Archive for the ‘religious’ 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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200 Muslim clerics create 1st national ulama group

January 29, 2009

By EDD K. USMAN

For the first time in the Philippines, 200 ulama or Muslim religious leaders gathered in Quezon City yesterday to create a national organization to serve as a vehicle for unity, empowerment and give them voice on issues facing Islam and its Filipino followers.

Named to the NUCP interim Board of Trustees are Ustadza Albaya Badrodin and Aleema Khadijah Mutilan from the Aleemat (Muslim women religious scholars), and former senator Dr. Santanina Rasul.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Supt. Sukarno Ikbala welcomed the formation of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines (NUCP), saying Muslim Filipinos have been aching for it.

“In the first place, the ulama are the experts on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Allaihi Wassalam. They can guide the Muslims and their communities based on the teachings on peace, tolerance and harmony of Islam and as they relate to relations with non-Muslims also,” said Ikbala.

Muslims in the country are grouped into at least 14 tribes, such as Tausug, Maranaw, Maguindanaon, Iranon, Yakan, Samal, Kalagan, Sama Bangingi, Kalibugan, Sangil, Palawani, Jama Mapun, Badjao, and the Balik-Islam (reverts or converts to Islam).

Financial grants from the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the Embassy of the Netherlands under the three-year “Empowering the Ulama of the Philippines Project” helped create the NUCP.

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc. handled the Ulama Project through a R30-million grant in June 2007 from the UK and the Netherlands embassies.

In a statement, Rey Trillana, the PCID project manager of the Ulama Project, said the assembled Muslim clerics coming from Mindanao and other parts of the country ratified bylaws the other, giving birth to the first ever national association.

Trillana said there are thousands of ulama in the country who are “Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law who are the interpreters of Islam’s sciences, doctrines and laws.”

He said the religious leaders elected 14 of them to the NUCP’s 15-man interim Board of Trustees, with the PCID, being the organizer getting the 15th seat.

The NUCP trustees are Dr. Hamid Barra from Marawi City; Dr. Abhoulkhair Tarason from Basilan; Sulu Mufti Sharif Jul Asiri Abirin; Tawi-Tawi Mufti Abdulwahid Inju; Aleem Abdul Majid Said from Cebu;Aleem Ahmad Darping Nooh from Davao; Dr. Abdussalam Disomimba from Lanao del Norte; Prof. Moner Bajunaid from General Santos City; Shari’a Court Judge Aboali Cali from Marawi City; Aleem Jaafar Alifrom Cotabato City; Aleem Abdulhadi Daguit from Manila; Bro. Hassan Garcia from the Balik Islam community; UstadzaBadrodin and Aleema Mutilan, wife of the late Dr. Mahid Mutilan, and Rasul, MKFI chairperson and advisor of the PCID, who took the 15th seat belonging to the PCID.

Later, the NUCP trustees were to meet to elect among them a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and a secretary general.(MB)

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)

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)

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)

Vietnam Urged toEnd Crackdown on Catholics

October 20, 2008

Peaceful Protesters Beaten, Arrested, and Harassed

(New York, October 4, 2008) – The Vietnamese government should immediately release Roman Catholics arrested for holding peaceful prayer vigils in Hanoi and hold accountable police and others responsible for attacking Catholic parishioners, Human Rights Watch said today. The protesters have been calling for the return of church properties confiscated by the government.

Human Rights Watch also urged the government to end the harassment, threats, and restrictions on the movement of the Archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who has publicly defended the rights of the Catholic protesters and visited the families of arrested parishioners.

“This is the harshest crackdown on Catholics in Vietnam in decades,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Sadly, religious repression and violent crackdowns by the Vietnamese authorities against peaceful protesters are nothing new.”

Vietnam has not seen such large numbers of Catholics participating in mass public protests since the 1950s, nor has the government responded to Catholics so violently in recent decades.

Vietnamese authorities have recently used tear gas and electric batons to disband the peaceful Catholic prayer vigils in Hanoi, and bulldozed properties considered sacred to Vietnamese Catholics. Hundreds of unidentified thugs, some in the blue shirts of the Communist Youth League, have harassed, cursed, and spit at parishioners and destroyed church statues. On September 19, 2008, authorities detained and beat an American reporter covering these events. At least eight Catholic parishioners have been arrested for participating in the vigils since the latest round of protests began in mid-August.

“Silencing the voices of Catholic parishioners by beating, harassing, and arresting them is yet another demonstration of Vietnam’s intolerance of dissent and freedom of religion,” Pearson said. “Even senior religious figures of officially recognized churches are severely harassed.”

The two Hanoi properties in dispute are the site of the former Nunciature (a Vatican diplomatic mission), and the Thai Ha Church of the Redemptorists, both of which were confiscated in the mid-1950s. Construction workers, backed by hundreds of police officers, bulldozed the Nunciature building on September 19, 2008.

Public expression of land grievances are escalating throughout Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta to the northern highlands, with religious leaders and their adherents at times involved in the peaceful protests.

Prayer vigils conducted in December 2007 and January 2008 by Catholic parishioners in Hanoi seeking the return of the disputed properties died down earlier this year when government authorities reportedly promised to return the properties. Months went by, however, without any action, spurring thousands of Catholics to join fresh prayer vigils in August and September to press for return of government-confiscated church land.

On September 21, 10,000 Catholics gathered in prayer outside Hanoi’s main St. Joseph Cathedral to protest the demolition of the nearby Nunciature. It was the largest public protest by Catholics since 1954.

Hanoi authorities targeted for harassment Archbishop Kiet after he publicly defended the prayer vigils. Catholic sources in Vietnam report that Vietnamese authorities have placed surveillance cameras outside his residence and are monitoring his phone line. Government-orchestrated mobs have assembled outside his gate shouting anti-Catholic slogans and calling for him to be removed from his position. The archbishop has limited his activities outside his residence due to security concerns.

The government is also carrying out an intense smear campaign against Archbishop Kiet in the state-controlled media, alleging that he has committed illegal and unpatriotic acts by “instigating parishioners in order to sow divisions” through protests that the government claims are threats to public safety and national unity.

On September 23, the president of the Hanoi People’s Committee (a governmental authority answerable to the Vietnamese Communist Party) sent a letter to the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops calling for the “severe punishment” and transfer of Archbishop Kiet, and accusing him and four priests at Thai Ha parish of “inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law and instigating others to violate it.”

In response, the Vietnam Conference of Bishops issued public statements in defense of the archbishop and priests, raising concerns about religious freedom, the right to property, the government’s monopoly over the media, and other human rights issues in Vietnam (http://www.vietcatholic.net/News/Html/59225.htm ).

“The government should support religious tolerance and peaceful assembly instead of using the media to vilify religious leaders and paint peaceful religious protesters as a menace to the public,” Pearson said.

Chronology of attacks, arrests, and destruction of property since August 2008

· August 28: police arrest at least eight peaceful demonstrators on the grounds of the Thai Ha Church of the Redemptorists. Police then beat parishioners with electric batons to disperse a vigil calling for the release of those detained. One priest is seriously injured, and police reportedly temporarily detain at least 12 other people who participated in the silent vigil.

· August 31: a uniformed police officer sprays tear gas on a group of Catholics during a prayer vigil on the grounds of Thai Ha Church, resulting in the hospitalization of at least 20 parishioners.

· September 19: Police and clearance crews bulldoze the former Nunciature, ostensibly clearing the land to make way for a park and public library.

· September 19: the police arrest and beat an American journalist, Ben Stocking, Associated Press bureau chief in Hanoi, for photographing the protesters during the demolition of the Nunciature. Authorities release him after two hours in detention. He emerges with a gash on the back of his head, delivered by police, which requires four stitches.

· September 21: 10,000 Catholics pray outside St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi. That evening hundreds of men, some in Communist Youth uniforms, attack Thai Ha Church, harassing and spitting on priests and their parishioners.

· September 25: State-owned buses deliver a pro-government mob that attacks Catholic demonstrators at the site of the Nunciature and denounces Archbishop Kiet. Police watch as the mob harasses parishioners, destroys an iron cross erected in the Nunciature’s garden, and removes a sacred statue of the Pieta.

On the same day, more than 5,000 Catholics gather for a prayer vigil in Ho Chi Minh City to show their support for the parishioners in Hanoi.

Human Rights Watch urges the Vietnamese government to respect Catholics’ rights to peacefully assemble and to freedom of religion and expression. These rights are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam ratified in 1992.

Human Rights Watch also supports the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in urging the United States to reinstate Vietnam on its global blacklist of countries that violate the right to religious freedom.

Background

Roman Catholicism is one of six officially recognized religions in Vietnam. Catholics constitute the country’s second-largest religion, after Buddhism, with more than 6 million adherents. Following the communist takeover of North Vietnam in 1954, the government seized many properties from private owners, pagodas, and churches, including the Catholic Church.

Ties between the Vietnamese government and the Vatican were severed in 1975 following the reunification of Vietnam. While diplomatic relations have not yet been renewed, the Vietnamese prime minister met with the pope in Rome in January 2007. In June 2008, a Vatican-Vietnam working party was established to improve relations.

The Vietnamese government closely monitors religious organizations, and restricts the activities of those that choose to operate independently or do not affiliate with officially authorized religious organizations under the control of the government. Hundreds of Vietnamese are in prison for peaceful religious or political activities.

One of those is Roman Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, a founder of the democracy group in Vietnam known as Bloc 8406, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2007 for conducting anti-government propaganda under Penal Code article 88.
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Vietnam, please visit:
http://hrw.org/doc?t=asia&c=vietna

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)

Asian youth leaders urge MILF and gov’t to resume peace talks

October 13, 2008

DAVAO, October 12, 2008—If one thinks the enduring conflict in Mindanao is due to religious differences, some 90 multi-religious youth leaders gathered here today believe otherwise.

This is because for the members of the Religions for Peace Asia and Pacific Youth Network, lasting peace and friendship is achievable among the religiously-diversified Mindanaoans had they been peace-loving enough to respect everybody’s ideologies.

To further prove their point, youth leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian and indigenous communities from sixteen Asian countries are convening today until Tuesday (October 12-14) in a pan-Asia summit to formulate multi-religious action plan to help develop the Mindanao peace process.

“(We believe that) the root cause of the conflict in Mindanao is not unique to the Philippines, and can be found in all parts of the world. The process of marginalization of the political, economic, cultural and religious identities needs to be exposed and over-turned. Religious youth leaders are convinced that we need to confront this challenge and become peacemakers now,” the youth network said in a statement.

Meantime, the group has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government to “meet halfway” and promote peace talks capable of generating real and lasting solutions in the conflict-laden region.

“The youth hopes the immediate returning to the negotiation table by the Philippine government and the MILF. The international community is paying close attention to the humanitarian crisis in Mindanao of the almost half million internally displaced persons and others affected by the current conflict,” it added.

According to organizers, the outcomes of the Summit will be highlighted in the senior religious leaders gathering in Manila from October 17 to 21.

“(This will definitely) bring the voice of youth and the situation in Mindanao to the 300 participants of the general assembly of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ACRP) with the President of the Philippines,” it said. (Kris Bayos)(CBCPNews)

JIL joins INC, backs RH bill

October 2, 2008

By Delon Porcalla
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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It’s a battle of churches as the moderate Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement joined other religious groups in support of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which the Catholic Church opposes.

JIL leader Eddie Villanueva expressed support for House Bill 5043, entitled “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008,” provided some provisions, particularly those raised by Couples for Christ, are deleted.

“We should not sacrifice this very important legislation. However, there are objectionable provisions. So why not omit these, amend and improve the bill but not sacrifice this landmark legislation aimed to address the root of poverty in this country,” he said.

The five million-strong JIL joined the pro-choice position taken by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo, which rejected natural family planning that Catholic leaders promote, including the rhythm method, which they considered as “really contrary to nature.”

“INC accepts modern family planning methods or the use of what others call contraceptives as long as they are not abortifacient in nature and they do not impose prolonged abstinence from sexual intercourse among married couples,” spokesman Bienvenido Santiago said.

“I’m in favor of any method for as long as these are not designed to kill life. I’m against abortion. Abortion per se is murder,” Villanueva said.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, main proponent of the reproductive health bill, and co-author Rep. Janette Garin of Iloilo have repeatedly rectified the misconceptions that they are pro-abortion.

“We are strongly against it (abortion). We are pro-life and we are pushing for a good quality of life,” Garin said.

“The bill is not about condoms and pills and neither is it about religion. It is primarily about health and rights,” Lagman reiterated.

Lagman emphasized that reproductive health is a “basic human right that the government must promote and protect” and that it would be “an indispensable development tool given that rapid population growth impacts negatively on all aspects of human development.”

The Catholic Church opposes the bill that they believe would promote the use of contraceptives and increase abortion, which is illegal in the country.

JIL and INC are now pitted against the ultra-conservative and dominant Catholic Church, which counts at least 85 percent of the 83 million Filipinos, including the 10 million members of El Shaddai led by their charismatic leader Bro. Mike Velarde.

Villanueva personally believes in responsible parenthood. “It is important to address overpopulation but we must not sacrifice morality. Why not produce anexcellent, if not perfect, measure? The intention (of the bill) is very good.”

“We really need a no-nonsense population policy. However, we should not sacrifice morality. Why not improve this said bill, eliminating undesirable provisions that are offensive to the morality of the Filipino people,” he added.

Garin earlier revealed that 106 House members support the bill, which makes them confident the measure may be passed.

“There are now 106 signatories. We have already reached the numbers. This bill will pass unless there will be (House) members questioning the quorum to delay the passage,” she said in a text message.

But while deliberations have suffered a little delay, like the objections raised by pro-church advocate Deputy Speaker for Visayas Raul del Mar, Lagman insisted that “delay is not victory. It is merely postponing the eventual defeat of those opposed to the reproductive health (RH) bill.”

The RH bill proponent discredited the “patently dilatory tactics” of those opposed to it, following what he called the “long winding interpellations, baseless procedural objections and irrelevant attacks on the funding and motives of NGO advocates.”

Lagman pointed out that the alleged “technical defects” Del Mar raised were approved unanimously and without any appeal from four House committees – Health, Population and Family Relations, Appropriations and the committee on Rules.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said at least seven government agencies are now backing the RH bill.

Cabral said aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Commission on Population, and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) also support the measure.

Cabral said the agencies submitted their position papers during the House and Senate hearings on the controversial bill.

She said a clear majority of Cabinet members now support the bill.

Cabral clarified that this is not the position of the government, saying President Arroyo has remained consistent in her advocacy for natural family planning methods.

The DPWH chief is one of the signatories in the online petition of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, which has so far gathered 3,968 signatures.

“It is my personal conviction and everybody is entitled to his own opinion,” Cabral stressed.

The bill, which among others promotes the use of artificial contraceptives, has passed deliberations in the committees on health, population and family relations, appropriations, and rules.

A party-list representative said that the Catholic Church should also come up with its own manifesto to be circulated among congressmen to determine the number of pro-life supporters.

A Teacher party-list Rep. Mariano Piamonte Jr., who was once the executive director of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), made the suggestion during the weekly media forum at the Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros.

He said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) should do more than just pray. “Prayers can move mountains but you have to push it also, you have to do something concrete. You cannot solve your problems by prayers alone.”

He also suggested that the bishops should also consider inviting the members of Congress to dinner to discuss the RH bill and get their commitment that they would withdraw their support from the proposed legislation. “I believe that the bishops have great persuasive powers.”

CBCP spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III said he liked the idea because by requiring them to sign, they would be able to document their support.

“I will relay to the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto about Congressman Piamonte’s request that a manifest to gather signatures be circulated,” said Monsignor Quitorio.

He also assured the public that the bishops are doing everything to block the passage of the bill but many of them chose not to divulge it to the media. – With Helen Flores, Evelyn Macairan (PStar)

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)

Observing Ramadhan, Islam community hits military operations in Mindanao

September 13, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Muslim residents here expressed their concern over the continued military operations in the south directed at the immediate capture of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo” despite the observance of the holy month of Ramadhan.


RAMADHAN PRAYER. Muslims in Baguio City are one in prayer for lasting peace in their homeland Mindanao. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Jamal who did not give his full name, a Muslim trader here, said the government’s continued military operations in Mindanao during Ramadhan is a bastardization of Islam.

“Ramadhan is our most sacred and holy month, it is disrespectful of the government not to declare a total ceasefire,” said Jamal. He said the sentiments of the people especially the Muslims would be diverted to anger against the government.

Abdulwahab Lacsaman, a teacher in the Almaarif Educational Center, along Roman Ayson Road was adamant that the government should respect this very important Islamic practice.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Ramadhan is from September 1 to September 30, this year.

Meanwhile, Office on Muslim Affairs-Cordillera Administrative Region (OMA-CAR) Director Abdullah S. Macarimpas said the military should observe protocols in their conduct of military operations not just in Mindanao but in any place in the country.

“No civilian should be affected in their operations and the government troops should respect everyone’s human rights,” said Macarimpas.

He was also firm on his opinion that the government is waging an all-out-peace operations and not an all-out-war in Mindanao.

“The president is not waging war but peace against lawless forces such as the MILF,” he added.

The conflict between the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The collapse of the MOA

According to Macarimpas part of the MOA is unconstitutional mainly because of the process it underwent.

“Not all people concerned were consulted about it. Even Malacañang admitted it did not have a copy of the MOA,” he said.

He also stressed that the negotiations between the MILF and the GRP has been going on for a long time. If certain sectors were not consulted it is a fault of government and not the MILF.

In a statement the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) released August 26, it said the MOA, “while recognizing on paper the Moro people’s right to self-determination, in particular their right to their ancestral domain, was calculated to flounder and fail in the face of legal challenges and the unfounded outcry that it would dismember the Philippine Republic.”

According to Bayan, the present administration under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not sincere at resolving the primary issues connected with the armed conflict with MILF, which includes the Moro’s right to a homeland and self-determination.

“Opportunistically, the Arroyo clique wished to take advantage of the situation that the MOA would precisely entail constitutional revision, in order to open the doors wide open to its bid for term extension via charter change,” the statement further said.

Meanwhile, Baguio Muslims are in prayer for peace for their homeland Mindanao as they observe this year’s holy month of Ramadhan. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Pokus: The military operations in Mindanao during Ramadan

September 13, 2008

Malacañang is so serious on its goal for the immediate capture of the rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo,” it is steadfast in continuing military operations in Mindanao even during the holy month of Ramadan.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan starts on September 1 and ends on September 31, this year.

Nordis went around Baguio City to gather the sentiments on the said issue of some Muslims and Maranaw traders residing in the city.

Those interviewed opted not to give their full names for anonymity.

Macarampat, 22, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Dapat nang matigil ang labanan sa Mindanao lalo na at magsisimula na ang Ramadan. Sana naman ay ipatupad ang ceasefire. Kung umalis ang mga sundalo, wala nang gera. Dapat masaya ang Ramadan at hindi magulo”

Rasmia, 38, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Irespeto naman nila sana si Allah. Gusto naming maging tahimik ang pagdaos namin ng Ramadan at hindi magulo.”

Jasmin, 35, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Malayo kami roon kaya di namin talaga nalalaman ang mga nangyayari pero sana naman ay matigil na ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao. Kahit papaano sana ay may katahimikan kahit sa loob ng isang buwan lang. Malaking gulo ang pwedeng mangyari kung itutuloy ng gobyerno ang pagtugis sa mga MILF. Holy war na ang mangyayari kung hindi mag-withdraw ang mga sundalo. Marami na sa aming mga Muslim ang nagagalit sa mga nangyayari.”

Jamal, 32, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Di magiging maganda kung di sila mag-ceasefire sa Ramadan. Ito ang pinaka-respitadong buwan sa aming mga Muslim. Ito ay para sa aming Allah. Pambabastos ito kung hindi tumigil ang mga sundalo. Ang mangyayari mas lalong mapapalihis ang simpatya ng mga Muslim at mapupunta ito sa galit laban sa gobyerno. Sa totoo lang hindi kami naniniwala na magagawa ng mga Muslim ang pagpapasabog sa isang Mosque na napanood namin sa balita. Ginagawa nila ito para lang sirain ang mga Muslim. Dinadamay pa ng mga sundalo ang mga sibilyan sa kanilang pambobomba.”

More people wanted to give their stand on the issues surrounding the Mindanao problem. We promise to accommodate as many as possible in our next issue of Pokus. #

Missionaries in Abra do ‘Walk for Peace’

August 28, 2008

by Maritess Beñas

BANGUED, Abra – The people of Abra led by the Divine Word College of Bangued walked for peace morning of Aug. 21 from this town to Pidigan.

“Walk for Peace”is actually a Marian pilgrimage organized by the Divine Word College of Bangued (DWCB) led by its president, Fr. Cirilo Ortega, SVD in celebration of the 99th anniversary of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Missionaries in Abra as part of the preparatory activities in the celebration of the SVD centennial next year, and the celebration of the Feast of Mary, Queen of Peace and Unity.

The Walk, which started at 6 a.m. at the DWCB quadrangle where the opening ceremony formally took place, was offered for peace in Abra and the Philippines particularly in Mindanao.

The walk was led by Monsignor Leopoldo Jaucian, bishop of Abra, and participated in by the priests, faculty, staff members, and students of the DWCB, Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin, and the Philippine National Police. The hikers from Bangued were received by the priests, faculty, staff members and students of St. Mary’s High School in Pidigan, and the community people.

After the walk, a Eucharistic celebration concelebrated by the participating priests led by the Bishop followed at the Shrine of Mary the Immaculate Conception.

In his homily, Jaucian expressed hope that justice and peace will be attained in Abra as he witnessed the solidarity of the people in making a sacrifice and praying together for peace. He said he felt stronger as he saw many people walking together.

Bersamin said he was so happy and he felt secured walking along with the many people of Abra despite his initial reluctance in joining the Walk considering his own situation of being at risk, being a political figure. He urged the people to continue praying for peace as he believes that “if we cannot attain peace through the laws of the land, we will, through Divine Peace.”

Bersamin also assured the public that he will facilitate the completion of the concreting of the road from Pidigan to San Isidro in time for the SVD centennial celebrations in San Isidro next year without having to wait for the conversion of said road from its current status as provincial road to national road. It may be recalled that the road to San Isidro has been requested by the SVD centennial working committee to be declares as Divine Word Road to recognize it as a historical landmark, with San Isidro being the cradle of the SVD Missions in the Philippines 100 years ago.(BaguioMidlandCourier)

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)

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

Moderate Muslims, civil society condemn burning of Christian places of worship

August 18, 2008

By Julmunir I. Jannaral, Correspondent

COTABATO CITY: The Philippine Islamic Council and Center for Moderate Muslims (PICCMM) has condemned the recent burning of Christian places of worship in North Cotabato reportedly by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels that have been locked in fierce combat with the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), while the Maradeka civil society group urged both Muslims and Christians to embrace the path of peace.

Prof. Taha Basman, PICCMM chairperson, Sunday said, “We condemn the burning of churches and the mounting destruction and heavy collateral damage inflicted on innocent civilian sectors of the society—Muslims and Christians alike.”

Basman cited the burning last week of the San Isidro de Labrador Chapel in Midsayap, North Cotabato allegedly by the MILF rebels at the height of the firefighting in North Cotabato.

The burning of the chapel at Barangay Patindegen, Midsayap was confirmed by Carlos Bautista, provincial information chief of the Province of North Cotabato, according to Basman, who is also a Unesco commissioner.

“The Muslims and Christians numbering more than 1.5 billion each worldwide cannot avoid each other everywhere. And we cannot annihilate each other in any way which is a historical fact. So we must love and respect one another, instead. God will love us more for loving, not killing His creatures,” Basman said.

Basman said that while he shared many of the points raised by North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol on the issue of ancestral domain and the occupation of some of the province’s villages by the MILF rebels, he appealed to national and local leaders to stop making inflammatory statements that can reignite war after the situation has normalized.

Basman who is an advocate of moderation among Muslims also urged both Christian and Muslim residents of Mindanao in particular to “rise above the current crisis in this stage of the peace negotiations, and advocate for peace not war.”

Similarly, Nash Pangadapun, secretary-general of Maradeka, which is an alliance of Bangsamoro peace advocates, also urged the Christians and Muslims to embrace the path of peace and refrain from obstructing it if only to give harmonious peace and security to every citizen of Mindanao.

“We have been longing for peace in Mindanao and to finally put an end to the long festering Mindanao conflict but the Supreme Court had acceded to the innuendos of the obstructionists and staunchest enemies of peace in Mindanao like Vice Governor Piñol and his cohorts,” Pangadapun said. (ManilaTimes)

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

My Take:

I totally agree.  Both parties can go to war but they should be responsible enough to observe the rights of others, specially the nn-combatants, civilians, and the structures that is not cnnected in any way to the warring group’s concern.

I am calling for a deeper investigatioon too, as to who are the real perpetrators, in order for us not to point accusing fingers to wrong directions.

‘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)

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)

Student’s movement commends CBCP stand on economic crisis

July 13, 2008

MANILA, July 12, 2008—As they joined the students’ walkout last July 10, members of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) thanked the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for finally “breaking up their silence” about the current economic and political crises facing the country today.

In a statement sent to CBCP News, Biyaya Quizon, SCMP president, said that the members and officers of their group commend the CBCP leadership, through its president Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D., for speaking about social justice and the moral and just demands of the impoverished.

“We believe, however, that there should be greater actions to show that Christians are not silent and are taking an active stand on all these issues,” Quizon said.

SCMP also asked, not only the CBCP, but other religions as well to declare July 28, the day when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will deliver her 7th State of the Nation Address, a national day of prayer and action for justice, and called on all Christian students to “heed the call of God’s suffering people.”

“We should combine prayer and action, and journey with our people towards a new Exodus,” Quizon ended her statement.

Meanwhile, during the July 10 student protest, the young lay leader lambasted Arroyo’s impermanent solutions to the current social and economic problems that the Filipino people face today.

“It can only do as much like giving alms. Tomorrow, the poor will think again how to survive from hunger and poverty,” laments Quizon.

She also said that instead of heeding the suffering of the people, the Arroyo government insults them more with its actions and statements.

It’s easy for Malacañang to say that it cannot allow another wage increase now, but it cannot stop oil companies from increasing oil prices! It cannot bend its policies towards our people’s demands, while it wholeheartedly allows laws such as the Oil Deregulation to be implemented to the poor people’s demise,” Quizon exclaimed.

“The Arroyo government says that only the rich pay the VAT (value-added tax) while they are raking millions from every single commodity we buy and are only brought back into a one-time subsidy,” added Quizon.

Joining the said rally are students from Philippine Christian University, Jose Rizal University, University of the Philippines Manila and Diliman and University of Santo Tomas, which is the only university in the Philippines that bears the Papal seal. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

Pinoy ‘healing’ priest barred from saying Mass in Toronto

July 7, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—“Healing” Filipino priest Fernando Suarez has been barred from saying Mass in Toronto, Canada, according to Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

Oliveros said Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Toronto told him during the 49th International Eucharistic Congress held recently in Quebec, Canada, that the reason was Suarez’s healing activities.

Oliveros said it appeared Suarez had violated a Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directive—Article 4, No. 3, of the disciplinary norms contained in the Instruction on Prayers for Healing issued in 2000.

For his part, Oliveros said he was bent on pursuing his complaint against Suarez for holding healing Masses in Malolos City in Bulacan province last year without his permission.

“Although I had said in January that I would lodge a complaint against Suarez for holding Masses in Malolos without my consent, I could not do so due to so many commitments,” Oliveros said in an interview posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ website.

Suarez, a Philippine-born member of the Canada-based Companions of the Cross, has been drawing crowds to his healing Masses in the country and abroad.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz has also barred Suarez from Pangasinan province.(PDI)

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

My Take:

Tsk! Pera-pera kasi ito eh.  These very act of Fr. Suarez violates the basics of the Social Doctrine.  Dun pa lang sa pagbebenta nila ng mga CD? Tsk. I smell another filthy scam here.

My apology to his followers, pero he is not God.  And as he defies some rules, he should be reprimanded, just like what the lord did to lucifer (ooops, im not saying that he is that evil). 🙂

Church youth join leaders in call for truth, accountability

June 12, 2008

STA. CRUZ, Ilocos Sur — “Let these young people lead the way in our quest for truth and accountability.” These are the prayers led by the various church leaders in the Summer Youth Camp of the Ilocos Sur Ecumenical Movement (ISEM) at Sevilla, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur last May 26-27, 2008.

Said youth camp was attended by more than 90 church youth from the Roman Catholic Church, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), United Methodist Church (UMC), Logos Full Gospel Church and Church of God.

With the theme, “Panagkaykaysa dagiti Agtutubo nga agpaay ti kinatakneng ken kinapudno kas bunga ti pammati ken Cristo,” (Unity of students which for integrity and truth as a result of faith in Christ), the said youth camp is an effort of the ISEM in support to the calls of church leaders for truth and accountability.

Fellowships and discussions of issues concerning the youth and people in biblical perspective are highlights of the summer youth camp.

Johanna Dela Cruz, National Auditor of the Kalipunan ng Kristyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas (KKKP) said during her discussion that this is an opportunity to dialog, and experience learning, living, worshiping and struggling together, and redefining their perspectives in life to be of service to God’s people.

Dela Cruz challenged the delegates to see the affliction of the people and hear their cries. “With the worsening plight of the people, what is our role? Do you hear God’s voice speaking to us again? Journey with God’s people.” She stressed in her forum discussion on Youth for Truth and Accountability.

During the solidarity night, young leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, IFI, UCCP, UMC and Logos Full Gospel Church led a ritual where they ensured that the candle is balanced by the strings. This ritual, according to Rev. Marcelino Mariano, “serves a one light in the people’s journey towards Shalom”.

Appointed conveners were Jimarie Snap Mabanta (IFI), Rowanne Ursulum (UCCP), Marissa Taqueban (UMC), Jenielyn Habon (Logos Full Gospel Church) and Joanna Dawn (Roman Catholic). The ISEM Youth Conveners affiliated the organization to KKKP.

According to Jimarie Snap Mabanta, one of the conveners of the ISEM Youth and Diocesan President of the Youth of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (YIFI), said that this is the first time that youth in various Christian churches unite in their common faith in God. “We hope that this will serve as a venue for fellowship, study and interaction among us.” Mabanta furthered.

The ISEM initiated the Summer Youth Camp as part of their call for truth and accountability to the Arroyo government and in support to the expose’ of Rodolfo “Jun”Lozada on the NBN Controversy. Last March, about two hundred (200) church leaders and members attended the Ecumenical Service for Truth and Accountability led by the ISEM. # Rod Tajon

Implement RA 9286 — Cruz

June 1, 2008

DAGUPAN CITY — Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a critic of illegal gambling, has called on the government to sincerely implement Republic Act (RA) No. 9286, a law against illegal gambling.

Its sincere implementation, he said, will end once and for all the proliferation of jueteng and other illegal numbers games in the country.

Known for his stand against illegal and legal gambling, Cruz, chairman of the Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Jueteng (KBLJ), criticized the government for the non-implementation of RA No. 9287 or the law that increased the penalties on illegal numbers games in the country.

He lamented that despite RA 9286’s enactment more than four years ago, it remains unimplemented, to the delight of illegal gambling operators.

“Its implementation is one big fat zero to this date. Thus, it is that jueteng has in effect, become more rampant, particularly in Pangasinan, better organized and is much alive,” Cruz said. (Mar T. Supnad)

May 30, 2008

A new Auxillary Bishop for Jaro?  Well, its true! Read more about it here. 🙂

Rural Missionaries of the Philippines to hold human rights walk

May 29, 2008

DUMAGUETE, May 29, 2008—The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Church Peasant Conference (CPC) and Promotion of Church People’s Rights (PCPR) are jointly going to hold a human rights walk, peace and social justice.

Prior to the walk, a forum at the Chapel of Evangel at the Divinity School of Silliman University will be held, said Melvin Rabelista-Koerkamp, coordinator for Negros Oriental of the RMP, in a statement.

He said the activity aims to inform the public and condemn the prevailing state of affairs on human rights violations in the country.

“By taking part, we may contribute to the spreading of God’s liberative teachings and pave the way for genuine peace,” said Koerkamp.

The human rights walk is one of the answers of the church groups to the escalating human rights violations, including arbitrary and unlawful detention; forced and fake surrender, threats, grave coercion, illegal search, seizure, enforced disappearance, forcible evacuation and displacement of the rural folks, said Joseph Lagorra, coordinator of PCPR.

“The Church faces the challenge of protecting God’s flock from evil and oppression violating their human dignity. In any way possible within each of our ministries and mission (the challenge) is to evangelize the truth and to stand with the marginalized struggling poor,” said Lagorra. (Santosh Digal)(CBCPNews)

Another PCPR member abducted

May 29, 2008

QUEZON CITY, May 27, 2008 –Another member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) was reported to have been abducted at 9:00 A.M., Tuesday, May 6.

PCPR Secretary General Amie S. Dural said unidentified men on board an unmarked van abducted UCCP Pastor Rodel Canja while was on his way to the Annual Conference of the UCCP Northeast Southern Tagalog Conference.

“One man casually invited him to ride in the van and warned him not to ask any question. Inside the van, another man pointed a gun at him while the man who invited him to ride in the van placed a handkerchief in his nose that left him unconscious,” said Dural in an interview with CBCPNews.

When the pastor regained his consciousness, the men began torturing and interrogating him about the personality of UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero, now detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Camp Pantaleon in Imus, Cavite.

Guerrero was abducted last May 27. 2007. Police authorities reportedly said that he is an active member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Dural said, for four days, two to four men alternately interrogated him about Pastor Berlin and two other UCCP ministers. While clicking their guns, the men repeatedly asked Pastor Canja to confirm that Pastor Berlin was a member of the “P”, a code referring to CPP.

As part of the psychological torture, one of the abductors fired his gun, giving the cleric a false feeling that he was wounded, added Dural. His wallet and money were confiscated, too, she further said.

“And when they saw the pictures of his two siblings, they threatened the pastor to kill his siblings if he would ever talk about his experience,” Dural said. The pastor is reportedly suffering from psychological trauma.
“With the hundreds of cases of abductions and extra-judicial killings in the country, the AFP mastered the scheme of identifying legitimate people’s organizations as ‘front’ of the CPP. The Armed Forces of the Philippines insists on linking activist citizens to the CPP and its armed group to justify attacks on their lives and liberty,” Dural lamented.

From 2001 to present, 27 church people including Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) have been victims of extra-judicial killings.

“To date, none of the assailants have been brought to justice,” she said. (Noel Sales Barcelona)(CBCPNews)

More church people become victims of HR violations—Karapatan

May 27, 2008

MANILA, May 26, 2008—More and more church peoples become victims of various human rights violations since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s coming into power after the peaceful Edsa People Power 2 in 2001.

In the latest report of the human rights alliance Karapatan, there have been 23 church workers extrajudicially executed from January 2001 up to March 31, 2008.

Most of them are members of Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Sambayanan or Kasimabayan, an ecumenical organization of pastors, priests and religious coming the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and from churches including Catholics, Aglipayans and Protestants.

Besides the summary executions, there had been one (1) victim of enforced disappearance, according to the report.

Southern Tagalog region has recorded the most number of extrajudicial killings, not only among church workers but other sectors as well, totaling to 163, followed by Central Luzon with 137 victims.

Last month, Karapatan and the newly formed human rights watchdog, UPR Watch, told the media that they will tap the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to look into the matter and if possible, to help them reach the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and ask the pontiff to personally review the human rights situation in the Philippines. (Noel Sales Barcelona )(CBCPNews)

A Year After Abduction, UCCP Pastor Remains in Jail

May 26, 2008

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the family of Mr.
and Mrs. Samuel and Flora Guerrero, parents of Pastor Berlin Guerrero,
will lead a Pilgrimage Walk for Freedom and Justice at 2:30 pm today
to dramatize the call for the immediate release of Pastor Berlin.

“When my husband Pastor Berlin was ripped from our family’s arms by
plain-clothed men on our way home from Church one-year ago, I had no
idea how our lives would be uprooted. At first I was unspeakably
afraid that Pastor Berlin would be killed and that I would never see
him again. When he was surfaced under the custody of the police, I
was so happy to see my husband alive. One year has passed and our
fight for Pastor Berlin’s freedom is not yet over. We are determined
to fight for justice, for Pastor Berlin and all victims of Human
Rights Violations,” says Mylene Guerrero—wife of Pastor Berlin.

“Pastor Berlin’s courage and principles are an inspiration. He has
always lived in service of the Filipino people and the Church. I am
outraged that torture-death squads are operating within our
government’s intelligence network. And I am indignant that they are
so ‘unintelligent’ as to attack Pastor Berlin and accuse him as a
‘pastor-impostor.’ My brother deserves his freedom,” adds Rev.
Ephraim Guerrero.

“We keep praying that the Supreme Court will release our son Pastor
Berlin. We have faith that God is always with us as we seek justice,”
say Samuel and Flora Guerrero—Pastor Berlin’s elderly parents.

From within the Cavite Provincial Jail, Pastor Berlin has continued
his ministry. A new and thriving choir is even expanding their talent
to include educational theatre. Pastor Berlin conducts a weekly
ecumenical service and bible study with the support of the UCCP. Even
more importantly, Pastor Berlin had just finished a Clinical Pastoral
Education course in the weeks before his abduction; he has applied
these skills as counsellor for his co-detainees. Pastor Berlin
chooses to take a very frustrating and unjust detainment with the
attitude that God can use him in this time to serve the imprisoned,
their families, and the Church.

“Pastor Berlin was even awarded the Community Empowerment Award from
Union Theological Seminary. His work with the people imprisoned at
Cavite Provincial Jail is impressive,” shares Rev. Mary Nebelsick, UTS
Mission Co-worker Professor from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“We are excited to see the growth in UCCP prison ministry at the
Cavite Provincial Jail. It is certainly disturbing that Pastor Berlin
Guerrero is unjustly detained. At least, God is using Pastor Berlin’s
persecution for ministry amongst the marginalized of Filipino
society,” says Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, UCCP General Secretary.

The persecution of Pastor Berlin Guerrero has dramatically affected
his three children Mark Eugene (18yrs), Lora (16yrs), and Jairus
(14yrs). Due to security concerns, the family has been dislocated and
two children were forced to stop their schooling. Until now, they
have not been able to maintain their own home. The stress and trauma
has impacted the family. The torturers threatened to sexually assault
Pastor Berlin’s wife Mylene and teenage daughter Lora in front of him;
even with counselling and support, Lora remains traumatized. The
youngest son Jairus also had emergency surgery when he experienced
life-threatening intestinal adhesions; this complication of an
abdominal surgery in infancy was also likely induced by the stress and
trauma of the last year.

“My father has taught us to be strong in the face of adversity. We
are doing our best to follow his example,” says Mark Eugene, the
eldest.

“We just want our father home with us. We miss him very much,” echo
Lora and Jairus.

“Pastor Berlin’s abduction, torture, and detention under a trumped-up
charge have presented heavy challenges to our family, but we will not
be discouraged. We will continue to walk in the way of Jesus Christ
and share our lives with others. Our walk to the Supreme Court today
is testament of our faith and determination,” concludes Mylene
Guerrero.

The Pilgrimage Walk will begin from the UCCP National Office,
Shalom Center, 1667 Antonio Vasquez St., Malate and culminate at the
Supreme Court. The family will be presenting an appeal to the
Honourable Magistrates to facilitate the quick resolution of the case.

Pastor Berlin was abducted one-year ago on May 27, 2007. He was
tortured and interrogated as an alleged member of the Communist Party
of the Philippines. He was then turned over to the PNP Camp Pantaleon,
Imus Cavite where a warrant for a trumped-up murder charge was
presented. Until now, he remains detained at Cavite Provincial Jail
while the Supreme Court deliberates on a Certiorari for his immediate
release.

Christians, Muslims promote peace through “harmony chain”

May 26, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 25, 2008—Twenty Christians and Muslims from Mindanao recently pledged to promote peace in the region through sharing of faith and spirituality.

“The first experience in my commitment, the harmonious relationship of my mind and my heart make me a better person. Dialogue becomes an attitude, it helps me to establish harmonious relationships with others. Every day I am confronted on how to purify my thought, my interpretation,” said Aileen from Cotabato a participant.

Aileen and others who hailed from Antipolo, Basilan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Ipil, Kabasalan, Zamboanga and Canada, gathered to share their experiences in the own areas on the journey proposed by initiative of prayer for peace, called Harmony Chain (HC), May 8.

The theme was “to link the link persons” to know Muslims and Christians, united by God and religious experiences.

The Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Mindanao started the HC initiative as a response to the declaration by the government of a “total war” against the Moro rebels in 2000.

The HC links people of every age, nation and religion—praying for and building peace. It is an inter-faith initiative of meditation and prayer for dialogue and peace. Because the people who hold hands together in prayer, with hearts burning for peace, are in different places in different time zones, the HC is a continuous prayer for peace, 24 hours a day.

It is a chain of friendship, freedom and respect—a chain of prayers to break the chain of violence, hatred, biases and fears. Besides the 36 localities in the Philippines (mostly in Mindanao) where the Harmony Prayer is already well known , there are small groups in 14 countries—Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, USA and Vietnam—linked in prayer.

“Cry peace with your prayer and your life-in-dialogue” is the slogan of the HC.

“The recent development of the HC inspired us to gather in order to define better the role of the link persons, as animators, bridges between the members, to care for the spiritual growth of the committed members,” said Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, founding director of Silsilah.

The HC initiative is neither a movement nor an organization with a heavy structure. An attitude of volunteerism, of service, is a characteristic of the link person moved by their spiritual commitment made of faith and conviction. “We love peace, and we entrust our mission to God,” said D’Ambra.

Ms. Minda Saño, president of Silsilah, said that the development of the HC would reach out many people of many organizations and living faiths.

“Prayer is power, God’s power! It is important to achieve peace; it is a contribution to peace in Mindanao and in the world, transforming the lives of those who pray,” said Fr. Vincent, a resource person.

The HC links both Christians and Muslim by the same spirit and the will to spread the prayer and dialogue for peace in each own area, challenged by the commitment of each one to learn more and more how to bring peace with spirituality, said Fr. Vincent.

“We want to start from the spiritual values of each people and religion for a more sustainable peace,” according to Saño.

Where there is lack of faith in God, an absence of a spiritual dimension, there is also lack of comprehension and harmony. Tension, division, violence, conflict in the families, communities, friends, societies and nations will surely follow, Sano believes.

“Prayer for peace is good, but not enough! “The goal of peace on earth will come not without some personal pain. But the effort to make peace in our homes, in our personal relationships and at work, puts flesh and bones on our prayers for peace,” said Ms. Lilhy, a participant.

“To pray for peace is demanding and at the same time transforming our lives. If we are unwilling to work to help peace break out in our homes and lives, then why should we be surprised that our prayers for peace seem to go unheard by God? Lilhy asked.

The harmony prayer is an answer or prevention to a conflict. Reconciliation is necessary after a conflict to build peace. Let us not wait for war to think about peace. Accumulating offenses, hurts and unforgiveness will only escalate conflicts and accompanying terrible damages. Accumulating seeds of understanding, patience, attention to the needs of the others, sharing and solidarity will preserve peace in families, working places and communities, explained D’Ambra.

“HC is not only in the context of Christian-Muslim dialogue; it is also in the context of every intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. We need dialogue in the life of couples, families, communities (whether civil or religious), groups and movements, in a pluralistic society with many nationalities living together in our global village. Dialogue for better understanding is a present necessity of our world and peace of heart above all, peace in the family to avoid conflicts,” Aileen said. (Santosh Digal)(CBCPNews)

NFA, church ease up rice distribution

May 25, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:52:00 05/24/2008

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines—To remedy the queue of residents buying government-subsidized rice, the National Food Authority in Nueva Ecija has started allocating more supply to families in the province.

Edelino Alejandro, NFA manager in Nueva Ecija, said his office has distributed allocation cards that entitle each family to buy up to seven kilograms of NFA rice twice weekly.

“Through this scheme, we are certain that we can ease the problem of many consumers here who go out early to join lines of buyers to buy two to three kg of rice in our outlets,” he said.

Alejandro said the system, which was implemented this week, would reduce the travel expense of buyers and time they were spending in line.

He said more than 1,000 allocation cards have been distributed to poor families in villages near the NFA warehouse in this city. The city welfare and development office provided the list of beneficiaries.

The cards have been “color coded” and could be used only on days specified there, he said.

Alejandro said other families not given allocation cards could buy their supply from several “Tindahan Natin” outlets in public markets, from several outlets authorized by the NFA and from three other NFA warehouses in the province.

The NFA sells rice at P18.25 a kilogram. The cheapest commercial rice is sold for P31 a kg.

Laguna

In Laguna, 14 more churches were expected to sell NFA rice to poor members of the community from the present nine parishes, according to a church worker last week.

Kelly Beltran of the San Pablo Diocesan Social Action Center told the Inquirer that nine parishes are selling rice at P18.50 per kilo under the Bigasan ng Parokya (BNP) program.

Beltran said the BNP rice project authorizes the parishes to dispose of at least 20 cavans of NFA rice every delivery schedule on a “consignment basis.”

Proceeds from the sale would be used for payment of the next batch of 20 cavans of rice, she explained.

Each poor family with six members and below is allowed to buy five kilos per selling schedule.

Buyers must be holders of a valid rice card pass (RCP) to be able to avail of the privilege with only one member of the family allowed to buy.

Relocation site

The nine parishes selling cheap NFA rice to poor families for months now include the St. Polycarp Parish in Cabuyao, particularly the Southville Relocation site, where four separate BNP centers are located.

This site is host of the Southville Housing Project, where around 10,000 families from demolished communities in Makati and Paco, Pandacan and Tondo, Manila are resettled.

Other parishes included in the program are St. John the Baptist Parish in Liliw; St. Magdalene in Magdalena town; St. Michael Archangel, Rizal town; St. Vincent Ferrer, Mamatid, Cabuyao; St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Calihan, San Pablo City; Nuestra Señora Del Remedios Parish, San Pablo City; San Antonio Parish, Kalayaan town; and San Sebastian Parish, Lumban.

Beltran said that among the 14 additional parishes expected to start selling cheap NFA rice were the San Pablo the First Hermit Cathedral Parish, San Pablo City; San Isidro Labrador Parish, Biñan town; and St. Gabriel Archangel Parish, San Pablo City. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; Romulo Ponte, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Military tags churchmen as NPA members

May 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (May 12) — Even the church is not safe from the recent military occupation at the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur provinces.

In a press conference of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance at the Cordillera Peoples Alliance office, two churchmen professed they were allegedly tagged by the military as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

During the military operation at the tri-boundary, Deacon Pedro Dungoc from Pananuman, Tubo, Abra and Father Mario Oplawan from Lamag, Quirino, Ilocos Sur said military men were telling the villagers that they are members of the NPA and that they have guns hidden in the church.

“While I was away, the military entered the church without any permission searching for weapons,” Oplawan said.

According to Oplawan, the military was making stories to cause fear on the people and to make the people mad at the church. The military were allegedly telling the people of Lamag that he (Oplawan) and his sakristan (assistant) are members of the NPA.

Oplawan denied being a member of the NPA and maintained he does not have any weapons such as a gun. He said, “The church is against the use of bombs and guns.”

“The military allegedly found a gun among my personal things,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dungoc was interrogated by the military during the military operation in Pananuman. The military asked him questions such as “where does the fund of the church come from” and “what is the orientation of the church.”

According to Dungoc, the military was trying to tell him that he should admit that he is a member of the NPA.

“They intimidate us by visiting us everyday. They threaten us by telling that we are members of NPA,” Dungoc added.

Several activities by the church were disrupted during the military operation in the said places. One project such as the fish pond for the community was about to be finished when the military came and built there camp in the same place according to Dungoc.

“They do not respect even the church. They came without any notice or permission by the villagers and then they tag us as NPAs,” Dungoc added.

Since the military pulled out its troops last April, Pananuman is still recovering from the severe damage of their crops. Several human rights violations such as forced entry into the villagers’ houses, threats to their lives, aerial bombings over the agricultural fields and stealing of agricultural animals were recorded by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor. # John Eric B. Escalante for NORDIS

Capital punishment is not the answer—bishops

May 20, 2008

MANILA, May 20, 2008—It was a call that caught the Roman Catholic Church’s serious concern.

Administration Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri’s proposal to revive the death penalty in the wake of Friday’s bloody bank robbery in Laguna got off to a rough start.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, as expected, is not impressed with the lawmaker’s proposal and instead ignited strong reactions.

The bishops said the death penalty feeds frenzy for revenge, which neither ennobles the victims of crimes nor solve the country’s problem with criminality.

The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, headed by Bishop Pedro Arigo, is the vanguard of the opposition to death penalty in nearly all cases, and prelates have been equally vocal about the subject.

Within the boundaries of Arigo’s Commission lies the promotion of the total development of the members of the prison society often regarded as undeserving of concern protection.

The bishop too has been involved in a whirlwind of vigils and community meetings seeking for the abolition of the capital punishment.

Arigo said that the death penalty is nothing but a “cosmetic solution” that will give “an illusion that we are doing something about crime.”

He said the killing in Laguna that prompted Zubiri to call for the restoration of death penalty is condemnable.

However, he also said, the killing of the convicts will not really address the root as well as the immediate cause of crime.

“It is an easy way out addressing the complex and pervasive problems of criminality. Killing people is never the answer,” he said.

“We appeal to Senator Zubiri to stop giving us false hopes that we will be safe and secure by putting people to death,” Arigo added.

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life chairman Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said the revival of the capital punishment is nothing but “a step backward” for a country already “progressing.”

“Death penalty is not a solution. There are many detainees in the maximum security facility, including those facing the death penalty, but we still do not see improvements in our society,” he said over Church-run Radio Veritas.

“One solution lay with the family, with the emphasis on the value and the sacredness of life among its members,” said Aniceto.

The Pampanga archbishop also reiterated the Church’s position that only God can take away what he gave to man via a natural death.

At least 10 persons were killed when still unidentified men robbed the Rizal Commercial Bank Corporation in Cabuyao, Laguna Friday morning.

The incident immediately drew condemnation from various Church and government officials with Zubiri calling for the revival of the death penalty law.

Two days after, eight people, including five children died after gunmen opened fire at four homes in Calamba, Laguna.

San Pablo (Laguna) Bishop Leo Drona described the incidents as the work of criminals “worse than animals.”

Drona called on the authorities to speed up its investigation and ensure justice is committed for the victims and their families.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad echoed the same sentiment, saying that the immediate resolution of the case if the best remedy.

Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, for his part, tagged the Zubiri’s proposal as “anti-life and anti-love.”

The death penalty law was last abolished on June 24, 2006 by President Arroyo to serve as her gift to Pope Benedict XVI, whom she was to visit the very next day.

It was on June 24, 2006 when President Gloria Arroyo signed in a law abolishing the death penalty.

As a result the sentences of the 1,200 inmates on death row were commuted to life imprisonment. (Roy Lagarde) (CBCPNews)

Church addresses concerns of Mindanao nomads

May 20, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 20, 2008—The Catholic Church in Mindanao has been spearheading concerted efforts to provide pastoral care to nomads.

“SAMA-Bajau” is a name tagged to a group considered the poorest among the poor tribes known especially in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

The third National Assembly for the Pastoral Care of Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines was held at Samal-Bajau to address pastoral issues surrounding these tribes, April 4-6.

Through the contact of Fr. Renato Rosso, a missionary in Mindanao, with the nomads of the region since 2004, Church’s pastoral concern for nomads was initiated. Since then, about 20 people work with the Samal-Bajaus in Isabela City, Maluso, Siasi, Jolo, Bongao, Pagadian, General Santos, and Zamboanga since 2005.

To address issues and concerns of the nomads, a coordinating body has been formed comprising of Bishop Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, of Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo as President; Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF, Prefect of Apostolate Claretian Missionaries, Zamboanga as Vice President; Fr. Dennis G. Tamayo, CMF, Project-In-Charge, Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., Townsite, Maluso, Basilan Province as Secretary; and Sr. Norma N. Capampangan, FMM, and Sr. Julie Calumpang, FMM, Notre Dame of Siasi as Treasurer.

It is overwhelming to note that many church leaders, lay people and others are showing greater interest to initiate and facilitate efforts to take care of nomads pastorally, said Rosso.

Many others have also extended their support for the cause of nomads including 30 concerned partners coming from Claret Samal Foundation, Inc., Community Extension Services of Notre Dame of Jolo College, Asia Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, Asisi Foundation, Peace Advocates Zamboanga, Lumah Ma Dilaut: Center for Living Traditions, National Commission on Indigenous People-Region IX, ARMM, Notre Dame of Mapun, Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, Maluso Bajau People’s Organization, National Sama Badjao Movement, and Sama Bajau Tribal Group.

In the past, documentation of the Samal-Bajau cultural elements and comprehensive program for the welfare of the nomads were established.

In addition, a Comprehensive Problem Analysis and Programming was intended to serve as a baseline data for the third Assembly and meant to improve the programs and efforts of the organizations committed to address the plight of the Samal-Bajaus.

During the meeting, participants discussed to come up with a document on the recent Bajau cultural condition in the southern Philippines.

The most significant output of the gathering was to achieve a draft of the Assembly’s vision, which will strengthen the unity and deepen the pastoral commitment for nomads. (Santosh Digal) (CBCPNews)

Catholic school head asks justice on killing of Datu

May 17, 2008

THE president of the Assumption College of Davao pressed local authorities to hasten the investigation on the strafing incident that killed a tribal chieftain and wounded his wife and two daughters in Sitio Kahusayan, Barangay Manuel Guianga last April 29.
An article on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website (cbcponline.net) posted on May 13 stated it has been two weeks since K’lata-Bagobo chief, Datu Dominador Diarog, was killed. “We appeal to the city government for a speedy investigation so that justice will soon be served,” the article quoted Sr. Marietta Banayo of the Missionaries of the Assumption as saying.Banayo said the killing of an innocent tribal chieftain “deserves condemnation as it blatantly shows disrespect to the indigenous peoples’ culture.”
She added the government should be sensitive with the issue since it also affects the peaceful existence of the indigenous communities in the city.”It is sad to note that sometimes justice is being compromised in favor of the mighty while the least of our citizens who were victims still suffer,” Banayo said.Police investigators are looking into the land dispute as the possible motive into the killing. Diarog’s family members and relatives, however, placed the blame on the expansion of the Prayer Mountain of Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy.
The slain tribal chief’s two-hectare property sits at the boundary of barangays Manuel Guianga and Tamayong, where the Prayer Mountain is located.
Earlier, the victim’s widow, Emily Diarog, said Tamayong barangay chief Gregorio Canada has been offering them money to sell their land to Quiboloy, the last time was in March when the barangay official attempted to give them P50,000 in exchange for their land.
Quiboloy has denied the allegations.
“We do not wish to dignify the initial reports linking our congregation to the unfortunate incident that happened in a nearby barangay adjacent to the covenant mountain and prayer center in Tamayong,” Quiboloy said.”We strongly deny these as totally false and baseless, if not ridiculous,” the pastor added.Meanwhile, Banayo said it is imperative for the local government to come up with a proper and impartial investigation. “We trust in God that in due time the truth shall come out,” Banayo said, who also asked the people to pray for justice for the Diarog family. (MindanaoTimes)

Right to Information

May 17, 2008

Fr. Roy Cimagala

HANDLING DATA and information has its proper requirements and ways that all of us have to learn. Considering both the level and pace of our development now, this responsibility acquires even greater urgency.

Let’s not be casual about this business because it truly is a serious responsibility. We cannot afford to be tepid, confusing it with being open, because what is needed is a clear and strong commitment to the common good.

We cannot be naïve in thinking that the field is always safe. There are many crooks around, and let’s never forget the real existence of the devil who can cleverly take advantage of our weaknesses to advance his agenda.

We have to be forever vigilant, always checking the different elements involved in handling information. The field is more of a seascape ever dynamic and fluid, with different currents. We need to learn how to navigate it properly.

Let’s first quote what the Catechism says about this duty. It’s a good starting point for our discussion, giving us some guiding criteria.

In point no. 2494, we read: “Society has the right to information based on truth, freedom, justice and solidarity. The proper exercise of this right demands that the content of the communication be true and—within the limits set by justice and charity—complete.”

It continues: “This means that in the gathering and in the publication of news, the moral law and the legitimate rights and dignity of man should be upheld.”

As we can readily see, handling information requires a number of considerations that have to be deftly integrated so that what comes out in the papers and in the broadcast really suits our dignity.

Both the media people and the media audience are not mere objects, much less, animals that can just be handled without care for understanding and compassion. We are persons, and more importantly, we are children of God, even if sometimes, nay, many times, we do not behave as such.

We have to be wary of that subtle but dangerous attitude consisting of thinking that to be fair and objective, we in the media should just be open and simply report the event. We are just reflectors, not light givers.

That’s not quite correct. We reflect things, indeed, and we have to reflect them with objectivity and fairness. But we also affect and effect things. We in the media figure prominently in at least creating the temper of our public opinion.

While openness, fairness and objectivity are always good values to uphold and defend, they easily get abused and are prone to our predatory tendencies for sensationalism, shallow, knee-jerk reactions, reckless inanities if they are not clearly grounded on charity, goodness, understanding, compassion, etc.

There has to be a strong commitment to the common good, a commitment that has to be revved up everyday, renewing and whetting our eagerness to do good and to serve others properly, without ever playing on their vulnerabilities.

Alas, in many instances these guiding principles are violated. And even with flaunting impunity!

In some radio talk shows these days, for example, even the basic laws of logic and good manners are abandoned. One wonders if we are still in the stone age.

We always have freedom of expression, but that is never meant to be a cover for malice or an excuse for irresponsible commentaries. Name-calling and other vicious “ad hominem” arguments are aplenty. Exaggerated and often unfounded claims are made.

Foul words are often used. Wild innuendoes are sounded off. Again one wonders if these commentators have passed basic psychological tests. They seem to spew only venom into the airwaves. And no one seems to call their attention.

Of course, they can enjoy a big following, often composed of a silent, passive and hidden gallery, just like those who secretly read and watch pornography. This is actually a problem and a challenge to our leaders.

We have to teach media users to be vigilant and discerning consumers. We have to learn to discuss issues civilly, using reason rather than emotions. We can disagree, and even with forcefulness, but always within the ambit of charity and genuine, dispassionate search for truth and justice.

(ThePalawanTimes)

Directional drilling at Kanlaon ‘unrealistic’

May 17, 2008

THE proposal for an oil company to only conduct directional drilling at the buffer zone of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP) for geothermal exploration is unrealistic.

Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra’s proposal for the Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development Corporation (PNOC-EDC) for a directional drilling according to PNOC-EDC’s Rei Medrano is impossible.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

“Unlike in oil exploration, directional drilling might melt all the wells to be used during the process of earth steam because it’s so hot…very hot.”

Medrano, the company’s manager for its Corporate Social Responsibility Department, explained that based on the advised of expert geologists here and abroad, directional drilling is not feasible on geothermal exploration.

Navarra, however, was reportedly banking on the earlier presentation of Agnes de Jesus, PNOC-EDC’s senior vice president, who vowed to look into the feasibility of the directional drilling.

But after three months of research and consultation, De Jesus was convinced by the company’s experts that directional drilling won’t work for Mt. Kanlaon.

Under this proposal, PNOC-EDC will be allowed to explore geothermal sources at their present North Negros Geothermal Power Plant (NNGPP) in Mailum, Bago.

At the same time, the oil company will look for rigs as sort of connections within the 169 hectares buffer zone.

This way, there will be no more harm to Kanlaon’s flora and fauna.

But Medrano assured the bishop that only .01 percent of the 169-hectares buffer zone will be utilized for a 30-megawatt (MW) geothermal exploration.

As per the company’s plan, it will explore only about 12.52 hectares of the buffer zone and not 29 hectares as earlier proposed.

Project cost is P300 million.

It aims to produce about 30 MWs geothermal power to augment the present six MWs production capability of the company in Mailum.

It could also arrest the projected power shortage in Negros and Bacolod soon.

“Bishop Navarra, among other environmentalists in Negros, should not worry about our commitment to take care of the MKNP as we start drilling at the buffer zone,” Medrano said.

“We’re serious and transparent in all our undertakings, especially when it comes to environmental programs like what we’re doing at Mt. Apo where we also have the same geothermal project.”

At Mt. Apo, Medrano said that of the 70 hectares protected area they explored, about 500 hectares were devoted to reforestation.

“We also have an ultimate goal that every time we plant trees, we want to make these trees be the mother trees in the forest in the next future.” (SunStarBacolod)

Fighting with MILF stops, but tensions remain high

May 17, 2008

With Malaysian peace monitors already pulled out from Mindanao, a fragile truce holds sway in the island

By Al Jacinto, Correspondent

ZAMBOANGA CITY: Fighting ceased Friday between Muslim rebels and government troops in the southern Philippine island-province of Basilan, but tension is still high as both sides accused each other of violating a fragile truce.

“There is still tension because of the skirmishes in Basilan. We are more vigilant now than ever after soldiers attacked our forces in the province,” said Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). (ManilaTimes)

Manila is currently negotiating peace with the MILF. But the rebel group accused the Arroyo government of delaying the peace talks after negotiations were stalled last year over demands for ancestral domain.

The ancestral domain is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the MILF can reach a political settlement, and with the talks stalled, the hope of ending more than three decades of bloody hostilities remains dim.

Manila said the provisions of the peace agreement should be within the framework of the Constitution.

Exchanging accusations

The fighting in Basilan just off Zamboanga City was triggered by attacks on rebels working on a farm, Iqbal said. But the military accused the MILF of attacking a group of marines securing a road project in Tipo-Tipo town.

“The rebels [were the ones] who first attacked our security forces and the troops only retaliated. But the fighting is not as serious as what the MILF claimed. There are exchanges of sniper fires between our troops and the rebels and we have no reports of casualties,” said Marines Chief Gen. Mohammad Dolorfino.

The fighting erupted after Malaysia, which is brokering the peace negotiations, pulled out its truce observers last week from Mindanao because of the slow progress of the negotiations.

Iqbal said security forces also raided the house of Mike Dalem, an MILF political officer, in Buluan town in Maguindanao province in the main island of Mindanao.

“Dalem was on the mosque praying when soldiers swooped down on his house and confiscated munitions owned by the MILF,” he said.

It was not immediately known whether the raid was with a court order or not. Iqbal said the raid was illegal and violated the ceasefire agreement the government signed with the MILF.

The rebels have repeatedly warned that fighting could erupt if Malaysia pulls out its truce observers.

The Philippine military has been building up its forces in Mindanao the past weeks and the MILF fears that renewed hostilities may break out, because troops were reported massing near areas controlled by rebels in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces.

Bishop to bishops: Fight hard vs. corruption

May 17, 2008

MANILA, May 16, 2008—For active Roman Catholic bishops, a piece of advice from a retired fellow.

Vicar Apostolic-emeritus of Bontoc-Lagawe Francisco Claver said the Catholic church should do more to fight corruption and push economies that put people’s needs ahead of selfish gains.

Claver said the gains of democracy could easily be wiped out if the Church with the help of the civil society will not renew their resolve to fight the ogre of corruption especially in the government.

It is a fact, he said, that poor people are getting poorer because of corruption and the country wasted opportunities for growth because of it.

“The Church could do something just to stop corruption, so that these money of corruption could go to the poor for the development of all,” Claver told CBCPNews.

The 79-year old prelate said it’s sad that corruption in the country is still prevalent despite Church’s never-ending teachings about morality in public governance.

He said corruption has increased due to public cynicism, so greater and wide efforts are needed to foil, monitor and prosecute corruption.

“It’s sad to say that corruption here last years and years and nothing is being done even though the bishops are teaching painstakingly the authentic Christian love that people must do,” Claver said.

So Claver said the bishops still has to make stronger stand against corruption, adding that it has very detrimental effects on the country’s poor people.

He stressed such problem is a moral issue that bishops must address and they must take a stronger stand on what’s going on in the government.

Claver said the Church should not only give guidance but also provide leadership so that people will be properly guided.

In its earlier statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines lamented that corruption has become a “pervading cancer” that has spread “from top to bottom of society and government.”

“As we evaluate them, the people at the top are the corruptors and it seems that nothing could stop them,” Claver said.

The matter, he said, must serve as a challenge to all and not just by entirely relying it to the Church people.

Claver said the real motivation to fight corruption has to come from all of us.

He also said such problem has become so ingrained that the fainthearted cannot imagine that the problem can be eradicated or even contained.

That precisely, is according to Claver, why the fight has to be systematic and persistent to flush out the masters of pay-offs and crooked officials blocking economy growth.

“Let us talk about how to correct this… talk about the basic of everything and about the basic of everything and about to practice without corruption. It has to be done! We can do something about this issue,” Claver stressed. (CBCPNews)

RP should be a model of justice, says Sorsogon Bishop

May 17, 2008

MANILA, May 16, 2008―The Philippines, being a Christian country should be a model of justice, in that every individual is accorded what is due him or her by right, said Sorsogon Bishop Arturo M. Bastes, SVD.

“Our Christian country should be a model of justice as taught to us by the prophets. The fundamental element of justice is that it gives every person his/her due and what belongs to him/her by right,” said Bastes in a statement.

Bastes, who is also chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Biblical Apostolate of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) said he is dismayed to see so many Filipinos suffer injustices and deprived of their basic rights as human beings.

“Sad to say, there is a glaring state of injustice in our nation where so many Filipinos remain oppressed, marginalized, destitute and deprived of their rights as human beings who are equal in dignity as children of God,” said Bastes.

The prelate surmised that the cause of rampant injustices in the country is the gap that exists between faith and praxis.

“Perhaps it can be said that the cause of injustice in our land could be the way we practice religion, which is not profound enough, not touching our hearts, consisting only in the observance of external rites,” the prelate said.

This is what prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ precisely condemn. “God what’s us to do if we have true faith in Him manifested by a genuine practice of religion. Only if we fulfill what God requires of us, can we eliminate injustice in our midst,” he said.

Injustice, a situation where human persons are not given what is due to them, causes division, conflicts and even fratricide. The insurgency that has been going in the Philippines for 38 years, the deep political rupture and the pervading economic inequality are among the signs that the country is in a situation of injustice, said Bastes.

“We have been longing for peace, the biblical ‘shalom’, which does not mean only the absence of war or trouble but the enjoyment of all what is good, a foreshadowing of the dawning of God’s kingdom. But peace cannot take place unless we are fully reconciled to God and to all our brothers and sisters,” he said.

For the Philippines to achieve peace, the elusive dream of the land, all Filipinos must learn how to reconcile with each other, forgiving one another from their hearts just as God does.

“But full reconciliation will take place only when we do what God requires us: to do what is right, to show constant love and to walk humbly with Him. May Mary, ‘the mirror of justice,’ intercede for us so that our country will finally enjoy the peace of all Gods’ children,” Bastes concluded. (CBCPNews)

Editorial Cartoon: The Youth and the Young

May 16, 2008

Honorary Youth

Youth groups support Abp. Cruz, lambast move to “silence”government’s number one critic

May 16, 2008

MANILA, May 14, 2008—Militant youth alliance, Youth for Accountability and Truth Now! (YOUTH ACT NOW!) condemns the arrest order issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court against Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, D.D. for the “resurrected” libel case which 20 female employees of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) filed against the prelate in 2004.

Alvin Peters, spokesperson of YOUTH ACT NOW!, told CBCPNews that the pending arrest of the good archbishop is yet another dirty tactics of the Macapagal-Arroyo government to silence its critics.

“We are yet again disgusted at how this administration sinks to the lowest of the low just to silence its critics. Bishop Cruz is a role model of youth and students and we admire him for standing up to his convictions despite political harassment,” said Peters.

“If they dare arrest the good bishop, they’ll be up against youth and students. Bishop Cruz once said in a gathering that he decided to break his silence in order to inspire and propel the youth into collective action for truth, accountability and social change. He has likewise always had the youth’s support,” he added.

On the other hand, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the oldest and prestigious organization of college and university publications in the Philippines also announced their support for Archbishop Cruz.

“The case is just another harassment against those people who expose the rottenness of this government,” explains CEGP spokesperson Vijae Alquizola.

He compared the present libel case against the prelate with the 2006 “libel case filing spree” made by the First Gentlemen, Atty. Juan Miguel Arroyo against 26 journalists from different mainstream publications.

“This case is another clear attack on freedom of expression. Like the other 45 libel cases, FG Mike Arroyo is once again involved. Where in the world can you find no less than the DOJ assaulting the rights of an elderly and respectable bishop just because he managed to annoy some very influential people? Only in the Philippines,” Alquizola said.

He also said that they cannot simply allow the likes of Arroyos and Gonzalezes to go on freely brandishing out libel cases against known critics of the government with neither rhyme nor reason.

The groups said that they will push for the decriminalization of libel so that it cannot be used by the authorities as a tool against its critics.

Meanwhile, YOUTH ACT NOW! committed to support Archbishop Cruz if he so decides to file a libel case against DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzalez.

“He should be given a taste of his own medicine,” ends Peters. (CBCPNews)

SMT Seminary supports Archbishop Cruz

May 16, 2008

OZAMIZ CITY, May 15, 2008—Saint Mary’s Theologate Seminary of the ecclesiastical province of Dipolog, Ipil, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan and Marawe (DIOPIM) has registered their support to Archbishop Oscar Cruz, DD in the face of a libel case filed against him.

In an interview with CBCPNews, Rev. Fr. Severo C. Caemare, rector of St. Mary’s Theologate Seminary, Gango, Ozamiz City said they supported Archbishop Cruz in his crusade against corruption which resulted to the revival of his libel case filed four years ago by twenty women employees of PAGCOR.

“Archbishop Cruz is very vocal against the mismanagement of government officials, corruption and illegal gambling.” Caermare said.

He added, “I believe that the revival of libel case by the Department of Justice is the governments’ tactic to paralyze or threaten the local ordinary in his crusade against immorality.”

Caermare further added the entire Seminarians and SMT staffs are behind Archbishop Cruz in this new challenge.

“I believe that there were no libelous statements of Archbishop Cruz, but the intended outcome of such libel case is clearly to instill fear,” Fr. Caermare concluded.

Transport strikers are caught between two forces, says Cagayan de Oro Prelate

May 13, 2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, May 13, 2008—Cagayan de Oro archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, said that public utility drivers are caught between two forces: the rising cost of petroleum products and the equally soaring price of basic commodities, especially rice.

The local Solidarity of Transport Alliance of Region X (STAREX), a transport group in this city and cause-oriented groups including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various sectoral groups led the transport strike to oppose the unabated increase in petroleum prices.

Among the demands was for the Senate to scrap the controversial oil deregulation law and the nationalization of local oil industry.

While clamoring for 25% wage increase, the strikers also called for the immediate ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In an interviewed with CBCPNews, Archbishop Ledesma said the drivers are simply exercising their right to protest and seek redress of grievances.

“Government officials should confront the issues on the increase in prices of petroleum products and prime commodities and with this I would like to sympathize with them,” the prelate said.

“Dili kaayo mi caught sa rice kai ang bugas masulbad ra samtang ang problema sa oil lisud kay kani nakatapat sa oil deregulation law,” (We are not that caught with the rice problem since it can be resolved, while the oil increase is a difficult crusade since it is associated with the oil deregulation law.) said Amando Naul, Secretary General of STAREX.

Public transportation in Cagayan de Oro City was paralyzed by 97% in the city-wide mass action that began at 4:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M. Monday.

Naul said his group expects to talk with Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma to discuss the issues affecting them and the community.

(CBCPNews)

Missionary Sisters want speedy investigation on tribal chieftain’s slay

May 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, May 13, 2008—After a couple of weeks following the massacre of the family of Bagobo-Klata Tribal Chieftain Dominador Diarog, the Missionary Sisters of the Assumption has called on the local government for a speedy investigation.

Diarog and his family were inside their home in Manuel Guianga, this city, when their house was strafed by unknown gunmen resulting to multiple gunshot wounds in the different parts of his body.

During the same incident, his wife Emily as well as two of his ten children, an 8-year old and a 4-year old, were also hit and had gunshot wounds in their body.

Diarog and his family were immediately brought to the hospital but the former did not survive.

Sr. Marietta Banayo of the Missionaries of the Assumption said that the killing of an innocent tribal chieftain deserves condemnation as it blatantly shows disrespect to the indigenous peoples’ culture.

Banayo added that the government should be sensitive with this issue as it also affects the peaceful existence of the indigenous communities in the city.

“We appeal to the city government for a speedy investigation so that justice will soon be served,” she said.

Banayo, also the president of the Assumption College of Davao (ACD) has called on concerned organizations to look into this case seriously so that justice will be properly rendered.

“It is sad to note that sometimes justice is being compromised in favor of the mighty while the least of our citizens who were victims still suffer,” Banayo told CBCPNews, Monday afternoon.

Part of the mission of the Missionaries of the Assumption is the promotion of IP”s rights, preservation of their cultures and proper education.

Reports said that the killing of Datu Diarog is intended to put him silent and also to drive off the tribal communities from their remaining two hectare land of ancestral domain.

The land was reported to be used for development project with an initial offer of P50,000 from a prospective buyer.

Again, news report here bared Apollo Quiboloy who calls himself “Son of God” as the one who made the offer of P50,000 to Datu Diarog twice for the purpose of converting their ancestral domain to planting pine trees around the prayer mountain.

Other news item posted at Mindanews recounted that there were four attempts to burn Diarog’s farmhouse at 1 a.m on March 1, 1 a.m. on April 4, 4 pm on April 8 and 2 p.m. the last one, on April 20. The last one succeeded.

But more than the burning, the Datu’s nephews, Danny and Junaz, told the press that their family was left with no other choice but to sell their two hectare land for P100,000 to Tambayong barangay captain Greg Canada, who is known among the villagers as representative of Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Worse, the nephews said were offered P 20,000 to kill Diaorg, their uncle.

In a statement sent to CBCPNews, Quiboloy said, “we do not wish to dignify the initial reports linking our congregation to the unfortunate incident that happened in a nearby barangay adjacent to the covenant mountain and prayer center in Tamayong.”

“We strongly deny these as totally false and baseless, if not ridiculous,” the statement further said.

JUSTICE FOR THE TRIBAL PEOPLE

Banayo, meanwhile, said that as several accusations and speculations have cropped out, it is all the more imperative for the local government to come up with a proper and impartial investigation.

“We trust in God that in due time the truth shall come out,” said Banayo even as she appealed to the influential not to manipulate the Diarog slay case.

“Patay na si Datu Diarog. Pero buhay pa ang kanyang pamilya na patuloy na tumatangis upang makamit lamang ang hustisya,” said Banayo.

She added that the death of Diarog is also a revelation of the long drawn out oppression to the marginalized sector in the society the indigenous people.

Banayo also asked the people to pray for justice for Diarog so that the real culprits will really serve their sentence.

Councilor Karlo Bello has also called for an objective investigation on the killing of Diarog. Like Bello, Councilor Rachel Zozobrado said, “while we seek justice for what happened to the Diarog family, we must not speculate.”

“Dominador Diarog belongs to an indigenous tribe that makes up the tri-people of Davao and Mindanao . It is thus our responsibility not only as Dabawenyos but as a people to seek the truth behind the murder of Diarog and the wounding of his family,” said Zozobrado.
.
Zozobrado added that the incident should be an eye-opener on the plight of the lumads and what they have to go through just to protect their ancestral land.

She also urged concerned government agencies to adopt policies for the protection of the ancestral domain.

“Let us all endeavor to adopt policies for the protection of the ancestral domain. For only then will justice be truly achieved, and then, perhaps, Datu Dominador Diarog shall not have died in vain,” Zozobrado ended.

(CBCPNews)

Revitalized youth participation in renewal movement seen

May 13, 2008

BINMALEY, Pangasinan, May 13, 2008—Concerned over the decline of youth involvement in Catholic renewal movements, Fr. Anthony B. Layog, Archdiocese of Lingayen–Dagupan Charismatic Movements (ALD-CM) Spiritual Director, hopes to implement a comprehensive plan to assure a more aggressive participation from the young.

In a recent interview, Fr. Layog said the number of younger Catholics in the renewal movements have decreased due to the proliferation of other forms of youth-oriented activities outside the parish church.

“The generation today is easily lured by other forms of activities outside the church and this is quite alarming,” Fr. Layog emphasized.

He said their attendance in prayer meetings has been affected by the existence of several trans-parochial youth groups and other religious congregations outside the realm of the Catholic Church.

Layog noted the Church should do its share to keep the young from joining other denominations because without proper catechesis, they become easy prey to preachers.

“There are many youth organizations in our parishes and it will be a great idea to get them together in weekly gatherings,” he said.

Hoping to bring together the renewal movements from the four vicariates of the archdiocese for a combined weekly prayer meeting, Layog and the respective representatives of parish-based charismatic communities have established a Archdiocesan Service Committee (ASC) presided by Bro. Sonny V. Espinoza, head servant of Cristo Divino Tesoro BEC Charismatic Community, in Calasiao.

The ASC aims to address the issues and concerns that the various renewal movements in the archdiocese and come up with timely solutions.

He said while they are appreciative of the contributions of the more senior parishioners of the archdiocese, they have to be complemented by the youth.

To prepare the ASC, its ministries will undergo a Formation Seminar to be able deal positively with concerns that surround the renewal movement especially among youth. “Of course, I’d like to see the youth contribute to this activity,” Layog concluded.

The six ministries of the ASC are Worship, Social Action & Services, Temporalities, Education, Youth, and Music.

(CBCPNews)

Archbishop Dosado reiterates church position against Freemasonry

May 13, 2008

OZAMIZ CITY, May 13, 2008—The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ozamis, Archbishop Jesus A. Dosado, CM reiterated the church’s position against Catholics joining the Freemasonry.

“This position is not new but Catholic Church since time immemorial had stood pat against Freemasonry in spite of the fact that some good members of the flock were misled,” the prelate said.

Catholics who joined Masonic lodge must be disciplined by local ordinary and a just punishment is to be meted out. These punishments may not allow to the Catholic who joined Freemasonry to receive Holy Communion nor stand sponsor in baptism, confirmation and wedding.

“He may not be admitted as member to any organization under the banner of the Catholic Church,” the prelate said.

He added “in case of death, he will not be accorded Catholic funeral rites nor be allowed interment in a Catholic cemetery.”

The local ordinary explained during Holy Communion if anyone admits before him that he has joined Freemasonry he will deny him communion.

Meanwhile, Catholic Faith Defender National Vice President for Internal Affairs Bro. Cleb Calimotan, in an interview with CBCPNews said the position of the Archbishop against Freemasonry is consistent with the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The statement stressed Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principle have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrines of the Church and “as such membership in them remain forbidden.”

The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion, says the statement.

In a separate interview CFD National Treasurer and Chairman on Education Committee Bro. Adolfo Amper said there is an escalating confusion regarding Freemasonry among Catholics. “Many joined Freemasonry for the sake of camaraderie and status symbol.” Amper noted.

“Catholics who belong to a Masonic lodge are not ipso facto (automatically) excommunicated from the Church. But if, knowing the prohibition against joining a Masonic lodge, they nevertheless persist in retaining active Masonic membership they should not receive the Sacraments from the Church” Amper concluded.

(CBCPNews)