Sunday, December 9, 2018

Seeing through the smokescreen

IN the last two weeks, Duterte was relentless in his tirades against the Church and against religion. All of them unprovoked! He shamelessly and unjustly accused Bishop Ambo David of corruption by taking fruit offerings to his family and insinuating that he is involved in drugs because he follows up and cares for the orphaned victims of the war on drugs. He urged that bishops be killed because they do nothing but criticize him. He irresponsibly accuse 90% of the priests to be gay. He blatantly claim that the Bible is irrelevant because it was written thousands of years ago. He even accused Pope Leo XIV as having sired a son who also later became pope. How irresponsible this last statement is, that it shows his great ignorance of Church history. There is no Pope Leo XIV! The last pope who took the name of Leo was Leo the XIII!

While he was making these crazy statements, which were pronounced in speeches he was supposed to make on occasions which had nothing to do with his accusations, ignominious developments happened in the government. He signed 29 agreements with Chinese President XI without much public scrutiny. Are these advantageous to the Filipinos or are they a sell out to a foreign power? The Lower House surreptitiously passed the adoption of the resolution of Both Houses No 15 on federalism and charter change on second reading. In the resolution political dynasty remains, and term limits for congress and the senate have been eliminated. Bong Revilla was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of the crime of plunder, and yet he was asked to return the 124.5 million pesos that he was involved in! Senator Trillanesis accused in a Davao court for libel. We have seen all of these before:corrupt people are being acquitted; critics are accused and threatened; unpopular laws that are self-serving are silently passed!

Duterte is either gravely sick or his attacks against religion are precisely timed and calculated to hide the machinations his minions are doing in the government. The media and the people are to talk about the tirades and not notice the mal-governance that is happening. The timing is so that one cannot avoid connecting the two.Are the unprovoked tirades calculated to be smokescreens to the nefarious government actions to hide them from public attention?

So what can we do? We should not lose focus of the two. We address both – the attacks and the manipulations in the government. Both are serious. The attacks on the religious beliefs of the people should be countered, not so much to prove Duterte wrong, but to help educate the people in their faith. The Chinese connection has to be exposed. We should demand the government to bare the agreements done with the Chinese because in the long run it is the people who will pay. The issue of federalism and charter change have to be continually denounced because it is getting clearer by the day that the purpose is self-serving to the present political powers. We have to protest against the Duterte administration’s prosecution and persecution of its critics. If we keep silent dictatorship and tyranny will overtake us before we know it. Let us see through the smokescreen!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State is often used to protest when religious leaders denounce government policies and government officials as they do injustice and oppress the people. But this is a wrong principle to invoke because Church people, even as religious leaders, do not lose their citizenship, therefore their right and duty to participate in political matters for the sake of the common good. Besides, it is within the mandate of the Church to proclaim what is good and to denounce what is evil wherever these may be found.

The doctrine of separation of Church and State, in fact, has been laid down for the government in order that it may not favor one religion over the other, but should treat all legitimate religions equally. It also means that government officials and policies should respect the internal governance and policies of all religions as long as they do not create any public harm. This principle has been laid down in order to assure the freedom of religion of everyone. Each citizen has a right to join any religion and to practice it according to its teachings.

What can we say then if the very president of the country destroys the good name of a religion, or tells the adherents of that religion not to follow its practices and teachings, such as going to church? Is this not a breach of the principle of the separation of Church and State? And these are precisely what Duterte is doing! Nay, more! What he does is already a form of religious persecution. And he does it unprovoked! He inserts his tirades in speeches which have nothing to do with the Church nor its practices at all.

Are these tirades just outbursts of unresolved issues or hidden anger that lurk within his mind that he does not speak rightly anymore? If so, we should really pray for him and be afraid for our country. Pray for him, because he is not in his right senses; pray for our country, because we have someone in the helm who is mentally or emotionally sick.

But no! These tirades can also be deliberately planned. They are strategies to divert the attention of the people to what is seriously wrong in the country. There are really serious issues in the country which are getting out of control. Many people are suffering because of the economy. The inflation is getting out of hand and many people are getting poorer. None of the promises of change ever took off: the traffic situation is worse, joblessness is not being arrested, the promised end of ENDO is nowhere in sight, criminality is on the rise, and the drug situation is worse in spite of the tens of thousands unjustly killed and more tens of thousands orphaned. Now the Chinese connections of Duterte is being publicly questioned. He has brought the country to the tutelage of China and has greatly compromised our territorial sovereignty. A way to keep these problems from the attention of the people is to create non-issues for the people to talk about. Hence the unprovoked attacks on the Catholic Church and its leaders.

Poor man! Does he think that Filipinos are slow of intelligence and can easily be fooled? Whatever purpose he may have in ranting against the Church, he is breaking the separation of Church and State! This in itself is a grave abuse of power!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Truth and Leadership


Church Calendar ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King. The end of the year reminds us of the end of time. Yes, everything comes to an end. For us Christians the end is something that we look forward to because in the end, things will turn out well. The plan of God, which is salvation, will be fully manifest. Good will triumph. Justice will come. Truth will shine forth. So at the end of time, the triumph of Christ will be fully manifest. When the end comes, “Christ will hand over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.” (1 Cor 15:24) This is our reason for celebrating Christ as king.
At this stage of history though, the full manifestation of his victory is not yet that clear. Many people voice out the perplexity of Pontius Pilate: “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33) When Jesus answered him that his kingdom is not of this world, he became more forceful in his question: “Then you are a king?” (John 18:37) Jesus answered him: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Jesus connects his kingship, not only, even the very reason of his coming into the world, with the truth. His kingship, that is, his leadership, is very intimately connected with the truth.
This is a very big crisis nowadays. Many leaders do not care about the truth, just like Pilate who dismissively retorted: “What is truth?” (John 18:38) In fact many leaders hide the truth, and even use their position and their resources to distort the truth and spread lies. This tendency is magnified with the use of the means of mass communication and now with the social media. But no society can stand without the truth. Trust among peoples can only be achieved when there is truth that we all seek to understand and to reach, not “truth” that each one creates.
The leadership of Christ, and his final triumph, is intimately bound with truth. His kingdom is a kingdom of truth, peace, justice and love. These are all connected to each other. There is no justice without truth, there is no peace without justice, and love reigns only when there is truth, justice and peace. Truth is so vital for Christ that he was killed for speaking out the truth. The scribes, the high priests, and the pharisees could not stand him because he was exposing their falsities. He called them hypocrites to their faces.
Following the lead of Jesus, we should gauge our leaders by their commitment to the truth. When they mouth claims which later they could easily dismiss as “jokes”, when they hurl accusations without any basis, when they make tall promises which they never keep, we Christians cannot believe that they are good leaders. Oh, how the false leaders fear the truth! They silence the media that they cannot control. They disparage and accuse people who do not sing their tune and show a different picture of reality that they promote. They cannot stand opposition! These are not good leaders! This is a good reminder that now we are again entering the election mode and will soon choose leaders who will represent us. May we look up to Christ the King as our measure of true leadership.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


There are many urgent issues in our country these days. The high inflation is urgent. Prices of food and transportation are going beyond the reach of millions. Joblessness is urgent. While organized labor groups rightly ask for increase of their wages, millions of people are still without work or are only casual workers with no security of tenure. The resumption of the peace process between the government and the CPP-NDF-NPA is urgent, with many poor farmers and lumads killed, tagged by one or the other as enemies or aiding their enemies. The call to end the unjust war on drugs is urgent, with the increasing killings with impunity happening in poor communities while those responsible for the coming in of tons of shabu are free and enjoying the trust of the government. So many things need to be urgently addressed.

But we should not forget one really urgent matter that fly below the radar screens of the media and the attention of the people—the continued destruction of our environment and the resulting climate change. In this regard the attitude of most is business as usual. But precisely this business as usual is the cause of climate change. Scientists are frantically telling us that we will hit the 1.5 degrees of global warming already in 2030—well within our lifetime—with dire consequences for all of us. No one is immune from the effects of global warming. And we have nowhere else to go. We have just one earth!

And in the matter of environmental care, each of us can do something! Maybe some us can still claim that I cannot do anything about the peace process with the NPA, nor with the rise of the prices of goods, nor with the unjust war on drugs. We absolutely cannot offer the same excuse with global warming because we contribute to it by our buying habits, by the food that we eat, by the way we dispose of our wastes, by our use of water and electricity, by the choice of our mode of transportation. It should not be business as usual! It is good to honestly ask ourselves: what change in my lifestyle have I consciously adopted to avert global warming and as a sign of my care for Mother Earth? In this matter, each of us is called to be involved because it surely affects each one of us. The news of the floods in Italy, the fires in California, the strong typhoon that hit Hong Kong, the draught in Australia, should wake us up. It should not be business as usual!

We also need to raise our voices against policies and projects that destroy the environment. The BUILD, BUILD, BUILD program of the present administration needs to be scrutinized especially from the lens of the care for the environment. One is urgently to be opposed—the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon province which President Duterte is set to sign with the Chinese President Xi when he comes to visit the country in a few days. This dam is presented as needed for the water supply of Metro Manila. But it is not true that this is the only, nor the best solution, for the water problem of the metropolis. About a half of the water is lost because of the leaks. The present Angat dam can be dredged with lower cost. The big Laguna lake can be rehabilitated and its water treated, again at lesser cost, and with added benefit of averting the constant flooding in the areas around the lake, including Metro Manila.

On the other hand, with the Kaliwa Dam project, hundreds of hectares of our prime forests in Quezon will be submerged in water. Thousands of our Dumagat indigenous peoples will lose their ancestral land, hundreds of thousands of farmers in Quezon province will be affected and put in danger, since the area of the dam is on the fault lines of earthquakes. While the earth is reeling from global warming, here we are, still doing business as usual projects when international studies have shown that big dams are not advisable for they are not reliable. We need to raise our voices in protest! This is a VERY VERY URGENT matter!!!

Broderick Pabillo
November 15, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We Believe in Life

NOVEMBER 1 and November 2 for us Filipinos are special days. Everything stops. There is no work and no school. But people travel to cemeteries, which bustle with life. Once in a year our beloved dead pull us from our busy lives to remember them and to be united because of them. Is it really death that brings us together?

What do we bring to the cemeteries? We bring fresh flowers, not plastic ones. We light candles. We bring food. Fresh flower, lighted candles, food – all of these are symbols of life. Hence, we bring life to the cemeteries. It is not death that makes our life stop on November 1 and November 2. It is our Christian belief that there is life beyond death. So, we refuse to forget our dead. They are still part of our life. We believe that death does not separate us from our beloved. We are still related to them.

However, our relationship now is beyond the physical and the material. They are in our memories, and most especially in our prayers. So, we do not go to the cemeteries just to eat and see each other, not even just to remember the dead. We go there to pray for them. This is our contact with them – our prayers. We pray for them and we ask their help through our prayers. In fact, the lighting of the candle and the putting of fresh flowers are done reverently. They signify our prayers.

Our celebrations of All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2 are deeply rooted in our Christian faith. In our Creed we proclaim: I believe in the Communion of Saints; I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The saints are those who live in the grace of God. The Church is made up of three ‘levels of saints’. The saints who are in heaven belong to the Church Triumphant. They are already victorious, sharing the glory of the angels. We praise the Lord for them and we hope that we and our beloved dead would be among someday. There are already many – billions of them - who have reached their goal in heaven and we thank and praise the Lord for them on November 1.

The saints who have died but are not yet fully holy are being purified in purgatory. They belong to the Suffering Church and are in the state of cleansing. We help them with our prayers on November 2. One day they too will join the Triumphant Church. Those in purgatory, having the saving grace of God in them, will be fully with God after their period of purification. If we are in the state of God’ grace, we saints on earth belong to the Militant Church. We are still struggling against evil. We ask the help of those who have already made it in the other life, both those in heaven and those in purgatory.
How wonderful it is that we belong to this great communion that stretch for thousands of years! We are really in good company.

Those who do not belong to this communion are those who have rejected God and his love. Those who definitively rejected him are those in hell. Those on earth who live in grave sin also reject him but hopefully they can still accept him in this life. We work and pray for this.

Unfortunately, due to commercialism and pagan influences, the celebration of life and holiness is being turned into time of fear, horror and death. This is the Halloween culture that many are unwittingly embracing, as if it is funny and cool. Is it not more cool and lovely to think of life, light, holiness and goodness? Let us reject this culture of death, and instead turn back to the real meaning of these days because we believe in life! The life beyond this one is love and holiness. In fact for a believer death is a door that leads to God.


Seeing through the smokescreen

IN the last two weeks, Duterte was relentless in his tirades against the Church and against religion. All of them unprovoked! He sha...