Keep the Doors of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks Open

 A Statement of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) is saddened over the government’s “cancellation of all planned meetings” and its pronouncement that “there will be no peace negotiations” with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The official statement by Sec. Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) states that the decision was “in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them”. The reason stated for the cancellation was due to “…recent tragic and violent incidents” committed by the rebels. The PEPP believes that this cancellation of peace negotiations is equally tragic, if not more.

As church people, we find nothing more tragic than the refusal of warring parties to continue to open the doors for dialogue that can result to further escalation of violence. President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he does not want talk to the NDFP especially after an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) has resulted in the death of an infant. The NDFP on the other hand have accused the military of attacking communities suspected of supporting the NPA. The war is intensifying, and it can only get worse.

We have always maintained that outstanding and delicate issues should be resolved through principled dialogue over the negotiating table. Both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP have made pronouncements that great strides towards peace have been made in the several formal rounds of talks between the two parties under the Duterte Administration and facilitated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG). These positive results from the talks should be pursued and not abandoned. The roots of the armed conflict should be addressed and this could be achieved through the negotiations.

Furthermore, both parties have already signed agreements that will address incidents of violence. The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the supplementary

agreement to revive and strengthen the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) is a feasible instrument to use in times like these. Both parties have also shown a sincere willingness to resolve this conflict that has been ongoing for close to 50 years through peace talks. There were already advances in the negotiations for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and a possible bilateral ceasefire agreement.

We call on both the GRP and the NDFP to stay the course and resume the peace talks, for a better “…future awaits those who seek peace” (Psalms 37:37). It is in this spirit that we also appeal to the government to reconsider its plan to categorize the NPA as a terrorist organization as this will incite more violence and virtually close the door to the peace talks.  Continue reading

Pahayag ng Partido Manggagawa Hinggil sa “Revolutionary Government”

EFFIGY. Protestors lug around a Duterte effigy during a rally on November 30, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Ang REVGOV ay Diktadurang Duterte

Hindi bago ang binibitiwang banta ngayon ni Pangulong Duterte na magdedeklara siya ng revolutionary government o revgov. Ang nagbabago lamang ay ang ginagamit niyang dahilan kung bakit kailangan niya itong ideklara.

Hindi pa siya nagdedeklarang tatakbo bilang Pangulo ay inilahad na ni Duterte ang kanyang kahandaan na magtayo ng revgov. Ang kanyang mayor na dahilan noon ay para sa pederalismo. Sa pakikipagpulong sa mga editor ng Inquirer noong Agusto 27, 2015, harapan niyang sinabi na revgov “is the only way to fast-track federalism.” Dagdag pa na dahilan: “I have to stop criminality and corruption. I have to fix this government. I won’t do if you want to place me there with the solemn pledge to stick to the rules.”

Noong panahon ng kampanya ay paulit-ulit nya rin itong binabanggit, kabilang ang mga pahayag na bubuwagin niya ang Kongreso. Sinabi niya rin ang ganito noon: “I will give myself six months to one year to do the reforms I want to do. If the system becomes obstructionist and inutile, I will declare a revolutionary government.”

Ngayong Pangulo na siya at lumipas na ang mahigit isang taon, ang revgov ay namimintong ilatag sa harap ng nalilitong nasyon. At ang mas malaking rason na niya ngayon para dito ay para daw hadlangan ang banta ng destabilisasyon. Ganito ang kanyang pahayag tungkol dito:

“If I see that my nation tilts into chaos and is really destabilized, I will declare a revolutionary government.”

Sa partikular, ang tinatawag niya ditong destabilisasyon ay ang inilulunsad umano ng sabwatang dilaw, pula at CIA.

Kung susuriing mabuti ang mga pahayag na ito ni Duterte ay makikita ang malinaw na linya na nag-uugnay sa lahat ng kanyang ideya sa isang lohika ng nais niyang paraan ng pamamahala – isang diktadura sa pamamagitan ng martial law o revgov. Ang pagtatatag ng diktadura ang prinsipal na dahilan kung bakit kailangang itong tutulan ng manggagawa, martial law o revgov man ang pinal nitong kalabasan. Bigyan natin ito ng mas malinaw na paliwanag:   Continue reading

Philippine bishops’ conference gets new president

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao (center) will assume the post of president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Dec. 1. (Photo by Roy Lagarde)

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao takes over as new chief with Kalookan prelate serving as vice president

UCAN News November 29, 2017

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao will assume the presidency of the country’s bishops’ conference on Dec. 1.

The 66-year-old Archbishop Valles, a close friend of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, has served as vice president of the conference since December 2013.

He succeeds Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, a vocal critic of Duterte’s anti-narcotics war that has resulted in the killing of thousands of suspected drug users and dealers.

There will be no formal handover ceremony as the new president begins his term of office, said Father Marvin Mejia, secretary-general of the bishops’ conference.

Archbishop Valles was elected president during the conference’s plenary assembly in July. He will be the 20th head of the 72-year old organization.

The prelate will lead 83 active bishops, five diocesan administrators, and 43 honorary members of the bishops’ conference from 86 ecclesiastical jurisdictions.

Ordained a priest in 1976, Archbishop Valles was appointed prelate of Kidapawan in 1997. In 2006, he was named archbishop of Zamboanga until 2012 when he was transferred to Davao.

Also starting his term in office on Dec. 1 is Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan who was elected the conference’s vice president.

Bishop David, a known Bible scholar, has been serving Kalookan Diocese since January this year. He was ordained a priest in March 1983 and appointed bishop of San Fernando in 2006.

Officials of the Philippine bishops’ conference have a two-year tenure in office, or a total of four if re-elected.

Other members of the conference’s Permanent Council who will assume their posts on Dec. 1 include Archbishop John Du of Palo as treasurer and Father Mejia as secretary-general.

Human Traffickers Supply Children to the Sex Business

Fr.Shay Cullen
22 November 2017

The greatest pain for families is when the parents fight, argue, create a violent home, scold and beat the children and then separate. It has happened thousands of times and that is just what happened to mother and father of 12-year old Meanne. Her father disappeared and in despair the mother sold what they had to buy drugs and when that money ran out, she sold herself along the streets of Angeles City to the sex tourists from many countries. Soon, she was unacceptable and became ragged and worn out.

So she gave her daughter Meanne to a human trafficker to be sold into the sex industry to earn money to support her drug habit. Angeles City is well-known for its human traffickers and sex bars along the road known as Fields Avenue. The bars are licensed and have a mayor’s permit to operate. The sex business is considered an important part of the local economy.

The trade in minors is a form of sex slavery because they are in debt bondage to the sex bar operators. They are quickly made dependent on drugs to keep them in debt and they are unable to quit or escape. The entire corrupt industry should be closed down for exploiting women and children. It is an affront and insult to Philippine dignity. It is also a hive of drug abuse and illegal trafficking. The war-on-drugs should be carried into the sex industry and investigate the criminal syndicates and sex mafia that operate the business. There is an estimated 4.5 million sex slaves in the business worldwide and it earns as much as 32 billion US dollars a year.

In Angeles City, as in most towns and cities in the Philippines, the sexual exploitation of young women and children is rampant. Children are trafficked by relatives that offer the children to the throngs of foreign customers who frequent the area and sex bars. In one television report they offered a 14-year-old child to the journalists. (see The Raid on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xRCk8Ni-cs). The minors are trafficked and sold on the side of the road or through cellphone.

Meanne at 12 years old was brought by the pimp first to a Filipino sex tourist and he raped her. Then she was sold to foreign sex tourists in Angeles City. They continually sexually exploited her. One by one they took her to a hotel. The hotel management is accustomed to allowing children and foreigners go inside their establishments. No one cares, it’s just business.

On one occasion, Meanne revealed that she was brought to the residence of a foreign sex tourist . She was passed around like a plaything and abused many times in different places. Finally, there was a concerned citizen who came to know about it and reported the situation to the anti-trafficking task force. There was a rescue operation and a raid on the house of the human trafficker by the anti-trafficking task force on 27 May 2014 and six minor girls, including Meanne, were rescued.

Despite the extent of the abuse of the children no proper investigation as to who were the rapists of the children was made. No local or foreign sex tourist was arrested. They are seemingly immune from arrest and prosecution as they pay the officials and go free. If ever there is a court case against a foreigner for child rape or trafficking it is settled for money one way or the other. The International Justice Mission was behind the rescue and two cases were filed in court against the Filipino traffickers.

Meanne was sent to the government home for trafficked girls but she escaped from there many times and with other minors returned to Angeles and they were picked up and placed in atTransit house but escaped again. Soon she was being sexually exploited again and living on the streets. She thought that was all she was good for and there was no other future for her. She was again found by social workers and this time she was referred to the Preda Home for Girls on 26 September 2017. Her siblings were cared for by the grandmother when her mother was jailed for drug abuse.

Amazingly she decided to stay at Preda although it is an open center and she could easily escape. She was welcomed and reassured that she was a good girl and had no blame for what happened to her. She was told she could start a new life with education and help for her problems. Then the slow but steady transformation began. She felt accepted, understood supported and never was scolded or punished or heard harsh words. It is all forbidden at Preda. She was reminded of her human dignity and rights. She understood her rights were grievously violated by the mother and human traffickers, pimps and the abusers. She realized she was valued and could restore her dignity and her rebellious attitude melted away.

She is now a shy, quiet, peaceful child and happy to help in the kitchen and looks after the small children like they are her sisters. In the Emotional Expression Therapy room, it is another Meanne that is revealed. Her aggression and anger at her abusers and the neglect and lack of love from her parents is poured out and she cries out and shouts and punches the cushions to release her frustrations and anger.

Then after almost an hour she calms down and tells the therapist her feelings and all that happened to her. She is studying again and has become an empowered young girl with self-confidence and growing personality. After such a terrible experience of abuse and exploitation, Meanne is happy successful child.

But the sex business continues and many more children are sold into slavery. They too have to be rescued until the industry is closed down and the children can find freedom, peace, and a better happier life.

end

In Other Words: Information on the Impeachment Complaint Against Chief Justice Sereno

Photo credit: Manila Bulletin

The government is composed of three branches – executive, legislature and judiciary –which are co-equal and independent from each other. Each branch serves as a check on possible abuses of power or unwise action. It is only right that the Supreme Court, as the third branch under the Constitution, maintain its independence from the two other branches of government to achieve the constitutionally designed structure of checks and balance.

It is enshrined in the Constitution that the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court may be removed from office through impeachment on the basis of specific and serious valid grounds. These grounds are treason, bribery, graft and corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust. These grounds cover offenses of enormous gravity that they strike at the very life or orderly working of government. Therefore, because of its deep implications, the process of impeachment should never be abused or misused to serve partisan or political ends.

If we take a closer look at the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, it is clear that the allegations do not constitute impeachable offenses. The complaint, which is based on hearsay and uses disrespectful language, was designed to malign and distract the Chief Justice from the performance of her duties. The following are the CJ’s answers to the allegations, which the complainant and his supporters in the House of Representatives try to twist to appear infallible.

1.   Complaint: The CJ has alleged hidden wealth, which she failed to declare in her SALN. She also allegedly failed to settle the taxes from her earnings when she stood as counsel for the government from 2004-2008.

a.   The Chief Justice was engaged to help defend the country from the cases filed by Fraport and PIATCO, who claimed a combined total of US$ 990,000,000 plus interest and lost profits against the PHL Government in connection with the NAIA Terminal 3 Project. The Chief Justice earned around US$ 594,000 from nearly five years of hard work to help the country win the two international cases.

b.   All earnings from the cases were reported by then Atty. Sereno in her ITRs and she fully paid the required taxes of approximately Php 8.67 million or 32% of taxable income.

c.   She did not earn US$745,000 or Php 37 million, as alleged in the Complaint. Before deducting taxes, the Chief Justice’s peso equivalent earnings from the two cases amounted to around PhP 30.3 million. The remaining amount after taxes has been spent over time for various asset acquisitions (house, lot, furniture and improvements, personal effects) and investments; these are all reflected in the CJ’s current SALN. The rest went to the family’s tithes, offerings, living, medical, and other operating expenses.

d.   It cannot be said that the legal fees paid to her by government were excessive. In fact, it was relatively small compared to the amount paid to her foreign counterparts. Needless to say, the legal fees she received was only a small portion of the US$6 million awarded to government after she helped it win the case.

e.   All earnings, tax payments, and asset acquisitions from the remainder of her fees occurred prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court. This issue has no factual basis and has no place in an impeachment complaint

2.  Complaint: The CJ’s purchase of an expensive service vehicle was allegedly illegal and extravagant.

a.   The purchase of the vehicle was in conformity with government procurement process and policy. It was not the CJ, but the Supreme Court which bought the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser. The purchase of this vehicle, including its price, was duly authorized and approved by the Supreme Court En Banc. (Resolution dated 28 March 2017 in A.M. No. 17-03-06-SC, approved the acquisition for the price of P5,110,500.00). The policy includes the choice of vehicle that would provide protection for the highest judicial official of the land (Section 3.1 of DBM Administrative Order No. 233 issued in 2008; Section 2.2 of DBM Budget Circular No. 2010-2). In other words: the purchase of the security vehicle was not illegal and extravagant.

b.   Since her appointment to the High Court in 2010, the CJ used old service vehicles used by retired SC justices. Improvisations were made by installing a bullet proof blanket inside these vehicles and occasionally wearing a bullet proof vest that was given to her by her husband as a gift.

3.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly lives a luxurious and extravagant life. An example of this was her staying in a “presidential villa” in Boracay.

a.   The “presidential villa” in Shangri-la Boracay had already been paid for as meeting room and official photos venue for the 10 ASEAN chief justices. The court-approved budget specifically included the use of the villa to be used as the “function space” (with a boardroom setup) for the whole-day meeting of the 10 chief justices. Instead of booking additional rooms, the CJ, her staff and part of the secretariat were allowed to spend two nights in the presidential villa without additional charges. In other words, the CJ actually saved public funds by using the villa.

b.   The choice of Boracay as the venue for the event was not based on the CJ’s whims and caprices. Boracay was the unanimous choice among ASEAN chief justices since it was also where most of the ASEAN meetings were being held. Security-wise, it was the most appropriate venue for the meeting of the ASEAN chief justices. Shangri-La Boracay was chosen because it was the only resort that offers the right facilities and capabilities to secure those attending the high-level meeting.

c.  The SC En Banc approved a Pph2.6 million budget for the meeting. The complete details of the budget are contained in the proposal submitted by the CJ, including the Boracay package. Two points are worth noting on the issue of “presidential villa”:
first, the use of the “presidential villa” was approved by all SC justices, and second, the villa was intended for a high-level meeting, and not for “extravagant and luxurious” sleepover.

4.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly ordered Muntinlupa RTC judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima.

a.   The CJ never ordered any judge to not issue warrants of arrest against Senator De Lima. In other words, this allegation was just a figment of the imagination. This is a clear “fake news” that is meant to vilify the CJ.

b.   The Chief Justice does not interfere with the decision-making process of lower courts.

5.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly falsified a resolution on the implementation of the Regional Court Administrative Office in Region 7 (RCAO 7).

The resolution issued by the CJ in connection with the implementation of RCAO-7 went through the proper procedure. Until this time, the SC En Banc has not withdrawn the resolution issued by the CJ. In other words, the resolution was not fake and not illegal.

a.   It is also worth noting that the RCAO was created by the SC in 2008 when CJ was not yet with the High Court. It was also in that year when the SC decided to grant the CJ the authority to implement the RCAO.

6.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly falsified a resolution on a case involving COMELEC.

a.   One of the powers vested on the CJ is the authority to issue TROs when the SC is not in session. In other words, there is no truth to the allegation that she falsified her own TRO.

b.   Two SC justices submitted their recommendation in relation to the TRO. One was Justice De Castro, who was assigned to the case and the other was Justice Reyes, who happened to be handling a similar case. Remember: WHAT THE TWO JUSTICES GAVE WERE ONLY RECOMMENDATIONS, AND UNDER THE RULES, THE CHIEF JUSTICE IS NOT OBLIGATED TO FOLLOW THESE RECOMMENDATIONS.

Nevertheless, the CJ decided to issue a TRO – which was also recommended by Justice Reyes – after a careful review of the case.

7.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly falsified the resolution “directing” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to submit a complaint affidavit against four trial court judges.

a.   There was no resolution “directing” the Executive Secretary. What the SC issued was a resolution “inviting” authorities to file a complaint and provide further information against the judges. In other words, this allegation twisted the details and circumstances surrounding this particular case.

b.   There is only one version of the said resolution, and it was signed by all the SC justices. However, the SC Public Information Office (PIO) released a draft in which the word used was “direct,” instead of “invite.”

c.   The PIO has been accustomed to releasing parts of the SC rulings and voting results, although these were not yet signed by the justices. In this particular case, the draft had already been announced by the PIO when Justice Carpio proposed to replace the word “direct” with “invite.” The proposal was seconded by other justices, and it was the final version that had the signature of the justices.

8.   Complaint: The CJ allegedly manipulated and sat on the resolution of request of DOJ Secretary Aguirre

a.   The SC raffle sheet clearly showed that the case was assigned to the CJ. In other words, the allegation that she took away the case from Justice Tijam is false.

b.   The CJ also did not delay the resolution and did only the right thing. She coordinated with the DOJ, AFP and PNP because the choice of detention facility for members of the Maute group had national security implications.

Continue reading

Summary of Answers on the Impeachment Complaint Vs. Chief Justice Sereno

Issue (Gadon’s Complaint) Answer

(of the Chief Justice)

 

 

 

SALN and taxes

·       The Chief Justice was engaged to help defend the country from the cases filed by Fraport and PIATCO, who claimed a combined total of US$ 990,000,000 plus interest and lost profits against the PHL Government in connection with the NAIA Terminal 3 Project. The Chief Justice earned around US$ 594,000 from nearly five years of hard work to help the country win the two international cases.

·       The Chief Justice reported all her earnings from the case in her ITRs and fully paid the required taxes thereon. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), in fact, deducted withholding taxes and certified to the BIR all amounts paid to then Atty. Sereno for legal services rendered from 2003-2008.

·       She did not earn US$745,000 or Php 37 million, as alleged in the Complaint. Before deducting taxes, the Chief Justice’s peso equivalent earnings from the two cases amounted to around PhP 30.3 million. The remaining amount after taxes of approximately Php 8.67 million, has been spent over time for various asset acquisitions (house, lot, furniture and improvements, personal effects) and investments; these are all reflected in the CJ’s current SALN. The rest went to the family’s tithes, offerings, living, medical, and other operating expenses.

·       All earnings, tax payments, and asset acquisitions from the remainder of her fees occurred prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court.

·       This issue has no factual basis and has no place in an impeachment complaint.

 

 

Security vehicle Toyota Land Cruiser

·       Judges, lawyers and prosecutors have been assassinated. It is in keeping with security protocol that the highest judge of the land be protected in a security vehicle. The DBM, in fact, expressly recognizes the necessity and reasonability of purchasing such a security vehicle for the Chief Justice (Section 3.1 of DBM AO No. 233 issued in 2008; Section 2.2 of DBM Budget Circular No. 2010-2)

·       The purchase of this vehicle, including its price, was duly authorized and approved by the Supreme Court En Banc. (Resolution dated 28 March 2017 in A.M. No. 17-03-06-SC, approved the acquisition of the Land Cruiser for the price of P5,110,500.00)

·       As impeachment complainant-endorser Congressman Nograles himself said, the purchase was legal.

·      The performance of a legal act has no place in an impeachment complaint

 

 

 

Business class travel and foreign trips

·      The SC rules recognize the necessity of allowing the Chief Justice to travel by business class, in recognition of her position and the need to provide her with the resources to ensure that she is fully prepared for all her international and speaking engagements. Considering her work load, she does not allot days to rest upon arrival in a foreign country before plunging into work.

·      The Supreme Court En Banc approved the Supreme Court Human Resource Manual through A.M. No. 00-6-1-SC dated 31 January 2012, or

before the Chief Justice assumed her position

·      Section II.A.1, Chapter Twelve of the Human Resource Manual, provides that “(f)oreign travel of Justices or Judges and court personnel must

be duly approved by the Chief Justice and/or the Chairpersons of the Divisions.” All travels and related expenses properly went through the established approval process

·      Under its Rule XII-19, II.B.6.b, the Chief Justice is allowed to travel on “full business class”. (This rule was recently amended to benefit all

members of the Supreme Court.)

·       All trips are made in pursuit of official court business to further judicial reform, systems development and ASEAN, Asia-Pacific and other

international judicial relations.

·       The Chief Justice is very prudent in handling the court’s resources. She does not allow junkets of any kind for all her delegations.

·       All the members of her delegation have specific roles to play in the official trips. Some are fellow justices, judges and senior court officials.

·       In most of her trips, she brought as aide only her chief of staff. Bringing an aide allowed her to continue performing her functions as head of

the Judiciary, the Judicial and Bar Council, the Justice Sector Coordinating Council, the Constitutional Fiscally Autonomous Agencies of Government, and chair of the Philippine Judicial Academy, even while abroad. In two of her trips, she brought no aide at all and this had a negative impact on her efficiency.

·       Foreign travels (and related travel expenses) for court staff do not have to be approved by the Supreme Court En Banc

·       The CJ’s travel by business class is appropriate to her position, are all perfectly legal, and have no place in an impeachment complaint

 

 

 

Use of presidential villa

·       The presidential villa in Shangri-la Boracay had already been paid for as meeting room and official photos venue for the 10 ASEAN Chief Justices. It was where the important Boracay Accord of the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting was signed.

·       The Philippines hosted the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting in 2015. The Supreme Court En Banc approved a Php2.6 million budget for the meeting. The Court-approved budget specifically included the use of the “presidential villa” to be used as the “Function Space” (with a “Boardroom” setup), for a “Whole Day Meeting” of the ten Chief Justices.

·       Instead of booking additional rooms, the Chief Justice, her staff and part of the secretariat were allowed to spend the nights of March 1 and 2 in the presidential villa with no additional charges.

·       By using the presidential villa, the Chief Justice actually saved public funds. It is noteworthy that the Resort charged PhP 134,192.00 for the use of the “Presidential Villa” (and not the regular rate of Php280,000.00).

·       Being cost conscious and ensuring an appropriate hosting for ten Chief Justices constitutes no kind of offense, much less an impeachable offense.

·       The Chief Justice made use of the venue as sleeping quarters to spare the Court from incurring additional expenses for separate accommodations for her and her staff/security.

 

 

 

Petitions for Retirement benefits

·       The Chief Justice has no power to decide on petitions for retirement benefits. All decisions must be made by the Court En Banc.

·       What the complainant falsely assumes is that the Chief Justice is responsible for so-called delays in processing retirement claims. As with any personnel claim, the processing of retirement claims involves several levels of review (the Office of the Court Administrator, the Special Retirement Committee, the technical working group that reports to the committee and the Court En Banc.)

·       The Chief Justice does not participate in any of these levels of review except as one of 15 voting Members of the Court.

·       There has been much improvement in the review and evaluation systems for retirement requests, resulting in more consistent policy rulings by the Court.

·       Systems reform and improvement programs are not bases for an impeachment complaint. Systems inefficiency, if any, in the processing of retirement benefits is not an impeachable offense.

Kairos Christmas Alert 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings from Bethlehem.

Kairos Palestine is pleased to announce the Christmas Alert 2017 attached in this email and available on our website! This year the Christmas Alert aims to shed light and raise awareness of what Bethlehem has been experiencing since the Balfour Declaration, of partition and of military occupation to encourage churches around the world to act.

Let us all together spread the message of Palestinian Christians around the world!

From Bethlehem where peace was announced, we wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Kairos Palestine

Please click on the link to download the Kairos Christmas Alert 2017.

Filipino church leaders warn of violence as peace talks fail

A child gets her face painted during a demonstration in Manila to call for the continuation of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Duterte’s decision to declare communist rebels terrorists risks destroying years of progress to end insurgency, they say

Joe Torres, Manila Philippines   November 24, 2017

Church leaders in the Philippines warned of an upsurge in violence around the country after the government formally declared the termination of peace negotiations with communist rebels this week.

Catholic and Protestant bishops said the government’s decision will only “incite more violence and virtually close the door to the peace talks.”

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, an alliance of five Catholic and Protestant churches supporting the peace process, described the cancellation of the talks as “tragic.”

“We find nothing more tragic than the refusal of warring parties to continue to open the doors for dialogue that can result in a further escalation of violence,” the group said in a statement.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte formally terminated negotiations with the communists on Nov. 23, accusing the rebels of engaging in “acts of violence and hostilities” during the talks.

Duterte issued a proclamation declaring “the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-The New People’s Army.”

The NDF is the umbrella organization of the communist-led underground movement that has been waging war against the government for almost five decades.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, earned the ire of the president for staging attacks that killed civilians.

Last week, Duterte announced that he would issue a proclamation that will classify the communist rebels as terrorists and criminals.

“I will remove them from the category of a legal entity or at least a semi-movement, which would merit our attention, placing them as terrorists,” he said.

On Nov. 22, Duterte said he would also order the arrest for terrorism, members of the communist movement’s “legal fronts.”

The church leaders warned that “the war is intensifying, and it can only get worse.” The group said “positive results from the talks” should be pursued and not abandoned.

“The roots of the armed conflict should be addressed and this could be achieved through the negotiations,” it added.

Government and rebel peace negotiators earlier signed agreements that were supposed to address incidents of violence during past talks.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and a supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen a joint monitoring body were supposed to address violations by both parties.

There was also progress in recent months in the negotiations for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms and a possible bilateral ceasefire agreement.   Continue reading

Families of 58 massacre victims decry slow pace of justice

Markers show the names of the victims of the 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 34 journalists, at the site of the killings in the southern Philippine town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. (Photo by Bong Sarmiento)

Eight years later no suspect has been brought to book for one of the worst civilian atrocities in Philippine history

Bong Sarmiento, Cotabato Philippines November 24, 2017

Justice remains elusive for victims eight years after a massacre in the southern Philippines in which 58 people, including 34 journalists, were killed, according to their families.

The atrocity, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, has since been called by the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York as the “single deadliest event for journalists in history.”

Families of the victims and Philippine media groups decried the long wait for justice during activities to mark the anniversary of the massacre Nov. 23.

“After eight years, the families of the victims are still waiting, patiently for justice to be served,” said Maria Reynafe Castillo, daughter of one of the slain journalists.

“It’s frustrating but I know and I believe in my heart that if justice will not be achieved here on earth, I’m sure justice will be served by God who is just and faithful,” she told ucanews.com.

None of the 197 people accused of the killings has been convicted. So far, only 115 suspects have been arrested.

As of Nov. 21, a local court had heard testimonies from 273 witnesses.

In a meeting with families of the victims on Nov. 23, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to resolve the case within his term, which will end in 2022.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the trial might be completed in a year.

Roque, a former lawyer for the massacre victims’ families, said he would undertake steps to fast-track a resolution of the cases.

In a statement on Nov. 22, the Supreme Court said the cases against the accused would be submitted for a verdict once the defense panel finishes its presentation of evidence.

Lawyer Nena Santos, counsel for the family of one of the victims, said she is confident the court will be able to hand down a verdict by next year.

The families earlier sought the help of Duterte “because the case is still pending and proceeding very slowly.”

On Nov. 23, 2009, some 200 armed men executed the 58 people — 20 relatives and supporters of a local politician,  34 journalists and four others.

The massacre, the worst in recent Philippine history, resulted in charges against senior members of a political clan that ruled the local area through a “private army” comprising 2,000 to 5,000 armed men.

Various motions filed by their lawyers mired legal action against the suspects. Several charges have been dropped against some of the accused, while other suspects remain at large.

Several witnesses reported threats to their lives or were offered large amounts of money to change their testimony. At least four witnesses and three relatives of the massacre victims have been killed.

Pastoral Training on Human Sexuality Education and HIV/AIDS

16 November 2017

Dear fellow youth ministers,

Greetings in our Lord Jesus!

We would like to invite you once more to this formative opportunity offered to us by the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Health Care: a training on human sexuality and HIV for youth leaders this

November 29-December 01 at St. Camillus Pastoral Health Center, 18 Nicanor Reyes St., Varsity Hills Subdivision, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

This workshop–training aims to mainstream  v​alues-based Human Sexuality Education and HIV/AIDS amongst youth programs in organizations and parishes.

The registration, food and accommodation will be shouldered by CBCP-ECHC–Camillians, while the participants take care of their transportation to and from the venue.

We hope to hear from you about this at most by Monday, November 27, through emailing to us the Reply Form – HIVAids Training. (Just click to download.)

with the names of your endorsed participants.  We earnestly hope that your youth ministries will be able to accommodate this invitation in response to this urgent call to educate our young people towards HIV and AIDS prevention.

Also, since the invitation is limited to 30 persons, we will receive your registration on a “first come-first serve” basis.

Should there be further questions, please feel free to reply to this email.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Rev. Fr. CONEGUNDO B. GARGANTA
Executive Secretary
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
Episcopal Commission On Youth