Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Extrajudicial Killings: A Moral Perspective

(On July 30, 2003, 13 years ago, during the launching of the Coalition Against Summary Execution or CASE, I gave this speech. I am posting this here to help Christians in their discernment as they elect the new president. It is important that we are guided by our conscience because our choices could lead to more killings and we become accomplices to mass murder)
 
Extrajudicial Killings: A Moral Perspective

 
Almost daily, the newspapers and TV report  the series of killings of suspected criminals by the dreaded death squad. This is happening not only in Davao but in other cities in Mindanao.

Many of those killed were petty thieves, drug addicts and pushers. Many of them were still young.

What is happening reminds me of the secret marshals and the cases of salvaging during the Martial Law.

The questions is: Can these killings  be morally justified? Is it right to kill these criminals?

Those who order and perpetrate these killings obviously think that there is nothing wrong with terminating these criminals with extreme prejudice. They think they are doing society a favor because they are getting rid of these criminals, they are defending society from evil people. They believe that the elimination of these criminals is a deterrent to crime. Thus, they act as prosecutor, judge and executioner – carrying out  capital punishment – the death penalty.

I am sure that there are many ordinary citizens who think the same way. That is why there is very little public outcry. They believe  these criminals – especially these drug pushers and suppliers – deserve to die.

Is it right to kill these criminals?

In spite of good intentions, the means used  is not only illegal, it is also immoral.

The end does not justify the means. We cannot achieve a good end with evil means. It is not right to fight crime by committing a crime.

Those who order and carry out these summary executions of criminals become criminal themselves. They are guilty of the crime and sin of murder. What they do violates God’s 5th commandment: You shall not kill.

The direct and intentional killing of human beings, no matter how sinful they are, is a grave sin. Murderers are answerable not only to the law but to God.

The killing of these criminals cannot be considered as an act of self-defense. They did not directly threaten the life of the killers. While their activities are harmful to society, there are lawful means of dealing with them.

No one has a license to kill – not the government officials, not the police and military, and not any civilian. No one can arrogate to himself the power of life and death over other people – only God can do this.

Those who enforce the law must uphold the law. They are not above the law.

The Church upholds the right to life of all human beings – whether, unborn, young, old, and even criminals. The right to life is inalienable. It flows from the principle that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and possess human dignity. Thus, life is sacred. No one can be deprived of the right to life – not even those suspected and found guilty of crime.

This right to life is now enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Church’s opposition to vigilante killings or summary execution is consistent with its opposition to abortion, capital punishment, war and euthanasia.

So, by all means, those in authority should go after the criminals, bring them to justice and punish them appropriately. But they should use means that are legally and morally right. They should not become what they abhor.

There is no need to become criminals in the fight against criminals.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Victims of the Davao Death Squad: Consolidated Report 1998-2015


 
           I recently received a consolidated report of the killings perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad (DDS) since 1998 up to the end of 2015.  The source will not be mentioned for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that since the killings started, they have been monitoring these cases. I know them very well and I have been collaborating with them as we denounced these killings and worked with the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Watch. They are hesitant to make the report public out of apprehension that it will be used for political purposes. I believe that to hide this would be a disservice to the nation since I believe that the body count could multiply many times over throughout the whole country in the next six years. The original report that I have is in Excel format, and very detailed (year by year, according to age, sex, areas, weapons used, etc). What I present is a summary and my own analysis. I know that when I do this, I am risking my life. But the truth must come out before it is too late.

 The total number of persons killed by the DDS from 1998-2015 is 1,424. Let me repeat in words – ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED TWENTY-FOUR victims. This can be considered as MASS MURDER perpetrated by the same group, inspired and supported by the same persons. The data does not include those killed in other cities where the DDS have expanded franchise-style.

Out of 1,424, there were 1,367 male and 57 female. This means that those murdered by the DDS were not only men, there were also fifty-seven women.

Looking at this according to age there were 132 children killed (17 and below) -- 126 boys and 6 girls. The youngest was a 12 years boy and a 15 year girl. There was a 9 year old boy who was killed by a stray bullet – he was not an intended target.

There was a total of 476 young adults (18-25) murdered – 466 male, 19 female. The number of older adults (26 years and above) killed were 612 (466 male, 28 female).  There were victims whose age were not given – 201 (191 male, 10 female).

Thus, almost 50 percent of the victims were young people (children and young adults). Most the victims were killed in urban poor areas (e.g. Buhangin, Agdao, Bangkerohan, Boulevard, Matina, Toril). Most of those killed were involved in illegal drugs – as users and pushers. There were also those involved in petty crimes – theft, cell-phone snatching, gang members. There were 14 cases of mistaken identity – they were not the intended targets but the DDS hit men mistakenly hit the wrong target.  There were some who had gone away after being warned that they were on the hit list and after some years, after reforming their lives, came back thinking that they were safe. Their names were still on the list so they were still killed.

Thus, one can say that majority of the victims of the DDS were young and poor – juvenile delinquents considered as the weeds of society. There were no reports of drug lords or big time criminals among those killed by the DDS. There were two journalists who were believed to have been murdered by the DDS – Jun Pala and Ferdie “Batman” Limtungan. Jun Pala was a radio commentator who constantly spoke out against the DDS and Mayor Duterte. There were two previous attempts on his life and he accused Duterte of being behind these attacks. He was finally killed by motorcycle riding men on the third try. Ferdie “Batman” Lintuan also spoke out against the DDS and also the alleged anomalies in the construction of the People’s Park which he linked with Mayor Duterte. He was also killed by motorcycle riding men.

The victims of the DDS were unarmed. They did not fight back. Many were just sitting down on street-corners  outside sari-sari stores, talking with friends and then suddenly shot in cold blood. There were some who were just released from prison and while waiting for public transportation on the side of the road were suddenly shot by motorcycling men. How the DDS knew the exact time and place they were to be released is amazing. Another victim was killed inside his home in front of his mother and three children who were begging the DDS not to kill him. One of the most well-known case is Clarita Alia – a vegetable vendor in Bangkerohan – whose teen-age sons (who were below 17 years old) were murdered by the DDS. I was asked by Clarita to bless the  body of her boy, Fernando before he was buried.

I have personally witnessed the aftermath of two DDS killings. The first was in our parish church in Bajada. While officiating a Wedding Mass I heard shots outside in the carpark. I immediately rushed outside after the Mass to find out what happened. I saw the body of a teen-age boy lying in our church ground surrounded by people. He had just been shot by DDS hit-men while sitting in the car park with his friends. The killers escaped on a motor-cycle. There was a police car nearby but the police just fired warning shots into the air and did not go after the killers. The boy who was killed lived in a nearby slums area. He had been suspected as one of those who broke the window of a car  park in our church and stole some items two weeks earlier.

The second time I witnessed the aftermath of a DDS killing was while mountain-biking in Lomondao, a distant barangay in Davao. As I neared the place I met three motorcycle riding men speeding back to the city. When I arrived in the place I saw people who gathered around the body of a young boy. When I asked what happened, someone told me it was the DDS. The boy was cell-phone snatcher and drug user. He added, the boy deserved to die.
 
The killings have not stopped. The DDS continue their murderous spree even to this day.  For the last five years (2011-2015), there were 385 victims of extrajudicial killings in Davao -  39 of them below seventeen years old and 118 young adults (18-25). In 2011 there 111 reported DDS killings, in 2012 there were 61, in 2013 there were 101, in 2014 there were 52 and there were 60 in 2015. The DDS usually take a break during the campaign period. They will continue their operations after the elections.

So far, no one has been held accountable for these killings. There has been no official investigation by the police or the city government. The police do not acknowledge the existence of the DDS. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) came to Davao for a public hearing and also met secretly with witnesses – family of the victims and former members of DDS. Although the CHR recommended prosecution, this could not prosper because nobody was willing to testify in court out of fear. The DDS are still around and anybody who testifies will surely be targeted for assassination. I have met some of these witnesses and understand their fear. They claimed that some of those listed as victims were their former companions who knew too much and were suspected of betraying the DDS. So while former DDS members talked about how they were recruited, trained and how they operate, and who their handlers were and their link with some police and local government officials, all these information could not stand in court because they were not willing to testify in spite of the sworn statements made before the CHR. Much of the information can also be found in the report of the Human Rights Watch in 2009 You Can Die Anytime: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao. One of the findings of the Human Rights Watch report reveals the link between the DDS and the police:


“According to these “insiders,” most members of the DDS are either former communist New People’s Army insurgents who surrendered to the government or young men who themselves were death squad targets and joined the group to avoid being killed. Most can make far more money with the DDS than in other available occupations. Their handlers, called amo (boss), are usually police officers or ex-police officers. They provide them with training, weapons and ammunition, motorcycles, and information on the targets. Death squad members often use .45-caliber handguns, a weapon commonly used by the police but normally prohibitively expensive for gang members and common criminals.

The insiders told Human Rights Watch that the amo obtain information about targets from police or barangay (village or city district) officials, who compile lists of targets. The amo provides members of a death squad team with as little as the name of the target, and sometimes an address and a photograph. Police stations are then notified to ensure that police officers are slow to respond, enabling the death squad members to escape the crime scene, even when they commit killings near a police station.”

 
The Human Rights Watch Report also revealed the modus operandi:

 “Our research found that the killings follow a pattern. The assailants usually arrive in twos or threes on a motorcycle without a license plate. They wear baseball caps and buttoned shirts or jackets, apparently to conceal their weapons underneath. They shoot or, increasingly, stab their victim without warning, often in broad daylight and in presence of multiple eyewitnesses, for whom they show little regard. And as quickly as they arrive, they ride off—but almost always before the police appear.”

They deserved to die.” This is what Mayor Duterte said while denying involvement in these extrajudicial killings. At one time, he read a list in his TV program.  A few weeks later many of those in the list were killed by the DDS.

They deserve to die.” This is also the attitude of many residents of the city towards the victims of the DDS. This shows who are behind them and why there has been little outcry regarding these mass murders.

             It appears that the DDS killings are the center-piece of Mayor  Duterte’s campaign against criminality in Davao City. To fight against criminality, you simply kill the criminals through extra-judicial executions carried out by the DDS. No need to arrest them, put them on trial and imprison them if proven guilty. No need for due process of the law. Criminals do not have rights – that is a western concept. For criminals there can only be one punishment – death. It doesn’t matter if you are a petty criminal – even if you are only a drug addict or pusher or cell-phone snatcher, you deserve to die. The killings are meant to be a deterrent to crime - to instill fear on everyone so that they will stop committing crime. According to Human Rights Watch Report:

“The continued death squad operation reflects an official mindset in which the ends are seen as justifying the means. The motive appears to be simple expedience: courts are viewed as slow or inept. The murder of criminal suspects is seen as easier and faster than proper law enforcement. Official tolerance and support of targeted killing of suspected criminals promotes rather than curbs the culture of violence that has long plagued Davao City and other places where such killings occur.”

             It has been very difficult to speak out against these extrajudicial killings because majority of the people in Davao support these.  The archdiocese of Davao under the leadership of Archbishop Fernando Capalla came out with a pastoral letter: “Thou Shalt Not Kill” and held several prayer vigils. We were a minority -  a small voice whose cry in the wilderness was drowned out by the applause of the majority. The blood of 1,424 victims of the DDS was the price that was paid so that there could be peace and order – so that all can walk at night without fear. This was the peace of the cemetery, an order maintained by death squads – by criminals.
            And the mass murder continues and there will be more blood spilled – not just in Davao but the entire Philippines. Mayor Duterte promised that if elected “the 1,000 will become 100,000.” He declared that “it will be bloody.” He said there will be” no need for more jails -- just funeral parlors.” He promised to “eliminate criminality in the entire country within 3-6 months.” How will he do it? The answer is what happened in Davao – through the DDS under the direction of many police officers who deny their existence, with the financial support coming from businessmen and also drawn from the government coffers.

           “I’m willing to go to hell, as long as the people I serve live in paradise.” Is this an admission on the part of Mayor Duterte  that what he has done is a grave sin against God that could someday earn him divine punishment?

Is Davao a paradise after 18 years of DDS extrajudicial killings? Has criminality been eradicated? According to the data from PNP covering 2010-2015, out of 15 chartered cities Davao was fourth in terms of Total Index of Crimes: 37,797 incidents.  In terms of murder, Davao was no. 1 (1,032 incidents) and in terms of rape Davao was no. 2 (843 incidents).  This report gives the impression that in Davao you can be murdered and raped any time. Murder is not really that bad if the DDS and the Mayor can do it. Rape is not really that bad if the Mayor can callously joke about it, wishing he was the first in line when he heard that a hostage – an Australian Lay Missionary - was raped.
Meanwhile, the families of victims cry out for justice as the DDS continue their killing spree. The national government has failed to address this mass murder that could soon multiply many times over, God forbid.      

If the DDS is not stopped and those behind it is not held accountable, there will be a national bloodbath. Those who support it and allow it to multiply will have blood in their hands – they will be accomplices to mass murder. The one who orders this is a mass murderer – the biggest Criminal of them all. 
If it is alright to kill suspected criminals – who can stop any one from taking the law into their own hands? Anyone can become judge and executioner – not only the police and public officials. Anyone can form their own vigilante groups. There won’t be any need for prisons or lawyers or judges. There won’t be any peace, no order as long and human rights and the rule of law are disregarded. Meanwhile, the big criminals, the big thieves and murderers will continue to rule the land. If it is o.k. to kill criminals,  who can prevent anyone from killing the biggest Criminal of them all?
It could be chaotic. We could be entering another dark period of our history -- like the dictatorial period in the past or worst.  

Friday, April 08, 2016

Merciful Leaders: Criteria for Elections in the Year of Mercy

(This is my article for my column which will be published in the CBCP Monitor)

Merciful Leaders: Criteria for Elections in the Year of Mercy

 
As the national and local elections draw near the question that everyone is asking: “who should I vote for?” It is not for the  clergy to dictate to the faithful who to vote for but we can only provide some guidelines that can help them make up their mind. The CBCP in previous elections came out with such guidelines which remain valid at this time. All that one needs to do is to review and follow what has already been laid down.

Since this year has been declared by Pope Francis as the Year of Mercy, it would be appropriate to emphasize “mercy” as one of the chief qualities that we have to expect from the politicians we should vote for.

What does it mean for leaders to be merciful?

It means being aware and concerned about the situation of the people – their suffering and pain. Since majority of the people are poor, their main concern is how to alleviate their poverty. They take the side of the poor. They are concerned about their hunger, their hopes and their dreams. They make sure that the economy excludes no one and benefits the majority instead of just enriching the big capitalists and foreign corporations.

Merciful leaders are concerned about the destruction of the environment and its effect on the people. They are concerned about the effects of mining on the farmers, fishermen and the indigenous peoples. They know that coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming and the coal mining is the most destructive form of mining. They know that logging and deforestation causes floods, droughts and global warming. They avoid getting involved in these activities and will do all in their power to put a stop to these activities and come up with policies that will save the environment and mitigate climate change as well as promote disaster risk reduction and management.

Merciful leaders are concerned about the effects of the never ending war on the nation. They know the effect of the spiral of violence on a traumatized people. They know how armed conflict prevents economic development. Thus, they go out of their way to build peace – a peace that addresses the roots of conflict and that leads to healing and reconciliation. They are willing to pursue the peace process with both the MILF and the NDF that will ensure a genuine and lasting peace.

Merciful leaders are not corrupt and do not tolerate corruption. They know that corruption perpetuates poverty, war and the destruction of the environment. They will do everything to stamp out corruption at all levels in government and hold accountable those guilty of corruption.

Merciful leaders are concerned about criminality and do their best to make sure that justice prevails. They make sure that those who have committed crimes are prosecuted and meted appropriate punishment. They respect the rights of people – even those accused of crimes – and follow the due process of the law. They avoid shortcuts and do not promote extra-judicial killings. They believe that even if people make mistakes, commit sin, or do terrible things no one is totally evil and beyond redemption. They deserve to be given another chance. Thus, they reject capital punishment and promote restorative justice.

Merciful leaders respect the basic human rights – especially the right to life - of everyone from the moment of conception to its natural end. They are merciful especially to the weakest – the unborn – and will make sure that their rights are respected. They will never allow abortion. They are merciful to the elderly and make sure that their rights and privileges are respected. They will make sure that the family will always be protected. Mercy should not be selective nor should it discriminate. It should be inclusive.

There are many people who clamor for strong leaders who they think can stop criminality, corruption and all forms of evil in society. They want leaders who can instill discipline among the citizens with an iron hand. They want ruthless leaders. For them being merciful is a sign of weakness. But what happens when leaders lack mercy? We can end up with a society where terror reigns, where dead bodies pile up and human rights are violated, where due process and the rule of law are ignored. It will be a repressive society - without freedom and where people are afraid to criticize the powers that be -- otherwise they too could be assassinated. Instead of peace and order, we will have the peace of the cemetery and a semblance of order maintained by ruthless bigger criminals.  Meanwhile, the vast majority remains poor and their children who have gone astray are mostly the victims of death squads. The big criminals – big time thieves and murderers -- are at large and hold office: the politicians who steal millions of the people’s money and responsible for the death of thousands.

Tough and ruthless leaders have emerged at various times in the past with disastrous results. We have to say: NEVER AGAIN!  No to ruthless leaders. Yes to merciful and compassionate leaders.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Never Forget… Never Again

             Forty three years ago President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. He abolished congress, suppressed press freedom and other civil liberties and violated the rights of the people.  Thousands of opposition leaders and student activists were imprisoned. Suspected subversives and criminals were subsequently arrested or executed (salvaged) without due process. His justification for his dictatorial rule:  to save the republic, reform society and build a new society – ang Bagong Lipunan . He emphasized discipline and one of the slogans was: “sa ikakaunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”  Through farcical referendum and plebiscite, Marcos enacted a new constitution which provided a legal basis for his dictatorial rule, with a subservient judiciary and parliament. He tried to replace the oligarchy with his cronies who controlled all sectors of the economy. Thus, he monopolized  political and economic power. He was a ruthless, repressive and corrupt dictator, who enriched himself while majority of his people wallowed in poverty. Many of those in the military and the police became corrupt as well and engaged in torture, extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances.

I was one of the victims of the Marcos dictatorial rule. In 1973, on the first anniversary of Martial Law, I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for seven months. My crime: producing and distributing leaflets that denounced the dictatorial rule. I was just an 18-year old college seminarian studying at a University in Cebu and involved in student activism. After I was released from prison and continued my priestly formation, I was constantly haunted by a recurring nightmare reminding me of the terror and pain I experienced.  During that dark period, priests that I personally knew were among the victims: Fr. Godofredo  Alingal, SJ the parish priest of Kibawe assassinated for his prophetic denunciation of military abuses and Fr. Rudy Romano, CSsR, a fellow Redemptorist who was abducted and made to disappear by military intelligence agents. There were BEC leaders and pastoral workers who were arrested or killed by military and paramilitary units.  A few months before the end of the Marcos era, my mother was murdered and robbed by a gang composed of members of the Philippine Constabulary (PC - now known as PNP-SAF) who were later killed in a shootout with the police after another robbery attempt. Everything seemed so hopeless at that time until the miraculous EDSA  People Power which was for me a manifestation of God's liberating action in history.

 It seemed a long time ago and many have forgotten or are ignorant about the dark period of the history of our country.  Nowadays, there are many who believe that Marcos was the greatest president of the Philippines and who question the heroism of Ninoy Aquino whose death later became the inspiration of the People Power. These are the people who are too young and ignorant to know what really happened or old enough to be instruments or collaborators of the Marcos dictator and who benefited from his rule. These are the same people who are clamoring for his son to run for the highest office. Some are supporting the candidacy of a politician who has the reputation of being as corrupt as the former dictator and is being investigated for plunder. Others who are fed up with the judicial system and rule of law are clamoring for a strong man – another dictator – who will instill discipline,  rule with an iron hand, abolish congress, ignore human rights and civil liberties and unleash the death squads all over the country to stamp out criminality. They want history to repeat itself.  This is our fatal flaw. Our collective memory as a nation is as short as our noses. Ferdinand Marcos is long dead but his legacy lives on. Graft and corruption is imbedded in our political, economic and judicial systems. There are government officials as well as those in the military and police who think and act as if they are above the law, who use their positions to enrich themselves, and who violate human rights. Forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings continue.

Those of us who witnessed, who suffered and who survived that dark period have an obligation to remind the nation and the new generation of the evil of the Marcos dictatorial rule and its persistence in our time. We will continue to cry out: “We will never forget. Never again.”

Here’s a poem I wrote which sums up what I and many went through under detention:

 
   A Prisoner's Psalm

 
From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you --
Lord, can your hear my groaning 
I cry to you all day long,
I call out to you in the night
But you are so distant or absent.

My throat is sore, I cannot scream anymore
Day and night they ask me all sorts of questions,
they strike, punch and kick me  when I do not answer.
My fingers are swollen, I cannot clench my fist
My ribs are broken, I cannot stand erect
My whole body is enflamed, it is getting numb. 

I was thirsty and they forced me to drink  rum.
to loosen my tongue and reveal to them the truth.
They stripped me off my clothes and my dignity.
They are preparing the machine that will electrify my body.
And now I dread the sound of footsteps and the opening of the door.
I prefer this darkness than face the glaring light.

They said only I can end my suffering
if I confess to them everything and betray those
who oppose this dictatorial regime.

How much longer, do I have to suffer?
How much longer can I hold on?
How much longer can I maintain my sanity?
Will I ever see again the sky and the sun?
Will I ever see again the faces of those I love and serve?
Or will they make me disappear forever?

Lord, do not abandon me?
Deliver me from these kidnappers and murderers
who are trying to maintain peace and order.
Deliver me from these mercenaries in uniform
whose obsession is to defend national security
the security of this blood-thirsty and power hunger dictator
the security of his cronies and their big business interests
the security of his alien lords and their bases and investments.
 
O, Lord my God,
I know you are neither blind nor deaf.
Your mercy and compassion endure  forever.
You have always been a subversive God -
you depose the mighty from their thrones and raise the lowly.
I cry out now to you: subvert this dictatorial regime!
Let your Spirit fill the hearts of those who are struggling
to build a kingdom of justice, peace and freedom.
 
From this dark and damp cell
I cry out to you, Lord can you hear me?
Into your hands I commend my broken body
and my wavering spirit.
           

Sunday, February 15, 2015

We Who Mourn (A Poem on the Mamasapano Encounter)


We Who Mourn*

Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

 

You grieve for the loss of the 44 who perished in our cornfields.

We too are grieving not only for them but for our dead:

            18 mujahideens, a little girl and six other civilians caught in the  crossfire.

            Not counting those massacred in Corregidor almost 50 yrs ago

            and over 60,000 who perished in our homeland through the years –

casualties and collateral damage of war.

 

You demand for justice for the 44.

We too demand for justice and for peace

after what we have suffered through the centuries.

You have not seen the tears in our eyes.

The TV networks only showed the tears of those left behind by the 44.

You blame us, condemn us, and hate us – as if it was all our fault.

 

We were peacefully asleep when we heard gunshots.

It was still dark when armed men arrived in our place.

We did not know who they were.

We thought we were under attack from rival groups

or that the ceasefire agreement had been broken by the military.

If they were military or police, why did they not coordinate with us

or inform us of their presence?

They fired at us and we fired back.

There were also others who joined the fray.

It was kill or be killed.

We killed many of them.

They also killed some of our brothers.

A bloody encounter brings out the worst in each one of us.

In order to prevail we become ruthless.

And it takes a long time to put out the raging fire.

We found out too late that it was a misencounter.

 

You call it a massacre,

as if we planned the whole thing.

You call us terrorists harboring wanted terrorists.

You say only a dead Moro is a good Moro.

You say that we cannot be trusted.

And now you want to dash the only hope for a just and lasting peace -

 the scrapping of our peace agreement that we have labored for so long.

And you want to unleash another all out war on us and our children.

 

Please remember this.

There will be no victors in this war. Only victims.

Next time it won’t just be 44 who will come home in bodybags

and it won’t be only 18 of our Mujahideens that will be buried in our cornfields.

The number of widows and orphans will multiply.

Not counting the billions of pesos spent in bombs and bullets

that can better used for the poor.

 

You want to unleash  your armed might and subjugate us?

The Spanish conquistadores tried.

The American imperialists tried.

Successive presidents from Marcos to Erap tried.

They did not succeed.

You may turn our homeland into a no man’s land

and impose the peace of the graveyard.

But the traumatized orphans will grow up someday,

filled with hate and will swell the ranks of the Mujahideens

who will not be open to talk peace like us.

The spiral of violence will continue.

We will live in perpetual war that will be waged all over the country.

Is this what you want?

 

We are not the enemy. You are not our enemy.

Our ancestors welcomed your ancestors to our homeland.

The land which you claim as your own used to belong to us.

All we ask is for justice and a land we can call our own.

But we will not drive you away from our homeland

that you also regard as your promised land.

 

Our faith may differ but we have much in common.

The Christ you follow is the Jesus (peace be upon him) that we revere in the  Qur’an –

            as Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus Son of Mary) – born of the Virgin Mary,

            al Masih (the Messiah),  Al Nabi (the Prophet), who suffered and died

            and ascended into heaven and will return as judge at the end of time.

We both believe in One God/Allah – the almighty, the merciful

and we both honor Abraham (Ibrahim) as our father in faith,

we are all children of Abraham, children of the one God/Allah.

 

We have to embrace each other as brothers and sisters,

neighbors and friends, fellow Filipinos,

living in peace – a just and lasting peace

in our homeland that you also call your promised land.

 

We mourn together for our loss.

Let us work together to attain justice and lasting peace

so that what happened in the cornfields of Mamasapano

and other battlefields in Mindanao

will never happen again.

 

 

(*this poem was not written by a Muslim or a supporter of the MILF but by a Catholic priest who wants to “walk in the shoes” of those hated by the majority of Christians who support an all-out war in Mindanao and scrap the BBL)

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Silent Church? A Response to President Noynoy Aquino


Was the Church Silent Under the Arroyo Administration?

A Response to the Welcome Address of President Noynoy Aquino

Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

 

 
In his welcome address to Pope Francis in Malacanang a week ago (Jan. 16, 2015), President Benigno Aquino III paid tribute to courage of the clergy during Martial Law and for vividly living up to the vision of "the Church of the poor and the oppressed"  that "nourished compassion, faith and courage of the Filipino people ... This allowed millions to come together as a single community of faith and make possible the miracle of the EDSA People Power Revolution." At the same time he denounced the Church for being silent in face of the abuses under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration:

 
"Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day.In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin. Is it any wonder then, that they see the glass not as half-full, or half-empty, but almost totally empty. Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of the facts."

 

The president lamented that the clergy who were silent during the previous administration are now his critics in his efforts to correct the wrongs of the past. He accuses them of rendering judgment "without an appreciation of the facts."

Many netizens and journalists criticized the President for his inappropriate remarks, lacking in delicadeza and good manners, and out of touch with the occasion. Imagine, criticizing the host - the Philippine Church - in front of the Pope. Others, praised him for speaking his mind and for telling the truth even if it was not the proper occasion. That it was inappropriate everybody can agree. But was he speaking the truth? Was the Church really silent under the Arroyo Administration?

There may have been some members of the clergy, religious and faithful who were silent. But there were also many who spoke out against the abuses of the previous administration. The facts speak for themselves. Below are some excerpts from news reports and their url links:

“On March 8, 2006 Bishop Navarra, backed by dozens of clergy and leaders of religious congregations led more than 10,000 marchers in a prayer rally at the Bacolod public plaza to denounce Macapagal-Arroyo’s state of national emergency, threats of martial law reimposition, mining expansion, and Charter change, among others.
In the program, Navarra read his pastoral letter, the main message of which is to “disturb the conscience of the leaders of this land,” and calls on the people to register their protests as Christians.
“Be more vigilant for truth, remain steadfast witnesses of the truth, because we are adrift in a turbulent sea of lies and falsehoods,” Navarra urged the marchers.
“We have to make our voices heard as we search for truth and for the redress of our human dignity impaired by machinations of people with vested and partisan interests – the very reason why as Church and concerned citizens we strongly registered our protest against the imposition of state of national emergency, albeit lifted already,” Navarra also said.
After the bishop’s message, representatives of cause-oriented organizations, civil society, media, lawyers and local government units offered their respective prayers, most of whom offered their call for more vigilance, courage, righteousness, and resoluteness in seeking the truth, removal of GMA, and “liberating the people.”  Fr. Aniceto Buenafe, director for social action of the Diocese of Bacolod, elated by the big turnout of ralliers, said: “I am so glad that people have responded positively to our call, and showed their readiness to resist the threat of martial law reimposition.”“I hope our actions and statements here will be heard in the national level, especially in Malacañang, so they would know we are disgusted with the way GMA runs our government and country.” (http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-6/6-6-bacolod.htm

 
In 2008, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported denunciation from CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo’s condemnation of the Arroyo administration:

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has disputed the Arroyo administration’s claim of economic progress and condemned corruption in government. “Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “ramdam ang kaunlaran (progress is felt)” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang kahirapan, ramdam ang gutom (Poverty is felt, hunger is felt),” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said Tuesday.  “The benefits of the much-proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses,” the CBCP president said in a statement which he issued jointly with three other bishops and vocal administration critic, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.  Asked by reporters later if he thought that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was corrupt, Lagdameo unhesitatingly said “yes.” Asked if the President deserved to be removed from power, he said “the answer should come from the people who see what’s happening in our country.”  Lagdameo told a press conference that the statement, which called for “immediate reforms,” was the product of “communal discernment” with Cruz, Masbate Bishop Joel Baylon, Banga-Bataan Bishop Socrates Villegas and Legazpi Bishop Emeritus Jose Sorra.  “In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. Corruption is a social and moral cancer,” said Lagdameo, who clarified that he was making the statement as the archbishop of Jaro and not as the CBCP president.  “In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now,” Lagdameo said.  “The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now.  “The time to prepare a new government is now,” he said.

Villegas stressed that they were not calling for another mass revolt.  “We are making this statement because we believe that if we had been less corrupt we would be better prepared to face the impending global crisis. The problem of the Philippines is not population, the problem is corruption,” Villegas said. “We are not social troublemakers, we are soul troublemakers. We want to disturb consciences… then the change that we want in government and society will really come from within us,” he said.   Cruz said it was the “strongest statement” that Lagdameo had made so far during his incumbency, “the most straight language written, as straight as it could be.”  The CBCP has been divided over directly challenging Ms Arroyo over allegations of corruption.  In February at the height of the scandal over the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., the CBCP called a special plenary meeting but did not ask for the President’s resignation. The CBCP instead “strongly condemned the culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political order.” (http://www.inquirer.net/specialreports/inquirerpolitics/view.php?db=1&article=20081029-169024)

It was not only the bishops who condemned the abuses and corruption of the Arroyo administration. Priests and religious also did so. The AMRSP (Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines) provided support and sanctuary to Jun Lozada the whistle-blower who exposed the corrupt deals of President Gloria Arroyo. In my own, way I also denounced the president. Here is a GMA news report about my Bike-Tour around the Philippines in April 2008:

Redemptorist "biking priest" Amado "Picx" Picardal arrived in Manila Sunday for the Manila and North Luzon legs of his 56-day, 4,750-kilometer bike tour for peace.  The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Monday that Picardal will deliver his letter of concern to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacañang on April 27.
"On April 27, on his way back from Northern Luzon, he will bike around Manila and deliver (his) letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," the CBCP said on its website Monday.
Picardal is expected to tour Northern Luzon then make his Malacañang delivery on his way back from the north, it said.  Earlier, Picardal said that while he does not expect President Arroyo to receive him or his letter personally, he will make its contents public once he formally submits it to the Palace.  He said his letter to Mrs Arroyo will denounce her and her government for perpetuating a "culture of death."  "Delivering a letter to Malacañang is just a side trip and I don't expect the President to meet me or to read the letter - it is just symbolic. I will make the contents of the letter public - in it I will denounce the President for perpetuating the culture of death and corruption and for being a hypocrite (she goes to Mass every day and claims that it is God's will that she is president). Although I want her to resign, I will not be demanding her resignation because I know that it will be futile - she will continue to cling to power at all cost," he said in his Web log in March.  Also, he said his letter will tell Arroyo she will face the judgment of history and of God, and her worst punishment will be to live the rest of her life in shame and disgrace.”
(http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/87989/news/nation/biking-priest-in-manila-to-deliver-letter-to-arroyo).
 
These news reports cited here are just examples to how that President Aquino rendered judgment on the Church "without an appreciation of the facts." He bore false witness against the Church in front of Pope Francis, the whole nation and the whole world. He was not only rude, he was also a liar. This is what made his welcome address very offensive.

 
The Church was not silent during the dark days of Martial law, the Church was not silent during the Arroyo administration, and the Church is not silent under Aquino’s administration. It is not his hair – or lack of it -  that has to  be admonished. It is what is lacking below his hair. He follows the neo-malthusian solution to the problem of poverty: more free condoms and birth control pills. Sure, some of his political enemies are already in prison for corruption, but what about his friends and allies. He continues to defend his PNP chief who has been charged with corruption. Pope Francis’ comment about corruption in government was in reference to the present administration. While talking about reforming the corrupt political system, President Aquino defended patronage politics and the corrupt pork-barrel system (PDAF & DAP) until these were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. While he has come up with a peace agreement with the MILF, he has not shown any interest in continuing the peace process with the NDF. This administration has not adequately responded to the disasters caused by successive typhoons and other calamities. The victims until now are still waiting for the implementation of rehabilitation program. He even snubbed the anniversary of Yolanda in Tacloban even if he was just nearby. He talks about climate change and protection of the environment while allowing mining and the construction of more coal-fired power-plants. What I find lacking is his mercy and compassion.

I supported his candidacy because I thought he is a decent man who who would continue the legacy of his parents whom I admire so much. I was mistaken. To my regret, he has turned out to be a big disappointment in the end. I wonder of his parents would b e proud of him. With all his good intentions, he is not up to the challenge of becoming a great leader like his parents. His welcome address to the Pope in Malacanang was pathetic and a monumental embarasssment to the nation. He was not just rude, he also did not speak the truth. That was un-presidential of him. This was the lowest, ugliest moment of the papal visit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why is Pope Francis here?



Finally, Pope Francis is here. A grand welcome has been prepared for him by both the Philippine Church and the government.

Why is he really here? What is the purpose of his visit? No one really has a full answer except Pope Francis. We cannot presume to read the mind of the pope –we can only try to deduce or to guess. Perhaps, in his homilies and talks the purpose of his visit can become clearer. But we still have to read between the lines because there are deeper reasons that may not be explicitly stated. An interpretative analysis may still be necessary. I would like to share my own conjecture of what I believe is one of the most important reason.

Every papal visit usually has an agenda that is not explicitly stated. In his first trip outside of Rome after his election, Pope Francis went to Lampedusa to offer prayers for the victim of the tragic shipwreck that claimed the lives of refugees coming from North Africa. At a first glance, it was a gesture of his compassion and solidarity with the victims. A deeper analysis would show that it was also meant to draw attention to the flight of refugees and the indifference of European nations that have adopted restrictive policies that made it difficult for people escaping poverty and violence in their homeland to migrate to the European continent in search for a better life. His Lampedusa visit was a prophetic act meant to awaken the conscience of governments and the people of Europe and other wealthy countries. The pope tied the tragedy to the “inhuman global economic crisis, a serious symptom of a lack of respect for the human person.” Calling the tragedy shameful, he asked everyone to make sure that it will never happen again. So, his visit was not just an expression of his mercy and compassion. He also asked people to look at the causes of such tragedy and act so that it will never happen again.

The theme of the papal visit to our country is “mercy and compassion.” Everyone presumes that the pope is coming to express his sympathy and compassion for the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda. This is why the highlight of his visit is the Mass in Tacloban and lunch with representatives of the victims and survivors. It was reported earlier on that he was deeply moved by the tragedy. This is why he immediately sent Cardinal Robert Sarah as his personal representative to express his solidarity with the victims and paved the way for his coming. But there is much more to that. He is coming not just for the victims and survivors of Yolanda but for all of us as a people and as a nation.  We are on top of the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change. We have been visited by a series of super-typhoons and floods through the years – not only Yolanda but Sendong, Pablo, Ruby, Seniang. There is to more come. All these are manifestations of the effect of climate change.

And the most vulnerable are the poor. The Yolanda victims and survivors represent all of us and the rest of the world – especially the poor -- that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Pope Francis’ awareness of the link between Yolanda and climate change is evident in his address to the Vatican diplomatic corps in January 2014: “I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if ‘nature is at our disposition’, all too often we do not ‘respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations’. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home. I recall a popular saying: ‘God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives!’. We have also witnessed the devastating effects of several recent natural disasters. In particular, I would mention once more the numerous victims and the great devastation caused in the Philippines and other countries of South-East Asia as a result of typhoon Haiyan.”

            Previously an analyst wrote: “the new pontiff’s role in assisting the world’s disadvantaged will be inextricably linked to the ravages of climate change, the fast-growing global crisis that will hit the rising global impoverished populations hard with increasingly deadly droughts, floods and storms as heat-trapping carbon pollution continues to build in the atmosphere.” (Rocky Kistner) . Pope Francis took the name of St. Francis of Assisi because of his love for the poor and the environment.

            It has been reported that Pope Francis will soon publish an encyclical on climate change. I believe that his visit to the Philippines is part of his agenda regarding climate change and its effect on the poor. Once again like his Lampedusa visit, his coming to our country is a prophetic act that will draw attention to the effects of climate change, link it to the global economic system and the consumerist-materialistic culture that is destroying this earth in the name of economic progress.

            The gaze of world is not only on Pope Francis but on us. Pope Francis is here, not to draw attention to himself but to our plight as a nation and as people – especially the poor in our midst –who are most vulnerable to climate change. I’m sure that the pope would be embarrassed to see his images plastered all over the country. The pope does not want us to focus our gaze on him but rather on the poor and the victims and survivors of the calamities in whose faces we see the face of Jesus.

As we welcome Pope Francis we too are invited to share his concern about the environment and about climate change. We need to look at our own lifestyle and to act to mitigate or reverse climate change. As PCP II reminds us, we are called to “care for the needy and care for the earth.” Mercy and compassion must therefore be concretely expressed not just in our care for the poor but through our action to care for the environment.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Climate Ride Diary

Happy New Year. It's been over a week since I returned to Baclaran after finishing my Climate Ride. I posted in the Facebook that short day-to-day account and photographs of the two-week epic ride. I am posting here an expanded diary of the climate ride:


1. December 10, 2014. Baclaran to Atimonan (173 km)

At 5:30 am after the send-off prayer and blessing at the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, I set off alone on my Climate Ride.

I wasn’t feeling well because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before. Too much excitement? Or the increased dosage of my a pills. I was very thirsty even at the start. Possibly the effect of dehydration since I was always peeing that night.

At km 47, as I started my ascent from Calamba to Sto Tomas I felt the cramps in both my thighs and the forefeet. I had to slow down and take a lot of breaks. I was behind schedule. I was met by my friend Nova who biked with me for several kilometers.

When I reached Lucena, two bikers without their bikes met me – they told me they left their bikes for a while to meet and greet me and accompany me on their vehicle. They also gave me food and refreshment.

It was already dark as I took the diversion road to Atimonan instead of the Zigzag. The muscle cramp was gone thanks to the banajas. It was 7:45 pm when I arrived in Atimonan. I decided not to proceed to Gumaca where I am expected at the Cathedral rectory. I am staying in a cheap hotel. I am exhausted. I hope to recover tomorrow.

Day 2: December 11, 2014: Atimonan-Sipocot (170 k).

Left 4:30 am. Crashed at 5:00 a.m. minor bruises no broken bones. A very exhausting ride along Quirino highway. Lots of climbs and a flat tire. Arrived Sipocot 7 p.m. and slept overnight at St. Therese parish.

Day 3: Dec 12, 2014. Sipocot-Sorsogon City (190 km

Woke up at 3 a.m. fully recovered after a goodnight’s sleep. Started biking at 4:30 a.m. and reached the Archbishop’s residence at 7:15 where I had coffee. Archbishop Rolly Tirona was away and he just talked to me over the phone to welcome. I had conversation with the resident priests priests and Dr. Quimlat. resumed my journey at 8 am guided by Clarence Razo Llorin out of the city. The ride from Naga to Daraga was fast and easy on mostly flat highway except for some easy hill climbs to Guinobatan. There I was met by Cesar Banares and his friend who accompanied me for over 15 km. The ride from Daraga to Sorsogon was a bit tough but it was easier than Qurino highway. I reached Sorsogon at 6:15 p.m. without feeling exhausted. I proceeded to the cathedral rectory where I was given accommodation by Mgr Del.

Day 4: Dec 13, 2014. Sorsogon-Calbayog (140 km)

Continued my journey at 4:30 a.m. The first to accompany me was the municipal engineer of Juvan. Then 10 cyclists of Irosin joined. Among them was a kagawad of Irosin, a principal of a school, a lady teacher, a female nurse. Three Matnog cyclists. They accompanied me to Matnog port where I was able to board the 9 a.m. ferry. I was so glad it was raining when we docked in Allen. The rain kept me cool as I biked to Calbayog. It was tough ride up down 14 hills. I was met in San Joaquin by three cyclists from Calbayog. We finally reached the rectory of the cathedral at 5 pm. Had supper with the resident priests.

Day 5. December 14, 2014. Calbayog-Tacloban (175 km)

It was raining at 4:45 a.m. as I left Calbayog. It continued to rain intermittently four more times and I was happy as a frog inspite of the many hill climbs. I just love the wind and rain caressing my face and keeping me cool. I didn’t feel any exhaustion even without breakfast and lunch (as usual). Eight Calbayog cyclists met and accompanied me for a couple of hours. Along the way I saw some of the effects of Supertyphoon Ruby.

I finally reached San Juanico Bridge at 5 p.m. I reached the Redemptorist parish around 6 p.m. This is where the victims of Yolanda evacuated last year (they also came back last week to take shelter from Ruby).

I was welcomed by my Redemptorist confreres

6, Dec. 15: Tacloban. Rest and Recovery Day

I woke up late today and felt exhausted and drained. My muscles are sore, the bruise on both knees still swelling. I felt totally wasted. That’s what I get after biking 848 km in five days – a personal record. The last time I biked this route, it took me eight days to bike from Tacloban to Manila – and I was 14 years younger (that was my Davao to Pagudpud Bike for Peace in 2000).

So no fasting. Three meals today. I feel sluggish and sleepy. So I went back to bed after having my cycling shorts and jerseys laundered and cleaning my bike. I am now preparing my homily for tomorrow – the first day of the Misa de Gallo. I will be preaching about the Yolanda tragedy last year (in the Church which became a temporary evacuation center) and link it with climate change. After the Mass I will continue my journey. I don’t know if there will be any local cyclists who will send me off tomorrow. There was no one who met me yesterday. At least there will be one priest biker who will join me in Palo. My desire is as I continue my journey there will be more and more local cyclists or just ordinary citizens with any kind of bike – young and old, male and female – who will accompany me even for a few kilometers to express their support for the Climate Ride. After all climate change is everyone’s concern. This will be my remaining itinerary:

12/16 Tacloban-Liloan Leyte 144 km
ETD: 6 a.m. Redemptorist
12/17. Lipata Surigao-Prosperidad 182 km
ETA Butuan 11 am, ETA Prosperidad, 5 p.m.
12/18 Prosperidad-New Bataan 142 km
ETD 6 a.m. ETA 4-5 p.m.
12/19 New Bataan-Davao City 118 km
ETD 6 .am. ETA 1-2 p.m.
12/20 Davao-Maramag Redemptorist Mission Station 157 km
ETD Redemptorist 6 a.m. ETA 5:30 p.m.
12/21 Maramag-Malaybalay 48 km
12/22 Malaybalay-Cagayan de Oro 97 km ETD cathedral 6 a.m.-.ETA 12 noon
12/23 Cagayan de Oro cathedral-Iligan 92 km ETD 6 a.m. ETA 12 noon.
for monitoring, My CP#09081733611

Day 7 , Dec. 16: Tacloban-Liloan, Leyte (144 km)

I have just finished celebrating the Misa de Gallo. At 6 a.m. I will be resuming my journey to Liloan, Leyte where I will take the 10 p.m. ferry to Lipata, Surigao. From there I will proceed to Proseridad, Agusan. The sun is about to rise,.

Day 8, Dec. 17: Lipata Port, Surigao City-Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur (154 km)
I arrived here in Prosperidad Agusan Sur at 6:30 p.m. after biking 154 km from Lipata Surigao. Two bikers joined me in Surigao and six in Butuan. I only had two hours of sleep in the boat. I felt sleepy and tired by 8 a.m., so I stopped and slept for 20 minutes in a waiting shed. I felt refreshed and was able to continue with my journey. I had a spectacular view of Lake Mainit. It rained intermittently the whole day. (Can’t connect to FB, pls share)

Day 9, Dec. 18: Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur-New Bataan, Compostela Valley (150 km)
I concelebrated and shared about climate change at the Misa de Gallo at 4 a.m. I was set to go by 7:30 a.m. when I noticed that the rear tire was flat so I had it fixed. I was able to leave at 8:45 a.m. but after just 30 minutes I had another flat tire. So I was further delayed. It rained intermittently the whole day. I took 20-minute power naps twice in waiting sheds when I felt drowsy and tired. When I reached Montevista at 4:30 p.m. there were five Robobam bikers waiting for me. They told me they will accompany me as far as Compostela so that they can go back home before dark. I was expecting to bike alone in the dark but they decided to continue biking with me up to New Bataan. We reached the parish rectory at 7:30 p.m. after eating at a carenderia. I was welcomed by Fr Roy.

Day 10, Dec 19 Climate Ride (New Bataan-Davao City 141 k)

At 4 am I concelebrated and preached in New Bataan- one of the places devastated by supertyphoon Pablo two years ago. At 6:15 I continued my bike-journey. When I reached Montevista I was accompanied by Tatang but he was bumped by a motorbike after passing Nabunturan. I was accompanied later by military officers who went as far as Madaum, Tagum where another biker was waiting for me. I had a flat tire near Carmen so we were delayed. In Bunawan, several bikers were waiting for us and another group from the Redemptorist parish joined us in Panacan. We finally reached the Redemptorist compound st 3:40 pm where we received a warm welcome from the community and parishioners.

 

Day 11,  December 20, 2014: Davao-Buda (93 kms)

I resumed my journey at 6:15 am, after concelebrating and preaching in the Misa de Gallo at the Redemptorist Church. There were four who accompanied me – Dennis Jay Santos, Salome & her daughter Alicia May, & Boy Chavez. Later Dennis turned back but three more joined us. So six bikers were with me up to Lomondao – a mountain barangay 53 kms from Davao. Then I was all alone continually ascending the mountain-highway of Davao under the heat of the sun. It was a slow and exhausting ride. When I reached Buda at 5 pm I decided not to proceed to Maramag which was still 64 km away. So I went to the parish rectory and asked Fr. Mar Bilbao for overnight accommodation. This has been the shortest but most difficult stage so far.

Day 12, December 21, 2014: Buda-Malaybalay, Bukidnon (117 kms)

At 6:15 after the Misa de Gallo where I was the celebrant and preacher, I resumed my journey alone. The ride during the whole day was exhausting and scary. It was very hot & humid, so many climbs, and steep & long descents. At 12:15, I reached the Redemptorist Mission Station in Maramag. After two hours of resting I resumed my ride until I reached the Bishop’s residence at 6:40 where I was warmly welcomed by Bishop Joe Cabantan.

Day 13, December 22, 2014: Malaybalay-Cagayan de Oro (96 kms)

At 4 a.m., I accompanied Bishop Jose Cabantan to Sompong where I concelebrated with him and preached about climate change.

At 8 a.m., after receiving Bishop Joe’s blessing, I resumed my journey accompanied by 14 Malaybalay bikers. We were later joined by Fr. Titing Selicios who biked from Damilig parish to meet us and join us as far as Cagayan.

Two bikers took turns in carrying my pack and two others gave me a push during climbs, especially Mangima. In Dalirig, two Cagayan cyclists met us and three more joined us in San Miguel, Manolo Fortich.

In Puerto we were joined by Gilbert Dizon (a biker who has also toured around the Philippines). All the bikers had their own advocacy signs. We reached Cagayan de Oro by almost 2:40 and dropped by for refreshment in a place owned by one of the Cagayan bikers.

We finally reached the St. Augustine Cathedral at 3 p.m. where we were interviewed by ABS-CBN, GMA news, Inquirer and MindaNews. After taking snacks the bikers were on their way home. So while yesterday I was biking all alone the whole day, today I was journeying with a ‘community’ of bikers.

Day 14, December 23, 2014: Cagayan de Oro- Iligan (94 km)

Early this morning, I concelebrated the Misa de Gallo with Archbishop Tony Ledesma in Cugman parish church. I also preached about climate change. At 7 a.m. after receiving the Archbishop’s blessing, I set out on the final leg of my journey accompanied by Gilbert Dizon. We were later joined by Roni T. Tanz. As we approached Initao, bikers from Naawan and Iligan joined us. There were over 50 bikers who joined the Climate Ride.

We stopped for a while in the Naawan parish where we were welcomed by the parish priest Fr. Valmoria. After giving a talk on climate change we resumed our journey.

As we neared Iligan we proceeded to Hinaplanon where we held a brief memorial prayer service for the victims of Sendong. The bikers lit their candles and we ended the service by throwing the flowers to the river. Then we biked around the city and finally reached the Redemptorist church. So my Climate Ride has ended. I started as a solitary rider and ended with the biking community.

 
Dec 31, 2014 Climate Ride - Epilogue (Redemptorist Iligan to Deus Caritas Village Upper Tominobo 20 km roundtrip). My climate ride wouldn't be complete without ...a visit to the relocation site of the survivors of Typhoon Sendong. I couldn't do it immediately after Christmas due to Typhoon Seniang. So finally this morning I visited the Deus Caritas Village Phase II in upper Tominobo (a joint project of the diocese of Iligan, NASSA-Caritas & Daughters of Charity). I gave a donation to the community from the savings from my biking & fasting, and some amount I received during the climate ride. From 9-11:00 am, I gave a talk to the leaders of the Basic