HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK...

CHURCH OFFICIALS REFUSE TO JOIN CRITICS OF PRESIDENT'S SPEECH; SAY NOY'S SPEECH 'UNIQUE', 'INTERESTING'


Church officials refused to join critics who slammed President Aquino’s tirades against members of the clergy who are critical of him and instead called on the public to remain focused on the message of Pope Francis.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican, said Aquino’s speech during the pontiff’s visit in Malacañang was “unique” and reflected the views of a politician who had experienced sufferings. “I think the President’s speech was rather original because it’s not always that there is such speech during formal ceremonies of the reception of the pope,” Lombardi said in a press briefing Friday night. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Pope to Noy, allies: Shun corruption


The Pope of surprises, Francis, popped out a big one on President Aquino and his allies who packed Malacañang yesterday during a courtesy call of the head of the Catholic Church, as the Pope demanded that leaders in the Philippines shun corruption and end “scandalous social inequalities.” The pontiff made the comments in his first speech of a five-day visit to the Philippines, after an electrifying welcome last Thursday enhanced the nation’s reputation as the Catholic Church’s vibrant Asian bastion. The Pope said that the interest of the poor and the marginalized should be given emphasis instead of the interest of national leaders. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Noy’s gifts to pope: Special coins, sculpture of Virgin Mary


 President Aquino presented Pope Francis gifts to honor his first state and pastoral visit to the Philippines: 50-peso and 500-peso papal coins and a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, Undoer of Knots, carved from a piece of wood from a century-old acacia tree that stood in the Palace grounds before Typhoon Glenda hit and uprooted the tree in July 2014. In turn, Francis’ special gift to Aquino was an old Vatican City Atlas. The 50-peso coin is made of nickel brass and features on the obverse side a portrait of Francis and the markings “Republika ng Pilipinas,” “Pope Francis,” his signature, the denomination, the year-mark “2015” and the BSP mint mark. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Luisita farmers on Noy speech: ‘Pure hypocrisy’

Hacienda Luisita farmers yesterday hit President Aquino over his welcome speech for Pope Francis in Malacañang last Friday, describing his speech as “pure hypocrisy.” In a statement, Florida Sibayan, chairman of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), an affiliate of the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said the President pompously projects himself as “walang bahid (faultless)” even when his government has been shamelessly aiding his kin who continue to maintain control of Hacienda Luisita despite a landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision for total land distribution. In his speech, Aquino praised the late Bishop Emeritus Antonio Fortich, among other  religious leaders, for daring to speak out against the Marcos dictatorship, but he then took a swipe at bishops who were allegedly silent on abuses of the past administration. Aquino even griped about some bishops now criticizing everything, including his hair. Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general, however, stressed that Fortich was not only an active anti-Marcos dictatorship activist, but was also known to be vocal against landlordism. “The late Bishop Fortich might turn in his grave. Bishop Fortich was not only against the Marcos dictatorship, he was also vocal against landlordism and exploitation of sugar workers,” said Echanis.READ MORE...

ALSO: Netizens praise Pope, hit Aquino over speeches
Twitter users praise the Pope for warning politicians against corruption while some criticize President Aquino for taking a swipe at bishops' 'silence' during the Arroyo administration


CONTRASTING SPEECHES? Pope Francis stands next to Philippine president Benigno Aquino III during arrival honors at Malacanang presidential palace, Manila, Philippines, 16 January 2015. The two later delivered separate speeches tackling issues affecting Philippine society. Photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ouch, that hurt. Of all the topics Pope Francis touched on in his Malacañang speech – from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to migration and indigenous peoples – one comment drew the most praise from Twitter-savvy Filipinos. “I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor,” the Pope said before an audience that included the country’s top politicians. The pontiff’s remark in his first ever speech in the Philippines on Friday, January 16, hit a nerve for Filipino Twitter users, with the message resonating in a country outraged by corruption scandals at the highest levels. READ FULL REPORT...

Pontiff’s return to PH next year for CBCP Cebu event broached as Aquino gets more flak


Something which President Aquino might not relish is the prospect of Pope Francis returning to the Philippines next year, also in January, for the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu as comparison of Aquino’s “petty” ideals and that of the Pope’s wisdom pours in from all sectors. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said yesterday that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) invited Pope Francis to return to the Philippines in January next year as the country hosts the key Catholic Church event in Cebu. Aquino was lambasted anew by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. for his blatant show of disrespect for the Pope and members of the critical Catholic Church. Reyes noted that Aquino’s speech on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Malacanang was criticized by many for being “inappropriate and petty.” READ FULL REPORT...

FULL TEXT: Aquino's speech in the presence of Pope Francis at Malacañang


MANILA, Philippines - Church officials refused to join critics who slammed President Aquino’s rant against clergymen critical of him and called on the public to remain focused on the message of Pope Francis. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Aquino’s speech during the pontiff’s visit in Malacañang was “original” and it reflected the views of a politician who has experienced sufferings. “I think the speech of the president was rather original because it’s not always that there is such speech during formal ceremonies of the reception of the pope,” Lombardi said in a press briefing Friday night. READ AQUINO'S ENTIRE SPEECH BEFORE THE POPE...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Church officials say Noy’s speech ‘unique’

MANILA, JANUARY 19, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Alexis Romero – Church officials refused to join critics who slammed President Aquino’s tirades against members of the clergy who are critical of him and instead called on the public to remain focused on the message of Pope Francis.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican, said Aquino’s speech during the pontiff’s visit in Malacañang was “unique” and reflected the views of a politician who had experienced sufferings.

“I think the President’s speech was rather original because it’s not always that there is such speech during formal ceremonies of the reception of the pope,” Lombardi said in a press briefing Friday night.

“It was interesting. You heard the views of a politician with passion and concrete experience of suffering,” he added.

Lombardi was referring to Aquino’s experiences during Martial Law and the assassination of his father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

He said Pope Francis is ready to listen to all views concerning the people of the Church.

“The pope is open to listen to what is said and takes seriously what is said, but obviously he also has to evaluate and listen to the people that can give him advice or more information,” the Vatican spokesman said.

“The pope personally has no direct experience of the situation in the Philippines. He listens to the bishops, priests and to people that can give him opinions,” he added.

The President received flak after he slammed members of the clergy critical of him in the presence of Pope Francis on Friday.

In his speech, Aquino claimed that some clergymen who were silent on the wrongdoings of the previous Arroyo administration, and even during the Martial Law regime, are vocal in criticizing his administration.

The Chief Executive had been criticized by various sectors, including religious people, for implementing the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which was partly declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Critics said the President’s statement reflected his vindictiveness and inability to accept negative comments.

‘Focus on pope’s message’

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, for his part, said the public should not lose sight of the message of Pope Francis’ visit.

“My first appeal to all of you is that while the speech of the President is important, I hope we will not lose our focus on the pope,” Tagle said.

“The pope will be here for a few days while the President stays and we can continue exploring his speech even after the return of the Holy Father to the Vatican,” he added.

Tagle said only Aquino could explain the meaning of the speech he delivered last Friday.

“The personal experience that shaped this type of interpretation of facts was his own suffering during martial law and appreciation of the role of the church that time,” the Manila prelate said.

“There is also a political dimension. Now that he is President – and Filipinos can attest to this – in many of his speeches, he always referred to the previous administration and how he has inherited some problems,” he added.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Pope to Noy, allies: Shun corruption Written by Joshua L. Labonera Saturday, 17 January 2015 00:00


FRANCIS AT MALACANANG

The Pope of surprises, Francis, popped out a big one on President Aquino and his allies who packed Malacañang yesterday during a courtesy call of the head of the Catholic Church, as the Pope demanded that leaders in the Philippines shun corruption and end “scandalous social inequalities.”

The pontiff made the comments in his first speech of a five-day visit to the Philippines, after an electrifying welcome last Thursday enhanced the nation’s reputation as the Catholic Church’s vibrant Asian bastion.

The Pope said that the interest of the poor and the marginalized should be given emphasis instead of the interest of national leaders.

The 78-year-old pontiff, seen by many around the world as a bold reformer compared with his predecessor, said the “great biblical tradition” obligated everyone to hear the voice of the poor.

“It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities,” he said.

According to a report by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last year, about 11.4 million families in the Philippines consider themselves poor. About a quarter of the population, which is roughly 25 million Filipinos, was reported to be poor based on the government’s own data.

“I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community,” Pope Francis said.

EXCHANGE OF GIFTS


The President also gave the Pope coins commemorating the papal visit, Francis' first in the country. —NB, GMA News


Aquino, on the other hand, gave the Pope a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that carved from an old uprooted tree from the Malacañang grounds. GMA NEWS


Radio dzBB's Cecil Villarosa said the gift was a 16th Century Nautical Atlas from the Vatican Library.

“Reforming the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor first requires a conversion of mind and heart,” the pontiff added.

The Pope’s speech was a clear rebuke of those near him in the Palace who the people believed to have been engaged in one form of corrupt activity or another. He told politicians to be honest in their work, and to work for the common good of the Filipino people.

“As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” Francis said.

He also stressed on the mutual respect between political leaders as the only way to completely harness the natural resources of the Philippines.

He said that in utilizing it, the people must be prioritized so as to alleviate the plight of the poor.

“In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which God has blessed this country. Thus, will they be able to marshall the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis said that respect for human dignity is the only way to attain national ideals for peace and prosperity.


POPE FRANCIS MEETS WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS LEADERS WHILE IN MANILA


The pope also insisted that Filipinos unite in spite of religious diversity, saying that narrowing the gap between people to reach lasting peace, particularly in Muslim Mindanao.

“In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities,” he said.

The Pope also commended the resilience of Filipinos after facing typhoon Yolanda, which left 6,300 people dead and displaced over 1.4 million families in Central Philippines in 2013.

Pope Francis is also set to visit Tacloban City, Leyte on Saturday, which is the hardest-hit city by the super typhoon two years back.

“This visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. Together with many people throughout the world, I have admired the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of this natural disaster, and so many others,” Pope Francis said in his speech.

The Aquino government has been criticized by its critics as trying to hide the blights afflicting the country including poverty as part of preparations for the Pope’s visit.

It has also been criticized by Yolanda survivors and even by international media for its supposedly slow response and rehabilitation efforts in the provinces hit by the typhoon.

Pope Francis noted the significance of rebuilding, saying Filipinos and others in the modern world should draw on their “deepest resources” as a collective family.

“Solidarity in the work of rebuilding teaches us an important lesson. Like a family, every society draws on its deepest resources in order to face new challenges. Today the Philippines, together with many other countries in Asia, faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society—a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God-given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions,” the Pope said.

Francis, a revered figure for most Filipinos, took immediate aim at the nation’s elite who have for decades enjoyed the spoils of power while the vast majority lived in poverty.

Critics of Aquino have accused him of focusing his anti-graft campaign only on opponents and not allies. They also point out his family has for decades been one of the elite.

And, despite Aquino presiding over some of Asia’s strongest economic growth, his time in office has failed to make a major dent on poverty.

About 25 million Filipinos, or one-quarter of the population, live on the equivalent of 60 cents a day or less, according to the latest official poverty surveys.

The poverty has forced more than 10 million Filipinos to head overseas in search of a better life.

Francis will spend Saturday in areas of the Visayas region that were devastated by the typhoon, which smashed into coastal communities with the strongest winds ever recorded on land.

“In a particular way, this visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured the suffering, loss and devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda,” he said.

While in Tacloban, the pope is expected to get some first-hand experience of the tropical storms and typhoons that claim hundreds of lives each year in the Philippines.

Massive crowds continued to choke his motorcade route yesterday as he travelled around the city, including near the centuries-old Manila Cathedral where he celebrated mass with priests and nuns.

“My sacrifice was worth it. I feel happy. I feel blessed,” Nanette Hermano, 56, told AFP as she cried after taking a smartphone picture of the pope outside the cathedral.

“I’ve been here since 3:00 am, but I don’t feel tired, I don’t feel hungry. It’s like a miracle.”

Later in the day Francis will lead thousands of people in prayer at Manila’s top concert arena, where music fans have flocked in recent years to see the likes of Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

Pope-mania will reach a peak on Sunday, with organisers expecting him to attract as many as six million people for mass at a Manila park.

If as big as expected, the crowd will surpass the previous record for a papal gathering of five million during a mass by John Paul II at the same venue in 1995.

Francis is on a week-long tour of Asia that began in Sri Lanka.

It is his second trip to the region in five months, signalling the importance the Vatican places on Asia’s growth potential for the Church.

Youth group Anakbayan lauded Pope Francis, following his “straightforward and evocative speech” at Malacanang and his “spot-on” message about the Philippines’ “scandalous inequality” during the mass he celebrated at the Manila Cathedral.

“We laud Pope Francis for carrying the battle cry of the youth against corruption, poverty, and inequality, and teaching Filipinos to not only give alms to the poor, but to live with them, and be like them,” Anakbayan Chair Vencer Crisostomo said.

During the Pope’s speech at the Palace, he called on government officials to “reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor.” In the Manila Cathedral, meanwhile, the pontiff asked the clergy to “respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.”

Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed the pope’s statements in favor of social justice and against corruption in his speech saying it shows he is speaking for workers and the poor in a statement said.

The labor group called on the Pope – who called for “ensuring social justice,” “respect for human dignity,” “hear(ing) the voice of the poor,” and condemned “glaring and scandalous social inequalities” and “every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor” – to continue speaking up during his stay in the country.

“We are very glad about Pope Francis’ statements in favor of social justice and against corruption this morning. He is speaking up for the Filipino workers and people. We are have been expecting him to issue such statements and he did not fail us today,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairmann.

The labor leader said the statement against corruption is undoubtedly directed at Aquino, who is guilty of defending and benefitting from the pork barrel system, including the unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program.

He said Aquino is also guilty of allowing big capitalists of robbing the Filipino workers and people of the latter’s hard-earned income in the form of hikes in fares for the MRT and LRT, increases in power and water rates, and hikes in the prices of basic goods and payments for basic services.
It’s all systems go for the visit of Pope Francis today, the third day of the Papal Visit, in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte.

House independent minority bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez announced this yesterday as he assured that local officials are ready for any risks to the Pope’s safety or activities today in Tacloban City and Palo.

“Whether it’s the possible effects of typhoon ‘Amang’ or threats to the Pope’s safety, we are prepared for everything,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez said Leytenos will join Pope Francis in praying for the immediate and total recovery of survivors from super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ and other major calamities like the intensity 7.2 Bohol earthquake.

Rights group Karapatan also asked Pope Francis to see the political prisoners, especially those at the Special Intensive Care Area 1-Camp Bagong Diwa who are on their eighth day of hunger strike-fasting. Karapatan made the request after the jail warden rejected twice the entry of the political prisoners’ physician to check on their condition.

Dr. Julie Caguiat, a regular visitor, and physician of a number of political detainees, at SICA-1 was barred two days in a row, on January 13 and 14, “using various excuses that were brazen acts that violated the rights of detained persons.” As of this writing, anothe lawyer from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and a doctor from the Center for Health and Development are still negotiating for their entry.

Thousands of farmers around the country, who remain poor and landless despite the 26-year implementation of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), have called on the Aquino administration to heed the pontiff’s call to make land reform “not only a political necessity” but also “a moral obligation.”

In an phone interview, Leonard Tayros, community organizer of Task Force Mapalad a peasant federation, said that according to Pope Francis, during his October 29, 2014 address to participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Vatican City, making land reform both a requirement and a commitment is a must.
His statement is a timely and fitting call for President Benigno Aquino III and other Philippine government leaders who have been sliding away from their promise of empowering and uplifting the lives of the rural poor through agrarian reform.

TFM said that Aquino’s 2012 promise of completing CARP before his term ends is fast becoming a mere lip service as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’s performance in acquiring and distributing agricultural landholdings to farmers remains dismal and disappointing.

The peasant group said the present administration has the worst CARP performance since Republic Act 6657 became law in 1988.

It constantly fails to meet its yearly target and has recently admitted that it can’t complete the land acquisition and distribution of farmlands and the delivery of support services.
Farmer leader Eliseo Banico of Pilar, Capiz expressed his concern over the lack of action from the government to fast track the land acquisition and distribution in Capiz.

“Without secured access to land, it is harder for us to recover from Yolanda. We are left out in the recovery programs of the government.” he said.

Banico is among the farmer beneficiaries of the former Tan property in Pilar, Capiz where land title (Certificate of Landownership Award) has been registered to their names since November 25, 1997 but was not actually distributed among the farmer beneficiaries.

TFM and its partner Swiss NGO HEKS work together to extend assistance to Yolanda survivors who are applying for CARP.

“We hope that PNoy will heed the calls of our pro-poor and pro-farmer Holy Father. Inclusive growth and a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities via land reform should be among PNoy’s best legacies for love of God and for love of country,” added Tayros of TFM.

Militant farmers group yesterday called on President Aqiuno to let Pope Francis meet the real poor in the country’s society.

This was the call of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) who have been batting for justice to the victims of the Mendiola massacre.

On the second day of farmers’ fasting for land, justice and peace in Manila, peasant organization KMP sought intercession from Pope Francis in demanding justice for the victims of Mendiola Massacre and state-sponsored human rights violations.

Rafael Mariano said the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines will focus on the plight of the poor, the exploited and victims of injustice.

However, the group claimed that the Aquino government has erected a high barrier between the Pope and the poor people that His Holiness ought to encounter.

Mariano said farmers who came all the way from Central and Southern Luzon provinces wanted to see and meet the Pope and convey to him the dire conditions of the Filipino peasantry.

He said that after 28 years, farmers are also still seeking justice for the fallen martyrs of Mendiola Massacre.

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo yesterday said that the House of Representatives is going to give Pope Francis a resolution of gratitude instead of a congressional award which would not be fitting for the Pontiff.

“The Pope’s holiness is so high that no congressional award could match it. A resolution of gratitude is more fitting,” Belmonte said yesterday.

Another Quezon City lawmaker shared Belmonte’s view. According to Rep. Winston Castelo the resolution of gratitude would be an affirmation of the Filipino’s faith in God.
“I believe a resolution of gratitude should be passed. The resolution should state how his visit has reaffirmed our exercise of Christian faith and how he has touched our lives,” Castelo pointed out.
Pat C. Santos, Alvin Murcia, Charlie V. Manalo, AFP


FROM PHILSTAR

Noy’s gifts to pope: Special coins, sculpture of Virgin Mary Philippine StarPhilippine Star – Sat, Jan 17, 2015 Share3 Print

Philippine Star - President Aquino presented Pope Francis gifts to honor his first state and pastoral visit to the Philippines: 50-peso and 500-peso papal coins and a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, Undoer of Knots, carved from a piece of wood from a century-old acacia tree that stood in the Palace grounds before Typhoon Glenda hit and uprooted the tree in July 2014.

In turn, Francis’ special gift to Aquino was an old Vatican City Atlas.

The 50-peso coin is made of nickel brass and features on the obverse side a portrait of Francis and the markings “Republika ng Pilipinas,” “Pope Francis,” his signature, the denomination, the year-mark “2015” and the BSP mint mark.

On the reverse side is the BSP seal and the markings “Papal visit/Philippines,” the date of visit (Jan. 15 to 19, 2015), the logo of the papal visit and the mini-letters of the theme, “mercy and compassion.”

The 500-peso coin is made of Nordic gold and plated with gold.

The obverse side features a portrait of Francis with his hand slightly raised along the same markings seen in the 50-peso coin.

The reverse side will bear the same markings as the 50-peso coin.

Based on a Malacañang information sheet, Paete, Laguna native Fred Baldemor, a renowned and multi-awarded sculptor in wood, bronze and marble, hand-carved the image of Our Lady over several months.

Malacañang said Baldemor had contributed to many exhibits and institutions, and in all this, in this sculpture, “we see beauty in faith and the strength of devotion, amidst the suffering and challenges of life.”

“Perhaps the most famous representation of this is the painting that inspired His Holiness’ devotion while studying in Germany, and provided him solace in prayer.

Today, Mary, Undoer of Knots, is the refuge of so many who entrust the knots in their life, the struggles they confront, to the care of our mother, who, by her faith, can undo them,” Malacañang said.

Malacañang said Francis has a special devotion to Mary, which had become known to many across the world. The country had made marked progress over the past few years but there were “still many knots to be undone,” Malacañang added.

Malacañang said Francis will have the opportunity to meet with Filipinos representing resilience, faith and hope in the face of extreme climate like Super Typhoon Yolanda.

“The vast majority of these survivors have been able to rise from the devastation Yolanda wrought through their faith in the compassion and mercy of our Lord, which was manifested in the solidarity of all those who gave so generously of their time and resources to help,” Malacañang said.

“His Holiness is among the millions all over the world who stood with our countrymen at a time of great need.”

Francis blessed two sick aunts of Aquino in Malacañang yesterday. Speaking in Latin, Francis gave his apostolic blessing to all people inside the Rizal Hall, including wheelchair-bound Maria Paz Cojuangco-Teopaco, who has stage four cancer, and Maur Aquino-Lichauco, who suffered a stroke two years ago.

Francis had already left the stage after giving a speech, when he suddenly came back and spoke in Latin for the apostolic blessing. He first approached several people, including Teopaco, whom Aquino kissed before the pope blessed her.

The President wants their aunt healed, Aquino’s sister Kris said.

She said her brother was very kind to exert efforts to bring her to Malacañang so the pope could bless her.

Teopaco, the sister of their late mother, former President Corazon Aquino, is very close to her, she added. Lichauco was the sister of their late father, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Francis kissed and blessed children gathered in Malacañang to welcome him.

Aquino kissed the hand of Francis, before seeing him off to his popemobile to greet people waiting outside Malacañang for his blessing.

After the short arrival honors at the Kalayaan grounds, Francis walked with Aquino to the Palace, pausing a bit to listen to the musical band. He then shook hands and talked to Cabinet members.

Francis signed the guestbook and wrote: “On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines I ask almighty God abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16-1-2015 Francis.” – Aurea Calica


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Luisita farmers on Noy speech: ‘Pure hypocrisy’
Written by Charlie V. Manalo Sunday, 18 January 2015 00:00 By Charlie V. Manalo

Hacienda Luisita farmers yesterday hit President Aquino over his welcome speech for Pope Francis in Malacañang last Friday, describing his speech as “pure hypocrisy.”

In a statement, Florida Sibayan, chairman of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), an affiliate of the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said the President pompously projects himself as “walang bahid (faultless)” even when his government has been shamelessly aiding his kin who continue to maintain control of Hacienda Luisita despite a landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision for total land distribution.

In his speech, Aquino praised the late Bishop Emeritus Antonio Fortich, among other
religious leaders, for daring to speak out against the Marcos dictatorship, but he then took a swipe at bishops who were allegedly silent on abuses of the past administration.
Aquino even griped about some bishops now criticizing everything, including his hair.

Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general, however, stressed that Fortich was not only an active anti-Marcos dictatorship activist, but was also known to be vocal against landlordism.

“The late Bishop Fortich might turn in his grave. Bishop Fortich was not only against the Marcos dictatorship, he was also vocal against landlordism and exploitation of sugar workers,” said Echanis.

In fact, the peasant group leader said Fortich’s first act after he was named bishop in Bacolod in 1967 was to call on sugar planters to provide just wages to workers.

“In a pastoral letter on the plight of sugar workers, Bishop Fortich even stressed the right of workers to form unions,” he said.

During his time, Echanis stressed Fortich was instrumental in the immediate implementation of land reform on church properties, the opening the Social Action Center and free legal aid program for the poor and the sacadas (sugar workers); and church support for the establishment of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW), now a local affiliate of UMA on Negros island.

“In contrast, Luisita workers received a measly P9.50 per payday when they decided to strike against the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) in 2004. Aquino, who was then an administrator of the sugar estate, denied Luisita farmworkers just wages,” said Echanis.

Under the Aquino administration, Sibayan said the implementation of land reform is nothing but “a monumental sham,” while violent eviction, unlawful arrests and threats against farmers continue, 10 years after the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

“Attacks against farmers are still perpetrated by Aquino’s family with the help of armed state forces and other institutions,” said Sibayan.

“The decades of oppression and injustice suffered by thousands of farmworkers under the Cojuangco-Aquinos is the perfect example of ‘glaring, scandalous inequality’ in Philippine society,” Sibayan added, in reference to Pope Francis’ Malacañang speech.

Meanwhile, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) has also called on the mainstream press and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to veer away from trivial topics such as itinerary, ceremonies and security and instead discuss the real situation of the country, expose its ills so that Pope Francis may understand why the civil war is raging.

“Pope Francis’ visit is an opportunity to expose the ills of the awning chasm separating the rich and the poor. Consistent with his character, he will certainly criticize the government for perpetuating a corrupt bureaucracy based on greed,” CEGP national president Marc Lino Abila in a statement said.

“Since the Holy Father is a staunch critic of corruption, the Aquino government should tremble in fear as it will surely be lectured at for having lost mercy and compassion to the Filipino people. The Pope has zero tolerance for hypocrisy,” he stressed.

CEGP considers the Pope as actively supporting the advancement of people’s democratic rights across cultures and regardless of religion.

“He is one with the people in the struggle for a society free from the shackles of oppression, poverty and violence. With this, let it be an inspiration and challenge to everyone, especially the youth to transform themselves as active catalysts for social change,” Abila said.
Alvin Murcia


FROM RAPPLER.COM

Netizens praise Pope, hit Aquino over speeches
Twitter users praise the Pope for warning politicians against corruption while some criticize President Aquino for taking a swipe at bishops' 'silence' during the Arroyo administration Rappler.com Published 12:47 PM, Jan 16, 2015 Updated 3:23 PM, Jan 16, 2015


CONTRASTING SPEECHES? Pope Francis stands next to Philippine president Benigno Aquino III during arrival honors at Malacanang presidential palace, Manila, Philippines, 16 January 2015. The two later delivered separate speeches tackling issues affecting Philippine society. Photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ouch, that hurt.

Of all the topics Pope Francis touched on in his Malacañang speech – from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to migration and indigenous peoples – one comment drew the most praise from Twitter-savvy Filipinos.

“I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor,” the Pope said before an audience that included the country’s top politicians.

The pontiff’s remark in his first ever speech in the Philippines on Friday, January 16, hit a nerve for Filipino Twitter users, with the message resonating in a country outraged by corruption scandals at the highest levels.

The Pope made the comment as he stressed the importance of social justice, criticizing what he called the “glaring and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.”

Instantly reacting to the speech, Filipino netizens said the comment was a “memo to politicians” especially Vice President Jejomar Binay, accused of rigging bids, using dummies and amassing wealth from infrastructure projects in Makati when he was mayor of the country’s financial capital. Binay is running for president in 2016.

Binay was among the guests at the Palace event addressed by the Pope.

Filipino volleyball player and TV host Gretchen Ho tweeted that the Pope’s comment was “somewhat embarrassing” but necessary.


TRIBUNE

Pontiff’s return to PH next year for CBCP Cebu event broached as Aquino gets more flak Written by Joshua L. Labonera Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00 By Joshua L. Labonera

Something which President Aquino might not relish is the prospect of Pope Francis returning to the Philippines next year, also in January, for the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu as comparison of Aquino’s “petty” ideals and that of the Pope’s wisdom pours in from all sectors.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said yesterday that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) invited Pope Francis to return to the Philippines in January next year as the country hosts the key Catholic Church event in Cebu.

Aquino was lambasted anew by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. for his blatant show of disrespect for the Pope and members of the critical Catholic Church.

Reyes noted that Aquino’s speech on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Malacanang was criticized by many for being “inappropriate and petty.”

“While the Pope talked about rejecting

corruption, confronting inequality and social exclusion and giving voice to the poor, the President whined about how some members of the Catholic Church continue to criticize him. He even took time to mention one bishop who criticized his hair,” Reyes said.

The militant leader said that Pope Francis and Aquino are “worlds apart,” as the President “again highlighted how self-absorbed” he is.

Reyes said the occasion could have been an opportunity for the President to discuss how much is still needed to be done in the Philippines to address poverty and inequality.

Reyes said that while the event could even have been a venue to address the root causes of armed conflict and other social problems that confronts his administration such as the abject poverty of many Filipinos, the President let the opportunity pass.

Reyes assailed Aquino’s statements, saying it has been centered to the President all the while “recalling memories of Martial Law, Aquino’s parents and how much his family suffered, and use this as a force field against any criticism of his presidency.”

“You’re either with him or against him,” Reyes said, in response to Aquino lambasting the “silence” of church leaders.

“Indeed, the President’s speech and the message of Pope Francis provided us with a study in contrast. As one religious said, there is truly a difference in the outlook of a religious leader and a politician,” Reyes added.

The Bayan secretary general said Pope Francis’ message to the poor, highlighted by his heartfelt speech to the victims of typhoon Yolanda and his critique of corruption and inequality, continue to resonate with the Filipino people.

“We tip our hats to the Pope of the Poor even as we humbly ask forgiveness for the actions of our President. Noynoy, for all his claimed achievements, truly does not know what he’s doing.,” Reyes said.

In a speech last Friday in Malacanang, Aquino took a jab at members of the clergy while at the same time hitting back at former President Gloria Arroyo and what he claimed as the silence of the Church during Arroyo’s regime.

Prior to Aquino’s speech, Pope Francis called on politicians to reject all forms of corruption.

In the abbreviated trip of the pope to Tacloban City to commune with victims of typhoon Yolanda that devastated most part of the Visayas last year, the Aquino administration was also accused of hiding the true state of the victims from the pontiff.

Days before the papal visit, militarization reared its head in the storm-ravaged region. A day before Pope Francis arrived, the religious sisters from the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), for example, said they were harassed by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) while they were headed to a candle-lighting and liturgical activity in San Jose district, Tacloban City to pray for the safe arrival and travel of the pontiff.

“We were stopped and held up for an hour, while the police peppered us with questions and accusations. They claimed we do not have proper documents and coordination with the archdiocese when even the Archbishop John Du knows our mercy mission here in Leyte. We were even accused of being New People’s Army elements hiding in nun’s clothes,” Sr. Noemi Degala, executive secretary of SAMIN, said.

The militarized security conditions have been widely reported in the media, but Sr. Degala was still shocked by what she calls as “brazen harassment of religious sisters.”
“We are not armed communist revolutionaries, and we are most certainly not terrorists,” she said.

SAMIN members, religious sisters hailing from various congregations, immersed with Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)-affected communities in Tanauan and Palo towns before ceremonially handing over some donated hand tractors to local people’s organizations.

If the papal visit to Palo, Leyte were not cut short, they would have taken part in the meeting of the religious with Pope Francis in the afternoon of January 17.

“Why are the Aquino government’s police brutes so intent on preventing us from putting to practice what the Pope himself has preached?” Degala asked. She reminded the “despotic security forces of the Aquino administration” that the Holy Father himself had said the concern for the poor is Gospel, not communism.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Eastern Visayas chapter (BAYAN-EV), a member of the People’s Welcome – EV, condemned the militarized and repressive security in Leyte, noting the ‘soft’ economic violence as well.

“A grand total of P30 million was spent by the Aquino government on the pomp, pageantry and overkill security for the Pope’s visit, said Rey Miranda, secretary general of BAYAN – EV.

Considering that the needs of Yolanda survivors are still unmet, Miranda said the P30 million should have been spent on the survivors instead of paying the estimated 20,000 police and military forces who, he said, swept the homes and establishments along the Pope’s route in Leyte and imposed various violations to the civil rights of the residents.

Aside from the nuns with SAMIN, Bulatlat.com also learned that six soldiers visited a non-government office helping Eastern Visayan peasants to ask the agency about their activities concerning the pope’s visit.

Considering that the Armed Forces of the Philippines had reportedly misspent funds meant for disaster to building or renovating their offices instead, a staff of EVRAP complained that the six soldiers who went to their office in Palo, Leyte on Jan. 15 even wanted to get some of the repacked relief goods they were distributing to victims of typhoons Ruby and Seniang.

Miranda of Bayan-EV said they have been preparing and self-policing their ranks for the Pope’s visit. But he described the policies imposed by the Aquino administration upon Yolanda survivors as “too much.”

On top of the no-build zone implemented against the mostly fisherfolk residents of Tacloban City, on the occasion of the papal visit, the government implemented no-sail zones, no-market days, transportation rerouting and travel bans.

“Aquino imposed these policies with no compensatory relief whatsoever, damaging the livelihood of the poor, especially the survivors of Yolanda, and the subsequent Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) and Seniang (Jangmi),” Miranda said.


PHILSTAR

FULL TEXT: Aquino's speech in the presence of Pope Francis at Malacañang (philstar.com) | Updated January 16, 2015 - 1:05pm 25 5792 googleplus4 8

Your Holiness:

Colonialism was brought to our shores, partly by the efforts of the conquistadores, and partly through the efforts of the Church. When the clergy in that period was asked how they justified the injustices committed during the colonization of the Philippines, they responded by saying: the Kingdom of God is not of this earth.

With Vatican II however, this changed: Instead of being a pillar of the establishment, the Church began to question the status quo. My understanding of the changes inspired by Vatican II, and of the influence of liberation theology, was the notion that temporal matters affect our spiritual well-being, and, consequently, cannot be ignored. Two passages from scripture come to mind.

The first comes from Matthew, Chapter 22, Verses 36-40, in which a Pharisee posed this question to Jesus Christ, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The clear link between the two greatest commandments, as Christ put it, is further emphasized in another passage. In Matthew Chapter 25 Verses 35-36, Christ said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’”

The Gospel challenges each member of the Church to go beyond almsgiving and mere charity, and to be concerned with injustice in temporal matters. We were further taught that if we do not intercede to make each person capable of exercising true freedom of choice, then we are not our brother’s keepers. One of the examples given to us involved a certain question. If it is a sin to steal, who is the greater sinner: the desperate man in an impossible situation forced to steal to feed his starving family, or the politician with an insatiable greed who, despite not having real material needs, stole from the public coffers?

When the Church engaged in temporal matters, it was truly working to bring the Kingdom of God apparent in this world. It was a living Church, a source of nurturing and support for the faithful, at a time when movies like “The Cardinal,” “The Shoes of the Fisherman,” and even “Jesus Christ Superstar” elicited deeper thoughts on how to further deepen the faith.

These teachings have been central to my family’s advocacy, which is understandable considering what we, along with millions of Filipinos, went through under the dictatorship. Then-President Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, when I was 12-years-old, beginning an era in which the most fundamental rights of many Filipinos were flagrantly and routinely violated. It was in this environment that I came of age. In a sense, I had a front row seat to that tyranny and persecution. After all, the dictator wasted no time in having my father, one of his most influential and vocal opponents, imprisoned.

Martial Law deprived our family not only of a loving husband and father. Many of our friends avoided us. There were few who dared speak up. One of those was Fr. Toti Olaguer, SJ, who, right in the heart of the dictator’s most secure prison, had the courage to speak the truth about Mr. Marcos’ abuses, even as he was being videotaped. Many others in the Church, such as Jaime Cardinal Sin, Bishop Francisco Claver, and Bishop Antonio Fortich, just to name just a few, truly lived their faith and acted as followers of Christ in being their brothers’ keepers.

The courage and daring displayed by the clergy solidified my belief: Especially during the Martial Law years, the Church of the poor and oppressed shone vividly. The clergy was always at the forefront of those wanting to emulate Christ and carry the burdens for all of us. Indeed, they nourished the compassion, faith, and courage of the Filipino people. This allowed millions to come together as a single community of faith and make possible the miracle of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Perhaps we had grown so accustomed to having this Church, always at the forefront of championing the rights of all, especially those of the marginalized, that we found it hard to understand its transformation. We were taught that the Catholic Church is the true church, and that there is constancy, for it upholds the truth at all times.

Hence, there was a true test of faith when many members of the Church, once advocates for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless, suddenly became silent in the face of the previous administration’s abuses, which we are still trying to rectify to this very day. In these attempts at correcting the wrongs of the past, one would think that the Church would be our natural ally. In contrast to their previous silence, some members of the clergy now seem to think that the way to be true to the faith means finding something to criticize, even to the extent that one prelate admonished me to do something about my hair, as if it were a mortal sin. Is it any wonder then, that they see the glass not as half-full, or half-empty, but almost totally empty. Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of the facts.

I understand I am only human, and thus, I am imperfect. I ran for the Presidency despite my discomfort with the trappings of power, because if I passed up on this opportunity to effect real change, I would not have been able to live with myself, especially if the situation worsened. But in this effort, the participation of all is necessary. Everything I have said has not been to criticize, but to speak the truth, for the truth shall set us all free. If we are able to settle our differences, can we not benefit our people quicker?

This is why I was struck by what Your Holiness recently said to the Curia, when you warned them of the illnesses that not only Christians, but anyone in a position of power, is prone to, including that of thinking one’s self immortal or indispensable, and the danger of becoming sowers of discord through gossip and grumbling.

I appreciate and respect Your Holiness, for your role as a unifying and revitalizing voice, not just among Catholics, but also among all peoples of goodwill. Your statements bear witness to the compassion and understanding of Christ. Exhibiting the same humility, you eschew the trappings of your position, even to the necessary security preparations, which, I should admit, has been somewhat of a security nightmare for us. [Laughter] In all seriousness, who can deny that Your Holiness is truly living the life of one who is dedicated to advocating for the oppressed and marginalized?

I believe that you are a kindred spirit, one who sees things as they are, and is unafraid of asking, “Why not?” Some of your statements might have been shocking or offensive to some peers. But Your Holiness is meant to be the instrument through which the Kingdom of God is allowed to flourish. In your example, we see the wisdom of continuing to ask, “Why not?” We see joy, a sense of authentic service, and an insistence on a true community of the faithful. We thank the Lord for other kindred spirits like Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Father Catalino Arevalo, and Sister Agnes Guillen, who have always been voices of reason, and who are spiritual people who will always be natural allies, along with so many others. We would like to think that even more will join us in the truth, in the fullness of time.

In the fight to transform society, one cannot help but be heartened by the fact that we are not alone. When we tread this path with people such as yourself, along with the millions you have inspired, we gain the courage to do what needs doing, the optimism to dream about what we can achieve in unity with one another, and the opportunity to turn that dream into a shared reality, with the grace of Almighty God. The Filipino people, in whose name I welcome you today, ask your blessing; may we find more mercy and compassion in our lives.

Thank you. Good day.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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