Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year 2009 Message

Agents of Hope and Poverty Alleviation

With the advent of the New Year 2009, everybody wants to think positively, and hopes that the New Year will be, as everybody greets, “Happy New Year” or “Prosperous New Year.” Prayerfully, 2009 will be as we wish and dream it will be: happy and prosperous. But especially for whom?

The Biblical Greeting is “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (1 Thess. 5/16; Phil 4/4). In our Christian context, the reason for rejoicing at any time is not something we have done or received from our fellow humans. The fundamental reason for our rejoicing always is that in Jesus Christ, God and Man, God has become “God with us – Emmanuel.” So that in the midst of many human negativities, accidents, cruel poverty and broken promises, we still have countless blessings to be merry and happy about. With God hope springs eternal.

Unfortunately, God’s countless blessings have been and are obstructed or hindered from reaching their respective targets. The realities: according to one study, for every 100 pesos of our national budget, 40 pesos go to debt servicing, 15 pesos for education, 1 peso and 40 centavos for health services, and only 18 centavos for housing. For every 100 pesos, sadly 43 pesos and 42 centavos become the object of greed, fraud, plunder and corruption. Recently it was said that the 23 million “poorest of the poor” have increased to 27 million, most of whom are victims of their neighbors’ greed.

There is so much to be hoped for, or there is much to be worried about in the New Year 2009. Where should New Year’s Resolutions go? While poverty alleviation is one of the Church’s social action programs with restricted funds from charity for charity, there is much to be expected from large government appropriations, not as acts of charity only, but as acts of justice and honesty. The extreme poverty of the poorest of the poor is neither natural nor normal: it is man-made and can be overcome or eradicated by acts of justice, honesty, compassion and charity.

God’s blessings are unlimited and countless. What is unfortunate is that they become limited through selfishness, injustice and corruption. Pope Benedict XVI said on Christmas Day that it is GREED that destroys the world and its peace, unbridled and criminal greed of individuals and institutions. The evil effects of greed are worse and more widespread than the evils of war.

Will the New Year 2009 be a better year for the “poorest of the poor” because they are better looked after by Society, the Church and Government? Only the future will tell! “In 2009, will someone be less poor, less hungry, better educated, because of what I shall have done?” A challenging and appropriate question to ask if we want to become agents of hope for 2009.

+Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day: Does It Call for a Celebration?

Our celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is accompanied by the celebration of Manny Pacquiao’s victory over Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya at Las Vegas boxing ring, which was described as “like David slaying Goliath”.

Both celebrations have something for the Filipinos. The latter makes us proud to be Filipinos, to be identified with the victorious Pacman. The former, however, gives us a feeling of shame and embarrassment because of the enumerable human rights violations that have remained unexamined, unexplained and unsolved or covered up by events.

We are ashamed, and we hope it is not completely true, that our country is said to be the most corrupt in Asia and the second most corrupt in the world. This is because of human rights violations in various degrees. Does this call for a celebration?

The call of the Season of Advent is one of repentance and conversion. We are not losing our hope: that we could still discover in our midst candidates who are above all honest and truthful, men of vision and integrity, inspiring and competent. We should learn from our past history, and face our future with hope.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Monday, December 08, 2008

Upholding the Sanctity of Life

(20 years after the CBCP Pastoral Letter What is Happening to our Beautiful Land?)

Beloved People of God,
“Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial” (1Cor. 6:12).
Twenty years after our pastoral letter regarding our environment, we reflect on the gains and failures of the years that have passed. The document began with a somber reflection that, Our country is in peril. All the living systems on land and in the seas are being ruthlessly exploited. The damage to date, is extensive and, sad to say, often irreversible. We encourage the faithful to see their work and to protect creation within the context of their faith. As a people of the covenant, we are called to protect endangered ecosystems like our forests, coral reefs and mangroves, and to establish just and humane communities.

New threats to our environment
Since 1988, a number of new threats to our environment have surfaced. In this reflection, we will confine ourselves to the following: (a) irresponsible mining, (b) illegal logging, and (c) global warming and climate change.

A. Irresponsible Mining
The Philippine Mining Industry has a poor record of community accountability. Over the years, mining companies have systematically engaged in the rape of Mother Earth and left a legacy of impoverished communities and environmental despoliation.
In a Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995, we called attention to the quotation from the Book of Numbers: Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell (Num 35 :34). Today we ask ourselves whether we are going to repeat in the 21st century the mistakes we made in the past.

Thus far, the country has already identified 23 priority mining project, which is estimated to encroach 60% of protected areas and about 1/3 of ancestral lands. With very little regard for long-term development goals, most mining projects issued Environmental Compliance Certificate without securing the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the affected communities. Uncontrolled and poorly regulated extraction and exploitation of mineral resources have threatened other resources. The Mining Act itself encourages the exploitation of our land by granting priority access rights to water and timber. Provisions such as these make it easier for the communities to slowly be eased out of their land. The expansion of sites granted with mining permits and clearances eat considerable portions of land devoted to agriculture.

We should be reminded that the Church’s mission includes offering people an opportunity not to have more but to be more by awakening their conscience through the Gospel. We should learn from our Indigenous Filipinos who managed their forests in a sustainable way for hundreds and thousands of years. Alternatives such as agro-forestry and ecotourism can still provide jobs and food without endangering our lives and environment.

The Church joins in the collective and continuous call against the uncontrollable plunder of our natural resources. Above all, it calls on a moratorium on mining activities until the government and the mining companies learn to uphold the right of the indigenous peoples, compensate the affected communities for past damages, and ensure responsible mining practices.

B. Illegal Logging
Illegal and destructive logging largely contribute to the decimation of our forest resources which causes loss of biodiversity, instability and massive erosions of upland soils, serious damage to our rivers and underground freshwater ecosystems, and coastal areas.

The Philippines has lost at least 82 percent of its original forest cover since the 16th century. It has also earned the notoriety in Southeast Asia as the only country with the thinnest forest cover. Among the 89 tropical countries, the Philippines is one of 11 with the lowest forest per capita (at 0.085 hectare/capita)—and most of its watersheds are considered degraded. Land conversion, together with slash-and-burn farming, forest fires, pest infestations, typhoons and illegal logging are the primary causes of deforestation.

The disastrous effects of destructive logging are further worsened by extreme climate occurrences associated with climate change. Extreme weather conditions such as typhoons cause flooding, massive landslides and terrible loss of life, the worst among them being the tragedies in Ormoc in 1991, Aurora and Quezon Provinces in 2004, Southern Leyte in 2006, and very recently, in Iloilo in June 2008.

The problem of illegal logging is an extremely complicated issue that must be dealt with by all stakeholders. The CBCP calls for an enhanced multisectoral cooperation, and the implementation of effective measures to clampdown the illegal logging trade. In particular, it urges the government to issue a total commercial log ban and intensify efforts to rehabilitate and reforest logged over areas, particularly those places vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides and floods.

C. Global Warming and Climate Change
The sea level rise due to the increase in temperature is projected to adversely affect 16 regions in the Philippines, 20 provinces and more than 700 municipalities. Climate change has increased the number of stronger storms and typhoons that hit the country every year. Each typhoon that hits our land reminds us of our balding forests. With every landslide, we are reminded of the vulnerability of man against the dynamics of nature. The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that Manila, Cebu and Davao will be of great risk.

Nature constantly reminds us that it is not only the illegal acts committed by some that simultaneously burn and freeze our home; our daily habits and our choices contribute greatly to this tragedy. Our continuing dependence on fossil fuel and the government’s subsidy on diesel, the use of coal as an alternative despite clear evidence of its highly polluting nature are the collective factors that contribute to the changing climate and weather patterns.

We must take advantage of the gifts of nature which offers healthier and less destructive options such as wind and solar energies, water and geothermal resources.
The challenge to preserve our beautiful land may be difficult but not impossible. We recommend that dioceses, parishes and other institutions especially the government would foster education on the protection of nature. We encourage every citizen to eliminate wasteful consumption. We pray that the government, in making economic and political decisions, would always consider that true stewardship does not mean economic gains for the powerful few. True stewardship is the constant and continuing work for the benefit of all.

No material gain can equate the value of life. Every Filipino depends on the environment. Because of the threats against these fragile resources, our lives and livelihood are likewise threatened. Our present and our future must not be made to depend on programs that offer short-term gains for a chosen few. Our responsibility to our mother nature is our responsibility to ourselves. We call on all stakeholders, the government and its implementing arms to contribute in good will, so that in a responsible and humane manner we can reflect that human life does not have a price.

We end this Pastoral Letter with the words we used 20 years ago : “There is an urgency about this issue which calls for widespread education and immediate action. We are convinced that the challenge we have tried to highlight here is similar to the one which Moses put before the people of Israel, before they entered their promised land. ”

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Archbishop of Jaro
November 5, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent – Christmas Message 2008

EVEN in Advent Season, we can already greet one another Merry Christmas, Malipayon nga Paskwa, Maligayang Pasko. Indeed we are not preparing for the arrival of God in our world, we are in fact celebrating the anniversary of his birth into our world more than two thousand years ago. Since then Jesus Christ has been with us, he has never left us. The present Advent and Christmas are indeed a continuation of our celebration.

The arrival of Jesus Christ into our world is called Advent, or coming. And so Advent is Christmas and Christmas is Advent.

Christmas is an invitation for us to experience what is untouchable, whereby you can hear what cannot be heard, see what cannot be seen and know what cannot be known. That is the presence of Jesus Christ in our world today, his presence in each and everyone. The presence of God, of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, is like salt in the water. If you put salt in the water today, tomorrow morning it’s gone and dissolved. Taste the water at the top, it tastes like salt. Taste the water at the middle, it tastes like salt. Taste the water at the bottom, it also tastes like salt. The salt remains in the water even though you do not see it; and though you do not see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they are fully present in you and everyone else, everywhere.

That is the essence of what Jesus Christ has said: Whatever you do, good or bad, to one another, you do unto me. Everyone becomes Christ! Everyone is the face of God!

It took Jesus Christ to be born more than 2000 years ago to make us realize and live that essential truth.

Advent - Christmas comes around to remind us that eternal truth.

Archbishop of Jaro
November 27, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Response to the Plan of former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr.

IT has been said over the media that former Speaker Jose de Venecia is planning to hand over to CBCP the 500,000.00 pesos given to him by the Presidential Liaison officer. Decision on this matter on the part of CBCP would need consultation with the Permanent Council. But considering the source and intent of the money, which smacks of bribery, the CBCP will refuse to handle such amount as it is tainted with corruption.

It is praiseworthy of former Speaker Jose de Venecia to have revealed that he in fact was offered such amount. Since JDV may not be alone in this issue, I hope and pray that others too will have the same courage to expose similar conduct for the love of the country.

+Angel N. Lagdameo
Archdiocese of Jaro &
CBCP President
November 24, 2008

CBCP for Constitutional Convention

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has expressed in several pastoral statements that if ever our Constitution will be changed, it should be through a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, whose members shall be elected for that purpose by the people.

Understanding the gravity of Charter Change and its perceived consequences, the CBCP has expressed its negative judgment on the proposal of the House of Representatives to convert itself into a Constituent Assembly. We agree with members of civil society who oppose any proposal for elected public officials to extend their term and/or perpetuate themselves in power.

If the Constitution needs to be changed it should be by way of a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION and after the 2010 Election.

To quote the Encyclical “Centessimus Annus”: “The Church values the democratic system in as much as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the govern the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate.” The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Martino, further states: “The local churches are heavily involved in the formation of a civil conscience and in the education of citizens to a true democracy. Episcopal Conferences of many countries have made interventions against corruption, and in behalf of a society that is governed by laws.”

The biggest problem that our country is facing is the global economic crisis, resulting in the growing number of poor people in the midst of corruption. The bayanihan spirit of pagtutulungan by both rich and poor will be a great help. But what our country more urgently needs is to look for and elect people who will govern us with honesty above all, with integrity, truthfulness, justice and accountability. More than change the form of our government, they are those who are guilty of graft and corruption who need to change or be changed.

In the spirit of Advent, everyone needs “cardiac conversion” from whatever is evil to everything that is good. This will be the best preparation for a meaningful Christmas season.

The citizens should watch, critique and denounce the manipulations of government; they need above all to pray for enlightenment to seek what is best for the country in order that she may rise up with right vision and hope.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
November 24, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corruption—A Social and Moral Cancer

Quotes From Some Prophets of Hope

IN this message, we would like to articulate our group’s reading of our situation not in our own words, but as discerned and articulated no less by citizens of our country, members of civil society as such. Let us hear and follow what they are prophesying and challenging us to do.

Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang gutom.” According to an executive director of IBON, nearly 72% of Filipinos surveyed last year consider themselves poor. According to June 2008 Social Weather Survey, 59% of Filipino Families (10.6 million) rate themselves as mahirap or poor, 24% rate themselves on borderline poor and only 17% as hindi mahirap, not poor. By poverty it means basically among other things food-poverty or food-borderline. The benefits of the much proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses.

The biggest culprit and major cause of our nation’s poverty and hunger is graft and corruption which has invaded all public and private institutions. Corruption is the abuse and misuse of public or private office to unlawfully enrich oneself and those close to him, or induce others to do the same (ADB). It is not only an economic and social problem but by and large a moral issue and a moral problem.

How do ordinary citizens rate corruption in our country? In a Philippine Star INBOX, the question is asked: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten as the highest, how rampant is corruption today?” Of a total of 62 respondents, 20 gave a corruption rate of 10 and 5 gave a corruption rate of 10 plus. Nine respondents rated our country with corruption rate of 9; six rated her with 8; two with 7; two with 6, and 3 with 5. Fifteen respondents gave descriptions of corruption. These are ordinary citizens bothered by our culture of corruption.

In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners. Corruption is a social and moral cancer!

As to the consequences, corruption foremost in political election damages political legitimacy, integrity and competence. Corruption impedes economic development, worsens income inequity and poverty, endangers public order and safety. Corruption results in bureaucratic inefficiency and demoralization. “Corruption begets bad politics and bad politics begets further corruption” (Michael Johnston, cf. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Ehem!)

Is it any wonder that our country is tagged as the most corrupt country in Asia, and the 11th most corrupt among 102 countries in the world? (cf. Transparency International). If we are not horrified, disgusted, exasperated and enraged by these realities, can we still say we love our country?

Let us hear and follow what some members of civil society, prophets of hope (we might call them) have fearlessly articulated about out situation. We agree with Conrado de Quiros (cf. PDI 4/23/08) that in this country, we identify ourselves so easily with the victims of pickpockets or snatchers and throw these small-time thieves to (almost) forever languish in prison. But when it comes to big-time crooks and public officials stealing billions upon billions of the people’s money, it takes forever to prove their crime.
There is so much embarrassing hesitation and false respect to start mounting a campaign to show that corruption is the worst form of crime, because it kills the common good, it kills the poor, it kills the country. It violates God’s commandments “Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill.”

Ana Marie Pamintuan (cf. Phil Star, 10/20/08) has yet another prophetic statement to prick our conscience: “When there is corruption at the top, it becomes nearly impossible to eradicate corruption at the lower level of government. There is no moral ascendancy to demand honesty, decency, transparency. And where there is bad governance, it becomes harder to liberate people from the shackles of poverty.”

Listen to another prophet of hope reading the signs of the times. Randy David (cf. PDI 4/26/08) articulated it so well: “So much has been written about the roots of the present political crisis, and some people say it is now time to move past this crisis… Under these circumstances, 2010 elections, if they ever come, will only reproduce the crisis. The appearance of new faces in government may lull us into thinking that we have survived the crisis, and that a new is upon us. But, as the worsening poverty and hunger figures in our country show, unless we institute dramatic changes in the way conduct our politics, government will, sooner than we think, become irrelevant to the lives of Filipinos.” (There are many more like the three we mention here.)

Here, we can recall what the CBCP has said: “Philippine politics—the way it is practiced—has been most hurtful of us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving of full human development.” (Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics 1997 Sept. 16).

”In the strongest term we condemn graft and corruption as an offense against society and sin against God. God will certainly hold the perpetrators accountable. To combat this evil we also proposed the formation of citizens’ councils to promote public awareness, to monitor the use of public funds, and to initiate charges against guilty officials” (CBCP “Let Integrity Flow Like a Stream” July 7, 2003).

The Bishops again said “Moral accountability calls for radical reforms in various agencies of government to make them more responsive to the requirements of integrity as well as to the needs of the poor” (CBCP “restoring Trust.” July 10, 2005, no. 10). “We strongly condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political order” (CBCP “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity” Feb 26, 2008).

In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now.

But, who, who will pick up the broken, shattered pieces of our country, hurting from poverty and corruption, to make it whole again? Inspite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our country may yet have the needed liberators. Yes, liberators who will in a courageous peaceful way effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country. “Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog n gating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang an gating mga institusyon, kundi maging an gating pag-iisip at pamumuhay.” (Apolinario Mabini)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Celebration Of Family and Life

Homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, at the Prayer Rally held on July 25, 2008,
at the University of Santo Tomas

WE celebrate today the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI on Human Life. Against the prevailing expectation of liberalization, that the Catholic Church would change her traditional teaching on conjugal and family morality and allow all forms of birth control, Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) instead courageously re-affirmed the church traditional teaching regarding birth control and responsible parenthood.

What the Catholic Church teaches through the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae is that human life, from the womb to tomb, is a gift of God. Only God is the author of human life. The child becomes God’s gift to its parents and entire family. The dignity, the value and inviolability of human life must be respected and safeguarded at all cost.

There is pessimism and a certain panic deriving from the studies of ecologists and futurologists on population growth, which sometimes exaggerate the danger of demographic increase to the quality of life. Against such trends not only Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae but also Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (March 25, 1995) have restated that the Church has the mission to celebrate human life, as the Gospel of Life, by seeing life in its deeper meaning and beauty, by revering and honoring every person, by praising and thanking God for the gift of life, by preserving the gift of life.

At the hearts of the many threats to human life and threats to conjugal and family morality is the wrong concept of freedom which leads to complete relativism. Any refrence to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on every one is lost. With the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining, even the first and fundamental right, the right to life (EV 20).

There is a need in our society to restore the sense of God. When the sense of God is lost there is also the tendency to lose the sense of man’s dignity and life. The result is practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism… hedonism. (EV 21- 22).

We in the Catholic Church, and I say this with reference to Paul VI’s Letter on Human Life and John Paul II’s Letter on the Gospel of Life, advocate only natural family planning methods as the only morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. The Church does not forbid the advocacy of the increase or decrease of population provided the freedom of the couple to exercise sexual and family morality, like the decision to have any number of children, according to their religious conviction is respected.

Artificial birth control, which includes the use of contraceptives and abortifacients, are against the institution of marriage. Our Philippine Constitution in Art. II, section 12, specifies the function of the State: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. 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 Government.”

The family is the basic unit of society. If the Filipino family is destroyed, the Philippine society will likewise be destroyed. The protection and strengthening of the family is a concern not only of the Church, but of civil society and government as a whole.

The subtle attacks on family and conjugal morality through legislations that promote artificial methods of birth control, are couched in attractive but deceptive terminologies like Reproductive Health Care, population management, anti-discrimination of women and children, reproductive rights, patients’ rights.

Pope Paul VI had predicted, and John Paul II confirmed that artificial methods of birth control open the way to a lowering of moral standards and lead to marital infidelity; they lead to the lowering of respect for women; husbands will regard their wives and other women as mere instruments to serve their bodily desires. And they are happening, increasingly happening today.

It has been said time and again in order to reduce world poverty and the number of the poor, in order to improve the quality of life, the family must act “responsibly” and not have more than two children. Uncontrolled birth! Population Control!
Dr. Joseph Chamie of the UN Population Division had already commented in 1998 that the problem is not about population explosion but population implosion. In 51 countries the birth rates had fallen so low that it is nearly impossible for these countries to replace their deaths with births. Countries which succeeded to impose “two-child” policy are now worried by the continuous drop in population that have reached a point of no return. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN admitted in 2004 that indeed the world is aging inexorably. By 2030 the world population aged 45 and above will be much larger than the population 44 and lower. Few children and workers will be supporting a big number of aging seniors. The result in some countries is Euthanasia.

What of our country? While our government policy makers claim that our growth rate is 2.36%, both USAID and the UN have arrived at a much lower PGR. In fact, as of December 2004, the National Statistics Office had projected a population growth rate of 1.99%. The Philippines is slowly joining the contries with very low growth rate.

We have strong reasons to be alarmed. That instead of becoming “the last hope of a dying world,” we are joining the group of the dying world. This is among the reasons why the Church in the Philippines, (call her conservative, ignorant, too traditional) think differently.

If all the money that go to graft and corruption of government or are used for the wrong reasons, were spent for our increasing poor population, we will have indeed both population and true progress, a population that is the resource and object of development.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Celebration of Human Life

Homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
July 25, 2008

Nagpapasalamat tayo sa Diyos at ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon ang ika-apatnapung taon ng Sulat Ensiklika ni Papa Paulo VI tungkol sa “Human Life.”
Bakit natin ito ipinagdiriwang? Sapagkat sa kanila ng pag-atake sa buhay ng tao, lalo na sa sinapupunan ng ina (abortion), at laban sa ekspektasyon na luluwagan ng Simbahan ang tradisyonal na mga turo tungkol sa moralidad ng mag-asawa at moralidad ng pamilya, lalo pang pinagtibay ng Simbahan ang traditional na turo tungkol sa birth control at responsableng pagmamagulang.

Pinaaalala sa atin ngayon ang turo sa Sulat “Humanae Vitae” na ang buhay ng tao mula sa sinapupunan hanggang libingan, ay bigay, handog, alay ng Diyos. Walang sinumang may ari sa buhay ng tao, hindi ang tao mismo, hindi ang mga mambabatas, ni ang pamahalaan, kungdi ang Diyos lamang. – Ang bawat sanggol na isinisilang ay handog ng Diyos sa kanyang mga magulang at buong pamilya. – Ang pro-active na saloobin tungkol sa mga isinisilang sa lipunan: sila ay hindi basta pabigat lamang sa bulsa, kundi sila ay magiging puersa ng bayan para sa hinaharap na kaunlaran. – Samakatuwid ang karangalan, at ang kahalagahan ng buhay pantao ay dapat respetuhin at ipagsanggalang sa lahat ng paraan.

May mga kapatid tayo na nag-uumpisang mag-panic dahil sa mga babala ng mga ecologists at futurologists tungkol sa mabilis na pagdami ng tao: ang pagdami daw po ng populasyon ay baka hindi makayanan ng ekonomiya, sa pagdaming ito dadami ang mga pobre at mga squatters, sa pagdaming ito ang kalidad ng buhay ay mababawasan.

Kaya natin malampasan at malutas ang mga babalang ito kaugnay ng pagdami ng tao, kung ang lahat, lalo na ang mga dalubhasa, ay magkakatulungan at magkakaisa. Huwag lang po natin pakikialaman ang buhay na bigay ng Diyos. Tutulungan tayo ng Diyos ng buhay!

Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II (March 25, 1995) have re-stated that the mission of the church is to celebrate human life, as the Gospel of life, that human life has a deeper meaning and beauty outside of what we see, that every human being must be respected, honored and loved, that we must praise and thank God for the gift of life.

Kasama sa mga lantaran at tagong pag-atake sa buhay ng tao sa sinapupunan at pag-atake sa moralidad ng mag-asawa at pamilya ang isang maling Konsepto ng Kalayaan (concept of freedom) na humahantong sa relativismo: ibig sabihin walang matibay na kabutihan at katotohanan na pumipigil sa tao. Ang lahat ay relative – puedeng mapag-usapan at matawaran . . . lakip na dito ang karapatan sa buhay . . . depende sa negotiation o bargaining ng mga tao . . . Nasaan ang Diyos sa tawarang ito?

Kailangang ibalik natin at pagtibayin sa lipunan ang sense of God, ang presensya at ang papel ng Diyos. Kung mawala ang sense of God, mawawala na rin ang sense of man’s dignity and life. Ang bunga nito ay materialismo, na nagbubunga ng individualismo, utilitarianismo … at hedonism (EV 21-22).

Hindi ipinagbabawal ng simbahan ang pag-family planning. Pahintulot po yan. Pero sa ngayon sa turo ng mga Ensiklika “Humanae Vitae” at “Evangelium Vitae” pinahinintulutan ng ating moralidad ay ang “natural family planning” bilang paraan sa responsableng pagmamagulang. Sa ganitong layunin ang sinusunod natin sa pagplano ng panganganak ay hindi artipisyal na metodo, gadget or instrumento na ginawa ng tao, kungdi ang batas na inilagay ng Diyos sa mismong naturaleza ng katawan ng ina.

Pinahihintulutan ng Simbahan ang “population management” (ang pagpapadami o pagbabawas ng panganganak), kung ang paraan nito ay hindi lumalabag sa kautusan o kalooban ng Diyos ng buhay at kung ang paraan nito ay may respeto sa consciensya, karapatan at kalayaan ng mag-asawa. [Ang batas ay para sa tao at hindi ang tao para sa batas.] Dapat igalang ang konsiyensiya at desisyon ng mag-asawa sa pagdedesiyon kung ilan ang magiging anak sang-ayon sa kalooban ng Diyos.

Ang “artificial birth control,” na ginagamitan ng mga contraceptives, gadgets at abortifacients, ay labag sa institusyon, at integridad ng pag-aasawa.

Our Philippine Constitution, in Article II, Section 12, specifies the function of the state: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. 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 Government.”

Ang pamilya ay ang pundasyon ng lipunan. (As the family goes so goes the nation.) Kung ang Pilipinong pamilya ay masira o magiba, gayundin masisira at magigiba ang Pilipinong lipunan. Samakatuwid dapat pagkaabalahan hindi lamang ng Simbahan, kundi ng sangkalipunan at pamahalaan ang pangsasanggalang at pagpapatibay ng Pilipinong pamilya.

[The subtle attacks on family and conjugal morality through legislations that promote artificial methods of birth control, are couched in attractive but deceptive (double meaning) terminologies, like reproductive health care, population management, anti-discrimination of women and children, reproductive rights, patients’ rights.]

Na-predict, nahulaan at na-warningan na tayo ni Papa Paulo VI at ito’y pinatotohanan (confirmed) ni Papa Juan Pablo II na ang artificial methods of birth control ay magbubunga ng pagbaba ng moralidad ng mag-asawa, magbubunga ng pagkawala ng katapatan ng mag-asawa sa isa’t isa, magbubunga ng pagbaba o pagkawala ng respeto sa kababaihan . . . Isama na natin dito ang mga sakit sikological at pisikal na manggagaling dito sang-ayon sa mga dalubahsa.

Sinasabi po ng ilan na lumalawak ang kahirapan sa daigdig, padami ng padami ang mga pobre, na dapat daw pagbutihan pa ang kalidad ng buhay. Upang maganap ito ang mga pamilya ay dapat maging responsible at hindi hihigit sa dalawang anak lamang sa bawat mag-asawa.

Si Dr. Joseph Chamie ng United Nations Population Division ay naglahad noon pang 1998 na ang problema na ating hinaharap ay hindi “population explosion” (pagdami ng tao) kundi ang problema na ating hinaharap ay “population implosion,” (pag-unti ng tao). Sa mahigit na limampu’t isang bansa ang bilang ng mga ipinanganganak ay pababa ng pababa kung kaya’t magiging imposible na maulian ang bilang ng mga namamatay na bilang ng mga isinisilang.
Ang mga bansa na nagtagumpay sa polisiya na “dalawang anak lamang” ay nababahala na ngayon sa patuloy na pagbaba o pag-unti ng kanilang populasyon kung kaya’t napipilitan na sila ngayong tumanggap ng mga taga-ibang bansa (mga Asiatiko) para magtrabaho sa kanilang mga industriya at mag-alaga sa kanilang mga senior citizens.

Si Kofi Annan, ang dating sekretario general ng United Nations ay nagsabi nuong 2004 na ang daigdig natin ay patanda ng patanda (Europa at mga America). Sa darating na 2030 ang world population na nasa edad 45 patanda ay magiging mas madami kaysa mga kabataan na nasa edad 44 pababa. Paunti ng paunti ang mga kabataan at mga manggagawa na susuporta sa malaking populasyon na mga matatandang senior citizens. Ang resulta sa ibang bansa ay euthanasia.

At dito sa ating bansa? Sinasabi po ng ilan (mambabatas) na ang population growth rate natin ay 2.36%. Ang USAID at ang UN ay nagsasabi naman na mas mababa doon ang ratio ng ating pagdami. Noong 2004 Disiembre nag project ang National Statistics Office na ang ating population growth rate at magiging 1.99%,

Hindi natin nahahalata ang pag-unti ng ating population kung tututukan natin ay mga thickly populated na lungsod na maraming mga squatters at patung-patong na bahay, kahit sa ilalim ng mga tulay. Siyamnapung milyon na ang ating populasyon. At 10 milyon o mahigit pa sa bilang na ito ay nasa ibang mga bansa. Dinadala dito sa Pilipinas ang development ng ibang bansa; maganda ang mga bahay, at nakakapag-aral ang mga anak ng mga OFW.

Kung natatakot sa mabilis na pagdami ng tao … 90 milyon o mahigit pa … kontrolin ang pagdami pero sa moral at tamang paraan sang-ayon sa kalikasang inilagay ng Diyos. Iyan ang prinsipyong pinagtibay ng Humanae Vitae at Evangelium Vitae.

Sa pagsunod sa batas ng Diyos, sampu ng pagtitiwala sa tulong at awa ng Diyos, malulutas nating sama-sama ang problema ng populasyon at ekonomiya, ang problema ng karukhaan at kahirapan ng mahigit sa 80% ng mga mamamayan.

Hindi po yan malulutas ng rallying ito. Nandito tayo para ipagdasal ang bansa, liwanagan ng Diyos tayong lahat . . . para makatulong, makatulung-tulungan sa pag-unawa at paglutas sa mga problema natin.

.Kung ang lahat ng salapi na nililikum ng pamahalaan sa mga taong-bayan ay hindi napupunta sa kagarukan o katiwalian – graft and corruption at hindi nagagastos sa maling pagkakagastos – tiyak na malaking mababawas sa bilang ng mga pobre, magkakaroon tayo ng populasyon at ng progreso, magkakaroon tayo ng populasyon na siyang magiging puwersa at alituntunin ng kaunlaran.

Ang isyu po ngayon ay hindi lamang “pro-God” at “pro-life.” Tanungin po ninyo ako: Bakit? Bakit? Sapagkat kalakip ng issue ng “pro-life” ay “pro-poor,” Kung tayong lahat ay “pro-life” . . . dapat maging “pro-poor.” Bakit? Sapagkat dadami daw po ang mga pobre . . . hindi lang dadami . . . madami na! Pero yan ay hindi problema ng Diyos . . . . problema yan natin at ang mga mayayaman at ng pamahalaan!

Hindi ba sinabi natin kanina na tayo ay “pro-God?” Pwes, kung pro-God tayo . . . dapat ay pro-poor din, ibig sabihin lalabanan natin ang kahirapan! Ibig sabihin, susugpuin natin ang mga dahilan ng kahirapan . . . at lalabanan natin ang mga nagpapahirap sa kapwa.

Kung ikaw ay hindi “pro-poor,” hindi ka rin pro-God. Sapagkat ang Diyos ay nabibilang . . . kasama ng mga mahihirap . . . . mas pinili niya na maging mahirap sapagkat mas marami sila. Pro-God dapat pro-poor. 1 Jo. 3/17 “Kung ang isang tao ay maraming ari-arian (salapi) at nakita niya ang kanyang kapatid na nangangailangan, subalit hindi siya naawa, nahabag, tumulong, paano ang pag-ibig ng Diyos ay mapapasa kanya?

Hindi dapat mangyari na controlahin ang pagdami ng dalawang bahagi ng populasyon para lamang makapagpatuloy magpasasa sa kanilang kayamanan ang menos sa isang bahagi ng mga mayayaman. Iyon ay mathematics of selfishness. Kung mangyayari ito, ang lupa at ang pribadong pagmamay-ari ay magiging potential na larangan ng digmaan ng mayayaman at mahihirap.

Kailangan natin ang “change of attitude.” Hindi pwedeng magpatuloy ang attitude na “What is mine is mine absolutely and I can do with it as I wish.,” o ang saloobin na “my money entitles me to consume or control on my own terms as much as my money will buy.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pastoral Statement on the Jubilee of St. Paul 2008-2009

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
(1 Cor 1:3)

We, the Bishops of the Philippines, welcome with eagerness the announcement of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, that the universal Church would celebrate a special Jubilee Year of the Apostle Paul. On June 28, 2007, during the celebration of the solemnity of the holy apostles Peter and Paul in the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls, the Pope said: “I am happy to announce officially that we shall dedicate a special Jubilee Year to the apostle Paul, from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bi-millennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.”

Together with the rest of our fellow Asian Catholic Christians, how can we Filipinos not be moved to greet with enthusiasm the commemoration of the man who made it possible for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to go beyond the confines of Israel and reach the rest of us, “Gentiles”?

The Apostle to the Gentiles

Saul, who later became Paul—the man we call “the Apostle to the Gentiles”—was formerly known as a rabid persecutor of Christianity before he became its most avid propagator. He was the arch-enemy of that fledgling sectarian movement of the early first century that claimed that Jesus of Nazareth, the man whom Pilate had executed on the cross, had been raised by God from the dead and was in fact the Messiah the Jews had long awaited. This zealous Pharisee saw the nascent Jesus movement known as “The Way” as a threat to Judaism, and took upon himself the task of destroying it—until that fateful day on the road to Damascus. That experience would effect in him a complete turn-around; he became a whole new person, like one who had been totally possessed by Christ. Dazzled by the blinding light of Christ, he received an entirely “new sight” that would make him see as rubbish what he formerly held to be of utmost importance, “in view of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:8)

Many of our present-day nominal Filipino Catholics who experience conversion at some late stage in their life and turn into active participants in the Church’s work of evangelization, cannot but relate with Paul’s moving story of spiritual transformation. Unfailingly, they often also find themselves drawing from Paul’s writings to sustain their process of renewal as disciples of the Risen Lord, as is the case with many members of our Catholic Charismatic communities.

Paul considered the Damascus event as a revelation and a call from God. His description of it echoes the prophetic call of Jeremiah and the Servant of God in Isaiah: “God, who from my mother’s womb called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles…” (Gal 2:15-16; cf. Jer 1:4, Is 49:1). From then on, his life was given fully to Christ and the Gospel. He traveled the Mediterranean world, preached the Gospel especially to the Gentiles, founded churches and wrote letters that would become Sacred Scriptures. His toil and hardship for the Gospel would easily equal, if not surpass, those of any follower of Christ. And so would his success. It would be claimed that the conversion of Paul was second only to the Christ-event in importance to the Christian faith. But Paul would consider himself only as a “servant of Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:1). What he was, all his toils, was due to the grace of God which was at work in him. Paul’s life was then crowned his with martyrdom; like Simon Peter he shed his blood in Rome. The two apostles are considered the two pillars of the Church of Rome which would become the mother of the churches.

Liturgical, Cultural and Ecumenical Initiatives

Pope Benedict XVI has proposed various activities for the Pauline Year, some of which would take place in Rome in the Basilica of St. Paul. Others can easily be carried out in various places in the world, and concerning these we invite the initiative and involvement of the Filipino faithful. The Holy Father notes that initiatives like penitential pilgrimages, study conventions and special publications on the Pauline texts can be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by the Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centers which are named after St. Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Let us together mobilize the Filipino faithful so that the Pauline Year may turn into a kairos--a graced occasion--to know and imitate Saint Paul more in his consuming love for Christ and his zeal to spread the Gospel. We call upon all dioceses to come up with their own specific programs for the Pauline Year. The Bishops can designate churches dedicated to St. Paul where the faithful can go on pilgrimage and earn the gift of indulgences after following the requirements of the Church. We call upon Bible scholars to help us appreciate the Pauline Letters, the most precious legacy of the Apostle to the Church, but which many Christians remain unfamiliar to. We especially call upon the “Pauline” religious congregations, institutions and shrines to take special initiatives in leading the people to a greater awareness, love, and imitation of St. Paul whose life was wholly directed to Christ. The apostle would tell his converts: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). May these initiatives help us make “St. Paul alive today” and propel us in our common apostolic mission as Filipino Catholics towards the rest of Asia!

In particular, the OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) among our faithful can draw a lot of inspiration from the Apostle Paul, who took every opportunity at each time he came into contact with people of other nations, to witness to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, often even at the price of so much suffering, persecution, and imprisonment.

Lastly, the Holy Father points to one aspect that must be paid attention to during the celebration—the ecumenical dimension. “The Apostle to the Gentiles,” the Pope noted, “who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.” While ecumenical initiatives are usually carried on the level of Church authorities, the faithful could always appreciate the universal and encompassing spirit of the apostle Paul which would like all believers to be one mind and one purpose (1 Cor 1:10). He himself became “all things to all… for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor 10:23). In the words of the Holy Father, may the apostle help us “to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all members of Christ’s Mystical Body.”

May the universal Church and the Filipino faithful experience God’s abundant blessing during this year of the Apostle’s Jubilee!

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
July 6, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Independence Day

Ang Independence Day ay araw ng pagdiriwang natin sa ating pambansang kalayaan – ang ika-sandaan at sampo na pagdiriwang (1898) ng kalayaan sa pagiging colony ng Espanya. Kasama na rin ngayong panahong ito ang kalayaan natin sa pagkakasakup ng iba pang mga dayuhang bansa tulad ng mga Hapones at mga Amerikano. Dahil dito nabibilang na ang ating bansa sa Kapunungan ng Malalayang Bansa o (United Nations).

Sa context ng pambansang kalayaan dapat maitanong natin ang tungkol sa pantaong kalayaan – human freedom. – Ang ating bansa ay malaya sa control ng mga dayuhang bansa, pero ang mga mamamayan naman ay alipin ng kahirapan, o crisis, tulad ng food crisis at gasoline crisis dahilan sa pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain at gasoline. Ano pang uri ng pagka-alipin? Pagka-alipin dahilan sa homelessness, unemployment, lack of education o ignorance, health insecurity. Ang ating mga mamamayan ay alipin ng kapwa mamamayan dahil sa inhustisya at graft and corruption.

Magiging mas makatotohanan ang pagdiriwang ng araw ng kalayaan kung mapapalaya pa ng higit ang ating mga kababayan (kapuso at kapamilya) sa pagka-alipin dahil sa hunger, homelessness, unemployment, ignorance, sa pamamagitan ng mga “proyekto na pro-poor.”

Magandang panukala, halimbawa, ang hindi pagtataas ng mga tuition fee ngayong pasukan. Maganda ring panukala ang pagpapababa ng presyo ng mga gamut at pagsugpo sa mga nag ho-hoard ng bigas at sa mga illegal na pagpapataas ng presyo ng bilihin. Ang mga proyektong “pro-poor” ay mas makahulugang pagdiriwang sa Araw ng Kalayaan – araw ng pagpapalaya sa ating mga mamamayan sa pang aalipin ng kapwa.

Dapat ang maging kasabihan “kapwa ko, mahal ko.”

Ang advocacy namin ay ang extension ng Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program na may kasamang reporma at support-systems para sa mga magsasaka.

Sumasang-ayon din kami sa panukala na suriin kung papaano pinagkagastusan ng CARP sa loob ng dalawampong taon, yung hinihingi na transparency at accountability sa mga disbursements of funds.

Sumasang-ayon kami sa mungkahi na i-extend ang CARP “in principle” pero hanggat hindi handa na isakatuparan ang reporma at suportang pantulong sa mga magsasaka ay hindi muna palabasin ang pondo para sa extended CARP. Baka mangyari ay nagastos na ang pondo ay hindi pa natutupad ang CARP.

Dapat bigyan natin ang mga magsasaka ng tumpak at angkop na kalayaan, upang hindi magpatuloy ang kanilang kahirapan at pagkakatali sa lupang binubungkal.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Thursday, June 05, 2008


We are stewards of this earth, God’s earth, we are not the absolute owners of this earth. We are caretakers, custodians and stewards of this earth – whether it is here in Antique or there in Panay.

Whatever is your position in society, an ordinary member of civil society or an official of Government or plain user of the environment, you are challenged to leave behind a legacy for this earth, a legacy that the earth has become better or has lessened the earth’s problem, and not a legacy of destruction.

One of our concerns, we are told, is power shortage. There is discussion going on as to the cause of power shortage: is it real shortage or power crisis? Or is it caused by management crisis? Or even worse, is it caused by leadership crisis? Study shows that we have surplus power in Panay until 2010. But there would be gradual shortage of power in 2011.

You here in Antique with the launching of Villasiga and Guianon – San Ramon Mini Hydro Project are leading the way. Congratulations to your Governor who is also the Chairperson of Regional Development Council, the Honorable Sally Z. Perez. You are one step ahead of a future problem. And you are using renewable energy, hydro or water, which is environment and people friendly. It is conceived that by harnessing hydro-renewable energy in this project you will have enough electric power to light the entire province of Antique. Together with the investors, you are impacting a legacy for the province.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by environmentalist, technical groups, scientists, as well as those in the medical profession. We cannot support those who propose the establishment of coal plants anywhere in Panay as we would be party to the commission of the SOCIAL SIN of polluting our environment and putting at risk the health of our communities. We strongly advocate for sustainable solutions – the harnessing of God–given energy from water, wind and sun. We shall support only those who propose renewable energy projects.

Here in Antique water resources are found in the rivers of Sibalom, Valderrama, Tibiao, Culasi and Patnongon. In Panay, God has gifted us with water to harness for electricity in San Joaquin, Igbaras, Lambunao, Maasin, Barotac Viejo, Lemery, Leon, Janiuay and Miag-ao. The big question and challenge is why waste money on importing expensive coals from other countries? Knowing the Filipino propensity for short-cuts and ningas-cogon, the cleanest coal will come out polluting Panay.

Antique is leading the way. We would like the Secretary of DENR, the Honorable Lito Atienza and the Secretary of DOE, the Honorable Angelo Reyes to please reserve Panay or Western Visayas for renewable energy of water, wind and sun for electric power.

The seven bishops of Western Visayas and Romblon in a Pastoral Letter last January 16, 2005 have already expressed their objection to the entry of coal-fired power plants.

We are challenging the leadership in Panay to leave a clean legacy for the province. Clean Coal is a misnomer, a myth. Coal is a pollutant of the environment, its effects in the air and water have been proven to cause asthma, cardiac problems, upper and lower respiratory tract problems. Pollution from dirty power plants kills more people every year than drunk drivers and murderers. The elderly the children and those with respiratory diseases are more severely impacted by this pollution. Coal plants contribute greatly in global warming. Let us not condemn the future of young Filipinos who will blame us without end for having cared less for their future.

Antique is leading the way. Thank you for showing Panay the way.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
June 5, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Everyday is Earth Day

EARTH DAY is an opportunity for us to express our appreciation, gratitude and protection for our earth which has been assigned to us by the Creator of the universe. Everyday is Earth Day.

We recall on EARTH DAY what Pope Benedict XVI said at his visit to the United Nations Organization: “International Action to preserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth must not only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must also rediscover the authentic image of creation.” – Protecting the environment is a common concern that must be done in every locality. Observation and creativity are needed to protect our local environment from misuse and abuse.

Stewardship of earth would mean for us Filipinos accepting our responsibility to encourage, support and develop the “primary sector” who sustain us with our “daily bread,” the farmers who cultivate the fruitfulness of our Earth. For so long a time these farmers have been neglected. And today we are reaping the fruit of that neglect: the present rice crisis.

Earth Day challenges us to preserve this earth for future generation. We are co-partners with one another and partners of God in caring for the Earth. Communal action must be promoted to address the problem of global warming, climate change, wastefulness and destruction of natural resources. We are together in this Earth for better or worse. Let it be for the better.

April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Population: Consumer and Food Producer

Do we have rice crisis or price crisis or both? What is the real situation? There seems to be at the same time some problem of accountability, transparency and credibility! NFA rice is at 18 pesos while commercial rice is at almost 40 pesos. A big problem for the poor! And the Philippines, once upon a time a rice granary in Asia, is now the top importer of rice.

Who is to blame for this crisis? What is the solution to this problem? One answer we are hearing these days is: blame the crisis on our growing population; and therefore there is need for a program of population control.

It is both an economic and moral problem. I would like to quote the answer of a young city councilor from Olongapo under the Kapatiran Party, John Carlos de los Reyes. What he courageously and insightfully said can be applied to the problem of rice and food sufficiency. John Carlos de los Reyes in a convention on the Family held in Cebu said: “The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. Philippine poverty cannot be the result of a growing population, but rather the outcome of corruption in both government and business sector … We are poor not because we are many, but because a few wittingly or unwittingly deprive our kababayans of opportunities to prosper …”

Graft and corruption, not population growth is the major cause of our crisis. Already as of December 2004, the National Statistics Office had projected a population growth rate of 1.99% and not 2.36% as being insisted upon. In fact, the country is already experiencing a decline in the number of births. Population is expanding, but the expansion is not caused by “uncontrolled births” but rather by the elderly population being more healthy and living longer than before. Improved health situation results also in higher survival rates of new born.

To the question how we can solve the disproportion between increasing population and decreasing food supply, the fallacious answer is cut down the population. However, Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Letter, Mater et Magistra (no. 189) had proposed the empowerment and education of the same population to solve the problem of decreasing food supply: “The real solution is to be found in a renewed scientific and technical effort on man’s part to deepen and extend his dominion over the earth.” … so as to produce sufficient food. Babies therefore are presently consumers, but they are also future food producers. Babies are not liabilities only but are future assets to replace the present generation and to support our senior citizens.

Is the Catholic Church against population control? No. Rather the Church continues to advocate natural family planning as the morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. But the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, such as the use of abortifacients, contraceptive devises, abortion and sterilization. Artificial contraception is wrong not because the Catholic Church forbids them; rather the Church forbids them because they are morally wrong: they violate the creative power of God and destroy the natural fruitfulness of human reproductive capacity.

Pope Benedict XVI, when as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger he was President of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith had said: “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being. Human procreation requires on the part of spouses responsible collaboration with the fruitful love of God” His predecessor, Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae had condemned abortion, euthanasia and genocide as supreme dishonor to the Creator of life.

To conclude: in the present rice crisis or price crisis of food supply, we must look at population not as the root cause of the problem. The social doctrine of the Church challenges society and government to regard population not as mere consumer but also to help and facilitate their becoming producers and formal businessmen. By completely eradicating corruption and restoring justice our government can empower population to keep the continuous flow of production and supply.

April 21, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Call to Social Transformation

Social transformation is a component and consequence of the work of evangelization. Without it evangelization is incomplete. The necessity of social transformation is not a new demand. It is a demand of Christian discipleship.

1. Evangelization and social transformation must include among their essential elements a proclamation of the church’s social doctrine (cf. CA 5), which have been called the church’s “best kept secrets.” Because they do not land often enough among the teachings explained, developed, discussed and proclaimed in church gatherings and preachings.

If our struggle to build the Kingdom of God , and our striving is to authentically follow the Jesus of the Gospel, then it must be a journey towards social transformation towards truth and justice, love and peace, a journey towards the fullness of life (cf. PCP-II 263). “It is evident that Christian discipleship or a spirituality of social transformation demands a properly formed social conscience, the lack of which in many Filipinos is a major tragedy” (PCP-II 283).

“In the light of our situation we believe that certain truths in the social doctrine of the Church stand out as urgent and necessary. These truths, needing emphasis today for the development of the just life and of the just society which serves that life are: Integral Development based on Human Dignity and Solidarity; Universal Love; Peace and Active Non-violence; Love of Preference for the Poor; the Value of Human Work; the Integrity of Creation; Empowerment of the People” (PCP-II 291), each of which would demand a separate lecture or even a seminar.

2. The way the Church must go is the way of social transformation. There is only one direction that PCP-II says we must take as a Church, and that is to become a BEC- type of Church. “We have envisioned a renewed Church as a community of disciples missioned by the Lord to labor in our particular Filipino situation” (155). Fifteen years after the PCP-II, plus the experience that has gone before in our Philippine situation, BEC as a model of the Church is no longer an abstract vision. BEC as the PCP-II vision of Church is a growing reality in dioceses or parishes that have had the experience of BECs.

When I say that, I do not disregard the fact that particular parishes could still be dominated by the thinking and culture of the Institution. It may be good to evaluate how the BEC ecclesiology is affecting some of our traditional associations in the church, and how the BEC model already influences their internal and external mechanisms as well as their relationships and spirituality.

We know what is implied by being transformed by the BEC model of Church. “In order to be renewed as a Church, we must leave behind many ways of thinking, speaking and acting which no longer effectively serve and perhaps even obstruct our evangelizing mission. This will mean an unsettling pain, a disengagement from what is cherished but is now obsolete or obstructive, a dying to what is sinful, that we may come to newness of life” (PCP-II 143).

3. The object and subject of social transformation is man, every man, in his unique as well as ordinary circumstance, the “concrete” and “historical” man (CA 53). Man is the way the BEC-type of Church must go. “(The human person) is the primary route that the church must travel in fulfilling her mission…the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption” (RH 14; CA 53).

As an instrument of evangelization and social transformation, the social doctrine reveals man to himself and gains credibility from the “witness of actions” in the promotion of justice, most especially when it concerns the powerless, the voiceless, the marginalized and the exploited. Social transformation is person-oriented.


If the Philippine Church is to become a community of communities of the disciples of the Lord, an embodiment of solidarity and communities of compassion, it must have interdependence as a moral category, and solidarity as a moral and social virtue (SRS 38-40). Underlying the call to lay evangelization and social transformation is the call to interpersonal leadership.

1. T achieve interpersonal leadership, both individual and group must move out of the paradigm of dependence into the paradigm of independence and into the paradigm of interdependence. The servant of God, John Paul II has made us aware of this in “Solicitudo Rei Socialis” when he pointed out to the global nature of the responsibility for development. “The obligation to commit oneself to the development of peoples is not just an individual duty and still less an individualistic one, as if it were possible to achieve this development through the isolated efforts of each individual…” “Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all and must be shared by all parts of the world, East, West, North and South, or as we say today by different ‘words’. If on the contrary, people try to achieve it in only one world, they do so at the expense of the others, and, precisely because the others are ignored, their own development becomes exaggerated and misdirected” (SRS 32).

Working for social transformation means recognizing the truth that we are created for interdependence, for fellowship, for dialogue, for collaboration, for creative cooperation, for community of families.

2. Interdependence and interpersonal leadership is behind the approach of our Lord in sending the twelve apostles and the seventy-two disciples in teams of two (Mk. 6/7; Lk. 10/1). Marked by a common vision and common mission, they could combine their talents and abilities and create something greater together.

`Interdependence is a methodology: “the team approach to evangelizing.” “Such a team approach demands the emergence of a new type of leadership that will animate, facilitate and coordinate apostolic team efforts, activate charisms and maximize participation” (PCP-II 198). Interpersonal leadership is a partnership which shifts the interaction from vertical to horizontal and being partners in results as well as in operation. Our Lord also made his apostles aware of the shift: “I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father” (Jo 15/15).

Interpersonal leadership will mean one plus one equals three or even more.

3. The communion as leaders of the different communities must reflect that “communion” with which John Paul II describes the Church as a whole, in two of his Encyclicals, one on the Laity (Christifideless Laici) and the other on the Clergy (Pastores Dabo Vobis). Ours is a Church of communion, a Church of participation, patterned after the communion of love that dwells within the Trinity.

The communion of leaders could well be the starting point or the beginning of the ideal “communion of communities.” “The Church in its entirety should become a family of families” (422). PCP-II’s vision of “community of disciples” is the antidote to our “chronic, almost compulsive, dividedness”, group loyalties, obsessions and jealousies, and destructive fragmentedness (PCP-II 665, 668).

Community of Disciples, Communion of Communities: “It is almost an impossible enterprise.” “But we dare it with the certainty of the Man who said: “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God’ (Lk. 18/27). It is with him in him, then that we attempt the impossible. This is how we propose to begin being a community of authentic solidarity” (PCP-II 666).

Through interdependent and interpersonal leadership we will achieve the social transformation that renewed evangelization envisions to achieve, a leadership that in our present critical situation demands transparency, accountability, commitment to truth and justice, the sum total of which is credibility.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Saturday, April 05, 2008


The publicized project of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) for a $ 15-B “gaming complex” ala Las Vegas style beside SM Mall of Asia understandably will also be a complex of good and not-so-good. The project has undergone some shifts in presentation in order to gain acceptability in a Catholic culture: from gambling city to entertainment city to tourism city. Definitely with so much money at the disposal, it will be all three: gambling, entertainment and tourism. And only the future will tell which will be the dominant one.

The plan is impressive: hotels, malls, museums, cultural centers, sports arenas, parks, residential villages and then of course gaming facilities and casinos Las Vegas – style, and thousand of jobs created by the entire complex.

When Bishops are invited to bless the cornerstone of such a complex, they certainly would be hard-put to make a distinction, between the good, not so good and bad in the entire complex which are only in intentions, but are not yet there. They bless and hope and pray that everything will turn out for the good of the people and for the glory of God. But no blessing for gambling!

The CBCP is for whatever good, moral, economic and social that is in the planned complex. But the CBCP had made it clear through its Past Statements that all forms of gambling, legal or illegal, must be discouraged from spreading as a moral and social cancer (Statement of 2003). We advocate the combating of the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling into a culture of gambling.

We had said that gambling exploits the poor. With their hard –earned money the poor are attracted and lured by the easy money that gambling vainly promises. Loss of money through gambling inflicts great suffering on families.

We advocate the adoption of more altruistic and socialized alternatives for the great sum of money spent by both rich and poor on gambling. While it is true that games of chance are not in themselves contrary to justice, the passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement which results in the deprivation of people of what they need. (cf. Catechism of Catholic Church, 2413). We advocate not simply “moderating greed” but completely eradicating greed which is the capital sin causing poverty and corruption in our Christian community.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

April 5, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Rice"

These are times when the prayer “Our Father” becomes most meaningful especially when we pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…Give us this day our daily bread.”

In the past, our local rice industry used to be the backbone of our country’s economy. That is how God was helping us with our daily bread. With our rice technology we were helping countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, and Indonesia how to produce more rice for their tables. We had both the advancing technology and more than sufficient domestic production. Farmers’ sons and daughters were fed from and educated through the rice farms.

Today, ironically, even lamentably, because of unsatisfactory production of rice, lack of credit support for our small rice farmers and lack of infrastructure development, our rice farms can not support for the needs of growing population. Add to this the conversion of farms into housing subdivisions, commercial centers and golf courses, which certainly are profitable for the individual owners, but not for the needs of the greater number. Today, in response to a rice crisis, probably foreseen and expected, but government has its eyes on wrong or lesser priorities, we are forced to import close to a million metric tons of rice since 1996, and this year imported rice will be more than two million metric tons. And from where? Ironically but gratefully, from countries who may have learned the skill of rice production from us: Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, even United States.

Yes, we will have rice on our tables but only for those who can afford to buy with 18 pesos per kilogram. We not only will have limited rice. Our people will have also limited buying power. And who will be profiting from this arrangement? Unscrupulous traders and government officials? The question keeps coming up – whatever happened to the Php 729 million fertilizer funds?

Rice importation is a response to a rice crisis. But there must be limit to importations. It should not be the permanent arrangement. The lesser the imports the better! We encourage the improvement of local production with genuine government support at all levels of production with the end in view of restoring to agriculture and to our rice producers ad farmers the assistance that they deserve to achieve genuine food security and self-sufficiency. Some policies are needed to reverse the trend from over dependence on importation to making the rice production truly the backbone of our economy, as it is in other countries of Southeast Asia.

We will not expect miracles to solve the rice crisis. The miracle will have to be, God helping us, form our common efforts – government, farmers, rice producers and farm-owners – to produce our “daily rice.” Other countries in Asia are doing it. We can do it.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pope John Paul II Lovingly Remembered

NO leader has moved the whole world as did the late John Paul II, whose 26-year pontificate has shaped global history and inspired hundreds of millions of people everywhere. Millions all over the world watched through the TV the burial rites of the “extraordinary Pope,” in April 8, 2005. On May 18, he would have been 88 years old.

A very strong “sensu fidelium” about the multi-qualified goodness of the Pope has been registered throughout the world from cardinals and bishops, from leaders of states and people everywhere, which is almost like a “beatification” of a “servant of God” by popular acclamation.

Beyond all speculations, Karol Wojtyla, the Christian, “Lolek” for his intimates and family members, was the man chosen by the Holy Spirit through the College of Cardinals in 1978 when he was 58 years old. This man of the Holy Spirit was the first non-Italian Pope after 455 years.

The world will long remember Pope John Paul II as the shepherd who has touched millions upon millions of people through his 104 Papal Visits outside of Italy. To help him guide the course of the Church, he created 231 cardinals and appointed more than 1,500 bishops. The world will remember him as a prolific teacher and catechist who has written a total of 85 Encyclicals, Apostolic Exhortations, Constitutions and Letters which shaped the faith and life of Christians. The world will remember him as the “man for others” who shaped global politics, always championing peace, human rights and the welfare of the poor in his 984 encounters with various Heads of States and Prime Ministers. The Catholic Church will remember him as the pope of dialogue and consultation who presided over 15 Synods and gathered millions more around him for World Meetings of Families and World Youth Days.

We here in the Philippines will remember him as the Pope who gathered more than 4 million at the Luneta intermittently chanting the refrain “John Paul, John Paul II, we love you … John Paul II, we love you.” That was in 1995 World Youth Day his second visit to our country.

I like to imagine that as a candidate for Beatification, John Paul has many patrons: the 1,338 he proclaimed blessed and the 482 he proclaimed saints, like Blessed Mo. Teresa of Calcutta and his fellow Polish, St. Faustina Kowalska of the Divine Mercy, like our own St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Message 2008

GOOD Friday and Easter Sunday are inseparable!

The Easter Message reveals the truth of the fertility, fecundity, fruitfulness of the Cross. Hope, fertility and suffering go together. If on Good Friday we let God enter into our suffering, on Easter Sunday, we let God “easter in us.” The resurrection of Jesus cannot be separated from his Public Life and Death; otherwise we will fail to understand both.

Today, the living witnesses of the truth of Christ’s resurrection must be ourselves, shown in the qualities of commitment and hope displayed in our Christian lives. Where Christians follow the footsteps of Jesus in alleviating from whatever pain and suffering they have, in loving as Jesus loves, there will be no crisis of resurrection faith. But where involvement in the suffering of people, where love is lacking, it is difficult to think that Jesus resurrected, almost hypocritical to celebrate the truth of Easter.

To celebrate Easter is for us to become carriers of the mystery of Easter, living and present in us, transforming our world with the life of the Resurrected Christ.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Holy Week Message 2008

The message of Holy Week for all the world is not only that Christ suffered and died for us, but that he also rose from the dead for us. We remember the past, what the Lord has done for us; we celebrate it in the present; and we believe.

Even on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Death is already enveloped by the glorious mystery of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. It means that as in Christ’s life, neither suffering of any kind nor death has the last word in our life. The message of Holy Week, therefore, is that Christ will rise again, in your life, in my life, in fact Jesus is risen and we will rise to life with him.

The message too is a battle-cry. And so we say “I believe I shall rise again … from my mistakes, from my sinfulness, from my failures, from my tomb.” I invite you then to enter into the spirit of Holy Week prayerfully, reflectively, remembering that that our life is not all work, and making only a living … but it is made up also of life in the spirit … remembering that whatever we do must be focused on God, the God who reveals himself as suffering and dying in Jesus Christ on the Cross … and also as suffering with the many sufferers of the world. We have a God who suffers for us and with us.

I invite you also to participate in the worship and ceremonies that will be held in our Parish Churches: the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday, the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, Midnight Mass on Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. This is the most Holy Week of the entire year, because we remember how dearly God has loved us, by dying for us. The way we can show our appreciation for this love is by turning away from our mistakes and sins, by stopping from crucifying other people, and above all by becoming the reason for the resurrection of others to new and better lives.

Archbisho of Jaro
CBCP President

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity

(A CBCP Pastoral Statement)

Beloved People of God:

Greetings in the peace of the Lord!

Today in the midst of restlessness and confusion, we come to you as pastors, for that is our precise role. We do not come as politicians whose vocation it is to order society towards the common good. Our message contributes to the flourishing of a democracy which must not be built only on political formulae.

We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity. These are moral values needing spiritual and moral insights.

Therefore, we address this pastoral statement to everyone particularly you our beloved people and in a special way to our political rulers and officials.

We are convinced that the search for truth in the midst of charges and allegations must be determined and relentless, and that the way to truth and integrity must be untrammeled, especially at the present time when questions about the moral ascendancy of the present government are being raised.

For this reason, we strongly:

1. Condemn the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder;

2. Urge the President and all the branches of government to take the lead in combating corruption wherever it is found;

3. Recommend the abolition of EO 464 so that those who might have knowledge of any corruption in branches of government may be free to testify before the appropriate investigating bodies;

4. Ask the President to allow her subordinates to reveal any corrupt acts, particularly about the ZTE-NBN deal, without being obstructed in their testimony no matter who is involved;

5. Appeal to our senators and the ombudsman to use their distinct and different powers of inquiry into alleged corruption cases not for their own interests but for the common good;

6. Call on media to be a positive resource of seeking the truth and combating corruption by objective reporting without bias and partiality, selective and tendentious reporting of facts;

For the long term we reiterate our call for “circles of discernment” at the grassroots level, in our parishes, Basic Ecclesial Communities, recognized lay organizations and movements, religious institutions, schools, seminaries and universities. It is through internal conversion into the maturity of Christ through communal and prayerful discernment and action that the roots of corruption are discovered and destroyed. We believe that such communal action will perpetuate at the grassroots level the spirit of People Power so brilliantly demonstrated to the world at EDSA I. It is People Power with a difference. From the grassroots will come out a culture of truth and integrity we so deeply seek and build. We instruct our CBCP Commissions to take active role including networking for this purpose.

May the Lord bless us in this sacred undertaking to build a new kind of Philippines and may our Blessed Mother be our companion and guide in this journey to truth and integrity.

For and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+Angel Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
February 26, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

Discovering a new brand of people power!

February 22-24, 1986 were historic and momentous days. They ushered in the end of 14 years of Martial Rule and Dictatorship and the beginning of a new democracy. It was a peaceful and non-violent revolution by People Power, a movement “of the people, by the people and for the people” “who prayed together, reflected together, decided together and acted together”. They knew what they wanted. Cardinal Sin and the CBCP articulated their communal sentiment or collective discernment through Radio Veritas and their Pastoral Letter respectively.

Many of the participants in that decisive People Power have already died. Those who are still around are 22 years or almost a quarter of century older. Age is an important factor that comes with the cynicism, apathy and indifference for “another People Power.” Besides, are there “teach ins” for young people today on current political issues?

Came People Power II in 2001: we thought that history would automatically repeat itself. It did not. With the disappointment and doubts surrounding Election 2004, we now look at People Power II with mixed emotions and interpretations. Sadly, People Power II installed a leader who lately only has been branded as the “most corrupt” and our government is rated “among the most corrupt governments.” Is this the reason why many in civil society regard another People Power with cynicism and indifference? They are afraid another People Power might only bring the country from one frying pan to a worse frying pan.

To the disappointment of some, the CBCP recent statement did not specify what “communal action” to take. The Bishops did suggest: “pray together, reflect together, decide together and act together.” The call to communal action is a challenge to “political conscience” which would admit creative, imaginative and democratic response to political problems. Many good things have started to happen.

The Church is guided by its Social Doctrine which instructs: “The lay people (civil society) are called to identify steps that can be taken in concrete political situations in order to put into practice the principle and values proper to life in society. This calls for a method of discernment at both the personal and community levels” (no. 568).

If, according to collective discernment which can occur in unpredictable ways, the communal action is People Power, it will have to be with a different “brand.” It will not be simply a repeat of the past. What brand will it have? What is God through the signs of the times telling us? The movements of some groups for a National Campaign Against Corruption in the government may be a sign.

Imagine, with just one courageous person willing to witness to the TRUTH, some good things are already starting to happen, like the exposition of other scams, lies, deceits, “moderate and immoderate greed.” We hope and encourage that other courageous and inspired persons will emerge to tell or expose or humbly face the truth, whose concealment had made our country captive to corruption and greed of powerholders? There will be a convergence of bearers of truths saving our country.

Today, what is God telling us about expressing our highest sense of the national common good? This is the question that must be answered in all honesty, no matter how painful, by Church leaders and Church people, by civil society, the military and police, by our congressmen and barangay leaders, by our Senators, above all by the residents of Malacañang.

We must pray. Yes. There is a suggested Prayer of the Faithful for the nation in crisis. But we must also sacrifice for the highest national common good, inspired by “political charity” for the country, honesty and justice, guided by truth, like participating in a National Campaign Against Corruption in Government.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Truth will set our Country Free

It was courageous but damaging for two officials of government, former Speaker Jose de Venecia and Mr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, to expose questionable government deals in millions of dollars including scandalous and immoral kickbacks. It was courageous to come out in the open to “publicly confess” the high level of graft and corruption that they knew all along and “somehow” have been involved in. But it was also damaging to their political career as well as to significant others who are in high governance. Damaging also because they opened themselves to further scrutiny and inquiry. Truth hurts. Truth liberates. But the truth must be served. The truth will set our country free (cf. John 8/32)

Their public confession may be considered a providential event that may yet save our country from being hostage to scandalous and shady government deals that offend the common good and serve only personal, family and group interests. In our last CBCP Statement, the Bishops strongly lamented the absence of social conscience today. This is the root cause of our systemic graft and corruption.

We lament in this season of Lent not only that we are sinners but also that our country has too long been captive to the corruption of people in governance. “We have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people.” The call for a moral revolution has deep implication. The CRUSADE FOR TRUTH being initiated by the Religious like the AMRSP, Civil Groups and Clergy is encouraging, and must be supported by all truth-loving and freedom-loving citizens. Only the truth, not lies and deceits, will set our country free. This truth challenges us now to communal action.

We encourage the “Watch and Pray” activity that will be initiated by the Parish Pastoral Councils for Responsible Voting (PPC-RV). We can also call it PPC for Responsible Citizenship. The flame of “social consciousness and common good” must be kept alive. We suggest the prayer used by the Magnificat Movement, the MAGNIFICAT of Our Lady in Luke 1, 46-55 a prayer for social transformation.

As we said in our last CBCP Statement “let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together” “towards a more vigorous work for good governance and a more active promotion of responsible citizenship in our society in the light of the Gospel and the Social Teachings of the Church.”

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
February 10, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lenten Message 2008

WE enter the 2008 Season of Lent again to be reminded that Jesus Christ brought us salvation by accepting our humanity which is capable of suffering with us and for us.

The season of lent is a call to compassion and consolation. We are challenged to share in the suffering of our neighbors through communion of goods. In lent we are reminded that we are not owners but rather stewards and administrators of the goods we possess.

As we said in our CBCP Statement “ Reform yourselves and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1/15), we must work for personal and communal conversion towards a social conscience, which put the common good above personal, family and group interests. Lent is a call to conversion to the common good.

Social conscience for the common good: As we said in our CBCP Statement: “ we ask this of all citizens who have a concern for the national good, especially those who hold the reins of power, from Malacañang on to Congress, provincial and municipal governments, all the way down to barangay councils. People in government – as well as all other civic and business groupings – can they too reflect together in all manner of associations and look into themselves to see if, in all their actuations, the demand of common good are in fact captive to merely personal and selfish interests?” Lent is the time to do something about it.

Fighting graft and corruption? Responding to the need for moral revolution and renewal? The challenge of Lent is “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel” (Mk.1/15). Lent is the time to journey together toward social transformation.

Monday, January 28, 2008


A CBCP Statement

Beloved People of God:

Our Holy Father in his most recent letter to us reminds us of the gift of faith and hope: that when we believe, we hope; and that when we hope, we live differently (see Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, November 30, 2007, no. 2). These convictions on faith and hope set the tone of our own letter to you in the present pastoral situation.

The Darkness of Our Situation—the Common Good Subordinated

For we live today as a people almost without hope, it would seem. We look at our landscape and see darkness everywhere. Many of us are more than aware that many problems are simply rumors, fears, suspicions, imagined wrongs. Because these are reported in the newspapers, we begin to believe that they are true.

In such a pastoral situation we are being asked again for guidance on various specific problems currently bothering us. The following have been brought to our attention:

(a) the perception that corruption in government is at its worst, fraudulent projects going on unchecked despite the bad publicity given them in the media, investigations into the truth of allegations of bribery often stymied or their results unreported;

(b) the suspicion that martial law will be imposed as a response to the likelihood that destabilizing coups against the government are still being planned by disgruntled elements of the military allegedly with some civilian support;

(c) the constant talk about plans and moves for Charter change being made by politicians which to all intents and purposes appear to be nothing but a ploy for the sole purpose of their staying on in power—not the kind and method of making the right kind of change in the nation’s basic law;

(d) the “extra-judicial” killing of suspected leftists and their sympathizers, as well as media men, and the inexplicable lack of action on them despite strong suspicions about their perpetrators in the military establishment;

(e) the imminence of a law establishing a national ID system and the fear of some that this is being pushed simply for easier control of socially active elements of the general population.

The above are more or less the problems of the nation as seen from the center that is Manila. They are by no means universal as far as the entirety of our people is concerned. What emerge from the periphery—the provinces—are concerns quite different from the above. The following were brought to our attention by many of our people:

(a) the appreciation of the peso against the dollar resulting in the depreciation of OFWs’ remittances, contributing not a little to the continuance and exacerbation of the endemic poverty of the countryside;

(b) the lack of support for the improvement of the general welfare of rural folk, the slow progress especially of the land-reform program which is due to end this year unsatisfactorily funded and implemented;

(c) the bad peace and order situation obtaining in areas where the unabated fighting—or the threat of it—between the military and the NPA and the MILF/MNLF continues to cause unrest;

(d) the long-awaited and fought over reform of COMELEC which up to now has not been enacted;
(e) the pushing of mining concerns against the best interests of our people, especially of indigenous groups in disregard of the provisions in their behalf that the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act guarantees;

(f) the continuing abuse of our natural resources, of forest and marine life in particular, and the corruption in agencies that are meant to protect these resources; and

(g) the growth and proliferation of family political dynasties in many provinces and cities which only serve to institutionalize more intensely the concentration of power and unsavory economic opportunity in the hands of the few.

In the two sets of problems that have been listed above, for all their apparent differences, we see nothing new. They are the same old problems, or variations of them, which have been plaguing our nation for years on end, through successive political administrations. Nothing or very little seems to have been done about them.

In them all we see the all too patent subordination of the common good to private good.

This is the basic fault in our country’s political culture that the Church in its preaching of Christ’s Gospel of social justice and charity has been bringing to our attention all these years and asking us and our communities to respond to as effectively as we can. It is the reason we make concern for the common good a crucial criterion for the choice of public officials. The persistence of that deep-seated fault pushes us to conclude in sorrow that we as a people are still devoid of a real social conscience.

Today we often hear that “closure” has to be made to various issues ranging from the elections of 2004 to present charges of corruption in high places. That the political order is accused too often with moral bankruptcy with nary an exception is a sad sign of the general cynicism and frustration of our people. Most unfortunately there does not seem to be any way of achieving closure. For the process and results of standard democratic inquiries, sometimes including those by the Supreme Court, are received with skepticism and cynicism, given political interests, alliances, and allegiances.

And we hear the general cry from the periphery: “Enough of the paralyzing divisions in the body politic. Bring issues to the courts and trust them to do their jobs. And help us get on with our lives, with our concern for livelihood.”

In the Darkness, Light

In such a pastoral situation of frustration, cynicism and apparent hopelessness, we need to be aware of the deep resources of our faith in the Lord for whom all things are possible. We take our faith for granted in daily life. Often we act and behave contrary to faith. We resort to faith as a last resort and not as a daily catalyst.

Yet it is only from the perspective of faith and hope that we are able to see light in the darkness, liberation from darkness.

So if what we have brought to your attention seems to be only the dark side of our national situation, we should be able in the same faith and hope to see glimmers of light shining through—glimmers that must be of our own creation. But not entirely: for despite the prevailing darkness, we see everything is not thoroughly evil. There is good everywhere, even in those we often criticize, and it is our task to critically collaborate with them even as we critically oppose the not too good. This is integral to the challenge being put to us.

Journey to the Light—Start with Ourselves

If you agree with what we said above that the lack of a social conscience is, indeed, our common sin, is there anything we can do about it?

To journey to the light, we need first to realize that we have contributed not a little to the common malaise—because of decisions we have made, decisions that flowed from what we have become and because of our unconcern, inaction, apathy, often thinking only of our interests. And so with little sense of the future of our country, we vote for people we should not vote for.

Therefore, in the much needed regeneration of our politics and social life, this is where we have to start: with ourselves, as individuals, families, communities.

We have always put the blame on people we have chosen to govern us. Today we have become more aware that despite efforts, successful or not, to remove the incompetent or corrupt, our problems have remained. We have looked at the enemy as only outside of us.

But now we ask: In the face of the many persistent and unresolved crises of today can we together make a determined start, by making a conscious effort at changing our mind-sets towards a greater and more efficacious concern for the good of the nation?

Personal and Communal Conversion towards a Social Conscience

We are asking you, our beloved people, to be with us in the moral-spiritual reform of our nation by beginning with ourselves. This is what we need—conversion, real conversion, to put it in terms of our faith, for all of us to deliberately, consciously develop that social conscience that we say we sorely lack and to begin subordinating our private interests to the common good. This conversion is for all of us: laity, religious, priests, bishops.

But we have to go about it not only as individuals but just as importantly as whole communities. We have to face a common problem and map out deliberately and communally how to go about the work of self-reform. It is nothing less than what St. Paul speaks about: “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and pleasing to him and is perfect” (Rom. 12: 2).

Renewal of Faith-Communities, Civil Society, Political Leaders

We have to come together then as communities of faith, as we your Bishops said back in 1986 after the Snap Elections of that year, to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together,” form groups of thinking and praying people—in our schools, seminaries, parishes, mandated organizations, lay movements, social action groups, most especially in basic ecclesial communities which the Rural Congress we will be holding this year looks to as a crucial instrument in the forbidding task of rural development.

We zero in on what we say is the basic fault in our communities’ political and social life: the subordinating of the common good to private good. We see how this flaw in our national character evinces itself in our community life. We need to seek ways and mean of correcting it in whatever way we can—but always according to the principles of active-non violence—together, creatively and imaginatively, as we bishops exhorted in 1986. We have to form ourselves into real communities of faith-discernment and -action.

We ask this of explicitly Church groups. But we will ask it too of all citizens who have a concern for the nation’s good, especially those who hold the reins of power, from Malacañang on to Congress, provincial and municipal governments, all the way down to barangay councils. People in government—and as well as all other civic and business groupings—can they too reflect together in all manner of associations and look into themselves to see if, in all their actuations, the demands of the common good are in fact captive to merely personal and selfish interests? And if they are, can they rise up to the challenge and decide themselves to contribute to the general effort?

This must sound like a preposterous request, but we make it anyway for we believe that what it seeks is the critical need of the moment. Already it is being responded to here and there by various concerned groups such as those that have been organized and trained to fight corruption. So we seek a wider response from all our faithful towards a more vigorous work for good governance and a more active promotion of responsible citizenship in our society in the light of the Gospel and the social teachings of the Church.

If in your minds, corruption—the worst offender against our common good—is rampant today, sparing no level of social and political life, and most glaringly and reportedly so in the various corridors of power, we have to confess that corruption is in truth our greatest shame as a people. But if it goes on unhindered, it is because, as we have had occasion to point out in the past, we all too often condone it as part of the perquisites of power and public office.

Lent—the Time to Journey Together toward Transformation

Lent will soon be upon us, a time of penance, of sorrow for sin, of self-reform. Soon we shall hear again the clarion call of the Lord Jesus: “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!” (Mk 1: 15). This season is the appropriate beginning for profound reform and conversion. It is the time for a spiritual combat against the enemy within, our pride and greed, our lust for power and wealth, etc.

And so we exhort you, our beloved people: As a special project for this year’s Lenten observance and in the spirit of penance, let us come together in little groups of reflection and discernment. In these groups we look seriously at our part in the many evils of our day—as individuals, as families, as communities—and discern what action we can do together.

Alay Kapwa is our traditional Lenten Program of sharing time, treasure and talent for evangelization. This Lent, without forgetting the treasure part, we zero in, in a very special way, on time and talent, asking what we can offer of these for the common effort towards the correction of our social ills. These would be evangelization of the most authentic kind. For it means a real acceptance of the Lord’s mandate to us as Christians to be concerned about one another, to go beyond ourselves and reach out to others. This attitude in the pattern of Christ himself is at the heart of Christian identity.

Hence other already existing movements and efforts (like the Pondo ng Pinoy) aimed at the transformation of Filipino culture through little acts of kindness for the neighbor and motivated only by the love of God—these too must be intensified as essential to our Lenten program of reform.

In our coming together, in our exchanging of ideas and discerning on them, in our praying and acting together, we bring hope to our despairing land—the hope that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, says in his most recent encyclical is the great need of our modern world.

With Mary, Mother of Hope, on the Journey of Renewal

We beg Mary to intercede for us with her Son Jesus. In the midst of the disciples who hoped for the renewal of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, she stood as their Mother, our Mother, of hope. Mary, Star of the Sea, guide us on our journey of renewal that we may more faithfully follow your Son Jesus in his loving care of all our brothers and sisters.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
January 27, 2008