Archive for the ‘church’ Category

Nuns Decry Inclusion of Church Workers in Military’s ‘Order of Battle’

May 26, 2009

An association of 350 Catholic nuns from 40 congregations in Mindanao expressed outrage over the inclusion of Church people to the reported ‘order of battle’ of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In a document titled “JCICC ‘AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT,” several Catholic and Protestant groups were listed, including the Archdiocesan Council of Lay Apostolate and Integrated Movement (ACLAIM), Missionaries of Assumption (MA), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Promotions of Church
Peoples Response (PCPR), Philippine Independent Church (PIC) and Mindanao Interfaith People Conference (MIPC).

Bishop Felixberto Calang of PIC and Bishop Anacleto Serafica of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), along with Catholic priests and nuns were also named in the document.

In a recent statement released to the media, Lt. Col. Kurt A. Decapia, chief of the 10th ID’s Public Affairs Office, did not deny the existence of such list but criticized Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for “falsifying” the document.

Ocampo presented the order of battle in a press conference of the International Solidarity Mission in Davao City on May 18.

Decapia said that the words “targeted,” “dominated” and “organized” in the document mean that the individuals and groups on the list are targeted, organized and dominated individuals and groups by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) said in a statement, “It is indeed disturbing to know that such an order exists from the AFP, which labels church people, lawyers, journalists, activists and NGO workers as enemies of the state.”

“It is condemnable that church people who are fulfilling Christ’s mandate to bring the Good News to the poor are subject to this vilification campaign,” said SAMIN executive secretary Sr. Elsa Compuesto MSM.

Compuesto said that the order puts all the individuals and organizations in the list in grave danger, including church people.

The SAMIN recalled the harassment against SR. Stella Matutina OSB and the raids in two sisters’ convents in Butuan City in 2006. “Both cases have shown that even religious can be subject to the attacks of the state,” Compuesto said.

In February this year, Matutina along with her three companions was illegally held against her will by the elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Cateel, Davao Oriental after doing advocacy work against large-scale mining.

In November 2006, the convents of the Contemplative Good Shepherds and the Missionary Sisters of Mary were raided by the police on allegations that they are keeping a rebel leader in their convents.

In 2005, the SAMIN was already among those included in the military’s powerpoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy.” Compuesto said that pictures of their members and their activities were downloaded from their old website and inserted in the powerpoint.

“These accusations remind us of the Biblical times, when being Christians meant putting one’s life in danger of being persecuted and killed by the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Today, this persecution continues with the military’s attack on the religious, especially on those who dare to speak God’s message of hope, denouncing the evils of society and taking sides with God’s chosen poor,” Compuesto said.

The association of nuns vowed, “As a new tyranny is in our midst, SAMIN is emboldened to continue with its commitment of fighting the darkness of oppression and corruption, and bringing the light of hope and justice for the poor and Creation.”

The group called on the government authorities to stop the “persecution of church people and the poor.” (Bulatlat.com)

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CBCP president backs calls for job summit

January 31, 2009

A top Catholic cleric called yesterday for an employment summit to tackle the reported massive layoff of workers in the economic zones.

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Archbishop of Jaro, Iloilo Angel Lagdameo, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, said unemployment is a “serious problem” that the government must address.

“Well, it (unemployment) is a serious problem… that’s why the government must lead the discussion on how to help those Filipinos who will be losing their jobs (because of the global financial crisis),” he said.

“If the problem can be solved through a summit then they should push through with it…”

Earlier, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said the government must initiate the employment summit, especially now that the number of workers being displaced due to the global economic crisis continues to increase.

Iniguez, who heads the CBCP’s committee on public affairs, said although the government is implementing measures like employment facilitations and livelihood assistance to the workers, it is important that a summit between the government and the labor sector be held for the government to hear the workers’ side.

The Church is willing to help resolve the looming unemployment problem, he added.

Some multinational companies in the Philippines have closed down, while others have scaled back their operations in the country.

A labor official earlier predicted that about 250,000 workers nationwide are likely to lose their jobs in the next six months due to the global financial crisis.

The Department of Labor and Employment has reported that 30,000 workers have been displaced since December, and that the figure could reach 35,000 by month’s end.

Government won’t stop layoffs

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque ruled out yesterday the possibility of government imposing a “no retrenchment” policy.

“We are looking at measures to address the ill effects of the economic crisis, but we cannot enforce a no retrenchment policy because we cannot force employers from continuing with their operations if they do not have the capacity to do it,” he said.

Roque said the government has already granted a tax break for minimum wage earners and additional exemptions in their income tax returns for those receiving more than the minimum wage.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also reviewing the possibility of regulating the prices of rice and other essential commodities, he added.

Roque said concerned government agencies are discussing a proposal to suspend the implementation of the planned rationalization program.

“We are discussing if we could delay the rationalization program because of the economic crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roque said commercial firms must adopt flexible working arrangements to cope with the financial crisis.

“Employers and workers should consider adopting such arrangements as a better alternative rather than outright termination of the workers’ services and total closure of their establishment,” he said.

Roque said flexible work schedules allow reduction of business costs while saving jobs and maintaining competitiveness and productivity in industries.

However, the adoption of the “compressed workweek” scheme should be voluntary and must have the consent of both employers and workers, he added.

Roque said the employer must notify the DOLE Regional Office in the workplace before adopting any flexible work arrangements.

DOLE Regional Offices are instructed to visit establishments wishing to adopt flexible work arrangements to validate whether it is in accordance with the DOLE advisory, he added.

Under the CWW scheme, normal workweek is reduced to less than six days but the total number of 48 work hours per week shall remain.

The normal workday is increased to more than eight hours but not to exceed 12 hours, without corresponding overtime premium.

However, implementation of reduced workdays must not exceed six months.

Meanwhile, Roque said he will set up “Help Desks” in the different regions nationwide to facilitate the delivery of assistance and services to displaced workers.

The help desks shall serve as a one-stop center bringing the delivery of DOLE programs and services closer to local and overseas Filipino workers who have been adversely affected by the global crisis, he added.

The Desks shall be comprised of personnel from OWWA, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bureau of Local Employment, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The DOLE Regional Directors shall oversee the operations of the help desks.

On the other hand, Roque called for a united response to the effects of the financial crisis on employment.

Speaking before the participants of the Multi-Sectoral Conference on the Global Financial Crisis, Roque said, a united effort is essential to effectively mitigate the impact of global financial crisis.

“Assistance and intervention for some 33,000 affected workers who have begun to experience shorter working hours, along with the more than 40,000 workers displaced by the global economic crisis are urgent,” he said. – Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin(PhilStar)

Vatican slams Obama over abortion fund

January 25, 2009

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 08:34:00 01/25/2009

Filed Under: Religions, Government, Churches (organisations), Obama Articles

VATICAN CITY – Senior Vatican officials weighed into US President Barack Obama Saturday for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.

It is “the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily.

Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, one of a number of so-called pontifical academies which are formed by or under the direction of the Holy See.

“What is important is to know how to listen… without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death,” he added.

His predecessor in the office, Elio Sgreccia, told the ANSA news agency, “Instead of all the good things that he might have done, Barack Obama has chosen the worst,” allowing “the massacre of innocents.”

“The right to life is the first of all rights that must be defended,” he said, claiming that 80 percent of Americans were against abortion.

Obama signed the executive order cancelling the eight-year-old restrictions imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush on Friday, the third full day of his presidency.

The so-called “global gag rule” cut off US funding to overseas family planning clinics which provide any abortion services whatsoever, from the operation itself to counselling, referrals or post-abortion services.

“If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path towards disappointment will have been very short,” Fisichella said.

“I do not believe that those who voted for him took into consideration ethical themes, which were astutely left aside during the election debate. The majority of the American population does not take the same position as the president and his team,” he added.

The order won Obama praise from Democratic lawmakers, family planning and women’s rights groups but drew angry condemnation from pro-life organizations and Republicans.

More than 250 health and human rights organizations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy “which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls.”

The Roman Catholic Church has also criticized the approval of US authorities for the first human trials using embryonic stem cells of a therapy to help paralyzed patients regain movement.

The therapy has been developed using cells derived from an existing human embryonic stem cell line, created before August 9, 2001 when Bush banned using new lines of such cells for research.

Friday’s announcement by the Food and Drug Administration may mark the start of a shift in the nation’s stem cell research policy under Obama, who wants the ban overturned.

Embryonic stem cells are taken from early-stage embryos, which are destroyed in the process, prompting some religious groups to brand the process as unethical.

Fisichella charged Saturday that Obama “gave into pressure from multinationals.”

“The problem is not scientific it is ideological,” he said.

Millions join feast of ‘Black Nazarene’

January 10, 2009

About three millions Catholic devotees on Friday flocked the streets of central Manila to join in the yearly procession of the image of the Black Nazarene, even as almost 200 of the participants sustained injuries.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) reported that at least 198 devotees were injured, but none was life-threatening.

By past noon on Friday, there were already at least 60 reported injuries, besides other emergency cases that also required medical attention.

The Red Cross reported that its Emergency Rescue Units rushed a 16-year-old pregnant girl to a hospital after she fainted while waiting for the arrival of the image of the Black Nazarene at Plaza Santa Cruz, Manila.

Some, according to the Red Cross, were treated for various health complaints, like difficulty in breathing, hypertension and dehydration.

Almost every year, the feast is marred by accidents, injuries—even deaths.

Last year, two people died, while 30 others were rushed to hospitals after either fainting or sustaining injuries during the procession that was a colorful display of Catholicism’s enduring popularity in the former Spanish colony.

Petty crimes

Injury is not the only thing common during the Black Nazarene feast. So are petty crimes.

Early Friday, police authorities arrested a man who was caught stealing a cellular phone, as devotees tried to get nearer to the image of the Black Nazarene.

As of 3 p.m., the Manila Police District reported that at least five incidents of cellular phone snatchings were reported.

Despite a number of reports of injuries and theft, the National Capital Region Police Office said the feast of the Black Nazarene yesterday was “generally peaceful.”

Around 1,500 police units were deployed around the Quiapo district in Manila, and authorities said they were able to keep the situation under control.

The Manila city government earlier assured that the entire route to be used by the procession would be adequately secured and ambulances would be ready for emergencies.

Religious ritual

The festivities began with religious rituals at 12:30 a.m. on Friday, followed prayers at the seven last stations of the cross at 2 a.m., and finally Mass officiated by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta (Rizal Park) at 7 a.m.

The procession immediately followed the Mass and continued despite a moderate earthquake that struck north of Manila in mid-afternoon. The procession passed through 10 major thoroughfares before reaching Quiapo Church.

A number of devotees, as a part of the tradition, came bare-footed.

The devotees, many wearing scarlet shirts and waving white handkerchiefs and towels, took turns to pull a pair of ropes that hauled the centuries-old Black Nazarene through the narrow streets.

Some 83 million of the Philippines’ 96 million inhabitants are Roman Catholic, and Manila police estimated that up to three million people in this city of more than 10 million had joined or watched the procession.

But some experts worry that the display of devotion borders on idolatry.

History of devotion

The Black Nazarene, a life-sized, dark-skinned statue of Jesus Christ has been enshrined in the minor basilica in the Quiapo Church since the 1787. The wooden sculpture is said to have been carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missionaries during Spain’s galleon trade.

The image miraculously survived fires that razed the Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929, the great earthquakes of 1645 and 1863, and the World War II bombings in 1945.

The image is taken out annually around Quiapo district. But since 1998, only a replica of the original Black Nazarene is paraded during the activity to prevent it from being damaged.

On Friday, the crowd wanted to rub the icon with their handkerchiefs, believing this would bestow miraculous powers of healing and bring good luck.

“The small group that fanatically climbed to get to the Lord,” Cardinal Rosales later told reporters, “that’s the example of what it should not be. That part has to be purified.”

“There are excesses in the devotion and beliefs that we need to change,” said Monsignor Clemente Ignacio, the parish priest of Quiapo.
Rommel C. Lontayao And AFP(ManilaTimes)

Migration will go on despite global economic crisis, says prelate

December 31, 2008

MANILA, December 30, 2008─ Exodus of Filipino workers will go on despite the global economic crisis, as requirements for highly-skilled workers still remain, says prelate.

CBCP Episcopal Commission for Migrant and Itinerant Peoples and Maasin Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB said that while everybody will be affected by the so-called economic meltdown, overseas migration will continue because of poverty at home.

In an interview with CBCPNews, the prelate said the recent Global Forum on Migration and Development held in Manila during the last quarter of 2008 revealed that “migration has indeed become a significant factor in development.”

“Migration requires both national and international attention because it is an important issue considering human lives and dignity are concerned,” the prelate said.

He said Filipinos in the medical profession can easily find jobs in Europe and the Middle East.

Asked of the plight of Filipina domestic helpers in the Middle East and other highly developed countries, Cantillas said “the brokers and agents should be looked into by government and other concerned agencies because they don’t care about the domestic helpers conditions.”

He added these brokers and agents are least troubled of the domestic helpers’ qualifications and wages because they are simply concerned of their “cuts and commissions.”

The bishop said the Catholic Church will always be there to help migrant workers in their various needs.

“Just like a mother, looking after her children’s welfare, our mission goes beyond pastoral care,” he said.

He disclosed that as migrant workers continue to increase, the problems brought about by migration likewise increases. (Melo M. Acuna)

CBCP Head: Poverty can be overcome by acts of justice, honesty, charity

December 31, 2008

MANILA, December 30, 2008─While the Church helps the poor live decent lives through its social action programs funded from charitable contributions, government agencies must do likewise with funds allotted for poverty alleviation, as directed by acts of justice, honesty, compassion and charity, the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said.

In his New Year’s message Jaro Archbishop and CBCP president Angel Lagdameo made a stinging rebuke on the government’s failure to address the plight of the poor saying that the their miserable condition is not natural but man-made.

“The extreme poverty of the poorest of the poor is neither natural nor normal: it is man-made and can be overcome or eradicated by acts of justice, honesty, compassion and charity,” said Lagdameo.

He said it is unfortunate that although God’s blessings are unlimited and countless, they become limited through selfishness, injustice and corruption.

“God’s countless blessings have been and are obstructed or hindered from reaching their respective targets,” Lagdameo lamented

The CBCP president cited studies done showing how graft and corruption had defrauded the poor of basic services.

“The realities: according to one study, for every 100 pesos of our national budget, 40 pesos go to debt servicing, 15 pesos for education, 1 peso and 40 centavos for health services, and only 18 centavos for housing. For every 100 pesos, sadly 43 pesos and 42 centavos become the object of greed, fraud, plunder and corruption. Recently it was said that the 23 million “poorest of the poor” have increased to 27 million, most of whom are victims of their neighbors’ greed,” Lagdameo said.

The prelate reiterated what Pope Benedict XVI said on Christmas Day, that “it is GREED that destroys the world and its peace, unbridled and criminal greed of individuals and institutions. The evil effects of greed are worse and more widespread than the evils of war.”

But Lagdameo conceded that even amidst human negativities, accidents, dehumanizing poverty and broken promises, still people have many countless blessings to be happy and thankful about.

“With God hope springs eternal,” he said.

A better year for the poor?

The prelate said only the future can tell if 2009 will be a better year for the “poorest of the poor” while issuing a challenge on what everyone can do to become agents of hope for them.

“Will the New Year 2009 be a better year for the “poorest of the poor” because they are better looked after by Society, the Church and Government? In 2009, will someone be less poor, less hungry, better educated, because of what I shall have done?” asked the prelate.

Lagdameo explained the reason for rejoicing at any time especially during Christmas season is not due to what has been done for or received from others.

“The fundamental reason for our rejoicing always is that in Jesus Christ, God and Man, God has become “God with us-Emmanuel,” in the midst of many human negativities…and broken promises,” he said. (Pinky Barrientos, FSP)

Catholic schools ready to fight Cha-cha Focus on more pressing issues, says CEAP

December 7, 2008

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:20:00 12/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The biggest organization of Catholic schools in the country is ready to join street protests if the government pushes through with its plan to amend the Constitution, the group director said Saturday.

“We have been approached by many groups (against Charter change or Cha-cha). We are studying their specific objectives,” Msgr. Gerardo Santos, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), said in a phone interview Saturday.

He did not say if the group would attend the Dec. 12 multisectoral rally against Charter change in Makati City.

The CEAP said that instead of insisting on amending the Constitution, lawmakers should focus on two more important issues: The extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and electoral reform for 2010.

The CEAP has 1,252 member-schools.

“We want to ensure that the Filipino people are able to exercise their fundamental right to choose their next set of leaders as provided for in the Constitution,” the CEAP said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net). “Thus, we oppose any schemes to cancel, postpone or change the nature of the 2010 national elections.”

“What we need from our leaders is truth, accountability and genuine social and political reform for the majority. We certainly do not need any Charter change that will only serve the narrow interests of the few who are currently in power,” the CEAP said.
Several other groups, including businessmen, have objected to moves to amend the Constitution, especially after the discovery of a House resolution that would extend the term of elected officials, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, to 2011.

Other religious organizations have already joined the anti-Cha-cha movement.

Jesus is Lord Worldwide Church leader Eddie Villanueva warned the government’s insistence on amending the Constitution now would push the country to the brink of the “worst crisis,” a civil war.

He dared Ms Arroyo and her three constitutional successors—Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles—to take a three-month leave of absence to prove that they were not using Cha-cha to extend their terms.

Villanueva said this was the “ideal solution” to the political crisis triggered by the suspicion that Charter change was aimed at extending Ms Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.

“I want to challenge Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the leaders of Congress to prove their sincerity, if they really have no intention of extending their terms and are only after economic reforms (in the Constitution) in view of the global crisis,” Villanueva said in an interview.

“We can agree to a constituent assembly provided that both Houses will vote separately, and the political leaders from the President to the Speaker should take a leave of absence and let the nonpolitical successor, the Chief Justice (Reynato Puno) be the caretaker for three months,” said Villanueva, who ran against and lost to Ms Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

He said that by having the President’s elder son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, spearhead the signature campaign in the House of Representatives for a constituent assembly, Malacañang has betrayed its real intention to stay in power.

“If they insist on railroading Charter change, we will be forced to go on a nationwide protest. Kung garapalan na, we will entertain other means that are peaceful. If the peaceful avenues fail, then the last resort could be civil disobedience. Just to avoid violence, the people have the sovereign right to resort to civil disobedience,” he said.

Bishop-Ulama Conference Deemed a Farce

December 4, 2008

Muslim religious leaders, members of the Jamaah (congregation) at the mosque, students, the academe and civil society groups criticized the Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) for its ‘one-sided program of activities’ and alleged ‘malicious and suspicious process’ of event organization.

BY LEILA ASANI HALUD
Contributor
Bulatlat

JOLO, Sulu – “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!)

Thousands of protesters cried in the streets of Sulu for three straight days to protest the simultaneously held general assembly of the 35th Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC), which ran from November 18 to 21 at the Notre Dame of Jolo College.

Organized by the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, the BUC, composed of bishops and Ulama (Muslim scholars), is supposed to bring Muslims and Christians into an inter-faith dialogue and create a harmonious atmosphere, and craft possible resolutions on the prevailing issues between the two religions. It is a program funded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

Muslim religious leaders, members of the Jamaah (congregation) at the mosque, students, the academe and civil society groups in the province, however, criticized the BUC for its ‘one-sided program of activities’ and alleged ‘malicious and suspicious process’ of event organization.

The first day of protest gathered over a thousand participants, based on headcount, from the congregation of Tulay Grand Mosque in Jolo, Sulu. On the second until the last day, the youth and students walked out of their classes to join the Jamaah contingents.

Local government leaders Abdusakur Tan, Sulu Governor, and Hussin Amin, Jolo Mayor, were given the role to welcome the delegates of the assembly.

In a manifesto, Temo-gen “Cocoy” Tulawie, convener of Jamaah Lupah Sug which consists of various sectors in the province, criticized Bishop Angelito Lampon, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, for his alleged ‘religious arrogance and prejudice against Islam and its Ulama.’

“This lack of decorum and of cultural sensitivity on the vicariate of Jolo is a big insult to the followers of Islam in this island of 95 percent Muslim populace,” the manifesto said,

The manifesto also stated that Lampon’s failure to consult his Ulama counterparts and to recognize Ulama’s contribution to the promotion of Muslim-Christian peaceful co-existence in the province was a ‘classic case of deception and false claim.’

“We cannot and will never allow other religious sects to insult our Ulama,” the manifesto further read.

When confronted with initial protests, Lampon offered an explanation that BUC-Davao actually organized the program. Nevertheless, the Vicar and his group pushed through with the assembly without the necessary modifications in the program.

According to Tulawie, he tried to communicate with one of the bishops to ask why the program was organized as such, “but Father Villanueva did not return my calls and days later, after the Jamaah decided to go on with the protest, he finally replied, ‘di ko napansin ang mga tawag mo’ (I didn’t notice your call)”.

The Jamaah was supposed to hand over their manifesto to the BUC delegates on the second day but was kept from entering the area surrounding NDJC. Tulawie’s contingency and Philippine National Police Sulu Provincial Director Julasirim Kasim had a row when the latter yelled while asking for a Permit to Rally from the protesters.

‘A Farce

“That conference is a farce,” said Alhada Abayan, youth organization Baggut leader, described the controversial event.

“These bishops are using our Ulama to tell the world that they are organizing an “inter-faith” activity but if you take a look at their program, manipulation and control is clearly evident. There is only one unnamed Muslim religious leader in the program who, we later found out, was the Mufti of Sulu Ustadz Jul-azri Abirin who was unable to participate,” the youth Muslim said.

A few days before the assembly, Ustadz Abirin headed to Saudi Arabia for a scheduled pilgrimage.

Protesters also questioned why Fr. Jose Ante and Celina Unding were the ones who gave the brief history of Jolo. “And they have the audacity to lecture on the history of Jolo themselves? Isn’t that ludicrous? We are witnessing the most preposterous history in the making in our province,” Abayan said.

Fired up

A source who requested anonymity said that the people are all too fired up which he believed would be sustained because they are already fed up with all the bogus political solutions to the Mindanao problem.

He also believes that the ultimate end of programs like that of the BUC is ‘to placate the Bangsamoro’s fervor for the real Bangsamoro aspiration and direct their minds into a mere submission to whatever the government and the mainstream Filipino society want.’

“They want to change the way we live our life as Muslims and the way we are as Moros. Certainly, we cannot allow that to happen.” He said.

Jon, a Muslim youth, said of his participation to the demonstration, “Ha supaya magbaynat in pag-pahgang natuh ha pagsud sin satruh mari. Maytah kagausan sin kafir ha Manila mag-demonstrate magkakal iban mga police in kita Muslim dih; in ha Palestine kagausan magpa-shaheed in kitaniyu Muslim dih? (So we may continue our fight to prevent the enemy from coming in [to Sulu]. Why can the non-believers in Manila afford to go in a brawl with police forces during demonstrations and in Palestine, they die fighting, and we Muslims here can’t?).

Jon is one of those who heavily guarded the Grand Tulay Mosque. A tour to the mosque is part of the program in the third day of the assembly. The BUC delegates finally decided not to pursue the tour.

The anonymous source said, “It rearticulates of what has been the desired end of the forefathers of the Bangsamoro struggle. On the other hand, it confirms the failure of attempts to fully realize peace and reconciliation despite the decades of negotiations. We may not represent the entire Bangsamoro people but we are definitely a part of it and we have to have a voice.”

In her comment to the recently-concluded assembly, Mucha Arquiza of Concerned Bangsamoro Muslim in Western Mindanao writes, “As community of believers, it is our religious and moral obligation to support and believe in dialogue and to establish understanding among peoples and cultures as steps towards peace, but only when it is of genuine exchanges between co-equal, imbued with sincere intention, based on mutual respect and aimed at establishing justice.” (Bulatlat.com)

IN BACOLOD Priests to mobilize vs Charter change

December 1, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:38:00 12/01/2008

BACOLOD CITY — The Catholic church here reiterated on Monday its opposition to renewed moves to amend the Constitution and vowed to mobilize protest actions against it.

“We are against Cha-cha [Charter change], that’s final,” Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said in a text message on Monday in answer to a query by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

Fr. Anecito Buenafe, head of the diocesan Social Action Center, said the church would be at the forefront of protests and would use all means against renewed moves for Charter change.

Reacting to the diocese’s position, Representative Ignacio Arroyo Jr. (Negros Occidental, 5th District), brother-in-law of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said the “church should take care of our souls.”

Arroyo also said that he hoped the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of Free Filipinos), of which he is a member, gets the numbers in the House to go ahead with Charter change through a constituent assembly of both houses of Congress.

Kampi president Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur) earlier said they had the signatures of 167 congressmen, 30 short of the 197 needed to achieve their goal.

Arroyo said they would push for Charter change to change the system of government from bicameral to unicameral.

“We need a parliamentary form of government to move forward. We are against term extensions,” he said.

Catholic Bishop Calls on IPs to Use Bayanihan to Counter Mining, Globalization

November 26, 2008

Comparing mining companies and globalization to Goliath and to sharks, Bishop Jose R. Manguiran of Dipolog enjoined indigenous peoples, who he said are like David and dolphins, to practice bayanihan to fight for their rights.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S WATCH
Bulatlat

“Six years ago, GMA [Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] publicly announced during Independence Day in Zamboanga that the Subanen [tribe] will receive a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT)…[and yet] the Arroyo government allows mining in CADT areas.”

Bishop Jose R. Manguiran of Dipolog said this during a forum titled Tongtongan organized by the EED Philippine Partners’ Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (EEDTFIP), Nov. 14 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Manguiran said he has been attending to two tribes, the Subanen and the Muslims in Mindanao.

The bishop cited the logging activities of the Consunji clan on lands that form part of the ancestral domain of the Sirawai Kalibugan indigenous peoples of Zamboanga del Norte. “For 25 years, they have been fighting for their ancestral domain,” said Manguiran.

Manguiran said that Lumad complainants are always in hiding. “More than 30 people have been killed in that area without justice,” he added.

The bishop also deplored the government for exploiting the Lumads and their culture for the entertainment of foreign visitors. Manguiran said, “Government officials wear tribal attire, [at the same time], indigenous peoples are kicked out of their ancestral domain.”

Present dangers

Leaders of indigenous peoples shared the present dangers confronting them.

Jaime Tigan-o Dugao, a Kankana-ey elder from the Mountain Province and chairman of the Movement for Inter-tribal Unity and Development (MAITUD), said large-scale mining threatens their province and the whole region of Cordillera.

He said three exploration permits (EP) cover 8,745 hectares, the Asean Petroleum Security Agreement (APSA) covers 11, 976 hectares and other applications for mining cover 122, 482 hectares in Mountain province, Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya.

Dugao said, “We are not against development but we have learned from the experiences of our brothers in Benguet.” He revealed that large-scale mining covers 20,000 hectares of agricultural land in Benguet.

Dugao said that mining has been destroying environment since the 19th century. “In Itogon, open-pit mining stripped the mountain of forest covers… Mining nearly wiped out the watershed of Southern Benguet. The forest denudation rate has increased.” Dugao related.

He added that the country’s food security is being threatened by mining activities. While the government gets very small amounts in taxes from mining companies, Dugao said, the cost to the lives of indigenous peoples are immeasurable and could not be compensated by any amount.

“Sustaining our land and resources is our only legacy to our children and grandchildren,” Dugao said.

Meanwhile, Carlito Domulot Sr., president of an Aeta association in Zambales, said mining caused division among the indigenous peoples’ community.

Danilo Salonga, an Aeta from Bataan, condemned the laws that hinder them from utilizing their ancestral domain. He said the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) drove them out of the forest, compelling them to farm in the plains.

Salonga said that when the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was enacted, they applied for a CADT. But the local government opposed it claiming that the municipality has the right over the forest. Negotiations are still ongoing.

Tony Calbayog, a Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro said there are seven tribes inhabiting the Mindoro islands. As of the 2004 census, their population is around 264,000.

Calbayog criticized the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for declaring that there are no indigenous peoples in Victoria, Mindoro Oriental. The Crew Mineral Corporation is implementing the Mindoro Nickel Project in Victoria, Mindoro Oriental covering 9,720 hectares.

Calbayog said another company, the Agusan Petroleum Mining Corporation is operating in Mindoro Occidental, extracting gold and cobalt in an area covering 46,000 hectares.

The Mangyan leader said foreign mining corporations use bribery and deception to get the approval of some of their leaders.

Leaders of indigenous peoples also raised concern over the intensified military operations in mining areas.

Kankana-ey elder Dugao decried the cases of harassment of indigenous peoples. He cited the enforced disappearance of James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance.

Norma Capuyan, a Tagabawa-Bagobo from North Cotabato said the Arroyo government created the Investment Defense Force (IDF) to protect mining companies operating in Mindanao. Capuyan dismissed the claims of government troops that they are after the New People’s Army. In truth, she said, the soldiers only want to provide security for foreign mining companies.

She cited the intensifying human rights violations in Compostela Valley. She said that the BHP Billiton, one of the largest mining companies in the world, is interested in the mineral wealth of Mindanao.

Images

After hearing the sentiments of indigenous peoples, Manguiran shared three images to convey his message.

Manguiran said, “We are David, we are Mayas, we are Asian and we are dolphins…”

He recalled the great fight of Goliath and David, as described in the Old Testament. “David was very young, he was in a G-string and Goliath, a giant, was clothed with iron. God told David to bring a sling and a stone. Through his faith in God, David defeated Goliath.”

Manguiran also said that where there are dolphins, there are no sharks. “Dolphins go in one community. The shark, because it is very strong, does not need support. The dolphins tickle the side of the shark to drive it away”

In the sky, Manguiran said, there is the eagle and there are also Maya birds and doves. “Is there a law that protects a Maya bird? None, but the Maya has increased.”

Manguiran also cited the Vietnamese, the barefoot soldiers of Asia, who defeated the mighty Americans during the Vietnam war of 1955 to 1975. He said that the Vietnamese won even as the Americans used weapons of mass destruction such as the Agent Orange, a dioxin that is still being used by the company Monsanto in producing parathion.

Manguiran said, “In what way can we exist? Since time immemorial until now, there are two contending forces: the violent versus the humble and simple. The violent does not make a final judgment. The final judgment is guaranteed by Jesus Christ alone. He said ‘I have come to overcome the world, the evil forces.’ When I am weak then I am strong.”

Manguiran said, “In world economics, the strong are also weak. Globalization is much like Goliath; and being Goliath is also their weakness.”

The bishop further said, “The strength of globalization is money. How do you destroy or encounter that? Money is their strength; profit is their objective; competition is their game. We play our own game and do our own roles.”

Manguiran said that people must use bayanihan, networking. “Travel with many people. If there are sharks, we can tickle them,” he said.(Bulatlat.com)

Bishops hit for encouraging revolt

November 16, 2008

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:11:00 11/16/2008

MANILA — Some 50 youngsters, clad in black shirts, marched from the Manila Cathedral to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ office in Intramuros, Manila on Sunday, to denounce what they considered as calls by some bishops for a revolt against the Arroyo government.

In black shirts and veils, the protesters, who said they belonged to the Coalition against Destabilization, portrayed CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, Lingayan-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Bishops Joel Baylon, Socrates Villegas and Jose Sorra as devils.

They likened the prelates to the four horsemen of the apocalypse for allegedly encouraging a bloody revolt against the government.

The young protesters dared the bishops to leave the safe confines of the pulpit before meddling in the affairs of government and calling for a revolt.

Earlier, the bishops issued a joint statement calling on the people to prepare for the setting up of a new government now, saying the Arroyo government was hopelessly corrupt.

===========

My Take:

Historically, the church has launched some witchhunt campaign against individuals who profess progressive ideas.  Some of them victims were literally burned to ashes.

Now, the Philippine Catholic Church leaders are the ones under attack.  And the perpetrators are using youngsters now to advnce their devilish act.

It’s sad to note however that corrupt church leaders and lay members is too many for the five good bishops.  They are now being isolated by the modern Fray Botods of the Philippines.

Church also to blame for corruption

November 12, 2008

By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:11:00 11/12/2008

BAGUIO CITY – A Protestant Church bishop said Catholic Church leaders should also be blamed for the Philippines’ reputation as among the most corrupt countries and must offer their resignation if they continue to insist that President Macapagal-Arroyo step down from office.

Bishop Pedro Maglaya of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said some Catholic Church leaders have called for the resignation of Ms Arroyo but they have themselves to blame for failing to teach humility to their flock, who count her among them.

“I should not tell Gloria to resign. I should resign. I failed,” Maglaya said, in reaction to a recent news conference held by leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Maglaya discussed his views on Tuesday before an International Peace Conference organized here by supporters of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon.

The peace conference, which was attended by various church ministries and local officials, shared conflict resolution techniques to help local leaders pursue their respective peace advocacies in the countryside.

Maglaya is vice president of the International Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace, which has formed a Philippine inter-faith council.

He said the nine major religions of the world must come together because of a United Nations report that placed religion as a key issue behind 80 to 85 percent of all world conflicts.

The bishop told conference participants that they must teach humility to end most conflicts and to “make the Philippines go back to her decency as a nation.”

Maglaya gave particular attention to the country’s standing in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index of the watchdog Transparency International.

In the 2007 report, the Philippines ranked 141st of the 180 countries surveyed.

Maglaya said he shared the frustration voiced by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz in a recent meeting about the state of the country.

“Whose fault was this? Was it God’s fault? Is it the Church who failed?” he asked.

The bishop said most church hierarchies end with their respective clergymen, leaving a huge mass base of followers.

He said this means Church leaders are also accountable.

=========

My Take:

I think top Catholic leaders, specially the real leaders recognized the problem.  Maybe that’s the reason why 5 of them released a statement calling for “radical reforms”.

The Social Doctrine of the Church is a big tool in cleaning the Catholic hierarchy too.  Because the corruption frm inside the churches are now too visible to ignore.  Some priests receive a salary of P20,000 a month for doing, like, virtually nothing except saying mass and any liturgical practices.  They dont even build BECs in their respective parishes.

These priests must burn in hell.

World church gathering to strengthen IP partnership

October 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — World churches will gather in an international conference on social and ecclesiastical visions of indigenous peoples at the Club John Hay here on October 21 to 26.

Sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), a worldwide fellowship of non-Roman Catholic Churches whose headquarters is based in Geneva, Switzerland, the gathering will share and draw the experiences, spirituality and visions of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Thirty theologians from indigenous peoples in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia are expected in the conference, said Rev. Rex Reyes, National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) secretary-general in an interview.

This consultation will highlight the major issues affecting the indigenous peoples all over the world and appreciate how indigenous peoples confront these issues. The Consultation will also listen to a Philippine Panel who will deliver presentations on three specific issues of indigenous peoples in the Philippines: a) Stewardship and natural resources, b) Identity and social justice, and c) Community, church and the world.

“The project endeavors to challenge and enrich the traditional understanding of unity, mission, evangelical and spirituality,” added Reyes.

The indigenous peoples have rich experiences from which the churches can learn, which include among others, broad dimension of social justice, the exercise of self-determination, despite efforts to subsume them into the colonial-inspired state systems, and their concept of stewardship in protecting the land and environment for future generations, Reyes explained.

Church commitment

Reyes added the activity is a response to encourage the WCC and its constituency to be informed by the theological and spiritual resources of the indigenous peoples.

WCC was able to observe the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide where they are excluded by the mainstream society. As such, the IPs, due to their distinctness are discriminated and “excluded” by mainstream society where they live and manifested by discriminations, like in the absence of social services to them.

Their distinctness however had continuously made them adopt a vision of community peace and a safe earth, the NCCP document explained.

Cordillera, Philippines

Reyes said he activity is important in the country, particularly on the Cordillera, as the Filipino indigenous peoples have a powerful projection of politically and socio-culturally.

Approximately one-tenth of the total population nationwide, the indigenous peoples have in-depth spirituality and experiences.

“On one hand, they (IPs) live in isolated areas where access to basic services and opportunities for economic growth is lacking and on the other hand, natural resources abound in these areas making the indigenous peoples vulnerable to development aggression,” the NCCP document stated.

Reyes added that the Cordillera experiences as stewards of the land are very rich. He cited the Kalingas and Bontoks opposition of the World Bank-funded Chico dam that could have submerged thousands of hectares of rice lands and villages; the Tingguians opposition of the Cellophil Resources Company that would destroy hectares of forest lands in the tri-boundaries of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga; and the Ibalois struggle against the open pit mining in Itogon, Benguet.

NCCP added, “The struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines for self-determination and the preservation of natural resources continue along with their struggle against the onslaught of foreign investments, mining, and confrontation with the state forces.”

Partners

Although, initially the indigenous peoples were seen as targets of conversion and the means by which churches manifested their charity work, churches in recent times have begun to stand alongside indigenous peoples in their struggles, the NCCP document added, which has revived its indigenous peoples program to support them in their journey towards a just and lasting peace.

Stories of their resistance to marginalization and development aggression, engagement with international bodies like the United Nations, and their partnerships elsewhere in their march towards a free and fair society will hopefully inspire similar story telling from other parts of the world, added the NCCP document.

Reyes said the activity would further deepen and expand the social and ecclesiastical vision of the ecumenical community vis-à-vis the sinned against and the excluded.

As part of the activity, the participants are also scheduled to visit mining and vegetable areas in Benguet, Reyes shared.

The NCCP and Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera (Reccord) co-sponsor the activity. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

BUC appeals for compassion, human solidarity

October 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—The Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC) has issued an appeal for compassion and human solidarity in behalf of the civilian population caught in the crossfire of the present conflict in Central Mindanao.

In a statement signed by the two BUC co-convenors Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Bishop Emeritus Hilario M. Gomez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the BUC “strongly appeal for the welfare of the unfortunate civilian victims of the ongoing bloody conflict in Northern and Central Mindanao.”

“If, as we were to understand, violent encounters have become inevitable in view of the current campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to pursue, capture, and bring to justice the three (3) MILF commanders, we make this urgent appeal to both, AFP and MILF parties, combatants and other armed groups: Spare the innocent civilian population,” it further stated.

The BUC co-convenors also appealed for more help especially to the evacuees who have been displaced by war.

“We appeal for more, and continue providing these help to the evacuees now temporarily living in several areas in Northern and Central Mindanao,” read the statement signed October 11.

But, the convenors also recognize the efforts of individuals, groups and organizations who responded to the immediate need of the evacuees for food, clothing, shelter and medicine.

The BUC also expressed concern on the traumatic experiences of those who were victims of war, especially children and young people.

“We appeal to individuals, groups as well as institutions which have the training and expertise to conduct psycho-social interventions and counseling to start the healing of the physical and spiritual wounds leading to forgiveness, reconciliation and wholeness of life,” it said.

The convenors also “hope and pray to the God of peace of all people for a genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“We do this as instruments of peace serving all peoples in Mindanao,” it added. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Peace groups shouldn’t be used as smokescreen of gov’t in peace efforts

October 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—A peace advocate and founder of Kusog Mindanaw (Strong Mindanao) has reminded peace groups and coalitions in Mindanao not to be used as “smokescreen” of the government’s real intention in peacemaking.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado said Saturday that there are groups which have been approached by the government and used in its “camouflaging tactics” in order to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

He added that the present government is already unpopular and inept to fulfill its commitments in the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

Mercado said that because of its “unpopularity”, the Arroyo government is now seeking the help and assistance of highly regarded peace groups in Mindanao to mediate in its peace efforts.

“The integrity of Arroyo government in terms of peace efforts has already dropped. It has no social capital to pursue with peace efforts,” Mercado told the group of consecrated women in the Archdiocese of Davao in a gathering Saturday at the MIC Cursillo House in Torres St., this city.

That is why, he continued, “Mrs. Arroyo turned 90-degrees in saying that her government will no longer sign the peace accord with MILF. Now, she loses her credibility.”

Mercado also explained that Arroyo’s use of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) framework for peace negotiations with the MILF is misplaced.

“While DDR is part of the supposed entire comprehensive peace agreement of the government with the rebels, it should not be used as front in negotiating,” said Mercado, also former member of the government’s peace panel.

According to DDR in Peace Agreements and UN Peacekeeping Mandates, disarmament entails the actual collection of arms and ammunition, while demobilization is a process that separates the combatants from military service or armed troops and may include the establishments of camps and receiving areas where former combatants hand in their weapons and in return receive counseling, vocational training or economic assistance.

Reintegration (Rehabilitation as used by Arroyo) programs support the immediate and medium term social and economic inclusion of former combatants into their communities of origin or new communities. (Mark S. Ventura) (CBCPNews)

Pope reaffirms Church opposition to contraception

October 4, 2008

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception on the 40th anniversary of a papal encyclical on the controversial topic.

Contraception “means negating the intimate truth of conjugal love, with which the divine gift [of life] is communicated,” the pope wrote in a message published by the Vatican.

The rhythm method is an acceptable form of contraception for couples in “dire circumstances” who need to space their children, the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics wrote to participants in a seminar on the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI.

The landmark document, whose title in English is “On the Regulation of Birth,” was published at a time when the development of the Pill was giving new sexual freedom to women across the world.

Millions of Catholics distanced themselves from Rome as a result, while the clergy were divided on how to deal with such a document, covered as it was by the doctrine of papal infallibility.

In July, some 60 Catholic groups from Europe to the Americas called on Benedict to reverse the position.
— AFP (ManilaTimes)

Bishop: Make public the TORs on VFA

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:21
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) — Bishop Felixberto Calang, lead convenor of US Troops Out Now! Mindanao Coalition has proposed to the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Foces Agreement (LOVFA) to require “full disclosure to the public” of all the Terms of Reference “governing every form of US military presence in the country.”

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The last time a TOR was made was during the Balikatan 02-1 in 2002, as protests mounted against the holding of the military exercise without it.

No other TOR has been made after that and since July 2002, when the American troops were supposed to have left the country, some were left behind allegedly to finish humanitarian projects but their presence in the country, particularly in Mindanao has been continuous.

This as Senator Rodolfo Biazon, committee vice chair who once served as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, demanded a copy of the “rules of engagement,” adding he “objected to certain provisions of this in 2002.”

“If those objections of mine were not considered and were adopted and still in existence today are the same rules of engagement, then we are going to be in deep trouble,” he said at the LOVFA hearing at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City last Thursday.

Calang made five recommendations to the committee, on top of which is the “abrogation of the VFA, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, and the eventual pull out of all US military personnel from the Philippine territory.”

In the meantime, he said, “require full disclosure to the public of the Terms of Reference governing every form of US military presence in the country, past and ongoing, such as the USS Vandegrift tours of duty, the participation of US military ‘experts’ in the investigation of bombings incidents, the intelligence gathering activities of US military personnel and their presence in conflict areas.”

Calang also urged the LOVFA to “conduct onsite visits and inspection of facilities, with accompanying civil society organizations, where US military personnel and/or their equipment and infrastructure are established, requiring the US government to open said facilities for inspection.”

He also urged the committee to “conduct onsite public hearings and investigations regarding the presence of US military personnel in the country so as to determine the scope, involvement and intervention of the US government in the Philippines affairs” and to “establish a mechanism to involve civil society organizations’ participation in the LOVFA.”

On the civil society participation in the LOVFA, the bishop urged the committee to “provide political and material support to said organizations engaged in the monitoring and advocacy for national sovereignty, and opposed to all forms of foreign intervention.”

Then US Ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone told MindaNews in a February 2005 interview that they had “established a semi-continuous, not permanent, but semi-continuous (military presence), that is to say, some number of our personnel, rotate, at the pleasure of the command, your command…It’s a high-priced consultancy, only we’re doing it for free. And the second your command says it’s not useful, we leave.”

Retired General Edilberto Adan, now executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents these so-called benefits, and that it is through the VFA “that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.”

But Senator Miriam Santiago, Committee chair, asked during the hearing Undersecretary Teresita Domingo of the Department of Justice “how do you reconcile the VIFA with the MDT?”

Santiago said the VFA “is based on the MDT but MDT allows American military presence on Philippine territories in cases of external armed attack only.”

“But under the VFA, the American military presence is apparently being justified on domestic counter-terrorism effort. How do you reconcile the VFA with MDT?” Santiago asked.

Domingo, citing Supreme Court rulings, said the VFA “is based upon the Mutual Defense Treaty and insofar as VFA is concerned, this allows the presence of US military. It is the one that controls the entry that determines the entry and the stay of…”

“But MDT speaks only of an external armed attack. Is it the position of DOJ that there is an external armed attack on Philippines at this time?” Santiago asked.

Domingo replied, “It is not the position of the DOJ that there is external attack on the Philippines at this time.”

“If there is no such thing since VFA is based on the MDT, there is no legal basis for the American military presence, you see,” Santiago pointed out.

“The American military presence here is now based on the VFA,” Domingo responded.

“But the VFA is based on the MDT,” Santiago said.

She suggested that the issue be resolved in closed-door session. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Catholic Education Bits

September 20, 2008

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CEAP elected new officers

The Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), on its National Convention held on September 11-13 at the Ateneo de Davao University, has selected its new set of officers for 2008.

Msgr. Gerardo Santos is the new president. He is currently the head of the Ministry of Education and Catechetics(MECS), and president of the Manila Archdiocesan And Parochial Schools Association, Inc.(MAPSAI). He is also the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education(ECCCE) of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines(CBCP).

Here are the names of the new officers:

Vice-President-Fr Gregorio Banaga Jr, CM, Corporate Secretary-Dr. Carmelita I. Quebengco, and treasurer: Mo. Assumpta David, RVM.

Board of Directors are —David, Banaga, Quebengco, Atty. Ulpiano P. Sarmiento III, and Br. Armin Luistro, FSC.

Regional Directors are Region-NCR—Santos, Region 1-Fr. Ambrose L. Ponce, SVD, Region 2-Fr. Romeo B. Gonzales, MS, Region 3-Fr. Rufo Ramil H. Cruz, Region 4-Fr. Teodulfo B. Baria, Jr., Region 5-Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, Region 6- Fr. Antonio Limchaypo, OAR, Region 7-Fr. Roderick C. Salazar Jr., SVD, Region 8-Mrs. Sonia C. Palami, Region 9-Fr. Antonio F. Moreno, SJ, Region 10 -Fr. Aureo A. Pati-An, Region 11- Fr. Danny C. Montaña, RCJ, Region 12-Fr. Eduardo Tanudtanud, OMI, ARMM Mr. Nestor J. Lemana Sr., CARAGA-Fr. Edito N. Alcala, DCS, CAR, Sr. Lourdes M. Dulay, ICM, and Superintendent Fr. Paquito G. Gallego

Formed in 1941, The CEAP clims to be the biggest organized group of Catholic schools in the country, with about 1,194 members.

According to its documents, the CEAP upholds quality Catholic education in the spirit of communion and service, guided by Gospel values and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. But a number of student’s rights violation, campus press freedom violation and other labor-related cases are hounding some of CEAPs member-school.

CEAP seeks to advocate for government and NGO support to small member schools on issues affecting Catholic education, ensure effective and efficient delivery of services and programs in the national and regional levels, work towards financial viability of member schools, find ways for collaborative efforts among member schools, increase its visibility in national and regional levels while maintaining credibility and integrity in projecting its views and positions to the general public.

And yet CEAP is not so active on BEC organizing inside its campuses and the community surrounding them.

Teaching as a Ministry

Bishop Honesto Pacana, SJ, of the Malaybalay Diocese, urged the CEAP Convention delegates to view teaching as a sort of ministry.

In his homily, Pacana reminded the educators of the phrase, “Feed my lambs; Feed my sheep.”

Pacana explained that ‘feeding the lambs or sheep’ means influencing the students by good example, living the values of Christ and not just by words and deeds.

“It also means inspiring them to face and approach and face life full of joy, fulfillment and generous giving,” he said.

Pacana added, “feeding also means giving more attention to ‘the least, the last and the lost’ for lack of intellectual giftedness, social connections, culture endowment or economic standing.”

“You have to help them think with the Church and make them proclaimers in words and deeds of her social teachings of truth, peace and justice,” he said.

Ironically, The Jesuit-run Ateneo schools are popularly known for its high tuition and other fees. A number of Ateneo drop-outs pointed to this financial aspect of Catholic education as the culprit.

This tuition-thing has successfully transformed the Ateneo system into an elite academe for the elite class and the middle class, both capable of churning out wads of cash for a Christ-centered Catholic education.

COCOPEA blabbers on Eucharist in Education

The chairman of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), Fr. Roderick C. Salazar, Jr., SVD, has urged Catholic educational institutions in the country to continue to view the Eucharist as the sacrament that is the source of inspiration and strength in Education.

But Salazar is so intent on promoting the Eucharist that he deliberately forgot to state the equal importance of forming Bsic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) inside their member-schools.

The BEC, as a necessary pastoral program of a Diocese and Parish should find ample space also inside the very academe. The BEC, is the ultimate praxis of transforming a community into a living Catholic community, a community of churches made of flesh and blood.

(BarangayRP)

Lagdameo: Lifestyle Check should start from above

September 20, 2008

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Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo expressly welcomed the proposal of Manila Rep. Abante for a more strict lifestyle checks on government officials. But not without a smirk.

The Head of the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines(CBCP) said that he would be satisfied only if the move will spare no one from the top ranks of the government.

The good bishop also called to replicate the move by the country’s Church leaders.

“All of us leaders, whether in Church or government, we must encourage that there be lifestyle checks even among ourselves,” Lagdameo said over Radyo Veritas on Friday.

Lagdameo also asked the faithful to regularly conduct a conscience check.

“There should also be an examination of conscience so that at the end of the day, we would know whether we did something good or bad, so we can change it the next day,” Lagdameo said.

(BarangayRP News)

Church gathers 100T signatures vs RH bill

September 10, 2008

THE church-led signature campaign against the reproductive health (RH) bill has started gaining its ground after gathering 100,000 signatures since the campaign was launched in July.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), said they are expecting the number to increase as other dioceses in the country have started their own campaign.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

He said as soon as they collate all the signatures, they will present it to Congress as their reference before they discuss the bill in the plenary.

“Now conservatively, we have 100,000 signatures nationwide. We will present this to Congress,” Castro said.

Asked if the bishops are going to withdraw their support from politicians in the 2010 elections, he answered: “We have already their names (pro-RH bill) so that in the next elections the Catholic faithful maybe guided accordingly.”

Aside from the archdiocese of Manila, the archdioceses of Cebu and Pampanga have already conducted signature drive against the RH bill. Other archdioceses and dioceses in the country are expected to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said they will try to finish gathering many signatures as possible before Congress tackles the bill on the floor.

“We will try to make it before they make a decision. They know that the church is against it but they are trying to pass it,” he said.

Although many lawmakers have expressed their support for the bill, Rosales said what is ironic is that the people who they represent are the ones who are against the pending bill.

Castro added that they will ask for the help of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo if the bill has been approved by both Houses of Congress.

“The bishops will do that eventually but as of now, we do not rely only on the President; we want to know how our lawmakers act on this matter. So whatever will happen in the future, the church is prepared,” he said. (FP/MSN/Sunnex)

Silsilah Davao chapter lamented emergence of Christian vigilantes

September 2, 2008

DAVAO CITY, September 2, 2008–Members of Silsilah Dialogue Movement–Davao Chapter lamented the emergence of Christian vigilantes in Mindanao as well as the killing of innocent Christian civilians by some units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Last Saturday, several Muslim Imams, ustadz, Muslim youth leader, two priests, a seminarian and a religious sister as well as members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who are members of Silsilah-Davao gathered at the Redemptorist monastery in Bajada, this city, for a forum and to evaluate themselves on what they can contribute to peace in Mindanao.

Those who attended the forum have gone through the Silsilah Christian-Muslim Dialogue seminar in Zamboanga City.

Fr. Amado Picardal who is also a member of the Silsilah wrote in his blog that the members lamented the emergence of the Ilagas, the Christian vigilantes.

Picardal said that they are worried of the danger that the presence of vigilantes in Mindanao could turn the whole thing into a Christian-Muslim conflict.

“The Christians in the Forum also expressed their concerns about the ongoing military operations against some Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) units that have led to collateral damage among Muslim civilians,” he further wrote.

The Muslims in the Forum were also horrified and saddened by the killings of innocent Christian civilians perpetrated by some MILF units under Commanders Bravo and Kato.

“They (Muslims) said that it was un-Islamic and must be condemned. This has contributed to the breakdown of the peace process,” said Picardal. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Controversy rages over MoA-AD

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 21, 2008─ The debate over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rages on with another Catholic bishop joining the fray.

Speaking at “The Forum,’ a weekly Church-organized media discussion, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez lamented the inability of the government to consult the public and the lack of transparency from the Arroyo administration.

“The people’s right to participate and the people’s right to know were violated by the government,” Gutierrez said.

United Opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano, for his part, regarded the current deal as “immoral, un-Islamic and un-Christian” adding, “We cannot tear this country apart.”

Senator Richard Gordon who sits Chairman of Philippine National Red Cross said “there’s too much categorization” of the problems in southern Philippines.

“We should always remember we are one nation,” Gordon said.

The agreement was supposed to be signed by panels of both parties in Malaysia last August 4 if not because of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

The deal was aimed to bring lasting peace in the war-stricken Mindanao.

Gutierrez claimed that in his diocese, crimes against property were significantly reduced when sustainable agriculture was introduced to the community composed of Moslems, Christians and Lumads.

“The place was well-known for hold-ups but in 2001, all these crimes stopped because they were honestly earning a living,” the prelate said.

He added for farmers had little profit but “they were already free from debts.”

This means, the 69-year old prelate said, that peace and progress come into areas where “people meet their basic needs in life.” (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

AMRSP urges people to join ‘Truth Fest’

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 21, 2008— The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines is calling on the people to join the “Truth Fest,” which seeks to expose the “untruths” in the society today.

AMRSWP chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, said the gathering at the Plaza Rajah Sulayman on Roxas Boulevard in Manila on August 22 will also raise political issues such as renewed calls for Charter change and the ongoing conflict in Mindanao.

Mananzan said activity is expected to gather around 50, 000 people, which will also serve as a venue for “creative and innovative ways to encourage truth-telling and to search for truth.”

She further said that more “expose” would be made during the event, which kicks off at 3 p.m. and end at dawn of August 23.

“I invite everyone to attend this gathering and let us all defend the truth,” Mananzan said.

The highlight of the program will be the “litany of truths” around 9 p.m.

She said tomorrow’s activity will also feature street art, drum lines and musical performances.

“We have already solicited Mayor Alfredo Lim’s permission to use the part of Roxas Blvd., for the event which will gather well-meaning citizens,” she further said. (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

Impeachment seen as option to find truths behind MoA-AD

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 22, 2008— A Catholic bishop said an impeachment process against President Arroyo is one way of finding truths behind the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

If there are people who are thinking that such procedure could be one venue to resolve the issue, Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez is surely one of them.

“It’s (impeachment) one way to uncover truths and that is a constitutional process that maybe we should push,” he said.

But the bishop admitted the chances of Mrs. Arroyo getting through an impeachment procedure may still that dim as usual.

“As whether this will succeed or not, from what we have observed before and in the way the executive office is handling the Congress, I doubt it,” Iñiguez said.

The Church official is apparently referring to the three-rejected opposition attempts to impeach Mrs. Arroyo.

Iñiguez added several bishops already made similar sentiments against the said agreement over lack of transparency. (CBCPNews)

IFI Priest Receives Death Threat

August 21, 2008

A priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received a death threat from suspected state agents.

BY BULATLAT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Volume VIII, Number 28, August 20-26, 2008

Reverend Father Romeo Tagud of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received an envelope containing an M16 bullet around 6:30 a.m.

Tagud is the secretary-general of Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) in Negros.

In a statement, the PCPR said, “We strongly condemn this desperate and evil act as this is clearly a handiwork of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bantay Laya 2 that uses unjust, brutal, destructive and anti-people instruments to sow fascism and terror against legitimate, legal, progressive and democratic personalities and consistent anti-Arroyo oppositionists like Fr. Romeo Tagud.

Oplan Bantay Laya 2 is the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government.

Tagud recently joined the eight-member delegation of Filipino-Americans from the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, USA who visited Guihulngan, Negros Oriental last June 30 to July 2.

The PCPR said, “It is in this pastoral visit that Fr. Romeo Tagud bonded himself with the delegation’s expressed serious concern on the continuing deterioration in the observance of human rights in Negros, the existence of pervasive climate of fear and the lack of care and respect by government and the military towards the Filipino people who live in extreme poverty.”

The PCPR deemed that the harassment against the priest is a ‘wicked, immoral and unjust act aimed to silence him in pursuing his sincere advocacy for the defense of human rights.’

The PCPR added, “As a church worker, Fr. Romeo Tagud adheres to the Christian tenet of ‘Love the least of thy brethren’ and uphold the democratic rights of the poor and the oppressed to assert and exercise their basic right to life.”

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, 27 church workers have already been killed, according to the PCPR. These include the former IFI Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento and IFI priest Fr. William Tadena.

The PCPR called on all peace-loving church workers, priests, religious sisters, brothers, formandi, pastors, deacons, deaconesses, bishops, lay workers and to all the Filipino people to help defend and advocate human rights.

“…the Christian Church urged us to courageously defend and vindicate the rights of the poor and the oppressed, even when doing so will mean alienation or persecution from the rich and powerful,” said PCPR. Bulatlat

‘Kicking nun,’ school told to pay P50,000 for child abuse

August 18, 2008

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:56:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Court of Appeals has ordered Aquinas School in San Juan City and one of its former employees—a Catholic nun who used to teach religion—to pay P50,000 to the parents of a young boy whom she was found guilty of subjecting to physical abuse.

The August 4 ruling upheld the decision of the Pasig City regional trial court which ordered Sister Margarita Yamyamin in June 2006 to pay P25,000 in moral damages, P25,000 in exemplary damages and P10,000 in attorney’s fees to Jose and Ma. Victoria Inton.

Although the appellate court denied the Intons’ plea to raise the amount of damages awarded to them, it reversed the lower court’s ruling that the school should not be held liable for the incident.

The Intons filed criminal and civil cases against Yamyamin after she was accused of kicking their son and pounding his head on a chair. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three to five years in prison in 1999.

Yamyamin said in her defense that the boy had been recalcitrant and abusive which was why she “accidentally” used disciplinary measures with more strength than she had intended. She claimed that she caught the boy teasing a classmate for the second time.

The school, for its part, said it was not liable for monetary damages because Yamyamin was not its employee. The nun, it added, had been assigned by her religious congregation to teach at the school without any salary.

The Intons brought the case to the appellate court because they were dissatisfied with the amount of damages awarded to them considering the emotional and psychological trauma that their son had suffered. They also said the school should be held liable for the incident.

But the appellate court ruling penned by Justice Vicente Veloso said that the P25,000 in moral damages was enough, since such an award is not meant to make the victim richer.

“The award is in fact consistent with the rule that moral damages are not intended to enrich the injured party, but to alleviate the moral suffering he has undergone by reason of defendant’s culpable action,” it said.

The court added that the award of P25,000 in exemplary damages was correct as well, considering that such is given in order to set an example for others not to follow a wrong act.

In holding Aquinas liable for damages as well, the appellate court pointed out that though Yamyamin did not receive a salary from the school, she was considered an employee because she was under its control or supervision.

And even if Yamyamin was not a school employee, Aquinas would still be held liable for damages because it has a contract with the enrolled student and it is obligated to provide him with a safe atmosphere for learning, it stressed.(PDI)

======================

My Take:

This nun should be expelled from the church also.  Her actuations are way far from what the Social Doctrine of the Church is requiring us to do towards our brothers and sisters.

The church must also understand that they need to cleanse their ranks now, specially because of the perceived corruption happening inside the very walls of the church.

Their call fr a corruption-less government will get no impact if the people they are trying to mobilize sees the same going on inside some of the Catholic’s churches.

Padaca to lead hunger strike vs illegal logging

August 16, 2008

By Charlie Lagasca
Saturday, August 16, 2008

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ILAGAN, Isabela – To dramatize the dire state of the forests in this country’s third largest province, Gov. Grace Padaca and priests of the Ilagan diocese will lead hundreds of residents, parishioners and environmentalists in a hunger strike today at the San Mariano Church.

Fr. John Couvreur, head of the diocesan social center’s ecology desk, said they are also staging the hunger strike to belie the claims of certain groups that the provincial government and the local church merely wanted to deprive poor villagers of their livelihood.

Located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range, San Mariano town is one of those reportedly identified as illegal logging hot spots, along with Jones, San Guillermo and this capital town.

Isabela still accounts for at least 600,000 of Cagayan Valley’s more than 900,000 hectares of forest lands – one of the country’s biggest remaining forest covers, including the heavily threatened Northern Sierra Madre biodiversity corridor.

“In the past few days… several of the big financiers (of illegal logging here) have been very active trying to portray the (anti-illegal logging) task force and the church as anti-poor because they claim that we are taking away the livelihood of the poor,” Couvreur said.

But the truth, he said, “is that we want to protect the environment, save our communities from human-made calamities and help the bugadores (lumber/log haulers) to get free from the exploitation of the financiers to be able to regain their human dignity and freely decide how to improve their life through a sustainable alternative program.”

Recently, Padaca, alarmed by reports of rampant illegal logging, relaunched the provincial government-led anti-logging task force, which had seized hundred of “hot” logs.

Illegal logging cases are being readied against certain individuals, including a barangay chairman, for their alleged involvement in illegal logging.

The relaunching of the task force and Padaca’s recent deputization as an “anti-illegal logging czar” by no less than Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito reportedly further strained her relations with the DENR provincial office.

Such alleged strained relations were believed to be behind Monday’s relief of forester Felix Taguba from his post as the DENR’s provincial environment and natural resources officer.(PhilippineStar)

‘Truth Fest’ set for August 22-23

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 13, 2008─The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines hopes to gather some 50,000 well-meaning Filipinos to the first “Truth Fest” scheduled from 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 22 to 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 23, 2008.

Speaking at “The Forum,” a Church-organized media discussion at Ilustrado yesterday, AMRSWP chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, said the festival will be held at Baywalk-Roxas Boulevard from Pedro Gil to Quirino Avenue.

She said they have already been given permission by Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim to use the venue. Appropriate traffic advisories will also be released a week before the event.

“We have line-up a series of activities including a regatta with 200 rowers out to rescue our symbol of integrity,” Mananzan said.

She said there will also be an inter-faith ritual featuring representatives from various faiths, “from the Babaylan to our Muslim brothers and other faiths.” Drum-beating will also be made during the festival while various choirs will render songs.

“Resource persons have been invited to talk about issues from the environmental degradation at Rapu-Rapu in Albay province to the effects of EVAT and the latest developments at the Commission on Audit,” she added. The speakers will address the audience from 9:00-12:00 midnight. Filipino talents led by Grace Nono will provide intermission numbers.

“There will be a litany of untruths from 12:00 midnight as concerned artists will make an image of Judas stuffed with firecrackers to cap the event,” the former St. Scholastica’s College president said.

Food booths will be installed along with meditation tents and other trimmings usually found in college fairs. “There will be a lugawan where people from all walks of like will be treated to traditional evening snacks,” Mananzan said. There will be no alcoholic drinks during the “Truth Fest.”

Asked if politicians will be welcome to join the event, she said “Yes, they are welcome to listen to the speakers and take part in the activities because the invitation is for all Filipinos.” (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

Archbishop hits Arroyo’s bid for federalism

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 12, 2008— Outspoken Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz chided President Gloria Arroyo’s “obsession” in amending the Constitution.

This, according to Cruz, is for one simple and vivid reason— for Mrs. Arroyo’s continued stay in power even long after 2010.

“Now it can be said openly and loudly (that) the reigning Malacañang occupant avidly wants to continue wielding power and might,” Cruz said.

Mrs. Arroyo on Monday told Swiss President Pascal Couchepin that her government is advocating a federalist form of government as a way to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, for his part, explained that the President’s statement was only a move “to bring about” the memorandum of agreement over ancestral domain between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government.

What is more “condemnable”, Cruz added, is that the government itself has no remorse over the effects brought by the controversial pact.

“Never mind the thousands of people displaced and impoverished, hurt or killed, on condition only that someone’s tenure of power and might is extended… as long as possible,” Cruz said.

On Monday, some 130,000 civilians were displaced as armed encounter continue between the government soldiers and MILF in North Cotabato.

The fighting erupted few days after the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order against the signing of the MOA.

Cruz said it is clear that the government only “used” the deal with the Moro separatists group in her unrelenting bid to extend her term. (CBCPNews)

Prelate reiterates CBCP stand on Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 13, 2008─Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has always been clear in its stand on charter change.

In an interview with Catholic-run Veritas 846, Pabillo said the CBCP believes any change in the constitution should be made by way of constitutional convention and not through constituent assembly as what has been proposed by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in its desire to grant Filipino Muslims more autonomy.

“Our lawmakers have been elected to enact laws and not to alter or change the country’s constitution,” the prelate said.

Pabillo explained that with what’s happening today, it seems “unbelievable” they [lawmakers] could do their job well in so short a time.

“What kind of representation do we get should our congressmen and senators change our constitution?” the prelate asked.

He said the country and its people are simply waiting for the coming national elections in 2010.

Asked if the shift to federalism would bring peace to regions in southern Philippines, the auxiliary bishop said the Filipinos are still unaware of the merits and benefits of federalism.

He added the problems in Mindanao began when the government reported a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which was up for signing until the Supreme Court issued a restraining order.

“Now the government says there’s a need to amend the Philippine Constitution without appropriate consultations with the people,” the 53-year old prelate said.

He said this move to change the Constitution “may be a way to keep President Arroyo in power beyond 2010 because once you begin changing the Constitution anything can happen.”

He said the grinding poverty in the country is a serious matter “not even federalism could solve and we should be more careful in selecting our leaders because federal states will have its laws independent of each other.”

“We are not treated as matured citizens because we are never consulted,” Pabillo said.

He said the general public should benefit from the fruits of government programs if it pursues common good.

“[And] all of a sudden these issues will crop up and just be shoved into our throats,” the prelate said in Filipino. (Melo Acuna)(CBCPNews)

CBCP keeps eye on Cha-cha

August 14, 2008

MANILA, August 14, 2008— The leadership of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is keeping a close eye on the Arroyo government’s bid for Charter change.

The CBCP has no stand yet over the Arroyo’s sudden push for a federal form of government two years after the Supreme Court shot down a “people’s initiative” to amend the Constitution.

But Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez who once said “yes” to Constitutional amendments only after Arroyo’s term ends in 2010 called for vigilance anew amidst Arroyo’s abrupt support for a joint resolution at the Senate that called for the creation of 11 federal states in the country.

He said the Church would want to lead the flock in maintaining vigilance to ensure all things are rightly done for Cha-cha.

“That’s always the stand of the church (in knowing the truth). We will find out what’s really the motive behind all these, if it will bring good to the people or not,” said Iñiguez, who also chairs the CBCP’s Committee on Public Affairs.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza yesterday said it is all systems go for the move to amend the 1987 Constitution in a bid to bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

The announcement came at the heels of an earlier pronouncement by President Arroyo herself that her administration is very supportive of the possible shift to federalism.

It may be recalled that back in December 2006, the CBCP had actively campaign against the government’s “hasty moves” to amend the Charter.

Asked if there is a possibility that the CBCP will again call for a prayer rally much like they did in Luneta almost two years ago, Iñiguez refused to comment.

“The reason why the Church opposed Cha-cha before was because there were ulterior motives behind the moves. Now that it is being brought up again, we have to see the real motive behind it,” he said in Filipino.

Iñiguez, however, said the Catholic Church will not be a “stumbling block” for the government in its moves to change the Charter.

“There is no such thing as a perfect law. Let us see. If it is for the good of the people, why go against it? But if it is not, then that’s the time we have to speak out,” he added. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

Sec. Garcia to Abp. Valles: ‘I’m sorry, it was a costly mistake.’

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 –No less than the Government Peace Panel Negotiator Secretary Rodolfo Garcia who said sorry to Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles for what he termed as “ a very costly mistake” in the inclusion of Barangays Zone 3 and 4 in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

“We did what we could. We have tried our best to come up with this sub-agreement on the third substantive aspect identified by the parties under the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. I’m sorry if it felt short of your expectation, Bishop, and the expectations of your people in Zamboanga,” said Garcia.

Valles, during the open forum of the high level briefing on the Memorandum of Agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made a strong comment on the government’s failure to consult the people on the areas to be placed under the self-governance system of BJE.

He questioned the GRP panel for inadequacy of dialogue and consultation especially the people of Zamboanga in the proposed MOA–AD which now contains the general principles concerning, among others, Bangsamoro identity and rights, the establishment of a genuine self-governance system appropriate for the Moro, the areas to be placed under this self-governance system, and the protection and utilization of resources found therein.

“For what you (GRP) have done, you (GRP) have lost the people of Zamboanga City. You missed to conduct consultation and dialogue which are very important,” Valles sturdily said in public during the forum.

Garcia admitted that the two barangays Zone 3 and 4 were never discussed to be part of those areas to be placed under the BJE.

“It was a very costly mistake that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 [were] included in the MOA –AD,” he told Valles.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE namely: Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon. Covered also are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar Shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

While Garcia recognized the need to consult the people, he was quick in saying, “it is not always at all times that we have to consult the people, otherwise, the process will become interminable.”

But, Valles who was so disgusted declared, “I have strong disagreements of what Garcia, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said.”

In a separate interview, Valles told CBCPNews that the MOA- AD was crafted with so much haste and lack of consultation.

“I will still stand by what I have said in public that I have strong disagreements with the statements of the GRP panel,” said Valles.

He also said the BJE would be divisive and only sow confusion among the people for lack of proper consultations.

“The BJE instead of gaining the trust of the people, breeds mistrust for the people of Zamboanga City,” added Valles.

“Had not the proposed MOA-AD between GRP-MILF made public, we would never have known that Barangays Zone 3 and 4 have been included in the BJE,” said Valles, adding:

“We have nothing against peace process. We don’t want to breed hatred and mistrust between Muslims and Christians. What we need are transparency, proper consultation and dialogue.” (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Quevedo appeals: Clarify US role, GMA intention in the MOA

August 14, 2008

DAVAO CITY, August 14, 2008 – Admitting that many things cannot be negotiated in public, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, however made a personal appeal to clarify the role of the United States of America (USA), the intention of President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and other issues hounding the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MoA-AD).

Quevedo said the public should know what really is the genuine intention of Arroyo in pursuing the MoA-AD, to reflect whether there is participation by the US government in the drafting of the agreement, and the questionable gross inadequacy in the consensus.

“The need for consensus is as important as for the GRP. It is wisdom to consult, ask questions, and secure assistance regarding directions and goals from stakeholders. For the government, consult with the different branches of government and with the people directly affected by conflict,” said Quevedo.

“We have to clear first many things. It seems that the MoA- AD has many complexities. It fails to reach proper consultations, the language used in the agreement is vague and it was done in haste,” added Quevedo.

He also said that there is certainly a need to educate all the various constituencies and stakeholders as to the contents of the MoA-AD, their bases in history and in law, the steps to be taken, the recognition of mutual rights as well as the mutual sacrifices needed by both Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro people.

“The key to acceptability of the MoA–AD is consultation and dialogue, information and education, and building a constituency supportive of the general goals and specific objectives as well as the processes and contents of the peace negotiations,” said Quevedo.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said that the US government has no participation in the drafting of the MoA-AD.

Esperon added that the US government only extends help in the rehabilitation programs especially in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.

But, he said that in terms of fighting against terrorism it cannot be denied that the US government is helping the country.

“There is a global fight against terrorism and for that the US government is helping us in our thrust to end terroristic activities,” said Esperon.

Like Esperon, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza also said that the MoA-AD is intended by Mrs. Arroyo in order to solve the decades old problem in Mindanao.

“The president wants that rebellion in Mindanao should come to an end for after all we have already sacrificed a lot and many lives and properties have been wasted,” said Dureza. (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Msgr. Sañado to join fray at Casureco II board polls

August 12, 2008

By Jason B. Neola

NAGA CITY — It’s now official.

Responding to power-consumers’ mounting clamor, Naga Metropolitan Cathedral parish priest Rev. Msgr. Zosimo M. Sañado will run as director in the August 30, 2008 elections of the Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative (Casureco II) representing the Naga North District.

This, after he obtained the “blessings” of Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, who like many other well-known power consumers in the city such as Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo and officers of various socio-civic organizations and the academe in the city have unequivocally urged him to further serve the people and parishioners beyond the vows of priesthood.

Casureco II is wanting for a much-needed reform, both moral and technical, in the light of controversies, ‘sins of omissions’ and excesses blamed on its board members and some department managers.

If elected, Sañado, for the fourth time, will again find himself performing public service which he first did 25 years ago when he was the parish priest of Holy Cross parish in Nabua, Camarines Sur.

While serving as parish priest in 1993, Sañado became one of the prime movers of the Nabua water district when he initiated to enhance and expand its services.

Nabua water district was categorized then as a depressed local water district when in 1997 the parish priest was elected chairman of the board of directors of the Nabua water district.

He recalled that he personally purchased all the necessary materials in the installation of main distribution lines and other pipelines in order for the water district to be able to access potable water from nearby Iriga water district.

He said the water project was financed by the money amounting to P400,000 which he personally borrowed from banker-businessman Fidel L. Cu, who is a family friend.

Now Nabua water district is categorized as medium water district. Its operations cover more than 85 to 95 percent of the entire municipality. Until now, he remains to be the chairman of the water district.

Sanado also played a vital role in pressuring the management of Casureco III based in Iriga City, which was then run by the Alfelors, to open to the public all transactions, financial records and other documents in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

He strongly called for change in cash-strapped Casureco III which at that time was suffering from various problems in terms of manpower and financial management, political intervention, and inefficient delivery of services.

With Licentiate in Sacred Theology as magna cum luade and Masteral Degree in Spiritual Theology, also as magna cum laude, which he both took at the Pontifica Studicrum Universitas a San Thoma Aquinate in Urbe in Rome, Sañado in 2004 founded the Nabua Parochial School where he is the school’s vice-chairman of the board of directors.

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My Take:

This event is indeed interesting.

Interesting that the Archbishop himself allows the parish priest of its busiest parish to provide half of its attention to a private transaction.

Interesting that the priest involved took a public office 25 years ago, while serving as the parish priest in Nabua.

Interesting that, many people see him fit for the “public” job.

Beyond that, it would be interesting to know also if what happened to the parish when he held the said water district job.  Did he successfully formed Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) there?   Did he propagated the Social Doctrine of the Church there?  How about in his current capacity as the Cathedral’s head honcho?

A priest, and  a parish priest at that, requires all needed time and attention to mould its community of concern into a real Catholic community, and a discerning body of community.  And i think, snatching away half of his attention to this parochial job is the biggest mistake the Archdiocesan heirarchy has committed.

Pwede naman na naging consultant na lang siya.

But he still has some option to take, and its the right option.  That is, for him to resign as parish priest, or take a leave, just like what Among Ed did, and stop using his “Monsignor” label while serving in the CASURECO office.

After all, hindi naman trabaho ng pari ang mamuno sa CASURECO II.  Trabaho yan ng consumer.  And as a consumer, he has every right to participate and lead the coop.

Reyd ng 11th IB sa kolehiyo sa Negros Oriental, pinaiimbestigahan

August 10, 2008

PINAIIMBESTIGAHAN ng Karapatan-Central Visayas, organisasayong pangkarapatang pantao, sa CHR (Commission on Human Rights) at PNP (Philippine National Police) ang reyd ng mga sundalo ng 11th Infantry Batallion ng Philippine Army sa St. Francis College, Guihulngan City noong Agosto 6.

Pinasok ng mga sundalong naka-full battle gear ang kolehiyo mula sa gate nito sa likuran bandang alas-dose ng tanghali. Umano’y ininteroga nila ang mga prayle. Nagdulot din ang insidente ng kaguluhan sa mga estudyante.

Ayon kay Dennis Abarrientos, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Karapatn-CV, bahagi ang reyd ng “desperadong tangka ng 11th IB, sa pamumuno nina Lt. Col. Nemesio Gacal and 1st Lt. Joseph Buencamino, na i-terrorize ang mga Pransiskanong prayle na nagpapatakbo sa eskuwelahan at kritikal sa pang-aabuso ng militar sa probinsya.”

Nanawagan ang grupo kay Jesus Cañete,  imbestigador ng CHR sa Dumaguete City, at Supt. Rey Lawas, PNP Assistant Provincial Director sa Negros Oriental, na imbestigahan at parusahan sina Gacal, Buencamino, at iba pang mga elemento ng 11th IB.

“Mabuti na lamang, nanindigan ang dalawang prayle at kanilang kusinero na naroroon sa insidente. Itinaguyod nila ang integridad pantao at di sila nagpatakot sa terorismo ng estado,” sabi ni Abarrientos.(PinoyWeekly)

Corruption thrives in RP courtesy of gov’t officials

August 6, 2008

MANILA, August 4, 2008—Corruption thrives in Philippine government because many of its officials ignore or even engage in it.

This was the consensus of several Church, civil society and government leaders who participated in a conference on corruption at the Communication Foundation for Asia (CFA), July 26-27.

It was a fallow-up of a similar conference a month earlier convened by the Cebu-based Dilaab Foundation, according to a CFA statement.

CFA is a Catholic media center that is spearheading accountability and transparency in public and private sectors, besides educating people to use media for development.

The “Dear Peace” exhibit showcases the creative output and peace aspirations of young Christian and Muslim students who participated in the Peace Camp conducted by the CFA last May 2006 in Taytay, Rizal.
It was upon Museo ng Maynila’s invitation that CFA agreed to mount the Dear Peace exhibit for the Tertulia event. Tertulia is originally a Spanish word for social gatherings that serve as informal platforms for literary and artistic interaction or for sharing expertise and knowledge.

Even if government officials realize the social degradation resulting from corruption, they are reluctant to confront it. Many of them are being elected due to campaign contributions from jueteng lords, drug lords and other unscrupulous patrons, it was pointed out.

Their staying in power is dependent on bribes from the same sources. The former president Joseph Estrada plunder case was cited as proof that even the highest government position can be tainted when malefactors demand payback for their financial support.

Ordinary citizens partake of this unholy partnership when they sell their votes during elections. Or when they fail to probe deeply to check whether candidates have questionable connections.

Part of the solution to corruption may be the election of candidates whose qualifications include a demonstrated commitment against corruption.

The participants were in concurrence that the 2010 election would be the tipping point. They intend to scan the field and scout for alternative candidates who would be better candidates than the usual “presidentiables” and “senatoriables.”
They also agreed to bring together efforts at voters’ education, which they said was a natural complement of anti-corruption. Especially targeted are young voters, who make up the majority of both the electorate and the national population. (Santosh Digal)(CBCPNews)

Carmelite priest decries gov’t failure to address hunger

August 6, 2008

MANILA, August 4, 2008─The many proofs of good governance and good economy that peppered President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation address last July 28 are far from the truth according to the story of a Carmelite priest.

Fr. Jerry Sabado, O. Carm said the government is responsible in taking care of lives, nourishment and other basic needs of the Filipino children and the Filipino people as a whole.

“But penury, hunger and inhuman living conditions—that’s all that this government can give to the Filipino people,” lamented the priest.

Sabado said that days before Arroyo’s SONA, children in Payatas went hungry. And it was the same, days after the “historical” speech of the chief executive inside the Batasang Pambansa.

“In our church in Payatas, a child lined for the Holy Communion. But the problem is, he [was] not older than seven years old. The child cried when I told him, he [was] not allowed to take the Holy Host because he [has not taken yet] his First Communion. He cried and cried, begging me, saying ‘Father, sige na po! Gutum na gutom na po ako. Gusto ko po ng tinapay’,” narrated Sabado, a priest of the Order of Carmelite and a member of Kasimbayan (Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan) and Promotion of Church Peoples Response (PCPR) in statement sent to CBCP News a day after the 8th SONA last July 28.

The priest said he was moved by the scene. Then he continued his story:

“Last Monday, July 21, there was a huge fire in Pandacan. Some of the victims were Aglipayans. Two children died, unable to escape the fiery blaze, while the mother [was] in [a] long line, waiting for her turn to buy some kilos of NFA (National Food Authority) rice. Not so long ago, there [were] siblings that have died also in the fire, here in Payatas, while their parents [were] working—scavenging in the huge piles of garbage.”

“A small bread can bring a lot of joy to that small boy. How many breads, bags of rice and other food items can be bought and distributed to millions of our poor kababayans, by billions of pesos that were stolen and planned to be stolen by this government?,” asked Sabado.

“There is no moral basis for anyone to remain in power, especially those in the highest position, if their positions are being used to make themselves rich, while the people are impoverishing and dying because of hunger,” added Sabado.

“As a church that promotes life, it is righteous for the Church to join the people in condemning, in the strongest terms, the plundering of people’s money and the abuse of power of those who is in authority,” said Sabado.

He declared it is an un-Christian to remain silent in the face of ongoing corruption, and it is not right for Church leaders to explicitly support Arroyo.

“Gloria is riding over the pro-Life position of the Church, it is rightful that the Church be in front, in condemning the policies and programs of a corrupt president, who’s number one in destroying and in depriving life and dignity to the millions of Filipinos,” said the priest.

He added that as ordinary church people, like any ordinary Filipino, they can feel the impoverished state of the country.

“We will not close our eyes on the immorality of this government. We are with you in fighting and in making the Arroyo government accountable, who untiringly looting the country’s chest and economy and continuously suppressing and massacring the people. On that note, hand in hand, let’s call for her resignation,” Sabado said.

High percentage living in poverty

According to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS), 59 percent of the Filipino families, or 10.9 million people, say they are poor. This was nine (9) points higher than of last year, where the self-rated poverty had only recorded 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Pulse Asia, Inc., said that 66 percent of the Filipino population—or two out of three Filipinos—said that the Philippine economy have worsened, much worse than of 2005.

Still, the International Labor Organization (ILO) says that majority of the Filipinos still live for less than US$2 a day.

What is more saddening, before the SONA, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said more than 11 million children are malnourished.

Poverty due to corruption

In the 2007 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 131, meaning that people perceive there is rampant corruption happening inside the government.

Earlier, in the height of investigation of the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal with the Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited or ZTE, a Chinese company, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a strong Pastoral Statement—Seeking Truth, Restoring Integrity—condemning “the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder” and urging the “President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found.” (Noel Sales Barcelona)(CBCPNews)

Bishops stress transparency on controversial agreement

August 6, 2008

BACOLOD CITY, August 5, 2006─The controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain between the government and Moro Liberation Front (MILF) the signing of which was deferred by the Supreme Court today drew remarks from some Catholic bishops.

CBCP President and Jaro (Iloilo) Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said he would recommend to the CBCP Secretariat and its permanent council, composed of eleven bishops and archbishops to study the said agreement before making any statement.

Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr. pointed out the failure of government to satisfactorily explain to the people the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he also want to be clarified on the concept of autonomy because to make Mindanao “another country or nation is too controversial.”

Interviewed at Bacolod Port August 4, Bishop Iniguez said “the government should explain every detail of the agreement because it is something that concerns the Filipino people especially with this long-standing problem of relationship with the Muslims.”

“We owe it to the Filipino people to explain the (agreement’s) details,” the prelate further said.

Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios M. Pueblos said “politicians should be more considerate this time for peace in the whole Philippines and especially in Mindanao.” He said the government should reveal the contents of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain so “it could be properly discussed and probably a compromise could be made to prevent any trouble in the future. “ (Melo Acuna)(CBCPNews)

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My Take:

Bulag ang simbahan ngayon sa isyung ito.  Mukhang naging mas abala sila sa pagharap sa ploy ng Malakanyang: ang Reproductive Health Bill.  Hindi agad nabasa ng ating ka-Obispohan  ang posibilidad ng CHACHA sa likod nito dahil na rin sa katangian ng MOA: imposible, mapanlinlang, inililihim ang laman.

Bishops laud SC decision stopping Palace-Moro signing of pact

August 6, 2008

MANILA, August 6, 2008— Catholic bishops have lauded the Supreme Court’s decision in stopping the government from signing a land deal with Muslim separatist rebels in Mindanao.

The general view is that the move made by the High Tribunal in issuing a temporary restraining order was the “proper thing to do.”

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said the SC is right in blocking the signing of the deal, supposedly aimed at ending nearly four decades of rebellion there.

“The Supreme Court is right because (after all), not everybody knows the content memorandum of agreement), he said.

The TRO issued yesterday was in response to a joint petition filed by Mindanao officials who had nixed the deal on ancestral domain, saying it was unconstitutional.

Under the agreement, large swathes of Mindanao will become part of a Muslim state to be controlled and run by Muslims.

The signing of the peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was supposed to be held August 5 in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia.

The lack of transparency in making the deal also caused massive street protests in Mindanao and fears that non-Muslims areas could be covered by the ancestral domain.

“I admire the SC for being really independent… and the agreement must be made public too,” the bishop said.

Gutierrez, whose pastoral jurisdiction is included in the proposed Islamic homeland, said the Philippines is a “participatory democracy” and the pact needs participation of all stakeholders.

“They should be also informed because it will affect them. In other words, transparency and public participation is really needed,” he said.

For his part, Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said the SC decision will provide all stakeholders—not only the government and the MILF—to clear all issues hounding the controversy.

“That’s (TRO) good because there will be opportunity for us to see and scrutinize the content of the agreement which is, of course, of national interest and concern,” he said.

Iñiguez agreed with some public clamor that there are a lot of questions hanging that needs to be cleared up first before the deal is officially signed.

Iñiguez said he is hoping that, in the end, the outcome of the negotiations will be for the common good and not just for some individuals or groups. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

Archbishop Cruz pleads not guilty to libel charges

July 30, 2008

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Oscar Cruz pleaded not guilty to libel charges during arraignment before the Manila Regional Trial Court yesterday.

Judge Antonio Rosales ordered the arrest of Cruz on May 12 but later granted the motion to post bail filed by former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, counsel of Cruz.

However, the former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president believes the case against him will be dismissed.

“I don’t intend to insult, embarrass or malign the Pagcor female employees, after all I did not name them,” he said. “It was Pagcor who named them.”

The 73-year-old Cruz said the case against him was first dismissed by the Manila Prosecutor’s Office.

However, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) employees appealed to the Department of Justice, which reversed the Manila Prosecutor’s decision and filed the libel case in court, he added.

Twenty marketing assistants of Pagcor filed the criminal case against Cruz in 2004.

It arose from a news article published in several newspapers in which Pagcor was reported to have used women employees to act as “guest relations officers (GROs)” during the birthday party of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

The complaining Pagcor employees did not attend the arraignment of Cruz.

They are: Sharleen Vincent Tecson, Elizabeth Berme, Daylin Cabinian, Cheryll Ann Ilano, Mylynn Manabat, Rizza Panganiban, Michelle Masbate, Ma. Bianca Gonzales, Kristine Joy Morales, Joy Anne Castillo, Agnes de Guzman, Anna Mirabilia Rosales, Lorica Canto, Ritzel Alday, Maylene Mandariaga, Leah Salvador, Cecilia Bermas, Ma. Consuelo Violeta, Mielyn Medalla, and Ma. Daisy Rivera.

The court set the preliminary conference at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 26, and the pre-trial at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Last May 14, Cruz posted P10,000 bail for his temporary liberty. – Sandy Araneta, Evelyn Macairan(PStar)

Bishops say SONA should focus on population policy too

July 28, 2008

MANILA, July 26, 2008— Reaffirming the government’s stand on the population control issue should be one of the focuses of President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the Catholic bishops’ leadership said.

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life chairman Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said Arroyo should uphold her stand on natural family planning.

“I hope the President reaffirm her stand that life is sacred and that the foundation of a strong republic is a strong family…which is also the foundation of the whole civilization,” he said.

Aniceto made the statement to reporters at the sidelines of the prayer rally for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Humanae Vitae at the University of Santo Tomas parade ground in Manila yesterday.

The Pampanga archbishop noted Arroyo assured the bishops many times that she will only be supporting the use of natural birth control methods to curb the country’s growing population.

He said the President also “promised” them that she will be pushing for natural for family planning method in her SONA.

Asked what they will do next in case she goes against her assurances, the prelate said they will just continue to remind her that “she is a Catholic.”

Arroyo had met recently with several bishops to hear their position on the reproductive health bills pending in Congress.

She said she has asked the leaders of the :Lower House to meet with the Catholic Church leaders to discuss the measure.

CBCP head Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the bishops are hopeful the lawmakers to “rethink” their position of supporting the “anti-life” bills.

“Ang amin lang sinasabi ay sana magkaroon sila ng paghuhunusdili at, tayo, bawat isa meron panahon at meron naman chance na magbago ng kanilang saloobin at magbago ng kanilang kaisipan at damdamin sa kalooban ng Panginoong Diyos,” Lagdameo said.

ECFL executive secretary Fr. Melvin Castro hopes the ongoing debate on the controversial bill will somehow give the public a chance to examine the measure.

“Nakakatuwa kasi maaring merong hindi naga-agree sa Church sa kanyang position pero the mere fact na napagde-debatihan ito ngayon ay magandang way para maging aware yung ating mamamayan sa ganitong partikular isyu,” Castro said.

The prayer rally gathered an estimated 12,000 pro-lifers coming from all walks of life, police officials said.

Aside from Lagdameo and Aniceto, other bishops present in the rally were Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Tarlac Bishop Florentino Cinense, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, Gumaca Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arquelles, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, San Fernando auxiliary Bishop Roberto Mallari , Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, Manila auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias and Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud.

Some politicians who also made their presence felt were Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, former senator Francisco Tatad, Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Paranaque Representatives Roilo Golez and Eduardo Zialcita, Manila Representative Tricia Bonoan David and even boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Among the groups that participated in the gathering were the Couples for Christ, Buhay party-list, Human Life International–Asia, Pro-Life Philippines, Christ’s Family Mission Movement, Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus along with several other representatives of various dioceses. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

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

July 27, 2008

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.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 25, July 27-August 2, 2008

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.

Demands

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

Editorial Cartoon: Garin is Ploy

July 24, 2008

Pang-Nakaw Pansin

Clerics are called to be servant-leaders, says priest

July 22, 2008

DAVAO CITY, July 21, 2008 –The Dean of Academics of St. Alphonsus Theologate in Davao said that “a priest is called to be the shepherd or the servant- leader of the Christian community.”

Citing John Paul II’s encyclical “Pastores Dabo Vobis,” Redemptorist Amado Picardal said being a shepherd and servant-leader means forming and leading the Christian community in the parish and in the local communities or Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs).

He added that a priest is also called to promote communion and a sense of unity and sharing among the laity and with them. “This means becoming close to the flock (people),” stressed Picardal.

Picardal also explained that the ministry of pastoral leadership is to be exercised in the spirit of service and not in terms of power, privilege or prestige, adding:

“A participative and collaborative style of leadership is to be adopted, rather than the authoritarian or laissez-faire style.”

“This ministry is grounded on a spirituality of pastoral charity and communion,” he pointed out.

Prophetic Ministry

Picardal also said that a priest is called to serve in a prophetic ministry.

By serving the prophetic ministry, he said, the priest shares in Christ’s prophetic office.

“The ordained ministry is a ministry of the Word – of proclaiming the Word and witnessing to the Word. This involves the task of preaching, evangelizing, and catechesis,” he said.

He also added that this involves prophetic denunciation – of becoming a conscience in society and denouncing the sin and evil including injustice, oppression, the culture of death and violence, corruption, the destruction of the environment, among others.

“This also means calling people to repentance and conversion. This also involves prophetic annunciation – announcing the Good News of the Kingdom, of salvation and liberation, of justice and peace, and of life,” he said.
Picardal explained that the prophetic ministry of the ordained forms the Christian community/BECs into a prophetic community.

“The community that listens to the Word proclaims the Word and lives the Word, that acts as conscience of society and denounces sin and evil. The prophetic ministry is rooted in a spirituality nourished by the Word.”

“In exercising his prophetic ministry, the priest must be ready to risk his life,” he said.

Liturgical/Sacramental Ministry

Picardal also said that a priest exercises leadership in the liturgical/sacramental celebration of the Christian community.

“The priest enables the laity to actualize their common priesthood by promoting full and active participation in the liturgical celebration,” he said.

Picardal added that a priest forms the parish and the BECs into truly priestly/worshiping community.

“The community that celebrates what it lives and lives what it celebrates – a life of communion with God and with one another, of unity and sharing, of self-sacrifice
The liturgical/sacramental ministry requires spirituality nourished by the Eucharist and deepened by prayer and contemplation.”

Social Action Ministry

He also said that a priest is called to ministers to people who are poor, hungry, oppressed, victimized and dehumanized.

“The priest cannot be blind to their suffering. Social action is therefore a constitutive dimension of the priestly ministry. This is exercised in the context of the community,” added Picardal.

Thus, he said the priest has to form the Christian community/BECs into ministering/servant communities that address the problems that they face like poverty, hunger, injustice, violence, corruption, environmental destruction, violation of human rights and work for social transformation that will bring about justice, peace and development.

“In carrying out this ministry, the priest must avoid being subservient to political ideologies and parties. He must avoid involvement in partisan politics,” he pointed out, adding:

“This ministry requires spirituality rooted in compassion. It also requires a simple lifestyle, immersion in the life of the poor, solidarity with the poor, and forming the Church into truly the Church of the Poor.” (Mark S. Ventura)(CBCPNews)

Reproductive health bills ‘morally unacceptable,’ says CBCP

July 22, 2008

MANILA, July 21, 2008–The reproductive health bills pending in Congress are “morally unacceptable,” said the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) today.

Speaking at a press conference, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, former vice-president of CBCP, said that the ongoing tussle between the Catholic Church and some lawmakers on the reproductive health bills could be resolved with “dialogue.”

Ledesma said Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Representative Rufus Rodriguez, both of Cagayan de Oro, support the church stand.

However, Ledesma said, the two lawmakers’ position is based on “moral grounds” and not political grounds.

The issue of reproductive health bills have to be understood on a “moral ground,” than “political ground” or “partisan approach,” Ledesma added.

The proposed reproductive health bills allegedly promote artificial population control methods including abortion.

According to Catholic Church, only natural family planning is morally justified.

The prelate also stressed that church leaders continue to advocate with local lawmakers for the scrapping of the reproductive health bills at the district or diocesan level.

Recently, Congressman Mark Llandro Mendoza of the fourth district of Batangas withdrew his support for the reproductive health measure, in which he was one of the signatories.

Mendoza did it as an outcome of his “change of heart.” (Santosh Digal)(CBCPNews)

CBCP urges Muslims to take active part in ARMM polls

July 22, 2008

MANILA, July 21, 2008—The Muslim brethren from Mindanao ought to take active part in monitoring the Aug. 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, former vice-president of CBCP, said that the major stockholders of ARMM are Muslim brethren, besides others, in Mindanao who would cooperate with the government and NGOs in the forthcoming elections so that the electoral exercise would be free and fair.

Speaking at a press conference on the results of the July 7-8 National Rural Congress which he heads, the Jesuit prelate, said Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) is also keen to support and provide all necessary support for the peaceful holding of ARMM election next month.

Ledesma also urged the local and national governments to do everything that would really contribute for the peaceful holding of ARMM polls.

After the ARMM polls, government should work hard to resolve all outstanding issues that exist between the government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is not inclined to delay the Aug. 11 elections in the ARMM where more than a million registered voters are to take part.

RA 9054, the ARMM Charter, provides for regional elections every three years, where ARMM residents are to elect a regional governor, vice governor and three assemblymen for each of the region’s seven congressional districts.

The proposed ancestral domain comprises the MILF’s concept of a Muslim homeland, which it wants to run through a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Ledesma also appealed to all Christians, Muslims and others to pray for the success of ARMM polls. (Santosh Digal)(CBCPNews)

Women’s Front: Innabuyog urges the Vicariate and CBCP to sanction erring priest

July 19, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Today is the second year anniversary of Beth’s (not her real name) rape by Fr. Gabriel Madangeng of the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate. She was 14 years old at the time of the incident that happened in Natonin Mission Convent on July 8, 2006. She filed a complaint with the NBI-CAR office on December 27, 2006.

On August 3 will also be the second year anniversary of the Ana’s (not her real name) rape by the same priest. This happened at the Sta. Rita Parish Convent in Bontoc, Mountain Province. She was repeatedly raped, the last incident was in December 11, 2006. She filed a formal complaint with PNP in Bontoc on February 26, 2007.

Both cases are now in the courts in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

Innabuyog extends its support to the families of the victims and to those who are giving the moral support for them to pursue their cases. Both victims, including another one, are minors.

These cases of sexual offense are an affront to the dignity of a person, especially women. The offense is made heavier by the fact that the perpetrator is a man of the cloth, by that makes him a person in authority and who exploited the innocence and fragile state of the victims. The sexual offense, noting that the incidents were repeatedly committed outrage not only the physical but the moral sense as well. These acts reinforce women’s low status in society and the perception that they are weak, vulnerable and no more than a sex object.

In the victims’ pursuit for justice, wholeness and peace of mind, Innabuyog urges the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate, the Conference of Bishops in the Philippines (CBCP) and the Commission of Clergy to apply the Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy which the CBCP drafted in 1995. We urge the Vicariate to apply its blanket authority by immediately suspending the erring priest, do the needed disciplinary action on him as a man of the cloth and subject him to psychological evaluation and processing.

Considering the trauma that the minor victims continue to undergo, we urge the Vicariate to apologize to the victims, their families and the congregation as part of the healing process. The Vicariate must likewise look into the psycho-social re-estabilization of the victims and their families. Innabuyog believes that by doing so that the Vicariate upholds its mission at sustaining life and dignity of humanity. #(NorDis)

Pope’s Australia sex abuse apology not enough — critics

July 19, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 13:26:00 07/19/2008

SYDNEY — Pope Benedict XVI’s apology for sex abuse by Australian clergymen does not go far enough to address the problems of victims, critics said Saturday.

The pope earlier apologized fully to victims of predatory priests for the first time, saying in a homily in a Sydney cathedral he was “deeply sorry” and calling for perpetrators of the “evil” to be brought to justice.

But Broken Rites, a victims’ support group staging demonstrations during the pope’s visit for World Youth Day celebrations which have brought 200,000 pilgrims to Sydney, said the apology was inadequate.

“Sorry may be a start but we want to see a lot more,” spokeswoman Chris MacIsaac said.

“We want the victims to be treated fairly, we don’t want them to feel that they have been shut out, we don’t want them to be re-abused by church authorities,” she said.

The parents of two daughters abused by a priest in Melbourne described the apology as disappointing.

Anthony and Christine Foster had returned from a British holiday in the hope of meeting the pope to press for better treatment for victims.

The Fosters’ daughter Emma committed suicide this year aged 26, after struggling to deal with abuse by a Melbourne priest at a primary school.

Her sister Katie, who was also abused, turned to alcohol in her teens and was left brain-damaged after being hit by a car while drunk.

Anthony Foster said the couple’s first reaction to the papal apology was disappointment.

“They are only words — the same thing we’ve been hearing for 13 years. It is simply an apology, there is nothing practical there which is what we were looking for,” he said.

At a Sydney demonstration against Catholic church policies, Wayne Elliott, who said he was a victim of child abuse but not by priests, also condemned the apology as insufficient.

“It is frankly not worth the paper it is written on. They need to do far more than that and they should have apologized a long time before,” he said.

But the apology received support from the Premier of the state of New South Wales Morris Iemma, who told Sky News he hoped the apology would be a turning point.

“Hopefully it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families, said Iemma.

Broken Rites says 107 Catholic priests and religious brothers have been sentenced in Australian courts on sex charges, and Australian bishops apologized for past abuses in 2002.(PDI)

Pope praises Australia’s ‘courage’ for apologizing to Aborigines

July 17, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia — Pope Benedict XVI has praised the Australian government for its apology to the country’s indigenous Aborigines for past injustices.

Benedict made the remarks in a short speech Thursday in his first public appearance as part of the Roman Catholic Church’s youth festival in Australia, after meeting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

He lauded the government’s “courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against the indigenous peoples in the past,” which he said offered hope for people all over the world seeking justice and opportunity.

Rudd in February formally apologized to Aborigines as one of his first official acts as prime minister, and has made closing a huge gap in economic and health status between indigenous people and other Australians a priority of his government.(AP)(SunStar)

Church’s hardline stance vs contraceptives killing women

July 15, 2008

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:35:00 07/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Church’s stance against contraceptives has been a “huge disservice” to women and denying communion to politicians whom the Church perceived to be pro-abortion would not solve maternal deaths, reproductive rights and women’s groups said on Monday.

The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), a consortium of more than 20 women’s and health groups, said Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado’s stance not to give communion to politicians whom he considered as supportive of abortion was “very misleading.”
Beth Angsioco, RHAN secretary general, said the bishop’s statement, which was given a few days after the Church launched a campaign against reproductive health bills in Congress, seemed to equate reproductive health rights with abortion.

“Abortion is not reproductive health,” she said. “I don’t know if the bishop has read the reproductive health bills … Abortion remains illegal and punishable in the Philippines,” she said.

The Catholic Church recently reiterated its stand against contraceptives and surgical interventions like tubal ligation and vasectomy.

The Church considers these measures “anti-life” and immoral, like abortion, which the Philippine government does not support.

Last week, members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stress their opposition against reproductive health bills in Congress.

Angsioco said the Church was making a huge disservice to women by equating abortion with access to reproductive health.

Citing data from the United Nations, Angsioco said 10 women in the Philippines have been dying daily because of pregnancy complications arising from lack of maternal and natal care before, during, and after pregnancy.

“It is a huge disservice not only to women but particularly to the poor. Those who can afford contraceptives can buy, but those who are poor are really affected,” she said.

While it has expressed support for the use of contraceptives, the national government does not buy it for distribution to public health facilities, preferring instead to let local governments and international donors provide it.

“We are closing our eyes, the Church is closing its eyes to the fact that women are massacred,” she said.

The reproductive health bills in the House of Representatives would not legalize abortion, the RHAN official pointed out.

The bills seek to provide women with wider access to all kinds of family planning methods and a national reproductive health policy, according to Angsioco.

“It sets a national policy. It will no longer be dependent on local governments or the position of the President or chief executives,” she said.

Gabriela, a women’s party-list group, said Dosado’s call would not solve the problems facing women who lacked proper access to health and maternal care.

Instead of castigating pro-abortion politicians, the Church should take concrete initiatives that would help pregnant women and their families, Joms Salvador, Gabriela spokeswoman, said.

“We understand the concerns of the Church. We are also concerned about mothers’ health. The proposal to deny politicians communion will not solve the deep reasons why women undergo abortion,” she said.

She noted that some women chose abortion because they could not afford another child or they were raped. The current climate in which women could not have easy access to reproductive health care, has been making it difficult for mothers to make informed decisions, she added.

“There is a need to root out the causes of abortion. We challenge the Church to sit down with groups like us and interested parties to discuss the issue,” Salvador said.

In all the infighting between legislators who have proposed population management laws and the Catholic Church, women have been losing, Salvador said. “The women are burdened. They have needs and concerns,” she said.

(PDI)