Thursday, September 28, 2006

Strengthening and Innovating Philippine Institutions

STRENGTHENING and innovating our Philippine institutions is a matter of renewing and transforming our Filipino communities and society. All institutions, governments as well as churches suffer from problems, crises and decline of some sorts. The scientist, Albert Einstein said: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” We will not solve our problems by insisting on doing the things we have been doing before, just because “that is the way we have been doing the things here.” We cannot change systems of government without first undergoing change in ourselves. As it has been well said: “If you are part of the problem, you are part of the solution.”
We do not wait for the future to come upon us. Rather we create the future and bring it to our present. We should not be satisfied with “cosmetic changes” or superficial changes, even if they appear good and make us popular. They are temporary. We need to do some “paradigm shift” or “value shift.” If we want dramatic or revolutionary transformation in the institution or organization, we need to start with our persons, we need to change our perspective, our mindset, our frame of reference, and operate with a new set of values.
In the CBCP’s January 29 Pastoral Statement, the Bishops said: the root of our debilitating situation (in the political, economic, social order) is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening preoccupation with narrow interests.” But the Bishops “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 corruption institutions they are part of…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” (CBCP Renewing our Public Life through Moral Values, n. 7,8)
The Church in the Philippine has declared 2006 as a Year of Social Concern as our response to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” We pay special attention this year to the teaching, appropriation, and implementation of the social doctrine of the Church as contained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
In our CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Building a Civilization of Love, we invite ourselves and the Filipino people to a threefold program of action. First, we must commit ourselves in continuing to build character. “To build the future,” we said, “we need to deepen our sense of honesty and integrity, service and responsibility, stewardship and solidarity…Transforming persons from self-centeredness to the life of virtue and social responsibility remains our primary task and contribution to nation building.” Second, we must build capacity. Poverty is all over the land. Poverty is right our very noses. “Poverty is not only about not having but also of not being able. Poverty is also a question of capability. We have to empower those who are needy to construct a better future…We therefore commend our institutions that are at the service of the most vulnerable of our society. We commend programs such as Pondo Ng Pinoy, Gawad Kalinga, and Tabang Mindanaw for empowering people to participate in their own development and in continuing work of creation. Third, we must build community. We must not simply focus our interest on the good of the small groups, such as, my family, my town-mates, my province-mates, my party-mates, etc. Let us widen the horizon of our interest. “The spirituality of citizenship fosters a sense of patriotism and of being responsible for our country.” We must be active and constructive participants in social and political life. To build community in a country battered by various kinds of conflict is to promote solidarity, dialogue among different and even opposing sectors, towards peace.
To strengthen and renew our Philippine institutions, we must lead an advocacy for principle-centered social relationship. Let me just enumerate some ten principles through which we can bring about personal, social and political transformation in our country.

1. The Principal of Human Dignity. Whatever is the status of a person, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, saint or sinner, he must be respected as a human being and subject of human rights,
2. The Pro-Life Principle. While we promote the culture of life, we condemn the culture of death that encourages homicide, abortion and euthanasia, and presently the unresolved extra-judicial killings of journalists, militants and activists.
3. The Principle of Association. Through meaningful and value-based association, we foster social institutions as well as family stability. We need to be vigilant against the attacks on family morality and stability.
4. The Principle of Participation. Everyone has a right and duty to participate in the life of society. Through work we participate in God’s continuing creation. Let us be honest and just in whatever work we engage in.
5. The Principle for the Preferential Protection for the Poor. “The common good dictates that more attention must be given to the less fortunate members of society. Preferentially, we opt for the poor and marginalized of society” (PCP-II 312).
6. The Principle of Solidarity. We belong to one human family. Solidarity means reaching out beyond one’s family and social group to caring for those “outside,” because we belong to each other as the “Body of Christ.”
7. The Principle of Stewardship. We are caretakers not creators, managers not owners. The earth’s resources are leased or loaned to us. We have a moral responsibility to care for this earth in the name of the Owner-Creator.
8. The Principle of Subsidiarity. The people must be allowed to do what they can legitimately do at their level, especially so, if they are closest to the reality of the situation or the problem.
9. The Principle of Human Equality. We must treat out neighbor according to his or her rightful due in accordance with his or her innate and essential dignity, avoiding social and cultural discrimination in fundamental rights.
10. The Principle of the Common Good. We must support or create structures that can promote the just development of the human community through the cultivation of awareness, concern and sensitivity to the needs of others.

Only a principle-centered life, inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can bring about societal transformation, strengthen and renew our Philippine institutions. Essentially, according to Benedict XVI in “Deus Caritas Est,” it is conversion to God and our fellowmen in the “Community of Love.” Living according to these ten principles will characterize our relationships with one another. What will change the course of our country, worsened by massive poverty, political turmoil, moral corruption, scandalous inequality, is not wealth, power, prestige, politics, but conversion therefrom and a renewal of our public life through moral values.
In conclusion, let us take some guidance from prophetic theologians. Karla Rahner, one of the prophetic theologians in his time, more than 40 years ago, envisioning the Church of the future, facing the crisis of the Church in Europe, insisted that the members of the Church would have to be “mystics.” What did he mean? In a world of widespread secularism, consumer materialism, globalization and religious indifferentism, only those could survive in their faith who had a deep personal experience of God and who in their lives could make this experience accessible to a totally secularized world.
Another prophetic theologian, Segundo Galilea, 20 years ago, made a similar observation regarding the future of the Church in Latin America. “The ‘contemplative’ women or man today is the one who has an experience of God, who is capable of meeting God in history, in politics, in his brothers and sisters, and most fully in prayer. In the future you will no longer be a Christian without being a contemplative and you cannot be a contemplative without having an experience of Christ and his kingdom in history. In this sense, Christian contemplation will guarantee the survival of faith in a secularized or politicized world of the future” (Galilea, Following Jesus, 1981).
What do they want to say? In the task of strengthening and innovating Philippine institutions, we must open ourselves to God who lives in our passion. Opening ourselves to God, we do not turn our back on the suffering Filipinos. The closer we are to God, the closer we are to the voiceless multitude of wounded in our country. If we are not their voice, who are?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Challenges of Filipino Diaspora

I could not believe, but the phenomenon is true that Filipino OFWs or migrants compose 10% or 8 million out of a total 80 million. This “diasporic community” of Filipino migrants are in 193 countries out of the 224 UN-registered countries in the world. We can almost say that there is no country on the face of the earth in which there is no Filipino; if there is, probably the Filipino in that country has not yet been registered of has no travel document.

To cite some statistics of diasporic Filipinos: 85,000 Filipinos yearly migrate to the United States to be added to the more than 4 million who are already there with documents. Two million Filipinos have already made the Middle East their home. Would you believe that 30% of the entire population of Malaysia, that is 900,000 are Filipinos? Of the 140,000 in Hong Kong, majority are Pinay domestic helpers. In Italy, only one half of the more than 1 million Filipinos are listed; the same is said of the 1 million in Japan. These few examples are only a portion of the migrant Filipinos we find present from America to Asia, from Africa to Oceania, from Russia to Australia and also from Jordan to Saipan.

Add to this phenomenon of global migration of Filipinos is the quality of the new OFWs. We are exporting not only housekeepers and domestic helpers but also, contributing to the phenomenon of brain drain, skilled workers, doctors, accountants, nurses, engineers, etc. This phenomenon is not without problems both for the migrants and the families they temporarily leave behind. They become part of our social concern. How many of them are made to suffer because they are deprived of employment rights, their salaries and/or travel documents unjustly withheld? How many of them, mostly women, are abused, assaulted or sexually harassed by employers? How many of them suffer the pain of isolation, alienation and discrimination? And need we talk about the innumerable cases of broken families and conjugal infidelities? These are far from being considered problems of the State which is simply bent on sending them as “super domestic helpers” because they bring in to our country between 10 to 12 billion dollars to help our local economy. And so we say these are problems of the Church, the sending Church. These are one aspect or the challenges of the Filipino diaspora. (I hope you have discovered some answers to these concerns and at least discussed how to address them).

But I would like to draw your attention to a positive aspect of the global migration of Filipinos. I am not referring to the 10 – 12 billion dollars they send to our country, inspite of which we are still considered among the poorest countries. Are we really? More than contributing to the work-force in 193 countries, our diasporic Filipinos have something else, more important, to offer to the world. Along with our smiling faces, we are offering to the receiving countries or Churches, our Christian Faith lived in the context of different cultures and religions. According to one study “The Filipino diaspora has put one out of every five Filipinos in a more multi-ethnic and multi-religious milieu.” This positive aspect is likewise the new challenge of the Filipino diaspora. It is both a challenge and a concern.

Our Filipino migrants go to other countries in search of work and livelihood to support themselves and their families back home. Before we were sending missionary priests and religious sisters expressly to be in mission, to evangelize; but their number has started to dwindle. And what a providential coincidence! Coming from a predominantly Catholic Christian country, these migrant Filipino workers in search of livelihood could be equipped with the disposition and skills of lay missionaries, who will not necessarily preach, but live the Gospel of Jesus in the context of cultural and religious pluralism. They are Filipinos in dialogue with other cultures and religions, which for them would be a new way of being Church and a new way of being in mission, beyond adding to the number of church-goers in the receiving Churches which have fallen victims of materialism and secularism.

The new situation of our compatriots in diaspora is an opportunity to redefine our notion of becoming migrants and our understanding of being church and in mission. What we said in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines find some practical application here: “In the Church, nobody is so poor as to have nothing to give, and nobody is so rich as to have nothing to receive.” (no. 98). This offers the Filipino Catholic Christian migrant a new focus, a new vision.

For both the sending poor country and the receiving wealth country, there is something to give and to receive. What is received and given may be different in quality and quantity, but that is not to be measured. Work and livelihood on the one hand, faith and the new way of being church and of being in mission on the other: how do we compare them? It is just they are both given and received by one and the other. A new focus and vision for both the giver and receiver.

(Homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo at the closing Eucharistic Celebration on the occasion of the Fifth International Consultation on Filipino Ministry Worldwide
held in Tagaytay City on September 11-15, 2006)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

(A Pastoral Exhortation)

From the moral standpoint, we, your Bishops, continue to express our concern over the kind of democracy that we are practicing, whether this leads us to attain the common good. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states:
“The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.” (Centessimus Annus, #46)

Charter Change, changing our Constitution, is such a serious matter for the entire country, because it will determine the future of our people. Thus we must make the widest consultation on it for adequate information, discussion and education. That is why we disagree with the so-called “people’s initiative” which appeared only as a “signature campaign” without focus on the real intention. The CBCP subscribes to the allegation that the “people’s initiative” is an initiative of the ruling power, and not genuinely of the people. From the moral standpoint, it is clothed with suspicion. And so we ask: is it really for the people and the common good? We leave to our well-informed lawyers the legal arguments.

Holding a Constitutional Convention will be very expensive, as it will cost several billion pesos. But it is worth spending that much for something that is good for the greatest number. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than convening congressmen as a Constituent Assembly which is something that can easily become self-serving. The government has spent enormously to cheating and graft and corruption

We maybe spending or losing much much more than that through government overspending and cheating and graft and corruption, which are very difficult to assess and account. If it is worth several billion pesos, it is worth spending in an honest way. A Constitutional Convention will be a better political exercise than the present powers-that-be, our Congress, making themselves a Constituent Assembly that can easily become self-serving.

It is said that the presidential form of government is a source of corruption among other things. We should ask a different question: Is it the presidential form that is the source of corruption, or the people in authority who corrupt and abuse the system? Any form of government will have its positive and negative characteristics; but the people who run the government are very crucial; they can either corrupt it or make it serve the common good. Any system or form of government in the hands of honest, just and incorruptible people will be a source of good for the governed. Will the parliamentary- unicameral form of government not be corrupted by the people who will create it?

It is in this light that we have made our position clear on Charter Change from the
moral standpoint, and we reiterate it:

“Changing the Constitution, involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention.” (CBCP, January 2006)

Heeding the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est that the Church “is called to contribute to the purification of reason” (# 29), we would like to ask these and similar questions to guide the discussion, discernment and debate on the charter change. Are you convinced that the Charter Change as presently presented by our governing politicians is really for the common good? Are you convinced that the “people’s initiative” is genuinely the people’s activity, and has its real source in the people? Do you want our legislators to convert themselves into a Constituent Assembly where they alone will rewrite our Constitution, and have it only approved by us in a plebiscite? Is it enough to say YES to Charter Change?

We are in a democracy. Should not then the citizenry be made to participate by electing their delegates to a Constitutional Convention?

These are the questions we would like our people in our dioceses and parishes to participate in answering regarding so serious a matter as Charter Change.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
September 14, 2006