Defending Democracy Summit: Isang Pagtitipon at Paninindigan Para sa Demokrasya

8:00AM – 4:30PM, 12 June, 2017 Araw ng Kalayaan 
UP School of Economics, UP Diliman

On May 23, President Duterte declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. The president had been repeatedly indicating in his speeches his intent that he can and will declare martial law as part of his war on drugs. His Mindanao martial law, triggered by the conflict in Marawi, was not warranted according to a many sectors reportedly including the armed forces and the secretary of national defense. The continuation of martial law in Mindanao and the specter of its nationwide implementation pose a direct threat to democracy in the Philippines.

It is in this context that a gathering of freedom-loving citizens is being organized. An informal consortium of academic institutions, think tanks, development CSOs, faith-based organizations, advocacy networks, and a student alliance are gathering as broad a representation of leaders to proactively discuss and discern on the current state of Philippine democracy and to identify strategies and courses of action to defend, protect and uphold democratic norms and freedoms. Workshop Program and Lead Discussants

8:00 – 8:30 Registration
8:30 – 9:00 Opening Plenary: Context and Objectives of the Gathering
9:00 – 10:00 Parallel Sub Plenary Sessions
Sub Plenary 1: Upholding National Security
Jay Batongbacal
Vergel Santos
Sub Plenary 2: Upholding Human Rights and Social Justice
Florin Hilbay*
Raissa Jajurie*
Sub Plenary 3: Upholding Democratic Institutions
Christian Monsod*
Rene Saguisag*
Sub Plenary 4: Upholding Truth
Ramon Jimenez, Jr.
Maria Ressa
10:00 – 12:30 Discussion and Discernment Workshops
Workshop 1 and 2: Upholding National Security
Workshop 3 and 4: Upholding Human Rights and Social Justice
Workshop 5 and 6: Upholding Democratic Institutions
* To be confirmed

The invited audience will be composed of around 200 leaders and representatives from academe,
civic and civil society organizations, business and business foundations, media and media
associations, student groups, faith-based organizations, icons of culture and the arts, civil
libertarians, and political parties. The convenors hope that in bringing these representatives
together, a common understanding of, and discussions about what is happening and what we can
collectively do now and the immediate future will emerge.

Isang Pagtitipon at Paninindigan Para sa Demokrasya is part of a continuing Defend Democracy Series of forums of the broadest possible inclusion to push-back against unchecked power and to uphold Philippine democracy.

Initial convenors:

Ateneo de Manila University
Caucus of Development NGO Networks
De La Salle University
Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy
International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance
Kaya Natin! Movement
Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks
Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka
Peoples Alternative Study Center for Research and Education in Social Development

Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan Alumni
Student Council Alliance of the Philippines

The Coordinating Group

University of the Philippines Diliman, Office of the Chancellor

“A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.” –

Barbara Jordan, civil rights movement leader

Peace be With You

Statement of the CBCP President on the Fifth Round of Peace Talks between the Philippine Government and the CPP/NPA/NDF

It is not without reason that many of our fellow Filipinos do not have high hopes about the peace talks that are entering the 5th Round — after all, we have been through this way before.

But we are in the Easter Season, and the Risen Lord greets us all: “Peace be with you”.  Peace is the gift of the Resurrection.  Peace calmed the troubled hearts of his despondent apostles.  Peace gave them the courage to burst forth from the Upper Room to proclaim the Good News.  Peace ignited that charity in their hearts that made them share everything in common.  Peace built the community.  Peace can still rebuild our nation!

We, your bishops, therefore commend the next round of the Peace Negotiations to the Prince of Peace — since He calms all storms, silences the shrieking of demons and emboldens those who are discouraged and afraid.  Indeed, one of the most common exhortations in all of Scripture was one beloved to Saint John Paul II: “Be not afraid”.  This is what we ask of the negotiators on both sides of the table.  Do not be afraid to take the bold steps that alone can bring peace.  Intransigence is not strength.  Humility is.  That one has stood one’s ground is not necessarily the best that can be said of anyone.  That he has sown the seeds of peace is to say of a person that he is blessed!

While we have a legacy to uphold as a God-fearing, God-loving nation with precious freedoms assured us by human reason and enshrined in international covenants and in the fundamental law of the land, we must, with the same steadfast determination, stand for social justice and for the renewal of an order that has left too many to wither away in the peripheries.

Peace be with you…but for Christ’s peace to pervade over our land, we need men and women of peace.  We trust that our negotiators — on both sides — will be anointed by God’s Spirit so that His sons and daughters in this land that has already been drenched by so much blood may at last walk the ways of peace.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, May 24, 2017, Mary Help of Christians

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP

Appeal for Volunteer Trainers

To: All Laiko Members: National Lay Organizations & Arch/Diocesan Councils of The Laity

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

The peace and love of the Lord!

In an effort to help victims of drug abuse, LAIKO has pledged, together with the Lay Society of St. Arnold Janseen and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to support the Spiritual Transformation Program of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Since the program which is now in the implementation stage is in dire need of more able and willing facilitators, we are appealing to each of the lay organization members to send at least three (3) volunteers who are willing to undergo training to serve as facilitators /trainors. The training of trainors’ will be held on June 10-11, 2017 at the Catholic Trade Center, Tayuman St., Sta. Cruz, Manila.  LAIKO Secretariat will coordinate with you to follow up the names of your volunteers.

May the Lord the giver of life, continue to inspire and guide us as we strive to establish community of disciples in our midst.

Sincerely yours in the service of the Lord,


Noted by:

Chairman, CBCP Episcopal Commission on the Laity

ATM Statement on social justice and environmental protection

DOF Sec. Dominguez should realize enforcing the spirit of the law is necessary for the common good 

Sec. Dominguez stated yesterday that the mining industry requires good governance and transparency to ensure that it contributes to development. We agree. That is why closing and suspending those mines that violated the Mining Act (RA 7942) and other environmental laws was necessary.  Our alliance sincerely believes that the results of the Mining Audit were credible.

Our understanding is that the decision to close and suspend the mines relied on a whole set of references and evidences – the mining audit, the report of the Technical Review Committee, the local reports of NGOs and LGUs submitted as addendum to the mining audit, news and media coverages, documents from legal cases in various courts and quasi-judicial bodies, LGU resolutions and ordinances against mining projects, aerial surveys of mining areas, and ground interaction by DENR officials in the mining-affected communities.  From our own database, there is overwhelming documentation and evidences that prove the closures and suspensions are with merit.  We again offer these documents to new DENR Sec. Cimatu, DOF Sec. Dominguez and the MICC for their own perusal.

Sec. Dominguez wrongly maintains a narrow viewpoint when he insists that the DENR Mining Audit report was the sole basis for the closures and suspensions.

Our alliance argues that former DENR Sec. Lopez was actually enforcing environmental laws and policies when she decided to close these mines.  The results of the audit and the subsequent technical review showed that standards were not met and laws were violated, so it should come no surprise that violators will be penalized.  What may have stunned Sec. Dominguez was the commitment and political will of Lopez to impose the penalties and prioritize the welfare of the rural poor rather than pander to the interest of miners and their political backers.

When Sec. Dominguez invoked yesterday that good governance and transparency are needed to support the mining industry, he forgot a third critical element – accountability.

The mine audits had legal basis, the DENR followed due process, and social justice was served when the closures and suspension orders were issued. This is how we should hold the mining industry and the government accountable.

In a Senate hearing last Feb. 8, 2017 chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, CoMP Executive Vice-President Nelia Halcon admitted that there are only 19,000 workers that are directly employed by large-scale mining companies.  This is less than 1/3 of the figures the CoMP has been brandishing, and only 0.015% of the alleged 1.2 million families that will be impacted by the closures and suspensions.  This is not the first time that CoMP has been disseminating half-truths and biased data. To date, none of these mine workers were displaced because the closed/suspended mines filed their appeal and so since February 2017, the mines have been operating “business-as-usual”.

Let us not forget, not even Sec. Dominguez has refuted the available economic data – mining contributes a measly 0.7% of GDP and only employs a total of 235,000 or 0.4 employment rate.  Comparing this to tourism or agriculture, these are insignificant economic indicators. And so when Sec. Dominguez speaks of “good governance…to attract investments in extractive industries, confident that we will be able to assure sustainable forestry and mining”, he should remember well these figures.

We welcome the statement of Sec. Dominguez that “poor governance caused us to lose our forests without emancipating our people” which “should never happen again”. As co-chair of the MICC, Sec. Dominguez must ensure that the results of the mine audits and all other evidences available at the DENR and from CSOs, are reviewed so that the complete picture of the violations and non-compliance of the mining industry is recognized.

Our alliance rejects the accusation of Sec. Dominguez that the DENR Mining Audit was tainted and its results biased.  We reject the proposition that mining is only a technical matter, and only technical experts should be allowed to conduct the mining audit.  This prejudice is precisely the main reason why mining is confronting resistance at the local and national levels.  Mining will permanently change the physical and ecological landscape of an area. The same mining tenement has a river, a forest, or in a fragile island-ecosystem.  The same mine facilities are impacting the coastal areas for fishers and the irrigation for farmers.  The same mine project is within ancestral domains, and therefore require free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous communities.  The same mining project introduces environmental, social and political impacts.

To reduce the mining audit to a “technical exercise” and the mining industry as an “economic driver” sans the social and environmental safeguards, defeats the purpose of establishing what is a “responsible mine”.  This reveals the hollowed and minimal understanding of the mining industry and Sec. Dominguez on how to implement “responsible mining”.  This is not the path to social justice.

German Bishops Conference in Solidarity with CBCP on Philippine Human Rights Situations

Bischofskonferenz Kommission Weltkirche Der Vorsitzende
The German Bishops’ Conference
President of the Commission for International Church Affairs
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Sigmar Gabriel MdB
Auswärtiges Amt
Werderscher Markt 1
11017 Berlin

Dear Foreign Minister Gabriel,

I hereby present to you a request from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which has asked the German Bishops’ Conference to show its solidarity with the CBCP regarding its initiative for the observance of human rights in the Philippines. Together we are exceptionally concerned about the law to reintroduce the death penalty for drug-related crimes, which was passed by the House of Representatives of the Philippines on 7 March. If the Senate of the Philippines approves this law or a similar bill, it would be a major blow to human rights in this country and to the global efforts to abolish the death penalty.

The government of the Philippines is also considering lowering the age of criminal responsibility in conjunction with what President Duterte refers to as the ‘war on drugs’. The Philippine bishops are convinced that these changes must not be accepted, especially in view of the Philippines’ membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, has asked the German Bishops’ Conference to support its appeals to the government of the Philippines in this matter. These appeals voice opposition to the reintroduction of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility and express active support for both the observance of human rights in the fight against drugs and an end to ‘extrajudicial killings’.

On behalf of the German bishops, I would like to comply with this request and state that the German Bishops’ Conference shows solidarity with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in this matter. As chairman of our conference’s Commission for International Church Affairs, which is responsible for matters such as this, I kindly ask you, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, to step up the critical dialogue with the government of the Philippines in the current, politically decisive phase and to do everything in your power to ensure that the human rights situation in the Philippines does not deteriorate.

I thank you for your efforts and wish you a peaceful Easter season.

Yours sincerely,

Archbishop Ludwig Schick

Theme for the 2017 World Day for Social Communications

(Vatican Radio)  The theme for the Church’s 2017 World Day for Social Communications was published on Thursday. The theme or motto chosen for this event is: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time.

The Vatican Secretariat for Communications issued this following statement on the theme

Numbness of conscience or letting desperation get the better of us are two possible “diseases” that our current communication system can cause.

It is possible that our conscience is cauterised, as Pope Francis comments in Laudato si’, as a result of the fact that often professionals, opinion leaders and means of communication work in urban areas distant from places of poverty and need, and their physical distance often leads them to ignore the complexity of the dramas faced by men and women.

Desperation is possible, instead, when communication is emphasised and transformed into spectacle, at times becoming a genuine strategy for constructing present dangers and looming fears.

But in the midst of this tumult a whisper is heard: “Fear not, for I am with you”. In His Son, God expresses his solidarity with every human situation and revealed that we are not alone, because we have a Father Who does not forget His children. Those who live united with Christ discover that even darkness and death become, for those who so wish, a place for communion with Light and Life. In every event, they try to discover what is happening between God and humanity, to recognise how He too, through the dramatic scenario of this world, is writing the history of salvation. We Christians have “good news” to tell, because we contemplate trustfully the prospect of the Kingdom. The Theme of the next World Day of Social Communications is an invitation to tell the history of the world and the histories of men and women in accordance with the logic of the “good news” that reminds us that God never ceases to be a Father in any situation or with regard to any man. Let us learn to communicate trust and hope for history.