Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Its Christmas! Whatever the age, race, or gender, the spirit of Christmas is felt all around! Gifts, love, forgiveness are popular themes! But most important, Christ is the central figure. Striving to be heard and seen amidst the merry-making!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Election, election, and election!

2010 is election year indeed!

The sycnchronized national and local elections was conducted in 10 May 2010. Then a few months later, in October, the election for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials was also held nationwide.

The CASURECO 2 also conducted elections for its Board of Directors from the districts of Calabanga, Canaman, Milaor, and Tinambac/Siruma in November 13. This was followed also by a similar elections for CASURECO 1 Board of Directors!

The SK and Liga ng mga Barangay then elected their federation officials December 4 and 7 respectively!

Whew! Election season indeed! 2010 is election year!

RENNE F. GUMBA

RENNE F. GUMBA is presently the Executive Director of the Institute of Politics, Ateneo de Naga University. He is also a faculty of the Political Science Program in the Department of Social Sciences of Ateneo.
Mr. Gumba is a well- known political analyst. A favourite resource speaker for many trainings and conferences among non-government and government organizations. He is a well-travelled lecturer, having taken part in many conferences in the local, national, and international level.
His work experiences included stints in the Ateneo Social Science Research Center as a Research Associate, in the House of Representatives as Political Affairs Officer, and in the Ateneo de Naga as faculty of the Social Sciences.
Mr. Gumba took AB Political Science and graduated magna cum laude and valedictorian of the Ateneo College Graduates of 1992. He was a consistent first honor student From Kinder to High school, and completed both his elementary and secondary education as the Class Valedictorian in the Naga College Foundation.
He was also a seminarian in the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary Pre-College Formation Institute and eventually joined the Jesuit Pre-Novitiate Program in his college days. He is now married and has three children.
CONFRONTING THE DRUG ABUSE MENACE!
Naga City has organized the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC) in the city’s twenty seven (27) barangays. BADAC is mandated by a Memorandum Circular from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The officers and members of BADAC will soon be taking their oath to be effective instruments in a community-based approach to combating the abuse of illegal drugs.
The initiative to re-orient and set up BADAC was undertaken by Mayor John Bongat with the assistance of city councillors Raoul Rosales and Rey-An Cedric Rentoy. The City Government is also assisted by the Naga City peoples Council and the Institute of Politics of the Ateneo de Naga University.
An ordinance that created the Naga City Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) is also being reviewed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod . The DDB is expected to coordinate, plan and implement various anti-drug abuse programs.
WHY BICOL AUTONOMY?
Some people are wondering why there is BICOL AUTONOMY MOVEMENT (BAM) in spite of the perceived shortcomings in the country’s autonomous regions.
I wish to cite at least two considerations glimpsed in recent discussions why autonomy is still an option: (1)some of the autonomous set up in the country are really intended as anti-insurgency mechanism and did not effectively generate the consensus of the people towards autonomy, and (2)no genuine autonomy was really granted to the regions.
Thus, for the BAM to be effective, autonomy must be born out of peoples’ consensus, generate development directions, and provide meaningful economic as well as political autonomy.
BIDS AND AWARDS COMMITTEE (BAC) MUST HAVE OBSERVERS!
The Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA) has mandated, among others, the creation of BAC with observers from the civil society, non-government, and peoples organizations. It also required the posting of the notices related to bids and awards in the PHILGEPS, a web portal for all government procurement transactions. Unfortunately, this is not consciously observed by many local government units and government agencies.
The initiative of the Procurement Watch Inc. to network with other organizations nationwide and train BAC observers to be effective in their mandates is a welcome initiative. The Naga City Peoples Council and PWI had trained and deployed observers in the BACs of several agencies and LGUs in the province since October of this year.
There is now a clamour for more organized network of trained and accredited observers that will provide institutional support for observers, including legal assistance in cases of anomalies and irregularities in the bidding process.
WHAT AILS OUR ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES?
Much has been said and done about the predicament of the electric cooperatives. But still, there is a lingering sense of trouble and unease, particularly among the consumers. Where is this coming from?
Many of the things that bother the consumers come from what they do not know. And in this area, a lot can be cited. Is the CASURECO2 a cooperative? How does CASURECO2 conduct its projects and procurements? What is really the role of the consumers in CASURECO 2?
Many of the things that bother the consumers also come from what they know. Consumers are paying high electricity cost partly due to incompetence of some leaders in electric cooperatives. Many contracts are entered into without the awareness of member-consumers. Elections, it seems, are influenced by entrenched politicians. And as far as consumers are concerned, they are made to feel like mere end-users or “buyers”, not owners of the electric cooperative.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A good fight!

The consumer group supported four(4)candidates to the Board of Directors of CASURECO 2. The election was conducted in Calabanga, Canaman, Milaor, and Tinambac/Siruma. In the end, two candidates emerged victorious.

Much can be said about the election process. Be that as it may, the challenge is again in the continuing struggle for consumer empowerment.

But first, gratitude must be expressed to those who supported the campaign. A lot was accomplished although a lot more remains to be done.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CASURECO 2 MUST SERVE AND PROTECT THE CONSUMERS!

CASURECO 2 MUST SERVE AND PROTECT THE CONSUMERS!

The CASURECO 2, with all the other electric cooperatives nationwide, was created to render electrification services to the consumers. As such, all other concerns whether internal or external to the cooperative, are subordinated to this primary goal: acceptable, efficient, and effective service delivery of electric power to the consumers! The cooperative’s board, management, and personnel must NEVER be beholden to anyone but the consumers!

Unfortunately, CASURECO 2 has been persistently plagued by issues and controversies ranging from the interference of politicians, misdemeanors of officials, misconduct among the employees, to instances of unhealthy labor-management relations and poor customer service.

At present, the cooperative is again in the limelight of controversy due to the significant hike in the rates charged to the consumers without even the semblance of consultation or information-sharing. As expected, the consumers are outraged by this single sweeping act. And when other allegations of mismanagement and irregularities started to surface, the people have to rage and rise against the perpetrators of these unfortunate predicament of the cooperative!

The BICOL AUTONOMY MOVEMENT strongly supports the clamor for significant changes in CASURECO 2. We join with enthusiasm the struggle of the people of Camarines Sur and Naga City for a more affordable rate and a lot more efficient e electric power service delivery.

We call on the concerned government agencies, specially the National Electrification Administration(NEA) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), to act decisively on matters brought to their attention by the aggrieved consumers.
We call on the concerned CASURECO 2 employees to exercise judgment and act according to their conscience – and fight for the consumers which they are supposed to serve!

Finally, in the long term, we call for the dissolution of these electric cooperatives and the setting up of a BICOL POWER CORPORATION that will consolidate and harness the power potentials of our region and dedicate itself to the affordable and efficient delivery of electrical power to the Bicolano households and industries!

We hope for a better CASURECO 2. But most importantly, we will work and struggle for a better and more progressive Bicol Region! Thus, if these electric cooperatives cannot do their share, then let us do away with them and come up with our own unique, distinct Bicolano mechanism for power generation and distribution!

Mabuhay ang Bicolandia!


RENNE F. GUMBA
Executive Director, Institute of Politics, Ateneo de Naga University
Convenor for Camarines Sur, Bicol Autonomy Movement

DANTE JIMENEZ
President, Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation
Regonal Convenor, Bicol Autonomy Movement

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

CEAP/BACS in the 2010 national election

A consultation meeting with the Bicol Association of Catholic Schools(BACS)-member schools(represented by their respective Directors for the Office of Student Affairs) was conducted 10am-12 this morning at the Board Room of the Ateneo de Naga University.

Represented in the meeting are the following schools/universities: Ateneo de Naga University, Universidad de Santa Isabel, Sta. Clara College, Divine Word College of Legazpi City, Aemilianum College and St. Louise de Marillac College of Sorsogon City, Liceo de Masbate, and the La Consolacion College of Daet, Camarines Norte.

BACS, as the local chapter of Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), is preparing to mobilize faculty, personnel, and students for engagement in the 2010 elections.

Fr. Joel E. Tabora SJ, President of the Ateneo de Naga University and of the BACS, attended the consultation meeting. Atty. Minetta Estanislao of the Archdiocese of Caceres Council of the Laity and the PPCCRV Coordinator for the archdiocese was also in attendance.




Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guide for voters!

We will be watching you closely!!

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) is undertaking nationwide mobilization of volunteers from its member-schools to watch over the conduct of 2010 elections.

The Bicol Association of Catholic Schools (BACS)is promptly gearing up for this mobilization.

Initial consultations were conducted between the Institute of Politics of Ateneo de Naga University and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)of the Archdiocese of Caceres. Both organizations are currently engaged in various voters education initiatives in preparation for a mobilization towards the 2010 elections.





An initial meeting/planning of the Student Affairs Directors of the BACS-member schools from all the provinces of the Bicol Region will be conducted on Tuesday, 23 February, at the ADNU Board Room. Among the agenda will be the presentation and discussion of the CEAP guideline for mobilization of volunteers from schools and universities.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES FORUM IN ATENEO DE NAGA UNIVERSITY

ADNU Hosts Mayoral Fora

The University Social Involvement (USIC) - Committee on Socio-Political Education and Involvement (CSPEAI) and the Social Sciences Department of the Ateneo de Naga University (ADNU) teamed up to hold mayoral forums entitled Safeguarding 2010 and Beyond: Getting to Know the Candidates last 18 February 2010.

The first of the two forums was held at ADNU’s Gymnansium from 9-12 o’clock and featured four Naga city mayoral candidates – Atty. Adan Botor, former City Councilor Luis Ortega, Incumbent City Councilor Atty. John Bongat and former City Mayor and former Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Sulpicio Roco.

The forum was divided into three parts. The first part gives the candidates 20 minutes to answer key issues on Governance, Environment, Economics, Peace and Order, Education, Arts and Culture and Social Services. The second series of questions came from the panelists composed of Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director Atty. Jo Aileen Cabiles, Arts and Sciences faculty member Bernadette Gumba, Noel Amador of University Student Recruitment Office (USRO) and Ateneo Personnel Club (APC) and Jose Rizal Model Student Chanelle Anne Allorde. For this part the candidates was given only two minutes to answer questions. The third and last series of questions, pre-screened by a technical board, came from the audience consisting of students of Naga city. For this part the questions range from the pertinent “What’s your stand in the RH bill?” to the revealing “If you won, will you appoint one of your rivals as city administrator? If yes, who will it be?” The question which solicited much interest and applause from the crowd was “If you’re not running, who will you vote for among your rivals?”

The second forum was held at Instructional Media Center (IMC) form 1:30- 4 in the afternoon. Resource persons for the event were mayoral candidates of the municipality of Pili composed of former municipal mayor Tomas Bongalonta, incumbent municipal mayor Romy Salazar, Atty. Noreen San Luis and Dexter Morano.

This forum likewise followed the three section format. Panelists were Deputy Academic Vice president for Formation Janet Badong-Badilla, OSA Director Atty. Jo Aileen Cabiles, Noel Amador of USRO and APC and Glenn Fabia of the Supreme Student Government-Student Tribunal.

Elmer Abad III served as the forum’s Master of Ceremonies.

The event was meant to educate voters. Over 800 participants joined the two forums.

— Rex Perez
http://www.adnu.edu.ph/NewsAndEvents/02192010d.asp

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guide for voters

Interesting framework drafted by Dilaab Foundation Inc. (www.dilaab.com) for voters discerning on their choices: LASER TEST

Lifestyle:
Does he/she have unexplained wealth?

Action:
How will he fight against corruption and drug money in government while remaining a person of integrity?

Supporters:
Is the candidate close to corrupt individuals and/or drug lords?

Election conduct:
Does he buy votes and does his campaign funds come from dirty money?

Reputation:
Has the candidate been involved in corruption and/or drug issues in the past?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pinoy Voters Academy

Administrators, faculty members, personnel, and student leaders of Ateneo de Naga University attended the PINOY VOTERS ACADEMY Trainers Training conducted last 23 January 2010 at the Cardinal Sin Center, Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. The training was provided by the Simbahang Lingkod Bayan.






Monday, January 25, 2010

Bloody Trail towards 2010 Election

Bloody Trail towards 2010 Election
Patrick I. Patino
Vote for Peace 2010
11 January 2010

The year 2009 ended splattering with blood the road towards the May 10, 2010 election. The whole year of 2009 recorded a total of 33 election-related violent incidents. Conventional security observers would readily say the numbers are insignificant in the context of the whole year round and too early to conclude that the incidents are election-related as there might be other factors or motives of the acts of violence.

The numbers may be insignificant but something to be taken seriously especially if one has to look beyond the numbers. The acts of violence are planned with clear targets and clearly election-related.

Of the number of incidents, there are 84 fatalities and 40 wounded. The high number of fatalities shows that the objective of the acts is not simply to sow fear but to kill. Especially that among the victims, twenty-two are politicians (13 killed and 9 wounded) planning to run in the election; 9 security aides of the politician-victims (7 killed and two wounded). Other victims are active supporters, allies and political operators of politicians. Election officers were also targeted with 2 dead and 2 wounded.

Civilians comprise the bigger number of victims (58 fatalities and 27 wounded) but less than five of these are accidental victims or were caught in the crossfire. The majority of them were also targeted and acts of violence against them were planned. The fatalities were mostly victims of the heinous massacre last Nov. 23 in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao perpetrated by the political warlords – the Ampatuans. Most of the wounded were victims of grenade throwing and strafing at the line of voter registrants that occurred simultaneously on the same day in Lanao del Sur.

By geographical distribution, the island of Luzon accounts for 15 incidents, while the Visayas had 6 and 12 in Mindanao. In Luzon, majority of the incidents were in Masbate, Isabela and Quezon. Samar island contributed most of the incidents in the Visayas. In Mindanao, most of the incidents were from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato.

Does the above mean a violent and bloody scenario in the months going to the election? Others hope that the number of incidents in 2009 will reduce the number of incidents during the 2010 election period as political scores have been settled “unfortunately in a violent way.”

Others may say, that looking the above information the other way is pessimism or sowing fear. The intent here is to call all concerned to act on the matter.

The last quarter of 2009 alone had 16 incidents of the total 33 the whole year. Does this mean that while election fever heats up, hot blood for violence also boils high?

The problem is that contributing factors of election violence remain. For a number of traditional politicians and vested interests, election is not about competition for position but a war for political power. Political dynasties and warlords still abound
and election is the time for expanding political turf and/or settling old score among warring political clans. Despite the PNP campaign last year to control the proliferation of loose firearms, there is an estimated 700,000 unlicensed firearms all over the country. There are 170 private armed groups the police force is running after outside of the other armed criminal groups and political armed groups whose services are readily available to violence-oriented candidates and political operators.

The 2010 National and Local Election is a historical period for the Filipino people. The election is about re-strengthening electoral democracy and more importantly looking forward to the next decade. Elections can be fair and free without violence and coercion. It is time to exact political and electoral costs to the perpetrators of violence and charge them of the consequences of their actions like the Ampatuans of Maguindanao and former Abra Gov. Vicente Valera. All election stakeholders and centers of legitimization like the Bishops, the Ulamas, the police hierarchy, the election officials, the media, the academe, the private sector and civil society formations should join efforts at containing election conflict and violence. Everyone must go beyond partisan interest and call the attention of all candidates and parties to play according to election and security rules. xxxx

Security Advisory on Comelec Checkpoints

Security Advisory on Comelec Checkpoints


Guidelines on Comelec Checkpoints:

1. The Comelec/AFP/ PNP Joint Security Control Centers (JSCC)
checkpoints must be established in well
lighted areas with visible sign boards in coordination with
city/municipal election officer. It shall be
supervised by local Comelec Election Officer.

2. It must be done in a manner that will impose minimum
inconvenience upon person/s to be searched such
that the rights of the persons are not violated.

3. PNP/AFP personnel manning the checkpoints must be in complete
uniform with nameplate and led by an
officer with a rank of at least a Lieutenant (AFP) or Police
Inspector (PNP).

4. Valid search on vehicles must be authorized by a search
warrant issued by an appropriate authority.
Warrantless searches can only be conducted on the following
circumstances:
a. Moving vehicles and the seizure of evidences in plain
view
b. As long as the vehicles are neither searched nor
their occupants subjected to a body search, and the
inspection of the vehicle is merely limited
c. Vehicles where occupants appear nervous, suspicious
or exhibit unnatural reaction
d. If the officer conducting the search has reasonable
or probable cause to believe that either the occupant/s is a law
offender or that the instrumentalities or evidences pertaining
to the commission of a crime can be found in the vehicle to be
searched
e. On the basis of prior confidential information which
are reasonably corroborated by other attendant matters.

5. PNP Police Operation Procedures shall be strictly observed
particularly in situations where search, seizure
and arrests are made including the use of reasonable force
against violent aggression.

6. Any person arrested must be turned-over to the nearest police
station, together with the arrest orders and
receipt of confiscated items. The police chief /detachment
commander shall conduct an investigation and
submit a report to the provincial or city prosecutor for
preliminary investigation.

7. All arrests shall be immediately and chronologically recorded
in a logbook.

Some helpful tips when flagged down at checkpoints

1. Upon approach of checkpoint especially at night, slow down,
dim car headlights and turn on cabin
lights. If pulled over, open window three fourths down.
Greet AFP/PNP officer, note name of the officer
and maintain contact.

2. Lock all doors; talk to AFP/PNP officers only on one side of
your vehicle. Ordinary/routine questions may
be asked. Be courteous but firm with answers.

3. Only visual search is legal. You are not obliged to open
glove compartment, trunks or bags.

4. Never step out of your vehicle. You should not be forced to
alight unless there is probable cause to believe
that your vehicle has been involved in a crime.

5. Keep your driver´s license and car registration handy, within
reach and ready for inspection when
requested by authorities.

6. Be ready to use your cell phone at any time. Speed dial
emergency numbers.

In case that your rights are violated, you may call
Commission on Human Rights Hotline 377-2477
On abuse of PNP personnel manning the checkpoints in Metro
Manila, you may call 838 -3354 / 838 -
3203 (NCRPO)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop of Caceres On the Forthcoming Philippine Elections 2010

HOPE AND WAIT WITH PERSEVERANCE
“…if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Rom 8,25)


A Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop of Caceres
On the Forthcoming Philippine Elections 2010


INTRODUCTION

As we celebrate the motherhood of Mary, we reflect on her faith and how her role in God’s plan. As the Mother of Christ, she is also the mother of the Church. Devotees of Our Lady of Pe├▒afrancia know this by heart. Thus, we lovingly call her Ina.

It is indeed fitting that the solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary is celebrated on the first day of the year. Ina is our hope and our refuge. As we begin another year, we are filled with new hope because we know that our Ina continues to journey with us.

This year, the national and local elections also signal new hope. It is an opportunity for our people to express their will and to contribute in charting the country’s future. Indeed, democratic processes are meant to uphold the dignity of the people and to lead every person towards a significant participation in the community.

The technology of automation gives us reason to be optimistic that the election will reflect the people’s true will. We are hopeful that through this automation, fraud in the counting of votes will be appropriately addressed and minimized. By their vote, the people entrust the reins of government and their votes bear their hope for a better future.

But this hope for a better future needs to be coupled with a commitment to vote for leaders who will promote the common good. Elections emphasize the sovereignty of the people. To vote is not only a duty as citizens but as believers of Christ.

Every person, when casting his or her vote, makes a moral decision where the welfare of the people is at stake. The lives of the poor and marginalized, the pursuit of justice and peace, the progress and development of our country – they are shaped by the decisions made on election day.

Time and again, the Church has called upon the faithful to follow their conscience so they may cast a meaningful vote. The faithful must not allow the election to be a battle of campaign slogans and media exposure. The hope for new beginnings cannot be pinned on impressions but rooted in fortified conscience.

To follow one’s conscience requires enlightened conscience. It must be attended by a pursuit of truth, and a discernment of God’s message in concrete circumstances. When minds understand the realities of the present and when hearts are attuned to God’s will for all His children, the people’s vote can truly pave the way for a country where common good is the vocation of its leaders and where democracy leads to the integral development of the people.

It is therefore crucial for every faithful citizen to truly understand the political situation of our country.

The Political Landscape in the Philippines

In Rerum Novarum issued in 1891, the Church has denounced the concentration of power upon a small number of very rich men who “lay upon the laboring poor a yoke a little better than that of slavery itself.” (RN, 3) This aptly describes the evil of oligarchy.

Sadly, this situation persists in our country. Philippine politics has all the characteristics of an oligarchy.

Our country’s democracy is a mere semblance of real democracy. The basic freedoms seem to be present such as the freedom of speech, freedom of association and religious freedom. But the most important freedom – the freedom to be an empowered people – remains to be a dream. When the majority is not equipped with an empowering freedom, there can be no genuine participation from the people.

This empowering freedom is elusive because majority of Filipinos live below poverty line. There can be no government of the people, for the people, by the people if almost all Filipinos are poor. Poverty deprives our people the opportunity to develop their potentials, renders them incapable to participate in public affairs and denies them the primacy of the people in a democracy.

The rule of handful elite families negates democracy. Democracy and oligarchy cannot co-exist. The long-standing poverty of the majority of the people is a continuing result of oligarchy. This is evident in our provinces. The stronger the oligarchic powers in a locality, the poorer are the people.

The national and local governments are run by handful elite families of around 300 in the whole country. According to the latest Social System survey, only one percent of the total Philippine population belong to the ruling class that craft the social, political and economic life of the country. On the other hand, only 9% belong to the middle class while the great majority, 90% of the population, belong to the lower class.

The ruling class enjoys more than half of the nation’s wealth. They rule the country by provinces, congressional districts, cities and municipalities. Their hometowns are their political bailiwicks. They allocate political power unto themselves. The consequence: a proliferation of political dynasties and politicians clinging onto power either directly or indirectly.

Behold some of the striking features of an oligarchic politics:

Election Fraud and Violence. Illegal voter registration, intimidation and undue pressure of voters, vote buying and vote rigging (dagdag-bawas) are prevalent in both local and national elections. Election-related violence such as killings, kidnappings, physical attacks on rallies, homes, offices and vehicles of candidates and supporters are widespread. Intimidation, coercion and harassment usually precede the physical violence. Ruling families build up private armies and hire goons not only for protection but also for intimidating opponents. The Plaza Miranda Bombing in 1971, the murder of Evelio Javier in 1986, the murderous rivalry of the Espinosa’s and the Kho’s in Masbate are examples of the worsening election violence. On November 23, 2009, the world witnessed the worst election-related violence and it happened in Maguindanao..

Costly Campaigns. Campaigns become more expensive when competition becomes unduly intense, when economic stakes are high and when electorate continue to expand due to population growth. Tri-media advertisements are used not only during the campaign period but every single day. Personalities and celebrities are paid millions to endorse candidates as if the candidacy is a merchandize of consumer product. Vote-buying is given a sizable budget in any campaign, as if it were a legitimate expense. Campaigns are bankrolled by businessmen making candidates vulnerable to business interests at the expense of the common good. Heavy spending is done by the government to prop up administration candidates who seek re-election or election to other posts.

Political Turncoatism. Turncoatism or the switching from one party to another is another feature of Philippine politics. With the absence of marked differences in ideology, platforms and programs, shifting allegiances are commonplace. Political leaders easily jump from one party to another because their choices are centered on personalities rather than on platforms and programs. Factors considered are: party resources, winnability and networks. An ally can be an enemy the following day, not because of solid principles but only for political expediency and convenience. This indicates an absence of true ideals. Political parties are not institutions of ideologies and values but are mere machineries to facilitate campaign.

Quid Pro Quo Politics. What binds or unbinds our political leaders is quid pro quo politics. “Something for something.” Quid pro quo politics is also called transactional politics because governmental powers and authority are used for undeserved gain. Political leaders enter into arrangements with other politicians, deals that will benefit both of them. This exchange of favors is self-serving; it is detrimental to common good. Quid pro quo politics pollute the integrity of government institutions because checks and balances are undermined. These are instances when the chief executive exchanges favors with legislators. The examples are legion: scam in different branches of government, the circumvention of laws and the failure to prosecute graft and corrupt practices are abetted by quid pro quo politics. The fertilizer scams, the ZTE deal, the questionable creation of new congressional districts are but recent manifestations of this political culture among political leaders.

Extrajudicial Killings. Extrajudicial killings include “disappearances” where people are abducted, never heard from again and a body is never located. The killings’ desired impact is fear, paralysis and the breakdown of organizations that are vocal in its opposition and efficient in mobilizing public protest. Most of the victims are members of genuine party-list organizations such as Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis and Gabriela. The establishment of the party list system enabled sectoral groups to be represented in Congress. Their increased electoral success has posed a credible threat to the domination of the ruling class. According to Human Rights Watch, 110 members of party-list members have been killed in 2001 to 2006. In Bicol, students of Bicol University, Camarines Norte State College and Aquinas University have been killed in 2006 and 2007. Their killings have been linked to their membership with the League of Filipino Students.

Power Hoarding. Perpetuating one’s self in elective posts has been a tradition among many political leaders. Many incumbent politicians endorse bench warmers when they reach term limits. This way, they can easily reclaim their posts after three years. Others simply shift from the executive branch to the legislative branch such as from being governor to congressman or mayor to congressman and vice-versa.

HOPE IN THESE TROUBLED TIMES

The seemingly insurmountable issues of our political landscape have caused many Filipinos to focus on personal godliness and to distance from communal responsibility. Indeed, hopelessness has crept in and has weakened the Filipino spirit.

Our faith calls us to look upon the cross that redeems us. In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI said that to have faith is to hope. Jesus’ teachings represented a serious political challenge to the authorities of His day and for that, they crucified Him. But His faithfulness to the Father has revealed to us God’s perfect love. Accepting our responsibility towards our brothers and sisters is a public expression of our faith. To continue to hope for peace, justice and equality of human dignity is faithfulness to the Father’s will.

Hope for People Empowerment. Aristotle, in his book Politics, called democracy the best form of government. However, he pointed out that there can only be democracy where the majority comes from the middle class because virtue can only breed in people who are neither so rich nor so poor. The wide gap between the rich and the poor obstructs authentic democracy because a master and slave relationship reigns between the leaders and the citizens.

With a vast number of Filipinos, generation after generation, living under massive poverty and with the handful elite running the country, we must admit in humility that there is no genuine democracy. There is an urgent need to confront this truth so we can hope for the right kind of change.

To hope for democracy is to hope for the creation of a middle class. And the middle class can only be created when there is genuine people empowerment.

The middle class, as poetically described by PCP II, “is neither so poor that they have nothing to give nor so rich that they have nothing to receive.” But more than income and resources, the middle class is identified by their attitude towards and participation in society. The middle class has the means to be self-reliant and can break away from mendicancy or dependence from the ruling elite. The middle class is an empowered people who can positively influence the social, political and economic life of our nation.

Rerum Novarum affirms the dignity of the working class and defends the right to private property, to organize associations, to just wage and just working conditions, as well as the right to religious freedom. These rights must be respected to provide an environment conducive to people empowerment. Populorum Progressio affirms that authentic development must be complete, that is, it must promote the good of every person and of all humanity. Pope Paul VI beautifully stated that: “…there can be no complete development of individuals without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity.” (PP, 43) On helping the poor, he firmly commented: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.” (PP, 23)

Therefore, I invite you to reflect together as ecclesial communities how you can contribute to people empowerment and the creation of the middle class through education, capital and ownership in the light of the Church’s social teachings.

Schools can expand scholarship programs as a concrete response. Educational institutions should include programs that will enhance special and competitive skills that can assist the poor to generate income to fend for their families. The culture of dependence can be at least minimized if the poor can find in themselves the capacity to conquer their own poverty. Schools must equip the poor to be creative so they may become productive citizens of society.

Those who are engaged in evangelization can uplift the dignity of the poor by making them aware of the nexus between poverty and political maturity and engaging them towards concrete actions that will integrate them into society. At the end of the day, evangelization cannot be complete when it is found only in motherhood statements. Jesus’ message is not limited to personal morality. The cross does not only look up and down at the morality of each individual human life, but also looks across the horizon of collective and social responsibilities of human lives. Evangelization must strengthen its prophetic voice and find relevance in the context of our people and the many issues that undermine human dignity.

Many government institutions remain silent about the right to private ownership, the reason why the people remain to be property-less. The right to shelter has been responded to by providing temporary dwelling, contingent upon the re-election of the incumbent and his allies. Through evangelization that teaches God’s will for an abundant life for His children, the poor will be led to an appreciation for the value of paying what is necessary to guarantee private ownership across generations. Payment in the form of blind loyalty or unreasonable debt of gratitude to the incumbent perpetuates patronage politics and holds hostage human dignity.

Those in the social development sector must endeavour to promote self-reliance among the poor. It has been proven that dole-outs breed dependence and subvert efforts to uphold the equal dignity of men. Social development programs must respond not only to the apparent needs of the community but must look into the structures that prevent authentic development. These programs must then provide venue for meaningful participation in the community, with the overarching goal to empower the people and assist them bring about their own advancement. Social development programs must aim to create an environment that will allow all men to fully develop and live as God’s children.

Civil society must assist in halting the vicious cycle of dependence by providing venues for people to associate and become more aware of the movements that impact their lives. Analysis of and understanding social, economic and political forces will help our people to position themselves against insults to their dignity. Filipinos must have the ability to distinguish between values and events that promote their empowerment and those that lure them into continued dependence. Only when we possess such clear distinction can we move towards true people power and democracy.

Hope for Social Justice. While people empowerment is an essential requisite for democracy, the virtue required to create and nourish democracy is social justice. The equal dignity of human persons necessisates the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities.

Bridging the gap between the rich and poor, the powerful and the marginalized, the elite and the lower class – this is the essence of social justice.

As prescribed by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragessimo Anno, social justice is a virtue which requires personal responsibility to transform social institutions. This virtue calls for a commitment to social change. However, many social ills hinder the concern for our society. Among them are individualism, consumerism and materialism. These ills lead to the escalation of sinful inequalities.

When we are concerned only about our family’s welfare, when we accumulate material possessions excessively even if through legal means, when our lives are measured by the income and properties we acquire, we create greater inequality between rich and poor. To be socially just, we must stop caring only for ourselves and justifying our indifference by saying that after all, we do not step on another man’s shoes. We must begin looking at our lives as a member of our community.

The founding of the Kapatiran Party is evidence that there are among our lay faithful who are committed to their role as members of the Church in the society. In the Kapatiran Party, we find among our lay faithful a deep concern to restore integrity in politics and a sense of community among our people. This concern could only be inspired by their faith. Their participation in the 2010 elections may be an uphill battle but it is a concrete sign that the hope for social justice is alive.

Social justice, however, can only be fully realized if the state recognizes it, when the right social and economic order is established by the supreme authority in society. Without these structures, social justice is impossible in our country.

We need to examine the source of the discrimination of the poor and marginalized so social justice can be truly present as a feature of government. Through active engagement and solidarity, we can open new paths towards a society that respects the equal of the dignity of the rich and poor, the powerful and the marginalized. But we need to start with ourselves by asking how we can effect change.

Gaudium et Spes urges for civic and political formation so that all citizens can play their part in the life of the political community. All citizens, most especially the youth, must learn the art of politics to work for the common good and fight all forms of injustice and tyranny, as well as arbitrary domination by an individual or a political party. (GS, 75)

We need to build and enrich civil societies. Free associations guarantee the well-being of the society. Civil society must find a voice because when power is in the hands of a few although able and competent, social justice will not prevail.

Social justice as a virtue can be expressed in many ways. When we bring to the public forum the condemnation of prostitution, jueteng, illegal logging and quarrying; when we hold our political leaders accountable for graft and corrupt practices, lavish lifestyles and abuse of power; when we organize ourselves to protect religious rights, the integrity of families and the life of the unborn, every time we exercise our civil and political rights to perform our duty towards the common good, we practice social justice.

Social justice is charity that has matured and deepened as a public response to Jesus’ message. Charity does not end in providing material goods. It demands even the provision of conditions that will enable the people to obtain what is due them in the light of the Gospel.

I make this special appeal to the businessmen and entrepreneurs to look to higher values than profit. Quadragessimo Anno states that “Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman.” (GA, 71) Here, the Church has made the distinction between minimum wage and living wage.

I call upon the capitalists to aspire for profitability with genuine care for the welfare of their workers. “Business management cannot concern itself only with the interests of the proprietors, but must also assume responsibility for all the other stakeholders who contribute to the life of the business.” (CV, 40) True relevance of business undertakings is found in ensuring that the enterprise is a means to serve common good.

Hope for the Kingdom of God. When Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925, he called upon Christians to recognize only one King and one Kingdom: Christ and God’s Kingdom. To mature in our faith, we must clearly distinguish between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. The exercise of rights, the lay faithful’s participation in the public square and partisan politics must not be motivated by patronage and subservience to any political leader in the building of human and personal kingdoms, but in the building of God’s kingdom on earth.

God invites us to His Kingdom, not only as a future reward but as a present reality. Far from the kingdom of men that hinges on authority and power, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of harmony and love. We seek God’s kingdom by responding to Jesus’ message, by orienting our lives to the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to search for the ways so God’s presence will be witnessed in the world.

As believers, it is our mission to fully understand the richness and beauty of His Kingdom and be fully engaged in building this kingdom on earth. All our efforts for people empowerment, all our struggles for social justice find fullness and meaning when they lead us to the kingdom of God.

To make present the kingdom of God, political leadership must be a means to serve the people, especially the poor. Leaders must be measured by their sacrifices for the welfare of the people. Wealth and material resources are mere tools so each person may serve the other. All human capacities are shared for the good of the community so God’s will can prevail.

In human and personal kingdoms, society is ruled by selfishness, dishonesty, distrust, and enmities. In this kingdom, man hoards power and wields it unjustly, as we can see in our present context. The greed for power and wealth in the midst of abject poverty, the relentless pursuit for self-gratification, the exploitation of institutions and disrespect for law - they persist because man prefers to create his own kingdom; and followers of this kingdom fail to see that this kingdom is nothing compared to God’s kingdom.

When our sight is not set on seeking the Kingdom of God, all our labours are designed upon our own individual self-centered will. The marginalized will continue to be disadvantaged, the poor will only become poorer and the oppressed will never find justice.

When we hope for a better future, for a better society, we hope for the kingdom of God and to see God’s light shine through. To establish His Kingdom, we must fully engage in investing on moral treasure and not material treasure, in restoring a social order that respects the primacy of human dignity and in building the moral well-being of our country.

To continuously engage in building God’s kingdom, we must be equipped with love. We become open to sacrifice, to deny our selfishness and pride, to decide for common good, when we are motivated by love. The just ordering of society can only be possible when we are filled with love for God and for our brothers and sisters. “Love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.” (CV, 30)

CONCLUSION

God so loved each and every one of us that He put us in a community. He calls us to be His people not as individuals, without bond or link, but by making us into a single people – His family. Our membership in His family demands a sense of responsibility for each other as brothers and sisters. Our aspiration of a better life is meaningless if it does not include that of our brothers and sisters. We cannot call it a better life if we are blind to the poverty and injustice all around us. But in the same breath, we must not surrender to the poverty and injustice just because they are systemic and deeply entrenched in our society. There are many opportunities to conquer them.

The coming elections can be a fresh start in our hope for a better future. But as any opportunity, we must be prepared to embark on the journey despite our fears and limitations, trusting that God, the source of all good, will not forsake us.

In order for the election to mark a new beginning, we must accord it with sincerity and understanding that the change of leaders does not mean a change of systems. We may elect new leaders but it does not guarantee an end to the scams and corruption. We must hope for the right change so genuine transformation can take place.

We need to create and strengthen the middle class before we can witness genuine democracy. Empowerment of the people is best reflected by a vibrant middle class that will move the country towards social justice. Imbued with a social conscience, the middle class will champion the equitable distribution of wealth, lead the collapse of oligarchy and advance social justice. The quest for social justice finds true motive, inspiration and fulfilment in building God’s kingdom on earth.

People empowerment and social justice is not a work of one man, or even one administration. It is the work of one people – the people of God – that are in different human institutions and sectors of society: in the family, the Church, the schools, the business sector and government.

By our baptism, we have been tasked a prophetic role: to see, judge and act. We must be vigilant at all times. We need to see and understand the long-standing suffering of our people. We must make judgments, not only opinions. We need to discern and identify the evil that has caused our society to continuously suffer. Finally, we must make a move.

We need to denounce the evil by making the kingdom of God present in our lives and in our institutions.

A keen understanding of the causes of our misery and a conviction to rise above it will equip us as we bring about the transformation that we truly need and deserve as a Filipino nation.

In Mary’s Magnificat, Ina echoes God’s promise of His Kingdom. It is a Kingdom where the poor are no longer powerless. It is a Kingdom where: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:52) Her Magnificat moves us to be a constituency of the kingdom of God and not of the kingdom of man.

Upon all I impart my New Year’s blessing.


+ LEONARDO Z. LEGASPI, O.P.,D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres

January 1, 2010