4 CBCP agencies team up against modern slavery

Bishop Ruperto Santos (Photo by CBCPNews)

MANILA, Feb. 7 2017– Catholic bishops continue to tackle the problem of human trafficking as four Church agencies have teamed up in a renewed effort to work together in the fight against modern slavery.

Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI), said the collaboration was critical to combat a booming illegal industry of human trafficking.

“Through this (collaboration), we will have the ways and means to rebuild their (victims of human trafficking) lives,” Santos said.

The bishop made the call on Feb. 6 at a consultation and training workshop attended by leaders of the Commissions on Social Action, Youth, Women and Migrants.

Held two days before the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of victims of human slavery and trafficking, the meeting was also attended by representatives of some dioceses in Metro Manila and different religious groups who are working in the migrants ministry.

Read: Bishop calls for redoubled efforts against human trafficking

He emphasized that through complimentary action the Church could maximize resources and make a united effort against the traffickers.

The initiative will also focus on broader education campaign about human trafficking and wider support for victims through spiritual and social services.

“Pope Francis is urging us to ‘provide victims with welcome, human warmth and the possibility of building a new life’ and that is what we are doing today,” said Santos.

Read: Look into migration’s human face, Vatican official urges world leaders

Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the bishops’ youth ministry, said they are committed to fight the problem in a country which have been a known source of trafficked persons in the world.

Most of the victims including women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.

“We all have to work together to totally remove this from our society,” Garganta said. (R.Lagarde/CBCPNews)

When Church, academe, and drug users become friends

DAVAO City, Feb. 7, 2017 —Theirs was an offer of friendship, an invitation to get to know each other better, and to help one another in their shared desire to curb the drug menace.

Drug users in Davao City now have another chance to reform their lives thanks to the intervention of the Archdiocese of Davao and University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City through the Sagop Kinabuhi (Save Lives) Program 2, a program for the reformation of drug users who want to become productive citizens of the country. (Photo: John Frances C. Fuentes)

Instead of condemning them for being drug users, the local church of Davao and a state university here have offered hands of friendship to those many consider to be problems of society.

Through the Sagop Kinabuhi Program 2 Fun Day, drug users have experienced new hope, that they too can become productive citizens of the country. The Archdiocese of Davao, the University of Southeastern Philippines, and different partners joined in the fun to foster friendship.

Different sports activities, parlor games, team-building activities, moments of reflection were organized to strengthen the bond of camaraderie among the partner agencies and the drug users who voluntarily submitted themselves for reformation and participated in the two-day event from Jan. 27 to 28 at Eden Nature Resort in Toril, Davao City, headed by the University of the Southeastern Philippines (USeP) and the Archdiocesan Social Action Center of Davao.

Every life is sacred

ASAC director Fr. Leonardo Dublan, Jr. said every life is “a gift of God” and is sacred.

According to the priest, like the mustard seed that falls to the ground, every life is bound to undergo a process before it can bear fruit, and the same is true for everyone, regardless if one is a drug user, a priest or a religious.

“No one is bound for waste. Walang pa-tapon,” Dublan said in his homily during the opening Mass, adding that every endeavor can succeed, but it becomes more fruitful with the help of God.

This same reason also prompted USeP to finance the SKP 2, knowing that drug abuse has become a major problem in the country. Sagop Kinabuhi is a Cebuano term which means “save lives”.

Dr. Danilo Pacoy, vice president of the Research Division Extension of USeP, said the academe wants to volunteer its expertise to help address the drug crisis.

Helping them are heads and representatives from the Davao City Police Office, Philippine National Police Talomo, City Social Services Development Office, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Education, barangays and their officials who accompanied the drug users, as well as other partners who also believe that drug users deserve a chance to reform themselves through different activities.

Change starts within

Perry (not his real name), one of the participants during the SKP 2 Fun Day, said though society wants them to change for the better, it is only they who can decide for their future and whether or not they will get killed in one of the police’s anti-drug operations.

“I did not promise to others that I will change. I promised to myself, only to myself, that I will have to change for my own good,” Perry said.

ASAC coordinator Sr. Ma. Marissa Arado, TDM said the activities lined up for the drug users have just begun as they are expecting to run SKP 2 in the parishes and in their respective barangays.

Mervin Gascon, SKP 2 project director said the program can only push through with the cooperation of the reformists and the help of the different partners.

He said he also looks forward to the fruits of SKP 2, which will run for three years, and how it could help former drug users recover and become more productive. (John Frances C. Fuentes / CBCP News)

Religion teachers told: ‘Get in touch with today’s realities’

BACOLOD City, Feb. 7, 2017 – Amid the fast-changing social and philosophical realities influencing the way people think, a priest-educator reminded religion teachers that “the study of religion has to be in touch with the realities of the present generation.”

Participants of the PACRE Annual Research Conference held at the L’Fisher Hotel, Bacolod (Photo: PACRE)

In a conference held in this city by the Philippine Association of Catholic Religious Educators (PACRE) on Feb. 4, Fr. Deogracias Aurelio V. Camon, PhD, chairman of the Annual Research Conference, underscored, “the duty of religion teachers to educate themselves with current issues on the relationship of religion and society.”

“As Catholic educators, we have to participate actively in forming the hearts and minds of our students,” he said.

Faithful to the Magisterium

The priest stressed that Catholic educators should not only uphold their identity in the faith but, through regular formation, also allow this faith to enrich the culture of society:

“We have to contribute to the marketplace of ideas our own brand of teaching that is faithful to the Catholic Magisterium but abreast with up-to-date research that can allow us to transmit our Faith in a meaningful manner to the youth.”

“We cannot take for granted the Philippines is still a predominantly Catholic country. We cannot be passive!” added Camon.

Continuous development for Catholic educators

PACRE was established by concerned religion teachers and members of the laity with the aim of providing professional and spiritual development for Catholic educators

To this end, PACRE is continuing its lecture series program to update interested religion teachers.

The ongoing course on Christology started on Feb. 4.

The lecture series, offered for six Saturdays, is offered by PACRE in partnership with the La Consolacion College – Bacolod School of Graduate Studies.

Accumulated units are credited for the Master Arts in Education major in Religious Education.

Annual Research Conference

Another successful program of PACRE was the inauguration of its Annual Research Conference, which was held on Dec. 21, 2016 at the L’Fisher Hotel. Some 48 researchers and scholars of religion from the Visayas participated in the said event.

Dr. Enrique Oracion, dean of the Graduate School of Silliman University, delivered the keynote speech on qualitative research and Bishop Patricio Buzon, Bishop of Bacolod, shared his reflection on the theme, “Communion and Mission.”

Five researchers presented the results of their studies on various topics that were considered significant for the growth of religious education. They are as follows:

  • Dennis Madrigal, PhD: “Understanding and Practice of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist”;
  • Dexter Paul Dioso, MA: “Motivational Factors Influencing Students’ Attendance on Scheduled Masses”;
  • Fr. Leo Alaras, OAR: “The Augustinian Recollect Music Tradition in the Evangelization of Filipinos during the Spanish Period”;
  • Sotero L. Milos Jr., PhD: Teaching in the Light of the New Evangelization: The Lived Experiences of Educators”;
  • Aaron C. Tolosa, PhD: Paraliturgical Celebrations in the Diocese of Bacolod”.

Those interested for information about PACRE may email Dr. Dennis Madrigal at dennis_madriagal40@yahoo.com. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)

Go easy on old jeepney phaseout plan, gov’t urged

MANILA, Feb. 6, 2017— A Catholic bishop called on the government to ensure that proper “safety nets” are in place before pushing through with the phase-out of old jeepneys.

San Carlos Bishop Alminaza, CWS chairperson

San Carlos Bishop Alminaza, chairperson of the Church People-Workers Solidarity (CWS), said the plan should not be at the expense of the livelihood of jeepney drivers.

“The government should make sure the labor sector won’t be gravely disadvantaged with whatever measure they will adopt,” said the prelate.

“Are there safety nets provided for those sectors greatly affected by the phaseout?” he said.

Several transport groups in Metro Manila went on strike Monday to protest the proposed phase out of jeepneys 15-years old and above.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said the plan is part of the agency’s modernization program to reduce traffic and make passenger utility vehicles environmentally friendly.

Labor leaders warned the phase-our scheme will affect the livelihood of at least 600,000 jeepney drivers and more than 250,000 operators nationwide.

The bishop said DOTC officials should first consider the move’s socioeconomic impact before pushing through with it.

He said a proper consultation should also be conducted with the transport groups and other stakeholders. (CBCPNews)

Pastoral letter on drug war grounded in truth— bishop

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga. (Analyn Perucho/CBCPNews)

MANILA, Feb. 6, 2017– It’s not a lie that innocent people were killed and many fear of becoming victims of extrajudicial killings, a Catholic bishop said.

Disputing Malacañang’s claim that bishops have lost touch with reality, Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said their pastoral letter on drug war only relays the sentiments of many people, especially those in poor communities.

“They are not only afraid, they become restless and disturbed that there’s no peace. And that’s the reason why it’s now ‘terror’ that they experience,” he said.

Malacañang said the bishops’ are not grounded in reality after the release of a pastoral letter raising their concerns on President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly “war on drugs” for creating a “reign of terror”.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella claimed that the crackdown on narcotics has instead turn the country “into a safer place”.

Instead of being defensive, the bishop said it would help if the government would address the unexplained killings and other concerns they raised by the Church.

Read: Bishops warn against being ‘silent accomplice’ to killings

“We all want to be safe and be peaceful so let us get rid of these senseless killings. Let us get rid of the extrajudicial killings,” Santos said.

In December last year, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey reported that majority of Filipinos are worried of getting killed in the drug war that claimed more 7,000 lives in six months.

The poll found that 78 percent of Filipinos were afraid that they would also fall victim to summary executions.

Santos added that this is even the reason why the Church had to always come out and try to allay their fears.

“We, priests and bishops, are with the people. We feel them. We want to assure them. We want to pacify them that we are with them and we want them to be peaceful,” he said. (R. Lagarde/CBCPNews)

Prolife Philippines elects new officers

MANDALUYONG City, Feb 6, 2017 – After four years, Prolife Philippines Foundation, Inc. elects a new set of officers as well as additions to its Board of Trustees during the Prolife Philippines Convention on Feb. 5 at the Lourdes School.

Prolife Philippines Foundation's new Board of Trustees and officers are led into their oath-taking by Prolife Philippines spiritual director Fr. Melvin Castro, on Feb. 5 at the Lourdes School, Mandaluyong during the annual Prolife Philippines Convention. (Photo: Dr. Ryan Capitulo)

Eric Manalang, who headed Prolife Philippines after the presidency of Lito Atienza in 2007, officially handed over the reins to Rita Linda Dayrit, former vice president of Prolife Philippines, who was elected president.

Raul Nidoy, who was part of the previous Board of Trustees, taking charge of education, was elected chairperson while Cora Afuang of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI) was voted vice-president. Dr. Ryan Capitulo, an obstetrician-gynecologist and a member of Filipinos for Life, was elected treasurer. To complete the set of officers, Peter Pardo, current president of LoveLife Philippine, was elected secretary.

Also newly-nominated to the Board of Trustees are:

  • Atty. Jemy Gatdula
  • Nirva’ana Delacruz
  • Paul Richard Guimary
  • Carlos Antonio Palad
  • Dani Villanueva
  • Michelle Talavera

Continuing another term as members of the Board are: Anselmo Beluso, Dra. Melissa Poblete, Rolando Delos Reyes II, Rizalito David, and Moises Cañete.

The assembly gathered prolife leaders from various prolife groups like Doctors for Life, Sagip Sierra Madre Movement, People’s Choice Movement, LoveLife Philippines, Filipinos for Life, and Daughters of Mary Immaculate. (CBCPNews)

Faithful urged: Support CBCP stand on issues

MANILA, Feb. 6, 2017 – While the President Duterte continues to lambast the Church hierarchy, a retired cleric urged churchgoers to rally behind the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and its stand on pressing socio-political issues.

Palo Archbishop John Du celebrates Mass inside the Ormoc City Jail as part of the Archdiocese's Prison Ministry, which stresses the power of forgiveness and reformation. (Photo: Archdiocesan Prison Ministry)

Fr. Oscar Lorenzo, a classmate of Bishop Teodoro Bacani in their younger years, stressed how important it is that the faithful remain vigilant.

Quoting CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas remarks, he said, “We cannot keep silent, but if we keep silent it does not mean that we are tolerating all kinds of non-sense happening around us.”

The priest said he anticipated early on that once the CBCP issued official statements on social issues such as the extra-judicial killings, capital punishment, and the reproductive health law after its plenary assembly, it will once against receive a lashing from Duterte.

Answered prayer

He cited how broadsheets and news broadcasts have been reporting the violent reactions of the president to the criticisms levelled against his flagship policies such as the imposition of capital punishment and the war on drugs.

“This is prosecution of the Catholic Church!”, he exclaimed.

“It may be true that [there are priests] who are hypocrites, but to say this in public and to keep on repeating and repeating it is too insulting,” said Lorenzo.

“So let us pray for the Philippines, and also for our bishops who are always praying for us,” he said. “Blessed are you if they insult you and persecute you and utter any kind of evil against you falsely because of me for your reward will be great in heaven,” he added, quoting a verse from the Bible.

The bishops, he added, are also praying that the killings will end.

He said God answered the prayer of the Church people after the Duterte administration’s war on drugs was peremptorily halted after the suspicious circumstances surrounding the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo, at the hands of rogue policemen.

Thousands dead

The death toll, attributed to legitimate police operations in Oplan Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang as well as summary executions, has reached an unprecedented number of more than 7,000 since Duterte won the presidency.

“There are over 7,000 who were killed until one foreigner, a South Korean who was killed. It took one foreigner who was killed for ransom inside Camp Crame, the seat of the Philippine police for the president to decide,” Lorenzo said further.

This reality, he believes, could be used by the government to further justify its push for the reinstatement of death penalty.

During his Sunday homily he said capital punishment is not Christian, is anti-poor, and against God’s law.

“God is just, but his justice is perfect while man’s justice is not,” explained Lorenzo.

He further said killing a suspect does not give him a chance to reform, which he claimed is opposed to the Biblical account on Saul’s life who, in spite of being a hardened criminal, was forgiven by God, going on to become a crucial Biblical figure. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros / CBCPNews)

Bishops warn vs being ‘silent accomplice’ to killings

(Photo by CBCPNews)

MANILA, Feb. 5, 2017– Catholic bishops called on the faithful to speak out against summary killings, saying that silence makes them an ‘accomplice’ in the rising death toll of the war on drugs.

The Church leaders found disturbing the lack of strong rejection by many Filipinos of the daily killings in the country.

“To consent and to keep silent in front of evil is to be an accomplice to it,” the bishops said in a pastoral letter read in all Masses on Sunday. “Let us not allow fear to reign and keep us silent.”

It’s the same thing, they said, that if people neglect the drug pushers and users “we have become part of the drug problem.”

“If we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths,” they said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly denied that his administration is behind the extrajudicial killings in the country.

In several occasions, he also launched profanity-laced tirades against the bishops and human rights groups for criticizing his bloody war on drugs that claimed over 7,000 lives in six months.

Acknowledging their own shortcomings, the bishops said they will continue to speak “against evil” in a country “shrouded in the darkness of vice and death.”

“We will do this even if it will bring persecution upon us because we are all brothers and sisters responsible for each other,” they said.

The pastoral letter came barely a week after the bishops from across the country gathered in Manila for their biannual plenary assembly.

‘Reign of terror’

While they agree that the narcotics trade needs to be stopped, they reiterated that killing suspected drug pushers and users and not giving them due process is not the solution to the problem.

The prelates said they are concerned not only for those who have been killed but also about the situation of the victims’ families whose lives “have only become worse.”

“An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account,” they said.

Except for self-defense, the prelates said killing is a “grave sin” as to push illegal drugs.

“We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong. A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong,” they added.

Poverty, corruption

The Church leaders also called on the government to get to the bottom of the drug problem and criminality–poverty and corruption.

“We must also give priority to reforming rogue policemen and corrupt judges. The excessively slow adjudication of court cases is one big reason for the spread of criminality,” according to them.

Without naming Durerte in their letter, the bishops urged “elected politicians to serve the common good of the people and not their own interests”.

“We must all work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of drug addicts,” they said. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)

Youth group: Condom distribution not exactly constitutional

MANILA, Feb. 5, 2017 – In the light of the Department of Health (DOH)’s plans to continue distribution of condoms to the youth, an international Catholic youth group released a statement saying condom distribution undermines parents’ role of forming the moral character of their children, which the Philippine Constitution expressly protects.

Citing Article II, Section 12 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, a statement from CFC – Youth for Christ particularly noted that “'[t]he State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. … The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.’”

Reacting to the Duterte administration’s move to aggressively broaden access to condoms, CFC-YFC urged the government to revisit its role in helping shape the moral character of the Filipino youth.

Youth’s moral upbringing

According to the youth group, which boasts members in Canada, Australia, the U.S., Singapore, and Africa, among others, this passage of the Constitution presupposes the government’s role of reinforcing parents’ moral upbringing of their children.

“It is, therefore, the role of the government to solidify the moral upbringing of the youth by promoting and supporting the role of the parents in rearing their children, especially on matters relating to sex,” reads the document, which was released by CFC – Youth for Christ international coordinator Lawrence Quintero.

“The plan of the government to distribute condoms to students compromises the parents’ right and duty to rear their children towards the development of their moral character,” it added.

Aside from the moral aspect, the group also said the condom is a faulty method of helping curb the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

More risks

“As condom distribution will encourage sexual intercourse, it will also increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) instead of preventing it because condom use is not effective against all types of STDs,” it said. “Condoms do not protect its user against STDs affecting the outer layers of the skin like scabies infections and molluscum contagiosium, among others.”

The group, the youth ministry of Couples for Christ, also mentioned how certain scientific studies “show condom use is, after all, prone to failures that might even exacerbate the problem that it aims to address.”

“Therefore, as sexual activity increases, certain STDs will consequently have increased probability, defeating the very purpose of their plan to prevent STDs through the condom distribution,” added the statement.

The youth organization, on the other hand, championed the need to teach young people the “right values of true love, respect, and sacrifice”, saying it is possible for young people to “say no” to premarital sex.

After the Department of Education finally junked the DOH’s campaign to distribute condoms to highschool students, the health department will reportedly turn to local government units (LGUs) to continue its plans of massive condom distribution to the public. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)

Jaro faithful reminded: ‘We are Christianized through Mary’

JARO, Iloilo City, Feb. 4, 2017 – As thousands of pilgrims flocked to this district to honor Our Lady of Candles on Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, a high-ranking archdiocesan official invited the faithful to appreciate even more Mary’s role in the formation of Filipinos as a Christian people.

Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo blesses candles at the solemn entrance of the Eucharistic concelebration on the Feast of Our Lady of Candles (Jaro Fiesta). (Photo: Vincent Valencia)

“As Filipinos, we get to understand ‘Christ-centeredness’ through the lens of our family experience of motherhood that, through almost 500 years of our history of faith, it spreads and grows into our people’s deep love for Mary as our Mother,” Msgr. Jose Marie Delgado told the faithful gathered at the Jaro Cathedral during the pontifical fiesta Mass presided over by Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo and concelebrated by numerous diocesan and religious priests.

As the designated homilist for the fiesta Mass, the priesst cited the strong filial relationship local Catholics have with the Blessed Virgin.

“As Filipinos, especially Ilonggos, we are Christianized with a deeply ‘Marian maternal touch’.

“The term ‘Iloy’, vernacular for ‘mother’, is central in the Ilonggo devotion to Mary. She is referred to as ‘Iloy nga Mahigugmaon’ (Loving Mother), ‘Iloy nga Mananabang’ (Mother of Perpetual Help), ‘Iloy nga Makagagahum’ (Mother Most Powerful),” he explained.

Delgado added: “Filipinos in general are a deeply family-oriented people with the mother playing a central role in the family. She is the nucleus of the home, and exerts strong influence on her family, especially on her children, in communicating attitudes and values in life.”

To Jesus through Mary

According to the priest, this intimacy with the Blessed Mother has a purpose – to draw her children to Jesus.

“But for us to benefit spiritually from our closeness with her, let us not just see this closeness from our side. This is a two-way traffic. It cannot be any other way. We are close to her; she is close to God,” Delgado pointed out.

The homilist also pointed to several significant details of the image of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, venerated by thousands of devotees even from abroad.

According to him, Infant Jesus can be seen on the Virgin Mary’s left arm, “close to her heart”, and her right hand holding a lighted candle, “representing her Son’s mission as the ‘Light of the World’, which she embraced with her whole life.”

“For Mama Mary, this closeness of her with her Son means that she is His Mother and His disciple as well,” explained Delgado.
Mary’s ‘closeness with God’

The priest explained that “for our spiritual benefit, our closeness with her need be complemented by her own closeness with God.”

“She made a choice, by the invitation of God through the angel, to walk through the ‘path of this fire’ – the path accompanying Jesus from birth, to death and to glory.”

Unless Mary’s example is followed, Delgado warned, “We will never experience the raising up of our dignity as children of this Loving Father; and we will only throw into waste the ‘selfless invested love of Mary our Mother that shone eloquently at the foot of the Cross.” (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)