Sunday, January 29, 2006

Renewing Our Public Life Through Moral Values

A Pastoral Statement

Beloved People of God:

We, your bishops, have collectively discerned in the light of the Gospel what our mass media, our political leaders and, above all, you parishioners in our various dioceses have been telling us. What clearly emerges is the continued and urgent need for renewal in the public life of our country.

I. Our Pastoral Situation: What Our People are Saying

We have all observed the failure of political processes to make public servants accountable for wrongdoings. What we have seen instead are acts of evasion and obstruction of the truth, as in the case of the wiretapping and Garcillano tapes controversy. While we acknowledge that patriotic and sincere Filipinos have heeded our call in July 2005 for accountability in public office and sought means for the truth to emerge, we also witness those who seem to use “the search for truth” as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Pressure is thus brought on the ordinary citizen to take sides on the basis of speculation, whether this be with regard to destabilizing alliances, armed insurgency, or a brewing coup d’ etat. Have we become a nation of rumors and untruths?

As a result of all this, there seems to be a paralyzing gridlock in the political sphere, as partisan interests prevail over the demands of the common good. Enough of this destructive politics, we hear our people declare. In this situation of widespread confusion, it is not surprising that apathy and cynicism with regard to politics have taken hold of the minds and hearts of many Filipinos. Tragically, many Filipinos have lost trust in political leaders from left, right, and center, and worse still, in the political institutions themselves which are perceived by many to be corrupted. Among an increasing number of our people, there is a sense of hopelessness about our country and the possibility of genuine reform.

While the economy at the marcro-level seems to be moving along, the benefits are not sufficiently shared by the poor. What the people in our dioceses are experiencing and saying informs us that their most immediate and urgent priority is their daily struggle to earn a livelihood. Poverty remains the heaviest burden our people bear. They wonder if the political priorities that preoccupy our leaders are merely “Manila-magnified” problems foisted upon those in the provinces. They are seriously concerned that in 2006 we shall be repeating the same kind of chaotic politics that we all suffered in 2005.

II. The Root of the Crisis: Erosion of Moral Values

As bishops, we believe that at the bottom of our political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace. Truth has become a victim of political partisanship as well as of transactional politics. Moral accountability and justice for crimes, such as the killings of journalists and labor leaders, are yet to be realized.

Because of this crisis of values in our public life, the common good and the plight of the poor are being ignored. We witness the anguish of poor farmers affected by rising prices of farm inputs and decreasing prices for their products. Indigenous people, farmers and fishermen in our dioceses are filled with anxiety about the negative effects of mining, commercial logging, illegal quarrying and fishing, and the continual threat of displacement from one’s ancestral lands. More regrettable is the common knowledge that many of our politicians are behind such ventures that disregard the common good.

As Bishops, we realize that the root cause of our debilitating situation is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening preoccupation with narrow political interests, perceived in practically all branches and at all levels of government. Pope Benedict XVI cites St. Augustine’s observation that “a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves.” (Deus Caritas Est, 28)

But we also recognize that our situation is not one of utter darkness. We are encouraged and inspired to see so many good and decent Filipinos, of different faith traditions, working selflessly and sincerely to build up our nation. We see public servants struggling for integrity and the authentic reform of the corrupted institutions they are part of. We acknowledge groups of dedicated laity, religious and clergy, NGOs and various associations, including police and military personnel, giving of themselves to improve the governance, education, health, housing, livelihood and environmental conditions of our people. These people, united by a vision of heroic citizenship, are reasons for hope, even in the midst of the political crisis we find ourselves in.

III. What We Need to Do

The mission of the Church includes the renewal of the social order and public life through the teaching and inculcation of the values of the Gospel. Because of the moral dimensions of our political and economic life, “The Church has something to say about specific human situations, individual and communal, national and international.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 521) “Any authentic search for peace”, the Holy Father stresses, “must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman.” (In Truth, Peace, no. 5) Let us all therefore address the urgent issues facing our country from this moral standpoint:

· We recommend that the search for truth be relentlessly pursued through structures and processes mandated by law and our Constitution, such as the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights, the Sandiganbayan, and Congress itself as well as other citizens’ groups. This requires that such bodies be led and run by credible people, persons of integrity and probity.

· Confidence and trust in our political processes have to be restored. As a first step we strongly urge our political leaders to undertake electoral reforms posthaste. The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach. The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of the Commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral process, including counting of votes, needs to be reformed and modernized before the next elections.

· Elections in 2007 should not be cancelled. The Church recognizes that in a democracy power emanates from the people—i.e., that “the subject of political authority is the people considered in its entirety . . . This people transfers the exercise of sovereignty to those whom it freely elects . . . but it preserves the prerogative . . . [of] evaluating those charged with governing, and replacing them when they do not fulfill their functions satisfactorily.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 395)

· While we agree that certain aspects of our Constitution may need amendments and revisions, we do not support hasty efforts to change this fundamental law of the land without the widespread discussion and participation that such changes require. We continue to believe, as we did in our Statement on Charter Change in 2003, that changing the Constitution involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency, and relative serenity that allows for national discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention. The reasons for constitutional change must be based on the common good rather than on self-serving interests or the interests of political dynasties.

· We reiterate our stand in our July 2005 statement that we do not condone any move resorting to violence or counter-constitutional means in resolving our present crisis. These measures would only bring about new forms of injustice, more hardships, and greater harm in the future.

We are aware that the renewal of the Philippine public life will require the transformation of cultural values and structures, and will require more intensive efforts on the part of the Church. We therefore commit ourselves to the following:

· To adopt a more systematic program of promoting the moral values that are indicated in seven (of the nine) pastoral priorities drawn up at the 2001 National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal. These are: integral faith formation; empowerment of the laity towards social transformation; the active presence and participation of the poor in the Church and in society; the family as the focal point of evangelization; the building and strengthening of participatory communities that make up the parish; integral renewal of the clergy and religious; and our journeying with the youth.

· To continue the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities and other faith-communities at the grassroots, towards a deeper spirituality of heroic Christian citizenship, and towards encouraging the laudable efforts of these communities at nation-building, such as the monitoring of the IRA, bidding of public works projects, etc.
· To promote a spirituality of public service, integrity and stewardship among public servants and citizens’ groups alike. These forms of social spirituality should counteract the persistent evils of gambling, drug-pushing, usury, destruction of our environment, and corruption in public office.
· To bring together various concerned citizens’ groups that are working for good governance in order to encourage better collaboration among them in the mobilization of the governed to check graft and corruption and to work for better public services.
· To declare this year 2006 as a “Social Concerns Year” under the auspices of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Social Teachings of the Church, as summarized in the recently-printed Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, may be discussed, internalized, and acted upon in all our dioceses, parishes and Catholic schools.
· To accompany our efforts with prayer and penance and a deep trust in the transformative power of God’s grace in the lives of individuals as well as of societies. “Restore us to Thee, O Lord, that we may be restored” (Lam 5:21)


In all we have been saying here, we, your Bishops, are seeking to be faithful to the Lord’s command of love, and his call to his followers to care for all peoples, especially those whom he sees as the “least of my brothers and sisters”(Mt. 25, 40). It is this Gospel mandate we wish to see making a quantitative difference in our efforts at healing and renewing our flawed political culture and corrupted public life. In doing this, we show our solidarity with the poor who suffer most from the present state of public life and politics.

May the love of God in Christ, poured out upon all of us in the Holy Spirit, give us the courage and hope to renew our public life and to build up a truly moral society. And may Mary become our guide and model in this renewed pilgrimage towards Truth, Justice, Freedom and Love—the pillars of genuine peace in our Land.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
29 January 2006

A Statement on Mining Issues and Concerns

Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell”(Num. 35:34)

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

We are Pastors. We listen to the voice of the flock and take care of them. In our task to care for them, we reiterate our concern for the Earth.

In 1998, we in the CBCP issued “A Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995”. We declared that the government mining policy is offering our lands to foreigners with liberal conditions while our people continue to grow in poverty. We stated that the adverse social impact on the affected communities far outweigh the gains promised by mining Trans-National corporations (TNCs). In our statement we also forewarned that the “implementation of the Mining Act will certainly destroy environment and people and will lead to national unrest.”

We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people’s health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.

Our experiences of environmental tragedies and incidents with the mining transnational corporations belie all assurances of sustainable and responsible mining that the Arroyo administration is claiming. Increasing number of mining affected communities, Christians and non-Christians alike, are subjected to human rights violations and economic deprivations. We see no relief in sight.

President Arroyo’s “Mining Revitalization Program” is encouraging further the entry and operation of large-scale mining of TNCs. Alarmingly, the mining tenements granted through the program have encroached into seventeen (17) of important biodiversity areas, into thirty-five (35) of national conservation priority areas, and thirty-two (32) of national integrated protected areas. The promised economic benefits of mining by these transnational corporations are outweighed by the dislocation of communities especially among our indigenous brothers and sisters, the risks to health and livelihood and massive environmental damage. Mining areas remain among the poorest areas in the country such as the mining communities in CARAGA, Bicol and Cordillera Regions. The cultural fabric of indigenous peoples is also being destroyed by the entry of mining corporations.

Moreover, we are apprehensive that the proposed deletion of the nationalist provisions in the Constitution by the Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) can pave the way to the wholesale plunder of our National Patrimony, and undermine our Sovereignty.

· To support, unify and strengthen the struggle of the local Churches and their constituency against all mining projects, and raise the anti-mining campaign at the national level;
· To support the call of various sectors, especially the Indigenous Peoples, to stop the 24 Priority Mining Projects of the government, and the closure of large-scale mining projects, for example, the Rapu-rapu Polymetallic Project in Albay, HPP Project in Palauan, Didippio Gold-Copper Project in Albay, HPP Project in Palawan, Didippio Gold-Copper Project in Nueva Vizcaya, Tampakan Copper-gold Project in South Cotabato, Canatuan Gold Project in Zamboanga del Norte, and the San Antonio Copper Project in Marinduque, among others;
· To support the conduct of studies on the evil effects of mining in dioceses;
· To support all economic activities that are life-enhancing and poverty-alleviating.

As we have said in our 1998 statement, “even our best efforts will come to nothing without the help of God, our Creator. We invoke upon you the grace of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth. With gratitude in our hearts we ask the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to obtain for us a renewed land and a converted people.”

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
January 29, 2006

Saturday, January 28, 2006


An Address Delivered at the Opening of the 92nd Bishops’ Plenary Assembly
January 28-29, 2006,
Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila

Your Eminences and Your Excellences:

At this our first encounter this year as a Conference, I would like to simply and briefly recall or review with you two aspects of our Episcopal Conference. I am sure you have reflected time and again in John Paul II1a Apostolic Exhortation on the Episcopacy “Apostolos Suos” (1998) and “Pastores Gregis” (2003) and the latest Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops “Apostolorum Successores” (2004). Add to these the book of our Bishop Chito Tagle “Episcopal Collegiality and Vatican II.”

I would like to pick up two significant and life-giving aspects of our Episcopal vocation: our call to communion and collegiality. Through our Episcopal Ordination we have inherited the “collegial spirit” of the apostles. For the moment of their election (“he shoes from them Twelve” Lk 6/13), Jesus manifested clearly the collegial nature of the call to his Apostles. The future Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, has clearly stated that “the bishops are successors of the apostles in general; they do not succeed a certain apostle but are members of the college that takes the role of the apostolic college, and this fact makes each single one of them a successor of the apostles” (Called to Communion, Ratzinger p. 97). It is from here that we trace the roots of the collegial nature of our Episcopal ministry.

In “Pastores Gregis,” Pope John Paul stated “the spirit of collegiality, or affective collegiality (collegialitas affectiva) is always present among the Bishops as a communio episcoporum, but only in certain acts does it find expression as effective (collegialitas effectiva) (PG 8). Speaking in particular about Episcopal Conferences, John Paul II considers them as the context wherein developed “the collegial spirit in union between Bishops and, consequently communion between the different churches; they establish between the churches, especially neighboring ones, close relations in the pursuit of a greater good” (PG 63). Again “by sharing the insights of wisdom born of experience and by the exchange of views, the pooling of resources is achieved for the common good of the Churches, so that unity of action is fostered, common works facilitated, the good of religion is more readily promoted and ecclesiastical disciple is preserved more effectively.

For Karl Rahner, the universal responsibility of the individual bishop for the church as a whole takes concrete form to a special degree in his involvement in the care of the neighboring dioceses. For this reason, his view is that the “idea of the conference of bishops arises out of the nature of the church itself; it appears to him to be the absolute necessary form of the Church’s being.” (P. Leisching, Conference of Bishops, p. 86). Collegiality then has many expressions but in its privileged mode of expression, it is non other than the assembly of bishops in the Episcopal Conference.

The gathering and election in Lk 6, 13 ends in the mission mandate of the twelve (Mt. 28:20). But in between, Jesus knows very well that the twelve will be subjected to trials, difficulties, doubts and the temptation for dissolution. Agape and Koinonia will be shaken and the option to run away in individual isolation will hound the hearts of each one. In the midst of all these, Jesus offers a tender prayer for his disciples “ut unum sint.” (John 17, 21). Encapsulated in this prayer is the desire of Jesus for his apostles to choose communion over division by not forgetting their collective identity. Because only in their collective consciousness of who they were and in their collective stand of fidelity in Jesus, will they become the source of unity for the whole church. Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi, OP, in his article “Reflections on the Role of Bishops in Philippine Politics,” leads us to reflect on who we are, and to speak from who we are.

Given the seriousness of the political crisis we are still facing coupled with moral and economic crisis, we, bishop have reminded ourselves about the temptation of trespassing the autonomous region of politics. Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi in his article recalled that “In a round-table discussion held in 2003 in Rome, then-Cardinal Ratzinger warned against the ‘theologizing of politics which would become the ideologizing of faith.” He explains this heavy concept which only a German theologian can formulate, by explaining that politics ‘cannot be deduced from faith, but from reason, and the distinction between the sphere of politics and the sphere of faith, belongs to the very central tradition of Christianity: we find in the words of Christ, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” He (Cardinal Ratzinger) rejects the idea of a theocracy, of a politics determined by the dictates of faith. But on the other hand he likewise rejects a politics which is blind to moral values. He is convinced that politics through the use of reason has the capacity to know the great moral imperatives.

We bishops in the Philippines live in a period of our nation’s history that we will be shaking to the roots. Differences in opinion will surface, variations in perspectives at the situation will arise, and sadly seeds of division might even be thrown in our midst purposely to divide us. Let us speak our minds, like the Twelve, let us continue to share even our diversities, distinctions and differences, let us argue our points passionately like Peter and Paul, if we must, but in the midst of all these, at the end of the day we go back to the root of our collective identity as bishops who are successors of the Twelve. Let us immerse ourselves in our identity as disciples to whom Jesus consecrated himself in love! A community of brothers and servant leaders whose passion for the Lord is greater than ll the forces of division. A community of shepherds who will choose to remain steadfast to the truth of our Episcopal vocation and mission. Bishops who in every celebration and gathering in this Episcopal Conference, will manifest agape and koinonia even in difficult circumstances. By embracing such choice constantly, our Conference will generate a spiritual life force that can galvanize unity and forge healing in the Philippine Church that badly needs it.

From this Conference Hall, or from our respective Dioceses, we can blow the embers of moral, economic, social and political renewal or transformation that is starting to become a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people. Our sphere of influence and activity may be limited. True? Or False? But we are not alone. From who and what we are we can affectively and effectively act. Our 85 Archdioceses and Dioceses can become each centers with power for national renewal. Think of the great number of lay people, youth, academe, professionals, civilian society…think of the hundreds of organizations already glowing in their hearts for change, for renewal. The call to communion and collegiality which as Bishops we have heard can become a call to radically renew and heal our land.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

Thursday, January 19, 2006


When in 1993 I witnessed the inauguration of Couple for Christ with the anointing of its leaders, I said in my homily “There is fire in this chapel, I wish it will become a conflagration.” I have watched the Couples for Christ in the dioceses where I have been. I have officiated in some of their national gatherings. I have seen how the small fire that started in the chapel of the Lay Force in San Carlos Pastoral Center multiplied into small fires in dioceses all over the Philippines. This year 2006, thirteen years after, their major social project of building homes for the poorest of the poor under the name GAWAD KALINGA has picked up the fire that is in the hearts of the leaders and members of Couple for Christ. It has become tonight a GK Bayani Summit. The little fire of 1993 has become an answer to the leaders’ dream and vision, truly a conflagration.

We have here in this gathering a group of people whose spirit refuses to be dampened by what is happening to our beautiful country—morally, politically, socially, ecologically and economically. It has been wisely said “Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.” What GAWAD KALINGA project has done is to inspire many good people to do something to arrest the disillusionment, the dissatisfaction, the apathy and despair—probably not of all, but at least some poor that GAWAD KALINGA can reach out to. In the provinces and cities where GK has been started, there now are groups of people with passion to reach to their poor brothers and sisters giving them some shelters, some hope for their children’s future.

GK1MB stands for Gawad Kalinga 1 Million Bayani. It is an invitation, an appeal to be counted, to become partners in the work of nation building. Fire is destructive. But when this fire is coming from the Holy Spirit of God, ah it becomes constructive… It becomes love, charity, compassion that will be converted to a hundred homes, a thousand homes, a million homes. Only in GAWAD KALINGA do they build homes at 50 thousand pesos. Unbelievable? Believe it! This is the miracle of love. Proof of this are the hundreds of people whose volunteerism and sweat cannot be equaled by money. Proof of this are the generous people who are asking “Tell us what we can do. Tell us what we can give.” When GAWAD KALINGA hears that, there is already an opening of the mind, the heart, the hands, and of course, the pockets.

What are the basic needs of the majority of our countrymen? Food, shelter, education, employment and health benefits. GK has chosen to address the second basic need: shelter. We cannot solve our problems, but we can help our country solve some of them. Together we can, together we will.

May God bless the work of GK has began. May there be more heroes to pick up its challenge.


(Note: A message delivered by Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo to the members of Couples for Christ gathered at the Irwin Theater, Ateneo de Manila, on January 16, 2006)

Friday, January 06, 2006

In Truth, Peace

Following the tradition by his predecessors, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, Pope Benedicts XVI has issued a message of peace for today, the first day of January 2006. Our greetings then to one another “Happy New Year” must include our desire to be with the Holy Father in praying and witnessing for peace, not only today but throughout the coming year.

The theme chosen for this year’s reflection is “In Truth, Peace”. This theme “express the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendor of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace.” St. Augustine described peace as tranquillitas ordinis, the tranquility of order. By this St. Augustine meant a situation which ultimately enables the truth about man to be truly respected and realized”. Hence, the way of peace and the way to peace is by respecting the truth about man, i.e., the truth about the persons I am leading or in contact with. In this way I will learn how to be in right relationship with him/her. Respect for the truth of a person produces a peaceful relationship with him/her.

The Holy Father wrote: “Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.” Wars and production of weapons, acts of terrorism, violations of human rights, disturbance of harmonious coexistence; these have their source in untruth or false beliefs about man. “The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word.” All kinds and all manners of lies are likely to disturb peaceful relations of people to one another. “Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations.”

Pope Benedict XVI continues his message: “If peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and truth about man. This truth alone can create sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man.”

At this point in time, in our country, if we want to work for national renewal and transformation, if we want peace in our social and political relationships, we must make every effort to value and to witness to truth. This is very basic in human transaction. Truth is the foundation of integrity, credibility and accountability. The opposite is true: lies destroy integrity, credibility and accountability. Truth builds, untruth destroys. We can apply this to simple friendship, family and community relationship, social order. Parents, businessmen, leaders in all levers of society must build their integrity and credibility on the bedrock of truth. This is how to build peace. “In truth, peace.”

January 5, 2006