CHURCH, CSOs TO CANDIDATES:
PRIORITIZE ENVIRONMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS

Faith groups and civil society organizations urged the aspirant leaders of the country in the coming 2016 Elections to incorporate the issues of the environment and human rights in their campaign platforms by seriously going through the Pope's encyclical.

"All candidates, even the non-Catholic ones, can learn a lot of things from Laudato Si where Pope Francis succinctly discussed the connection of several environmental issues with the call for social justice," Ed Garingan Anti-Mining project officer of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI) said.

Laudato Si is Pope Francis’ encyclical released in June 2015.


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The media conference was the product of a National Forum on Laudato Si and the 2016 elections organized by PMPI and the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA/Caritas Filipinas) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Saturday, April 9, in Quezon City. About 100 church workers and CSO leaders were present.

 
“We hope that our candidates recognize the fact that they can become instruments of social awareness during the electoral campaign. We ask them that instead of dancing and singing during their political sorties, they could use the opportunity to highlight important issues such as environmental protection and the promotion of human rights," Fr. Edu Gariguez of NASSA/Caritas Filipinas said.
 
Citing the Pope’s latest encyclical Laudato Si, Gariguez explained that no other than Pope Francis underscored the necessity to talk about environmental and social justice if we are really concerned with the future of the human race.
 
As the elections seems to be a contest on who is more concerned of the people, candidates must be ready to listen or even echo both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

 

Kidapawan Violence and electoral gimmickry

"What we are seeing so far for the 2016 electoral campaign is the usual circus. They can do better than this," said Garingan.

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Faith groups on Kidapawan clash:

Violence not an option


PMPI laments the unfortunate incident in Kidapawan. What is happening in the drought affected parts of Mindanao is deeply troubling:

  • When communities reeling from intense drought still have to rally for days to demand relief after the whole of North Cotabato, has been declared under the state of calamity since January 2016. 
  • When the government offered the farmers 3 kilograms of rice for every quarter, despite enoughfunds allocated to assist the farmers and the affected populations of the province and for all of Region 12.
  • When the government deployed armed forces in full battle gear to disperse the hungry farmers who are claiming their life support provisions, not only with brute force butwith bullets.
  • When, after the protest-turned-bloody-mayhem, the arrest and detention of protesters and, without proper investigation of the event,police officers were awarded medal of valor.
  • When humanitarian donation and support are being rejected and blocked by the local government amid plea from the people and from the Commission on Human rights to allow neighboring towns to avail of rice aid provided by private individuals and organizations. 

As reports from our member organizations and different news agencies came in, it wasenough to make us freeze with helplessness. The images of bloodied farmers in TV and social media shuddered our senses. And even as we try to suspend judgement due to the blaming game, we can’t help but feel for the farmers. 

 

No need for violence

Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. national coordinator Yoly Esguerra shared that nothing can justify the action of the police using live bullets to disperse protesting civilians. There were many measures that could have been done to prevent violence to happen. Dialogue and tolerance should always be the modes of action of those in power.  

“It was not a secret to us that these areas will be heavily impacted by the drought and that funds were earmarked to help them cope. That we had to wait until it reached this point is unacceptable. Measures to mitigate the impact should have been in place. Relief is due to the affected population of El Nino soonest,” she said.

Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III in an interview shared that the DSWD has since released P133,426,000 including funds to maintain and complete the required or standard stockpiled 30,000-families food pack and initial assistance for the cash-for-work program. This is to cover the 125,228 families or 626,140 persons affected by El Niño in all of Region 12.

“But where are these funds? Why until now it has yet to reach our farmers?” Fr. Joy Pelino of the Social Action of Marbel said.

He stressed that the matter should have not reached this point if the government only did its job.

 

Drought gone bloody

Notwithstanding the present turmoil, since 2014 PAGASA has provided ample warning of the start of the El Niño cycle. They sternly informed all that the current cycle was the “strongest in modern history” and will be prolonged well into the middle of 2016.

Interface Development Interventions (IDIS Inc.) Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that if the government prepared well for the people in the affected areas, none of the strings of protests would have happened.

“Given the early warning made by the national weather agency, the government should have foreseen this scenario and placed appropriate measures to address this situation," Fuertes said. "What the local government did to the protesters was unconscionable. They were only asking for food and yet they were met with such brutish violence."

Geonathan T. Barro of MASIPAG-Mindanao stressed that responses to drought should not only be limited to giving food packs and relief goods, but also by shifting our country’s agricultural system to become drought-tolerant and be adaptive to climate change.

“In this case, the farmers and IPs were just asking for food. It's for their survival it's not for anything else. We are able to eat because of the food they produce, but when it's their time to need food, the least we can do is to give back to them,” he lamented.

Sr. Susan Bolanio of Oblates of Notre Dame Hesed Foundation, Inc. expressed the need to further conduct investigation on the whole matter.

“Even as I don’t agree that the farmers had to block the national highway, paralyzing the major thoroughfares of the province, the violence that erupted must be thoroughly investigated,” she said.

Rev. Fr. Edu Gariguez, NASSA Caritas Executive Secretary and PMPI co-convenor said that "it is the utmost duty of the state to protect the rights of the most vulnerable especially in situation such as drought and other natural calamity, and not to further inflict pain during an already unbearable situation.”

“We call for an independent investigation on this as much as we condemn the act of violent inflicted on our hungry-stricken farmers.  And if real justice should be served, those found guilty should be penalized,” the priest stressed. 


A FERVENT TRIBUTE AND A LOUDER CALL FOR JUSTICE
FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND RIGHTS ACTIVISTS OF HONDURAS:
THEY WERE KILLED FOR PROTECTING THEIR HOME


THIS IS NOT A CALL FOR CELEBRATION. BUT WE SALUTE THE FIRM STAND OF THE SLAIN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS OF HONDURAS. EVEN STRONGER WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE WHO GIVE THEIR LIFE TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND THEIR PEOPLE.

PMPI condemns the killings of indigenous peoples and environment rights activists half the planet away from us, but whose cry is no different from our part of the Earth. We offer our prayers, our call for justice, and our solidarity with the Lenca communities, Native Americans of Honduras, standing firm against the powerful corporations who are resolved to scar and exploit their homes for profit.

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As firm as our stand and as unfaltering as our calls for many indigenous communities in our country who are also facing aggressions from the supposed development projects, such as large-scale mining and coal-fired plants, may the government leaders across the globe recognize their plight and take actions in favor of the rights of our indigenous communities, devout stewards of the environment.

Just like our IPs in the country, recently slain Berta Cáceres, a Goldman Prize awardee and a member of Lenca indigenous community, and IP activist Nelson García stood firm to protect their land and culture: that they may uphold more importantly their right for a balanced and healthful community. 

Cáceres led the Lenca people of Honduras through series of eruptive campaigns that forced the world’s largest dam builder to pull out. Its projects will surely obliterate IP communities and irreparably damage the ecosystems many depend on. Barely a couple of days after her assasination, massive police and military forces evicted and demolished the nearby Lenca communities, where García was. On his way home later García, a co-founder and an active member of Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras, was shot dead.

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[Address to the General Assembly of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc [PMPI], Tagum, March 1, 2016]

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MISEREOR SUPER TURBAM. Inspiring compassion for the people, and sharing insights on Global Common Good, Rev. Fr. Joel Tabora, President at Ateneo de Davao University, delivers the keynote address during the opening of PMPI General Assembly, held at Tagum City, Davao del Norte (Mar. 1, 2016). PHOTO BY FR. EDU GARIGUEZ


It is a great privilege for me to address you. I would like to thank Ms. Yoly Esguerra, the Philippine Misereor Parnership National Coordinator, for her kind invitation. Before university administration took over my life, I was very much involved in the movement for the upliftment of the urban poor. As head of the Sambayanang Kristyano ng Kristong Hari in the National Government Center of QC during the 80s, we fought alongside the Samahan ng Maralita Para sa Makatao at Makatarungang Paninirihan (Sama-Sama) and the Community Organizers of the Philippines Enterprise (COPE) against unjust and inhumane demolitions and for the increase in affordable housing stock for the poor. We found powerful allies in Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Bishops’-Businessmen’s Conference, and the Institute on Church and Social Issues (ICSI). The result of this constellation of people’s organisations, NGOs, and the Church was the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1991 (RA 7279). Parallel to this, we also had a vibrant skills and livelihood development center, the Sentro sa Ikauunlad ng Kasanayan at Hanapbuhay (SIKHAY). All of these efforts at the development of the urban poor sector were to a great extent funded by Misereor, even though at that time the Philippine Misereor Partnership had not yet been founded. I am happy to take this opportunity to thank Misereor for the help it extended our groups then, and for the help it continues to extend to development groups in the Philippines. In thanking Misereor, I thank not only the Catholic Community of Germany but also the People of the Federal Republic of Germany for continuing to extend this humanitarian assistance to our people in admirable solidarity.

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Peace lives beyond "Palpak" Congress


The administration may have given up, but groups continue the pursuit for peace, calling to institutionalize a Bangsamoro Basic Law compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Hundreds of members of peace groups, network of Bangsamoro including women and youth, and faith-based organizations show their disapproval yesterday, during the plenary. The House was taken by surprise when numerous attendees including Moro women in hijab remove their top to bare their T-Shirts that say it all: 16th Congress Palpak sa BBL.

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SURPRISE. Moro women wearing hijab show their courage during the plenary by baring a T-Shirt undernead their garments that states what they think about the Congress on junking BBL. Bangsamoro groups and peace network push for CAB-based BBL, which will not only facilitate just and lasting peace but will also recognize right to self-determination and other rights of Moro and non-Moro IPs in the Bangsamoro region. 


A week before the adjournment of its plenary session, the 16th Congress itself has given up for lost major bills mainly because of its inability to form a quorum, including BBL and Freedom of Information.

“We watched with disgust as the House members slaughtered what has been put together all these years to acknowledge the rights of our brothers and sisters, Moro and non-Moro Filipinos in the Bangsamoro” the statement distributed during activity read (Download the statement from this link).

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The group also expressed their frustration that after promises from several members of the Congress to support the bill, majority did not even attend the session. In a statement signed by several organizations, the group promised to not back down.

“We continue to push for peace for the Bangsamoro, and to be instruments of genuine social change so that every member of society will be recognized and the rights of every member of every are respected: their rights to education, employment, access to basic social services, and to live in a safe and peaceful community away from aggresion and armed conflict; for all to be part of this one country where the citizens of the Bangsamoro can feel that they are part of the Philippines, at par with the rest of the country, ” the statement said.

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