Tag Archives: Catholic Church

[In the news] Drug users in Philippine parish get new lease of life -UCANnews

Drug users in Philippine parish get new lease of life

Jonathan Padrones has been hooked on illegal narcotics for years but is trying to “redeem” himself with the help of his parish church, he says.

Padrones, 44, said he first tried hydrochloride, a methamphetamine commonly known by its street name “shabu” in the Philippines, out of curiosity when he was in his 20s.

“I ended up getting hooked,” he said, adding this soon made him “public enemy number one” in his community.

Padrones said he would spend up to US$20 a day buying shabu. Eventually, he began peddling illegal drugs to sustain his addiction.

When President Rodrigo Duterte launched his “war against drugs” in 2016, Padrones was placed on a police watch-list.

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[People] Fair Trade Dried Mangos, a taste of justice By Fr. Shay Cullen

Fair Trade Dried Mangos, a taste of justice
By Fr. Shay Cullen

I was visiting villages where a new group of small farmers had become members of the ever growing Preda Fair Trade partnership. They lived off mixed farming and mango trees. They proudly showed me some of the benefits of the fair trade payments and dividend bonuses they received for their mango fruits.


Each family had something to show, a new well and hand pumps for clean water, a piggery, a small store, a new metal sheet roof on their small house, and a goat. Their children are going to school and there was no child labor. Simple things, but so important to them. Life had greatly improved because of Preda Fair Trade practices and that is how it should be. With greater social justice in the developing counties, life could be even better for the billion hungry people in the world.

In one village, the Preda fair trade had built a small community center where people could gather and shelter from typhoons and a Preda partner in drying mangos, “Profood”, donated a two-room school.

Junito, a farmer in Mindanao said, “Because of the good price I get from Preda for my mangos, we have better food and my children are going to school. They don’t run off to the town where they would fall into bad influence, even though we are poor, we have a decent life”.

That is one of the important unseen benefits that Preda Fair Trade brings – the prevention of child labor and exploitation. Unfortunately, thousands of teenage children, boys and girls in the Philippine islands where Preda has it projects, are lured away from poor, hungry homes with a promise of good jobs and pay as domestic helpers or in cafes and hotels.

When they arrive at the city with a recruiter or person trafficker, they are frequently sold into a sex bar where they are abused and sold to local or foreign sex tourists. The parents of the children do not know where they have gone or they too have been paid money to allow their children to go find the work. Preda social workers save many of these children and provide a safe home with therapy and education, and reunite them with their parents.

In the Preda Fair Trade partnership, the farmers receive seminars about these dangers and never to allow their children to go with recruiters. Preda has been working in this way since 1975 and implementing agricultural improvement programmes.

Overcoming poverty and hardship is a struggle for the poor and while they work hard to grow the food for the rich and better off people in the towns and cities, they don’t get the just reward for their hard work and skills in producing food that keeps everybody else alive. The goal of Fair Trade is to have a fair, living income for the small farmers. Fair trade advocates are challenging this unjust system, trying to make a more fair global trading system.

In a special way, the fair trade importers like DWP and GEPA in Germany and Libero Mundo in Italy have an alternative system. They buy direct from the farmer cooperatives for coffee or mangos though the Preda Fair Trading organization, then supply the products to the network of world shops all over Europe. The shops are managed and operated by dedicated volunteers who are aware and knowledgeable about the situation of injustice and exploitation in the developing world.

The world shops provide a wide range of beautifully presented, fairly traded products to thousands of concerned customers who want to make this a better and more just world and don’t want to be part of the exploitation and unfair international trading system.

Not only do these products directly help children in the Philippines but also children in the European countries because of the healthy nature and being free of all chemicals and additives. One third of the children in the UK for example suffer obesity due to unhealthy foods.

The fresh mangos are delivered by the small farmers to the food drying station Profood and they are paid the fair price. Then under the highest hygienic standards, the mangos are washed, pealed, sliced and dried in ovens. Then they are packaged and shipped to World Shops and supermarkets mostly in Europe.

After some weeks, the Preda producer development officer goes to the area to visit the farmers and gets the records from the Profood drying stations for the number of kilos each farmer delivered and pays them a bonus dividend. Every transaction is recorded carefully to provide full transparency. There is much we can all do to make this a more fair and just world. Buying Fair Trade products helps this cause.

It’s so encouraging to know there are wonderful people involved in this movement and to hear Pope Francis tell the world that the Catholic Church must focus more on social justice, compassion, peace-making and helping victims and the wounded in this world. We can help bind up the world of injustice by doing justice and supporting Fair Trade. It’s helping heal the exploited children too. (visit http://www.predafairtrade.net, email shaycullen@preda.org)

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[Press Release] Uphold RH law, best gift for Mother’s Day – PM

Uphold RH law, best gift for Mother’s Day – PM

pmLogo1The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) joined RH leaders and advocates from the Purple Ribbon for RH to a rally at the Supreme Court, Padre Faura, Manila. In commemoration of Mothers’ Day on Sunday, May 12, PM and women’s groups called on the SC justices to heed the call of mothers and uphold the RH law (RA 10354).

“Ang pagkaantala ng implementasyon ng RH law ay patuloy na nagiging mitsa ng buhay ng maraming inang Pilipino. Nananawagan ang PM sa ating Supreme Court justices na maging bukas sa matagal nang hinaing ng kababaihan para sa RH, lalung-lalo na ng mga ina. Upholding the RH law is the best gift our SC justices could give to millions of Filipino mothers this Mothers’ Day,” asserted PM Secretary-General Judy Ann Miranda.

Eleven (11) deaths of women daily attributed to pregnancy and childbirth complications have increased over the past decade. The passage of the RH law, if immediately implemented, would have stepped up the efforts to address the problem. The status quo ante issued by the Supreme Court has stalled said process.

PM reiterated that the lives of women should be the utmost concern in the decision of the Supreme Court on the RH law rather than the Catholic Church’s disagreement that is not based on the real needs of women, especially poor and working women.

Partido ng Manggagawa
7 May 2013

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[In the news] Tribal barricade forces Marcventures to shutdown mining operation in Cantilan -MindaNews.com

Tribal barricade forces Marcventures to shutdown mining operation in Cantilan
By Vanessa L. Almeda, MindaNews.com
May 4 2013

MindaNewsCARRASCAL, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/04 May) – Besieged by tribal discontent and a strong Catholic Church-backed anti-mining opposition, Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. (MMDC) finally decided to temporarily shutdown its operation in Barangay Cabangahan in Cantilan town, Surigao del Sur.

Jegie Pereda, MMDC vice president for operations, confirmed Wednesday the company closed its Cabangahan operations but did not say for how long the suspension will last.

“We cannot enter the area because of the barricade. It is temporary (closure). As of now, we are operating at another area not affected by the barricade,” the official said.

Members of the Manobo tribe have been barricading the road in Barangay Cabangahan leading to the mining operations of MMDC in the past several weeks.

Read full article @www.mindanews.com

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[People] Rediscovering the heart of faith – Service by Fr. Shay Cullen

Fr. Shay Cullen

325-fr-shay-cullenWhen he bent down on his knees in the youth detention jail in Rome last Holy Thursday, washed and kissed the feet of the juvenile prisoners and also a mother and child and a Muslim, Pope Francis sent a message to Catholic Church leaders and to the world. It seems to say, change is here, we have to leave behind the pomposity, clerical child abuse and domination wherever it may be, and be humble servants of the poor and the wretched and give them dignity, justice and hope.

“To wash your feet, this is a symbol, a sign that I am at your service. But it also means that we have to help each other”. He then showed understanding of youthful impetuosity and their quickness to anger.

“It was normal to get mad at others, but let it be, let it be. If that person asks you a favor, do it. Let’s help each other. I do it with my heart because it is my duty as priest and as Bishop; I have to be at your service. It’s a duty that comes from my heart because I love doing this, because this is what the Lord taught me”.

He was of course imitating Jesus of Nazareth who washed the feet of his disciples as would a humble servant. Jesus was a charismatic leader with a passion for justice, equality and sought a spiritual and social revolution. How could the future leaders of the church be credible and teach, guide and expect others to follow moral principles and behavior, if they themselves did not teach by example. That is what Jesus was saying by his actions. Pope Francis seems to be repeating that message.

Blessed are the poor, Jesus said, theirs is the kingdom of God. This is what Pope Francis was saying also in a symbolic way. He sees a Church where humility has been replaced with arrogance and pomp, and privilege has replaced compassion and justice. He knows that abusive priests were allowed by some irresponsible Bishops to continue to abuse children with impunity. He knows that despite past apologies to victims by the previous Popes, church structures have not changed sufficiently to restore the trust and confidence of Catholics in the Church as a reliable, open, transparent, credible institution. Mitered heads may soon roll. Since his installation several years ago, my Bishop has never visited the homes for the juveniles in conflict with the law or the homes for the sexually abuse victims. It’s time to change.

Jesus challenged the religious authorities and infuriated them. Then they plotted his downfall and had him convicted as a political rebel and given the death penalty. They accused him of trying to be a King when in fact that was what he totally repudiated. That is the cruel drama that we reenacted last Holy week. Pope Francis will be walking on a few precious toes before long.

Jesus gave us the example of that special challenging love that drives a person to care for the stranger, and to help the poorest and most exploited and abused of society.

We can clearly see the message of Pope Francis when he was on his knees before the prisoners. He established by his words and action the rights, dignity and the fact that they should have a place in the world. He seems to be signaling to all Catholics to be a servant, a helper and to realize that being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth has duties and obligations that go far beyond attending mass and church ceremonies. This is what Pope Francis said of his mission today.

“I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons. Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!”

Well, it’s going to be a troubling future for many a traditional conservative cleric if the Pope expects the clergy to do as he does and skip the scarlet robes, gold braided vestments and privileges and live outside the gilded palaces in small apartments like the Pope himself. Next, he might expect them to take public transport like he did as Bishop and Cardinal in Buenos Aires or even more challenging, to imitate Jesus of Nazareth. http://www.preda.org

Email: shaycullen@preda.org (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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[Statement] Women’s NGOs in SEA oppose “public morality” in draft ASEAN HR Declaration

Women’s NGOs in SEA oppose “public morality” in draft ASEAN HR Declaration

The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on the ASEAN (Women’s Caucus) is alarmed by moves to put “public morality” in the draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). We believe that this will further endanger the lives of women in Southeast Asia with the “morality” standards already being exercised by the dominant patriarchal and traditional beliefs in each ASEAN member state.

Public morality” has been used as a ground in limiting human rights, discriminating against women and girls and other minorities such as lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. Worse, when used in concepts of chastity, virginity, the crimes against persons such as rape and other sexual abuses have become crimes against honor even in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The Syariah Law governing Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of the region has restricted the freedom of expression and control of women over their bodies, and has led to criminalization of women.

In Indonesia, 207 policies at the national and regional level with moral and religious nuances that deprived the rights to protection and legal certainty of women, restricted women’s rights to freedom of religion for the Ahmadiyya community, and curtailed women’s enjoyment of their fundamental rights to public services.

As Aceh adopted a local regulation based on Syariah Law (callled “Qanun”), Muslim women are obliged to use veil and long dress, otherwise they risk being arrested by the Shariah police. Another Aceh regulation is khalwat where an unmarried woman and a man, who are found in secluded places are arrested and caned in public. They are punished by being forced to walk nude around a village, doused in sewage, or being forced to get married.

The Law No. 44, year 2008 on pornography even became a setback for the enforcement of women’s rights in Indonesia. The law aimed to protect women and children from pornography, but this law was actually used to control women’s body and sexuality with the threat of being charged with criminal violation if perceived to be doing pornographic acts.

“Public morality” under Syariah laws in Malaysia was used by the state in policing Muslims, citing indecency, liwat (sodomy), musahaqah (lesbianism), drinking alcohol, khalwat (intimate acts of unmarried couples), zina (sex out of wedlock), and not observing fasting during the fasting month as acts violating these laws.

Discriminating on the basis of gender identity, the Syariah Criminal offences include any male person who wears a woman’s attire and poses as a woman for immoral purposes in public places. When convicted, the offender will be liable to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.

Malaysia’s civil laws are also used to police non-Muslims. In March 2012, three women were charged for indecent behaviour for doing pole dancing in a nightclub in Seremban. The women were fined RM25 each and charged for allegedly being “dressed scantily”.

In reality, “public morality” failed to protect women in prostitution in Thailand, precisely because this contradicted Thai’s moral code. Although some aspects of prostitution have been decriminalized, women engaged in this practice, particiarly women migrants from other parts of Mekong, remain vulnerable when dealing with the police. The police arbitrarily exercise their own sense of morality and this leads to human rights violation when used as a standard for public law enforcement. In fact, one case involves a police who arrested a woman for solicitation but this was because the woman was wearing short dress and high heels.

Thailand has a draft gender equality law that said to provide equal protection from discrimination and access to resources. However, the bill exempts protection on certain grounds such as religion. Again, the AHRD must set the standard, ensuring non-discrimination on all grounds, including standards of morality of dominant groups and belief systems.

Right here in the Philippines, our fellow feminists are worried that this move to put “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will justify the interference of the Catholic Church in the deliberation of the Reproductive Health bill in Philippine Congress.

The church will waste no time in raising morality issue as a weapon in every possible measure as they are doing now to block this bill that aims to protect the reproductive health rights of Filipino women.

Another classic case of public morality standing in the way of women’s gender rights is the rape case of Karen Vertido. A mother of two children, Karen did not fit the usual profile of a rape-victim survivor, who is expected to be young and innocent. The rape case was dismissed by the local court because of the Judge’s opinion that the victim did not escape when she appeared to have had so many opportunities to do so.

The acquittal of Custodio came from clear gender biases and gender-based ‘morality’, myths and misconceptions as espoused by the Judge of the local court and this clearly violated Vertido’s rights. The decision of the local court was criticized and overturned by the United Nations through the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The CEDAW Committee ruled that the Philippine government also violated a legal obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfill Vertido’s right and the right of all Filipino women to non-discrimination, including the judiciary and other state agencies.

The inclusion of “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration poses great challenge to CEDAW, of which all the ASEAN member-states are party to. It poses great challenge to CEDAW’s efforts towards the transformation of cultural tradition and practices that have been oppressive to women and girls.

We have been engaging with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), the body that has been tasked to draft the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). We sent to AICHR our first submission on October 21, 2011, and the addendum that focuses on the draft AHRD as of June 2012.

In the second addendum that we intend to send in line with the 9th meeting of the AICHR in Manila on September 13-14, we reiterate our call to omit “public morality” in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.

10 September 2012


Jelen Paclarin
Nina Somera +668 1162 1073

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[From the web] Fact Sheet: House Bill 4244 on Reproductive Health -RAPPLER.com

Fact Sheet: House Bill 4244 on Reproductive Health.

August 5, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – The hotly-debated Reproductive Health (RH) bill, opposed by the powerful Catholic church, is up for a crucial vote at the House of Representatives on August 7.

Here are the key points to know about House Bill No. 4244, “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for Other Purposes,” commonly known as the Reproductive Health Bill.

HB 4244 is a product of the consolidation of 6 house bills:

  • HB 96, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development, and for Other Purposes,” introduced by Rep Edcel Lagman
  • HB 101, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health and Population Development, and for Other Purposes,” introduced by Rep Janette Garin
  • HB 513, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health and Population Development, and for Other Purposes,: introduced by Reps. Kaka Bag-Ao and Rep Walden Bello
  • HB1160, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health and for Other Purposes,” introduced by Rep. Rodolfo Biazon
  • HB 1520, “An Act to Protect the Right of People to Information on Reproductive Health Care,” introduced by Rep Augusto Syjuco
  • HB 3387, “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health for Women in Development and for Other Purposes,” introduced by Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

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[In the news] UN: Not passing RH bill will reverse devt gains -InterAksyon.com

UN: Not passing RH bill will reverse devt gains
By Jason Gutierrez, Agence France-Presse |Chichi Conde, InterAksyon.com
August 5, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 3:39 p.m.) The United Nations warned Sunday that failure to pass a controversial birth control law in the Philippines could reverse gains in development goals amid stiff opposition from the powerful Catholic church.

The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives in a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic and which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.

Ugochi Daniels, country representative from the UN Population Fund, said she remained “cautiously optimistic” that President Benigno Aquino III‘s allies who dominate the House of Representatives could muster the numbers to pass the bill on Tuesday after 14 years of often divisive debate.

“What is important now is to highlight the urgency of the bill,” Daniels said.

The UN, in a separate statement, said the Philippines was unlikely to achieve its millennium development goal of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters and providing universal access to reproductive health by 2015

Read full article @ www.interaksyon.com

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[In the news] Catholic Church, anti-RH bill groups gather at Edsa Shrine -INQUIRER.net

Catholic Church, anti-RH bill groups gather at Edsa Shrine.

By Kristine Felisse Mangunay, Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 4, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Hundreds of people, some arriving in private vehicles and others on foot, gathered outside the Edsa Shrine at a usually suburban Manila intersection Saturday for what church leaders had described as a massive prayer rally to show Congress most Filipinos were against the reproductive health bill pending in legislature for years.

Many of the faithful, who braved intermittent rains and occasional winds, stood under umbrellas as they waited for the rally to get underway.

Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chair of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, was spotted in the area. So was Father Melvin Castro, the commission’s executive secretary.

Read full article @ newsinfo.inquirer.net

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[Press Release] Groups cry foul on new mining EO -ATM

Groups cry foul on new mining EO
Claims mining policy is misleading and demand new mining law

Manila – Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and its member groups gave the thumbs down to the new mining EO of the Aquino administration, stating that it is inadequate, unresponsive and misleading. They said that while Executive Order 79 appears to be addressing the major concerns of communities and civil society organizations, “many of these provisions in the EO are merely palliative, and worse, are not even applicable to the problematic mining projects”, said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina or ATM.

They also echoed the initial observations of many organizations that the EO is in fact, just continuing the misplaced policy of aggresively promoting mining for the benefit of the industry and does not address the substantial flaws in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or RA 7942.

Garganera however, conceded that the EO does attempt to make the rights steps towards reforming the mining industry, citing the provisions on increased transparency, a system for review and monitoring of mining contracts and projects, and the identification of no-go zones. He lamented, however, that these reforms are shadowed by compromise text that says “all existing mining contracts and agreements are considered valid, binding and enforceable”, under Section 1 of the EO. ”We sincerely believe that DENR does not have the people, the expertise, the resources and the equipment to effectively enforce this EO, and so the policy is misleading as it gives a false sense of comfort that from now on, ‘all will be well’”, Garganera added.

“These are the reasons why we need a new mining law, and not only rely on this EO”, he concluded.

ATM also said that any increase in the revenue share of the government from the mining industry is still better than what the country is receiving right now but reaffirmed that the increase in excise tax from 2% to 7% is still irrelevant compared to the negative impacts of the industry to the communities and environment. Additionally, the EO did say that no new taxes can be implemented, without a new legislation.

Meanwhile, environmental groups and the Catholic Church were still alarmed that the EO only compliments the Mining Act of 1995.

Anabelle Plantilla, chief operating officer of Haribon Foundation said the mining EO already indicates that the government recognizes that something is wrong with the mining industry as it is driven by the flawed policy.

“The proof of the pie is in the eating, we have documented on how the Mining Act created a big rift in the protection of the environment and then we have another policy that yet again has weak provisions on the conservation of our forest and ecosystem. Do we need to eat this pie again?” Plantilla added.
Gerry Arances, Program Officer on Mining of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils) laments that the provision on local ordinances vis-à-vis the Constitution and national laws need not even be put in the EO on Mining, as this is already given in passing local ordinances.
“The numerous LGUs, as exemplified by the South Cotabato provincial government, which issued a ban on open-pit mining, only exercise police power, and uphold the general welfare and right of their constituencies to a balanced and healthful ecology, and the well-being of its local territories and ecosystems, which are protected by the Constitution and other national laws as well,” Arances asserts.
Arances further adds, “What the provision on ‘consistency of local ordinances with the Constitution and national laws’ actually intends to do is to prevent other LGUs from following the footsteps of the numerous other LGUs that have issued local legislation and already stood up against minerals extraction in their respective territories, and protected the welfare of their peoples and communities. This administration wishes to send a strong message to the people and their local governments that it will still pursue its promotion of mineral extraction in the country, its business-as-usual framework, thus, continuing wanton destruction of our communities and the environment.”

LRC is the lead convener of SOS-YamangBayan Network, a national network pushing for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the immediate enactment of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).

Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops Conferences of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA) believed the EO has surfaced the urgent need to pass a new minerals management law.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, secretary-general of CBCP-NASSA said, “We cannot accept a policy that only expands the destructive capacity of an existing law. We really thought that the EO will capitalize the need to promote social justice, human rights and the rights of the Indigenous Peoples.” Fr. Garuguez referred to EO 79 as a “kunswelo-de-bobo”. Gariguez added that the EO is another missed opportunity for P-Noy to prove that the Filipino people are really his bosses.

Last July 8, 72 bishops signed a statement calling for the passage of the AMMB, now tentatively titled as the Philippine Minerals Resources Act of 2012, pending at the House Committee of Natural Resources. The statement is expected to be sent officially to the Office of the President and to Congress this week.

“Indigenous peoples, farmers, fishermen, forest-dependents communities and many others are the ones directly affected by the mining industry; they are the ones who lose their homes, livelihood and even dignity and yet not single a provision in the EO guarantees their protection – human rights, needs-based and sustainable development are not fully addressed in the new policy,” Gariguez added.

Garganera also added that the EO failed to cut unfair incentives being provided to mining firms including a long tax holiday.

ATM asserted that the rationalization of the mining industry will be fully achieved only when the current law is abolished and Alternative Mineral Management Bill is enacted. (30)
Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and passage of the AMMB.

For more information:
Fr Edu Gariguez, CBCP-NASSA Executive Secretary, 09198005595
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – 09277617602
Farah Sevilla – policy@alyansatigilmina.net; 0915-3313361
Edel S. Garingan – communications@alyansatigilmina.net; 0922-8918972

ATM Press Release
July 11, 2012

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[Press Release] On World Environment Day, Green Groups and HR defenders ask: Ganun na lang ba ‘yun? -SOS-Yamang Bayan

On World Environment Day, Green Groups and HR defenders ask: Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?
DENR urged to support the passage of Philippine Minerals Resources Act of 2012

Manila – On this year’s World Environment Day, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) posed the question, “Green Economy: Does it include you”? But for more than two hundred green protesters and human rights defenders, the more important thing to ask is “Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” – pertaining to environmental degradation and other atrocities of mining left unaddressed.

Disappointed at how mining is run in the country, farmers, indigenous peoples, church-groups and civil society organizations led by SOS-Yamang Bayan Network combined forces and blasted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with bawls and placards on the ill effects of mining to the environment, water, livelihood and lives of communities and indigenous peoples in the country.

Policy Change

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) Executive Secretary and 2012 Goldman Prize Environmental Awardee Fr. Edu Gariguez said that the campaign echoes the call of thousands of Filipinos affected by mining. “The message is simple — immediate change has to take place in the system and most importantly in the policies governing the mining industry.”

Gariguez emphasized that the Catholic Church, together with religious communities in the whole country, continue to call for the protection of the integrity of creation, and the promotion ofsustainable livelihoods and lifestyles.Mining now is a grave threat to the path of sustainable development.

Alyansa Tigil Mina National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera said that the protest highlighted the call to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 that aggressively promotes large-scale mining even as it failed to protect the country’s national patrimony.

“If DENR is true to its mandate of protecting the environment then it should support the passage of a new minerals management bill—also known as the Philippine Mineral Resources Act of 2012. The DENR should in fact ask the same question to the industry or the Chamber of Mines — ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” Garganera added.

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) executive director Atty. Grace Villanueva elaborated that “We need a paradigm shift in managing our mineral resources – a paradigm that puts people above private interests or private profits. The Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) seeks to rationalize the use of minerals. When passed, the AMMB will be more responsive to the needs of the country and its people, as well as of generations to come. People and communities will be priority, and not merely the interest of giant corporations and first world economies.” LRC is also the lead convenor of SOS-Yamang Bayan Network.

Human Rights Violations and Abuses
The group also bewails the escalation of social conflicts and human rights violations and abuses associated with mining that include extrajudicial killings of anti-mining activists in the country.

Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, executive director of Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) said “We demand justice and decisive actions on the part of government to put a stop to human rights violations perpetrated by state agents, especially the military, in mining-affected communities. Militarization, filing of trumped-up charges against anti-mining advocates, harassment & violent demolitions are common occurrences in these areas.

“The government has not done any effective action against extra-judicial killings of environmental activist. Francisco Canayong of Salcedo, Leyte is the latest victim to which the government has not taken any effective action. Responsible mining as it is being promoted by government is only directed to ensure sustainability of mining operations but lacks the perspective of protecting the people,” added Atty. Mario Maderazo of Philippine Miserior Partnership Inc. – Anti-Mining Campaign.

Biodiversity loss

Contrary to claims that ‘there is life in mining’, Haribon Foundation Inc. a member of SOS-Yamang Bayan network, insisted that there can be no life when an act destroys life itself.

Anabelle Plantilla, Chief Operating Officer of Haribon Foundation affirmed that mining has threatened and destroyed some of the very sources of life in this planet. “The fragile ecosystems where we get so much from in terms of ecological services, including water, fresh air, protection from natural hazards, and capture and storage of greenhouse gases – if these things are gone, we too are gone. Ganun na lang ba ‘yun?”

Economics of mining

Meanwhile, the group also questioned the low share of mining in the development of the country.

“Over a decade, since the year 2000, mining industry and quarrying combined, accounted only for less than one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. They are not contributing fully to the Philippine economy, even their rants on being a good ticket for this country to get out from poverty is a still a big question. We are not earning enough from mining, ganun na lang ba ‘yun?” said Cielo Magno coordinator of Bantay Kita, a mining revenue watchdog.

Mining and Climate Change
Meanwhile, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), co-organizer of the action, asserted that the sources of destruction of our natural ecosystem such as mining and other extractive activities must be thoroughly regulated and aimed at producing only what is needed to sustain life and ensure people’s rights and well-being, rather than for profit generation. The negative impacts on environment and the adaptive capacities of communities must be minimized, and environmental rehabilitation and restorative programs must be implemented.

“Mining involves several activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions as well as diminish the earth’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases (GHGs) — thus contributing to the increase of what is already an excessive GHG concentration in the atmosphere. Excessive GHG concentration is the cause of global warming.” said Lidy Nacpil, convenor of PMCJ.

“Mining not only contributes to climate change, it exacerbates the impacts. For instance, water is a vital resource that is already heavily impacted by climate change. Mining as a water-intensive industry leads to further reduction of water supply and access by communities for both domestic and agricultural needs. It also fuels climate disasters, like what happened in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.” she further added.

The group brought a backhoe miniature to demonstrate how mining operations wreak havoc to the environment and destroy biodiversity. The protesters also held a mass die-in to show that there are lives being killed by mining.

Protests also in many other areas

Four other sites in the country also mounted their call against mining. In Cebu, protesters camped in front of DENR regional office to press their stand to conserve the environment. Demonstrators in Iligan had a forum with the officials of various government agencies and discussed the issues brought about by mining and other environmental destructive activities.

In Palawan, advocates pronounced their call in local radio programs, while in Dipolog City and Municipality of Ipil in Zamboanga, local parishes raised their concerns with mass prayer.

The SOS-Yamang Bayan Network is a national, multi-sectoral movement composed of individual advocates, mining-affected communities, national peoples’ alliances, environmental organizations and networks, church-based organizations, human rights organizations, national NGOs, sectoral organizations from the indigenous peoples, youth, women, farmers, Congressional representatives, leaders and personalities advocating for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the enactment of a new minerals management bill.

For more information, contact the SOS-Yamang Bayan Network Secretariat:
Gerry Arances – gerry.arances@lrcksk.org; 0922-8307758
Farah Sevilla – policy@alyansatigilmina.net; 0915-3313361
Edel S. Garingan – communications@alyansatigilmina.net; 0922-8918972

SOS-Yamang Bayan Network – Press Release
June 5, 2012

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[People] Reproductive Health: Sidelined but Irrepressible By Walden Bello

Reproductive Health: Sidelined but Irrepressible

By Walden Bello
May 21, 2012

When the Reproductive Health Bill (House Bill 4244) made it past Committee on Population early in 2011, legislators and civil society organizations supporting RH were ecstatic. They had reason to be, for after 14 years of being bottled up in committee, the RH bill had blasted its way to the plenary and appeared to have the momentum.

The Pro-RH Legislative Strategy

Riding on this momentum, the strategy of the pro-RH forces centered on two moves: 1) getting the President of the Republic of the Philippines to declare himself for the RH bill; and 2) getting the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to call for an early vote on the measure.

The pro-RH forces were successful in getting the President to declare himself in favor of the bill. After initially toying with the idea of crafting an RH bill that would be “more sensitive” to the concerns of the Roman Catholic Church, President Benigno Aquino III, perhaps realizing there was no appeasing the Church hierarchy on the issue, finally decided to support the bill drafted by Senate and House proponents of RH. This was a major victory.

However, the RH forces’ attempt to follow up on this major step forward by extracting a commitment from the President to actively push the pro-administration coalition in the House to take a vote on the issue was less successful. The president’s reluctance appeared to stem from a combination of a desire not to infringe on the independence of the legislature and a sense that the administration’s parliamentary contingent was deeply divided on the issue.

Getting the Speaker of the House of Representatives to call for an early vote has been more difficult than persuading the president to publicly support the bill. Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte is pro-RH. Indeed, he is frank in telling people how he cannot understand “why any legislator would be against this bill.” But he remains hesitant to call for a vote. According to some pro-RH advocates, his reluctance might stem from a number of factors, among them, the desire of someone oriented toward compromise to avoid confrontation with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, an unwillingness to trigger division in the majority coalition that he leads, and lack of confidence that the numbers are there to “decisively” pass the bill. Some observers say he fears that a defeat or narrow victory might be viewed as a major blow to his leadership, leading to its being contested by other forces. Others say, however, that the Speaker, a careful strategist, is simply waiting for the right opportunity to strike and clinch the bill.

As for the situation in the Senate, it has turned out to be more precarious than that in the House. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the Majority Leader Tito Sotto have emerged as vociferous foes of the measure. While Sotto’s demagogical opposition had been expected, Enrile’s uncompromising stance had not been. And whereas defense of the bill in the House has been handled by a wide range of proponents, the task has been left in the Senate to two women, Senators Miriam Santiago and Pia Cayetano, the pro-RH men of the chamber apparently unwilling to stick their heads above the foxhole.

Delaying Tactics

In any event, a year and a half after it fought its way out of the committee, the RH bill is marooned in the parliamentary doldrums. The numbers continue to favor it in both the House and the Senate, though every session day that passes endangers that edge.

With the provisional vote count favoring the bill, the strategy of the opponents of the measure in the House has been to use repeated long interpellations or the threat of a quorum call to prevent the bill from coming to a vote or, failing that, to push the vote as close as possible to the 2013 elections in order to make pro-RH legislators waver in the face of the Church hierarchy’s threat to turn voters against them at the polls. Some say this strategy is effective, and the reason is that while the number of voters that might be influenced by the Church is not sizeable—perhaps coming to only 5 to 10 per cent of the electorate—it might nevertheless constitute the critical swing vote in close electoral contests.

Some RH proponents think this is just bluff, that there is no such thing as a “Catholic vote” like the “Iglesia ni Cristo vote.” But bluff or not, the threat is perceived as real by many members of Congress.

Church Opposition

The Roman Catholic hierarchy has waged a massive campaign against the bill. This has included threats to block the election of members of Congress voting for the bill, the mobilization of parish priests to inveigh against the bill in their weekend sermons, and the spread of disinformation about RH.

The main thrust of the Church’s propaganda has been to paint contraception as a vital step on the slippery slope towards abortion, indeed to make contraception indistinguishable from abortion. With no supporting evidence at all, contraceptive pills have been rhetorically denounced as “abortifacients.”

Another debating strategy is to deny that a high fertility rate and a high population growth rate in a low-growth economy like the Philippines constitute obstacles to development.

The fast and loose use of statistics marks the arguments of anti-RH advocates, along with really outrageous claims, like the assertion that condom use in Thailand has caused the spread of AIDs. Or that the RH bill is part of a US plot “to keep down the population of developing countries”—the so-called “Kissinger Doctrine.” Or that it is all part of a conspiracy of the big foreign pharmaceutical companies to expand the local market for artificial contraceptives.

When it is pointed out that most other religions and religious denominations in the country either favor or do not oppose the bill, the argument is simply brushed aside with the claim that 80 per cent of the population owes fealty to Rome.

Public Information Campaign

That these arguments have not cut any ice in both chambers is due to the fact that the pro-RH forces have done a good job of shooting them down and mustering strong arguments in support of the bill. Particularly effective in the floor debates have been the following arguments:

– The RH bill is built on the basic democratic principle of freedom of choice;

– Access to family planning is essential to maternal and child health;

– Survey after survey has shown a significant majority of respondents favoring family planning, including artificial contraception;

– Poor respondents, by a large majority, favor access to government-provided or facilitated family planning methods, including condoms, pills, and other methods of contraception;

– The 450,000 abortions that take place yearly can be significantly cut down by access to contraceptives;

– Income level is negatively correlated with family size, meaning the bigger the family, the poorer it is;

– Effective family planning is a central element in any strategy to promote development and reduce poverty.

This legislator’s contribution to the debate consisted of a four-part series of articles published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the leading daily newspaper, showing the strong correlation between family planning and successful development efforts in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, and the correlation between uncontrolled population growth and failed development in the Philippines.

Based on field research in the four countries, I argued:

“What accounts for the difference in the performance of the four economies?

“Economic policy? Hardly, since all four countries followed export-oriented economic strategies over the last four decades.

“Structural adjustment? Not really, since all four economies were subjected to some variety of market-oriented reform, though it is arguable that adjustment was milder in our neighbors than in our country.

“Asset and income redistribution? No, since as in the Philippines, state-promoted asset and income redistribution programs in Thailand and Indonesia were either weak or nonexistent.

“Corruption? Again, all four countries have been marked by high levels of corruption, with Indonesia being a consistent topnotcher in annual surveys.

“There is, in fact, one very distinctive feature that separates the Philippines from its neighbors: unlike our country, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand managed to rein in the growth of their populations through effective state-sponsored family planning programs. And while successful family planning is not the whole story, economists and demographers have a consensus that it is an essential element in the narrative of economic advance in our neighboring countries.”

Unexpected Development

Exasperated with the anti-RH forces’ delaying tactics, the pro-RH forces have recently intensified their effort to the Speaker for a vote before the sine die adjournment of the second session in early June. Unfortunately, something completely unexpected occurred that contributed to rolling back the pro-RH timetable. This was the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which is reaching its climax. Since the RH bill and the trial of the Chief Justice (a move pushed by the House of Representatives and supported by the President) are the two most controversial issues in the country, the final resolution of both coming at almost the same time has apparently worried some quarters of the ruling establishment as overloading the political system.

In the view of some RH proponents, however, this danger is overstated and simply serves as an excuse for the House and Senate leaderships to postpone a contentious but necessary reckoning before the adjournment of the second session of the 15th Congress.

Higher Stakes?

As the second session draws to a close, my sense is that while the RH congressional advocates and civil society supporters have done a superb job in pushing the issue, in terms of legislative strategy, public information, and mass mobilizations, they have come up against determined and fanatical opposition from the Church hierarchy, which has made stopping the bill a top priority.

Why is the Church so uncompromising? Perhaps revealing in this regard was a recent remark by former Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani, one of the most aggressive opponents of the bill: “One…argument submitted by the proponents of the RH bill is the fact that other countries with a Catholic majority have already accepted what is being proposed by the present RH bill. The answer to that is a simple: ‘If they have gone the wrong way, why should we follow them?’ The Popes have been lamenting this slide of many Catholic countries to secularism. We should be proud that we have bucked the trend to a great extent.”

In other words, the battle over RH, from the point of view of the Church hierarchy, is not just about RH. It is about a historic, nay cosmic, struggle to maintain the Church’s ideological hold on the minds of Filipinos. It is a last ditch stand against that great foe, the secular Enlightenment, which has triumphed in most other countries with a Christian religious heritage. Three key hard-won principles of the Enlightenment are present in the RH bill: the freedom of choice, the use of reason and science to ameliorate people’s lives, and the separation of Church and state.

The Catholic Church hierarchy is desperately seeking to remain relevant to Filipinos, but it has chosen the wrong battle to fight, for most Filipinos have already left it behind when it comes to reproductive health, and the bishops and their congressional allies are now a small embattled minority. As in many other countries, most people in this country—myself included–remain broadly respectful of the Church, but they want it out of the bedroom and are dismayed at its attempt at totalitarian doctrinal control. As in many other countries, “bucking the trend,” as Msgr. Bacani puts it, will result not in transformative redemption but in painful isolation. Whether in Ireland, Germany, Southern Europe, or the United States, the hierarchy’s wrongheaded stand on contraception combined with the awful revelations of numerous cases of sexual abuse of children and sexual abuse and harassment of women by priests that Rome and Church hierarchies have tolerated all over the Catholic world has been the perfect formula for the descent into disrepute and irrelevance.

Our problem, though, is that the Church hierarchy’s suicidal stand against reason threatens to bring down the country along with it in Gotterdamerung style. It has been almost 14 years since the reproductive health bill was first introduced in Congress. Since it then, the population of the country has grown from 75 million to over 94 million. The scorched-earth rearguard action of the Catholic Church hierarchy against rationality and collective responsibility has unfortunately condemned millions of those children who joined our country in the last 14 years to grinding poverty and a precarious existence.

Despite setbacks in schedule, I am confident that, whatever their personal stance on the issue, the leaders of the House and Senate will be able to gather the courage to bring the RH Bill to a vote sooner rather than later. There is no doubt that when the RH Bill does come to a vote, it will be a transcendental event in our country’s painful progress away from ignorance and blind tradition that began with the movement for secular reform promoted by the ilustrados, the Reform Movement, and the Revolutionary Movement in the late 19th century but which remains incomplete. The challenge to members of Congress will be to abandon narrow electoral self-interest and vote on the following choice: an irrational obscurantist stance that would keep the country in prolonged darkness and poverty, or a future marked by vigorous development, prosperity, and a democratic politics that is truly free of clerical interference, marked by a genuine separation of Church and State, and enjoying real religious tolerance.

*Rep. Walden Bello, who represents Akbayan Party in the House of Representatives, is one of the main sponsors of the Reproductive Health Bill.

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[In the news] Colleagues in human rights movement set tribute for Frederico Gapuz -MindaNews

MindaNews » Colleagues in human rights movement set tribute for Frederico Gapuz.

By mnicc
May 17, 2012

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/16 May) — A tribute for human rights lawyer Frederico Gapuz has been scheduled on Thursday (May 18) at the Iglesia Filipina Indepeniente’s Pro-Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Barangay Bulua here.

Human rights defenders, civil libertarians, church leaders and political activists from all over Mindanao are expected to pay their last respects to Gapuz in the necrological service cum tribute that will start at 5:30pm.

In an program emailed Wednesday, lawyer Mario Paul A. Labis, secretary general of the city chapter of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said their chapters from all over the island will send their representatives.

“The funeral will be on the following day (May 18) to take off at 6:00 am from the city to proceed to Alubijid town, Misamis Oriental, where a mass will be held at the Roman Catholic Church followed by interment rites at the Alubijid Cemetery,” the program reads.

Lawyers Beverly Selim-Musni of Karapatan-Northern Mindanao, UPLM secretary general Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eduardo Estores of UPLM Southern Mindanao, Jose Begil of UPLM Caraga, National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia and Makabayan party leader Satur Ocampo have confirmed their attendance, said Labis.

Read full article @ www.mindanews.com

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[Press Release] Leyte lake fishing community block mining barges

Leyte lake fishing community block mining barges
Fear threat to fisheries livelihood

MACARTHUR, LEYTE – Hundreds of fishers from Lake Bito, in Villa Imelda village, decided to block the entry of three mining barges which aim to dredge and clean-up the silt making the lake shallow.

In an emergency community assembly called by the village officials last night, the community vehemently expressed its opposition to the entry of the mining barges fearing that the disturbance which will be brought by the vibrations of the machine equipment and extraction of silt and sand may cause more fish kills in the lake.

‘The fisherfolks are still suffering from the loss of 21,000 kilos of fish and the investigation on the fish kill is not yet finished, we are now again exposed to another threat which may lead to a more complicated situation,’ said village chief Ronald M. Mentes.

Mentes claimed that no proper public consultation was conducted allowing the dredging of the lake.

‘What we wanted is for the mining company to clean up their silt which blocks the waterways of the lake towards Pamunawan and Saloquege creeks. However, we will not view this as a favor from the mining company, they should be responsible and accountable to whatever mess they caused to the community and ecology,’ explained Mentes.

Located in Barangay Villa Imelda, Lake Bito lies in the middle of prime agricultural land producing rice where more than three companies were given permit called Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), among which is a Chinese mining company currently extracting magnetite sand within an area of more than 7,000 hectares.

It has been observed that heavy siltation from the company’s operation caused the blockage of lake outlet wherein sandbars are gradually forming.

‘We cannot deny the fact that MGB allowed mining in ricefields or close to it, surrounding Villa Imelda, the community around Lake Bito has nowhere to go,’ said Jesus Cabias, president of the newly formed Unahin Lagi ang Diyos – Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association (UNLAD-BLFA).

Cabias asserted that if magnetite sand extraction is not stopped, food security and sufficiency is at stake.

‘Everything is interconnected, whatever you do to the surrounding areas, the lake will still be affected,’ concluded Cabias.

Joining the fisherfolk community, Archdiocese of Palo Social Action Director Fr. Edwin Perito articulated the position of the Catholic Church considering mining as a spiritual and moral issues which continually divides the faithful.

‘It is greed which forces the influential few to the detriment of the majority, denying the people to a balanced and healthful ecology,’ declared Fr. Perito.

Meanwhile, Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, said in an official statement that ‘MacArthur magnetite mining is a clear threat to food security wherein fishery industry in Lake Bito is at stake as well as rice production in the area.’

Garganera claimed that magnetite mining in prime agricultural lands as well as in other areas such as in coastlines and offshore should be stopped considering the present threats of climate change and disasters.

‘The Mining Act of 1995 is not clear on the protection of our agricultural areas – mining is being permitted adjacent to productive farms or within ricefields. It gives mining companies full right over our water resources,’ claimed Garganera.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

Contact details:
Brgy. Captain Ronaldo M. Mentes, Barangay Villa Imelda, MacArthur, Leyte – 0947.420.7620
Mr. Jesus Cabias, UNLAD Bito Lake Fisherfolks Association President – 0912.433.7768
Fr. Edwin Perito, Archidiocese of Palo Social Action Director – 0920.967.6213
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator – 09277617602

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Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[In the news] Bikini photo controversy: Court orders Cebu school to let students march -thepoc.net

Bikini photo controversy: Court orders Cebu school to let students march
by Merck Maguddayao, thepoc.net
March 29, 2012

The Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 19 ordered Saint Theresa’s College (STC) to let two 16-year-old high school students march on graduation day after the exclusive Catholic school banned the two from attending for posing in bikini and posting their pictures online.

In a report on Inquirer.net, judge Wilfredo Navarro issued a temporary restraining order on the STC’s sanction on the two students.

In his order, Navarro penned that STC must “treat the minors with kindness and civility befitting true graduates of a respectable institution sans any discrimination for the entire duration of the commencement exercises.”

Inquirer earlier reported that the administration of STC, a private Catholic school, ordered the sanction because the girls violated five provisions in the school’s student handbook, including a rule banning the “posing and uploading pictures on the Internet that entail ample body exposure.” The photos were reportedly posted on social networking site Facebook.

“STC is a Catholic school governed by the teachings of the Catholic Church. We have to see to it that values are formed,” STC legal counsel Romeo Balili was quoted as saying.

The girl’s parents immediately filed a civil suit against STC because of the anxiety caused by the sanction.

Furthermore, Cebu Daily News reported that “four other female students executed an affidavit against the school officials after they were also prohibited from attending the [graduation] ceremonies.” Said students claim that the school administration labeled them as “having loose morals, drunks, and drug addicts.”

The STC high school graduation ceremonies will be held tomorrow.

Read full article @ thepoc.net

[In the news] EDITORIAL – Empowering rural women -PhilStar.com

EDITORIAL – Empowering rural women
The Philippine Star
March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day is marked today with the theme of empowering rural women as a means to end hunger and poverty. The theme for 2012 resonates even in a country that has had two women presidents and where there are tough laws promoting gender equality. As important as the theme, particularly in this country where there are strong laws but weak enforcement, is the Women’s Day message of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Invest in rural women. Eliminate discrimination against them in law and in practice.”

The message is relevant in the Philippines, where millions of impoverished women are unaware of the tough laws that have been passed to protect them from various forms of abuse and discrimination. Women and their children continue to suffer from domestic violence despite the enactment of a law specifically targeting the crime. Women and young girls continue to be trafficked for sex and illegal forms of labor. Male lawmakers and the male-controlled Catholic Church have long stood in the way of legislation to give all Filipino women, including the poor and less educated, access to reproductive health care, despite the country’s commitment to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. UN studies also show that only a third of rural women in developing countries receive prenatal care compared to 50 percent in developed regions.

Read full article @ www.philstar.com

[In the news] Pope urges ‘profound renewal’ in Catholic hierarchy to combat child abuse -InterAksyon.com

Pope urges ‘profound renewal’ in Catholic hierarchy to combat child abuse
Dario Thuburn, Agence France-Presse
February 7, 2012

VATICAN CITYPope Benedict XVI urged “profound renewal” on every level of the Catholic Church to prevent child abuse, as a top cardinal conceded that canon law was not enough to deal with pedophilia.

“Healing for victims must be of paramount concern in the Christian community, and it must go hand in hand with a profound renewal of the Church at every level,” the pope said in a statement released by the Vatican.

In his message to the 200 bishops, cardinals and academic experts taking part in the Vatican’s first-ever conference on the issue, the pope also called for “a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support.”

Catholic leaders from 100 countries were taking part in the closed-door four-day meeting, as well as the Vatican’s anti-abuse prosecutor, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, and just one abuse victim, Ireland’s Marie Collins.

Read full article @ www.interaksyon.com

[In the news] Bishops: No strong statement on impeachment – INQUIRER.net

Bishops: No strong statement on impeachment
By Jocelyn R. Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 30, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines—The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said its plenary council won’t make a “strong” statement on the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona but may exhort the faithful to pray for the senators who are trying the case.

“Unlike in past CBCP [meetings], where we felt the people were expecting a strong statement [from us], this time we feel that the sentiment of the people in general is that they trust that the Senate will do its job,” said CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in an interview with reporters Friday.

The CBCP Plenary Council is the highest decision-making body of the Catholic Church hierarchy in the Philippines. The three-day assembly attended by more than 100 bishops across the country at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila is the first under the new leadership.

Palma took over as the head of the Church hierarchy in December after Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar’s two-year term ended.

Read full article @ newsinfo.inquirer.net

[In the news] SP studying proposal to declare Tampakan a protected watershed – MindaNews

MindaNews » SP studying proposal to declare Tampakan a protected watershed.

By Bong S. Sarmiento

by January 29, 2012

 BANGA, South Cotabato—The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of South Cotabato is studying the proposal of the local Catholic Church to declare the mountains in Tampakan as a protected watershed, a senior official said on Saturday.

Vice Gov. Elmo Tolosa confirmed the provincial board has received the letter of Fr. Gillarme Joy Pelino, Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, asking to declare the mineral-rich mountains of Tampakan as a protected watershed.

“We have discussed the proposal and came to an agreement that it should be studied carefully,” Tolosa told MindaNews at the sidelines of a tree planting activity here.

Once the Tampakan mountains will be declared a protected watershed, any forms of mining and other environmentally-destructive activities will eventually be banned in the area.

Sagittarius Mines, Inc., which is backed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper, has been pursuing the Tampakan project, touted as the largest known undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

But the bid to bring it on commercial stream suffered a major blow early this month after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected its application for an environmental compliance certificate.

Read full article @ www.mindanews.com

[In the news] Church official scored for spreading ‘misinformation’ on RH bill – SunStar.com.ph

Church official scored for spreading ‘misinformation’ on RH bill
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

  MANILA—A women’s group hit a Catholic Church official for allegedly insinuating that the Reproductive Health bill may end up like the impeachment complaint of Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose ouster by the House of Representatives last month was allegedly railroaded.

Father Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life was criticized by Elizabeth Angsioco, national chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) for supposedly issuing unfair and absurd statements.

“Is this a case of selective amnesia? Fr. Castro knows well that the RH Bill has been pending in Congress for more than a decade and that it has been the subject of discussion from the committee level up to plenary sessions in both chambers of Congress,” Angsioco said.

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

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