Albayalde should protect the integrity and academic freedom of our universities

HEI and PNP Chief 2018

Fr. Joel Tabora, CEAP President

As the National Convention of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) was in session, PNP Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde attacked 18 public and private Universities alleging that teachers were “instigating” students “to go against government”.

He also alleged that communists were recruiting students in these universities.  These universities included:

  • Adamson University
  • Ateneo de Manila University
  • De La Salle University
  • Emilio Aguinaldo College
  • Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology
  • Far Eastern University
  • Lyceum of the Philippines University
  • Philippine Normal University
  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines
  • University of the East—Caloocan
  • University of the East—Recto
  • University of Makati
  • University of Manila
  • University of the Philippines—Diliman
  • University of the Philippines—Manila
  • University of Santo Tomas
  • San Beda College (sic)

Four of these universities, Adamson University, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and San Beda University are long-time and distinguished members of the CEAP.  The other universities are State Universities (the University of the Philippines, the Philippine Normal College , and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) or member universities of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA).

All of these universities operate under the constitutionally-guaranteed principle of academic freedom:  “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (Art. XIV, Sec. 5 [2]).  This means that the political, religious or philosophical beliefs of politicians, administrators and members of the public cannot be imposed on the students or faculty.

All  these universities also operate under the constitutional mandate to “the study of the Constitution” and to “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal disciplines, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. XIV, Sec. 3 [1]).

Functioning under the constitutional academic freedom of schools, teachers have the right consistent with their academic disciplines, but also in the multi- and interdisciplinarity afforded by the university setting, to discuss with students the meaning, importance and imperatives of  such as “nationalism”, “humanity,” “human rights” and the emulation of genuine Filipino heroes, always allowing the students themselves in freedom to develop their own personal convictions relative to the same under the conditions of our nation, our ASEAN region and our world, and to themselves recognize the imperatives in action of their learning and convictions.  This includes the appreciation of the “rights and duties of citizenship” based on ethical and spiritual values and morals, where “critical and creative thinking” is to be encouraged.

It would be helpful therefore if PNP Chief Director General Albayalde were to appreciate this lest in misunderstanding the mission and mandate of the university he be accused of contempt of the Constitution.  This, especially since he seems to be willing to take on the officials and the student bodies of these schools.  The meaning of such as nationalism, humanity, human rights, and heroism is not defined by the police chief nor by the political administration nor even by the President of the Philippines.  It is discussed in schools and universities in their dynamic contentiousness

That the student grow in personal nationalism and patriotism is indifferent to whether his or her tuition is paid for by the State or by the private hand. The Philippine university, public or private, is not in the business of educating robots and yes-persons.   No student should be cowed into thought servility due to whomever pays for tuition.

The university is not governed by the police force of the Philippines.  It is governed by truth.  In universities, truth is the object of an arduous and rigorous search..

It would be self-delusionary for the PNP Chief Director to think that he can enter a university to lecture its administration and students on what the meaning of patriotism or nationalism in today’s context is.  He can certainly share an opinion, but he cannot impose his thinking on the universities.  That would be contemptuous of the university and a sad show of ignorance of the salutary role students and student protest movements have played in social change in the world but especially in the Philippines.

This includes the student protest movements against the Marcos dictatorship that were described as “leftist” or as “communist.”

In good universities it is painfully clear:

Nationalism cannot be reduced to support for any current administration, including the Duterte administration.

Patriotism cannot be reduced to support for TRAIN1 and TRAIN 2.

Human rights cannot be equated to the right to life.

The war on drugs does not justify extrajudicial killings.

The corruption and plunder of the Marcoses especially under martial law was among the darkest chapters in our national history, and Juan Ponce Enrile was among martial law’s key implementers.

Destabilization is not caused today by critical thought and opposition movements in universities.  It is caused by inflation.

Considering that the freedoms enjoyed in the Philippines today were fought for and defended by students who were accused of “subversion”, tortured and killed in the past, PNP Chief Director General Oscar Agbayalde must consider it his duty to protect the free operation and academic freedom of all higher education institutions in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, we put the good General Albayalde on notice that all 1,497 CEAP schools and universities  are committed to the transformation of society according to the imperatives of justice and peace, engaged citizenship, environmental stewardship, poverty reduction and gender equality.  I hope it is not taken that the “transformation” of society from social injustice, apathy, environmental degradation, poverty and gender discrimination to a more humane humanity is “subversive.”

CEAP supports all universities, public and private, in their pursuit of the common good through education.


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Holiness in Brokenness, Commitment and Gratitude

CEAP 2018 closing[CEAP President’s Closing Statement:  CEAP National Convention, SMX Center, Pasay, October 5, 2018.]

We have come to the end of a journey, yet we know we are still at its beginning.  We came in response to a call to holiness: to journey from brokenness to wholeness especially in the running of our schools, each precious in the eyes of the Lord.  We came having experienced that brokenness in the violence in our society, the dysfunctionality of our families, the attack on our schools by state policies skewed in favor of public schools, brokenness in our own personal discouragement, loss of direction, sin, desolation and sometimes even despair.  We came seeking deliverance from the brokenness.  But we have been reminded:  our journey does not move unilinearly from this experienced brokenness to blessedness.  Our journey on this earth does not end, but rather continues to find blessedness in ongoing tension with brokenness, in continuing to find in the brokenness of the Cross – which we are to take up daily – the hope of the resurrection; we journey with the Resurrected Lord still carrying his Cross.

During this journey, many of you approached me to thank me for the many projects that had been undertaken by CEAP or the many presentations of experts that challenge us to continue to strive for blessedness in our brokenness. Among these: the new manual on the implementation of our pillar JEEPGY programs, the vigorous implementation of the Philippine Catholic School Standards for Basic Education (PCSS-BE)[1], the ongoing work on the Philippine Catholic School Standards for Higher Education (PCSS-HE), the ongoing advocacy with our partner organizations for State educational policies more supportive of our Catholic schools, the ongoing efforts to improve our educational outcomes in the light of our mission to be Catholic schools.  You thanked me for precious insights shared: that our teachers are sanctifiers and agents of wholeness and holiness, that our schools as well as our families are seedbeds for priestly, religious and lay vocations, that we can traverse the landscapes of change and manage the transitions from elementary to high school to senior high school, from basic education to higher education, that our schools are loci of collaboration between those blessed with religious, priestly and law charisms, that these charisms can be harmonized through appropriate school leadership, that our schools are also spaces of encounter between young Christians and Muslims, spaces of multi-ethnicity and dialogue between cultures and religions, havens for special children and, even in the best of our schools, spaces for healing.  We realized how “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future” in the personal testimony of Fr. Flaviano Villanueva.  We appreciated how higher education must unshape its past and re-shape its future in meeting the present challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  We appreciate how we can and must use social media as an instrument of evangelization.

We came together as a gift of grace, and in grace we took heart in one another in our presence in such great numbers, grateful for the blessedness of our awesome communio even in our brokenness.  We thanked God for our students represented today by Jonas Ebades and Jorjani Sinsuat who in our schools experienced blessedness from brokenness.  We thanked God for our heroes in this communio:  Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, a hero of dialogue and peace, and as heroes of Catholic education, Ms. Anunciation Espejo and Dr. Sylvia Flores.  We encountered one another anew in this light, even as we celebrated Eucharist together, and as Jesus did, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples as a profound blessing for their lives.  So too, we prayed that we be blessed, that we be broken, and that we become God’s blessing for the lives of those God sends to us in our schools. We prayed that this be our “Sanctificatio.”

And so, at this point, I ask you to respond.  I ask you to respond freely and truthfully:

  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to be a blessing for others in ongoing commitment to Catholic education as our God-given mission, in excellent administration of our schools, in dedicated delivery of humanistic and Catholic education to our learners and students, in service to our communities?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to be a blessing for others by continuing to deepen our schools in their Catholicity by using the Phoenix-partnered Philippine Catholic School Standards for Basic Education and contributing to the articulation of the Philippine Catholic School Standards for Higher Education?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to be a blessing for others in renewed commitment to our JEEPGY objectives using as our guide our new JEEPGY Manual 2018?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to be a blessing for others in striving for a just political order, the preservation of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the preservation of our democratic institutions, the protection of human rights, the rejection of illegal drugs and corruption, the rejection of extrajudicial killings? Are you committed not just to stand by when human life is threatened, abused, or unjustly taken?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing to be broken to be a blessing for others in fighting for our schools, in coming together as a political constituency to fight the pernicious forces that would develop public education by crowding out, smothering, and strangling private education and to strengthen the political forces that would help our schools to further serve the common good?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to being a blessing for others in working to repair the broken implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10934) insisting that its Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) and the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education (SLPTE) be implemented immediately and with adequate resources to benefit the needy students in our schools?
  • As a grace of this 2018 CEAP National Convention, yes or no, are you willing in being broken to be a blessing for others in using the social media as the new platform for evangelization and as a major means of effective advocacy for our schools?

In witnessing this commitment, we thank God for the grace of your presence, for the grace of your ongoing work in your schools, and for the grace of this National Convention.

In your name, we thank God for all the men and women who have contributed time and treasure to make this National Convention the grace-filled success it was:  we thank our sponsors, our commercial partners-in-mission, our exhibitors, our benefactors, our hundreds of volunteers from our Catholic schools of Metro Manila who were our ushers, usherettes, singers, dancers, musicians, mass servers, and technicians, and last but not least our CEAP Program Committee and our CEAP National Secretariat.

Have a safe journey home.  See you next year in Iloilo!




[1] The Philippine Catholic School Standards (PCSS) for Basic Education were developed and published by the CEAP in partnership with Phoenix Foundation.

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2018 CEAP National Convention Press Statement from Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J. on Educational Issues

ceap 2018

Pope Francis has invited the priests, the religious and the laypersons who are involved in our 1497 schools to seek their holiness precisely in the running of our schools.  This involves an ever deeper union of ourselves with Christ the Teacher, in his being the Way, the Truth and the Life, and in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, for which he was killed and was resurrected.

In running our schools in the Philippines we contribute to the one Philippine Educational System which according to the Philippine Constitution is the responsibility of the State. [Art. XIV, Sec. 2 (1)].  In that one system the complementary roles between public and private schools is recognized.  [Art. XIV, Sec. 2 (4)]

If the members of the CEAP are to find holiness in education it must find it in contributing to and strengthening this one Philippine Educational System.  CEAP’s educational responsibility under this one system is not only the maintenance and improvement of its own schools, big and small, urban and rural, in the northern areas ravaged by Typhoon Ompong, as well as in areas populated by non-Catholics like the regions covered by the Bangsamoro Organic Law and in mountain regions where it serves the needs of indigenous peoples.  CEAP’s educational responsibility is for the health of the one Philippine Educational System.

That is why in promoting the health of this one Philippine Educational System CEAP partners not only with the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) but also with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges  (PASUC).  In promoting the one system of Philippine Education, CEAP is proud to work with other educators also passionate about delivering excellent education who dedicate their lives to the education of the Philippine youth.

It is in this context that the CEAP today raises is objections to the skewed implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).

As an earlier version of this law entitled “Free Education in State Colleges and Universities’ was considered, not only CEAP, but also COCOPEA and the PASUC, but also even the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) opposed this version.

The goal of universal access to quality tertiary education was good.  But to promote universal access simply by providing for free education only in SUCs and LCUs was unrealistic and detrimental to the one Philippine System of Education.  It would (a) overpopulate the SUCs and LCUs, (b) militate against their quality, and (c) adversely affect the private schools.  Free education in SUCs alone would draw students away from private schools which live on tuition and fees;  free education supported by the state would draw teachers away from private schools due to the higher legislated wages of the public schools.  Such a law, we argued, which destroyed the complementarity between public and private schools, would be unconstitutional.

It was also considered unequitable and unjust that all students of SUCs, whether rich or poor, would benefit from free education.  It was considered unequitable and unjust that the children of the rich in such SUCs as the University of the Philippines would enjoy free tuition while students who were poor would be turned away for lack of space.

It was in this context that explicit statements in the law were made recognizing the complementarity between public and private schools.  In its declaration of policy RA 10931 states: “…the State hereby recognizes the complementary roles of public and private HEIs and technical-vocational institutions in the educational system and the invaluable contribution that the private tertiary schools have made and will make to education.  For these intents the State shall [among others]

(b) Provide all Filipinos with equal opportunity to quality tertiary education in both public and private educational institution.” (RA 10931, Sec. 2).

It is for this reason RA 10931 is emphatically not a “Free Tuition in SUCs” law.  It is as Sec. 1 states, the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” providing access not only to students through SUCs but also private HEIs.

Crucial therefore in this law are the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) of Sec. 7 and the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education (SLPTE) of Sec 8.

The TES would provide a subsidy equivalent to the cost of national public HEIs to qualified students opting to private HEIs.

The SLPTE would be available to qualified students opting for quality private HEIs whose tuition and fees were higher than what could be covered by the TES.

The TES and the SLPTE were therefore two major provisions of the law that would maintain the complementarity between the public and private HEIS as demanded by the Constitution.

The law was passed on August 3, 2017.  Sixty days later the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs) of this law should have been published.

But today, October 3, 2018, one year and two months after the passage of the law, the Unified Student Financial System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) has failed to clearly publish the IRRs governing the implementation of the TES and the SLPTE crucial for the private and Catholic schools are not published.  Money has been allocated  for 300,000 beneficiaries under the TES, but it is as of yet not yet clearly accessible.   Making it accessible is a work in progress.  Therefore, even without access to the lists of the beneficiaries according to the law (e.g. the “Listahanan 2.0 mentioned in RA 10931, Sec 7), our schools are now being asked by CHED OIC Prospero de Vera urgently to submit lists of our possible beneficiaries – our poor, needy and deserving students – for processing through the TES Application Portal of the Unifast by October 30.  This is an extended deadline.  If the deadline is not met, the budgetary allocations will be lost and future allocations jeopardized.

The Philippine Educational Assistance Committee (PEAC) is helping.  PEAC is qualified to administer the TES because of its experience in implementing the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).  But up to today, the appointment of PEAC to administer the TES is still outstanding.

Today, one year and two months after the passage of the law, the vast majority of our Catholic schools have suffered deep cuts in their enrollment, killing or threatening programs that are crucial to the health of the one System of Private Education.

Later,  Atty Roselle Barluan, will present some of the data we have gathered from a random sample of our schools to show the effect of the skewed implementation of RA 10931 on our schools.

Meanwhile let me note another offence against complementarity that may warrant an amendment in the law.  Students who wish to benefit from the TES or the SLPTE in private HEIs must be “qualified,” i.e., come from the lowest four deciles of our society.  This is not unreasonable, considering the social justice thrust of the 1987 Constitution.  However, those studying in  SUCs benefit from free tuition irregardless of their economic status.  CEAP and COCOPEA consider this inequitable and unjust.

Allow us also to note that during the recent budget deliberations in Congress it was clear that preparations are being made for yet another round of salary increases for teachers in public schools and HEIs.  This would be in further implementation of the Salary Standardization Law.  While we have no objection to public school teachers being better paid for their educational services, considering the increased salaries today of policemen and soldiers, we must point out that the teachers in the private school system, many of them in our Catholic schools, contribute as much to the proper functioning of the one Philippine educational system as the teachers in the public school system.  Both systems also educate the poor.  But when the public school systems are funded by legislative fiat, and the private school system is funded by whatever their poor students can give them in tuition and fees, the State should also be able to compensate private school teachers for their service in teaching the poor, even when under our difficult economic conditions, the poor cannot afford the tuition and fees that quality education demands.  In this context, we have worked with legislators to pass legislation directly funding the salaries of our private schools.  About this, Atty Joseph Estrada, may have more to say on this.

Meanwhile, in a situation where we are all concerned about inflation in the Philippines and its effect of the poor, we cannot escape the fact that it is government policy driving up the inflation.  In the educational sector, it is the increased government salaries for teachers that tends to increase the salaries in the private sector and the general costs of education.  In the general national economy, this has been the TRAIN law.

In this context, CEAP is one with the COCOPEA in opposing increased taxes even in for-profit private schools.  What is important is the contribution all our schools make to the one system of private Education according to the covenants and agreements that the schools have with their students, their parents and benefactors.  Private schools have suffered enough due to the implementation of the k-12 law (RA 10533) and the skewed implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).

Finally, allow me to reiterate CEAP’s support along with the COCOPEA for the formal appointment of Dr. Prospero de Vera as Chairman of the CHED.  Chairman de Vera has come to dialogue with us on the many issues that confront Higher Education today, and we believe we can work well with him.  We believe that it is time to stabilize the CHED and insulate it from politics.

Our thanks to our friends in the media for participating in our CEAP Press Conference!

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The President’s Report and Perspectives from Brokenness to Holiness

law grad homily 2

[General Membership Meeting.  SMX Convention Center, Pasay.  October 1, 2018]

The President’s Report on the many activities of CEAP over the past year are contained in the printed publication, “Annual Report 2018: Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.”  It mentions advocacy work we have done in support of Catholic and Private Education with the COCOPEA, with the PASUC, with legislators and government officials.  It mentions the strides we have taken in the implementation of the PCSS for Basic Education  as well as the admirable work ongoing in crafting a PCSS-for Higher Education.  It mentions the work on our various commissions, our efforts towards the reconstruction of war-torn Marawi, as well as the much-lauded CEAP-sponsored Madaris Volunteer Program – which is now not only in Maguindanao but also in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.  It mentions many efforts at strengthening our education service in our schools and recognizing heroism in this service, especially in our smaller school.  It mention the new-crafted JEEPGY Manual 2018.  Much has been done.   But since we gather this year on the theme:  Sanctificatio: from Brokenness to Blessedness and you are part of CEAP, I ask you to participate now in completing this report through what might be a communal yet personal examen.  Last year, when we convened on the theme on the theme of our schools as a Communio of Communities, we recognized the many graces of that conventions and posed the following questions.  Recalling them now may help us appreciate more how CEAP succeeded or failed in the past year:

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves anew to building and sustaining the Catholic Communio in our schools, our regions, our national CEAP, our national community, but now especially in Mindanao?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves to be guided by the Philippine Catholic School Standards in Basic Education and help in the formulation of the PCSS for Higher Education?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves in all our vulnerability to a culture of peace in all our schools, to religious freedom, and to a deepening of our faith in dialogue with other faiths?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves to work against war, to work against violent extremism, to work against discrimination and exclusion, and all forms of social injustice?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves to contribute to the rebuilding of Marawi, but more urgently, to rebuilding the broken relations we have with Muslim Mindanao?  Do we commit ourselves in all our vulnerability – also in using the Mindanao Sulu Multi-Strand Timeline –  to healing our memories of conflict, hatred, killing, and death and to asking for forgiveness?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves to volunteering for or supporting volunteers for service in the name of peace, education, compassion and reconciliation?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, may I ask you, yes or no, do we commit ourselves before our God of Life to a culture of life, to the protection of life from all violations of life be this from international terrorism, international drug cartels, the misuse of police power by the State, our even through the misuse of power in our fraternities through hazing?

As a grace of the 2017 National Convention, we asked, yes or no, do we commit ourselves anew to support our Communio, but to support especially our 900 small and struggling schools through effective advocacy with our legislators and government officials, effective networking with our educational partners, but also through support of our new Kapatirang Kamagong.

Considering how we have acted personally or in our own schools and regions on these commitments, completes the report for the past year, and leads us to the theme of our National Convention this year:  Sanctificatio:  From brokenness to blessedness.

We come together to consider Pope Francis’ invitation to holiness  The invitation is issued to us as leaders of our schools as we experience the brokenness of our global society, torn apart by inequality, exclusion, war and the dramatic restructuring of global alliances;  the brokenness of our national society torn apart by deep political divisions and attacks on truth, human rights, democratic institutions, and, in the face of persistent poverty and corruption, strongman leadership;  the brokenness of our Philippine educational system where the existence of private education is now compromised by policies and practices favoring public education; the brokenness of many of our families due to broken vows and broken promises; the brokenness of our spirit because of the palpability of evil in our experience, the evil of State violence, the violence in our streets, the violence against the poor due to inflation induced by taxation, and violence done against children.

With so much darkness, Pope Francis’ message is almost jarring:  Gaudete et exsultate!:  rejoice and exult!  His message is not to trivialize the evil in the brokenness, but to recall to us our ultimate dependence not on our own power but on the power of God in moving from brokenness to wholeness.  His message for us as educators is to get in touch anew with our God-given mission, and to find hope in uniting our efforts at sustaining our schools and improving our service with the power of God, the source of our mission.

Working in the power of God does not mean doing nothing against the brokenness, but in the power of God precisely being willing to fight for our schools.  We must fight for our schools because of the humanistic education they deliver that is the right of all human beings; we must fight for our schools because of the Christian education they deliver that is the right of all Catholics.  We must fight the tendency of politicians to develop public education by crowding out, smothering, and strangling private education.  We must fight for the fair and complete implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10934).  We must fight the pernicious lie – or the reckless hope – that the country can afford free quality education for all.  In CEAP, we must close ranks to develop a politically-relevant democratic constituency that can influence politicians to support our schools in the service of the common good.  Finally, recalling our history of Catholic education in the Philippines, we must move away from thinking that the State will solve all of our problems, and even pay for our salaries and bills.  Relying on God and on one-another we must return to our original spirit of God-inspired, prayer driven and apostolically-motivated entrepreneurship and self-reliance.  Relying on ourselves we can and will respond to the challenges in our world of artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics and 3D printing.  But we can and must also respond to the challenges in our world of disbelief, unbridled consumption, pernicious global production machines, violent extremism and strongman politics.

Thank you all for being here.  Thank you for being CEAP!  Thank you for daring to journey with us in God’s Spirit from brokenness to blessedness!



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Embracing Holiness, Enflaming our Mission and Setting the World on Fire

CEAP Sup 2018

[Address:  CEAP Superintendents’ Commission Annual Assembly, Century Park Hotel, Malate, Manila.  Sept. 30, 2018.]


So close to the opening of the CEAP National Convention, it is my privilege to address this Annual Assembly of CEAP Superintendents’ Commission with its theme, “Embracing Holiness;  Enflaming our Mission.”

Let us take the “Embracing Holiness” first.

This is a challenge which comes from Pope Francis.  To those of us who think life is demanding in the ongoing service of our schools, that proceeds despite what many  consider to be the brokenness of our educational system, or the brokenness of our national government, or the brokenness of our families, or our own personal brokenness in our efforts to address the brokenness – to protest, to repair, to heal – activities that often cost us great sacrifices, suffering and persecution, Francis says, “Rejoice and be glad’ (Mt 2:5:12) …  The Lord asks everything of us, and in return, he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.  He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE, 1).  These are the opening lines of Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete and Exsultate” (GE), in which as a 21st Century challenge, he re-proposes “the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities” (GE, 2).   Here, he is not talking about an elite type of holiness, but the holiness of the person next door, or of the person who works at teaching and serving right next to me.  “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people,” Francis shares, “in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile.  In their daily perseverance, I see the holiness of the Church militant.  Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door-neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.  We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’” (GE, 7).  Francis speaks of the Lord addressing “each of us” … ”personally” … ”each in his or her own way” (GE,10).

I guess that means that called to the service of a superintendent in charge of schools, there is not only remuneration, adulation and the perks of the Supcom to be enjoyed, but holiness to be gained in those superintendents who shepherd their schools with much love, who face great adversity without ever losing their smile.  There is holiness in taking on the responsibility of educational leadership in your congregation or in your diocese, in exerting the effort to embrace its difficult responsibilities, to study and make sense of the complex and oftentimes confusing institutional and academic demands of CHED or DepED, but more importantly to embrace the specific responsibility of our schools as privileged loci of the evangelization and formation of the Catholic youth.  There is holiness in dealing with the demands of bishops to keep schools running despite the meager resources one is given, and in laboring to keep schools alive when you are competing with government schools that give education for free and raise salaries recklessly through legislation.  There is holiness in trying to keep schools catholic when many are really more interested in just quality education or personal power and privilege rather than in catholicity.  There is holiness in bearing the frustration of training teachers in pedagogical and content competencies only to lose them to the public sector when they attain their license to teach.  There is holiness in humbly begging parishioners and parents, friends and relatives to support our schools through their donations, especially when the faces of students and learners eager to learn and not just their number become foremost in one’s educational shepherding.  There is  holiness when the pain and sacrifice of being a good superintendent are unified with the pain and sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross. But there is holiness also when it is not only about pain and suffering, but about love, joy and hope. Schools that teach truth and form students in truth proceed  from the heart of the Church.  The heart of the Church is Jesus Christ.  Union with him in the mission that comes from his heart is holiness. It is not only suffering.  It is also resurrection and hope.

Enflaming our mission 

If we are to follow the inspirations of Gravissimum Educationis (GE) we have a mission to competent humanistic education that instructs and forms learners and students towards the common good.  GE teaches that all human beings have an inalienable right to this education (GE 1).

But integrated with this is our mission to Christian or Catholic Education.  Let us review what GE says, then let us briefly unpack it:  “Since all Christians have become by rebirth of water and the Holy Spirit a new creature so that they should be called and should be called children of God, they have a right to a Christian education.  A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person as just now described, but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced to the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.”

Let us unpack this.

In Gravisimum Educationis we have a twofold mission.  They are not two missions, either / or.  They are one mission, both-and, in each other intertwined.

Humanistic education.  If we are to enflame it, we must work passionately to promote competent humanistic education, which is the right of all human beings.

Christian education.  If we are enflame it,  we must work passionately to promote and demand competent Christian or Catholic education, which is the right of all Catholics in the Philippines, particularly of those under my supervision.  This involves:

Making them aware of the gift of faith.  Making them conscious of it, that it is undeserved, that it is a relationship.  That one cannot be forced to it.  But that one embraces it in freedom.  It is a gift that is more precious in the context of materialism, creeping secularism, religious pluralism, inter-religious dialogue, and even in the context of clerical and episcopal abuse scandals that rock our faith community today.

Forming them to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.  Teaching them not only prayers learned by rote, but teaching them to converse with the Father, Son and the Spirit, with Mary, the apostles and all the saints.  Teaching them to respond to the love of the Trinity in the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments, and to develop in each a personal prayer life.

That they develop into “perfect” humanity, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ, that is the Christian community’s distinct contribution to a more humane humanity.  That they not be dwarfed in a truncated, undeveloped type of humanity, mired in poverty or deficient education, or fixated on self-glorifying activities and consumerism.

That they strive for the growth of the Mystical Body.  The growth of the Church.  That they appreciate the Christian community in the school that is one with the Christian community beyond the school witnessing to the reconciling life of the Trinity in our world.  That they contribute to this with great freedom and generosity.

That they help in the Christian formation of the world.  This is the transformation of the world based on the Trinitarian communion that impacts on and imprints itself on the more humane humanity that we strive for in transformative education.  With Jesus, our schools participate in calling for, in working for, in establishing – to the extent grace allows – the Kingdom of God on earth.

We are enflamed in our twofold mission when we realize that in all of its richness and complexity we do not just choose it.  We are chosen for it.  In the missioning of a religious superior or of a bishop, the mission is not just ours, it is God’s.  With that, the conviction that ultimately he sustains our educational apostolate.

Setting the world on fire.

Jesus says, “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning”  (Luke 12:49).  Embracing holiness, enflaming our mission, let us work with Jesus to set the world on fire.  It is God’s fire.  But it will not burn in our world without our ongoing labor, courage, persistence, passion and creativity in pursuing our mission.

In this context, allow me to say the following:

We must fight for our schools.  We must fight for our schools because of the people that they reach; because each school crucial to the lives of people is precious in the eyes of God.  We must fight for them – against whomever their enemies may be – because we believe in their educational mission.  We believe it is important that Filipinos who have the right to good humanistic education get it, and that Filipinos who have the need for good professional education get it.  More than this, we must fight for the institutions that allow us to preach the Gospel through our classrooms, libraries, playgrounds and school chapels and transform men, women and society in the light of the Gospel.

We must fight the tendency of unenlightened  politicians to kill the complementarity between public and private education in this country and to develop public education by crowding out, smothering, and strangling private education.  We must fight the politicians who are cowed by the leftists who demand that all Philippine education be given through one system of education that is run by the State and  subject to the corruption, inefficiency and politicking of public administration.  We must fight the politicians who believe that the problems of Philippine education are best solved today by multiplying state universities and colleges and local colleges and universities.  We must fight politicians who would subject all Filipinos and Filipinas to one uniform centrally administered educational system.

We must fight for the fair and complete implementation of the universal access to quality tertiary education (RA 10931).  This law is not “the free-tuition in SUCs law.”  This law is the universal access to quality tertiary education act that respects the complementary roles of public and private education.  We must object to its skewed implementation in favor or SUCs and LCUs.  We must object to the late publication of its IRRs which have deprived our students of access to the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) and the Student Loan Program, even while free education in SUCs was already being implemented.

We must fight the pernicious lie – or the reckless hope – that the country can afford free quality education for all.   Quality education has a price.  Those who wish to benefit from it must be willing to pay for it.

We must fight for a performance evaluation on the implementation of the K-12 law.

We who are superintendents but throughout the CEAP, we must close ranks to fight for our schools through developing our politically-relevant constituency that can influence politicians to support our schools in their service of the common good and remove politicians from office who do not.  We have the numbers.  We have the national reach.  We have the organizational capability.  But we must decide to unify, coordinate our forces, hone our skills in lobbying, in utilizing mainstream and  social media, in tweeting, in posting, in “adding”, in “mentioning,” in “hashtagging” and in engaging those who would detract and attack us in the social media.  We must use our vote to protect and advance our schools in the Philippines.

Finally, recalling our history of providing quality education in the Philippines that is close to five hundred years old, education that evangelized and honed the leadership of heroes, we must move away from thinking that the State will solve all of our problems, even pay for all of our salaries and bills.  We will collaborate with the State, as the Philippine educational system is the responsibility of the State.  But over-reliance on the State will weaken us, muzzle us, and kill us.  We must draw strength from our God-given mission, and fighting as we must for our schools, put our trust not in the power of the State but in the power of God.  Only in this manner might we continue to serve the State competently and independently. Relying on God and on one another, we must return to our original spirit of God-inspired, prayer-driven and apostolically-motivated entrepreneurship and self-reliance.  Relying on ourselves we must and will respond to the challenges of artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics and 3D printing.  But we must also respond to the challenges in our world of disbelief, unbridled consumption, pernicious global production machines, environmental destruction, exclusion, violent extremism and strongman politics.

No matter the cost.

In this manner, we are invited to move from brokenness to holiness.  Let God’s Spirit enflame our mission to “Go, set the world on fire”!









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What God has put together in love…

[Wedding of Angela Villanueva and Judd Reyes.   Christ the King Parish, QC.  September 22, 2018.  3:00 pm.]

We come together in this beautiful church of Christ the King in celebration of the love of Angela and Judd.  We come together as their friends, family and closest loved ones to witness how they take the love that is God’s most private and intimate gift to them and raise it to the level of a sacrament in the Christian community.

But first, before we go soaring into theological heights, how did Judd and Angela meet?  What both of them remember well was that they both met in a bar.  It wasn’t a chance meeting of lonely hearts like in the movies.  It was a planned meeting.  Indeed, it was engineered by Judd’s long-time best friend, and one of his groomsmen this afternoon, Dep de Pasion, who had long wanted to set Judd up with Angela. It was supposed to have been a romantic blind date.  But I guess either the number of people or the bad music or the shady cocktails crowded the romance out of the affair.  Judd would eventually describe it as a failed blind date.  And at its end, Angela would be disappointed because Judd had not asked her for her phone number.

Angela recalls:  “Judd and I met through our friend – Dep.  Dep set us up on a blind date   which became a double date with Dep and his girlfriend   which then became a “Barangay” date because a friend of mine invited us to an opening of this bar   and we agreed to go because the place Dep had chosen was packed.”  Judd recalls:  “The place where we had this group hang out is closed now. Which is not surprising since it played bad music, the food was nothing special and it served shady cocktails. It’s a place that we would otherwise forget about. But Angela and I will always remember it because it is where we first met. It was a failed blind date because of all the people that showed up.  But it did its job and started what turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Actually it wasn’t there at that bar where they’d first met.  They had met four years earlier, with Angela hardly noticing.  But Judd recalls it well:  “I first met Angela about four years before we had that failed blind date. She did a presentation in one of her previous companies.  How did I feel? When I first met her (the time she doesn’t remember), I felt intimidated. I remember thinking: this girl is smart. That was my first impression of her.  Smart. S he was young, but she carried herself well.  She had confidence.

“Four years later, when my friend told me that he would set me up on a blind date with her, I recalled my first impression. I was hesitant because the intimidation was still there. Maybe she’d find me too dumb or too boring. I was dreading the thought of having to grasp for clever things to say to her just to impress her enough to keep her interest. That would’ve been so tiring…”

But when the blind date came, Angela recalls:  “I was looking to have fun and Dep told me he had always wanted to set me up with his best friend. At that time I wasn’t expecting much, nothing serious.

“[[Yet] I was so anxious and nervous I kept drinking the cocktails that were on promo that night.  It was funny because my friends and I kept changing seats to arrange the perfect seating arrangement for when Judd arrived.

“Judd arrived quite late and we were all a bit tipsy.    I felt comfortable around him immediately. Maybe it was the alcohol but I’m guessing it was Judd’s easy going attitude. He was friendly with everyone without trying too hard and he was very funny. I think we were laughing the whole night which made me more curious about Judd.

“I also remember how disappointed I was when he didn’t get my number at the end of the night.”

What Judd recalls when the night of the blind date came:  “The intimidation subsided. The first minute that I sat down, and she came back from the bathroom, the way she greeted me was very assuring.  It was very warm and open. It assured me that I didn’t have to try so hard, I didn’t have to think of topics that would interest her.  She made the conversation interesting enough, no matter what we were talking about.  And all through the night, that’s how it went.  And I remember thinking at the end of the night, I wanted to have more conversations with her.”

Yet he didn’t even ask her for her phone number!

Angela recalls:  “I rode home with Dep    and to my surprise Judd called Dep (yey!)  and asked if he could talk to me.  He set another date – one with just the two of us and he got my number. So our second date was our first real date… and the rest as they say is history.”

“I fell in love with her,” Judd says, “without knowing that it was happening. It just came naturally for me. It was a series of conversations, dinner dates, movie dates, group inumans that lead to a realization: This girl makes me really happy.

“Happy because she has a crazy sense of humor, Happy because she can strike up a conversation with anyone and bond with them. Happy because she gets along with my friends very well. Happy because I can talk to her about anything, even very stupid things. She makes me really happy. Which I guess is a person that is very hard to find for a lot of people.

“I am marrying her because she makes me happy. I am marrying her because she makes me feel secure. I am marrying her because she strengthens me to face the future.  But most of all, I am marrying her because she is the love of my life and I cannot imagine a life where she isn’t by my side.”

Angela says:  “I’m marrying Judd because he is my best friend. We’ve been through a a lot, we’ve had our share of fights and tests of the strength of our love & each time Judd is my rock. The times I’ve wanted to give up, he was stronger and he has shown the strength of his love for me time and again.

“I can always be myself around him and he makes me feel safe. And of course, he makes me happy.”

So what more is there for me to say?  “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).  “What God brings together in love, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6).  What Judd and Angela do today, urged by God’s Spirit, is raise their private and intimate love to the level of a public sacrament, a manifest “sign.”  In their loving each other, in their happiness, in their security in each other, in their unending embrace, in their graced ecstasy, they show us how God loves us not only in the spirit but in the flesh, they show us how we must love God not only in words but in the flesh.  In their struggle to overcome differences and temptations so that they might achieve together the fullness of marital life, they show us how Jesus overcame anguish, evil and death to bring us “life, life in its abundance, life in its fullness” (Jn 10:10).  In their fidelity to each other, and in their love for their future children, they teach us of the fidelity of God in his love for us and for our children’s children, about which Paul says, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 8:35).  Such is the love that Judd and Angela profess for each other in raising their love to the sacrament of matrimony.

As their friends, relatives and closest loved ones, let us support them in their love.  In their love, let us experience how divine human love is.


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Entrepreneurship as Socially Transformative

[Welcome Address: JCI JuaNegosyante Pitching Competition at ADDU, Finster Hall, 15 September 2018]

In the name of the Ateneo de Davao University it is first of all my pleasure to welcome the Junior Chamber International (JCI) to the Ateneo de Davao University in its sponsorship of the national pitching competition entitled JuaNegosyante.

I am delighted that Mr. Aldwin Dumago is back from his exile in Manila to his home Davao and his home campus to promote entrepreneurship throughout Mindanao. Mr. Dumago is a graduate of entrepreneurship at ADDU and former President of the tertiary –level student council of ADDU, the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral sa ADDU.

He has meanwhile involved himself in promoting entrepreneurship in Mindanao. One of his activities has been getting his alma mater and his School of Business and Governance through its Dean, Dr. Jenner Chan, and the ADDU Young Entrepreneurs to partner with the JCI in hosting this pitching competition at the Ateneo de Davao.

I warmly welcome the distinguished speakers who have come to enrich this occasion with their experience, expertise and involvement in JuaNegosyante:

  • Atty Juaquin Esquivias, Founder and Co-Owner, Sinag Consulting Group, and 2018 President, JCI, Manila.
  • Ms. Cecile Dominguez Yujuico, CEO of Evident Communications
  • Engr. John Naranjo, President and CEO, Ingenuity Global Consulting Group
  • Mr. Rolan Marco Garcia, Founder and CEO, Project VII (a Filipino grassroots company for entrepreneurship development) and current Commissioner for JuaNegosyante.

The world has changed. And with a changing world, language has changed. There was a time when awful ment full of something fearsome or dreadful. Eventually, awe referred to something solemn or wonderful, so awful had a similar meaning that awesome has today. But today awful means something terrible. An awful decsion is a bad decision.

Gay is a similar word. In Westside Story, Maria sang: “I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty. I feel pretty and witty and gay.” But today, if one would sing, “I feel gay,” it means quite something else.

There was a time when pitch was a musical term, indicating how high or how low a note is. Pitch is also a viscoelastic polymer like tar, so something could be pitch black. In football, the pitch is where the contending teams battle it out to victory or defeat. But in baseball, a pitch is the act of a pitcher throwing a ball within a certain area for a batter to hit or not hit a ball. A good pitch, interestingly enough, is when the batter can’t hit the ball. A bad pitch is when the batter hits the ball to Timbuktoo and makes a home run with the bases loaded.

Entrepreneurship education used to be simple. Get the students to learn the theory of business conceptually, and get the students to run their own business practically. Usually this was done by students dealing with food, which they were easily able to capitalize: selling a cupcake (cake in a cup) or, today, a cupmeal (a meal in a cup), sometimes with food that they had produced and cooked themselves, at other times with food that they’d bought in a mall for re-sale in Rodriguez Hall. Once the students could show that they’d made money, they would close their business for a final report at the end of the school year, and then they would get an A.

But I’d always been disturbed by this. Why train an entrepreneur to set up a business only to require him to close it down at the end of the academic year? And why glory in students not being able to think of any other businesses than cupcakes and cupmeals they could afford?

Thankfully, entrepreneurship education has gotten more sophisticated. Not just “the activity of setting up a business in the hope of private profit.”

But the activity of setting up a business in response to perceived needs in society where risks are clearly understood but mitigated by an evidenced understanding of the need being responded to, a good business plan, an emphatically competent marketing plan, and its proponents having the personality, the credibility, the leadership, the creativity, the courage, and the grit to make it work. Today the entrepreneur does not only deal with fellow businessmen; he or she deals with psychologists, economists, sociologists, statisticians, big data scientists, engineers, technicians, factory workers, market vendors and jeepney drivers even at the level of trying to understand need in society, or formulating an entrepreneureal response to it.

Today the entrepreneureal student is not in a purely theoretical world of academe that is separated from the real world of entrepreneureal ventures. The business world long lamented the mismatch between eduction and the needs of business. So there is much more coordination and interaction today between industry and academe. The student craves the recognition and success in the business world. The real entrepreneureal world is crucially interested in the thinking, projects, idiocyncrasies and genius of the student entrepreneur; for this may be a gateway of new investment and new wealth. The student entrepreneur is not afraid of conceptualizing projects he can’t personally fund; the venture capitalists have access to fresh ideas and boundless energy. To make this truly work intellectual property is recognized, respected and protected, in order that creative young entrepreneurs may thrive and new ventures flourish in fairness and justice

I guess that’s why we are celebrating JuaNegosyante today.

Interesting is that in the discernment of social needs that student entrepreneurs can respond to leaves much room for choice to the entrepreneur. What problems in society does one respond to? Not necessarily the ones that respond to the darkest of human needs; quite possibly the ones that are vitally urgent. Not neessarily the ones that bring most revenue; quite possibly the ones that make society more humane.   GS learners don’t have enough good but affordable shoes. There is perpetual flooding in our streets. Children are dying of dengue. In times of catastrophe lights go out and celphones can’t be charged. People don’t have jobs. Repetitive work is boring and pure drudgery. People are hungry because rice is too expensive People do not have access to the internet. People do not have access to one another. When student entrepreneurs choose to respond to these problems they commit themselves to find ways of making human society more humane.

What they find is not left in a theoretical vacuum. Today, at events like JuaNegosyante, they can pitch. They can pitch like the greatest of baseball pitches, winding up, then throwing their ideas out there, then making a home run. The baseball metaphor may be skewed. But that’s what happens in pitching, correct?. Pitching is an expression of upgraded entrepreneurship education transformed into enrepreneurship itself. It is not merely play acting. It is actual pitching. Not just a contest in a game format. But the game of entrepreneurship actually being played between budding geniuses and experienced entrepreneurs with access to real venture capital. In successful pitching, not only the entreprenereal students win, the veteran entrepreneurs win.

And, I guess, when the entrepreneurs choose to address the pressing needs of poverty, hunger, lack of education and injustice in society, and not just needs of lust and luxury and libido, and when creativity and innovation emerge from the private sector and not just from the over-burdened and over-rated government sector, and when people begin to be convinced that through the entrepreneureal mindset and through entrepreneural collaboration problems can really be solved that pay for themselves, all are winners. And the common good is served.

That is where entrepreneurship shows its socially transformative power. Entrepreneurship is not awful. It is awesome.

It is in this context, and with this hope, that I welcome JuaNegosyante to ADDU, and I congratulate the ADDU Young Entrepreneurs and the ADDU SBG for its collaboration with JCI on this. I welcome you with all the other groups promoting this kind of entrepreneurship throughout the country! Above all, I congratulate those students and their teacher-coaches from all over Mindanao who have prepared pitches for the competition this afternoon. I am delighted that we have an ADDU team that is pitching. In your pitching, may we all be winners!


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