Happy Labor Day and “Feast Day of St. Joseph!

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
May 3, 2015

Happy Labor Day and “Feast Day of St. Joseph!

On May 1, I received a text message from my old friend, Marietta Goco, that said: “Happy Feastday! (Gen1:26—2:3;MT13:54-58.) Today is Labor Day, Feast Day of St. Joseph, the Worker.

“‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son,’ the people belittled Jesus, referring to his earthly guardian, Joseph the carpenter. They did not know that Jesus’ Heavenly Father was The Master Carpenter of the Universe!

“God sent His son to build his Kingdom of Justice and Love, and all who participate with Jesus in building the Kingdom on earth, also build their dwelling place in heaven.

“To start the construction, God chose a simple working man to teach His Son the dignity of labor and the value of family, so vital in building up the Kingdom.

Let us learn from St. Joseph’s silent devotion to God, family and work, to labor not just for money but as an offering of Love to make our country and God’s Kingdom a better place for all who follow.

“St. Joseph, pray for us and our family! Lead us to Jesus and everlasting glory! AMEN.”

What a beautiful, heavenly blessing came to me that day from a thoughtful friend in Pangasinan. Marietta Goco did not know that my mother, Nena Veloso Abueva, and my father Teodoro Lloren Abueva, also named me “Jose,” after St. Joseph.

I do distinctly remember that Pope Francis greatly admired St. Joseph in one of his prayers at the Vatican that I witnessed via EWTN.

Every night just before I go to bed, my prayer to St. Joseph says “Bless me to be a good spouse, a good father, a good teacher, associate and leader.

My mother also made me a devotee of San Antonio de Padua and made me wear a brown shirt, short pants, and a white belt as a boy.  In fact, I discovered Mama also wore her brown dress and white belt when she and Papa Doro were executed by Japanese soldiers in Balitbiton, Valencia in 1944. My parents had refused to surrender to the Japanese occupation forces and they joined the Bohol underground resistance government.

It fell on me, then only 16 years old, to look for our parents who had been captured by Japanese soldiers in the mountains of Duero, Bohol, imprisoned and tortured them in Jagna, and finally took them for their execution on the hillside in Balitbiton, Valencia in October 1944.

With two cousins, I took a small sailboat (Kaba-kaba) to look for them in Jagna, Garcia Hernandez, and finally at Balitbiton. We gathered my parents’ remains scattered around the hillside and put them in a box to take home to Duero.

Our bereaved family buried Papa and Mama beside our grandparents’ home by the sea in poblacion, Duero, Bohol. We have memorialized our parents, grandparents, and departed brothers and sisters in the same old site that we have renamed Handurawan: Balay Abueva, our Abueva Ancestral Home. 

Down with our durable “political oligarchy” [the rule of the rich] and our durable “family dynasties” [the rule of close relatives]. These are common political practice of our politicians, and therefore they are also our common knowledge and experience.

Why should they be controlled and ended? Because they make a mockery of our primary “Principle” and “State Policy” in our 1987 Constitution, namely: ARTICLE II. DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES AND STATE POLICIES. “Section 1.  The Philippines is democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” 

Moreover, ARTICLE II. Section 26 provides “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law. 

Unfortunately and foolishly, the framers of our 1987 Constitution did not define specifically the  kind of political dynasties that should be prohibited and penalized. They left it to our politicians in Congress and also to the President to define the “political dynasties” to be prohibited.

If our Constitution framers had the foresight and practical wisdom, they could have simply and briefly prohibited forming their family dynasties to their relatives in the first or second degree of consanguinity and affinity. And not left it to our national politicians to define and prohibit.

So until now, 2015, or 28 years since the ratification of our 1987 Constitution, our Congress and the President have not used their leadership to authoritatively and specifically define and prohibit “political dynasties” by law.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed two anti-political dynasty bills—Senate Bills 1580 and 55. In her bill the Senator described political dynasty as an “anathema in a democracy.” She said political dynasties have become “invulnerable and constitute an open defiance of our Constitution…blatantly undermining the rule of law.” xxx Her proposals deal with political dynasties in local and national elective posts, “mostly likely because of the greater efficiency and nationalized impact of various systems of information dissemination.” Philippine Star. May 1, 2015.

While Senator J.V. Ejercito filed Senate Bill 1906. He noted the pernicious effects of family dynasties as public office has become the exclusive domain of influential families. Without mentioning the obvious Estrada-Ejercito families, he noted that once a politician is elected to public office, he or she immediately builds a strong political base to ensure not only his or her re-election but also ensure that such electoral support will extend to his spouse and other relatives.”

[Philippine Star. May 1, 2015].

The same news item draws on the UNDP report by U.P. political scientist Temario Rivera “that 94 percent or 72  of the 77 provinces studied have political families; and most political families have won in gubernatorial and congressional elections since 1987.

Cristina Mendez, the author of the Philippine Star news I have quoted entitled her item thus: “Anti-political dynasty bills gathering dust in the Senate where the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation is headed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.

 

 

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When I turned 80 years in 2008, we distributed white T-shirts with the blazing message in front:

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
April 26, 2015

When I turned 80 years in 2008, we distributed white T-shirts with the blazing message in front:

“If Things Get Better With
Age
Then I’m approaching

MAGNIFICENT!

Now Our 60th Wedding Anniversary !

This was on April 21, 2015: which was also my wife’s, Coring’s, 83rd birthday anniversary. But we celebrated it on Sunday, April 19, when most of us, friends and relatives, were free to be together. [By the way, on May 25 I will observe my 87th birthday.] Very senior na kami!

Evidently to all gathered, Coring and I were the oldest relatives and friends around. We didn’t just look it, we happily confirmed it. [As I have admitted in this column, we surviving Abueva brothers and sisters help maintain the Handurawan Balay Abueva ancestral home in Duero, Bohol—and we are now among the very few living ancestors.]

It is now also known, more or less, that we had been having our more or less normal turns in hospitalization. But just the same we were greatly enjoying the special occasion. For we never foresaw God’s blessing that we would live this long in what is also known as the pre-departure age.

Coring is still our home manager and repair director. And I’m still U.P. professor emeritus, President of Kalayaan College in Quezon City, a non-killing peace activist, and a political and constitutional reformer—more often frustrated.

Our favorite venue. We gathered to enjoy our 60th Wedding anniversary in Crescent Moon Café in (East) Antipolo City. This is the popular restaurant of our eldest “child”—Lanelle Abueva Fernando. It is cooled and beautified by her fish pond and waterfalls. The Japanese carp known as Koi present a colorful pageant in motion.

The Café is just next to her very busy Pottery Studio/ceramic workshop. Lanelle became a potter by her traditional apprenticeship with a Japanese master potter in Hachijojima (1977-80).

This time Coring and I took our turn to offer our now almost yearly Kapihan among the volunteer resident couples and singles in Beverly Hills Subdivision. Kapihan (coffee break kono) is actually a special, heavy Kainan! offered right after our Sunday mass.

Rose is Crescent Moon Café’s chef cum manager. The food she serves is well appreciated: her soup (often pumpkin soup with young coconut strips), her unique set of pickles to be chosen and wrapped in Alagao leaves (adapted from Thai Mieung Kun), her chosen meats, fish, and vegetable dishes. Uniquely, too, this time she served us paksiw from the lechon we got straight from Duero, Bohol just the day before!

Surprise program and musicale. Suddenly, daughters Lanelle and Rossana (our banker in Singapore (Standard-Chartered Bank) announced a special program. Rossana emceed the event with a grateful reference to us as their loving parents. Our son, Jonas (child center teacher and artist), was with them; other son, Jobert (business executive), was the only one away in the U.S.

Rossana arranged a beautiful video presentation of our wedding anniversary made up of a full album of family photographs. We are assured that photographs so recorded don’t fade away with time.

We quickly sensed that there was going to be a very special, indeed spectacular, concert. For one, they had a female and male singer who accompanied themselves. And loud speakers to amplify the music.

Most specially, our dear family friend, Monique Wilson, professional singer, actress, and tutor was surely to offer all a celebrity musicale. She did sing some 15 songs, mostly foreign and a few Filipino favorites. Monique is now also global director of “One Billion Women Rising”: a world campaign against the exploitation of women and girls widely held and recorded for very extensive viewing for the desired effect.

Boldly, I even arranged a presentation of some of my recorded songs (Bisayan, English, Spanish) onHarana/Karaoki ni PepeAbueva. I recorded them with my driver, Ruel, for my 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2005. We used minus-one discs from 12 mid-night to 5 A.M. I was 76 years old but, thank God, maayo pa man. To please me, some asked for a copy of the disc.

Gemino “Jimmy” Abad, our prolific and internationally known poet, recited two of his poems.

Revered reunion. Our 60th Wedding Anniversary gathered our own family as mentioned; Cherry Abueva and daughter, Amihan, joined us. Brother Napoleon [Billy] could not make it. Lanelle’s special friends came. Most of our Beverly Hills Kapihan members were there. The SGI Philippines Dir-Gen Liza Alcantara and Ric Alcantara, and some colleagues and staff of Kalayaan College as well. Our deepest thanks to all of them.

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Why so much violence and killing in the Philippines?

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
February 22, 2015

In several years of study and observations in my already long life (born in 1928 and started teaching and research in U.P. in 1950), I summarized as follows the observed causes or conditions that lead to the high level of  violence and killings in the Philippines in my book in 2011 entitled Let’s Build a Nonkilling Philippines! Tungo a Kalinaw at Walaang Pagpatay! And Help Build a Killing-Free World!

  1. The lingering effects of the imposition of martial law in 1972 by President Ferdinand Marcos and his authoritarian rule until February 1986 that destroyed our fledgling democratic institutions, and made possible his plunder of the government and the economy, the massive abuse of human rights (including torture, extrajudicial killings, and forced disappearances), and the politicization of the military—with impunity. From September 1972 to February 1986 the Philippines was a militarized State.

  2. The judicial system has been very slow, ineffective, and frustrating in dispensing justice. Until now there has been no closure on Marcos’ unprecedented abuse of power and offenses. Members of the military and the national police who tortured and killed those who opposed the Marcos regime have enjoyed impunity for their offenses. The only court judgments against Marcos for human rights violations took place in the United States. Much of his plundered wealth has not been recovered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

  3. In varying degrees the pattern of judicial weakness and impunity of offenders has endured in successive political administrations. In the Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2010 the Philippines is placed third after Iraq and Somalia. The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines reported that out of 143 murder cases of media workers since 1989 only seven convictions have been made (as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 24, 2010.)

  4. With some notable exceptions, political leaders and political institutions—from local to national and in the three branches of the Government—still fail to uphold the rule of law and democratic governance. Many killers literally “get away with murder” because of the leaders’ preference for personal win-win political compromises and the protection of their followers, instead of using State power to apply the rule of law on the culprits whoever they may be.

  5. Revenge or vengeance manifested in clan wars, as in the rido in Muslim Mindanao, and similar vengeful practices elsewhere.

  6. Illegal trade in drugs and severe drug addiction.

  7. Robbery and kidnapping for ransom that often lead to murder.

  8. Intense, aggressive rivalry for governmental power among partisans as reflected in electoral campaigns and elections. Some political leaders are known as “warlords.” During every election the Commission on Elections, the military and the police identify certain places as “hot spots” prone to violence and killing.

  9. Agrarian and land disputes, illegal logging and mining, smuggling, and labor-management conflicts,

  10. Killings resulting from insurgency, rebellion, terrorism, and the government’s campaign to counter them, including civilian casualties in the crossfire as “collateral damage,” or because of the mistaken identities of the victims. Rather than risk their lives, some rebels, soldiers, and policemen would shoot suspected enemies in self-defense.

  11. “Red baiting” of militants and reformers by the authorities and the military or police.

  12. Arming for defense or offense in the form of body-guards, private armies, semi-government militias (Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Units), civilian vigilantes, and the “lost commands” of rebel organizations.

  13. The easy availability of guns and the perceived need for them in self-defense (“a passion for guns”) in conditions of insecurity, and threatened or actual violence. The “gun ban” during elections tends to reduce the incidence of violence and killings.

  14. Abortion caused by unwanted pregnancies related to extramarital relations, rape, incest, abandonment, and poverty. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which works with Philippine groups that conduct field studies on the problem, estimated that in 2008 alone, 560,000 induced abortions took place in the Philippines with 1,000 fatalities (Philippine Star, Editorial, August 9, 2010).

  15. Condoning or accepting violence in hazing military or police cadets or civilian students while initiating them into their organizations or fraternities. Their leaders tend to protect the members involved.

  16. Drunken driving, reckless driving, and driving defective vehicles.

  17. Car-jacking for profit that often leads to killing. (162 murders and 443 car thefts were reported in the first quarter of 2011 by the Metro Manila Police (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 June 2011).

  18. Weak personal conscience or lack of “social conscience” of right and wrong based on religion or secular ethics of the community reflecting a “culture of death” contesting a “culture of life.”

  19. Personal despair leading to suicide, or to retaliation (juramentado, kapit sa patalim; wa nay laing paagi, patyon na gyud).

  20. A social structure and culture of “exclusiveness” (others: kaiba, kayo, kamo, sila, kalaban, kaaway) where “otherness” in our weak sense of nation and community, and our weak rule of law, makes it easier to discriminate, harm, or even kill “the other.”

  21. Our weak and fragmented nation and our “Soft State” dominated by traditional and conservative political elite who are prone to act as patrons and protectors to their protégés and dependents. Some of these loyal followers are willing to use violence on behalf of their patrons. On the other hand, there are also “killers for hire.”

  22. Our unstable, unconsolidated and still reversible democracy, 29 years following the EDSA “people power” revolt that brought down the Marcos dictatorship and “restored our democracy” under the 1987 Constitution. Our kind of democracy is still at risk of reversal to authoritarianism if it fails to fulfill the constitutional promise “to build a just and humane society” and good democratic governance for “the common good.”

  23. Against the constitutional principle of civilian supremacy over the military, some military officers and men have challenged the president and the government through coup attempts, armed uprisings in hope of fomenting a “people power revolt,” including a public call for a president’s resignation. Instead of being punished for their offense they have been rewarded with amnesty.

The election of military adventurists to the Senate or the House (as “folk heroes”?) may reflect the people’s hero worship of them and the people’s indifference to civilian supremacy in the context of ineffective governance and corruption in the government and the military. Some military adventurists justify their armed defiance of the government as an exercise of the constitutional role of the military as “the protector of the people.”

  1. Our failure thus far to institute constitutional reforms to correct basic flaws in our political institutions that hinder government efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, honesty, accountability, and responsiveness in governance, and block the rise of more transforming leaders.

  1. The weakness of our presidents as chief executive and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and of the Government as a whole in the pursuit of peace with rebel groups and in curbing criminality.

We hope that a serious and sustained consideration of these conditions by concerned leaders and citizens will enable us to reduce the level of violence and killings in our country. Our Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines is proposing the establishment of a Department of Peace. We hope that our leaders and citizens will seriously pursue the constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice and freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

Tungo sa Kalinaw at Walang Pagpatay!  Let’s Build a Nonkilling Philippines in a Killing-Free World. Join the Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines! 

I am a co-founder and convener of the Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines, co-author of Towards a Nonkilling Filipino Society: Developing an Agenda for Research, Policy and Action, and a member of the Governing Council of the international Center for Global Nonkilling.

My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com

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The killing of 44 PNP/SAF commandos in Maguindanao: What, why, how, and possible consequences

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
February 1, 2015

Last Sunday, January 25, 44 Special Action Force (SAF) members of the Philippine National Police died in an 11 hour-gun battle in Tukanalipao village, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

The police operation had been against high value targets Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (known as Marwan) and Basil Usman—who had bounties of US$6 million and US$2 million respectively. Marwan also lay dead in his hut. A photograph of the dead Marwan was taken and a finger from the right hand was cut for DNA testing with U.S. agents. He was considered the Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.

Guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attacked the SAF; and members of guerillas of the MILF itself were drawn into the fighting that resulted in the massacre of 44 SAF forces.

SAF/PNP Director Getulio Napeñas admitted that he did not coordinate with the military before launching “Oplan Wolverine,” the disastrous Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (SAF) operation to get “Marwan,” the Malaysian terrorist. He said: “It was a command decision and we had been working on it for a long time. And as a commander, I decided that it was best not to inform other units in the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines about the plan of initiating the actual assault. It was a judgment call and I take full responsibility. xxx We worked hard on this and we couldn’t allow our work to go to waste by informing the MILF. We don’t trust the MILF,” he said, because he knew that Mamasapano town was controlled by the MILF, which has three command bases there—the 106th, 105th and 118th.

He said, however, that he made a call to one of his immediate superiors, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP officer in charge, but not to his higher superior, Secretary Mar Roxas.

Napeñas said the secrecy about the operation was deliberate and recommended by intelligence operatives on the ground. Not informing the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was part of the whole plan, he said. At the start, the source said, all operations related to the plan were jointly undertaken by the PNP and the military. But, as admitted by Napeñas, the SAF carried out the Mamasapano operation alone.

Without coordination with the military and the MILF, which are observing a truce following the signing of a peace agreement between the Moro rebels and the government last year, the SAF police force walked naked into unsecured territory. Consequently, Napeñas was sacked on Tuesday pending investigation of the debacle.

What happened on the ground? From a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 30, we learn the following account. The 392 police commandos divided into groups were positioned as early as 3 a.m. on Sunday. The plan, according to Napeñas, was for a surgical operation of only 30 minutes. Four nipa huts in the village were the targets of the assault. At 4:20 a.m., part of the assault force was able to enter the nipa hut where Marwan was sleeping, Napeñas said.
“Marwan woke up, and he managed to be the first to shoot, that’s why some of us were hit. But we returned fire and killed him outright,” said Napeñas.

The exchange of gunfire brought Marwan’s security to action. As the policemen were about to pull out, they came under fire from all directions. The team got out, said Napeñas, who described the other side as BIFF and MILF forces who “came from all directions.”
At past 6 a.m., the joint monitoring team from the MILF and the government called a ceasefire, Napeñas said, but the “MILF did not stop shooting.” The MILF refused to heed the monitoring team’s call for a ceasefire, he said. The firefight continued and the containment or blocking force was pinned down in an open field. “They could see each other. It was close-quarters combat. Those who were killed were from our containment force,” Napeñas said. And he added that the deaths of 44 of his men pained him.
Marwan had been on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of most wanted terrorists. The bureau initially offered a $5-million reward for his capture, then raised the bounty by another $1 million. Initially, too, the reward for Usman’s capture was $2 million, but later the FBI raised it to $3 million.

“We did not go into Mamasapano for the money or to be called heroes. We did it for you, for all of you. Not for glory but for the thousands more who could die in Marwan’s bomb attacks. Look into Marwan’s profile and you will see why we decided to neutralize a very dangerous man,” Napeñas said.

But Napeñas was relieved just the same to give way to an investigation, which would be carried out by the PNP Board of Inquiry. Napeñas said he respected Roxas, Espina and the investigation of the Mamasapano operation.

Napeñas told the PDI: I need to say that those boys died thinking not of the money but of the many more people who could become Marwan’s victims. The death of my men pains me. I love them. I am their chief, but we as a command stand with pride that we took down a very dangerous man,” Napeñas said.

In his Philippine Star column (Jan. 30), Boo Chanco wrote that President Aquino III said he knew of the plan to capture the fugitive terrorists and he was talking directly to the SAF/PNP director.

Chanco quoted the President saying:” I was surprised to learn that the heads of the Western Mindanao Command, or even the 6th Infantry Division had only been advised after the first encounter involving Marwan and Usman; the SAF forces were already retreating, and the situation had already become problematic.”

This is why the President suspended SAF head Napeñas who took full responsibility for the massacre of the SAF forces.

Secretary of the Interior Mar Roxas who has supervision over the PNP was kept in the dark about the operation against Marwan and Usman.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos, a veteran military strategist and tactician and former head of the AFP and Secretary of National Defense, said that the problem lay with: “poor strategic direction from the Commander in Chief,” President Aquino III himself. According to Boo Chanco, “FVR enumerated some other factors that caused the carnage: inadequate confidence-building measures among the civilian-military-police stakeholders, poor/lack of coordination, faulty written standard operating procedures and rules of engagement, slipshod monitoring of the existing ‘ceasefire,’ lack of teamwork between maneuver and the fire support elements, poor unit troop leadership, poor tactical intelligence, and lack of sincerity to pursue peace on the part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Boo Chanco also noted: “The lack of trust on the part of [the Aquino] government in not involving the GRP negotiating panel [led by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the head of the Government negotiating panel] and their counterparts in the MILF was a strategic mistake.

Sadly, the massacre of 44 PNP/SAF commandos strains the Mindanao peace process and the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that has made great progress in the House of Representatives in the nationwide hearings led by Representative Rufus Rodriguez as chairman. It should be noted that several opinions have been voiced against the possible unconstitutionality of certain provisions of the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law that has evolved after some 18 years of MILF rebellion, the peace talks and final agreement, and the formulation of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

*****

The historic promise of sustained peace and effective development in Mindanao hinges on the establishment of the Bangsamoro as an autonomous regional political entity marked by genuine powers and authority, and substantial local resources. In fact Bangsamoro will afford us all the vision of a future Federal Republic of the Philippines with a parliamentary government replacing our highly centralized unitary system and our dysfunctional presidential government. All these can be the great legacy of President BS Aquino III, the Senate and the House, and our Moro brothers and sisters led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The 44 PNP/SAF commandos are national heroes who gave their lives for their country. In justice each and all of them deserve the nation’s recognition and ample and sustained assistance to their bereaved families. The evoke the admiration and compassion of the Philippine national police and citizens nationwide.

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Pope Francis’ Important, Memorable Messages to Us

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chroncle
January 25, 2015

For his pastoral visit Pope Francis arrived in the Philippines on January 15 and flew back to Rome on January 19, 2015. He was the fourth successor of Saint Peter to visit our country: the first to visit was Pope Paul VI in 1961. Pope John Paul II came to the Philippines in 1981 and 1995.

To Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Pope Francis had wished: “I am not supposed to be the focus of the apostolic trip to the Philippines. Jesus should be the focus.”

In welcoming Pope Francis, Cardinal Tagle urged us: “But we must listen to Pope Francis. It is not enough that we see him, come close to him or even touch him. We have been begging our Filipino people to listen to the gospel of Jesus that would reach us through the Holy Father. The apostolic visit will make a difference in the Philippine Church and society only if we listen and act on what we have heard.” Cardinal Tagle. “Welcoming Peter’s Successor to PH.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. Jan. 16, 2015.

This is why in this column we concentrate on what Pope Francis said to us in his most welcome, instructive, and inspiring messages that we should take to heart and seriously act upon now and in the years to come.

The central message of his visit is the poor. In a news conference in the PAL plane that flew Pope Francis to Manila on January 15 he said: “The central message of this trip will be the poor, the poor who want to carry on; the poor who suffered from super-typhoon ‘Yolanda’ and who are still suffering the consequences; the poor who have faith and hope, those who suffer from many injustices, material, spiritual, existential. I’ll think of them when I’m in the Philippines.” A million people lost their homes and over 6,000 lost their lives due to super-typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

In Malacañang, January 16. In his message to President B.S. Aquino III and other high leaders [and diplomats] in Malacañang, Pope Francis said: “As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good. In this way they will preserve the rich human and material resources needed to meet the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.”

He added: “The moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity is essential to nation building.” xxx “It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression, which give rise to glaring, and indeed, scandalous social inequalities.” xxx Due to threats to human values, democracies now find it “difficult” to “preserve and defend such basic human values…as respect for the inviolable dignity of each human person, respect for the rights of conscience and religious freedom, and respect for the inalienable right to life, beginning with that of the unborn and extending to that of the elderly and infirm.” xxx The Pope called for a “conversion of mind and heart” in “reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor.”

“Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster [Yolanda] and so many others.”

At the Manila Cathedral, from Malacañang. The Pope urged local church leaders, led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Ligayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, to lead the evangelization of Asia. In his homily he said the Philippine church was called “to acknowledge and combat deeply rooted inequality and injustice [in] society, contradicting the teaching of Christ” and “embrace the path of constant conversion.” xxx “Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify ourselves with the poor.”

[A personal note. At 1:30 in the morning on Saturday, January 17, I rushed my wife, Coring, to a hospital in Antipolo to learn she had a sudden attack of pneumonia. As I attended to her I also watched ANC’s full coverage of Pope Francis’ visit “at close range.” Miraculously, I’d say, her rapid recovery enabled her to join me watch the events of the Pope’s visit. The media documented the Pope’s statements and dialogues that I have used in this column.]

At the Mall of Asia, January 16. The Pope said: “What a gift this would be to society if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation.” He exhorted the families to “rest in the Lord like Joseph, and rise with Joseph and Mary” and urged them to protect the family from “the ideological colonization” of migration, materialism, and redefinition, and raise holy families. He spoke about a couple dreaming of their child during the nine months of pregnancy. “Is it true or not? He asked the crowd. It is not possible to have a family without such a dream. If you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love.” xxx “Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and his merciful love. Please pray also for me, for I truly need your prayers and will depend on them always.” xxx “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.” In the year of the poor, also reminded Filipinos about their call as “missionary disciples of Jesus.”

In Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, January 17. On Saturday, January 17, Pope Francis flew to Tacloban for his main purpose in visiting our country. At the mass at the Tacloban airport, he said: “I’d like to tell you something close to my heart. When I saw, from Rome, that catastrophe [Yolanda], I felt I had to be here. And on these very days I decided to come here. I am here to be with you. A little bit late, I have to say, but I am here.” Then he said: “Father, you might say to me: I was let down because I’ve lost so many things. I lost my house, my livelihood, my family. I’ve an illness.’ It’s true if you would say that. And I respect those sentiments.”

But as he said this he turned to the wooden cross and added: “Jesus is there nailed to the cross. And from there he does not let us down. He is a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments in life.” As many in the audience wept openly, the Pope said: “So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence. And I walk with you all with my silent heart.” xxx “We are not alone. We also have many brothers who, in this moment of catastrophe, came to help you. And we too, because of this, we feel more brothers and sisters, because we helped each other.”

At U.S.T. January 18. To the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, the Pope said. “I wanted in a particular way to meet with young people, to listen to you and to talk with you. I want to express the love and hopes of the Church for you. And I want to encourage you, as Christian citizens of this country, to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world.” xxx “Be courageous, don’t be afraid to cry.” xxx “What is the most important subject to learn at the university…to learn in life? To learn how to love.”

“For this the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands—and to use them in harmony. xxx Real love is about loving and letting yourself be loved. It’s harder to be loved than to love. That is why it is so difficult to come to the perfect

love of God. xxx God reveals himself through surprises.” xxx “There is the challenge, the concern for the environment. xxx “And finally, there is the challenge for the poor, to love the poor, with your bishops. Do you think of the poor? Do you feel with the poor. Do you do something for the poor? Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?

At the Quirino grandstand in Luneta. January 18. “Today. Saint Paul has told us that in Christ we have become God’s adopted children. This is who we are. This is our identity.” xxx “Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia.” xxx We forget to remain focused on the things that really matter. We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. xxx “We need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”

“Now, at the end of my visit to the Philippines, I commend you to him, to Jesus who came among us as a child. May he enable all the beloved people of this country to work together, protecting one another, beginning with your families and communities, in building a world of justice, integrity and peace.” xxx May the Santo Niño continue to bless the Philippines and may he sustain the Christians of this great nation in their vocation as witnesses and missionaries of the joy of the Gospel in Asia and in the whole world. xxx “Reality is superior to ideas.”

*****

As we end our recollection of Pope Francis’ message to us Filipinos, again let us heed Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who urged us: “But we must listen to Pope Francis. It is not enough that we see him, come close to him or even touch him. We have been begging our Filipino people to listen to the gospel of Jesus that would reach us through the Holy Father. The apostolic visit will make a difference in the Philippine Church and society only if we listen and act on what we have heard.” Cardinal Tagle. “Welcoming Peter’s Successor to PH.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. January 16, 2015.

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Realizing Our Vision and Ideals of Filipino Democracy

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
December 28, 2014

As a student of political science and an advocate of good democratic governance and political reform, I often refer to our constitutional vision of building “a just and humane society” and building a “democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.” (from the Preamble of our 1987 Constitution).

After defining our “National Territory” in Article I, our 1987 Constitution declares 28 Principles and State Policies in Article II. The first of these is: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and government authority emanates from them.” Section 1.

Actually, like all the other 27 Principles and State Policies, Section 1 speaks of a specific legal aspiration that is part of the authoritative national vision of our Philippine Nation-State.  Our 1987 Constitution was legitimately framed by a Constitutional Commission and then ratified by the people in a national plebiscite in February 1987.
 

The degree of our realization of the legal aspiration that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State…” and “Sovereignty resides in the people” depends upon our national and governmental capacity for “Good democratic governance.”

What is “Good democratic governance”? Blending Filipino and international ideals and standards, we might understand “Good democratic governance” in our aspiring democracy and modernizing society as fulfilling and manifesting more of the following features that are mostly spelled out as ideals and principles in Article II in our Constitution.

(1) We need a much deeper sense of nationhood and national unity, a stronger commitment to and practice of spiritual values and secular morality (public ethics and accountability), the  ability to promote the common good, and develop a modern outlook as a progressive multi-cultural nation. Let us ever be conscious that we are the 12th most populous nation in the world and a relatively poor and small country, the 71st in land area.

(2) The Government should be able to perform its “prime duty…to serve and protect the people.” Section 4. And “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military.” Section 3.

(3) “[T]he enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy…[depends upon] [T]he maintenance of law and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare [by the government and the people]. Section 5.

(4) “The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life.” Section 9.

(5) “The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.” Section 10.

(6) “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Section 11.

(7) “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.” Section 12.

(8) “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social wellbeing. It shall inculcate in the youth

patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.” Sec. 13.

(9) “The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and will ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.” Section 14.

(10) “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.” Section 15.

(11) “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accordance with the rhythm and harmony of nature.” Section 16.

(12) “The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development.” Section 17.

(13) “The State affirms labor as a primary social economic force. It shall protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare.” Section 18.

(14) “The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.” Section 19.

(15) “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentives to needed investments.” Section 20.

(16) “The State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform.” Sec. 21.

(17) “The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development.” Section 22.

(18) “The State shall encourage nongovernmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.” Section 23.

(19) “The State recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.” Section 24.

(20) “The State shall ensure the autonomy of local governments.” Section 25. We have a highly centralized Unitary System and local governments that have very limited powers, authority, and resources.

(21) “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and [legally] prohibit political dynasties”…Section 26. Actually, our political dynasties, also known as family dynasties, have enjoyed primacy in elections and public office in many jurisdictions. Our political system is known as “a political oligarchy” or the rule of the few who are rich in a society of the many who are poor, insecure, and dependent on the oligarchs/family dynasties as their political patrons. In other words we have “a patron-client democracy.”

(22) The citizens as the legally avowed sovereign in our democracy will be empowered only when many more of them are freed from poverty, ignorance, and dependency on the political and business elite; as they become part of our middle classes; and they join meaningful political parties that are committed to democracy and good governance.

(23) The citizens’ participation in free and fair elections and in policy and decision-making are made possible by an open, accessible and responsive government in a free society, and with a competent and responsible media.

(24) Government officials should become transforming leaders with the political will to do what is necessary and urgent in terms of the needed policies and decisions, and basic reforms; and are responsive to the needs and demands of empowered citizens.

 

(25) We need effective and accountable political, economic, and social institutions, including political parties that mediate between the citizens and the government, and can hold the ruling political party or coalition accountable for the quality of its governance.

(26) Government becomes more transparent and accountable in response to the citizens’ will and their right to know (“the truth” in governance) as the sovereign in a democracy. “Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State shall implement a policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” Section 28.

(27) Good governance is certainly marked by the rule of law, the honesty and fidelity of public servants, and the certain punishment of those who are unresponsive, abusive and corrupt by a competent executive and judiciary. “The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.” Section 27.

(28) Foresight and efficiency in the exercise of power and authority will make good use of scarce resources, including time.

(29) Effectiveness in providing the needed public services, solving problems, and achieving goals, all for the common good in a progressive democracy. Optimal outputs and outcomes are vital in good democratic governance.

(30) Realizing “Pamathalaan,” the indigenous Filipino vision of governance:  “dedicated to the enhancement of man’s true spiritual and material worth”…through leadership by example, reasonable management, unity (pagkakaisa) between the governors and the governed, social harmony based on love (pagmamahalan), and compassion (pagdadamayan). (Pablo S. Trillana III. The Loves of Rizal, 2000. p. 179.)

Also see Ledivina Cariño. Government to Governance: Reflections on the 1999 World Conference on Governance. EROPA, 2000.  pp. 1-16].

Assessing the state of our democracy, government, politics, and the performance of our leaders and citizens. Our constitutional vision and ideals in building “a just and humane society” and an ideal democracy give us the bases for assessing the actual nature of our democracy and the quality of its governance by our leaders and citizens.

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Ramon Magsaysay: “Servant Leader” With a Vision of Hope— A vision of “a working democracy of, for, and by all our people!”

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
August 31, 2014

This column on is on RM’s continuing relevance to our nation-building, democracy, and development and what makes him  stand out among our eleven elected presidents from Manuel L. Quezon (1935-44) to Benigno S. Aquino III (2010-16), and maybe beyond.

RM’s distinctive political leadership and public service

In our history and shared memory, Magsaysay looms large and legendary because he initiated a distinctive kind of political leadership and public service. Who he was and what he did as President are markedly different from what came before and after him.

Distinctively, people in all walks of life regarded Magsaysay as “Champion of the Common Man”, “Man of the Masses,” or “The People’s President.” By his conduct and example he raised the ideal and measure of inspired and dedicated service to all citizens, especially the lowly among them, as the true measure of presidential leadership and public service. More than any Filipino president, Magsaysay exemplified the human model of “Servant Leadership.”

And yet a casual comparison of Filipino presidents would find most of them superior to Magsaysay in social status, education, articulation, political seniority and experience, and in length of service as president. Magsaysay served as president for only three years and two-and-a-half months: (30 December 1953 to 17 March 1957.)

Youngest elected President. Magsaysay stands out as the youngest—only 46 among our eleven elected presidents from 1935 to 2010.

Highest vote-getter. Magsaysay also excelled as vote-getter among our ten presidents from 1946 to 2010 by getting 68.9 or 69 percent of the total votes cast. And his reelection in 1957 was widely conceded.

Promise and symbol of change. To the people Magsaysay became a symbol and promise of a working democracy and a better life. No president had travelled more extensively and met more people in his campaign and during his incumbency. He renamed the office and residence of the president Malacañang, dropping the traditional name Malacañan Palace with its memories of colonial days. Thenceforth the President was to be addressed simply as “Mr. President.” He let go of  “His Excellency.” But the use of “Palace” and “Excellency” has been restored by our presidents and the media.

By his word, action, and habits, Magsaysay transformed the people’s expectations of political leadership and the presidency. They looked up to him as their highest leader and many literally marched with him to Malacañang. Never before had so many plain folk received so much of the president’s personal time and attention. Everywhere Magsaysay went he raised people’s expectations of what the government un­der his leadership would do for them. Certainly, no other leader at the time had the charisma necessary to restore popular faith in democracy.

The people could readily identify with their president because they felt he was sprung from them.

They liked him and identified with him because they found him easy to understand. Whatever the failures of his administration, his announced policies and programs and his insistence on opening up channels of communication between the citizens and their government were setting a precedent. This direction was epitomized in his message: “Bring the government closer to the people.” And in his rhetoric: “Can we defend this in Plaza Miranda?”—his popular accountability to the people.

Several of Magsaysay’s traits loomed large in the people’s view: his sincerity, humility, simplicity, and informality; his integrity and passionate solicitude for the common people especially in the rural areas; and his selfless devotion to public office and quiet religiosity. He had a rare power to evoke love from his people. And his looks and ways gave life to these intangibles.

Magsaysay repre­sented the restless energy, ambition, hope, and moral courage of a people grown tired of being pushed around for so long and eager to prove their worth to the world. His role as leader of a newly free people was unambiguous—he was to lead them in their quest for the good life.

Identifications of a more personal sort also made people see in Magsaysay a fitting rallying figure. To his striking Filipino features could be added the quiet charm and dignity of his wife, a remarkable “Filipino beauty” the people noted. People often commented with a kind of nationalistic pride on RM’s height and composure in the company of foreign visitors.

No contemporary leader could match his marvelous stamina as he struggled with time, distance, and politicians. Despite his colorful antics as a vote-getting politician, he did not fit the stereotype people and cartoonists have of the evil, scheming kind. He was much too sincere and trustworthy for that. His extempo­raneous speeches lacked the glitter and fire often expected of the Filipino poli­tico, but the people understood and applauded him.

RM also personified the release of a suppressed desire to depart from old, established patterns. Simple in his manner and unmindful of personal security, he acted like an or­dinary citizen. To people unsure of themselves it was inspiring to have a leader who was so like them.

The fact that Magsaysay was well-known as a simply religious man sup­plied the crowning and integrating element in the people’s image of him. This was evident in the open and active support that the Catholic clergy and laity gave him during his campaign and election, and in office.

He made people understand what politics and government in a democracy could do to serve and protect them. He made meaningful such concepts as “popular sovereignty”, “public office as a public trust”, “the general welfare”, “human dignity,” and “social jus­tice.” He made the people feel that the government was truly an instrument to promote their well-being. And the people knew that he did his utmost to improve law and order and government service.

He had an extraordinary capacity for getting himself involved at once at many different points and levels in the organization of government. His intense­ly personal relations with an unbe­lievably large number of officials infused them with his passion and sense of urgency for getting things done. He was, and would continue to be, a model of exemplary integrity in public office. Moreover, he promoted the acceptance of competent young people in responsible roles in government.

In public policy and programs, Magsaysay initiated simple as well as bold and untried measures.

His administration is best remembered for its special emphasis on rural development. This was only lo­gical, since he had identified himself most closely with the barrio folk who looked up to him for help, hope and strength.

Small wonder that when he suddenly died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957, people all over the land felt as though part of the strength and self-confidence that they had gained from him was gone. To so many his passing away was felt as a deeply personal loss. His funeral provided evidence that he was well and widely loved as president, idol and hero.

The Model of “Servant Leadership”

As many Christians would know, the model of “servant leadership” was and is Jesus Christ himself, no less. Scripture tells how at the Last Supper “Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and dried them with the towel he wrapped around him. Then he asked them: ‘Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. xxx  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1-5, 12-17)

On another occasion Jesus sat down and called the apostles to him:”If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35) Serving should be seen therefore as a high honor and in keeping with the very character of God.

“With Jesus as our model, we are called to be servant/leaders,” says Rowland Croucher who elaborates on what the concept means. “Lead by example. Lead by action. Lead by the quality of your life.” Croucher then enumerates the qualities to be an effective servant/leader: “godliness, integrity, stability, humility, diplomacy, decisiveness, vision, sociability, perceptiveness, and natural common sense.”

From Matthew: 20-28. “If you want to rule, learn to serve. If you want to lead, learn to follow. If you want to succeed, learn to make others succeed. We do not measure our success as Christian  leaders by the number of people we lead, but by the number of people we reach and serve.”

As defined “Servant Leadership” fairly describes Ramon Magsaysay’s own kind of leadership and presidency. Very early in his term he said: “We are all servants of the people.” Although not a religious leader, he was a practicing, God-fearing-and-loving Catholic. He acknowledged at certain times that God had given him the opportunity to lead and serve the people. But he was not showy about his faith, nor was he preachy as a believer. His modest and reticent wife, Luz, was likewise humble and private in practicing her faith, usually with the family.

RM Credo as President.  Early in his first year as President, Magsaysay articulated his vision and ideals as President in a compact Credo, with the help of Executive Secretary Fred Ruiz Castro. In its simple elegance the Magsaysay Credo spells out his memorable ideas and ideals of leadership, citizenship, and democratic governance—in relation to society, the nation, and the world.

  1. I believe that government starts at the bottom and moves upward, for government exists for the welfare of the masses of the nation.
  1. I believe that he who has less in life should have more in law.
  1. I believe that the little man is fundamentally entitled to a little bit more food in his stomach, a little more cloth on his back, and a little more roof over his head.
  1. I believe that this nation is endowed with a vibrant and stout heart, and possesses untapped capabilities and incredible resiliency.
  1. I believe that a high and unwavering sense of morality should pervade all spheres of governmental activity.
  1. I believe that the pulse of government should be strong and steady, and the men at the helm imbued with missionary zeal.
  1. I believe in the majesty of constitutional and legal processes, in the inviolability of human rights.
  1. I believe that the free world is collectively strong, and that there is neither need or reason to compromise the dignity of man.
  1. I believe that Communism is iniquity, as is the violence it does to the principles of Christianity.
  1. I believe that the President should set the example of a big heart, an honest mind, sound instincts, the virtue of healthy impatience, and an abiding love for the common man.

My political biography Ramon Magsaysay:”Servant Leader” With A Vision of Hope  was published in 2012 by Magsaysay Institute for Transformative Leadership, RM Award Foundation and the Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy of the U.P. National College of Public Administration and Governance in 2012.

My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com.

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