For me personally, these have been very moving days. The entry into the Ateneo de Davao was less bumpy (even emotionally) than expected, and Investiture into its Presidency meant celebration of the undying support and love of relatives and friends, the sincere welcome of new friends and co-workers at the Ateneo de Davao, and sights set on new challenges for educational engagement in Mindanao. Last Friday’s celebration of the Investiture of Fr. Jun Viray as my successor at the Ateneo de Naga University was similarly moving for me: a sort of happy closure, where the old office staff treated me again to kinalas, the “Board” to cognac, Lynette Mendoza to her botique lengua, Mo. Joan Clare to her exquisite apple pie, and the age of the Hobbits among Ateneo Presidents was proclaimed!
So as the only senior citizen among the Ateneo Presidents, I now am officially, “Kuya, Joel” among them! Thank God they rejected, “Lolo Joel.” I hope the hobbits remember that in the Philippines obedience is accorded to the kuya…
At Ateneo de Davao, developments have included: the approval and appointment by the Board of the Office of the Academic Vice President, Dr. Jessie Manuta; the creation of the Office of the Deputy Academic Vice President for Formation and the appointment to this office of the venerable Elvi Tamayo; the creation of the office of the University Chaplain for Administrators, Faculty and Staff and the appointment to this office of Fr. Kim Lachica; the creation of the University Council for Research and of the University Council for Outreach. To help me, the President’s Council has been re-formed meets monthly. Bong Eliab is now full-time Assistant to the President, Vinci Bueza focuses on relations with the CEAP, DACS, COCOPEA, and AJCU-AP, and Atty. Faye Risonar will now assist me in matters that pertain to Research and Advocacy.
Last Friday, July 1, many members of the ADDU community, with the full-support of my office, were mobilizing to support the Multi-Sectoral Indignation Rally Against Summary and Extra-Judicial Killings. It was a manifestation that had been spearheaded by Region XI Commission on Human Rights Director Alfred Sipaco and fully endorsed by Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao. Many groups, including Catholic schools and universities, we set to join this rally – not to point a finger at any person, but to manifest anew the value and inviolability of human life.
The rally, however, had to be postponed. Freak flashfloods had sadly claimed the lives of 32 persons, mostly children, and ravaged the lives and homes of those living in low-lying areas of Davao, including Bangkal. Jimmy Delgado, our treasurer, shared his fears for his family waters in his neighborhood reached five feet in the streets and three feet in homes. My secretary, Venus Rosello, was on her roof for three-and-a-half hours before she was rescued. Her messages shared her horror at having to climb to her rooftop in pitch darkness as the menacing waters rose. Reports were that many others from our community were affected.
With bridges impassible, Bong Eliab began Ateneo de Davao’s relief operations, first to its own members then to others, in his own car. Before donations could start coming in, we released our own emergency money so that help could get to where it was needed fastest. It did, thanks to many volunteers with four-wheel-drive cars and that versatile ADDU Dump Truck! We are most grateful to all the volunteers and donors who, as best as possible, helped bring relief to those in need when relief was most needed.
Meanwhile, allow me to say that the worst conceivable time for a demolition in Agdao was in this season of calamity for the people of Davao. While the local government and members of civil society were busy coming to the aid of people, human rationality and compassion alone should have prevented the Sheriff from carrying out his writ of demolition at that time. Sure there was a court order, and court orders have to be implemented, but not in a manner that disrespects the human situation of the people whose homes are to be demolished and not in disregard of the local government. In fact, in Sec. 28 of the Urban Development and Housing Act (RA 7279), the presence of local government in a legitimate demolition is required precisely in order to keep the peace. Of course it would have been nicer if the ugly punching incident had not occurred; Mayor Duterte has already stated it was not among her finest moments. But when anger is provoked by wrong, anger is not only justified, it is a virtue. The Sheriff was wrong not to have heeded the Mayor’s request just for two hours of stay of demolition in order to maintain peace. And the Mayor was right to have acted in defense of the people.
I look forward to the day I can meet her!