Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Statement of Bishops at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee

Honorable Members of the Senate:
We thank this august body for inviting us to shed light on an issue that has deeply saddened not only the seven of us but all the Catholic faithful. We hope that our presence will aid your work of legislation. We shall reply with great respect to your questions as far as the facts enable us.
We are from provinces that have some of the most difficult areas that we as Bishops have to reach. Most of us are from calamity or conflict-stricken areas. We serve communities some of which are the poorest of the poor. Our vocation is to help them in so far as we can with our resources. When we lack resources, we seek the assistance of others, especially from those whose mandate is to provide assistance, particularly in health services and in charity.
Some of us received service vehicles from PCSO that are heavy duty 4 x 4 pick-ups in order for our social, health, and charitable services to reach remote areas. Others received vehicles that have multiple purposes of bringing indigent sick people to hospitals or distribute food, medicines, and clothing to calamity stricken families.
We are very grateful for the help extended to us. We still believe that we have not violated any law, or even the Constitution. We express our sadness that our sincere desire to help people and receive necessary assistance for doing so has confused, disturbed and even scandalized many of the Catholic faithful.
As our pastoral statement has said, we honestly “failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead.” We also express our “readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.”
For this reason, regardless of whether the acquisition of the vehicles has been lawful or unlawful, constitutional or unconstitutional, we are returning the vehicles. The vehicles in Mindanao are ready for immediate turnover to a duly authorized PCSO official. The vehicles in Luzon are right now outside the Senate for immediate turnover to PCSO officials.
Again, we thank Your Honors for this opportunity to voice our sentiments on this matter.
Thank you and God bless you.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, O.M.I.
Bishop Rodolfo Beltran
Archbishop Ernesto Salgado
Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, SVD
Archbishop Romulo Valles Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos

New papal nuncio to arrive in Manila Friday

MANILA, July 13, 2011— Newly-appointed Papal nuncio in the Philippines, Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto, is set to arrive in Manila on Friday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said.
According to Monsignor Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general, Archbishop Pinto will arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 1 at 9:50am via Cathay Pacific from Chile.
Figura said the papal envoy will be welcomed at the airport by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar and other prelates.
Archbishop Pinto, previously the papal nuncio to Chile, is the 15th Papal representative and the 10th Apostolic nuncio to the Philippines.
On May 10, Pope Benedict XVI officially named the Italian prelate as apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, a seat left by his predecessor, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, last May 7.
Archbishop Adams was reassigned to Greece after almost 3 years in the Philippines.
Pinto holds a doctorate in Canon Law and is fluent in Italian, French, English, and Spanish.
He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on May 1, 1984. He had been posted in Papua New Guinea, Argentina, and Vatican City state secretariat. Pinto also served as apostolic nuncio to Senegal, Cape Verde, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, and as apostolic delegate to Mauritania.
As apostolic nuncio, Pinto’s principal task will involve strengthening ties between the Pope and the Philippine President as well as the local bishops.
Pinto comes to the Philippines at a time when the Church’s image is challenged after some bishops accepted donations from a state-run lottery and became entangled in a corruption scandal. [CBCPNews]

Phl should use science and technology for poverty alleviation measure-Angara

MANILA, July 13, 2011-In the recent Novartis Biotechnology Leadership Camp, Senator Edgardo J. Angara urged the Philippine government to use science and technology as one of its chief poverty-alleviation measures.

Angara said that there is a need to improve the country's scientific and technological capacity to boost national competitiveness which, in turn, would stimulate wealth and job creation in the annual gathering of young biotechnology and life sciences students and graduates.

“The Philippines' competitiveness, as measured by international rankings, slips every year or improves only marginally because of lack of technological capacity,” he said, adding that the government has to realize that technological R&D is a critical tool for economic growth because it enables a country to produce innovations that would improve overall productivity, whether in manufacturing, agriculture, services or healthcare.

“Keeping to a business as usual attitude will have little effect in denting poverty. A gross domestic product growth rate of 5 percent on average every year is not enough. We need to grow consistently by at least 7 percent to lower poverty incidence from about 40 percent to 15 percent,” Angara said.

“The Philippines has to keep up with the increasing competitiveness of its Asian neighbors in order to capitalize on emerging trends showing that growth and wealth will be centered in Asia this century,” he added.

Angara said that S&T and R&D are the only ways by which the Philippines will prevent being left behind, citing studies by the European Commission and the Asian Development Bank. (Jason de Asis)

Bishop calls for grassroots-based observance of WYD

JULY 13, 2011—Young Filipino Catholics who cannot attend the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD) in Madrid, Spain next month should still be given the opportunity to participate in this youth event through activities in their parishes, organizations and dioceses.
This is why Legazpi, Albay Bishop Joel Baylon, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), is urging youth ministers to set up occasions in the grassroots to create awareness of WYD and echo the global event in the level that is closer to the youth.
Baylon admitted that because of distance of the venue of the upcoming WYD from the Philippines, a great number of would-be WYD delegates have backed off from their plans mostly because they cannot afford the air fare. Proximity
As per ECY’s estimate, each WYD participant must shell out US$1,800 or roughly P78,000 for a two-way trip to Madrid, where the WYD will take place from August 16 to 21.
This amount is apart from those that will cover registration for the WYD event itself and separate registration for participation in the days in the diocese at Coria Caceres.
But Baylon said Filipino youth who cannot attend the WYD in Spain, either because of lack of money or time, could still involve themselves in this global event through activities in their parishes, organizations and dioceses.
“This is where our youth ministry structures get into the picture. They can establish ways to increase awareness on the WYD, most especially starting on the first week of August until WYD culminates on August 21,” he said.
Baylon urged youth ministers to bring WYD observance to the grassroots level by teaching the young the WYD theme song and animation or produce modules that will emphasize the WYD’s theme “Stand firm in the faith.”
“I’m calling them to set up structures, opportunities, occasions, activities and programs that will help our young people appreciate WYD and participate in this event in their own ways,” he added.
The prelate also consoled those who cannot make it to Madrid because of monetary concerns, saying that the essence of WYD transcends the physical celebration in Spain.
“WYD is not just an event that happens in Madrid. It is an event of young people all over the world and every single young person is invited to participate in it spiritually and in many ways that they can,” he said. (YouthPinoy)

PHL delegates backing out from WYD

MANILA, July 12, 2011―Just twenty-eight days before departure, quite a number of Philippine delegates to the World Youth Day are backing out from joining the event in Madrid, Spain, mostly for financial reasons.
An undisclosed number of delegates who are part of the official Episcopal Commission on Youth delegation of 436 pilgrims are canceling their trips due to monetary concerns.
ECY Executive Secretary, Fr. Conegundo Garganta said even those who have been given visa have decided not to proceed to the WYD because they cannot afford the airfare.
Each delegate will have to shell out an estimated USD 1,800 or Php 78,000 for a two-way trip to Madrid, Spain, aside from the WYD registration fee and other related expenses.
Fr. Garganta, however declined to give the exact number of delegates backing out.
He said some delegates have been phoning the ECY office informing them of their intention to back out but have not officially cancelled their participation.
Exchange students back out from WYD
Despite seemingly disheartening news, there are WYD pilgrims not joining the event for “better reasons.”
According to Milarie Babia, sub-group leader of Institucion Teresiana (IT) youth, there are 12 delegates from their sub-group who chose not to participate in the WYD because they will be sent as exchange students to Barcelona, Spain late this year.
“...They will be sent as exchange students for the ‘alternative learning program’ of their school, St. Pedro Poveda College,” she explained.
The alternative learning program is an annual exchange program of St. Pedro Poveda College where students are sent to schools outside the country to learn the country's culture and to exchange learnings with students there.
Fewer delegates this year
The number of delegates for this year’s WYD is just a little more than half the 800 delegates the ECY was able to send to the last WYD in Sydney, Australia in 2008.
Money is a major concern for most delegates, according to Maria Victoria Tacderas, senior staff of the ECY-NSYA.
“There are some [who] reach[ed] the last phase of the application and still back out because they can’t reach the minimum monetary requirement to sustain their trip,” she explained.
Tacderas also said that the distance of Spain from the Philippines also determines the monetary requirement that each delegate should meet. (Jandel Posion)

SUV scandal is Church ‘biggest wound’

MANILA, July 12, 2011—The Aquino administration has made a history in the Roman Catholic Church.
A senior prelate said the fund mess at state-owned lottery maybe the “biggest wound” inflicted by the government to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
In his 45-year experience as a member of the bishops’ collegial body, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the recent issue has dipped the image and credibility of the Church.
“There’s no other bigger than that. It caught the national attention for over two weeks already. And there’s even a hearing tomorrow. Therefore, this is not yet over,” Cruz said.
In fact, he said, in the history of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, this would be the first time that bishops will be investigated at the Senate.
“My time, I was a resource person in the crusade against jueteng (an illegal numbers game),” said Cruz.
In the past, he noted, the controversies that hounded the CBCP only involved individual bishops that were accused of having children as well as sexual harassment cases.
The CBCP yesterday apologized to the public after some of its members were accused of receiving sports utility vehicles (SUVs) from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the Arroyo administration.
Cruz, however, warned that the issue could turn into a nightmare and might end up to the discovery of more irregularities even at the current PCSO administration.
“I don’t think this will be the end of it. My only fear is that this could boomerang,” said Cruz but did not elaborate.
At least seven prelates have been implicated in the PCSO fund mess being probed by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Church leaders that were named as among the recipients of SUVs from the PCSO were Pueblos (Montero Sport), Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran (Nissan Pathfinder); Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian (Mitsubishi Strada); Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace); Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad (Mitsubishi Strada); Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace); and Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado (Isuzu Crosswind).
The said bishops will appear at the Senate probe on Wednesday except Salgado, who is reportedly out of the country.
They also have expressed their readiness to give back to PCSO the vehicles. (CBCPNews)

Farmers question P-Noy’s directive to appeal SC decision on Luisita

MANILA, July 12, 2011—Luisita farmers questioned the sincerity of President Aquino’s instruction to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision over the disputed 6,453 hectare sugar estate of the Cojuangcos in Tarlac.
"It’s a Trojan horse! A mere press release,” said Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) secretary-general Rodel Mesa, on President Benigno C. Aquino III directive to appeal the SC decision to conduct a referendum in order to arrive at a decision of what to do in the disputed hacienda.
UMA, together with other farmers’ and farm-workers’ groups, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) had staged a walkout during the dialogue with DAR officials July 11, saying they sensed a dose of insincerity with the filing of the motion for reconsideration (MR) against the controversial decision by the High Tribunal last July 5th.
“It contains nothing concrete. It is just a press release and what President Benigno Simeon Aquino III really wants is a victory courtesy of a referendum accompanied by guns, goons and gold,” Mesa said in a statement.
The farm-workers’ leader said it is “unsafe” to rely with an MR penned by Malacañang for it is only a ‘cover-up’.
“The MR only means one thing: it is to convince the public that Mr. Aquino has nothing to do with the latest decision of the Supreme Court and the hard line stance of his family on [the issue of] Luisita,” Mesa explained.
Mesa said that the farm-workers and their supporters would continue their struggle for the equal and free distribution of the disputed hacienda.
Meanwhile, the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) assails Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr.’s statement that it was the Leftists and “outsiders” who made the situation worse.
"Actually, the Cojuangco-Aquinos are the real outsiders of Hacienda Luisita as they have never stepped on the mud, dropped sweat and labored on the land. Felix Nacpil, the late Federico Laza, Boy Dizon, the Laderas, the ancestors of Rene Galang, Lito Bais, Rodel Mesa and many others are the original developers of the land. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are also the ones who deploy forces of the military such as the army’s 70th Infantry Battalion to terrorize the farm-workers. They are the troublemakers, menace against the farm-workers who developed the hacienda,” said AMGL president Jose Canlas in an email sent to this reporter.
Canlas stressed that it is their “right and duty to support the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, as their struggle for genuine land reform is also ours.”
“They [AMBALA members] are our members and we have the responsibility to reinforce their struggle [for the equal distribution of Luisita lands],” he said.
Canlas also reiterated that the 6,000-hectare disputed lands are acquired using public funds, under an agreement that it has to be distributed after 10 years, thereby making the farm-workers the legitimate owners of the controversial hacienda.
“It is very clear that the Cojuangcos used public funds to acquire Hacienda Luisita in 1957 with the condition that it would be distributed to the farm-workers in 10 years. But they are now claiming the lands their own, clinging on control and repressing farmers’ struggle for genuine land reform. Peping Cojuangco sounded like a cold-blooded landlord, blaming others for the mess; he could not hide his backward mentality and opposition of land reform. The Cojuangcos are always in amnesia about how they acquired the land,” Canlas explained.
“And if you’re going further back, in history, the hacienda is used to be owned by the Spanish agro-corporation Tabacaleras [and] should have been distributed to the farmworkers as they were compelled by the presence of the Hukbalahap in the 1950s. Then president Ramon Magsaysay facilitated the transfer of control to the Cojuangcos, represented by president Aquino’s grandfather Jose “Don Pepe” Cojuangco,” he added. (Noel Sales Barcelona)


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