Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fighting the wrong battle

POPE Francis brought out the clarion call in his encyclical Laudato Si: Hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. These cries are loud and clear in these days. The cry of the poor: the price of rice is getting out of hand, inflation is eating up the poor’s meager earnings, jobs are very much wanting. They are groaning. The lines in the feeding centers run by charitable institutions are getting longer. The cry of the earth: several times in the past three weeks classes have been cancelled in several cities because of floods. Unfinished road constructions and plastic pollution in our streets and sewage systems prevent the water from flowing out. Now there is a threat of another strong typhoon. What is being down to prepare for it?

The poor and the earth are crying out loudly. But where is the attention of our government? Buying arms from Israel, ordering Sen Trillanes to be put into bars with the flimsy reason that his amnesty given more  years ago is invalid, accusing people here and there of destabilization moves! The government is in total disconnect with the people. It does not offer any solution to the high inflation except to blame others, that this is just false news (There is really no lack of supply of rice, they claim in spite of the long queues of people buying rice! ), that the opposition is hoarding the rice, etc. What preparations is the government doing for the impending typhoon? Nada! Yes, government institutions are being mobilized to court martial Trillanes, although he is now a civilian, to get a warrant of arrest for the senator, to apprehend the vocal critic, and now mobilizing the communications offices to sound the alarm of destabilization. It really appears that the government is fighting the wrong enemy, not the battle that the people on the ground are waging. How blind and numb leaders can become. And blind too are those who defend such leaders. Instead of using their influence to call on their beloved leader to see the dangers the people are now facing, they continue to cheer him up and defend him in his wrong directions.  They too are blindly misguided.

Let us come together to address the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth. They are related to each other. Destruction of our natural resources affects the poor badly and directly. Now should be the time for the government to mitigate the impact of the coming typhoon. Concrete measures should be done so that the poor can get the basic necessities at the prices that they can afford, especially when the typhoon Ompong comes. We call on our government leaders to fight the battle that concerns the people – not their imagined enemies!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Transactional politics in the Supreme Court

The appointment by Duterte of Teresita Leonardo – De Castro as Chief Justice of the Supreme leaves a bad taste to us non-lawyers. We may not know the legalese of the doings of the Supreme Court but we are no fools. We know the basics of decency and appropriateness. After having testified against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the Lower House, and still voting for her ouster in the Supreme Court, thus acting as both accuser and judge, now she takes the place of the one she had worked hard to oust! Hindi ba masyado ng garapal? Ganito na ba ang garapalan sa Supreme Court?

No amount of hand washing can clear the palace of having a hand in the ouster of CJ Sereno. No less than Duterte himself has declared CJ Sereno as his enemy and he openly stated that he would have her removed! Solicitor General Jose Calida of the Palace was the one who pushed for the Quo Warranto against CJ Sereno. So who can believe that Duterte had no say in this ouster? The smell is too strong – an implicit political transaction has taken place between the Palace and the De Castro. You scratch my back and I scratch yours. You do me a favor and I return the favor. Is the appointment to be chief justice the reward? And what a reward it is: to get the title of chief justice and to get the fat pension plan of a chief justice upon retirement, with a stint of only 42 days as chief justice! De Castro will be in office only from Augut 28 to October 8 when she retires. Are we to believe that this appointment is done with “judicial professionalism” as Presidential Spokeman Harry Roque indicated? Kung garapal sila, hindi kami bulag. We legal lay people at least know the basic meaning of decency and delicadeza. We are not blinded by the finesse of legal rationalizations.

And what can De Castro do in 42 days? Is this appointment done with the view of improving the justice system in the country? The concern in this appointment and its acceptance is not the service of justice but vanity and greed. How low the supreme court has fallen! It is now just a pawn in the grab for power. With the game of transactional politics engulfing the Supreme Court, can we expect it to stand up and check the power of the President?

Can we, the people do anything? At the moment, I cannot think of anything concrete that we can do. At least we should not just be bystanders as if nothing is happening. We should not even just be on-lookers as our democratic institutions are being torn down. We should not be made to believe that this is alright. We should not be silent. We voice out our rage and together join our forces and consider how we can prevent our democratic system from further sliding down.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Can there be responsible mining?

By Bishop Broderick Pabillo

CAN there be responsible mining? There may be. But if we specify the question and contextualize it: Is there responsible mining in the Philippines now? I would give a definite no!
But first, what is meant by responsible mining? It is mining that is equitable, that is, the stake holders get their proper and just share—the mining company, the government, the local community and the future generation. It is mining that is sustainable, that is, that the benefits should not just be for the rich but also for the poor and for the coming generations. It is mining that is responsible, that is, that the terms of the contract be followed and rights of the stakeholders, especially the poor and the indigenous peoples, be respected and promoted. Responsible mining also means that pollutions be contained and the environment be properly rehabilitated.
Are these conditions possible in the Philippines now? A categorical NO—for the following reasons:

1.      The Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) is severely limited in its monitoring capabilities. It does not have the technology and the manpower to monitor the compliance of the mining companies.
2.      The law that presently governs mining in the country—the Mining Law of 1995—is defective. It is more pro-business than pro-environment. It does not protect the human rights of the local communities. The government and the local community do not get their proper and just share in the operations.
3.      There is so much corruption in the government now. So, not only does it not have the capability to monitor; it has no political will to monitor and discipline the mining companies. Bribes abound and the powerful companies and their political backers even use the military and the police to protect the mining interests against the people. There are so many killings of lumad leaders and environmentalist group members done in the name of fighting the insurgents.  Groups who are against the mining encroachments are tagged as rebels or NPAs.
4.      Mining in the Philippines do not bring sustainable development at all in the places where they are done. There is not a single area where mining has been done that has remained developed after the mining operations have left. Benguet has been mined for more than a hundred years and so much gold has been taken from it, yet the province remains one of the poorest to this day. The fisher folks in Rapu-Rapu in Albay remain poorer, the same with the farmers of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, and so many other places. There is a semblance of development while the operations are being done because the companies set up roads, schools, hospitals, churches for their workers while they are there. But when the operations stop, and they have to stop because mining is extractive and there is no resource that is inexhaustible, the local people are left with nothing, not even the land cannot be tilled anymore, nor the sea or the rivers to be fished.
5.      Former mining sites are not rehabilitated. The government has no capability nor the political will to make the companies accountable for the damage they had done. Marinduque is a classic example. After more than 20 years Boac river is still high polluted and there is the constant threat to the people downstream if the tailings dam breaks.

Now it has been shown that eco-tourism is a sustainable way to make use of our natural resources. Tourists come to the Philippines not because of any cultural monuments or pieces that we have. We have so few of them. They come because of our beautiful beaches, because of our forests and other natural wonders. How many beautiful places have been destroyed by mining! If they had been preserved and developed they could have attracted more tourists!
We will mine our resources but not now. We can mine our natural resources responsibly when we have proper and just laws to govern the industry, when we have responsible people in government who are more eager to protect Philippine environment and the Filipino people than be blinded by money, when we already have the technology to process the raw materials that come from us and bring out finished processed products rather than supply raw materials to foreign companies and then buy back their processed products. Only then can we have responsible mining—but not now!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Not in these conditions

There is much talk now about Charter Change (cha cha) and federalism. It is being pushed by no less than the President himself. The draft made by the Constitutional Committee (Con Com) on federalism that he himself has constituted is now being discussed is the Lower House. A big budget of 90 Million is being eyed for its promotion.

Admittedly, the 1987 Constitution is not perfect. No document is ever perfect, unless it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The 1987 Constitution can certainly be improved, but not at this time because the prevailing conditions are not appropriate for such a grave task. The constitution is the basic law of the land. It is the basis of subsequent laws that would govern the country. It will be the yardstick by which other legislations will be judged. If the constitution is therefore of “low quality” and not just, then all the other laws will be infected by its limitations. Thus amending the constitution is a very serious matter, much more, overhauling  it! With all its defects, the 1987 Constitution of our country is recognized worldwide for its progressive character, especially in its human rights and social justice provisions. If we are to change it, the result should be a more progressive one, not one of a lesser quality. Can a better constitution come out now, in our present situation? I do not hesitate to shout a loud: NO!

No! because of the “low quality”  and untrustworthiness of our present congress men and women. They do not really look after the interest of the people but only of their own families. The vast majority of them are from political dynasties. They have no convictions, but are political butterflies who cling to whoever is in power. The debate in congress is very mediocre. It is not independent. In fact most people see the Lower House as a rubber stamp of the Executive. We cannot entrust the crafting of a new constitution to such a group! And they are insisting that the present congress will constitute the Constitutional Assembly (Con Ass) for the cha cha. They absolutely cannot be trusted to tinker with the basic law of the land!

No! because our time is not appropriate for honest debate and discussions. A culture of fear is in the air and is being promoted by violent language and accusations on those who oppose the present government. There are even killings of those who are perceived to oppose or do not toe the line. Others are being removed from their office by devious machinations of the law. There is a culture of impunity. Healthy debate is not possible in such a climate.

No! because of the rush in which the process is made to proceed. Proper and transparent debate cannot be forced. It needs time to make people understand what a constitution is, why it is to be changed,  what federalism is, how is federalism to be compared to our present unitary system, and the like. The task is made more challenging by the fact that most Filipinos do not know the present constitution. How wise is it to change something that you do not know? The rush by which cha cha is being pushed is very suspect.

In these conditions, it is not the time to change the charter! The government would be of better service to the people if it addresses the concerns that really impact of them now, like the high inflation, the rise of prices of the basic necessities, the lack of work, the broken peace talks, the unabated drug problem in spite of all the killings, and many, many others! No amount of charter change and federalism will melt these problems away.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Concern for all

Why is the church meddling in politics? We often hear this question, with a tone of reproach in it. We need to clarify some basic understanding in this question. What is and who is the church? What is politics?
The church is the people of God, not only the bishops, priests and religious. In fact, the vast majority of the church is the lay faithful. All the baptized are mandated to continue the mission of Christ, which is to save the world. The world that needs to be saved includes such institutions as politics and economics. Pope Francis wrote: “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.” (Evangelii Gaudium 183)
In the homily that Pope Francis gave in Domus Sanctae Marthae on September 16, 213, as he was reflecting on those in authority, the Holy Father remarked that  some say: ‘A good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.’ He said, “That’s not true. That is not a good path. A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern well.” He even gave these very clear words:  “None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, how they govern.' ... No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability. Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”
Politics is not bad. In fact it is a vocation, a call from God. Again Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium: “Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships  (social, economic and political ones).”(205)
The Church, especially through the lay faithful, should be directly involved in politics to bring it to the service of the common good for the benefit of all. On receiving the bishops of Paraguay in September 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said, “A big part of the vocation of Christian laypeople is their participation in politics in order to bring justice, honesty and defence of true and authentic values, and to contribute to the real human and spiritual good of society.  The role of the laity in the temporal order, and especially in politics, is key for the evangelization of society.”  In the same vein, Pope Benedict unequivocally wrote: “It is the primary task of the lay faithful, formed in the school of the Gospel, to be directly involved in political and social activity. Hence they need suitable formation in the principles of the Church’s social teaching.” (Verbum Domini 100)
This does not mean, however, that the clergy can no longer talk about politics. In fact they are the ones to form the faithful on the Catholic Social Teaching. How can they teach the faithful if they do not talk about it? Besides, the priests, the religious  and bishops do not cease to be citizens, with responsibility to participate in politics themselves, just because they belong to the hierarchy! Besides, Pope Francis also gave this direction: “The Church’s pastors, taking into account the contributions of the different sciences, have the right to offer opinions on all that affects people’s lives, since the task of evangelization implies and demands the integral promotion of each human being.” (Evangelii Gaudium 182)
Let me conclude: Religion has a role in political debate, not in providing concrete political solutions, which lies outside the competence of religion, but to recall to society the objective moral norms as the basis of justice and the just society. This is the service of the Church to the state. So she must always proclaim what is true, what is right and what is just! Her concern is universal – the salvation of all!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pagpapakumbaba sa harap ng Diyos

Homily on July 23,  2018
Mikas 6:1-4.6-8
Mateo 12: 38-42
St. Peter Church, Commonwealth Avenue

Ang pagtitipon natin ngayong hapon ay pagtitipon ng mga taong handang manindigan para sa bayan. Ngunit alam natin na upang maging matiyaga at mabisa sa ating panindigan, kailangan muna tayong maupo at lumuhod. Maupo upang magnilay at makinig sa Dioyos na nagsasalita sa atin. Hindi Siya walang kibo sa ating kalagayan at hindi siya manhid sa kahirapan ng ating bayan. Alam niya ang nangyayari sa atin at siya ay kumikilos din sa ating kasaysayan. Pakinggan at suriin natin ang direksyon kung saan niya tayo ginagabayan. Kailangan din tayong lumuhod, upang magpakumbabang humingi ng tulong sa kanya. Ito po ang ginagawa natin ngayon. Nandito tayong umuupo at lumuluhod sa simbahan upang mamaya may tapang at lakas tayong tumindig sa lansangan.

Ano ba ang sinasabi ng Diyos?  Alam po natin na sa Banal na Kasulatan nagsasalita ang Diyos. Ano po ang mensahe niya sa atin ngayon? Si propeta Mikas ay nanawagan sa mga tayo noon na makinig sa kaso ng Diyos sa kanyang bayang Israel. Tinatawagan niya ang mga kabundukan at mga kalangitan na maging mga saksi sa sakdal ng Diyos laban sa kanyang bayan. Hindi sinabi ng Diyos kung ano ang masama na ginawa ng Israel, pero talagang masama.  Kaya siya ay nagtanong sa kanila. Bakit ninyo ito ginawa? Ano pa ba ang hindi ko nagagawa upang ipadama sa inyo ang aking pag-ibig? tanong niya. Ano pa ba ang kanyang pagkukulang? Pinalaya na sila sa pagka-alipin sa Egipto, binigyan sila ng mga leaders na sina Moises at Aaron. Saan pa ba ang Diyos nagkulang sa kanila?

Nabagabag ang mga tao sa akusasyon ng Diyos kaya nagtangka silang magbago. Kaya ang tanong nila, “Ano ba, O Diyos, ang gusto mo upang maging katanggap-tanggap kaming uli sa iyo? Ano ba ang maihahain namin sa iyo? Ilang mga toro ang gusto mong ialay namin? Ano mga dasal ang sasabihin naming?” Sa pananaw ng mga tao maging katanggap-taggap sila uli sa Diyos kapag naghain at nagdasal sila.

Hindi iyan ang gusto ng Diyos. Ang gusto niya ay pagbabago ng ugali—maging makatarungan at maging maibigin sa kapwa, at maging magpakumbaba sa Diyos. Ito ang gusto nating gawin, at ito rin ang hinihingi natin sa ating pamahalaan. Inaabangan natin ang SONA ng president. Inaasahan natin na iulat niya sa atin ang tunay na kalagayan ng ating bayan at magbigay siya ng mga programa na tutugon sa kalagayang ito. Sana tunay na kalagayan ang kanyang sabihin—just tell us the bare facts, however ugly they may be. We want to know the real score of government action, or inaction, or wrong action, of the past year and even the past two years, however ugly they may be. Tama na ang pang-iinsulto, pagmumura at pagbibintang. At gusto nating marinig kung ano ang balak niyang gawin upang tumugon sa kalagayang ito. Gusto nating malaman paano magkakaroon ng katarungan ang mga naging biktima ng mga pagpapatay – mga 23,000 na ang mga pinatay. Ano na ang resulta ng mga libo-libong killings under investigation? Paano ba magkakaroon ng katarungan ang mga manggagawa na patuloy na mababa ang suweldo, patuloy na nagdurusa sa ENDO? Ano ang katarungan ng mga katutubo na nasa evacuation centers dahil sa militarisasyon ng kanilang mga eskwelahan at communidad?  Paano iyong mga mangingisda na hinaharas ng mga Chino sa ating karagatan? Naghahanap kami ng katarungan!

Pag-ibig sa kapwa. Ang minimum na hinihingi ng pag-ibig ay paggalang. Gusto sana naming maging magalang ang presidente namin sapagkat bilang mga Pilipino, magalang naman tayo bilang bayan. Itigil na ang pagmumura! Ayaw naming marinig iyan sa aming mga anak, at lalong ayaw naming marinig iyan sa namumuno sa amin.  Kung iyan lang, ang pagtigil ng pagmumura, ay hindi niya kayang magawa, hindi siya karapat-dapat na mamuno sa amin. Kailangan din ng pag-ibig ay paggalang sa karapatan ng bawat isa – ng mga kababaihan, at pati na ng mga pinaghihinalaang lumilihis sa batas. Ang bawat tao ay may karapatan na dapat igalang ng autoridad.

Pagpapakumbaba sa harap ng Diyos. Ibabagsak ang lahat ng mayayabang. Nakakalungkot na wala namang laman ang mga pahayag ng president kundi kayabangan. Sana po magbago na siya sa SONAng ito.  Bahagi ng kababaang loob ay ang pag-amin ng pagkakamali. There is nothing wrong in apologizing when one is clearly wrong, sa halip na pagtatakpan pa ang pagkakamali. Kawawa naman ang press officers ng palasyon. Nabubulol na sa pagtatakip ng kamalian. Aminin na lang na nagkamali. Justice, love, humility. Ito po ang ibig ng Diyos at ito rin ang ibig natin.

Sa ating ebanghelyo nagalit si Jesus sa mga Pariseo na patuloy na humingi ng tanda sapagkat ayaw nilang maniwala.  Mabigat na mga salita ang binitiwan ni Jesus sa kanila: “ Lahing masama at di-tapat sa Diyos!” Hindi ba ganyan din ang humingi ng selfie kay Jesus para maniwala sa kanya? Nandiyan na ang tanda ni Jonas--ang muling pagkabuhay ni Jesus. Sa halip na humingi ng tanda, pakinabangan na natin ang nasa atin na nahigit pa kaysa anumang inaasahan natin. Higit pa si Jesus kaysa kay Jonas, kaysa Reyna na galing sa Timog. Si Jesus ang pinapahayag natin sa ating pananampalatayan. Manalig po tayo. Nakataya na si Jesus na atin. Hindi niya tayo pababayaan. Higit pas siya kaysa anong pamahalaan, kaysa pamahalaang ito. Kaya huwag tayong matakot at huwag tayong maduwag. Hindi natin kinatatakutan ang ulan, hindi natin kinatatakutan ang mga trolls, huwag nating katakutin ang mga pagbabanta, ni ang mga mamamatay tao. If God is for us, who can be against us. Let us just be sure that God is with us. Kaya tayo lumalapit sa kanya ngayon, lumuluhod sa harap niya, tatanggap sa kanya sa banal ng komunyon at magmamarcha sa mapayapa at mahinahon na paraan. Naninindigan tayo sa katarungan, kapayapaan at kaayusan. Ito ang ating hinihingi, at ito ang ang ating pamamaraan.

Fighting the wrong battle

POPE Francis brought out the clarion call in his encyclical Laudato Si: Hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. These cries a...