PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE PAST WEEK
MANILA TIMES

EDITORIAL: PREPAREDNESS--LESSONS UNLEARNED 

CARTOON: PREPAREDNESS VS. STORM SURGE ---FOREIGN observers, specially, have been congratulating the Aquino administration for its “success” in handling the risk reduction and risk management tasks required by former super typhoon, then storm and now tropical depression Ruby/Hagupit. The smallness of the number of deaths and injuries and property damage Ruby/Hagupit has caused compared to those Yolanda/Haiyan caused is, however, not largely due to anything the national government did. Unless you want to give credit to the Aquino administration for this time not giving misinformation about the super typhoon, which the Secretary of Interior and Local Government and the Secretary of National Defense did on November 8, 2013 in Leyte, preventing the local government and the citizenry from bracing for Yolanda. The fact is Ruby/Hagupit has not been as strong and destructive as Yolanda/Haiyan. And local governments, not waiting for cues from the Aquino national government, were this time proactive. In every area Ruby/Hagupit was forecast to possibly make a landfall or to pummel with strong winds and heavy rains the barangay and town officials, in bayanihan cooperativeness community leaders and ordinary citizens, carried out efficient evacuation moves to safer ground and what they thought were good relief centers. PAG-ASA, was as alert and accurate, this time as it was vis-à-vis Yolanda/Haiyan in November 2013. But proof the continuing dysfunctionality of our disaster risk and reduction management officials is the disparity between the Philippine National Red Cross death count and that of the NDRRMC (which stands for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). The Red Cross was reporting 23 deaths, while the NDRRMC was reporting only 2. At the time of this writing, the Red Cross had counted 28 deaths, the NDRRMC only 12, READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO Editorial:  Good News ---LTFRB chief has changed mind about Uber 

THE LTFRB management wisely decided the other day to stop apprehending Uber partner car owners in the Philippines. Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Winston Ginez has also admitted to media that his original order to have Uber partner-drivers arrested for doing the taxi-trade without proper LTFRB approvals will be suspended because his agency is still drafting guidelines on how Uber can operate as a legal transport service provider under Philippine laws. The following is Wikipedia’s concise description of Uber. “Uber is a rideshare and taxi service company headquartered in San Francisco, California, which operates in cities in several countries. The company uses a smartphone application to receive ride requests, and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers use the app to request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location. As of August 29, 2014, the service was available in 45 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide, and was valued at more than US$40 billion in December 2014. “Upon inception, Uber offered only full-size luxury cars for hire, and the ‘UberBlack’ title was adopted for the company’s main service (named after the ‘black cars’ private transportation services in New York City). In 2012, the company launched its “UberX” program, which expanded the service to any qualified driver with an acceptable vehicle. Due to a lack of regulation, Uber can offer lower fees, so the service has become extremely competitive with traditional taxi services, expanding Uber’s appeal to a broader cross-section of the market. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO by YEN MAKABENTA: Between fatalism and providence in facing disasters 

First of two parts--- At the rate that she is being battered on social and other media, broadcaster Korina Sanchez may need “rescue, relief, recovery, and rehabilitation” more urgently than the victims of Typhoon Ruby. She looks like a battered wife without a husband to show as the culprit. Her great offense, it appears, is a couple of careless remarks uttered during a segment of the TV Patrol news program where, while engaged in banter with co-anchors Noli de Castro and Ted Failon, she earnestly wished that Typhoon Ruby would skip the Philippines and dump all its fury instead on Japan, because that country can cope with a natural disaster much more effectively. To comprehend the resulting controversy, it’s useful to know exactly what was said during the broadcast, which took place on Wednesday, Dec. 3, while meteorologists were still tracking the path of Typhoon Ruby, and the nation still had no idea when it would make its first landfall in the country. Failon inbounded the ball when he opined that the next few days would be “critical” in determining the path of the typhoon. To this, Sanchez reacted, “Kaya pa natin idasal yan para lumihis.” (We can still pray so it changes direction, [and perhaps skip our country].) ----Fatalism, lazy and insolent --Professor Olasky, author of The politics of Disaster, suggests that there is a better perspective in coping with disaster than just wishing and praying for immunity from them. Some embrace fatalism in looking at disaster. “If it happens here, it happens.” But fatalism can breed lassitude (doing nothing, noynoying?), or insolence (King Canute ordering the ocean waves to pause). Fatalism was a staple of Greek and Roman beliefs, and still figures prominently in Hinduism (karma), Islam (Kismet), and many tribal religions.
Significantly, fatalism was never part of biblical thinking, which historically emphasizes the concept of providence. Olasky suggests that we must reawaken this understanding of providence, if we are to deal with disasters in ways neither foolhardy nor fearful. READ FULL COLUMN...

(ALSO by Yen Makabenta) FATALISM AND PROVIDENCE: Worldviews and natural disasters  

Second of two parts ---When the president of Turkey surveyed the wreckage of an earthquake in his country, one elderly woman wearing a black dress and covered with dust ran past security guards and demanded, “President! President! My family is gone! Why? Why?”When a terrible disaster strikes here in our country, many also feel the urge to ask the same, but they never get to ask President Aquino because he is usually not around. He does not go to the scenes of devastation, least of all to the wakes of people he does not know.Why? Why? The answers vary depending on one’s worldview, faith or lack of one. Chance, karma, kismet, global warming --The nonreligious say disasters arise out of chance or bad luck. They happen without rhyme or reason.In modern law, courts denote certain events as acts of God — like tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and floods. The encyclopedia of American law defines an act of God as “a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, or a tornado.” Acts of God are significant for two reasons: 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that “acts of God” are an excuse for delay or failure to fulfill a commitment or to complete a construction project. READ THE FULL PART 2....

ALSO byRicardo Saludo: Why should anyone give up everything for God? 

Be joyful! Show everyone that following Christ and practicing his Gospel fill your heart with happiness. Infect with this joy those who come near, and many people will ask why and feel the desire to share your wonderful and exciting Gospel adventure. Be brave! Those who feel loved by the Lord know full confidence in him. So did your founders and foundresses, opening new paths of service to opening new paths of service to the Kingdom of God. With the power of the Holy Spirit with you, you go through the streets of the world and show the renewing power of the Gospel which, if put into practice, also works wonders today and answers all the questions of man.— Pope Francis, Message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, November 30. Most Catholics probably missed it, but two Sundays ago, the Catholic Church began the Year of the Consecrated Life, dedicated to clergy and religious who live by sacred vows in total devotion and service to God and His Church. The ecclesiastical year comes after the more widely known Year of Faith in 2013 and Year of the Family this year.The succession of years underscores the hierarchy of Church priorities. First, renew the faith, humanity’s relationship with God. Then bring the faith to the family, the core of human society. Only then does the Church turn to the select ranks of believers who have heeded Christ’s call to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.”  In his message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, Pope Francis called on the religious to show the rest of the faithful and the world the immense joy and courage of their life-choice for God. READ FULL COLUMN...

EDITORIAL: Why aren’t the PNP, LTFRB and LTO working together?

CARTOON COURTESY OF PHILOSTAR ---TAXI drivers are known to have victimized hapless passengers by overcharging them. That is why it is such a great relief to be in a taxi that smells good, is clean and well kept. That’s also why Uber has become so popular. The latest scary news is about taxi drivers robbing passengers, and behaving like the usual hold-uppers of our metropolis. Worse is news of taxi drivers stabbing, shooting, and raping their passengers. Faced with those reports of abusive and criminal taxi drivers in the media and the social networking sites, we have no news that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are doing anything special to prevent these new surge of taxi-driver menace.
The LTFRB is to be lauded for launching “Oplan Isnabero” last week– a program to crack down on taxi drivers who choose their fare or will only take passengers who agree to pay a large overcharge. But what the public has seen so far is a half-hearted effort to carry out this anti-Isnabero program. If the LTFRB really wishes to stop this greedy and inconsiderate practice, it would have easily netted more than a hundred taxi drivers in one day alone. Apprehending abusive and greedy isnabero taxi drivers is not rocket science. In fact, the solutions are very simple and do not need the mobilization of a fully-armed division from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. What is simply needed is political will, and sensitivity on the part of the officials of the LTFRB and PNP. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO by FR. SHAY CULLEN: PNP secret torture chambers exposed   

DEC 13 ---Who would ever imagine that a secret torture squad attached to the Philippine National Police would use a crudely made “wheel of fortune” to select the torture technique they would use on their victims? Torture is outlawed by international convention and the Philippine Penal Code yet in 2009 a special law Republic Act 9745 was passed to totally ban it. However, it is still common practice. The recently launched investigative report by Amnesty International stated that police torture “is commonplace in the Philippines and impunity for it is the norm . . .” Titled “Above the Law: Police Torture in the Philippines,” the Amnesty International researchers with local human rights defenders uncovered secret detention centers and the notorious “Wheel of Fortune” in a torture chamber in Laguna, south of Manila. The shocking discovery indicated that this trained squad used torture for a sordid and sick kind of entertainment. While the suspects screamed through their gags from the excruciating pain of electric shock the torturers laughed. The US Senate report on torture and disappearances of suspects details shocking torture and abuse and many of the torture techniques detailed in the report are similar to what the Philippine Police use also. The Philippine Police trained in Fort Bragg and elsewhere in the USA may have learned their torture techniques from their US trainers. We sincerely hope not. READ FULL COLUMN...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Editorial: Lessons still unlearned


PREPAREDNESS VS. STORM SURGE

MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2014 (MANILA TIMES)   FOREIGN observers, specially, have been congratulating the Aquino administration for its “success” in handling the risk reduction and risk management tasks required by former super typhoon, then storm and now tropical depression Ruby/Hagupit.

The smallness of the number of deaths and injuries and property damage Ruby/Hagupit has caused compared to those Yolanda/Haiyan caused is, however, not largely due to anything the national government did. Unless you want to give credit to the Aquino administration for this time not giving misinformation about the super typhoon, which the Secretary of Interior and Local Government and the Secretary of National Defense did on November 8, 2013 in Leyte, preventing the local government and the citizenry from bracing for Yolanda.

The fact is Ruby/Hagupit has not been as strong and destructive as Yolanda/Haiyan. And local governments, not waiting for cues from the Aquino national government, were this time proactive.

In every area Ruby/Hagupit was forecast to possibly make a landfall or to pummel with strong winds and heavy rains the barangay and town officials, in bayanihan cooperativeness community leaders and ordinary citizens, carried out efficient evacuation moves to safer ground and what they thought were good relief centers.

PAG-ASA, was as alert and accurate, this time as it was vis-à-vis Yolanda/Haiyan in November 2013.

But proof the continuing dysfunctionality of our disaster risk and reduction management officials is the disparity between the Philippine National Red Cross death count and that of the NDRRMC (which stands for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council). The Red Cross was reporting 23 deaths, while the NDRRMC was reporting only 2. At the time of this writing, the Red Cross had counted 28 deaths, the NDRRMC only 12,

This is, however, not like last year, when, because President BS Aquino apparently got tired of hearing the unceasing bad news of deaths caused by Yolanda/Haiyan, he ordered the counting to stop when the toll according to the government had reached 6,000 (which was way above Mr. Aquino’s earlier optimistic calculation of only 1,500. The fact is the Yolanda/Haiyan deaths are most likely higher than 15,000, because thousands of missing persons have not been accounted for and people were likely buried under landslides and sunken ground under leveled houses and buildings—and even ships that were swept by tsunami-like waves into Tacloban City.

There have been conflicting reports on the number of fatalities from tropical depression “Ruby” with the Philippine Red Cross reporting as many as 28.
NDRMMC Executive Director Undersecretary Alexander Pama explains that the government count is slower because NDRRMC has to “follow procedures based on protocols” and “we record the number of deaths officially when it is verified, confirmed, and validated.” The validation happens only, he added, “when the Department of Health has issued a death certificate.” That is a very good, but extremely bureaucratic way of doing things correctly. But why doesn’t the NDRRMC have an “unofficial count” mirroring that of the Red Cross? Is it because President Aquino insists on keeping the fatality number low?

People Surge call for justice

Meanwhile, the people of Leyte still have a legitimate grievance.

The People Surge Alliance for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors are asking for justice for the victims. In a statement to media on Tuesday, they said:

“We, survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), are just beginning to pick up the pieces of what Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) has left of our lives. ‘Ruby’ has brought and continues to bring torrential rainfall, winds, and storm surges as it made landfall once again on the Eastern VIsayas region, and as it continues to slowly traverse the country…

“The tale of the two storms, Yolanda and Ruby, are inextricably linked. It has been more than a year since Yolanda’s landfall, a year fraught with continuing social, economic, and environmental injustices as our national government under President Noynoy Aquino continued to abdicate its mandate to address the needs and rights of affected communities. And then came Ruby.

“Lessons seem to have remained unlearned as that brand of criminal negligence continued during Ruby: whereas government’s weather scientists have effectively predicted the typhoon’s pathway and forewarned the public, and the majority of the communities have proactively evacuated from hazardous areas, government has been unable to provide sufficient and safe evacuation centers. Thousands are reported to have searched for alternative evacuation sites or forced to settle in unsafe sites, as designated evacuation centers were overflowing. Some declared evacuation centers were actually disaster-prone areas, and initial reports reveal how an evacuation center was even destroyed by Ruby’s violent winds in Eastern Samar province.”


EDITORIAL: Very good: LTFRB chief has changed mind about Uber



THE LTFRB management wisely decided the other day to stop apprehending Uber partner car owners in the Philippines.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Winston Ginez has also admitted to media that his original order to have Uber partner-drivers arrested for doing the taxi-trade without proper LTFRB approvals will be suspended because his agency is still drafting guidelines on how Uber can operate as a legal transport service provider under Philippine laws.

The following is Wikipedia’s concise description of Uber. “Uber is a rideshare and taxi service company headquartered in San Francisco, California, which operates in cities in several countries. The company uses a smartphone application to receive ride requests, and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers use the app to request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location. As of August 29, 2014, the service was available in 45 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide, and was valued at more than US$40 billion in December 2014.

“Upon inception, Uber offered only full-size luxury cars for hire, and the ‘UberBlack’ title was adopted for the company’s main service (named after the ‘black cars’ private transportation services in New York City). In 2012, the company launched its “UberX” program, which expanded the service to any qualified driver with an acceptable vehicle. Due to a lack of regulation, Uber can offer lower fees, so the service has become extremely competitive with traditional taxi services, expanding Uber’s appeal to a broader cross-section of the market.

“Uber is the subject of ongoing protests from taxi drivers, taxi companies and representative bodies who believe that ridesharing companies are illegal taxicab operations that engage in unfair business practices and compromise passenger safety. As of December 2014, protests had been staged in Germany, India, Thailand, Spain, France and England, among other nations, while incidents involving passengers have been documented.

Uber was banned in Spain and two cities of India, in December 2014, and continues to resolve issues with numerous governmental bodies, including those of the US and Australia.”

Once Uber came to Manila, it became overwhelmingly popular among commuters who, on grouping together, find that they spend even less on Uber than on taking taxi rides. In addition they also find Uber cars and drivers better, cleaner and more wholesome.

But of course regular taxi-fleet operators and public utility companies rose against it. They even lobbied their friends in the House to make a statement against Uber.

But no one can deny that with the Philippine traffic situation and its motor vehicle public utility in such a miserable condition, any innovative approach to solving the problem would be embraced by the public.

This is one issue in which we must laud the government for at last realizing its mistake in going against something good and for now taking steps to legitimize that good thing.


Between fatalism and providence  by YEN MAKABENTA  December 10, 2014 11:04 pm


YEN MAKABENTA

First of two parts
At the rate that she is being battered on social and other media, broadcaster Korina Sanchez may need “rescue, relief, recovery, and rehabilitation” more urgently than the victims of Typhoon Ruby. She looks like a battered wife without a husband to show as the culprit.

Her great offense, it appears, is a couple of careless remarks uttered during a segment of the TV Patrol news program where, while engaged in banter with co-anchors Noli de Castro and Ted Failon, she earnestly wished that Typhoon Ruby would skip the Philippines and dump all its fury instead on Japan, because that country can cope with a natural disaster much more effectively.

To comprehend the resulting controversy, it’s useful to know exactly what was said during the broadcast, which took place on Wednesday, Dec. 3, while meteorologists were still tracking the path of Typhoon Ruby, and the nation still had no idea when it would make its first landfall in the country.

Failon inbounded the ball when he opined that the next few days would be “critical” in determining the path of the typhoon.

To this, Sanchez reacted, “Kaya pa natin idasal yan para lumihis.” (We can still pray so it changes direction, [and perhaps skip our country].)

De Castro then joined in and remarked: “Sana ay hati na lang tayo.” (I wish we can just split the typhoon’s impact.) “Kalahati sa Pilipinas, kalahati sa Japan. (Half to the Philippines, half to Japan).”

To this, Sanchez quickly responded, “Puwede bang sa kanila na lang lahat?” (How about, they just get all of it?)

De Castro says diplomatically, “hopefully not,”

But Sanchez presses her point, saying, “Sa kanila na lang lahat. Parang mas kaya nila.” (Let them have it all. It seems they can cope with it better).

Why did Taklesa go viral?

That should have been that (over and out), but someone had the bright idea of recording the segment and posting it on YouTube.

Once it was on the web, the thing went viral. Reaction was immediate, sweeping, and angry. And the anger was mostly directed at Sanchez. The guys were spared.

The Rappler website reported some of the reactions, from the serious to the glib. “No one has the right to wish ill on another,” said one netizen. “Irresponsible and insensitive,” said another. And so on. And so forth.

Korina had her defenders, too, and they couldn’t understand why some were bearing down so hard on the TV anchor. “She’s only human,” they said.

On showbiz government, comments on Korina’s gaffe ran in tandem with comments on her husband’s misadventures on a motorcycle in Samar.

Perhaps the most telling arrow from showbizgov was labeling Sanchez as “Taklesa,” meaning that she is lacking in consideration for others.

When I took note of the new coinage, my son told me that the word has already been used several times on Kris Aquino. So the two Ks can keep each other company.

What made Korina’s remarks so offensive to many?

Was it because there are so many Filipinos in Japan and so many Japanese who would be in harm’s way if God were to grant Ms. K’s prayer?

Or was it because her prayer grates on Filipino sensibilities and is contrary to our Christian upbringing and beliefs?

Or was it because she is a recidivist? Last year, amidst the nation’s ordeal from Yolanda/Haiyan, she had a dustup with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, whom she accused of ignorance for criticizing the Aquino government for the hapless rescue and relief effort in East Visayas.

I can’t rightly say which, but to find an answer I have scoured my library and the web for clues, and I must say that I am grateful to the controversy for leading me to discover some insights into the challenge of coping with disasters, natural and man-made.

For one, I have gotten to understand the difference between fatalism and providence, which otherwise would have escaped my interest. I am not a religious person.

Fatalism, lazy and insolent

Professor Olasky, author of The politics of Disaster, suggests that there is a better perspective in coping with disaster than just wishing and praying for immunity from them.

Some embrace fatalism in looking at disaster. “If it happens here, it happens.” But fatalism can breed lassitude (doing nothing, noynoying?), or insolence (King Canute ordering the ocean waves to pause).

Fatalism was a staple of Greek and Roman beliefs, and still figures prominently in Hinduism (karma), Islam (Kismet), and many tribal religions.

Significantly, fatalism was never part of biblical thinking, which historically emphasizes the concept of providence. Olasky suggests that we must reawaken this understanding of providence, if we are to deal with disasters in ways neither foolhardy nor fearful.

Understanding the concept of providence

Olasky offers this key insight: “The concept of providence is based on the idea that God rules the world but we don’t know outcomes until they occur. It leads brave people to take action when they see children about to die, either physically or psychologically: only when we’ve done all we can and failed do we know that a death was ordained.”

He relates the story of Ted Yamamori, former head of the Christian relief agency Food for the hungry, who once described an African woman who was mourning the death of her child. The youngster was sick but still alive, yet the mother was convinced that fate decreed her child’s death. Yamamori changed fate by getting the child medicine that restored him to health.

Another charity agency has as its mission statement: “We believe God does not make mistakes….it is a high calling to provide quality care to those physically and mentally challenged in such a way that would be pleasing and honoring to the heavenly father and bring emotional and spiritual healing to those who brought them into this world.”

What if, says Olasky, we apply this attitude to helping those who suffer through Yolanda or Katrina or Ruby, or will suffer through the disasters to come? Then every challenge truly becomes an opportunity.

In part two of this series, I will discuss how theological views, especially the Christian view, can influence for the better our policy choices in facing disasters.


FATALISM AND PROVIDENCE: Worldviews and natural disasters  by YEN MAKABENTA  December 12, 2014 11:12 pm


EN MAKABENTA


Second of two parts
When the president of Turkey surveyed the wreckage of an earthquake in his country, one elderly woman wearing a black dress and covered with dust ran past security guards and demanded, “President! President! My family is gone! Why? Why?”

When a terrible disaster strikes here in our country, many also feel the urge to ask the same, but they never get to ask President Aquino because he is usually not around. He does not go to the scenes of devastation, least of all to the wakes of people he does not know.

Why? Why? The answers vary depending on one’s worldview, faith or lack of one.

Chance, karma, kismet, global warming

The nonreligious say disasters arise out of chance or bad luck. They happen without rhyme or reason.

In modern law, courts denote certain events as acts of God — like tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons and floods.

The encyclopedia of American law defines an act of God as “a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, or a tornado.” Acts of God are significant for two reasons: 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that “acts of God” are an excuse for delay or failure to fulfill a commitment or to complete a construction project.

A more contemporary and hotly disputed explanation for disasters like typhoons and hurricanes is that they are the result of global warming, aka climate change. Climate alarmists blame carbon emissions which, they say, are raising the temperature of the earth, leading to the rise of sea levels. But there has been no global warming over the past 17 years. The United Nations intergovermental panel for Climate change (UNPCC) has not produced any proof of global warming.

Religious perspectives

Religious worldviews are more interesting and fascinating.

Hindus believe that disasters are the result of karma, payback for evil committed in previous lives. Karma is individual, not collective, but the cumulative karma of half a million individuals could perhaps send a typhoon careening toward a city or a province.

Muslims believe in kismet, the Turkish word for fate or destiny. When disaster strikes, it is fated.

Animistic and polytheistic religions offer another explanation; the people of a stricken place may have in some way brought curses on themselves from powerful gods. Perhaps a construction project irritated a river god or something, and perhaps attempts to construct hurricane-proof houses and buildings upset the god of the winds.

Christianity’s view

In Christianity, disasters result not from chance, karma or curses, but from God’s mysterious providence, which no one ever understands fully.

The Bible says God ordains everything that happens, but it also says we are responsible for our actions.

Christians have many ways to handle this. It matters to them that for God all times are the present. He knows and ordains past and future, while we know only a little about the past and nothing about the future.

We are actors without a script, deciding moment by moment from our subjective perspective the direction of the play, even if from God’s perspective it is already objectively decided. We freely decide, choosing from moment to moment what to say and how to act.

Many Christians find the idea that God is in charge, a cheerful one. G. K. Chesterton wrote that the doctrine of original sin is cheering because within it, suffering, failure, and inadequacy arise – neither from blind chance nor necessarily as a part of punishment, but as the common lot of humanity.

What makes all this work is the experience of Christ, who knew what it was to be unjustly tortured and abandoned, to endure overwhelming loss, and to be crucified.

In the Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the central figure, Christian, regularly had grief followed by relief, and that seems to be often what God ordains.

Like the hero, Christians learn that if we expect life to go smoothly, we will spend much of it discontented, and we won’t come to understand God’s mercy.

What’s difficult to accept is that the road to contentment runs through misery. Christ came to earth not only to die but also to live amid rejection. His horribly painful death took several hours. It was terrible, physically, and psychologically, because of the rejections he experienced, rejections by friends, by community, by local religious leaders, by national religious leaders. Those were all means to the glorious end.

Analogously, we Christians are thankful for the difficulties that energize us, and also for all the days when no disaster occurs.

With everything that can go wrong in the world, with typhoons each year filling the letters of the alphabet, it’s worth noting not only that a bullet like Yolanda/Haiyan hit us, but also that other bullets missed and that Ruby was not so lethal.

Christianity bids us to approach disaster in a spirit of gratitude and understanding of God’s mercy.

Why should we assume good weather and good health? Why not be thankful instead for days of clear skies or gentle rains. Why think that the relatively few days of disaster are proof of either atheism or divine malevolence? Why not be thankful that God, as described at the end of the book of Jonah, is “a gracious god, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”

I’m not worried, I’m just waiting

In its coverage of hurricane Katrina in new Orleans, the Washington Post profiled a 72-year-old man, who was among the victims. He had just become a widower, and he had to leave New Orleans.

He faced a future with no security. But he looked at the future with greater faith. He professed:

“Jesus said you’re going to have trials and tribulations. I’m not worried. I’m just waiting. I just put it in Jesus’s hands.”

It will take time before long-term improvement in his material circumstances becomes evident, if it does. But his serenity while others screamed already paid spiritual benefits.


Why should anyone give up everything for God? by RICARDO SALUDO  December 12, 2014 11:03 pm


Ricardo Saludo

Be joyful! Show everyone that following Christ and practicing his Gospel fill your heart with happiness. Infect with this joy those who come near, and many people will ask why and feel the desire to share your wonderful and exciting Gospel adventure. Be brave! Those who feel loved by the Lord know full confidence in him.

So did your founders and foundresses, opening new paths of service to opening new paths of service to the Kingdom of God. With the power of the Holy Spirit with you, you go through the streets of the world and show the renewing power of the Gospel which, if put into practice, also works wonders today and answers all the questions of man.— Pope Francis, Message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, November 30. Most Catholics probably missed it, but two Sundays ago, the Catholic Church began the Year of the Consecrated Life, dedicated to clergy and religious who live by sacred vows in total devotion and service to God and His Church. The ecclesiastical year comes after the more widely known Year of Faith in 2013 and Year of the Family this year.

The succession of years underscores the hierarchy of Church priorities. First, renew the faith, humanity’s relationship with God. Then bring the faith to the family, the core of human society. Only then does the Church turn to the select ranks of believers who have heeded Christ’s call to “deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Me.”

In his message on the Year of the Consecrated Life, Pope Francis called on the religious to show the rest of the faithful and the world the immense joy and courage of their life-choice for God.

More believers, fewer shepherds

At least, that’s the hope and prayer. Unfortunately, countless Catholics asking the question headlining this article, don’t come up with convincing answers. Thus, the number of faithful embracing the consecrated life has been falling.

As compiled by Washington’s Jesuit-run Georgetown University, the faithful nearly doubled since 1970 to an estimated 1.23 billion this year.

But priests declined to 414,313, from nearly 420,000. Diocesan priests directly ministering to the laity grew by a minuscule 3.1 percent to 279,561 in 2014.

Thus, parishes worldwide with no resident priest rose by nearly 10,000 to more than 49,000. Plus: the ratio of shepherds to sheep nearly halved from one clergyman for every 1,560 laity in 1970 to one for every 2,966 today.

Other consecrated groups suffered steeper declines over the past 44 years. Priests in religious orders fell by about 14,000 or one-tenth to fewer than 135,000.

Nuns declined by nearly 300,000 to 705,529.

Religious brothers also dropped 30 percent to 55,314.

All this despite surging Catholic elementary and secondary school enrollment worldwide to 51 million this year from 28 million in 1970, plus the 135 percent jump in graduate-level seminarians to about 57,000 today.

The US showed far greater declines. Priests there fell more than a third to 38,275. Graduate-level seminarians are down to 3,631, fewer than half the 1965 number. Sisters have dropped below 50,000 from nearly 180,000 half a century ago. And parishes with no resident priest number almost 3,500 — up nearly sixfold since 1965.

(For more data and other interesting information on the Catholic Church, go to:http://cara.georgetown.edu/caraservices/requestedchurchstats.html.)

Religious from Africa and Asia are filling the huge gaps in America and Christianity’s historic center Europe, where seminarians are 22 percent fewer than a decade ago. African priests are up nearly 40 percent, while Asian ones increased nearly a third. But don’t think developing nations have a surplus of frocked faithful.

In 2005, then-Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, now Cardinal and Manila Archbishop, warned that Philippine vocations were declining fast. At the time, he counted 8,700 priests in the country, one for every 15,000 lay Catholics. “That’s too much,” Tagle lamented, adding that one for every 2,000 parishioners was much preferred. That would require 25,000 more shepherds.

Serving mammon, not God

What’s behind the decline in the consecrated? In a word, mammon. As in our Lord’s admonition in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

“From a predominantly agricultural, rural country, we are becoming more technological, scientifically advanced,” explained Bishop Tagle in his 2005 press conference. “Progress leads to a consumerist lifestyle and a growing thirst for wealth. … the role of God in our lives and the priestly function take a back stage to money.”

A 2000 paper titled “Catholic Religious Vocations: Decline and Revival” also links affluence and the lack of priests and nuns. (Read it at: http://www.baylorisr.org/wp-content/uploads/stark_vocations.pdf.)

Discounting distorted or dubious data, the report by Rodney Stark of the University of Washington and Roger Fink of Pennsylvania State University found strong correlation between rising economic indicators (per-capita GNP, per-capita power consumption, and cars per 1,000 people) and falling ratios of Catholic religious to lay faithful.

Bottom line: more materially endowed lifestyles have reduced the proportion of Catholics entering the consecrated life. Giving up all for God becomes harder as the amount and attractiveness of what one would give up goes up.

What can the Church do?

We’ll save that for another column. For now, let’s make sure to follow Christ’s instruction in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”   men.


EDITORIAL: Why aren’t the PNP, LTFRB and LTO working together?


COURTESY OF PHILSTAR

Firstly, the LTFRB and PNP can jointly field up to a hundred plainclothes personnel to pose as taxi-riding passengers during the rush hours.

The plainclothes agents may also pose as passengers at the taxi-waiting stands at malls, where the line for taxis can stretch up to a couple of hundred meters at mall closing times. As to why the LTFRB and PNP have not thought of fielding plainclothes personnel is also not so difficult to answer. It’s not that police and LTFRB personnel are afraid of ending up as victims of criminal taxi drivers. It is more like they are sympathetic or friendly to the tax drivers because they have a special relationship with the operators.

Another simple measure that the LTFRB can take is to collaborate with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to crack the whip on abusive and criminal taxi drivers by revoking their licenses. And suspending the fleets’ permit to operate.

But so far, the LTFRB has not reported to the media the number of taxi driver whose licenses to drive have been revoked by the LTO.

This is very disturbing because it means abusive taxi drivers who get apprehended can continue driving taxis later on and terrorize the riding public again.

Then one asks, why has this simple measure of revoking the licenses of abusive taxi drivers not been done in a concerted effort of the LTFRB and the LTO?

As for taxi operators, the least they can do is come up with a “black list” of taxi drivers who have been involved in crimes or are overcharging or selecting passengers. By coming up with a blacklist of abusive taxi drivers, taxi operators can easily identify those who they should not hire or employ as drivers.

Letting abusive taxi drivers who have been identified by the news media and the social networking sites get away with their crimes not only harms the reputation of honest taxi drivers. It also is bad news about the Philippines abroad, refuting the claim that “it is more fun in the Philippines.”

Thank God there are still no recent reports of taxi drivers committing crimes against foreign tourists. Or have such events just gone unreported?

If the LTFRB and PNP cannot apprehend and mete out the proper punishment against abusive taxi drivers despite many reports in media and social networking sites, how can the public expect government so resolve bigger crimes?


PNP secret torture chambers exposed by FR. SHAY CULLEN  December 13, 2014 10:33 pm


Fr. Shay Cullen

Who would ever imagine that a secret torture squad attached to the Philippine National Police would use a crudely made “wheel of fortune” to select the torture technique they would use on their victims? Torture is outlawed by international convention and the Philippine Penal Code yet in 2009 a special law Republic Act 9745 was passed to totally ban it. However, it is still common practice.

The recently launched investigative report by Amnesty International stated that police torture “is commonplace in the Philippines and impunity for it is the norm . . .” Titled “Above the Law: Police Torture in the Philippines,” the Amnesty International researchers with local human rights defenders uncovered secret detention centers and the notorious “Wheel of Fortune” in a torture chamber in Laguna, south of Manila.

The shocking discovery indicated that this trained squad used torture for a sordid and sick kind of entertainment. While the suspects screamed through their gags from the excruciating pain of electric shock the torturers laughed.

The US Senate report on torture and disappearances of suspects details shocking torture and abuse and many of the torture techniques detailed in the report are similar to what the Philippine Police use also. The Philippine Police trained in Fort Bragg and elsewhere in the USA may have learned their torture techniques from their US trainers. We sincerely hope not.

As many as forty three prisoner survivors, some rescued by Filipino human rights campaigners who risk their lives to help the victims, said they suffered grave torture. Twenty three of them were courageous and defiant enough to file criminal charges against the police.

There is not much hope either among them that justice will ever be seen. The police enjoy a high level of impunity. Death squads also murder suspects. They are set up by military and local mayors, governors and other powerful politicians to protect their interests, eliminate political rivals or protect their secret criminal enterprise from take-over by a rival. They also sow terror among the people and ensure the reelection of the politician.

In May 2014 this year Human Rights Watch published a 71-page report titled “One Shot to the Head: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines.” It documented interviews with the killers who said they received text messages from the former mayor about whom and when to kill someone. They got paid as little as a hundred dollars. This week on December 11 we honor Rogelio Butalid, a broadcast commentator, shot at point blank range outside his radio station in Tagum City, Mindanao, just one of many journalist murders over the past ten years by death squads.

No one has been held responsible or accountable for the many deaths. Human rights advocates are calling for a law to hold the local mayors responsible and blame-worthy. They will be penalized by being removed from office for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty for torture and death squad killings in their town or city.
The Amnesty International report on torture is no less horrific. It reports that with the help of local human rights defenders and advocates they interviewed as many as 55 torture victim-survivors, 21 of them were children when abused and tortured. Two victims of torture were then shot and left for dead but miraculously survived.

As many as 36 cases were referred to the Office of the Ombudsman but unsurprisingly none were indicted. The investigating officers were likely to have been threatened with a “shot to the head.”

The survivors of torture reported having been beaten, kicked, punched, water-boarded (a near drowning torture technique), nearly suffocated with plastic bags over their heads, given electric shocks, deprived of sleep and forced to take stressful physical squatting. In one videotape, one old man was seen naked with wire tied around his genitalia being pulled by a police officer. The victim was later found beheaded.

Children too have been tortured, starved and killed in jails and prisons that are renamed “Juvenile Homes” where the children are neglected, abused, mistreated and jailed behind bars and metal screens.

A shocking and horrible photo of abused children was taken in the Manila Reception Action Center (RAC), a place described as a Auschwitz-like concentration camp in the heart of Manila five minutes from the office of Mayor Estrada. The photo is that of a boy we named Francisco. His naked, emaciated skeletal body was left thrown on the ground, allegedly left to die without medical help. He was found with facial bruises when rescued by charity workers.

The excuse of the staff is that they had no money to help him, that is a lie and fabrication. Its the story line to get more money which is disappearing in mysterious ways and too little going to feed, clothe and support the children. The boy Francisco only had to be given a t-shirt and shorts and taken to the hospital with other children in a similar half-starved condition. The truth is that the money is allegedly misappropriated and the Commission on Audit (COA) need to audit the facility. Also they need a clean, well managed facility in the countryside under the supervision of the trusted office of Secretary Corazon Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Manila is so rich it could build and maintain two such centers.

Other children too were left in similar conditions. The report documents 21 children who were tortured. All this is difficult to read and comprehend how humans can inflict such terrible cruel torture on children and adults. The psychological torture of threats and fear is equally abhorrent. One thing is clear, we cannot remain inactive, silent, non-supportive and indifferent to these grim realities exposed by children’s rights and human rights defenders working with Amnesty International.

The truth is there for all to see and read .We have to act as best we can to save more victims and put an end to these evil practices. We can help by speaking out, joining campaigns for human rights, join a rally, by taking a stand with victims of illegal detention and children in jails. We can inspire others by showing respect for the rights of others. That’s what Jesus did and taught. That’s why we have Christmas.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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