Staying the Course towards Magis

[Address: 26th ADDU Service Awards, Finster Hall, Mar 14, 2015]


At the end of such a beautiful celebration, capped by the moving sharng of Ms. Ma. Rosario Gaid, it is my privilege in the name of the entire Ateneo de Davao University to congratulate our service awardees for this year. A single day in this university, with its challenges in instruction, or research, or service to the community, has both its joys and its travails. I hope that at the end of each day, it is possible for us all to thank God for the blessings of the day, despite the fact that some days may be more taxing than others, some more filled with frustration and irritation than others. We hope that on some days at least, there occur experiences of success and elation that are specially memorable: a deep encounter of a student’s joy in insight, a breakthrough in one’s research, a victory in one’s public advocacy, a blessed moment of friendship with a colleague in shared mission. When these days pile up, they become career milestones of 5, 10, 15 … 25, 30 or 35 years. I am particularly happy to honor our retirees for having given their lives in service of the Ateneo de Davao, among them my former executive secretary, Ms Venus Rosello, for 40 years of service.   That is what we celebrate today with gratitude. With God’s grace, they have “run the race and kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). To these colleagues, with the Lord, we are able to say together, “Well done, good and faithful servants…” (Mt. 25:23).

We express our gratitude also as this academic year, 2014-15, draws to a close. We have, I think, had a good year. Joining hands in shared mission – we have been able to conclude collective bargaining agreements with our four unions. We recall the happy evening before Christmas when in this hall, despite my illness, the presidents of our four unions expressed their satisfaction with the agreements and the determination of their memberships to pursue the vision and mission of the University. That was a milestone, I believe, for the university, where in our collective agreements the unions are recognized and respected as institutional partners in mission, and the shared implementation of the university’s vision and mission recognized as a condition of each individual’s flourishing. Meanwhile, our basic education units have made progress in the ongoing implementation of the K-12 program, to the great satisfaction of our parents. There is much progress in preparation for the ADDU Senior High School. In the colleges, we have just signed this morning a jointly-crafted loading policy for the tertiary level. This is a crucial policy for administering the work-loads of our college faculty members equitably and fairly.

We had made great strides in working together for peace and prosperity in Mindanao. We had been aggressively supportive of the peace process. We had come out with a collection of commentaries on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL); the Mindanao Law Journal had come out with a special issue devoted to discussions of the draft BBL. There was optimism that after adequate provision for the rights of the Indigenous Peoples under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) had been explicitly provided, the BBL would be passed.

Then, Mamasapano occurred. A secret mission of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police to get Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman turned into a national debacle. Coordination between the forces of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Force (MILF), and between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) failed. There was a breakdown in trust, communication, and truth. Forty-four SAF operatives, 18 Mamasapano combatants, and 6 civilians, including one child, were killed. Indeed, in the case of the SAF, overkilled. Since Mamasapano, calls for justice have been sounded (even though it is not clear what the demanded “justice” means), old prejudices against the Muslims have resurfaced with an abundance of ignorance and arrogance, the reckless call for all out war has resounded, and the scapegoat for all has been the peace process, including the BBL. Peace advocates have responded with calls for “all-out peace.” But meanwhile, the AFP is on an all out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) with now over 95,000 internally displaced people from eleven towns trying to survive the violence. The sins of Mamasapano are being visited on the innocent and the future generations of Mindanawons.

Meanwhile, in Congress, the idea has come up that instead of using the 70 billion pesos to fund the implementation of the BBL, the money should be used to augment the vouchers for senior high school (SHS), even as a group of concerned citizens have just filed for an injunction against the further implementation of the K-12 program. I have no problem with wanting to strengthen the value of the vouchers that would further encourage the participation of the private sector in the K-12 implementation. But to save the implementation of the K-12, they should not snatch the peace away from future generations of Mindanawons.

I wish it could be otherwise. But as this school year ends, the passage of the BBL is imperiled, and the commencement of SHS nationwide in 2016 is formally assailed before the courts. In both of these issues, a crippled President is not showing the leadership required to lead us out of this national quagmire.

Meanwhile the national circus that comes with elections has begun. The politicians are grandstanding; the three-ringed spectacle of investigations in Congress, the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman have commenced. It is the season of mudslinging, messianism and embarrassing displays of vicious vacuousness, as Mr. Cayetano has so grandly demonstrated.

We have no choice, I think, but to hold together for as long as necessary to continue to support peace in Mindanao. To do this, we must continue as an educational institution through our networks and spheres of influence to counter the bigotry, lessen the ignorance and work against the arrogance; we must continue to explain the historical antecedants of the current peace process, to draw distinctions between the MILF and the BIFF and now the Justice Islamic Mindanao (JIM), distinctions between the MILF under Hashim Salamat and the MILF under Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, to labor for dialogue and consensus building, to advocate the timely enactment of a BBL that would provide Muslim Mindanao the autonomy necessary for the self-determination they deserve within the Philippine nation and is mandated in the Philippine Constitution.

We must also advocate to stay the course of educational reform, the most important of which is the K-12 reform. We know that not all is perfect; the permits to operate the SHS have not yet been issued, the voctech dimension of the original SHS has been substantially removed, the pre-college curriculum is overstated, the voucher system yet untested, the relationship between the public and the private schools still in flux, the general learning outcome of the SHS yet unknown, etc. It is my view however that realism will come to this program only when there is an attempt at a real, if potentially chaotic, implementation of the program. Postponement would only increase the theoretical non-solutions, and postpone the real but painful solutions. Only with actual implementation can the mismatches between prescriptions and capacities surface. Only with implementation of our plans shall we know whether the SHS as conceived can actually achieve the College Readiness Standards required for college. Meanwhile, ADDU must implement its own readiness to achieve those standards – even for whose who will be coming to us from public school. Thus we are pushing through with the construction of our adjunct SHS. In Region XI we shall continue to work with other schools to implement the program. Nationally, with our various networks like the Catholic Educational Association of the Pbilippiness (CEAP) and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), we must convince our policy makers to stay the course.

We must stay the course working for peace in Mindanao, working for the reform of basic education. We must do this in order to realize our mission as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University functioning in Mindanao as part of the Asia Pacific region.

It is in this context that we celebrate this evening your service at the ADDU – service that you give in days, in years, in lifetimes, service that promotes life and generates life.

It is service that we hope can yet improve through the strategic planning that we will do together in the course of this summer. That exercise will help us evaluate whether we actually achieve what we say we do. It will help us gain insight into how we can better do what we already do. It will be planning to challenge us as a Jesuit university in Mindanao to be more deeply Jesuit, especially as the Philippine Province has agreed in principle last week to shift the center of gravity of its apostolates from Luzon to Mindanao-in-Asia Pacific, and focus on new evangelization, combatting poverty and protecting the environment in the peripheries of Mindanao. This includes the Bangsamoro areas, the areas of the Lumad, and the areas challenged by environmentally destructive investments such as mining. This planning should meld with “the Roadmap of the Philippine Province to the Poor and the Peripheries: Mindanao” that commences this Easter with a year of prayer and reflection on how Jesuits and their partners-in-mission might be better deployed to the poor and the peripheries, how our willing partners-in-mission might be better integrated into the mission of the Jesuits. This includes preparing our Universities and our Co-Jesuits to accept major leadership responsibilities of our Universities, including the Presidency.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” Jesus said, “and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). In this university, in order to advance the peace in Mindanao, in order to advance educational reform, in order to go to the poor and excluded in the peripheries, you have not come to be served, but to serve. In the joy of the Lord with whom you serve, we salute you in your service and thank you for every day, for every year, for every milestone of years, for every lifetime of your service. May your lives, given in service, be part of the ransom Jesus offers for the salvation of Mindanao – and of the world. May they contribute to the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring in the compassion of our Father.




About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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