


"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 we see the all too patent subordination of the common good to private good," it said.


According to the Catholic bishops, putting oneself before the interests of the general public had been the "basic fault" in the country's political culture.


"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," the CBCP said.


Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo admitted that much needed to be done to address age-old ills such as corruption and poverty.


He said that Ms Arroyo had instructed the Cabinet last week "to deepen consultations and cooperation" with the bishops to address their concerns.


First posted 01:38:16 (Mla time) January 29, 2008
Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

With a report from Christine O. Avendaño




Group slams CBCP for soft statement on Arroyo administration


MANILA, Philippines --The citizens group Solidarity Philippines (SP) has expressed dismay over the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) "status quo" stand on the Arroyo administration in its last pastoral statement following the prelates plenary assembly last week.

In a statement, SP said that they felt that the CBCP statement issued last Monday "will turn out to be another triumph for Malacañang spin doctors."

"They even further justify the status quo as they tend to confuse and discourage, rather than enlighten and encourage, our people," said the group.

In the CBCP statement, which was released last Monday, the bishops described the national situation as one where the common good was subordinated to the private good.

The CBCP, stressing that social conversion begins with a personal one, has asked Filipino Catholics to reform themselves and believe in the gospel.

But the SP said that the 120 bishops failed to cite the failures of the present administration in attaining the common good.

Quoting from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, they said that the "responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the State, since the common good is the reason that the political authority exists."

The group said the best that the bishops could have done in their plenary assembly was "to point out that no less than the Arroyo government must be held accountable" for what the bishops' called the "subordination of the common good to the private good."

The SP clarified that they were not asking the bishops to do copy the late Cardinal Sin by taking a political lead and directly calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"We simply ask them to join the people in strong condemnation of evil whenever they see it and to accompany and guide the faithful as they battle such evil -- in whatever arena, including the political," they said.

The SP, a movement for the advancement of the social justice agenda of the Church, was one of the civil society groups that attended a consultation with the bishops before the bishops' assembly on January 26.


By Beverly T. Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:46:00 02/02/2008







CHURCHES TO GOV'T: Forget destabilization plots, talk peace with Reds instead


MANILA, Philippines -- Religious leaders called on the government to resume peace talks with communist rebels instead of being preoccupied with airing allegations of supposed destabilization plots.

At a press conference Tuesday, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that rather than deal with rumors of destabilization the government would resolve more problems by sitting down with the communists again for peace talks.

The PEPP is composed of representatives from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men and Women in the Philippines (AMRSP), and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC).

The NCCP represents the largest group of non-Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines while the PCEC is the largest network of evangelicals and mission groups.

"Tingnan na muna natin kung totoo ang mga bali-balitang destabilisasyon na ito. Kung hindi naman totoo, huwag na natin ito pansinin at magpatuloy na lamang tayo sa buhay natin, katulad ng pagre-resume ng peace talks [Let us first see if these talks of destabilization are true. If not, let us just ignore them and move forward, like resuming the peace talks]," AMRSP co-chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan.

The PEPP said the immediate resumption of the peace talks will allow both parties to talk about their issues.

"We'd like to see peace talks resume immediately without preconditions and in accordance with all prior agreements," said Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma.

He added it is important that both sides build on what they have agreed on in the past so there is continuity in the talks.

The Communist Party of the Philippines–New People's Army (CPP-NPA), has been tagged by the police and the military as one of the groups allegedly involved in recent destabilization plots.

But Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, said government suspicions that the communists are behind destabilization plots make it all the more urgent to resume peace talks.

"This is one of the issues that need to be addressed in the peace talks but there has to be sincerity on both sides of the negotiation table to have a fruitful result," said Iñiguez.

Peace talks with the communists have been suspended in 2004 after government failed to act on the National Democratic Front's demand to work for the removal of the rebels from the terrorist lists of the United States and European Union, among others.


By Beverly T. Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:36:00 01/22/2008



Two bishops score Arroyo admin for mishandling of issues


Two Catholic bishops who are known for their outspoken criticisms of the Arroyo administration have expressed disappointment over how issues of media suppression, democracy and political appointments have been mishandled by the administration.


Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Yniguez scored the government for the worsening state of democracy in the country, particularly the adversarial relationship between the government and media.


"Media is not working as it should in bringing out the truth, and government should also be transparent enough to respect the work of media," Yniguez said.


Meanwhile, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias has urged the media to stand firm and not to give in to intimidation and harassment.


"May mga attempts to suppress freedom of speech pero bahala ang media kung magpapadala sila sa takot (There have been attempts to suppress press freedom but it’s up to (members of) media if they will give in to fear)," Tobias said.


The statements were given a day before the nationwide plenary council of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Yniguez is the public affairs chairman of the CBCP.


The two bishops and Bishop Emeritus Julio Labayen have been three of the fiercest critics of President Arroyo in the Catholic Church. Labayen was arrested along with Magdalo soldiers led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim after the Nov. 29 failed rebellion at The Peninsula Manila hotel in Makati City.


Yniguez also said that government must uphold the law when it comes to political appointments by judging personalities on the basis of merit, competency and internal control.


The two bishops admitted there were some efforts from government to win-over the sympathy of critical Church leaders but Tobias said these things would not progress because he does not tolerate them.


"I don't allow it. It's good that there are critics so they'll be on their toes," Tobias said.Yniguez, however, pointed out that there are legitimate financial assistances being given by government for specific projects of the diocese.


He said the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, for example, released funds upon the request of the diocese of Novaliches for health projects.


But he said people should not put political color to such acts. He added this was not a bribe to silence the Church. (as of 1/25/2008 9:25 PM)





Black Nazarene deaths pose challenge to Church

MANILA, Philippines -- The death of two Black Nazarene devotees last Wednesday poses a challenge to the Catholic Church and its evangelizing work.


Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, spokesperson of the said Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the tragedy meant that the Church may need to bring Filipino Catholics to a more “mature” level of faith.


This is the kind of faith that knows that it is in loving one’s neighbor and living the Gospel that a person is brought nearer to God’s blessings rather than the touching of a miraculous image of Jesus, said Quitorio.

“This has become a challenge to the Church, that the work of evangelization should deepen the faith. Make it stronger than this level,” he said.


Deep understanding

He said a deep understanding of one’s faith will help a person understand that God’s blessings will not depend on the touching of a miraculous image but on how one lives out the gospel of God.


Quitorio clarified, however, that Church officials are not passing judgment on the kind of faith espoused by the majority of Filipinos, which strongly believes that by simply touching a miraculous image of Christ or that of a saint will grant a wish or a prayer.


“That is their level of conviction. They believe that if they touch the image they will have good lives, they will be healed of their sickness. We respect this. We don’t judge these acts,” said Quitorio.


Levels of faith

He explained that there are levels of faith and the faith of most Filipinos was still in the level of popular religiosity which he said involves elements of superstition, culture and folk belief.

“But that is faith just the same. We respect that,” said Quitorio.


The Church should work to make this kind of faith stronger and deeper, he said.


Two devotees died during the annual procession of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo last Wednesday after being trampled in the stampede to get close to within touching range of the miraculous image.


In 2006, the 400th year of the annual feast of the Black Nazarene, two devotees also died during the procession.


Beverly T. Natividad

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:23am (Mla time) 01/11/2008



Gov. Ed Panlilio is Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year 2007

(Editor’s Note: Now on its 17th year, the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year honors a living Filipino who made the most positive impact the past year. Eligible to vote were Inquirer editors and assistant editors. There were 44 voters this year. Fr. Ed Panlilio topped the nominees with 20 followed closely by Chief Justice Reynato Puno with 15 votes. Other nominees were Justices Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta and Francisco Villaruz Jr. of the Sandiganbayan special division that tried and found ex-President Joseph Estrada guilty on two counts of plunder. (4); Sumilao farmers (2); Filipinas who made it to the summit of Mt. Everest (2) and Team Sinag (1), the country’s first solar car team that finished 11th out of 20 teams in the race of solar-powered cars in Australia.)


MANILA, Philippines -- “Among” Ed Panlilio, priest turned plain-dealing prophet of hope, is the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year for 2007.


The governor of Pampanga, according to Inquirer sources, is facing a do-or-die struggle with the 3 Rs of no-holds-barred political resistance—recount, recall and ‘‘requiem.”


The first refers to the election protest his closest rival in the May 2007 polls filed against him; the third to the death threats he has received. The second is an unusual and rarely used tactic in Philippine politics—a recall petition to remove him from office, which his political enemies are poised to file as soon as the one-year condition is met.


All three offer proof that the almost miraculous election victory of Panlilio is a silver dagger thrust at the heart of the vampire known as transactional politics—and the vampire is fighting back.


His victory and the improbable campaign that made it possible will be studied by election strategists and political analysts for a long time to come. His practical but principled approach to governance, which includes both directing the work of idealists and carefully diagnosing festering ills before prescribing a cure, is both exemplary and empowering.


Not least, his first months in office are a showcase of effective executive action.


In the most dramatic turnaround he has engineered, lahar quarrying fees have jumped from less than P30 million during the last full year of his predecessor, Gov. Mark Lapid, to almost P120 million in his first six months in office.


For all these—his inspiring election victory, his surprising political savvy, his initial success despite great difficulty—the Inquirer names Gov. Ed Panlilio as 2007’s Filipino of the Year.


The choice reflects the sporadic outbreak of optimism that brightened an otherwise bleak year. Many other harbingers of hope emerged out of the political darkness: Chief Justice Reynato Puno inaugurated a new era in judicial statesmanship by leading the Supreme Court in hosting an unprecedented summit on extrajudicial killings and in launching extraordinary new legal remedies; the Sandiganbayan special division trying deposed President Joseph Estrada on plunder convicted him on two of the four charges, reaffirming the primacy of the rule of law in a well-reasoned and highly convincing decision; the first three Filipino women to climb Everest did so on their first attempt, thrilling a grateful nation; not least, the Overseas Filipino Worker continued to labor in other countries at great personal cost, helping through regular remittances to stabilize the entire trillion-peso economy.


Any of these icons of inspiration would have richly deserved being named Filipino of the Year. But Inquirer editors ultimately chose “Among Ed” Panlilio, in part because the hope he embodies is found where despair is deepest: politics, in the age of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Panlilio, 54, has left an indelible impact on national politics in another, altogether unforeseen way. He exposed the distribution of cash gifts—bundles of cash, contained in paper bags—that took place in Malacañang last October.


In truth, Panlilio did not so much expose the cash gifts handed out to governors (and, as it turned out, also to congressmen) as admit that he received his share: P500,000, handed to him by Bulacan Gov. Jon-Jon Mendoza, who also received the same amount in the same kind of paper bag.


Both governors said they received the money in good faith, and assumed it came from government funds and were to be used for barangay projects.


But the simple act of confirming receipt of the money ignited a political firestorm. Malacañang and its political allies issued many contradictory statements—disavowing any knowledge of the cash gifts, claiming to know their true source, or creating implausible versions of the circumstances.


If the controversial Pulse Asia survey conducted later in October is any gauge, the firestorm quickly consumed much of what was left of President Arroyo’s political reputation. That month, a plurality of voting-age Filipinos thought Ms Arroyo was the most corrupt President in history, outranking even the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It may well be that that dismal finding can be traced directly to Panlilio’s disclosure.

This may help explain the intense animosity many Pampanga local officials feel toward Panlilio, many of whom are closely identified with a President who is a favorite provincemate. But the priest-on-leave’s candor did not start it. It started when Panlilio dared to throw his social worker’s hat (and his parish priest’s soutane) into the ring. His upset win hurt the political forces allied with former Provincial Board Member Lilia “Baby” Pineda, the wife of alleged ‘‘jueteng” lord Bong Pineda—they were headed for a victory over Lapid, the lackluster reelectionist incumbent, before Panlilio’s entry galvanized the so-called middle forces in Pampanga.


The animosity deepened when Panlilio took his anticorruption platform seriously. When he revamped the lahar quarrying fees collection scheme, he antagonized not only the political forces allied with the Lapids but also many of the local officials who, judging from their incomprehensible reaction to the new arrangement, must have benefited from the old one too.


It is already a part of political lore that Panlilio did not, in fact, intend to run for governor. When he, together with many of his provincemates, realized in 2006 that the looming choice for governor was stark—it was either Mrs. Pineda or the young Mr. Lapid—he joined a concerted effort to look for a third candidate. The group’s objective was to persuade eminent Kapampangans, including former Cabinet secretaries and university professors, to offer their provincemates an alternative.


But while the search was begun in optimism, it eventually ran into the depressing reality of Philippine politics. Entrenched political dynasties, the politics of personality, deep-rooted patronage watered by the irrigation systems of jueteng and quarrying fees: The race for Pampanga governor seemed to be over even before it started.


With such long odds, the search looked destined to fail. In the end, Panlilio heeded the call of like-minded citizens and offered himself, reluctantly, as the alternative.


It was not an easy decision. To run for public office, Panlilio needed to go on leave from the priesthood. For someone who has been a priest since 1981 and parish priest of Santiago Apostol church (in Betis, Pampanga) since 1998, the suspension of one’s priestly faculties was a wrenching, almost impossible, sacrifice. Finally, a few days before filing his certificate of candidacy, Panlilio met with his superior, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of San Fernando, and asked for and received a dispensation.


The rival political camps had extensive political networks and even (both parties claimed) the tacit support of Ms Arroyo. Lacking both the money and the network, supporters of the third way in Pampanga had yet an abundance of idealism. Volunteers multiplied; donations started to pour in.


What had started as a search had metamorphosed into a movement. Kapampangans from around the world spread the word. Politicians in Metro Manila took special notice. Four of the country’s top election lawyers crossed political lines to offer their services to Panlilio, for free.


The race was tight, violent and dirty. But the groundswell of support for Panlilio that began the day he filed his certificate using a “kariton” helped carry the day. With 219,706 votes, a mere 1,200 over Pineda’s 218,559 and only 9,000-plus over Lapid’s 210,875, the Commission on Elections declared him the winner.

His victory made him the first priest to be elected governor in the country’s history. It also inspired many Filipinos, not only in Pampanga or throughout the archipelago but even those among the OFW diaspora, that the light of hope can shine even in the blackest night.


Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:38:00 01/13/2008