Celebrating God’s Work for Peace: Journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for Peace

[Address to the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Homitory, Davao, Sept. 20, 2016.]

Our topic speaks of celebration. In a real sense we come together in celebration. Peace is in the offing. The Duterte administration has not yet reached its 100th-day milestone. Yet we are celebrating clear breakthroughs on the road to peace. We feel that peace in the centuries-old conflict between the the majority of Filipino Muslims and Philippine society is within reach, despite the challenge coming from Caliphate-oriented groups; we see clear progress in resolving the festering conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. After “decades of armed conflict in the country [that] have resulted in countless deaths, dislocations, much suffering among the people and a waste of scarce economic resources and development opportunities” there is enlightened recognition that “the Filipino people demand and deserve a life of peace, justice, dignity, prosperity and freedom from want and violence.”[1]

We celebrate, however, also in the hope that it is not just the genius of man and his political astuteness that is bringing about this peace, but the work of God. Ours is a God of love. We are the people he loves. War and hatred, violence and killing, selfishness and greed are hateful to him. He intervenes in this world to establish his Kingdom of justice and peace. He accomplishes this work in inviting disciples to cooperate in his will and work for peace. In celebrating his peace, we celebrate his compassion. But we also celebrate the ongoing commitment of his disciples to discern his will and effect lasting peace, no matter the cost.

We pray it not just be peace that the world brings, the superficial peace of paper arrangements, but the peace that God brings – even though we know among social revolutionaries not all recognize God. Not all have been able to discover a kind and compassionate God amidst the “poverty, structural inequity, destitution and marginalization” that beset human beings ultimately at the behest of human beings. Not all have been able to reconcile the godly with people’s indifference to human suffering and to find God in their materialism, consumerism, and addiction to endless pleasure. Similarly, among those who publicly venerate the holiness of God and his infinite love for humanity, we are scandalized by their indifference to the massive poverty, structural injustice, and social exclusion caused by greed and complacency. The peace that God brings is not indifference to this social sin, but prophecy and condemnation. Here, we have one of the true ironies of our age: the oddity that God brings peace to the world through the godless in their genuine concern for the welfare of the human being and human society; the scandal that the godly are shamed and condemned in the struggle to rescue the victims of their social injustice and greed. Perhaps, in this revolutionary irony, there is reason for celebration. God works for peace even through those do not know him. He works for peace even against those who claim to walk in his ways. He works his miracles where he wills.

Even as he also works for peace among his disciples who are able to feel for Lazarus “laying at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores” (Lk 16:21-21). They are disquieted by the stench and squalor in the hovels of the urban poor next to the palaces of the wealthy; they cannot stomach the hunger and destitution of the farmers whose produce fatten the wealthy but emaciate their children. They cannot sleep hearing of the murders of indigenous peoples’ leaders who fight for their ancestral domains and their tribal heritage against the rapaciousness of miners. They weep seeing families torn up by breadwinners forced to leave their homes and their loved ones to labor in alien countries so that life in the Philippines can be minimally humane, or families torn up because children are trafficked so siblings can eat, or families are torn up by those who make them the engines of their illegal drug trade.

God works for peace. And if we continue to hear his call, “Come follow me,” work with me, struggle with me, “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” we who are his disciples must first renew ourselves in journeying with him towards bringing our people the fullness of life that he brings. “I have come to bring life,” he declared, “life to the full” (Jn 10:10). We must ask ourselves: where are our hearts? Not long ago, the Catholic Church began a document proclaiming Gaudium et spes, Joy and hope, with the memorable words, “The joys and hope, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” Our peoples’ treasures of family and love, their grief that their labor brings too little to the table, their anxiety that there is not enough to deal with the 5-6 creditors, their despair in making ends meet in the Philippines, their hope that working abroad might help, their anxiety that their spouses and their children are neglected, their pain when crisis cannot be overcome, must be the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of those who believe in journeying with Christ to bring to our people “life, life to the full.” In this context, we must raise the social question as it continues to bite painfully into our experience of Philippine life today. Why so many poor? How so, the number of rich? What is the connection between the poverty of so many with the wealth of others? The lack of “fullness” in the lives of our poor, contrasted with the scandalous oversatiation in the lives of some, even when the Church clearly teaches the “universal destination of goods” and “the social mortgage on private property”

We know the social question today, with its ugly manifestations in poverty for many and wealth for some, is not just a matter of relationships between capitalists and laborers within sovereign nations, but a whole matrix of complex relations between countries of wealth and countries of poverty, countries of oppressors and countries of oppressed which all today have little respect for national boarders. It is yet within this context that we must ask ourselves whether we wish to journey with a Lord that calls “to life, and life to the full,” and therefore to a type of development that is not development for some and the cost of others, development for the North at the cost of the South, for the West at the cost of the socialist states, for Manila at the cost of Mindanao, for the 1st class cities at the cost of the countryside, for the posh subdivisions at the cost of the urban poor, but development for the good of all, the common good. The common good is not something which is achieved by some for all, but by all committing themselves to work for all in shared solidarity. According to St. John Paul II, solidarity is “not a feeling of compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are responsible for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [SRS]. 38).

It is this solidarity for the common good, a duty of the Christian, that underpins our “journeying with the GRP-NDFP in the Continuing Struggle for Peace.” I wish to prescind from many complaints on the ground that the armed struggle of the NDFP has degenerated into an armed banditry and that revolutionary taxes have been reduced to local extortion which harms the poor even more than the wealthy. In this struggle lives have been lost at the hands of those who have lost their relationship to the original Marxian commitment to the humanization of humanity, the recovery of humanity that knows itself to be human (“species being”) in its relatedness through work and service to all (communism). Indeed, its objection to private property was because it hindered this commitment of each individual to the good of all. It is contrary to Marxian goals if the self-serving ends of extortionists are confused with the humanizing ends of the revolutionary struggle. Today, where the universal destination of goods and the social mortgage on private property belong to Catholic, if not Christian, social teaching, there is every reason to walk with the GRP-NDFP in the continuing struggle for peace.

Especially so since among the principles of the working draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), between the GRP and NDFP of 27 April 2001 the common good is explicitly declared. “It is the common good, the welfare and interest of the Filipino people, that is the foremost concern in the efforts to resolve the armed conflict and achieve a just and lasting peace. The active participation of the people, therefore, must be sought in pursuing this common good (Sec. 2). In the Aug. 2011 version of the CASER, the consideration that the “pursuit of socio economic reforms to promote the common good and to respond to the needs of the Filipino people is crucial in considering a just and lasting peace, as able economic development” is part of its preamble. The “Pursuit of Social Justice” is integral to the pursuit of the common good. “Social justice is foundation for a lasting peace since it defines the right of people to human dignity and a decent quality of life. To achieve this, there is need to eradicate the social, economic and political inequities of society through equitable diffusion of wealth and political power for the furtherance of the common good and to free people from the bondage of poverty, inequity and marginalization” (CASER, 2001, Art 1, Sec. 4). From this follow explicit principles of the pursuit of authentic development (Sec 5), participative development (Sec 6) and the CASER as a “common ground for cooperation and collaboration” (Sec 7) in the struggle for peace.

The general goals of reform are certainly within the common good as “the fullness of life” that the Christian or any thoughtful Filipino citizen might envision. These are the titles of the document’s main articles:

“Pursuing Full Employment by Promoting Inclusive Economic Growth Through Sound Economic Policy and Sustainable Agricultural Development” (CASER, ’11, IV, Art. 1).

“Addressing Inequity Through Asset Reform to Create and Redistribute Wealth and Economic Opportunities” (ibid, Art. 2).

“Promoting Good Governance Through Efficient and Effective Delivery of Basic Services” (ibid, Art 3).

“Shielding the Marginalized and Vulnerable Sectors from Risks Through Social Protection” (ibid., Art 4).

“Addressing the Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples by Recognizing and Protecting their Right to Self Determination” (ibid, Art 5).

“Promoting Sustainable Development through the Conservation, Protection, Rehabilitation and Efficient Utilization and Development of the Environment and Natural Resources” (ibid, Art 6).

There is a vision here, I think, that the economy can promote a humane society where the labor and creativity of each individual, including those of today’s marginalized like the IPs or the Bangsamoro or the impoverished farmer and fisherman, can be freely and happily committed to the advancement of human society, where wealth and productive resources are subordinated to the achievement of this humane society, where society provides all adequate basic services and protects all against social shocks, and where development is sustainable both for the flourishing of human life as well as for the protection of our common home. This is a vision compatible with the “fullness of human life” that Jesus comes to bring, or compatible with the humanly human society the social revolutionary struggles to bring about in rejecting its truncation in “poverty, structural inequity, destitution and marginalization.”

In the commitment to journey with the GRP-NDFP “in the continuing struggle for peace,” perhaps we can end these reflections with the following considerations:

We must all renew ourselves in our felt rejection of social injustice. Peace is incompatible with social injustice. Peace is incompatible with people deprived of the lands and livelihood, their creativity and responsibility, their dignity and their humanity. We must connect to social injustice emotionally and reject it with passion.

Many people refuse to journey towards social justice because they are unable to transcend their private interests, their self-interest and their selfishness. Many will continue in their ways inimical to common good because they are unable to imagine life other than they know it. Asset reform is inconceivable, a more sustainable economy for human life only someone’s else’s project for self-advancement. This intransigence is objectionable both social revolutionary as well as to the Christian committed to the common good.

In solidarity, nevertheless, we must commit ourselves to that future set of conditions where all human beings, none excepted, flourish as human beings. We must be able to imagine, dream, conceive, plan, and demand human flourishing. We cannot capitulate to the lie that what the economy and social order today offer with its boundless consumerism, environmental destruction, dehumanizing poverty and social exclusion is “the good life” and much less, “the fullness of life.”

In solidarity we must cooperate to bring about the common good. We cannot leave the common good to peace negotiators or to a political administration or to legislators or to economic planners or even to social revolutionaries. The common good is something that we must own. Owning it, we must discuss it, imagine it, plan it, advocate it, negotiate for it, struggle for it, and if necessary, fight for it, not for the short term but for the long term. Only in the shared achievement of the common good, where we overcome the centrifugal forces of our private interests, shall we find peace.

Finally, considering the God who calls us to solidarity in achieving “the fullness of life,” it is not religion that is necessarily the opium of the people, but today a concept of development based on material having, production for unbridled consumption, consequent destruction of the environment, and reduction of the human being to a crazed consumer caught in the man-made deception that having more is being more. This is something to consider even as we evaluate the assumptions behind the economic growth the GRP-NDFP envisions for the future with its concommitant exploitation of natural resources. The acknowledgement of a transcendent God who works for peace on earth may be a liberating step against many obstacles to advance a peace we undertake to achieve on our own. Social injustice is not just a social evil. It is a sin against God. It is not just alienation of man from his humanity. It is alienation of man from his transcendence. One may seek to combat social injustice as if there were no God. But there is a God. And combatting social injustice in appreciation of divine justice may be practically appropriate. The nfullness of life that God brings is not in the alienation of endless material consumption, but in overcoming human alienation in spiritual recovery. God works for this. We work with God. We, together, journey with him. We pray for true peace.

















[1] Draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms between the GPH and the NDFP-CPP-NPA, 1 August 2011 [CASER, 2011], Preamble.

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The Peace We Seek is One

[Welcome Address. OPAPP Conference in Observance of National Peace Consciousness Month, ADDU, Sept. 20, 2016.]



In the name of the ADDU it is my distinct privilege to welcome the OPAPP and representatives of neighboring universities, colleges and schools in Davao and Mindanao to ADDU as we observe together National Peace Consciousness Month. Yesterday the Bishops-Ulama Conference met in Davao in the name of peace; this afternoon and in the following days, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Forum (PEPF) meets in the context of the peace negotiations between the GPH the NDFP (CPP-NPA). In the wake of the bomb blast that killed 15 people and wounded 67 others right in front of our Community Center of the First Companions last September 2, we know the fragility of the peace we now enjoy and the urgency that peace be won for the long term.

The God of Islam is a God of peace; Islam is a religion of peace. The God of Christianity is a God of peace; Christianity is a religion of peace. Where we worship God in diverse ways, the peace that we seek is one. We seek this from the depths of our heart, and from the depths of the manner in which we acknowledge one God. Against the history of violence among ourselves, today, where “We are change, Tayo ang pagbabago!” we must dare to dream of a society where all live in peace. Where together “We are peace, Tayo ang kapayapaan.” we must resolve to stand for, advocate and preserve lasting peace.

Furthermore, where we earnestly wage peace, we know that peace is not compatible with social injustice. Peace cannot endure if in our society there are some who are wealthy and privileged at the cost of those who are poor and excluded. The social agendas of religions which recognize a God of compassion, a God who comes “to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), cannot be different from the agendas of those social revolutionaries who struggle ultimately for true social justice, scandalized at the complacency of religious who worship a God of love yet stomach in society the suffering of the poor. Where “We are the change,” we must be willing to criticize our involvement in and support for a society whose unbridled consumption destroys the environment in favor of the privileged and excludes and marginalizes the poor. Where “We are peace” we must undo our complicity in a socially unjust society of private interests and collaborate in bringing about the peace of the common good – a society where all human beings without exception collectively and individually flourish together as human beings.

Where we are the change, we are the peace, let us from the depths of our relationship to God wage peace. Let us from the depths of our rejection of social injustice, struggle together for social justice and the common good. Let this be the surging of our heart as together we celebrate Peace Consciousness Month!

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A dangerous doctrine? Revisiting tweets.

[A response to John Nery’s, “‘Are they human?’ is a dangerous doctrine” (PDI, 9.6.16)]

I am moved by the pain with which you respond to my series of tweets. I respond with similar pain. Where we once thought that the President, elected by such a convincing majority, could bring about change for this country with relative ease, we now know this is not the case. All over today: division and disagreement. But disagreement can also lead to dialogue. It is in this spirit that I respond to your article, “‘Are they human?’ is a dangerous doctrine” (PDI, 9.6.16).

You describe the President responding to human rights critics of his war on drugs. That is the context of the PDI front-page news article which bannered on Sunday, Aug. 28: “Junkies are not human.” The banner was a categorical, indicative statement enclosed in quotation marks, indicating a direct quote. I read the article of Mr. Marlon Ramos. Nowhere in the article did he report a categorical statement of the President. There was none. You said the banner was “editor provided.” That’s what I thought it was. But it wrongly attributed a categorical statement to the President. PDI has no license to do that. If it thinks it does, it ought not.

Therefore my first tweet: “Du30 didn’t say, ‘Junkies are not humans.’ He asked, “Are drug users human?’ to provoke thought.” It was a rhetorical question, a turn of speech, to provoke thought. That’s what rhetorical questions do. It is premised on the war on drugs not being out to take lives but to save lives. The rhetorical question is not asked in the vacuum of academia, as you decry. The rhetorical question is posed to the human rights advocate whose attacks tend historically to paralyze the warriors and suspend the war – precisely why the drug situation in the Philippines today has become so serious. If the response is no, the drug user is not human, he is not human because of the drug abuse that has been inflicted on him; that too is a crime against humanity. If the response is yes, then the war on drugs is justified to liberate the users from their victimizers, no mean group if we are to understand the power of the international drug cartels. Of course the rhetorical question is provocative. But it is not a thoughtless statement that the junkie is inhuman and so deserves to be killed.

It is not “because drug users are less than human anyway” that taking their lives can be rationalized, but because the drug users, their families, and Philippine society are human that the war on drugs is justified.

Therefore, my second tweet: “Du30 was pointing out the one-sided human rights critique on the war on drugs.” His critics repeatedly decry the cost in human lives of the war on drugs, and especially extra-judicial killing. The President, in fact, had always warmed that the war on drugs would be bloody. But equally to be decried are the lives of individuals lost to illegal drugs. Even the conservative PDEA figure of 1.3 million hooked on drugs in the Philippines is too high. When one counts the numbers affected through the families of the users, the actual number affected by illegal drugs increases dramatically.

“Du30’s war on drugs based on an ultimate respect for the dignity of all Filipinos.” The President wishes not only to stop the hold of the drug cartels on the millions of Filipino users, he wishes to prevent the rest of Philippine society from being victimized by illegal drug use. “No society can be built,” he once said, “by taking the lives of its citizens.

“The cost of today’s war on drugs is the price of our past collective neglect.” It wasn’t always like this.   The number of drug users grew through the years and law enforcers failed to arrest their growth. Law enforcement failed to support efforts to stamp out illegal drug use. People allowed policemen, soldiers, and politicians to thrive in their illegal drug activities.

I am happy that President Duterte is addressing the problem, as he said he would. I am not saying there are no problems with his approach. There are. It is driven far too exclusive by security forces; it should be complemented more and more by government and citizens’ organizations that care. Therefore my fifth tweet: “Based on human dignity, Du30’s anger against drug use is a virtue. Not caring is the vice.” It is real anger based on his having personally witnessed the inhumane acts that that drugs engender.

My last tweet was a general statement President’s general commitment to the human common good: “Du30’s respect for human life underpins his stand vs. corruption, environmental destruction, poverty.”

Certainly caring about the victims of illegal drug use is not incompatible with caring about the human rights of users and pushers. Human rights are inalienable. But human rights also belong to the victims of drug abuse. It would be a vice to let their cancer grow till it kills our human culture and our national heritage.

“Are they human?” is a dangerous question. They are. That is the salutary doctrine. Draw the conclusions.

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After the Bombing in the Davao Night Market

[Homily:  Special Mass in the wake of the Bombing in the Davao Night Market, ADDU Assumption Chapel, September 5, 2016, 4:00 pm]


Every Eucharist is a celebration of life. In every Eucharist we come together to manifest gratitude for life.

The Father considered human life precious. He rejected that people would demean it, destroy it, throw it away. He rejected that people would let selfishness and greed undermine human community. Or let money replace the values of human life. Or let the human thirst for power undermine the prerogatives and glory of divine power.

His Son preached the Kingdom of his Father, the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of
God the inalienable value of human life on earth is anchored in divine will and guaranteed in divine power. The Kingdom of God, “the abundant life, the fullness of life for all” (Jn 10:10) was at the heart of Jesus’ message and mission.

In this preaching he was not understood. He was rejected. He was crucified.

But in the crucifixion, he manifested the power of God’s love, as from the Cross he gazed into our soul.

From his Cross, he continues to call us to love. And peace.


Even today as we come together also to recall the bombing in Davao’s night market last Friday. That was not in some battlefield of a southern Mindanao jungle nor far away in the hub of Philippine commerce and industry. It was right outside our Community Center.   It claimed the lives of fourteen. It injured sixty-seven.

Among those injured were two of our Ateneo de Davao students. Shrapnel tore into our Steven Tagadaya’s (5th year, accountancy) left leg. But a piece of shrapnel also penetrated into his liver, requiring emergency surgery. His sister, Princess, of San Pedro College, is even more serious. Shrapnel injured her spine. She is now bedridden, paralyzed.

Shrapnel also injured the face of Erol Campos (3rd year, architecture).

Today, wanting to reflect on all this and understand, we find ourselves wrestling with raw emotions within:

There is frustration and anger. Somehow, very personally, we are frustrated and angry that this has happened here in Davao. Davao is our city, the city we love. The peace of Davao is broken, and somehow we feel violated. The paradise that we’d thought would be enhanced by a Duterte presidency has turned into a nightmare.

There is fear. We know: what happened on Friday night can happen again.  It can happen anywhere.

There is confusion. We are truly perplexed. Why? Why did it happen? What depths of social alienation were involved? What levels of psychological pathology? What manner of heartless thirst for power? What drive for some religious state? Or manifestation of the power of narcopolitics? Then, how respond? With indignation? Awe? Horror?

There is moral outrage. This ought not have happened. It was not Christian. It was not Islamic. It was not human.

There is the need nevertheless to survive, to move on, even when things look so bleak.


So this afternoon, we come together.   First, we come together to one another, and take comfort in coming to each other.  But we also come together to take solace in God’s redemptive intervention in our lives. From his Cross, he continues to say: You, you I love.

In this context, as we continue to wrestle with conflicting emotions within, perhaps we may consider:

Anger is not the vice.   Quietism is. Or irascibility: chronic angry emotionality. Anger recognizes evil, and channels positive energy to overcome it.

Fear is not the enemy. There are fearsome things in life. Bombs explode. Drugs kill. Evil people do evil things. We should fear these things, but not allow fear to overwhelm us. Fear is not the enemy: cowardice is. Or, paralysis.

Confusion can be a first step towards wisdom. It can be a further step towards understanding what will finally bring about genuine peace in Mindanao, what the concrete demands of social justice are, or how we can finally make quality education accessible to all. It can be a giant step towards willing to act on one’s convictions.

Moral outrage can be well placed. What happened ought not have happened. Fourteen people ought not have died. Jay Andremessin from Surallah, South Cotabato, was a policeman at Davao airport. Christelle Decolongon was a pharmacy student at San Pedro College. Evelyn Sobrecarey from Koronodal was a wife of a policeman and a mother of three. Kristia Gaile Bison was a private nurse at Davao Doctors’ Hospital and a Taekwondo enthusiast. Maria Luz Arrellano was a masahista and mother of two children, six-years old and two.   Fourteen innocent people ought not have died, and sixty-seven innocent people ought not have been injured, some of whom may suffer from these injuries for the rest of their lives. Moral outrage may lead us to the action we must take to make sure is doesn’t happen again.


Meanwhile, before the Cross of Christ, there is the need not only to survive, but to thrive as human beings. The Lord comes to bring “life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), and from the Cross Christ calls us to the same. That is what this Mass calls us to: Not to be discouraged in the face of evil.

Look at the Cross. The Cross was evil. An innocent man was tortured and killed. But the Cross became a source of life and hope.

In him, we are called to be a source of life and hope.



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On Research and Competitiveness in Shared World

[Address to Student Research Convocation at the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) where Memo of Understanding between UNISBA and ADDU is signed in Bandung, August 15, 2016]


Dear Dr. Taufiq Boesorie, Rector, Islamic University of Bandung, Dr. Rakhmat Teha, the Vice Rektor, the distinguished Deans, the Faculty and Students:

It is a great privilege for me to visit the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) in the context of the emerging collaboration between the Ateneo de Davao University and UNISBA. It has been a singular pleasure enjoying the awesome beauty of the rice terraces on the way here from Jogjakarta, praying in the Masid Raya Bandung, visiting the Asia Africa Conference Center, appreciating the five principles of the Indonesian Pancasila, enjoying bandros and tahu borondong in the streets, buying batik in the marketplace, and experiencing the personal warmth and hospitality of Dr. and Mrs. Taufiq Boesorie at dinner last night and meeting their children and grandchildren in their beautiful home.

It is also in this context that I have been asked to share some thought on research and competiveness. Your university operates as an Islamic University; my university operates as a Catholic and Jesuit university. Our universities are different. But both of our universities share the same threefold commitment to truth. We exist to help our students to learn truth. We exist to share truth with the societies which we serve. We exist through research to discover truth. It is for this reason that both of our universities enjoy academic freedom. Beyond any constraints that may be imposed on us by religion, by the state, or even by the economy, we are free to discover truth, teach it, and share it for the benefit ultimately of humanity. This is our shared responsibility in freedom.

It can be said then that research is done by the university. Universities compete with each other as to which can produce the best research. Research is done by faculty within universities. They are teachers, but as their professional competence grows, they are also researchers; they are responsible not only to teach truth, but to discover new truth. Students too do research. They do research to learn how to do research. They do research even as students already to involve themselves in the university effort to discover truth. But they also do research in order to better themselves as human beings. And this is where we want to focus our reflections for this morning.

When students do research in our competitive world, they benefit greatly. They learn the disciplines of research – reading, data gathering, analysis based on data, thinking, developing theories, professional writing, preparing documentation, sharing views with peers, experts, stakeholders and the public, and learning from the dialogue that ensues. Growing in these disciplines, they grow as professionals, and so grow in competitiveness against persons who may not have these skills. Research opens professionals to better ways of exercising their profession, or to more efficient ways of creating wealth. Research leads manufacturers to products that are better than products of the past, and technicians to better ways of benefitting humanity. One who is disciplined in research therefore becomes a better doctor, lawyer, engineer, manager, and perhaps even a better politician – or statesman – in a world which is very fast and demanding under terms normally dictated on us by our regional ASEAN or global economies.

It is however in the required reflectiveness and disciplined thoughtfulness of research that we might consider the urgency of a new type of competitiveness that we must all engage in: the competition to find conditions of optimum flourishing for all in humanity in a shared common home that we call Mother Earth. For research tells us that if we continue exploiting the resources of our shared planet to feed our unbridled consumption and to intensify our competitiveness to produce for more and more consumption – normally by creating abundance and luxury for the privileged and poverty and misery for the excluded – we will kill its biodiversity, poison its fresh water, pollute its air, exhaust its minerals, destroy the planet and create a world of dehumanized and unhappy human beings.

In this context our universities may help our students compete not only to serve the daemons of an unsustainable consumption-driven world economy, but to maintain and advance the wisdom behind the admirable Pancasila of the Indonesian people on a world scale: there is one God we acknowledge and serve in a diversity of religions, there is but one humanity we must advance in justice and shared civilization, there is genuine nationality achievable in a family of nations; there is world democracy achievable through dialogue, mutual assistance and consensus building; there is social justice that can be served only by carefully preserving and equitably distributing the resources of the planet in protection of the weak and advancement ultimately of the common good.

This constitutes a huge research agenda not only for our young researchers but for our university communities which we might embrace in academic freedom and responsibility. I would be thrilled if UNISBA and Ateneo de Davao might truly collaborate in its pursuit. Let us collaborate to advance greater understanding between our peoples of diverse religions worshiping but one God; to understand how God can rule us even in the manner in which we use money; to understand the richness of our languages and cultures, and the importance of our indigenous spiritualities and heritages in helping us sustain our world and advance a sustainable shared human culture.

Let us not be satisfied with collaboration merely on paper. But let us continue to laugh and smile in shared friendship, so that through our collaboration, our children and children’s children may continue to appreciate the awesome beauty of the rice terraces, the ennoblement of shared worship in our mosques and churches, the wisdom of our national founders, the richness of our forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife, birds and flowers, and the invaluable joy of eating warm bandros and tahu borondong as we walk together on our streets.






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Giving Sustainability a Home at AJCUAP?


[Welcome Address: Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP), Sanata Dharma University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, 11-12 August, 2016.]

As chair of AJCU-AP it is my privilege once again to welcome you to the annual meeting of our association. With Fr. Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP), I thank Dr. Johannes Eka Priyatma, President of Sanata Dharma University and Fr. Sunu Hardiayanjta, Provincial of the Indonesian Province, for your warm welcome – enriched by the performances of the Grishada and the Cantus Firmus. Already now, I wish to greet and thank all the members of the SDU staff and the gracious volunteers who are doing so much to make our meeting pleasant and fruitful.

We come together, as we always do, in fellowship and shared mission in higher education. We rejoice in meeting one another again, and welcome those who are here for the first time.

Since our last meeting in Melbourne, which immediately followed the Melbourne Summit of Jesuit Higher Education, we have not only continued to operate our higher educational institutions in our different countries, but we have sought to collaborate with the global mission of the Society of Jesus through the various platforms that were presented during the Melbourne Summit. Among these platforms were the Jesuit Digital Network, the Healing Earth E-Textbook and the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Platform. A Status Report, albeit incomplete, of our collaboration here appears in the booklet you have received. Another report describes the status of our ongoing collaboration in Service Learning which was handled in 2015 by Sogang University with the theme, “Social Engagement Based on Justice.”

Slowly we are learning that it belongs to the character of our AJCU-AP Colleges and Universities not only to collaborate with other Jesuit universities but also with other Jesuit apostolates.

This was experienced wonderfully in the just concluded three-day JCAP Sustainability for Human Life Conference also here in Sanata Dharma University – which was a celebration in collaboration of the JCAP Clusters of Reconciliation with Creation, Migration, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Higher Education, Basic Education, Spirituality and Formation coming together under the theme of Sustainability for Human Life. The actual pursuit of “Sustainability” was experienced variously among the poor, within families, in civil society organizations, in credit unions, in farmers’ cooperatives and the like. Its concept was examined against the backdrop of ASEAN’s unsustainable model of development; it was then examined in the light of a sustainable use of environmental resources  and a sustainable culture of human living which consumes those resources responsibly toward an optimum realization of human flourishing which excludes no person; it was examined in terms of how people today must convert themselves and their lifestyles to the demands of this sustainability, which themselves must be discussed and negotiated.

Towards the end of the seminar, it was noted and recognized that the pursuit of sustainability in these terms is the pursuit of the common good which we reflected on with Fr. Patrick Riordan in our last meeting in Melbourne.

It was also noted that while the JCAP Sustainability Conference was a wonderful experience of the Jesuit Conference from below, with Jesuit and lay collaborators experiencing one another horizontally in pursuing sustainability as a heuristic, that is, as a common good that needs to be further clarified and achieved through cooperation and negotiation, what the pursuit of sustainability at this point needs is a home. How can the insight, passion, resolve, and dedication to sustainability experienced in the JCAP conference find an institutional home – lest the commitment to sustainability itself not be sustained?

I believe the AJCU-AP ought offer itself to give this JCAP multi-sectoral apostolic movement towards sustainability a home. As universities we are Jesuit because we appropriate the Jesuit mission – the commitment to the faith, the promotion of justice, cultural sensitivity, inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation with creation.

In faith, we see the mandate to sustainability as a response to God’s love in his gift of creation  and to his compassion in working out our redemption from our sins, even from our sins against nature. In justice, we see sustainability as the call of social justice to the common good for all human beings sharing and preserving the same common home. In sensitivity to cultures and in interreligious dialogue, we see sustainability as a recognition of the multiplicity of cultures and religions sustaining and enriching each other in diversity or diminishing and destroying humanity in its absence. In reconciliation with creation we see sustainability as the condition that must be achieved for the preservation of the planet for future generations.

In this spirit, the Jesuit universities search or research for the theoretical and practical requirements of sustainability, instruct in this truth, and serve communities transformatively in its urgency. Being university in this sense, in Fr. Adolfo Nicolas’ sense of proyekto social, is today only possible through the active collaboration of the university with apostolic partners in faith, in the pursuit of social justice, the strengthening of human communities, in inter-religious dialogue, and in genuine commitment for the renewal of our common home.

In this context, AJCU-AP may wish to consider during this annual meeting whether it might offer itself as a home of the JCAP sustainability movement. We ought consider this well. For the urgency of the sustainability challenge will demand that the JCAP apostolic clusters rely on us for actual collaboration.   It will not do just to formulate and approve a resolution then abandon it in the year’s operations. We would have to consider whether we can really welcome them home to our colleges and universities in solidarity and shared commitment.

Considering the urgency of achieving a sustainable world and culture, perhaps it would be more than worth our taking up this question during this conference.

I am certain that the keynote address of Fr. Mark Raper shall not be irrelevant to this consideration.


Finally, before we begin our CEO sharing, let me announce – as I already announced last year – that my last term of service as chair of our Association comes to an end tomorrow. After talking to Fr. Mark and my Provincial, I will no longer stand for re-election. I have been very privileged over the last thirteen years to serve this association as its chair; we have moved from an old boys’ club to an association serious about collaboration on substantial issues; it is now time to pass the leadership to another.

Once again, welcome to you all! We look forward to a fruitful meeting.

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Notes on Gina and Digong at ADDU

Yesterday I left the Philippines with Datu Mussolini Lidasan and Vinci Bueza for Indonesia. In our Jesuit University of Sanata Dharma in Jogjakarta we shall attend both the “Sustainability of Life Conference” organized by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, and the Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific. After that, we will follow up our partnership with the University of Bandung.

It is because of these meetings that I shall not be able to attend this year the activities of our annual fiesta in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption. I truly regret this. But I wish all in our ADDU community from the Grade School through to the Graduate and Law Schools our Lord’s blessings through our Lady during this happy fiesta! May all be gifted with profound joy! There is much for which we have to be grateful.

Especially for the recent visits of DENR Sec. Gina Lopez and no less than the President of the Philippines, our very own, Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.

For the success of this historic event, I cannot thank all in our community enough: the academic units, the administrators, the faculty, the iComms, the Samahan, the physical plant, the administrative associates, the agency workers, the caterers, the volunteers. So many came together and worked together to make it the success that it was. Very specially, I thank Atty. Romeo “Meong” Cabarde, chair of our UCEAC, especially for his challenging coordination with Sec. Gina, the DENR national and local officials, and with the many CSOs and representatives of Lumad communities, farmers and fisherfolk that made this day as rich as it was.

I am sure all have their own reflections on this event. Allow me simply to share mine.

My friendship with Gina Lopez began when I was still President of Ateneo de Naga. With environmentalist, Dr. Emelina “Lina” Regis, we fought for the closure of the Rapu-Rapu mines which had caused a major fish kill around the island. It was through Lina that I learned of the absolute incompatibility of large-scale mines with the Philippines’ island ecosystem. Our ally at that time was Gina Lopez. Already battling mining in Palawan, she was easy to win for the fight against Rapu-Rapu. Eventually, ADNU awarded Gina an honorary doctorate for her crusade for the environment.

When President Duterte appointed her Secretary of the DENR, I mixed my congratulations with an invitation to visit the ADDU. She readily agreed. That took place on August 4.

Much happened. I wish merely to focus on what made me especially happy. Suddenly it was not the people coming to the DENR with adversarial complaints about violations of mining companies; it was the DENR Secretary angry at what the mining companies had been doing to the people. It was the DENR Secretary “speaking her heart”: “I will always respect the law. But in my heart I know that mining does not belong in this island ecosystem. Look at the destruction the mining companies have caused!” “It is scandalous that the Mindanaoans are not enjoying the wealth of Mindanao!” “It is unacceptable that the wealthy from Manila and other countries are enriching themselves on the resources of Mindanao when there is so much poverty in Mindanao!” “I stand for social justice, and social justice means that Mindanaoans enjoy their own heritage in natural resources.” It was this energy coming from her heart that was making history that day. Mixing passion with anger, the DENR Secretary was making her DENR officials swear allegiance to the people, not to the mining companies; she was constraining them to swear never to take a bribe from the mining firms – not five million pesos, not ten, not fifty million pesos! – in order to remain free to serve the people, especially the poor. She called on the CSOs and representatives of the people to form a new arm of the DENR to create a partnership between the DENR and the people it is to serve. The follow day, at the more technical planning session at Garden Oasis in Obrero, the pact between the people and the government was further enfleshed, now, however, not only with the DENR Secretary, but with Agriculture Secretary Piñol and Health Secretary Ubial. The case was being made for the necessity of the DENR, the DA and the DOH to work together for the welfare of the people.

In all this, Sec. Gina kept shouting out three crucial questions: Do you love your God? Do your love your country? Do you love the people? When the answers from the crowd to all three questions were, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, her challenge was: “Prove it.”

I remember when Ateneo de Naga University conferred on her an honorary doctorate for her work for the environment some ten years ago. Her graduation address was unforgettable. First, she challenged all to remember a secret. She whispered, “There is a God!” Second, she said that whether one was a Catholic, a Muslim, a Hindu, or an atheist, one must get in contact with that God. Third, she said each must find silence in one’s life; without silence the forces of the world tear one apart, till one no longer knows who he or she is. Finally, she said: “If one knows there is a God, is in touch with him and has found silence in life, how can one not appreciate the gift God has given us all in the environment?” Those statements were resonating in the questions that she was now challenging the assembly with. If you love God, country and people, how can you now not act to prove it?

Prove it. But it must come from your heart.


Our second guest in the afternoon of August 4 was President Digong. His visit was a surprise for the participants of “Oya Mindanao.” So when he entered, Martin Hall was thundering “Duterte! Duterte!” with excitement and delight. He spoke about many things: his owing his election only to the people, how conflicts would be resolved in favor of the people. He spoke of how mines must follow the highest standards in the world, but also of how the island ecosystem of the Philippines could not sustain many mines, even if they were operating at the highest standards. He spoke of his being a socialist, and of his dislike of people who amass huge fortunes without sharing the toil and hardship of the people. He spoke of the war on illegal drugs, and why he is angry about drugs. Time and again he had seen individuals destroyed and whole families destroyed with them. The 3 million affected by drugs impact negatively on their families and friends, bringing their curse onto the lives of parents, brothers and sisters. He said it would not stop his war on drugs until the entire apparatus of the drug trade is destroyed.

Beneath the crowds cheering, “Duterte!” was a man of silence aware of the gravity of the course of action he had entered into. “I hate to kill,” he has stated. “There is no country that can be built on killing its citizens.” But he has also said, “If I do not succeed in this war on drugs, neither will the next administration. The menace will only grow stronger till it can no longer be controlled, but will control us. Then we will have a country ruled by narcopolitics.”

Meanwhile, a huge tarp raised onto the cathedral in Bacolod has proclaimed: “Thou shalt not kill: Drugs kill. Poverty kills. Salvaging kills…”

That afternoon, despite the objections of the PSG, Gina Lopez convinced the President to visit ADDU’s Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption. He did, working his way gamely through the throng of hyperactive students each torn between wanting to be disciplined and polite and somehow grabbing a selfie with the President. But eventually we got to the silence of the chapel. He looked appreciatively at the murals from the life of Christ rendered in Tausug, then at the portrait of Sitti Maryam. “Truly something new,” he said smiling. He approached the sanctuary and looked at the Salubong: the procession of Mindanao’s IPs bathed in Resurrection light overcoming the darkness of the procession of Our Sorrowing Mother with its images of people caught in violence, drugs, corruption and the tragedy of Mamasapano. He looked at the statue of Our Lady in Maranao garb and at the great image of the Crucified Lord. For me, the high point of the day was when Digong, Gina, Romulo Valles and I, bowed before the altar, the tabernacle and the Crucifix in prayer.

He is a stickler, he said, for the separation of Church and state. But before his God as before his people, he bows in silence.

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