Walk Humbly with your God

[Address to the ADDU Faculty General Assembly at the Start of SY 2017-18, Finster Hall, June 5, 2017]

It is my privilege to welcome you all – from our GS, JHS, SHS, our tertiary –level undergraduate Schools, our Graduate School and our Law School – to our General Faculty Assembly for SY 2017-18.

Last year we gathered for this assembly in the euphoria of our newly-elected President from Davao, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.  Most of us joined our voices enthusiastically to the proclamation, “Change is coming.  Change is here.”

Hopes and Disappointments

marawi 1Today we come together acknowledging that change has come.  For many of us, however, not quite the way we had expected it.  We had hoped that through President Digong peace would come quickly to Mindanao.  We did not expect the fierce explosion of ISIS-oriented violence in Marawi; we did not expect the subsequent proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.  With martial law imposed and the steel determination of our troops to quell the Maute uprising, we did not expect victory would be so difficult.  After all, we had the advantage of numbers; we had guns, we had helicopters, we had rockets. We certainly did not expect eleven soldiers killed due to “friendly fire.”

war on drugsWe had hoped that through this President, who had publicly acknowledged that we must rectify the “historical injustice” that had been committed against Filipino Muslims, it would be relatively easy to carve out – finally – a genuinely autonomous region for the Bangsamoro People, as the Constitution mandates.  But even as the new Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has completed a new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), we did not expect that the discussion of the Bangsamoro would be overshadowed by the national and international concerns with the aggressive government war on drugs, however necessary, the extrajudicial killings, the incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima, the death penalty and the prospect of a federal state.  We had hoped that the President who had banned mining in Davao and who had appointed Gina Lopez to serve as Secretary of the Environment would be more resolute in his duty to protect the environment.  We did not expect that despite his allies in the legislature he would not be able to support her confirmation in the Commission on Appointments.  We had hoped that our President, who had described himself as a socialist, would be able to make clearer strides toward social justice in the country.  We had hoped that there would be more focus on addressing the economic, social and anthropological causes behind the ongoing conflicts in Mindanao.  We did not expect the stress on infrastructure and the Build, build, build! agenda of expensive roads, bridges, trains and the like, necessitating more and more taxation. We had hoped that asserting the Filipino identity and mission on the world stage would have been easier.  We did not expect the President would have to dance precariously between the crushing legs of international elephants, China, Russia, the European Union, and the the United States,  with the difficult personalities Trump, Xi JInping and Putin, in representing the interests of the Philippines and of ASEAN.

Prayers for President Duterte

duterte prayWe come together today sobered by the hopes and disappointments of the past year, convinced all the more that we must continue to pray for the President, for the success of his administration, and for a deeper understanding of the role we must play in building the Philippines of peace and prosperity that we yearn for for Davao and especially for Mindanao.  Prayer is necessary.  The political will of a strong President is important, but we have been reminded in the past year that evil is not eliminated in our world by a Presidential curse, nor are the follies, foibles, vulnerabilities, self-interests and corruption of politicians, civil servants, policemen, soldiers, the private sector done away with by the President’s angry resolve to eliminate them. We have been reminded that politicians fumble, that military officers err, that soldiers die and human blood is squandered, and that some things in this world can be eliminated only by prayer and fasting .  We have also been reminded that in a world where the effects of evil and sin are palpable in our personal and public lives, the safeguards that we have in a constitutional democracy, the separation of powers and the bill of rights are essential for the well being of our shared human society  and salutary for even a good President to recall he was not elected to the position of God.  We have been reminded that our society is not to be reformed by the political will of one person, nor of one administration, but by the free cooperation of all deciding together to cooperate towards the achievement of the common good of all.

Vision of the Common Good

ambisyon natinAmbisyon Natin 2040 is the administration’s articulation of the common good.  It is a fundamental vision of where this administration would like to take us within one generation.  Ambitioned is a society without poverty, without drugs, where all are well-educated – “smart!” – and all live and work together in peace.  Envisioned is a society where families can get together on weekends using public transportation to enjoy family life.  Envisioned therefore is not only a society where public transportation really works, but an economy where all are working productively in the Philippines.

Inspiring as this may already be, we must ask ourselves how we are to contribute to the fulfillment of this vision from the perspective of our own vision and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University.  Does the fact that we are a Jesuit and Catholic university compel us to alter Ambisyon Natin 2040 based on the diversity of faiths that we encounter, the need for inter- and intra-faith dialogue between and among peoples of different religions, the need to guarantee the practice of religion within a state-guaranteed secular sphere.  In our vision of the future, how is the economy to be driven:  through an engine of unbridled  consumption decried in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si! or through a sensitivity for the limitations of the environment?  In our vision of the future, what is the crucial roles that basic and higher education must play in eliminating the poverty, in creating the wealth for equitable distribution, in stopping the violence, in taming the consumption, in forming the men and women who are to shape this future as its professionals and leaders?

As elated or disappointed we may be with the change that has come and the leadership that has brought it about, we must find our response in a more faithful implementation of our vision and mission as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino university.  That involves critical commitment not only to Ambisyon Nation 2040 but a graced re-commitment to the Kingdom of God led by Jesus who says, “I come to bring life, life to the full.” (Jn 10:10) and a re-commitment to the Philippine Jesuits’ Roadmap to Mindanao which seeks to better serve the Kingdom of God in the Mindanao.  But it may also invite us to a deeper commitment to the instructional and formative goals of the university.

Organizational Changes in ADDU

To help ADDU better function as a university, the Board has made certain organizational changes as of its meeting last May 13, 2017.  First, it has created the position of Executive Vice President and appointed Mr. Jeremy “Bong” Eliab to that position.  The administrative line functions over which VP Eliab has directive powers are now defined, even as he continues to serve as my alter-ego in helping me run the university.  Second, it has created the position of Vice President for Finance and Treasurer and has appointed Mr. Jimmy Delgado to this position.  He will continue to watch over the finances of the university and see to our financial health institutionally.  Third, it has created the position of Vice President for Planning and Quality Assurance and has appointed Ms. Suzette Aliño to this position.  After her 15 years of serving the GS as headmaster, Suzette will now help me with the implementation of the Strategic Plan and all the Quality Assurance exercises of the University, including the PAASCU surveys.  She will help keep us all honest.  But she will do so with a smile!  Finally, the Board has also re-appointed me as your President for another year, or, as is our custom, virtually for another term of three years.

With VP Suzette Aliño now in my office,  our GS has a new Headmaster in the person of Ms. Roselle Niña Libron, fondly called Pop.  As Atty. Meong Cabarde undertakes special studies in De la Salle University to align him better to teach political science,  we welcome Mr. Mark “Macoy” Samante as the new chair of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC).  We also welcome Ms. Mylai Santos as the chair the new university-wide Ecoteneo.

With the appointment of three new Vice President’s, Dr.  Gina Montalan, the Academic Vice President has told me she no longer feels lonely. But with the organizational restructuring, the Board has approved that the Academic Vice President will not only take care of academics on the tertiary level but also on the level of basic education, especially to oversee the horizontal and vertical articulation of the academic programs of the different units as required by the K-12 reform. In implementation of the new core curriculum of the college she is also to make sure that the academic offerings are in appropriate resonance with the formative offerings  of the University in coordination with the University Ignatian Spirituality Office under Mr. Elvi Tamayo and the formation officers of the basic educational units.  This means that even with our formative offerings in the university – our retreat work, our recollections, our counseling services, our programs of worship and prayer – we must seek to assure ourselves as educators that we are succeeding through appropriate objective metrics.  I recognize gratefully the efforts that are being done in this direction spearheaded by Fr. JBoy Gonzales, SJ, and I request your cooperation here.

Greatest Contribution to the National Situation

addu gradBecause of the serious challenges coming from the national situation, I ask all to appreciate more deeply that our greatest contribution to the national situation and its transformation is our graduate –not just our graduates with Latin honors or with special medals of distinction, but each and every Atenean who enters into the world with the tertiary-level diploma.   Unto this effort, our GS must feed into our JHS, which must in turn feed into our SHS, which must in turn feed essentially into our collegiate programs.  Those who enter our system from schools other than our own must be able to benefit from the instructional and formative inputs of our school through appropriate remediation programs.

Clearly, the responsibility to form graduates who are educated leaders for the common good – “ADDU sui generis leaders” – who express their faith through commitment to justice, who positively contribute to belief in a secular world, who are able to engage in dialogue with peoples of different faiths and cultures and work for peace, who live out and promote environmental stewardship, who produce wealth and ensure its equitable distribution, who work for and with vulnerable communities for their development, who serve the Roman Catholic Church or the faith community of their calling, and who promote educational reform, does not belong just to the AVP and the academic administrators.  It is a shared responsibility of the entire Ateneo de Davao community where for each of the elements of the profile the instructional and the formational inputs are articulated on the various levels of our overall thrust towards achieving this type of graduate.  This includes clear content on Mindanao, its indigenous peoples, both Islamized and non-Islamized, and its experience of colonizers and settlers from the north.  We don’t want a graduate who at the end of his or her  Ateneo de Davao experience is unable to account for him- or herself, that is, unable explain how he or she has grown at the Ateneo not only as a professional but as a human being in Mindanao, to articulate what his or her vision of a future for Philippine society might be, and what his or her role is in achieving that future.  We don’t want a graduate who only dreams of going abroad or of just helping his or her family.  We want graduates who live their faith and their convictions, who go to Mass and pray regularly, who dream of eliminating poverty, of volunteering for service in the peripheries, of creating wealth for all, of serving the nation, of working for peace, or entering public service for all.

Thank you therefore for the work you have done and are continuing to do in working on the tertiary-level interdisciplinary core curriculum.  This core curriculum, based on our profile of the ADDU graduate, will deliver the essentials of Jesuit education because it is not just a number of required academic units (36+5) but because it presumes formational inputs and builds on the instructional and formational outputs of basic education, especially that of Senior High School.  Thank you also for what you piloted last year and shall be formally introduced this year as a requirement for college graduation no matter the course:  the Integration Program to help prepare all our graduates in their actual reflected commitments in life as graduates of the Ateneo de Davao University.  It is these graduates that shall be our best contribution to the national situation.

Meanwhile, allow me to express our delight at the robust enrolment of the ADDU Senior High School – with 2000 learners just accepted into 11th grade.  Welcome also to the 75 newly-engaged teachers and formators of the Senior High School! Thanks to the SHS community under the directorship of Mr. Rikki Enriquez, we are the SHS of choice in Davao and among the biggest in Mindanao.  We look forward to a historic graduation of the ADDU SHS at the end of this year!  Meanwhile, the Board has approved all the means necessary to complete the SHS for 4000 learners in Bangkal next academic year, when the operation in the Jacinto campus shall begin to return to normal with freshman acceptances again into collegiate courses.  As this school year unfolds in Jacinto, I ask for everyone’s patience and cooperation in coordinating the parallel operations of the SHS and of the Colleges.  Even this morning, I would have liked to have used Martin Hall for our Assembly, but SHS needed to use it for their orientation of 2000 new learners.

On National Educational Reform

1At this point, since educational reform is part of our ADDU mission, may I share with you that I end my seven-month stint as Chair of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) next week, even though I remain President of CEAP for another two years and a half. Two important things happened during my stint as COCOPEA Chair:  first, the new cordial relationship between COCOPEA and the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).  This was the first time in Philippine education history that Public and Private HEIs came together on their own, and the experiences were salutary.  We all discovered that we share the same passion for quality education for the Filipino student, and the same concerns for funding, academic freedom and quality assurance.  We expect the COCOPEA-PASUC meetings to continue.  Second, was the passage last week by Congress of the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” also a first fruit of the COCOPEA-PASUC partnership. The Act, expected soon to be signed into law by President Duterte, grants free tertiary education to qualified students in SUCs, and public TVIs but also establishes a Tertiary Education Subsidy through the Unified Financial assistance for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) which provides students opting for private schools with subsidies for tuition and fees equivalent to tuition and fees in local SUCs, and loans for other uses (like a top-up for the difference between the initial subsidy amount for tuition and fees and the actual amount required for tuition and fees in private HEIs, allowances for personal needs, board and lodging and the like).   Funds will be part of the General Appropriations Act.  The Presidents of COCOPEA and PASUC are now part of the UniFAST Board.

Foci in Working for the National Common Good

While our graduate is our greatest contribution to the national situation, that does not free us from continuing to work for the national common good here and now. Here, in the light of current national challenges, I offer the following foci:

We must strengthen our commitment to peace in our instruction, formation, research and community engagement.  We must distinguish between Filipino Muslims who genuinely love peace from a deep sense of their Islamic faith, a religion of prayer and peace,  and the workings of a violence- hate- and death-driven Salafi-Wahabi ideology which most Filipino Muslims reject.

We must strengthen our collaboration and cooperation with Muslims and peoples of all religions towards a common good of mutual acceptance and shared purpose in building our human society in the Philippines.  This includes our management of the Madaris Volunteer Program, our Mindanao Peace Games, our efforts towards improved education in the ARMM and even among the TBoli of South Cotabato.

We must in the diversity of religions of our society deepen our understanding of and love for religious freedom guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and recognized by differing religions.

From the unique perspectives of our different faiths, we must understand the inner relationship between a compassionate God and the well-being of the human being and human society, and how a “god” that compels the killing, maiming, and destruction of human life is a false God, and how the human being that has no relationship to God is a diminished human being.

We must deepen our sense of the historical injustices done to the Muslims and Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao.  In this context we congratulate the editors and compilers of the book fresh off the press of the ADDU Publications Office, Mindanao Muslim History: Documentary Sources from the Advent of Islam to the 1800s.  This includes: Mr. John Harvey Gamas, Dr. Mansoor Limba, Dr. Anderson Villa, Mr. Janor Balo, Ms Ma. Janua Cunanan, Dr. Heidi Gloria, and Mr. Ramon Beleno III. This volume collects primary sources which document the historical injustices done to the Islamized Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao over centuries.  Another pedagogical tool is the Mindanao-Sulu Historical Timeline, a CEAP project led by Fr. Albert Alejo and Ms. Pauline Bautista, in which a number of our faculty members collaborated.  Deeper understanding of the historical injustices should help commit us to healing through a restoration of justice.

We must strengthen our commitment to the national peace process led by the Office of the President for the Peace Process.  I have been informed by Datu Mussolini Lidasan, Director of our Al Qalam and commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), that the newly-completed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is being signed this morning.  We must once again commit ourselves to an evaluation of this draft and as we judge possible work for its enactment by Congress.

Despite the current strained relationship between the Philippine government and the NDFP, we must continue to urge peace to stop the killing of Filipinos.  A study of the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform would be necessary.

Since President Duterte himself has stated that he would be the first person to lobby for the lifting of martial law should it no longer be necessary, we must continually monitor the conduct of martial law in Mindanao and work for its lifting soonest.  The military solution – which creates martyrs and collateral damage – tends to work against a lasting solution and often exacerbates the problems it wishes to solve.

With others in the Philippines we must reject a martial law that would return the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship that was viciously anti-people.  We do not understand the current martial law to be imposed towards undermining democracy in the Philippines.

In this context, we must strengthen our commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

caid helplineAs an expression of this, we must continue to contribute to the War Against Drugs in the quiet service of the ADDU Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID) under Mr. Roawie Quimba through its Hotline 24/7 under nurse Apple Alvarez,  its community rehabilitation work in 26 barangays under Dr. Melba Manapol, its legal information drives under Atty. Arnold Abejaron, and its research into the drug industry in Mindanao under Neil Pancho.

We must continue to relentlessly promote the common good where all in society flourish as human beings.  This means promoting the conversations, discussions, research and outreach among ourselves and with our alumni, friends and partners in advocacy that clearly promote the common good.

Among the clear demands of the common good is the protection and preservation of the environment for all.  As in love, this is accomplished less by words but more by deeds which transform our personal and collective  values and behavior so that we can work transformatively on the environment.  For this, we will rely on the transformative leadership of Ms. Mylai Santos and the ADDU-wide Ecoteneo.  We must also support efforts towards the increased use of renewable energy through the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology.

Against poverty we must create wealth and see to its equitable distribution through entrepreneurship, innovation and sound business management.  Against government inefficiency and corruption, we must support efforts to strengthen the managerial skills of our local governments.


In the Holy Spirit

Finally, one the day after the great feast of Pentecost and at the outset of a new academic year, we beg the Holy Spirit for wisdom and courage as a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University responding appropriately to the national situation.   Towards this end, the Spirit whispers what the Lord requires:  “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah, 6:8).

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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