44 Philippine National-Special Action Forces commandos and 17 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were killed in an encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Sunday.

It happens when both sides fail to identify each other. Usally when one gets to identify a friendly force he will call a ceasefire. In this particular case, the firing of MILF was instead fast and furious. It was an overkilling. For many, a massacre. Yet, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have just signed a comprehensive peace pact last year, 2014.

But  clashes in Mamasapano are not limited to government forces and rebel groups. On June 9, 2014, a rebel group called BIFF  (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) came from Mamasapano and launched simultaneous attacks against a military detachment and MILF forces too. Von Al Haq, MILF vice chair for military affairs, said it was a result of an ‘unresolved’ family feud involving land disputes not settled.

This area is also the “playgrounds” of the Ampatuan clan, which has reigned over the province for years. On the 23th of November , 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, there was a massacre.  58 victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town. Instead they were kidnapped and brutally killed. Mangudadatu was challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and member of one of Mindanao’s leading Muslim political clans, in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election, in 2010. The people killed included Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, journalists, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses and mistakenly identified as part of the convoy. In December 2012 the main massacre suspect, Bahnarin “Datu Ban” Ampatuan, has been said, took shelter, hiding, inside the territory of the MILF near the Kabulnan River not to far from Mamasapano.


Pope Francis in the Philippines

Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, ay ipinanganak sa 17 Disyembre 1936 sa Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sa madaling nagtrabaho siya bago simulan ang pag-aaral ng seminaryo. Siya ay in-ordained pari noong 1969 at sa 1973-1979 naging Provincial Superior ng mga Heswita ng Argentina. Pagkatapos ay naging niya ang arsobispo ng Buenos Aires,  noong 1998, at nilikha kardinal noong 2001 sa pamamagitan ng Pope John Paul II. Kasunod ng pagbibitiw ng Pope Benedict XVI sa Pebrero 28, 2013, sa isang pang-papa pagtitipon, inihalal si Bergoglio bilang kahalili ni Pope Benedict sa Marso 13, 2013


The message of Pope Francis to Filipinos


THE visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines this Thursday January 15 is greatly awaited and what his message will be to this most Catholic nation in Asia is a matter of intense speculation .

Of course there will be millions trying to see him and receive his blessing. Most are very poor and they will be praying that his spiritual aura and huge popularity will be influential in spreading virtue, good family values, respect for human rights and social justice in the Philippines.

Indeed despite this being the Asian nation that is 80% catholic , it is for many a version of Catholicism that is at variance many times with the gospel message of compassion, respect and self-sacrificing service to the poor and the downtrodden.

Catholic schools and universities flourish, producing the educated middle class and the ruling elite many of whom are devoted Mass goers and good Catholics in the sense that they accept without question Church teaching and participate in the Church rites and rituals. But the awareness and commitment to act for social justice is limited to the few.

Catholicism here is more of a cultural faith tradition than an energizing power to work for a just and honest society. The Catholic school graduates gravitate to serve the elite and wealthy and corporate interests. They tend to look to heaven and not see the social injustice and cruel suffering and poverty on earth.

Those Catholics that engage in works of mercy, reaching out to the poor, the hungry and work in humanitarian organizations to help the poor, redress injustice and economic inequality and change society are much too few.

In general most adult Filipino Catholics are traditional and lead good church-going virtuous lives. They are not very empowered to imitate Jesus of Nazareth. They have been spiritually trained to be more docile and subservient than to be on fire with a burning faith in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. They are not faith-inspired to challenge and change the crushing injustice and corruption that keeps 100 million poor dominated by one percent of the population.

That one percent is composed of billionaires and millionaires that make up the ruling elite. They dominate Congress, the administration, the military, police and the justice system. Government departments packed with their cronies and relatives do their bidding. They pass laws that protect their stolen wealth, privileges and entitlements and thwart and silence their opponents and critics. No wonder that the Philippines has the longest lasting communist guerilla war in Asia. Without justice there cannot be peace, without peace there cannot be prosperity for all.

In 1986 when Cardinal Archbishop Jaime Sin called the faithful to be socially active for human rights and justice and to take to the streets to oppose the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, defy the military Filipino Catholicism did have a bright shining moment. But it soon faded. Such social and political engagement was discouraged and criticized by the Vatican.

Today there are those who masquerade as “good Catholics,” are seen in church but pursue worldly power and money, are driven by political ambition and the desire for economic domination over the weak and poor and value them only as cheap labor. They are the hypocrites of the ruling elites condemned by Jesus.

Its amazing that in a nation of 100 million people just a tiny few can own and control over 70 percent of the wealth, land, property and means of production. They, so few, have such power and cause such poverty and human rights abuses over so many.

These rich and corrupt people will be trying to get close to the Pope hoping that their proximity to such a famous and holy man will be a sign to the electorate that despite their evil deeds they are approved persons and blessed. May no such corrupt politicians get a seat at the table with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis choose that very name in the Spirit of St. Francis when just as his election was announced Cardinal Claudio Hummes hugged him and whispered into his ear “Do not forget the poor.” He was determined to champion their cause for equality and human rights and make the social teaching of the Church a living practical reality everywhere. He had to scold the Cardinals in the Curia recently for their 15 “diseases” that are holding back the teaching and practice of the gospel.

For sure human rights and the rights of children and women will be central to his messages. In this nation of 100 million people five million children are enslaved in some kind of child labor, mostly agricultural and slum-survival work. But as many as 100,000 are trafficked into sex slavery which Francis declared, a few weeks ago to be a crime against humanity.

The message of Pope Francis will likely address the great disparity between rich and poor. He may speak out against the death squads that kill priests and church workers and children with impunity. He is the Pope of the poor and the oppressed and is the long awaited man of God to lead the wayward Church leaders out of apathy and arrogance, teach them to reject corrupt ways and instill in them the love of the Gospel message.

This the very message that Jesus died for. We can all be inspired by him and Pope Francis to speak the truth, oppose corrupt rulers and work to lift the poor from poverty by good example and evangelical poverty.

Justice for priest’s murder

A group of tribal children have appealed to Pope Francis to help them win justice for a murdered Italian priest who was killed inside his parish compound in the southern Philippines more than three years ago.
They say the slow pace of the investigation into the killing of Father Fausto “Pops” Tentorio might forever deprive them of the justice for which they are searching.

She expressed hope the papal visit this week would help thrust the case back into the spotlight, saying the priest was very much like the current pope.
Agat says she was only able to get a proper education because of a school built by Tentorio.
Tentorio, who belonged to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, was shot dead by a gunman inside his parish compound in Arakan town, North Cotabato, in October 2011.
Witnesses and Tentorio’s parishioners have accused the Bagani — a paramilitary group — and the country’s military of being behind the murder.
Rights activists say Father Tentorio’s outspoken views against human rights violations, large-scale mining and logging, and his steadfast support for indigenous people and farmers were the motives behind his killing.
“We felt our world stopped the moment Father Pops’ heart stopped beating. They took him away from us,” Agat said.
Tentorio helped build schools and financially assisted children from indigenous groups so they could go to high school and college, she said.
The murdered priest was like no other we knew and embraced the life of indigenous people by living with them in their communities and by learning their language and culture, she added.
In 2012, President Benigno Aquino ordered the creation of a Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases to look into cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.
Fellow Italian priest Father Peter Geremia commented recently that the special task force has yielded no significant progress since its creation and has only created more frustration for the families of the victims.
Human rights groups say that although two brothers, Jimmy and Robert Ato, both members of the Bagani, have been arrested, the masterminds behind the priest’s killing are still free.
Military officials deny any involvement in the killing.
The military also denies funding or training tribal paramilitary units in the North Cotabato area.

Calendar of events 2015

Holidays and Observances:
1 Jan New Year’s Day
3 Jan Maulid un-Nabi
19 Feb Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day
25 Feb People Power Anniversary
2 Apr Maundy Thursday
3 Apr Good Friday
4 Apr Holy Saturday
5 Apr Easter Sunday
9 Apr The Day of Valor
1 May Labor Day
16 May Lailatul Isra Wal Mi Raj
12 Jun Independence Day
19 Jul Eidul-Fitar
21 Aug Ninoy Aquino Day
30 Aug National Heroes Day
31 Aug National Heroes Day holiday
24 Sep Id-ul-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
15 Oct Amun Jadid
1 Nov All Saints’ Day
2 Nov All Souls’ Day
30 Nov Bonifacio Day
24 Dec Christmas Eve
24 Dec Maulid un-Nabi
25 Dec Christmas Day
30 Dec Rizal Day
31 Dec New Year’s Eve

The most important in the Kingdom by Shay Cullen


Recently I was talking to a group of forty young boys who had been taken out of filthy jails and sub-human conditions in the so-called youth detention centers of Metro Manila. I told them, ‘You are the children of God and the most important in God’s family. That’s why you are here. You are free and have rights and dignity’.
They stared wide-eyed with incredulous looks of awe and bafflement. Jason, ten years old, jumped up, spread out his arms and began to spin around in a playful demonstration of ‘being free’. Everyone laughed and enjoyed the moment.
The boys between 9 and 16 are living happily in a beautiful home in the countryside and finding and experiencing their basic rights and joys that we, who have never suffered an injustice or been in conflict with the law or lost our freedom, take for granted and so hardly ever cherish and celebrate. You may never value it until it is taken away.
A large majority of the boys at the Preda Foundation’s New Dawn Home for Boys in conflict with the law are not convicted and not on trial. They are sent to get treatment and therapy and help for troubled lives. They are free to run wherever they want in the grounds. There are no guards, steel bars, wire cages and brutal treatment which they experienced in the jails and youth detention and so-called reformatory centers where they were locked up like animals without light, exercise, education or entertainment, affirmation or legal process.
It is the first time for them to experience such rights and respect and for them it is an amazing wonder. The Preda staff and I tell them the truth about themselves – ‘You are good, you have rights and dignity, you have had a hard life and made mistakes under the bad influence of adults but you can choose now to live another positive way’.
They listen with wide-eyed wonder and can scarcely believe this good news since they have hardly ever experienced being loved, wanted, valued, supported, fed and cherished. Instead they have been rejected all their lives and told they are a burden and a pest to their family and society and deserve punishment and imprisonment. They might as well have been on death row.
Now at Preda this bad experience and negative conditioning is being turned on its head. Now they are told – ‘You are free here at the Preda New Dawn Home for Boy to stay or leave. Know that you are of importance, value and are good in yourselves. Do not believe or think of yourselves as bad, criminal or useless young people. You are God’s children and the most important in God’s family. Jesus said so.’
Hearing and knowing this good news, each one, free of fear, reprimand and punishment, they can develop self-awareness, self-consciousness and begin to grow as persons. It is a vital part of being fully human and something they have hardly ever experienced. They feel respected and valued and can have a dream to reach a positive goal. They are assured that they will be helped to achieve a better, happier life for themselves and their future families when they grow up. What attitudes they have today will be how they will treat others in the future. They must learn and grow for the better.
It takes time for all this to sink in, so conditioned are these 9- to 16-year-old boys. We have to undo the harm and negativity that has been heaped on them from childhood by parents, relatives and local authorities. They have been branded by parents and society as worthless thieves, drug dependents and social outcasts. But they are not.
Normally good children who are misunderstood and unloved and branded as bad will likely become what they are called. Adults and parents must be careful never to physically, verbally or emotionally abuse children. They will rebel and find ways to retaliate. They feel injustice like everyone else.
At times I challenge parents of troubled, unruly and drug-taking children by asking how it is that they were born innocent but have become like this. I ask them, ‘Why do your children take pain-killers? Who is causing the pain? How have you treated and spoken to them as they were growing up?’
Inevitably the parents will respond defensively. ‘It’s not us, he (she) never listens to us, has no discipline, never obeys, steals, takes drugs, seldom goes to school, is a computer games addict, does not come home and prefers to be with the street gangs.’
Some parents admit that they voluntarily turned their child over to the detention center, ‘To teach him/her a lesson’, they say. Punishment is no cure for troubled and hurt children. It hurts and alienates them all the more.
To parents like that I usually respond, ‘How is it then that your son is here at Preda for two months and has never run away, does not steal, does not take drugs, is never violent, is helpful, does his duties, attends classes daily and respects the staff and other boys? Perhaps there is a problem in the home? With you he is a wild rebel. Here he is a normal respectful boy. Who needs to change, you or him?’ And so the parents have to reflect on their family life and ask if there is a lack of loving parenting.
What inspires and motivates the youth is to know that their parents are willing to cooperate and attend parenting seminars and to accept and admit that they too have made mistakes and are willing to reconcile with their child. The hope of family reconciliation and peace-making and acceptance back into the family is what motivates the boy to continue in the Preda home. The loss of love and friendship with parents and family is the greatest hurt and loss. Peacemaking and acceptance is the greatest gift.