P. Peter Geremia su RAI 2

SULLA VIA DI DAMASCO – RAI 2

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” Diocese of Kidapawan Romulo Dela Cruz read the gospel of John 12:24 in homily during the Eucharistic Celebration on the 2nd commemoration of the death of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, PIME, on 17 October 2013 in Kidapawan City.

- See more at: http://justiceforpops.com/news-stories/audio-homily-of-bishop-romulo-dela-cruz/#sthash.Zt9ucqHf.dpuf

Bopha Report after 4 months

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GREETINGS OF PEACE!
It has been 4 months since Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) struck the southeastern part of Mindanao. What initially looked like a hopeless situation is slowly being turned around by the resilience and determination of the survivors, the unflagging dedication of the volunteers, and the unwavering support of those like you who did not hesitate to share what you had for the survivors.

We would like to give you this report on the series of medical relief missions conducted by Balsa-Mindanao, a citizen-led movement that responds to disasters and of which the Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation is a member.
These missions were made possible not by a single entity, but by the collaborative effort and support of a lot of individuals and organizations, which includes you. All the donations: medicines, finance, logistics, time, and morale, all contributed to the success of these missions. In the name of the lives with whom we had the opportunity to be a part of, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your support.

The often spoken line of the people was: what took us years to build, Pablo took away in 4 hours. It will indeed take years to rebuild but we are hoping to reassure the people that we will still be there with them in their efforts to rise from the ruins.

Our missions are still continuing but this time towards strengthening the community to regain or obtain their self-esteem and self-reliance. This summer, we will be launching trainings for Community Health Workers and more medical missions in the affected areas. We hope that somehow we can contribute to the communities’ efforts in Disaster Response and Preparedness by training these Community Health Workers to also become First Responders.

We know that you, too, will continue with us on this journey.

Thank you,

Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME

Fr. Peter Geremia: 50th year as priest

DynPicWaterMark_ImageViewer.phpKIDAPAWAN CITY  (MindaNew) — He was once a target for assassination, was arrested thrice and has been a recipient of death threats for taking the side of indigenous peoples in their struggles against human rights violations and in their assertions of their right to self-determination.
These  are the dramatic episodes of Italian priest Peter Geremia’s missionary life as he marks his 50th year as priest on March 30, a Black Saturday.
“My experience in the Philippines has been very dramatic,” says Geremia, a member of the  Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) who has spent 41 of his 50 year-priesthood in the Philippines,  36 of those years in Mindanao.
“When I came to Philippines, I was faced with the same challenges that the people were also facing,” the 74-year old missionary said.

After he was ordained as a priest in Detroit City in Michigan in 1963, Geremia taught history before he was assigned in Sta. Cruz, Laguna in 1972, the year martial law was declared. “We experienced flooding when I was in Sta. Cruz, Laguna” he recalled. Fr. Peter Geremia: 36 of his 50 years as priest spent in Mindanao. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco
Fr. Peter Geremia: 36 of his 50 years as priest spent in Mindanao. MindaNews photo by Keith Bacongco
Four years later, he was assigned in Tondo, Manila where he was involved in community organizing among informal settlers resisting relocation and pushing for recognition of their rights.
That same year, he was arrested along with other religious leaders for supporting the protesting La Tondeña workers

In 1977, Geremia was assigned to Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte where he spent the next three years until his transfer to the Diocese of Kidapawan in North Cotabato. In his early years at the Diocese, Geremia said then Bishop Federico Escaler, assigned him to Arakan town as his mission area. “My special interest became the organizing of Indigenous Peoples (IP),” he told MindaNews last Tuesday. Along with missionaries and Lumad leaders, Geremia founded the Tribal Filipino Program (TFP) in 1984 and served as its coordinator for 25 years. Within the first decade of his stint at the Diocese of Kidapawan, Geremia witnessed the struggles of his parishioners against human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by government forces.

He served as parish priest of Tulunan in North Cotabato from 1980 to 1985 but also served neighboring Columbio town as part of his mission work. While in Columbio, Geremia stood up for the Lumads in their fight against the entry of a large-scale mining company. In 1992, he landed in jail after he was accused to be behind the raid on the National Food Authority (NFA) at the height of the drought, when Lumads were facing near  death from starvation. But after spending nearly a month at the provincial jail in Isulan, also in Sultan Kudarat, Geremia and 19 others were released on bail.

When his fellow missionary Fausto “Pops” Tentorio was killed in Arakan on October 17, 2011, Geremia volunteered in May 2012 to continue his pastoral work in Arakan where he now serves as  the assistant parish priest of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He also serves as coordinator of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the diocese.

Happy and Grateful

Lory Obal, executive director of the Intercultural Organizations Network for Solidarity and Peace in Columbio, who worked with Geremia for years says they are very happy and grateful because “he is an exceptional servant” and is “very consistent in his vows and commitment to the poor.” When Italian missionary Tulio Favali was killed on April 11, 1985 in Tulunan, Geremia said it was the turning point of his missionary life.

Geremia was the target of the paramilitary group of killers led by Norberto Manero, Jr., aka “Kumander Bucay.” But while waiting for Geremia to return to the convent from a pastoral visit, Manero’s group harassed the neighborhood, prompting one of them to rush to the parish to call for help. Father Favali rode his motorcycle to Crossing La Esperanza, where the Maneros later burned his motorcycle and shot him dead. “Favali was killed in my place. Obviously the plan was to eliminate myself not Favali. That kind of killing I felt responsible. It was a turning point, I could not go back immediately to continue my involvement,” he recalled.

Like the Passion of Christ

During his early years in Tulunan, Geremia said he pondered on the situation. “I kept on asking where was God? How can we respond to the situation of these people? Why are people facing death as if it were a collective suicide?” The missionary was referring to community leaders who were risking their lives in dealing with armed elements from both sides. He recalled that during the early stages of their community organizing, people had high expectations, were enthusiastic and expected that there will be changes in society. But somewhere along the way, some changed sides when “repression became so violent.” “But then those who continued with this kind of understanding, from the spiritual point of view, it is more like the passion of Christ. So many were attracted.” “How to continue the process of change that was initiated by Christ? Similar to our experience, how to continue after the killing of our companions,” he asked. .

Unite the PDOMES

With all the turmoil he encountered, Geremia said he draws inspiration and strength from what he calls the Poor, Deprived, Oppressed, Marginalized, Exploited and Struggling people (PDOMES). “I was given this kind of passion, charisma, restless. Out of my sense of being dissatisfied, I always have feeling that I am not satisfied with the present situation. I have this drive to see change. And this has become my passion that is also the Kingdom of God, to build this new society. To unite the PDOMES” he explained. One of the hardest aspects of being a missionary,  Geremia said, is “to understand God’s plan of salvation and to share with the people a sense of hope.” “God has His own plan of salvation. However, we, people, don’t understand very well. And we missionaries are supposed to make others understand. But we don’t understand also. So how to give this vision, this feeling that God is with the people who are building the kingdom of God, this new society, this new community. God is alive, Christ is alive,”  he said. His wish on his 50th year as priest? “I don’t wish to live so many more (years). But I wish for a quick death, not long, long suffering, and a chance to serve the people as long as I can,” (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)

Songs

December 4-7, 2012 Diocesan General Assembly (DGA). A gathering of about 120 Lay leaders, Clergy and Religious and our Bishop. Reports from all Parishes trying to describe how we live our faith. We are challenged to renew our faith during this Year of Faith, as proclaimed by the Pope. We reflected on the New Evangelization, how to rediscover the Faith of Jesus which He proclaimed in the Our Father “May your Kingdom come!” we renewed our commitment to continue to pursue the Vision Mission and Goals of the Diocese which were formulated in the previous DGAs focusing on the process of renewal of Formation-Worship-Service (FSW). The most passionate discussion pointed out the urgent challenge of renewal of our “Service Programs”: our responses to the needs of all our people, especially the Poor, Deprived, Oppressed, Marginalized, Exploited and Struggling people (PDOMES) through just development with respect for God’s creation, promoting justice and peace… How? We did not reach specific resolutions. We recalled the faith of the Martyrs and we pray that the Spirit of Jesus and of our Martyrs will show us the way as we move on.
December 26, 2012 Thanks God for giving me enough strength to complete the Christmas celebrations. So many people gathering in the dark for 9 days for the Misa de Gallo. I tried to understand their expectations and to respond to them as the Savior did to all who are searching for salvation. I rediscovered the original Christmas songs:
1.) The Song of Mary, the Magnificat: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” then       she expressed 3 wishes:
•    May God confuse the plans of the proud, and fulfill the dreams of the humble…
•    May He overthrow the powerful from their thrones and liberate the oppressed…
•    May He feed the hungry and send away the rich with empty hands…
Is this happening now? What a revolutionary song!
2. The song of Zacharias when John the Baptist was born, the Benedictos: the Savior is coming now to free us from our enemies, from all forms of evil, like a new sunrise showing us the way to peace…
3. The Angels’ Song at Bethlehem “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.”
Is this happening now? Do we have messianic expectations of great changes? Who is expecting and struggling for change now? Can we join them?
Do we expect the Second Coming as imminent, as the fulfillment of Jesus’ dream to unite all people in His Kingdom of Justice and Peace? Do we believe that the Kingdom of God is being built now in our communities? Is this our faith?
I keep on repeating Fausto’s last wish “Your dreams and struggles are my dreams and struggles. You and I become one in building God’s kingdom!”
As I tried to voice these expectations I almost lost my voice. During the “Days of the end of the world” no sunshine, unusual cold wind. I suffered a cold, running nose and teary eyes and some chills. I thought I had the flu, but then I experienced enough healing to complete my Christmas journey.
Now as we move into the New Year 2013 how can we translate messianic expectations into daily concrete efforts? Jesus launched his missions, organized His disciples, touched the lives of so many people and He aroused great expectations of change, until He was condemned as a revolutionary. Then He rose from the dead and His revolution moves on…
A special effort now is the campaign to provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims of the typhoon. Many farmers are donating seeds and planting materials, besides food supplies and clothing, and a stream of volunteers continues to join the victims of the calamities. Some are complaining of battle fatigue, some are surrendering, and some have amazing resilience that keeps them going…

fr. Peter Geremia

UPDATES Arakan Valley by Peter Geremia

On october 24, 2012, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the largest Newspaper in the country, published an editorial entitled “Runaway Justice” denouncing the inaction of the DOJ and their failure to reply to our requests. The Editorial stated “The ability of Fr. Pops’ killers to evade the law with impunity is not an aberration. It is a continuing, and most damning, affirmation of the Government’s impotence to throw the book at powerful criminals who are able to count on the protection of shadowy forces in society, not to mention the glacial pace of the justice system, to shun accountability for their crimes…”

This editorial was the result of our shouting for justice during the anniversary of Pops’ death, as well as our quiet prayers with the power to move mountains. DOJ Usec. Baraan came to Davao on November 6, 2012 with the top NBI officers. He examined again our witnesses and assured us, in the presence of our Bishop and our lawyers, to complete the investigations of the key suspects and to issue soon their resolution of the case for filing in court. One of the NBI agents proposed the lie detector test for our witnesses because he still doubts their testimonies, on the other hand, we are also doubting the testimonies of some NBI witnesses, in fact one of them has already signed a retraction saying that he was forced to give false testimony. We suggested that if the lie detector is applied, even the NBI witnesses and agents should take the test.

On November 8 and 9 2012 also in Davao a Congressional Inquiry sponsored by the Committee on Human Rights examined the testimonies of 16 cases similar to Fausto’s case. This year 2012 in Mindanao the killings of community leaders known as defenders of human rights and of the environment have happened again and again causing shock and fear of many communities:

1.     On March 5, 2012 JIMMY LIGUYON, a Matigsalog Tribal leader, was killed in San Fernando, Bukidnon for refusing to sign consent to large-scale mining.
2.     On May 6, 2012 FRED TRANGIA, anti Large-scale mining activist, was killed in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.
3.     On May 9, 2012 MARGARITO CABAL, an anti-mega dam activist, was killed in Kibawi, Bukidnon.
4.     On August 2012 JORDAN MANDA, a Subanen Indigenous child, was killed in Bayog, Zamboanga Del Sur in an ambush that wounded his father, the main leader of the opposition of the TVI mining company.
5.     On September 13, 2012 GENESIS AMBASON, a Banwaon Tribal leader, was killed in San Luis, Agusan del Sur for opposing Malampay Mining.
6.     On October 3, 2012 GILBERT PABORADA, Higaonon leader opposing Oil palm plantation expansion, was killed in Opol, Misamis Oriental.
7.     On October 18, 2012 JUVY MALID CAPION, a pregnant mother, and 2 sons, JAN-JAN AND JEORGE, were massacred at the boundary of Tampakan, Kiblawan, and Columbio, because their father was hunted by the 27th IB for opposing the Xstrata-SMI Project there…

The victims listed above are mostly tribal leaders who usually have no access to legal assistance, they can only cry for justice in the wilderness. The cry for justice for Pops has become a chorus The victims are too many to ignore. The same pattern of Mining companies or Plantations or Multi-million projects sponsored by corrupt politicians, using the Military or paramilitary forces to eliminate and terrorize those who stand for the defense of their Ancestral Domains or the environment.

Is this a war against the defenders of Human and Environmental Rights? Does the Administration have any control of the Military and paramilitary involved? Can they disarm them or do they close their eyes to this system of impunity? Are their investigations leading to justice or to cover-ups?

The Congressional inquiry questioned the Military officers with command responsibility on the areas of these killings, but their reply was always the same, complete denial, they do not know any of the suspects, like in the case of Fausto, even though they were seen by many people joining their operation and staying in their camps.

TYPHOON PABLO

December 4, 2012 Typhoon Pablo. That morning here in Arakan I experienced sudden waves of violent wind and rain. The storm passed by quickly, I thought it was over. Then I began to receive texts with cries of distress: “The roof of our school was blown away, we do not know where to hide, we are afraid of floods and landslides…” Then gradually pictures appeared on television: houses, bridges, schools, hospitals, churches, and public buildings dismantled… Trees, plantations, and all kinds of crops washed away like garbage, mountains melting into raging floods submerging several villages… Then piles of bodies and some survivors covered with mud and wounds…
Now after a week, long lines of people crying for food, and long lines of patients waiting for days to be treated… Shock and panic, many people in fear of being struck again by the angry forces of nature… Many are asking why? Some are suggesting  that this tragedy is due to unregulated logging and mining, then the vast plantations and kaingin, even the housing projects and roads have disrupted the balance of nature. Senseless distraction and exploitation of natural resources for quick profits resulted to violent reactions of the forces of nature. A kind of revenge by nature?

Can people ever learn? From authorities to children, from those who survived the deluge and are struggling to start a new life, to us who see the pictures of destruction and fear that we may be the next target of similar calamities… What are we learning?
We turn to God, we are crying out to Him, but He may be also crying out to us showing the way to live in harmony with nature. The God of Mercy and Compassion is moving many volunteers to provide emergency assistance. A flood of solidarity is spreading, still unable to repair the damages, but refusing to surrender to hopelessness
Many are still unaware, or refusing to see the causes of increasing calamities, they remain in a state of denial. But some are refusing to let them destroy our life-support systems, to upset the marvelous harmony of God’s creation and to tear apart Mother Earth and all the resources of Nature as sources of quick profit, not as sources of life. When will we ever learn?
According to the latest count the number of confirmed dead is more than 600 and the missing more than 900. Over five million people are seriously affected and it will take a long time before life can be normal for them again.

Our Fr. Fausto Tentorio’s Foundation has sent teams to the most affected areas for relief and medical missions. Two of our schools initiated by Fausto, are severely damaged, the teachers need also shock treatment. Classes have been discontinued, the families of the students are struggling to find food and resume farming to avoid starvation, they cannot yet repair their houses and schools. We would like to help more but our resources are limited. We need everyone’s support, if you have anything to share it will be most welcome.

Sincere thanks to all and best wishes for Christmas and New Year. God Bless.

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24 ott 2012 Il quotidiano filippino Inquirer, il più grande quotidiano del paese, ha pubblicato un editoriale intitolato “la fuga della giustizia” (Runaway Justice) denuncia l’immobilismo del Dipartimento di Giustizia e la loro mancanza di risposta alle nostre richieste. La redazione ha dichiarato: “La capacità degli assassini di p. Pops  di eludere la legge impunemente non è solo un’aberrazione. Si tratta di una affermazione costante, e più schiacciante, dell’impotenza del governo di gettare in prigione i criminali potenti che sono in grado di contare sulla protezione delle forze oscure nella società, per non parlare poi della lentezza del sistema giudiziario e i vari meccanismi per eludere la responsabilità di condannare i responsabili… “
Questo editoriale è stato il risultato delle nostre grida di giustizia durante il primo anniversario della morte di Pops ‘,. Così le nostre preghiere silenziose con  la speranza che abbiano il potere di spostare le montagne. Il DOJ segretario Baraan venuto a Davao il 6 novembre 2012 con gli ufficiali dell’NBI. ha interrogato di nuovo i nostri testimoni e ci ha assicurato, alla presenza del nostro Vescovo e dei nostri avvocati, che completeranno le indagini sui sospetti chiave e rilasceranno presto la loro risoluzione sul caso per depositarlo in tribunale. Uno degli agenti NBI ha proposto il test della macchina della verità per i ‘nostri’ testimoni, perché dubita ancora delle loro testimonianze. Tuttavia ci sono anche dubbie testimonianze di alcuni testimoni NBI. Infatti uno di loro ha già firmato una ritrattazione dicendo che era stato costretto a dare falsa testimonianza. Abbiamo suggerito che, se la macchina della verità venisse veramente applicata, che sia usata anche  per i testimoni NBI e i loro agenti involti nell’investigazione.
Il 8 e 9 novembre 2012 in Davao una inchiesta del Congresso promosso dal Comitato per i diritti umani ha esaminato le testimonianze di 16 casi simili a quello di Fausto. Nell’anno 2012 in Mindanao le uccisioni di leader della comunità conosciuti come difensori dei diritti umani e dell’ambiente hanno ripetutamente provocato molti shock e paure in molte persone e comunità:

1. Il 5 marzo 2012 Jimmy LIGUYON, un leader tribale Matigsalog, è stato ucciso a San Fernando, Bukidnon per aver rifiutato di firmare il consenso di estrazione mineraria.
2. Il 6 maggio 2012 FRED Trangia, un  attivista contro le miniere, è stato ucciso a Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.
3. Il 9 Mag 2012 Margarito CABAL, un attivista anti-mega diga, è stato ucciso a Kibawi, Bukidnon.
4. In agosto 2012 GIORDANIA MANDA, un bambino Subanen indigeno, è stato ucciso a Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur in un agguato che ferì il padre, il principale leader dell’opposizione alla società mineraria canadese TVI.
5. Il 13 settembre 2012 GENESIS AMBASON, un leader tribale Banwaon, è stato ucciso a San Luis, Agusan del Sur per essersi opposto alla Mining Malampay.
6. Il 3 ott, 2012 GILBERT PABORADA, leader Higaonon che si opponeva alla espansione delle piantagioni di palma da olio, è stato ucciso a OPOL, Misamis orientale.
7. Il 18 Ottobre 2012 JUVY MALID Capion, una madre incinta, e 2 figli, JAN-Jan e Jeorge, furono massacrati al confine di Tampakan, Kiblawan e Columbio, perché il loro padre era braccato dai soldati del 27IB perché si era opposto al progetto Xstrata- SMI  …

Le vittime di cui sopra sono per lo più capi tribali che di solito non hanno accesso all’assistenza legale, possono solo piangere per la giustizia, in silenzio . Il grido di giustizia per Pops è diventato comunque un coro Le vittime sono troppe per essere ignorate. Sono il risultato dello stesso modello di società dove sono importanti solo la estrazione mineraria, le grandi piantagione, i multi-milionari progetti sponsorizzati da politici corrotti. Molte volte questi utilizzando le forze militari o paramilitari per eliminare e terrorizzare coloro che si oppongono e lottano per la difesa dei domini ancestrali o dell’ambiente.
E’ forse una guerra contro i difensori dei diritti umani e ambientali? L’Amministrazione ha veramente il controllo dei militari e paramilitari coinvolti? Possono disarmarli o chiudono gli occhi a questo sistema di impunità? Le loro indagini conducono alla giustizia o semplicemente la coprano?
Il Congresso sta interrogando gli ufficiali militari con responsabilità di comando circa questi omicidi, ma la risposta e’ sempre la stessa: completa ignoranza. Non conoscono nessuno dei sospettati, come nel caso di Fausto, anche se sono stati visti da molte persone in pubblico e  nei campi militari.

4 Dic 2012          TIFONE PABLO

Quella mattina qui in Arakan ho sperimentato ondate improvvise di vento e pioggia violenta. La tempesta passò in fretta, ho pensato che fosse finita. Poi ho cominciato a ricevere i testi con grida di aiuto: “Il tetto della nostra scuola è stato spazzato via, non si sa dove nascondersi, abbiamo paura di inondazioni e frane …” Poi a poco a poco le immagini sono apparse anche in televisione: case, ponti, scuole , ospedali, chiese, ed edifici pubblici smantellati … alberi, piantagioni, e tutti i tipi di colture spazzati via come spazzatura, montagne di fango e furiose inondazioni hanno colpito diversi villaggi … Poi mucchi di corpi e di sopravvissuti coperti di fango e ferite …
Ora, dopo una settimana, lunghe file di persone che piangono per il cibo, e le lunghe file di pazienti in attesa da giorni di essere curati … shock e panico. Molte persone hanno paura di venir colpiti ancora dalle forze violente della natura  … Molti si chiedono perché? Alcuni suggeriscono che questa tragedia è dovuto al disboscamento indiscriminato e dalle escavazioni delle miniere. Poi anche le vaste piantagioni e il kaingin (taglia e brucia = metodo brutale di coltivazione del terreno non ancora disboscato). Anche le case e le strade costruite hanno reso instabile l’equilibrio della natura. Una distrazione insensata. Lo sfruttamento delle risorse naturali, per comodi guadagni, ha spinto le forze della natura a reagire violentemente. Una sorta di vendetta in natura?

Le persone potranno imparare? Dalle autorità ai bambini, da coloro che sono sopravvissuti al diluvio e stanno lottando per iniziare una nuova vita, a noi che vediamo le immagini di distruzione e di sgomento perché possiamo essere il prossimo obiettivo di simili calamità  … Che cosa stiamo imparando?
Ci rivolgiamo a Dio, stiamo gridando a Lui, ma Egli risponde a noi mostrando invece un modo di vivere in armonia con la natura. Insieme. Il Dio di misericordia e compassione sta muovendo molti volontari per fornire assistenza in tempo di emergenza. Il fiume di solidarietà si sta allargando. Siamo ancora in grado di riparare i danni, ma solo rifiutando di arrenderci alla disperazione.
Molti tuttavia sono ancora ciechi e rifiutano di vedere le cause di queste calamità . Rimangono in uno stato di negazione, indifferenza. Ma ci sono coloro che si rifiutano di lasciare distruggere i  sistemi antichi di supporto vitale, di sconvolgere la meravigliosa armonia della creazione di Dio e di fare a pezzi la Madre Terra con tutte le sue risorse come fossero solo fonti di rapido profitto e non come di vita. Quando cominceremo ad imparare?

Secondo l’ultimo conteggio del numero dei morti confermati e’ quasi 600 e più di 900 i dispersi. Più di cinque milioni di persone sono state gravemente colpite e ci vorrà molto tempo prima che la vita potrà ritornare normale per loro.
La nostra Fondazione Fausto Tentorio ha inviato squadre nelle zone più colpite per le missioni di soccorso e di assistenza medica. Due delle nostre scuole, costruite da Fausto, sono state gravemente danneggiate e gli insegnanti devono assorbire tutte le difficoltà . Le classi sono state interrotte, le famiglie degli studenti stanno lottando per trovare cibo e riprendere a coltivare la terra per non morire di fame. Molti non sono ancora in grado riparare le proprie case e scuole. Vorremmo aiutare di più, ma le nostre risorse sono limitate. Abbiamo bisogno del sostegno di tutti, se avete qualcosa da condividere sarà il benvenuto.
Un sincero ringraziamento a tutti e auguri per Natale e Capodanno. Dio vi benedica.

Father Pops case: a witness

By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – “Kung maaari, kayo po ang gumawa ng pamamaraan (If possible, find a way) to obtain information.”  This was the appeal made by Italian priest Peter Geremia, colleague of murdered missionary Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, to the members of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights during its first day of onsite hearing Thursday in the city.

The Committee tackled 15 House Resolutions which called for justice to resolve reported various cases of human rights violations in the country.  Last month the committee held a hearing in Visayas. According to the Committee Vice-Chair Davao City First District Representative Karlo Nograles they found that there was “a certain pattern similar to what is happening in Mindanao.”

While there may be an international definition of extra-judicial killings, Nograles said, the country has yet to legislate a law to define “summary killings.” Frustrated with the slow wheels of justice, Geremia requested for the Task Force Tentorio, a multi-agency body created by the Department of Justice, to complete its report and findings.

Geremia said his group had already requested for the investigation of former Arakan Valley Police Chief Benjamin Rioflorido, the military’s Captain Mark Espiritu and members of the ‘Bagani’ paramilitary forces. Geremia said a witness in their custody narrated that Rioflorido was the one who accosted the paramilitary troops who were out to assassinate Tentorio on October 15, 2011.   The paramilitary troops were said to have a sack of firearms and the military’s Espiritu was allegedly the one who signed to release the firearms.

Geremia questioned why the Task Force has not probed the involvement of Rioflorido and Espiritu.  In particular, Geremia wants to know the connection between the accosted Bagani members and Espiritu. During Friday’s hearing, police officers said that the sack intercepted in Arakan last October 14, 2011 contained two M16 rifles, a Caliber 0.45 handgun and an amulet.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the guns were used for their civil-military operations.  They also denied any knowledge on the presence or nature of the Bagani. In a supplemental affidavit filed last April, Geremia’s witness said that he saw Jan Corbala or “Kumander Iring” (Cebuano for cat), a known Bagani leader, with alleged triggerman Jimmy Ato and Jimmy’s brother Robert. Another witness who claimed to be a Bagani member also testified before the Congressional hearing and said that six people, himself included, plotted to kill Tentorio. He added that Corbala was the one who planned the murder and was given PHP 50,000 (USD 1,213.62) by the military to kill the Italian missionary.  This witness added that the planning was done in a Bagani detachment in Danatan in Arakan town, Cotabato province.

Geremia asked the congressional body to seek the Department of National Defense (DND) on what information they have on the Bagani — who’s arming them and their whereabouts. Geremia added that the same group plotted to kill Tentorio in 2003 in the boundary of Bukidnon and Arakan.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares shared that they received “an official denial” from the State forces.  In a letter dated October 30, 2010, the DND through Undersecretary Pio Butino, said that the groups Bagani, Alamara and New Indigenous People’s Army for Reforms  are not affiliated with the AFP nor are they armed, trained or under its supervision. (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

Fr. Pops and his people’s dreams by Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME

October 17 as I was travelling from Columbio to Kidapawan a close friend called “Fr. Pops was shot!” I thought he was still alive but soon a nurse from the hospital texted” Fr.Pops is already dead, DOA, dead on arrival.” I rushed to the funeraria in Arakan and saw his body… At the spot where he was shot, I saw the blood under the car. He was about to enter the car and he was holding his cellphone when suddenly he met the executioner. Many shots, but soundless, nobody heard the shots. The executioner invisible, even though many people were nearby. He disappeared on a motorcycle like other motorcycle riders who have killed the Vigo couple in 2006 and Boy Billanes in 2009. From the autopsy later on, we saw what happened inside the body of Fausto. Two kinds of bullets, fragmentation or frangible bullets and hardhead bullets. One fragmentation bullet at the head with fragments all over his brain, 2 others fragmentation bullets at the heart that spread all over the heart and the lungs, plus one hard bullet to the heart. Other bullets at the side and the back of the body. Ten bullets alltogether. Overkill, the vital organs totally destroyed. The Medico-legal said that this kind of frangible bullets are very rare, he mentioned that in his practice he examined more than 1800 autopsies and he found only one other case with this kind of bullets. We asked how could the killer be provided with such sophisticated deadly weapons? The killer appeared to be so well trained, he knew his bullets, his guns, and he knew how to completely destroy his target, and he was provided not only with special weapons but also with a sure exit. He apparently was in no hurry, confident that nobody could stop him or run after him, even though at that time, there were many people and also many soldiers at the school compound very near. Who was the expert executioner? The masterminds and all those who assisted in the detailed planning so that the killer knew where to wait for Fausto, he knew the time of his approach to the car and all the possible interferences, all of them are now congratulating each other for a perfect crime. Some of us PIME Fathers told the authorities that the decision to eliminate Fausto appears to have come from very powerful personalities. We do not believe that the President has given the go signal like when Fr. Favali was killed during Martial Law, but it appears to us that these masterminds cannot be controlled by the highest authorities. Untouchables, above the law. Covered by high level backers, in a system of impunity like it happened with many other extra-judicial killings, like the Vigo couple, Boy Billanes, etc. Countless investigations have not produced conclusive results. Only the case of Fr. Tullio Favali obtained justice in court and the notorious killers led by Commander Bukay Manero were sentenced, they served 23 years in prison, then they asked for forgiveness… Fr. Pops represents the dreams of our common people in the Arakan area, all over the Diocese of Kidapawan, and all over Mindanao, what we call the PDOMES, Poor- Deprived- Oppressed- Marginalized- Exploited- Struggling masses. They tried to kill our dreams but they only added life to Pops. They expanded his presence and influence, now he is a much larger figure, and his death touched the heart of many more people. He used to be a low profile, shy type avoiding publicity, allergic to interviews or statements, a very simple and quiet active servant of the people as a priest, as a friend, as a companion. He has become now a new sign of the times, the bearer of the dreams of many victims and many dreamers who continue serving the people in their struggles. I do not know if he had time to pray before he lost consciousness. Many of us are asking” Where was God?” The Risen Christ said “I will be with you until the end of times! “He was also killed and raised to a new life. I believe that also Pops shares the resurrection of Christ, his new life. His spirit is alive in us, in all who share his dreams… In his last will he quoted the Prophet Micah (6:8)” O MORTALS, YOU WERE TOLD WHAT IS GOOD, WHAT GOD REQUIRES OF YOU: DO JUSTICE, LOVE MERCY, AND WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD. “He added his last message,” Your dreams are my dreams, your struggles are my struggles, you and I are only partners in building Gods’ Kingdom.” “ANG IMO PANGANDOY AKONG PANGANDOY, ANG IMONG PAKIGBISOG AKONG PAKIGBISOG, IKAW UG AKO USA RA KAUBAN SA PAGPANDAY SA GINGHARIAN SA DIOS.” … Pops we pray that we can continue to pursue your mission and the common dreams, with God’s help and your constant inspiration and the joint efforts of all your friends. Walk on! A long road to liberation.

(Fr. Peter Geremia, parish priest of Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, also an Italian missionary from the PIME, wrote this piece on October 21 in Arakan. Geremia was the intended target of the Manero brothers in 1985. While waiting for him to return from a visit to the hinterland villages on April 11, 1985, the paramilitary group harassed residents in Crossing 125, La Esperanza, Tulunan town in North Cotabato, prompting a resident to run to the parish convent. Geremia’s assistant parish priest, Tullio Favali, also an Italian PIME missionary, responded to the distress call on a motorcycle. He was gunned down, his motorcycle set on fire.)

A PARISH PRIEST with MISSIONARY SPIRIT by Fr. Peter Geremia

Last year was a year of transition for me. After 25 years as Diocesan Coordinator of the Tribal Filipino Program (TFP) based in Kidapawan I returned to Columbio as Parish Priest.

Year 2010 was my first year fulltime in Columbio (Sultan Kudarat, Diocese of Kidapawan). As Parish Priest I have an official role associated with government officials, but I feel I have also a prophetic role or missionary role. People have noticed that missionaries have a different style of life and special concerns. Personally, I feel my missionary vocation as a call to serve the Poor, Deprived, Oppressed, Marginalized,Exploited and Struggling People (PDOMES: see Vission Mission of the Diocese of Kidapawan). In the spirit of renewal of Vatican II and PCP II, I expect to be part of the renewing Church in the GKK, GLK, and Tri-People Organizations (GKK or BEC Basic Ecclesial Communities, GLK or BIC Basic Indigenous Communities). At times, I was questioned as a “trouble maker” and I suppose that sometimes I was one-sided, still that is part of my mission and even Jesus was called a “sign of contradiction”. Can Jesus challenge or convert us so that we can become agents of His Good News of Liberation, uniting in Kingdom Communities free from all evil influences in our worldly systems?

I keep on asking: Is Jesus alive in our church activities? How would He reach out to people beyond church activities? How would he become involved with the PDOMES? How would He react to our Pharises, our Herodes and Pilates? I keep on praying to be granted the spirit of Jesus and I try to revive His presence, rekindle His fire in our activities…..Allow me to mention a few examples of this process of renewal:

Part I: Church Activities

1. The PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL (PPC) now gathers monthly in different communities, the participation has greatly increased. Their updates and discussions are often lively focusing both on Church activities and community concerns.

2. KAABAG OR LITURGICAL MINISTERS. A new batch was trained and the old ones renewed their commitment. They have ongoing formation every month, they are challenged to revive the dynamism of the Bible, of Salvation History that continous now and maybe approaching the “Parousia”.

3. The BIBLE SERVICES with Communion challenges the participants to experience that Jesus is alive when they gather in His name and they also become instruments of peace, reconcillation and liberation.

4. CIRCLES OF DISCERNMENT was a special process of Bible Sharing held from house to house in preparation of the Elections. We joined in asking the spirit of renewal from the Political corruption searching for more responsible leaders.

5. GKK or BEC ASSEMBLIES were held in order to renew the members participation and to renew the style of Lay leaders to become more compassionate and caring for the lowly, like Jesus, and not worry only about policies and financial support.

6. CATHECHISTS were also trained as agents of renewal. Few continued their missions.

7. VOCATIONS: we supported both Seminarians and Asspirants to become sisters, several tried but some withdrew after a while.

8. TEMPORARY PARTNERS IN THE MINISTRY. A candidate for Priesthood, Rev. Norlito Pantaleon, spent about four months with us and Rev. Rogene Pervandos, PIME for a shorter time, they assisted greatly in the Circles of Discernment, Holy Week, Liturgies, Youth Recollections, Kaabag Formation, etc. Also Lloyd Dangdang, a PIME applicant joined for some time. Fr. Boboy Catan,PIME from November 20 to New Year was very much appreciated all throughout the Christmas celebrations.

9. THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF FR. TULLIO FAVALI’S DEATH on April 11 revived the spirit of the martyrs. Many people who still remember Fr. Tullio gathered under the sun at the Crossing Ezperanza where he was murdered. Our Bishop, the PIME Vicar General, Delegates from Mantova, many priests and sisters joined the large family of martyrs celebrating Day of Martyrs. Many Lay leaders gave their lives like Tullio, they did that because they believed that our Christian Communities can continue to proclaim the Good News of Salvation to the Poor and become living examples of Justice and Peace and Solidarity in all aspects of life. It is up to us now to continue their mission.

10. The death of FR. STEVE BAUMBUSCH, PIME on October 29 was deeply felt by us, many remembered him when he was in Columbio, his special attention to the youth, scholars, choir and musicals,etc. On December 7 the 40th days celebration was filled both with emotions and happy memories. At the Bell Tower, a place of remembrance was set up with a painting of his happy face and the faces of some other Lay Leaders who are with him in the next life. Also FR. RICKY LUSUEGRO was remembered by some.

Part II: Community Services

While searching for the spirit of renewal in church activities, I have concentrated with equal passion in social involvements also searching for the way of liberation of our communities from the dominant system of corruption.

1. The LITTLE FARMERS OF SAINT ISIDORE SCHOOL, a Parochial Elementary school and Kinder was started by the previous Parish Priest Fr. Jun Lapaz,DCK. At first, I was hesitant to take responsibility of this school because it is available only to those who can afford to pay. But I accepted to journey with them in promoting education for service and not only for climbing in the present corrupt system. The number of students increased up to 98, our church compound is always filled with children. I try to promote teachers upgrading and value formation.

2. The TRIBAL FILIPINO PROGRAM is now parish based,we continue to support the tribal organizations in their struggles:

We sponsor 7 Day Care and 7 Tribal Youth classes with about 200 students. We train their teachers and monitor their classes. We also assist about 100 Adozioni and they share their support with additional 200 children with a total of 300.

At the Training Center, we have 20+ student boarders selected from the children of active community leaders who also grow up in th spirit of community service.

3. The TRI-PEOPLE ORGANIZATIONS:Tribal, Muslim and Christian sectoral groups consolidated in the Columbio Multi- Sectoral Ecology Movement (CMEM). These organizations have been very active in all issues of Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation. I participate as adviser and overall coordinator. The main efforts in 2010 were:

Voters Education for the Elections in May. Massive info drives were held in all barangays, an stimated 3,000 people participated. It was a tremendous effort to reform the corrupt election process. The Peoples Agenda was formulated and widely discussed. There was less violence, still vote buying was rampant and the candidates with less money could not be elected. At the National level the new President vowed to fight corruption and to reduce poverty , also to resume peace talks, etc. We hope and pray that some changes may happen.

MILITARY and ARMED GROUPS. Last year the Community Based Special Operation Teams (CB-SOT) soldiers who set up their outposts among the civillians, they threatened to paralize our Peoples Organizations and even church activities. They organized the Barangay Defense System (BDS) in an attempt to use civillians as counter insurgency agents and to protect the projects of Development Aggression like mining, plantations, etc. But after election, the military became more tolerant and friendly to civillians. Still there is a climate of insecurity with armed groups and government troops presuring the civillians.

The PEACE GOVERNANCE in MINDANAO is a new program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reaching out to LGU, Academe, Religious Leaders and even the Military and Police and our sectoral groups. A very efffective reconcillation process among clans involved in long-standing conflicts has defused tension in the community.

The TRI-PEOPLE YOUTH held Culture of Peace Seminars and a Youth Peace Camp on December 27-30 with 127 young people Tribal, Muslim and Christians who participated in a very exciting process of sharings, games and dramatic activities. The camp concluded with the LAUNCHING OF THE YOUTH and KIDS FOR PEACE: a silent parade was held followed by a symbolic program in front of the Municipal Hall challenging everyone to become agents of peace and reconcillation.

OPPOSITION TO MINING. The gigantic mining project SAGITTARIUS MINES INCORPORATED (SMI) is treatening to disrupt the ecological balance all around Columbio and in several provinces. Last year, the Public Scoping Hearings did not give a fair chance to the opposition to present their side. This year a new Petition and an Open Letter were sent to the new President. Then finally a special consultation was granted to our opposition groups on August 2 as part of the Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA). Our sectoral leaders presented their stands and debated with the SMI experts. They were promised that their views will be included in the EIA process, but we dont know if the project will be finally approved or not. On December 11, the Bishops of Marbel and Digos, gathered the priests and lay leaders in the parishes directly affected by the SMI project. Our parish also joined and we agreed to coordinate efforts in the three Dioceses to help the people realize what is happening to our lands and our life- support –systems.

Many other community activities could be mentioned. I feel both church and community involvements are part of my pastoral responsibilities and more so of my missionary vocation.

I am still searching for God’s plan of Salvation for our people here, I need to be constantly recharged by the Spirit of Good News to the Poor as long as I can continue my mission here.

(Fr.Peter)

25th anniversary in Kidapawan

lumad3The Church of Kidapawan will launch on Feb. 24 a “case study on development” regarding Indigenous People (IP) communities living in different areas of the Diocese. The study will be mainly a research project enriched with “success stories of farmers in ancestral domain development.”
On the same day the Diocese will celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Tribal Filipino Program (TFP) under the theme: “TFP Journeying and Renewing Commitment as Partners with the Indigenous Peoples (IP) for their Right to Self Determination.” It will be an occasion to remember the history of IPs as well and it will be done through cultural presentation”, like the “tri-people youth and children from Columbio Valley and Sitio Tungaw, Magpet ”. IP leaders and partners who have long been serving the “Lumad” communities (Mindanao is the land of 18 indigenous group and ‘lumad’ is their collective name) for at least 15 years will be given plaques of recognition and appreciation. As for PIMEs Fr. Peter Geremia has been for more then 25 years TPF Coordinator of the Diocese with his mainly concern for the B’laang communities of Columbio while fr.Fausto Tentorio is coordinating a sustainable program for the Manobos in Arakan Valley which he started late in the 80s.