PHNO EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK: FROM PHILSTAR

OPINION: FAITH OF THE FILIPINOS 

By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 9, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 Filipinos are indeed known worldwide as peoples of deep and great faith. It is the only country in Asia where majority are Catholics. Throughout the year they manifest this kind of faith through their celebration of Advent, Lent, Easter, various “fiestas” honoring patron Saints and other significant events in the Church. And most notable and significant in this connection is that they show this extraordinary faith at the very onset of the year in January by commemorating two important events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God: the feast of the Santo Nino honoring the baby Jesus and the feast of the Black Nazarene depicting the suffering Christ carrying the cross. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO: Crimes inside Bilibid, believe it or not

By Marichu A. Villanueva ---And worse, high-powered firearms, huge sums of money, and suspected shabu were found inside some of these ‘kubol’ within the NBP facility, among many other unexpected special rooms of big-time prisoners. We thought we had seen the worse of irregularities uncovered from the series of raids done at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City last month. Then there was an attempted rape incident involving an eight-year-old girl. It took place inside the comfort room of a chapel in the state penitentiary’s maximum-security compound during the Christmas party for inmates. The inmate accused of attempting to rape the girl later tested positive for illegal drugs. The victim happens to be the daughter of the inmate’s gang mate in the Bahala Na Gang at Munti. The girl was visiting her father with the rest of their family when she disappeared and was later found without underwear, with a rope around her neck, and bruised. READ FULL COLUMN

ALSO: Keeping Pope Francis safe

By MarichU Villanueva ---Barely 72 hours left before Pope Francis arrives in the country, the entire Filipino nation is waiting with bated breath the visit of the Vicar of the Catholic Church. President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III would lead government officials to formally welcome Pope Francis as soon as his plane touches down Philippine soil. As the acknowledged leader of the Catholics all over the world, Francis will be accorded a red carpet welcome befitting a head of state for his arrival Thursday afternoon at the presidential lounge of Villamor Airbase in Pasay City. But known for his humility, not to mention his piety, Pope Francis reportedly frowns upon anything grandiose or attended with much frills. With that in mind, the national organizing committee preparing for the four-day visit of the Pope closely coordinated with the Vatican for each and every activity to be held here. The highlight of the Pope’s visit is actually in Leyte where he would be meeting with survivors of super Typhoon Yolanda. READ FULL STORY...

ALSO: I’m a Christian, I’m a Jew, I’m a Muslim!

By Bobit S. Avila ---Nearly a week ago, Paris was gripped in terror when three terrorists, identified as Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly attacked the Charlie Hebdo Magazine during an editorial meeting in what has been called the first terror attack in Paris, killing 12 people. In hot pursuit operations against these terrors, French police cornered the Kouachi brothers in a printing shop and killed them… while at the same time, Amedy Coulibaly held a number of hostages inside a Jewish Kosher grocery and killed another four hostages as the French police attacked the grocery and killed Coulibaly. All in all, 17 people were killed in this three-day reign of terror by three men and one woman who hasn’t been caught and considered armed and dangerous. French authorities believe that she is now in Syria. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope Francis brings hope

By Sara Soliven De Guzman --In three days, Pope Francis arrives in Philippine soil. This is the big day. This is the day when all security systems should be functioning to high heavens. Good luck! I don’t want to sound like a pessimist but with how this country is moving, I am worried about the logistics of the Pope’s visit. All we can do is pray that our police force is efficiently implementing the plan. On the other side of the coin, I’m sure the Pope will accomplish his goal. He will see the beauty of our people inside and out. ven thrice and shower us with blessings we so much need. READ MORE...

ALSO: The killing of journalists

By Babe Romualdez The worldwide reaction to the Wednesday massacre of 12 people that included 10 journalists in the Paris office of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by two masked, Kalashnikov-wielding gunmen was overwhelming. People expressed their outrage at the murders, while international media outfits issued the strongest condemnation of the assault, said to be the deadliest ever made against Western journalists since 1992 according to data from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). READ FULL COLUMN....

ALSO: The Rock Star’s message

By Cito Beltran  ---We often miss the message because we are too focused on the messenger. This week, the “Rock Star” from the Vatican is coming to the Philippines and chances are, so many people will be too focused on getting near to him, hoping against hope to get a “Selfie,” or simply immersing themselves with the experience, just like devotees of the Black Nazarene. In all likelihood, millions of them will have their eyes on the star of the moment but won’t be mentally and spiritually prepared to hear the message from his divine boss. It’s difficult enough to listen to a priest or a pastor on Sunday for people whose lives are a carousel of concerns and distractions, how much more will it be in a sea of people, even on TV where hosts and reporters try to give you so much sound, color and Googgled information just to look and sound smart. But however difficult it is, I feel led to suggest to our readers to do their best. Prepare yourselves by removing whatever distractions there might be. Set aside any expectations and impressions and just listen. READ FULL COLUMN...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Faith of the Filipinos


By Jose C. Sison

MANILA, JANUARY 15, 2015 (PHILSTAR)  A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison - Filipinos are indeed known worldwide as peoples of deep and great faith. It is the only country in Asia where majority are Catholics. Throughout the year they manifest this kind of faith through their celebration of Advent, Lent, Easter, various “fiestas” honoring patron Saints and other significant events in the Church.

And most notable and significant in this connection is that they show this extraordinary faith at the very onset of the year in January by commemorating two important events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God: the feast of the Santo Nino honoring the baby Jesus and the feast of the Black Nazarene depicting the suffering Christ carrying the cross.

Today marks the feast of the Black Nazarene, a religious statue of Jesus Christ carrying the cross to Calvary. Recorded history shows that this statue was one of the two statues made by an unidentified Mexican sculptor from pure ivory. Both statues were burnt aboard a ship during one of the Galleon Trade shipping expeditions from Mexico to Manila, Philippines in the first decade of the 1600s. The other statue was completely destroyed and this one was charred and became black. Thus from this incident arose its descriptive name “Black Nazarene.”

This remaining image is currently enshrined in a Minor Basilica located in Manila more popularly known as the Quiapo Church. It has been kept there for centuries withstanding several fires, earthquakes and wars. The present day statue is a composite of the original head and a replica body sculpted by renowned Filipino sculptor, Gener Manlaqui as commissioned by the Archdiocese of Manila. It is barefooted and in a genuflecting posture to symbolize the agony and weight of the cross and the pain Jesus Christ underwent during His Crucifixion.

Only on three dates during the year is the statue brought out of the shrine for veneration: Good Friday, New Year’s Day, and January 9 or nine days after New Year following the nine-day novena. Every Jan. 9 commemorates the image’s Translacion, a Spanish term meaning “passage or “movement” when a procession is held with the image on a wooden base (peana) being carried and brought around the streets of Manila on a carroza called the andas pulled by the namamasan (“bearers”) with two large ropes on the left and right shoulders. It is believed that the right shoulder side of the rope is more sacred because it is where Jesus bore his cross.

During the procession, marshals wearing yellow and white shirts from the Minor basilica form the honor guard for the Black Nazarene. They are the only ones allowed to ride in the Andas tasked with protecting the image from possible damage, directing the namamasan at the front and the crowd at the back, and helping devotees clamber up the Andas so they can briefly touch the image or its cross, wipe towels and handkerchiefs tossed at them on any part of the image which are believed to have acquired curative powers rubbed off from the image.

The veneration of the statue has been approved by Pope Innocent X in 1650 as sacramental and in 1880, Pope Pius VII gave the statue his Apostolic Blessing which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before it.

The other feast celebrated this January is the feast of the Sto Nino of Cebu locally known as “Fiesta Senor” starting on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany with a dawn procession wherein the replica image of the Santo Nino de Cebu is brought down and carried along the streets followed by novena masses for nine days. On the last day of the novena, another dawn procession is held wherein the image of Nuestra Senor de Guadalupe de Cebu is brought from its shrine to the Basilica Minore de Santo Nino de Cebu where it will stay for a while. Then both images are brought to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City to reunite the Holy Family.

The day before the feast itself, the images of the Sto Nino de Cebu and Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Cebu are brought back to Cebu City through a fluvial procession. Upon reaching the Basilica, a reenactment of the first mass and baptism is held followed by a solemn foot procession in the afternoon of the same day.

After the solemn procession a Pontifical Mass is concelebrated by bishops and priests followed by the grand Sinulog Festival on the following Sunday. The feast officially ends on Friday after the Sinulog Festival by the traditional Hubo (“undress) a rite where the image of Santo Nino is stripped of its grand ceremonial vestments, bathed in water laced with perfume and redressed in simple robe.

The Santo Nino de Cebu is the oldest Christian image in the Philippines venerated by many Filipino Catholics who believed it to be miraculous. It was originally given in 1521 as a baptismal gift along with a Statue of our Lady and a Cross by Ferdinand Magellan through Antonio Pigafetta who personally handed them over to Lady Humamay, the chief consort of Rajah Humabon. The image was recognized by Pope Paul VI on April 28, 1965 through a Papal Bull for the Canonical Coronation and Pontifical Mass celebrated by Papal Legate to the Philippines Ildebrando Antoniutti on the occasion of its 400th anniversary.

These two important feasts in January about the events in the life of Christ really show the strong and extraordinary Faith of the Filipinos. And this year such kind of faith will be further manifested by the coming visit of Pope Francis on Jan. 15 to 19. Indeed this will be the third time that our country will be visited by the Vicar of Christ. Pope Paul VI (now Blessed Paul VI) visited us in 1970. And last 1981 and 1995, Pope John Paul II (now St John Paul II) also visited us during the World Youth Day.

The coming visit of Pope Francis looks more significant and memorable especially because he has shown some truly refreshing traits that have mass appeal. On several occasion from the time he became a Pope he has shown a different approach in spreading the Gospel.

His simplicity and humility from the time he was chosen as the Supreme Pontiff are so captivating and appealing as would further strengthen the Faith of the Filipino people and gain more believers in the Catholic Faith. In the short span since he became the head of the Church, he has conveyed the Gospel message not only by preaching but by example. He has really emulated Christ in giving preferential option for the “least, the last and the lost.”


Crimes inside Bilibid, believe it or not COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 9, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0


By Marichu A. Villanueva

And worse, high-powered firearms, huge sums of money, and suspected shabu were found inside some of these ‘kubol’ within the NBP facility, among many other unexpected special rooms of big-time prisoners.

We thought we had seen the worse of irregularities uncovered from the series of raids done at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City last month. Then there was an attempted rape incident involving an eight-year-old girl. It took place inside the comfort room of a chapel in the state penitentiary’s maximum-security compound during the Christmas party for inmates.

The inmate accused of attempting to rape the girl later tested positive for illegal drugs. The victim happens to be the daughter of the inmate’s gang mate in the Bahala Na Gang at Munti. The girl was visiting her father with the rest of their family when she disappeared and was later found without underwear, with a rope around her neck, and bruised.

The ultimate shocker was yesterday’s incident when a fragmentation grenade blew up inside the maximum-security compound that killed one inmate and injured 19 other prisoners. At least three more grenades were recovered from a secret stash of these hardcore criminals jailed there for life.

The grenade attempt was said to be in retaliation for the continued raids being done at the NBP on instructions of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima. As DOJ Secretary, De Lima supervises the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), one of the attached agencies under her office. The BuCor runs the NBP and other state penal colonies all over the country.

The NBP compound houses convicted felons and those serving life-terms stay together at supposedly maximum-security compound while the rest are jailed in minimum-security area. But the more privileged ones get to stay in their own “kubol,” a euphemism for condo-like structure for the moneyed and influential convicts.

Around 23,000 inmates are currently housed at Munti — as the NBP is more popularly called. Of this total, 14,500 are reportedly jailed in maximum security. Opened in 1940, NBP was originally meant to house 8,400 state prisoners.

Though the facility is obviously congested, there is certainly no ground for such glaring epic failure of officials and guards running this state penitentiary and turning it into a five-star hotel lodging for convicted criminals. From drug lords to murderers and hired killers, they took over NBP and turned it into new base of operations for their crime syndicates.

Despite the congested NBP, inmates are seemingly least bothered by the situation of their incarceration.

De Lima found out for herself why. She learned the answer when — accompanied by full-armored personnel from the police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) — she first swooped down on the country’s state penitentiary purportedly in a “surprise” raid last December 15.

As it turned out, De Lima was in not so much for a surprise but a shocker.

De Lima would later admit being shocked to discover the grim realities taking place inside and literally behind the walls of NBP. An inventory of what they seized from inside false, or hidden walls of certain NBP inmates, included a luxurious jacuzzi bathtub, vaults containing Rolex watches, split-type air-conditioning units, refrigerators, electronic equipment to get signals for cellular phones, among other big ticket items.

Perhaps, the DOJ should hold a garage sale of these seized appliances, if only to recover taxpayers’ money that were paid for the electricity bills charged to us by these privileged convicts.

And worse, high-powered firearms, huge sums of money, and suspected shabu were found inside some of these “kubol” within the NBP facility, among many other unexpected special rooms of big-time prisoners.

This is not to mention other blatant violations of prison rules like sex workers being seen going in and out at Munti beyond visiting hours. No wonder there were reports of inmates afflicted with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, if not full-blown AIDS.

Most of the seized contraband were sneaked into the holding cells of the 19 drug lords staying at the maximum-security compound. On orders of De Lima, the 19 convicted drug lords were moved out of the NBP and are now being held temporarily at the NBI detention facility on Taft Avenue, Manila.

By segregating these high-profile prisoners, De Lima stressed, they will be cut off from their lucrative illegal drug trade. Obviously, these convicted drug lords like Amin Boratong are able to continue to do so even while in prison abetted by unscrupulous prison guards who they are able to bribe with their money.

How do they get hold of such huge sums of monies? The NBI has confiscated over P700,000 from the inmates during its inspections on Dec. 28 and 29. Some of the cash were found inside a trash can at the comfort room while smaller amounts were found hidden inside an “ampao” and in a pack of cigarettes.

The biggest, amounting to about P350,000, was reportedly seized from Tony Co. A total of 475 Canadian dollars (about P84,000) was seized from inmate Wu Yuantuan, alias Peter Co.

Speaking of Pete Co, the Solicitor General, which represents the government in cases, informed De Lima that the judge handling Co’s writ of habeas corpus plea junked the inmate’s request. In filing this petition, Co contested his transfer to the NBI detention.

Other inmates who have contested the transfer include Willie Sy, Michael Ong, and Noel Martinez, who ran to the Court of Appeals. Boratong filed his own petition all the way to the Supreme Court. The same inmates have also filed separate human rights complaints against De Lima and the NBI before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Unfazed by these suits against them, more illegal items smuggled into NBP were recovered in follow-up raids done by DOJ-NBI. While some were voluntarily surrendered, the seized items that ranged from pieces of high-powered firearms like .45 caliber magnum and a few “paltik” or improvised handguns as well as improvised knives are now out of the hands of these Munti inmates. Even an M-16 rifle was reportedly discovered.

This news gives credence to claims a number of crimes was allegedly committed by Munti inmates who are able to freely sneak out and return to their cells at Bilibid. No wonder many crimes remain unsolved. Believe it or not, much stranger things happen inside Bilibid.


FROM PHILSTAR

Keeping Pope Francis safe COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 12:00am 2 0 googleplus0 0

Barely 72 hours left before Pope Francis arrives in the country, the entire Filipino nation is waiting with bated breath the visit of the Vicar of the Catholic Church. President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III would lead government officials to formally welcome Pope Francis as soon as his plane touches down Philippine soil.

As the acknowledged leader of the Catholics all over the world, Francis will be accorded a red carpet welcome befitting a head of state for his arrival Thursday afternoon at the presidential lounge of Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

But known for his humility, not to mention his piety, Pope Francis reportedly frowns upon anything grandiose or attended with much frills. With that in mind, the national organizing committee preparing for the four-day visit of the Pope closely coordinated with the Vatican for each and every activity to be held here.

The highlight of the Pope’s visit is actually in Leyte where he would be meeting with survivors of super Typhoon Yolanda.

Days and months of preparations went into every detail to make the papal visit a success and without incident. As soon as the Vatican confirmed last year the visit to the Philippines, frenetic preparations were started led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The executive branch extended its full assistance and cooperation to prepare for the papal visit.

So who’s talking about separation of Church and State? This is one occasion where both the State and Church are using all their powers to get things done for the common good.

This is talking about securing a world leader like Pope Francis. How about 20 world leaders coming here in Manila in November this year for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ summit? We first hosted it in 1996 without any major incident. So there is a template already as guide to the Aquino administration.

While Pope Francis may be the most loved, most popular and respected world leader, nobody can discount the possibility that some people with evil minds might come out of nowhere and attempt to do him harm.

We have lessons from the past experience when we had our first-ever pastoral visit of the Pontifex in Manila. A Bolivian assassin nearly succeeded to kill the late Pope Paul VI when he arrived at the then Manila International Airport on November 20,1970. Incidentally, the late pontiff was later declared having lived a life of heroic virtue and was beatified by Pope Francis in October last year. A miracle attributed to the intercession of the late Pope Paul VI earned him the title of “Blessed.”

So the very tight and redundant security provisions around places that Pope Francis would visit while here in our country are no exaggeration. Threats of terrorism have evolved across the world, including terrorist cells perhaps operating locally. Thus, it is really a challenge to authorities how to protect such a high profile personality like the Pope.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will reportedly deploy 17,000 troops while the Philippine National Police (PNP) will send 25,000 policemen to secure the Pope and maintain order during his visit. They will be augmented by other law enforcement authorities deployed as plainclothesmen.

On the day of the Pope’s arrival and departure, a lot of domestic and international flights were cancelled for security reasons. Vehicular traffic all over Metro Manila was being rerouted, with major road arteries like Roxas Boulevard being sealed off for the papal convoy. A simulation of the convoy will be held starting today along Roxas Boulevard and Taft Avenue in Manila going to the Nunciature where the Pope will stay.

Last Friday’s Traslacion of the annual Black Nazarene procession became sort of a dry-run of preparations for the papal visit. Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio Jr. correctly noted there is a need to reassess the strength of the concrete barriers put up along Roxas Boulevard and the rest of the papal convoy’s route.

The concrete barriers proved no match to the crowd surge by Black Nazarene devotees and fanatics. Ignoring appeals by procession marshals, the unruly crowd jumped over the barriers to get closer to the image of the Black Nazarene.

Because of this incident, the Joint Task Group Papal Visit is deploying additional ground security personnel to act as buffer force and human shields in all 40 areas where Pope Francis will be having an engagement.

Civilian volunteers from Red Cross, Catholic Church groups, and other non-government organizations will provide additional manpower support as crowd control. However, one cannot just volunteer.

The basic requirement is that volunteers must not only be physically fit and healthy but must also not have any history of hypertension, cardio-vascular problems and other life-threatening ailments. This is especially underscored after what happened to one of the Black Nazarene volunteers who died due to cardiac arrest while the procession was just starting in Luneta last Friday.

Authorities project the visit of Pope Francis would draw six or ten times larger crowd than the estimated one million people who turned up during the Black Nazarene procession.

National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Carmelo Valmoria was quoted saying the procession of the Black Nazarene served as a “warm-up” of security personnel for the papal visit. “It would help us determine the lapses in our security preparations for us to immediately plug them to make it 1,000 percent foolproof,” Valmoria vowed.

At the run-up to the visit, intelligence authorities from both the AFP and the PNP swear they have not monitored any threat groups or individuals. But they vow not to let their guard down. Even President Aquino reportedly is not satisfied with these public assurances about the security and safety preparations on the Pope’s visit.

For a determined assassin, any serious lapse in security provision is an opportunity to seize the moment. An unruly crowd is the weakest link of security. We must all do our share to keep Pope Francis safe while here on pastoral visit.

Bawal ang pasaway.


I’m a Christian, I’m a Jew, I’m a Muslim! SHOOTING STRAIGHT By Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus1 0


By Bobit S. Avila

Nearly a week ago, Paris was gripped in terror when three terrorists, identified as Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly attacked the Charlie Hebdo Magazine during an editorial meeting in what has been called the first terror attack in Paris, killing 12 people.

In hot pursuit operations against these terrors, French police cornered the Kouachi brothers in a printing shop and killed them… while at the same time, Amedy Coulibaly held a number of hostages inside a Jewish Kosher grocery and killed another four hostages as the French police attacked the grocery and killed Coulibaly. All in all, 17 people were killed in this three-day reign of terror by three men and one woman who hasn’t been caught and considered armed and dangerous. French authorities believe that she is now in Syria.

Last Sunday, CNN, BBC, Al Jazzera and Fox News focused their TV coverage on the massive Million March in Paris, which was joined by French President Francois Hollande, Germany’s Angela Merkel, England’s David Cameron, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority among many leaders of their countries. It was indeed a march of solidarity for the French that the world has never seen.

It only shows that this unity march wasn’t just for France, but for the whole of Europe as well. A million people trooped the streets of Paris (public transportation was reportedly given free of charge to all people in Paris) and at the Place de la République demonstrators waved French and many other flags of Europe and several climbed the Statue of the Republic, a symbol of the French Revolution, and wielded an inflated pencil, symbolizing solidarity with the fallen cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, the weekly magazine that was attacked last week.

Many signs appeared declaring, “I am Charlie, I am Jewish, I am a Christian and I am a Muslim” and all these went viral in social media. That unity march called “Standing with France” by CNN also showed solidarity for Freedom of the Press. As a working member of the press, let me say it here that I find Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of poor taste and often offensive. But then, it didn’t just focus on Islam but even had caricatures of the Pope and the clergy. And we stand by its right to express itself even through a caricature. So in a way, this terror attack was aimed at press freedom all over the world that extremists want to silence with guns.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared last Saturday that France was at “war” with radical Islam, which is why at least 40 world leaders joined the Unity Rally in Paris. In truth, the war against terror began when on Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda suicide terrorists commandeered four American airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon. The 4th plane failed on its mission perhaps to crash at the White House or the US Congress because its passengers rose up to stop the suicide terrorists. But there was no Million Man march against Al Qaeda during 9/11.

In short this war on terror is now on its 15th year if we use 9/11 as our date of reckoning.

In fairness to Muslims, one of the policemen who was killed by the terrorists in Paris was a Muslim, while a Jew named Philippe Braham who worked in an IT consulting firm whose brother was a Rabbi in the synagogue, was also killed by the terrorists. The problem that the world has to solve is what to do with radical Islam.

So the big question remains… will this Unity March stop the senseless killings by ISIS and Al Qaeda? Meanwhile, suicide bombers continue in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. While I fully agree that solidarity would help us destroy the world’s enemies…this is still a pipe dream. We may have learned from the French, these famous words, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. But because of radical Islam… there is no world peace. Even Russia has trained a separatist group to try to break up Ukraine.

In the Philippines, we’ve seen a four decades old insurgency by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), our homegrown terrorists that continue to rampage in our countryside because too many of our politicians play around with the communists or their allied front organizations.

Frankly speaking if we Filipinos only came up with a united front against Communism, we can defeat them in less than a year. Alas, we failed in what the late President Ramon Magsaysay once quipped in order to stop the communist insurgency with his four “F’s”: Find, ‘em, Fool, ‘em, Fight ‘em and Finish ‘em and offer them the hand of peace. But even today, the Aquino regime is “friendly” to those allied front organizations supporting our homegrown terrorists. Therefore we must all unite to fight this evil scourge.


Pope Francis brings hope AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus1


By Sara Soliven De Guzman

In three days, Pope Francis arrives in Philippine soil. This is the big day. This is the day when all security systems should be functioning to high heavens. Good luck!

I don’t want to sound like a pessimist but with how this country is moving, I am worried about the logistics of the Pope’s visit. All we can do is pray that our police force is efficiently implementing the plan. On the other side of the coin, I’m sure the Pope will accomplish his goal. He will see the beauty of our people inside and out. He will see through the garbage and stench that ‘hidden pearl’ in the hearts of our people and in our land.

What a wonderful gift it is to have a holy person visit our country and bless it. I hope he gives a special blessing to our leaders to cleanse them from their sins and live anew. He is that shining star, like a comet that will pass over this little archipelago once or twice maybe even thrice and shower us with blessings we so much need.

We really need spiritual upliftment. Our country is run by people who do not know how to lead, how to take care and protect its citizens. We are weeping in our hearts, suffering from government abuse and inefficiencies (local and national). We are a lost nation that really needs spritual strength.

Like the Vatican which was shrouded with black air, this Pope has shown how despair can turn into hope. At the annual Christmas gathering last month, Pope Francis blasted the Vatican’s top bureaucrats, accusing the cardinals, bishops and priests who make up the Curia.

The Curia, the administrative body of the Roman Catholic Church, is dominated by Italians who oversee the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Francis, an Argentine, is the first non-European to hold the papacy in more than a millennium. The former Cardinal had not worked in the Curia before his election. He has made reform of the Vatican a major part of his agenda.

Pope Francis listed 15 “ailments” of the Vatican Curia. Here’s the list:

(1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. A Curia that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body;

(2) Working too hard. Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously; (

3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful;

(4) Planning too much. Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan;

(5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head ‘I’m in charge;

(6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’ We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands;

(7) Being rivals or boastful. When one’s appearance, the color of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life;

(8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people;

(9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs;

(10) Glorifying one’s bosses. It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God;

(11) Being indifferent to others. When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him;

(12) Having a ‘funereal face.’ In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes;

(13) Wanting more. When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure;

(14) Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole. This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad – scandals – especially to our younger brothers;

(15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.

Don’t all these ailments of the Vatican Curia – greed, indifference, seeking worldly profit, etc. sound too familiar? These are the very same ailments our government leaders are afflicted with.

Perhaps it is really the will of God that Pope Francis visits our country during these difficult times. If there is anyone in this world who really walks the talk, it is Pope Francis, thus, he can look at our leaders straight into their eyes and admonish them for turning wealth and power into their gods and greed and selfishness into chief virtues. This greed makes one sick because it makes him think of everything in terms of money.

Our leaders need to be cured from this ailment that has destroyed the very core of this nation.

In one of his morning homilies, Pope Francis contrasted the vanity of greed, where we place ourselves at the center of all existence, with the humility of Christ.

He said, “Saint Paul tells us that Jesus Christ, who was rich, made Himself poor to enrich us. That is the path of God: humility, to lower oneself in order to serve. Greed, on the other hand, takes us on a contrary path: You, who are a poor human, make yourself God for vanity’s sake. It is idolatry!”

Pope Francis has made humility his hallmark since day one. We pray and hope that this humility will shine through each and every one of us and that just like the Curia which need reforms, our leaders will come to their senses and accept with all humility the mistakes that they have made along the way and vow to uphold the law to be the public servants that they have sworn to be and implement the much needed reforms.

Pope Francis asks us not to get tired of being merciful and compassionate. Surely, he will bring hope to our fallen land for he is the Pope of hope.

Welcome to the Philippines Pope Francis!


The killing of journalists BABE’S EYE VIEW By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 11, 2015 - 12:00am 1 3 googleplus0 0


By Babe Romualdez

The worldwide reaction to the Wednesday massacre of 12 people that included 10 journalists in the Paris office of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by two masked, Kalashnikov-wielding gunmen was overwhelming. People expressed their outrage at the murders, while international media outfits issued the strongest condemnation of the assault, said to be the deadliest ever made against Western journalists since 1992 according to data from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

French police authorities mounted a massive security dragnet with over 80,000 police personnel mobilized all throughout Paris to hunt for the two suspects. The manhunt resulted in a hostage taking incident when the suspects — after a high-speed car chase and a shootout at one of the roadblocks put up by the police — holed up in a printing house northeast of Paris.

The situation became even more critical when a colleague of the suspects stormed a Jewish supermarket in a nearby town and took five people hostage. The standoff lasted for several hours before the police launched an assault and killed the suspects. Unfortunately, four of the supermarket hostages died while four more were seriously injured.

The slaughter of the French editors and staff of the weekly satirical magazine is a grim reminder that journalism continues to be one of the most risky — and deadly — professions in the world. A year-end release by the International Press Institute noted that at least 100 journalists lost their lives in the pursuit of their profession in 2014, and although the number is considerably lower compared to previous years (120 in 2013 and 133 in 2012), the number is still unacceptable especially since most of those responsible for the murders have remained largely unidentified and unpunished.

Filipinos don’t need to look too far for proof that indeed, journalism has become a very risky profession. A day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a female journalist was gunned down on her way to work — making her the first victim this 2015, the 172nd since 1986 and the 31st under the current administration. No wonder the Philippines continues to be notorious as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists — the third in fact after Iraq and Syria because of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) beheading of American journalists.

Not surprisingly, initial news reports about Charlie Hebdo inevitably recall the November 2009 “Maguindanao massacre” — an absolutely barbaric act where 58 people including 32 members of the press were kidnapped and brutally murdered, with some of the women journalists also raped before they were gunned to death.

The Maguindanao massacre has gone down in recent history as the single deadliest attack against journalists anywhere in the world. A sad footnote to this gruesome massacre is the fact that not a single person has been convicted. Meantime, witnesses are being assassinated while the slow pace of the trial is driving anxiety that victims’ loved ones and relatives may not live to see the day when justice is finally served.

I remember when I spoke before the forum titled “Dying to Tell the Story” during the 2006 International Press Institute World Congress and 55th General Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland where I was invited as a panelist, the situation then has remained the same today. The discussion focused on the alarming rise of journalists’ deaths all over the world, and what must be done to ensure the safety of journalists and make the killers accountable. At the time, the Philippines had gained notoriety as the most murderous place in the world for media practitioners.

The IPI congress also tackled the Danish cartoon controversy where editorial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad published by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September 2005 led to violent demonstrations and protests — opening the debate on religious freedom and the media’s right to freedom of expression — the same underlying situation that most likely triggered the attack on Charlie Hebdo with its satirical cartoons and spoofs on the Prophet.

One of the points raised during the congress was whether freedom of the press was absolute in that it can be stretched to mean the freedom to issue material that may be deemed offensive or blasphemous.

Like I reiterated during the IPI forum, freedom of speech and expression must be safeguarded at all costs, because implicit in democracy is the assurance of free speech and ultimately, of a free press.

However, I also recognize that the exercise of such freedom must be tempered with responsibility, and excesses must be avoided in order for the public to trust journalists as purveyors of truth, not to mention catalysts for critical thinking. After all, there is such a thing as character assassination under the guise of press freedom.

Nevertheless, what remains crucial especially in the light of the Paris killings is to stop the emerging culture of violence against the media. Zealots and extremists should never be allowed to get away with murder.

The exercise of the freedom of speech and of expression should not spell the death sentence for any journalist. As warned by former UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura, “when violence poses a permanent threat to journalists, it poses a threat for the whole of society.”

Journalists are very much aware that threats and dangers go with the territory. Many also realize that they risk their lives as they attempt to bring out the facts and may “die telling the story.”

The biggest test for justice to prevail in the Philippines is for the rightful conclusion of the Maguindanao massacre. If we fail, then our country will forever be labeled as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists.


The Rock Star’s message CTALK By Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 12, 2015 - 12:00am 2 3 googleplus0 0


By Cito Beltran

We often miss the message because we are too focused on the messenger.

This week, the “Rock Star” from the Vatican is coming to the Philippines and chances are, so many people will be too focused on getting near to him, hoping against hope to get a “Selfie,” or simply immersing themselves with the experience, just like devotees of the Black Nazarene. In all likelihood, millions of them will have their eyes on the star of the moment but won’t be mentally and spiritually prepared to hear the message from his divine boss.

It’s difficult enough to listen to a priest or a pastor on Sunday for people whose lives are a carousel of concerns and distractions, how much more will it be in a sea of people, even on TV where hosts and reporters try to give you so much sound, color and Googgled information just to look and sound smart. But however difficult it is, I feel led to suggest to our readers to do their best. Prepare yourselves by removing whatever distractions there might be. Set aside any expectations and impressions and just listen.

No matter how far away you might be from Pope’s location and no matter the brand of faith, religion or belief you profess or abide by, I sincerely believe that the Pontiff was not led thousands of miles across the world just to drop in or say “hello.”

Neither should his trip be simplified as a marketing tool to increase the popularity and population of the Catholic Church. The fact that we are starting 2015 with a papal visit on the first month is quite symbolic, but that symbolism should not be about blessings and “good luck.”

It should not be about the Messenger but about the message that will be significant for the future of this country and its people. Isaiah gave us fair warning when he wrote:

“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

(Isaiah 6: 9,10 / Mark 4: 12)

Please stay safe if you go to the venues, hear and “be healed.”

* * *

I Love It!

There are occasions when making suggestions, putting forward solutions in a column can become so frustrating because of people’s inaction that you sometimes ask yourself “Why do I bother?” But from time to time it all becomes worth it when authorities act and act with the speed of Wonder Woman and Superman.

Last Friday, I came out with a small piece about how students of Rizal High were forced to stand on the street because the sidewalks in front of the school had been turned into private parking, storage areas, and basurahan.

Well Lo and Behold, the whole place was swept clean, bushes trimmed back,

NO PARKING signs posted every twenty feet apart and the garbage removed from the area. Even the tricycles that used the area as overnight parking suddenly cleared out. I sincerely want to give honor to whom honor is due but no one has claimed to be behind the operations.

Obviously the officials of Pasig City under Mayor Maribel Eusebio is responsible for this, so I just want to sincerely express our appreciation for the action that will benefit students of the public high school. Hopefully, a traffic enforcer or police officer will be posted during entry and dismissal to make sure the place stays accessible to all. Well Done Pasig!

* * *

Just before the Christmas break I had breakfast with a high-ranking LTO official and we got to talking about work matters. When the topic of motorcycles and loud tail pipes came up, the official blamed the DENR for failing to submit a standard and measure for muffler noise levels. When I pointed out that this could easily be addressed by following what US DMV or Department of Motor Vehicle does, where they enforce strict adherence or use of Original Manufacturers Equipment on standard vehicles, my friend scratched his head.

Then we got to talking about car stickers because several manufacturers have been complaining about the slow process and issuance. Fact of the matter is I myself have not received 2014 stickers!

My friend swears they have been released and to let him know who has not received theirs because it is usually the fault of “Lazy Dealers who are Tamad to pick up or follow up.” I later learned from manufacturers that they are in a “Blackmailed” situation because if they openly criticize or complain, their future relations with the LTO will be dark and ugly. There were many more topics we talked about but I’ll save that for future columns.

For the moment it really makes no sense to demand that the DENR establish noise pollution standards if the LTO does not have the necessary equipment much less the necessary number of enforcers.

The biggest joke in fact is that the various LTO offices are obviously not implementing the rules in terms of Vehicle Inspection. All of the tricycles operating where I live are required to have their tricycles inspected before renewal of registration.

So how is it possible for them to pass inspection with open pipe mufflers that is banned in almost all cities of Metro Manila? If the LTO Chief wants to check on who among his field offices are doing the job and doing it right, just stand at any corner and listen to how many tricycles zoom by with loud tail pipes. I will even pay for his lunch or breakfast just to see something done about the problem.

As for plates and stickers being held up, well that would be the case if your plates come all the way from the Netherlands. Until and unless the LTO Chief comes out with a 15 or 30 day limit that requires all LTO offices to release plates and stickers within 15 or 30 days, those plates will remain a bargaining chip or commodity for corrupt LTO people to make money on.

By the way, the 15/30 means days and not 15K or 30K the last price quoted for the immediate release of plates for “luxury cars”!


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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