Tag Archives: Religion

[Blog] To Love is Beyond Religion. By Jose Mario De Vega

To Love is Beyond Religion
By Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to BBC News Africa report, “Sudan woman faces death for apostasy”, May 15th regard to the case of a woman who has been sentenced by a Sudanese court by hanging to death for apostasy.

Mario De Vega

She was adjudged to have abandoned her religious faith, “after she married a Christian man.”

I overwhelmingly concur to the condemnation of the sentence by Amnesty International which was “handed down by a judge in Khartoum”, as “appalling and abhorrent”.

Nonetheless, I would like to state that the said “judgment” by that Sudanese court is not only appalling and abhorrent, but also preposterous and undeniably barbaric!

It is also my firm view that that Khartoum judge is not only ridiculous, but super stupid!

The “ruling” is appalling and abhorrent by virtue of the fact that the so-called court has invaded the private domain of the personal feelings of the woman. What is the right of that stupid judge to decide who that woman should love and marry?

Who the devil is he? And what on earth is the legal basis of their “law”?

To love and to cherish another fellow human being is an utterly private matter and the bloody state (whatever or whoever it is) has no right to control the heart and the mind and the soul of an individual!

To marry someone and to decide who you want to spend the rest of your life is beyond religion!

I don’t give a damn, even if “Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.”

First point: the majority must respect the right of the minority. The government must respect all citizens regardless of who they are and irrespective of their stations and background sin life!

Second point: their so-called Islamic law must not be used to violate the right of those people who does not belong to them or even those people who already wishes not to practice the dominant religion or faith. Further, that ‘law’ must also respect those people who decided not to have any religion at all!

Third point: the individual is the sole master of his or herself and the government (whatever the hell is its type or form) have no right to control or to dictate or to intervene how the hell that individual wishes to live his or her personal and emotional life.

Fourth point: Sudan must be aware that whatever the hell it does will reflect to the world community.

Hence, base on the following reasons, it is also my considered view and so held that the said “judgment” of that stupid so-called court is preposterous and incontestably barbaric.

Consider the very words of that bastard judge which was quoted by the AFP reports:

“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death…”


Is it because the woman does not want to return to Islam, she deserves to die by hanging?

How about her right to choose what to believe or not to believe? Does it mean that under Sudan’s Islamic law — there is no such thing as the right to choose? How about the right to live?

What Sudan did is a grave violation of International Law. According to Wikipedia:

“The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person’s religion a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

“The Committee observes that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views … Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.”

Not content with the death sentence, the stupid judge also “sentenced the woman to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery – because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law.”


First, it was apostasy, now it is adultery.

This is confusing and truly mind-boggling! How the hell could the woman be guilty of adultery when she only loved her husband?

Adultery in its basic definition means having an extra-marital affair. Nowhere it is stated in the facts of the case that such is the case, hence, how could the woman be convicted of the said crime?

There you have it! This outrageous case has clearly shown the inhumanity of Sudan’s law and the extreme stupidity of the judge.

Her conviction of “adultery” stems on the ground that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan’s version of Islamic law, which specifically says that Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

So to Sudan, adultery is violating their religious prohibition.

What an invention of idiotic proportion! Such a super idiotic definition and moronic concept! What a shame!

According further to the report:

“Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes…

“Then she calmly told the judge: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.””

According to Amnesty International the said the woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, “was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.”

The sole issue of this case can be sum up as: the right of an individual to choose any religion or not to choose at all!

The debate on apostasy

The report lucidly narrated the “long-running debate in Islam over whether apostasy is a crime.”

There is no shadow of doubt that they, the so-called “faithful” are divided among themselves and have a perennial problem with regard to the interpretation of their book that governs their law.


For it is beyond dispute that some liberal scholars hold the view that apostasy is not a crime and they “back up their argument by citing the Koranic verse which states: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.””

However, “others say apostasy is tantamount to treason – and refer to what Prophet Muhammad said: “It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three [instances]: A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community.””

The pertinent and relevant question here is, who if ever among these two opposing and contradictory views is correct? What view must govern?

It is my firm view that the conflict must be resolve by liberally construing the provision of the ‘law’ in favor of the woman.

The court should have rule in favor of toleration, of love, respect and humanity!

I concur with the contention of Manar Idriss of Amnesty’s Sudan researcher in condemning the punishments when she stated that “apostasy and adultery should not be considered crimes.”

Indeed, as she categorically maintained:

“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent…”

I applaud the collective act of the “embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands” in issuing a joint statement that clearly expressed “deep concern” about the case of the said woman and urged Sudan “to respect the right to freedom of religion.”

The report also highlighted Amnesty’s claim that “the woman was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim.”


The woman was originally charged by “adultery”, yet I am wondering: what is the power of the court to add another charge against her? Does it mean that, if she will eat pork in her jail or if she will pray using the rosary; will she be indicted again the third time for another charge?

This is utterly laughable and ridiculous to the maximum!

I joined the international humanistic community in calling for her immediate release.

Again to restate my vehement view, to love is beyond religion and the bloody state have no right whatsoever to interfere and/or control her heart, mind and soul!

Your religion is yours, and my heart is mine and it is mine alone….

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy and Social Science lecturer

College of Liberal Arts
Social Science Department
Technological University of the Philippines

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.

[Blog] Malaysia: On the Question of Moderation. By Jose Mario De Vega

Malaysia: On the Question of Moderation
By Jose Mario De Vega

I refer to the report of Yiswaree Palansamy’s “Bracing for protests over Allah, Christians meet Muslims bearing flowers”, The Malaysian Insider, January 5.

Mario De Vega

To quote from the article:

“Nearly 1,000 Catholics turned up for Sunday mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang, Selangor, this morning expecting an angry mob of Muslims protesting the possible use of the word Allah in prayers but instead, met a group bearing flowers.

“Among the few Muslims who turned up was social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who brought a bouquet of flowers, and was part of a group expressing solidarity with the Christians.”

I commend Marina for her bold and noble act. There is no shadow of doubt that what she did is a clear case of unity in diversity, a struggle for solidarity for the minority Malaysian Christians and a vehement defense of the country’s principle of Moderation — which is under attack these past few days.

Besides showing her concern and solidarity to the minority, she also “lambasted Putrajaya over its inaction and told it to forget about the ambitious Visit Malaysia Year launched with much fanfare last night.”

As she firmly stated before the various press outside the said Church:

“Who wants to visit a Malaysia like this where there is no moderation?

“Hardly an example of moderation, we are now known as a country which grabs Bibles…”

She “arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, bearing a bouquet of flowers, with members from non-governmental organisation (NGO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and several others who turned up in a show of solidarity with Christians.” Also included in their group is the “In the Name of Allah”.

They “gathered in front of the church distributing roses to parishioners as a symbol of unity amongst the Abrahamic religion believers.”

To those idiots, bigots and morons who would accuse her and her companion of betraying her/their religion, this is what our brave lady had spoken:

“We are here to show solidarity with the congregation. A lot of us here are Muslims and we believe Islam is a religion of peace.

“It is not something that we only say (in words), but there must also be action…”

True to her words, after the service ended, Marina “passed flowers to parish priest, Reverend Father Michael Chua, with worshippers cheering and applauding the act.”

This reasonable gesture, this very act is so symbolical in my view and undeniably has shown the true picture or the genuine image of Malaysia, the true one!

Marina’s act and so as the other Muslims there who accompany her has remind me the same moving and loving scenario and that is the picture of the Muslims protecting the Christians during a Mass and the Christians protecting the Muslims during their prayers the recent Egyptian revolution.

I joined R. Gomathi’s happiness in seeing the solidarity group at the church today.

I overwhelmingly concur with the said worshipper that:

“For me, it is a wonderful day to see people of all races coming together in the name of solidarity…”

For another devotee, Fiona Biggs, “the solidarity shown by Marina and the other Muslims was heartwarming.”

As she put it clearly:

“Nothing much from the government but the support from common people like Marina and her Muslim friends is nice…”

Last week, the “seizure of some 300 copies of the Bible by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (Jais) in the Malay and Iban language further strained worsening ties between Muslims and Christians over the usage of the Arabic word Allah which translates as God.” Worst, the said act was done without the knowledge and concurrence of the Selangor State Government.

I agree with the position of some that the act of Jais is unconstitutional and immoral!

I overwhelmingly concur with the De Facto Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim that Putrajaya must answer to this incident and must make it clear to the whole nation its stand with regard to the whole fiasco!

This is a clear case of a vulgar display of supra unreasonable power! When Jais were asked, why it is that they did not even inform beforehand the Selangor State Government, they said that: Opps, we forgot!

What a bloody lousy and super stupid excuse!

Are they implying to the whole of the Malaysian people that every time they will conduct a raid, they always forgot the Constitution, the laws, civility, courtesy, morality and ethics?

HOW ABOUT COMMON SENSE? Are the Jais proving Voltaire correct that: common sense is not so common? Bloody hell!

It clearly reminds me of their illegal and unmistakably unethical raid on a Methodist Church two years ago. The same raid, so as the seizure of the Bibles were done in bad faith and in a manner that is contrary to law and morality.


As reported:

“Although global Islamic scholars have clarified that the term can be used by anyone, state Islamic authorities in Malaysia have reacted negatively to reports of churches using the word Allah in its Malay language sermons.

“The tussle over the word Allah arose in 2008 when the Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.

“Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled last October that “Allah was not integral to the Christian faith”.

“Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as Allah in their prayers and holy book.”


No one has the exclusive right to own the word Allah. For in truth and in fact, prior to the advent of Islam, the people of the Middle East have been calling and addressing their God as Allah. Allah as a generic and as a religious word does not belong to a specific group of people or specific race. The word belongs to the whole people of the world!

Anyone who says that Allah is exclusive to Muslims will betray their idiocy, arrogance, ignorance and religious supremacy.

Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians and the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen their constitutional right to religious worship!

Despite this statutory law, one bunch or a so-called coalition (the question here is: they are a coalition of what? For what?) of religious fanatics has even threatened a local priest.

As reported by Alfian ZM Tahir, “Apologise, or else….”, The Free Malaysia Today, January 5:

“The coalition wants Catholic weekly Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew to apologise for saying that Christians in the state would continue using the term to refer to God.”


This is absolutely absurd and preposterous. Those bigots wanted a priest and a citizen to betray his beliefs and renounce his constitutional rights to believe and practice his own religion?

This is ridiculous to the maximum!

It was also reported that:

“The Muslim coalition said the failure of Father Lawrence to apologise would result in a backlash from Muslims who want to defend purity of Islam.”


Is this a threat? How come the Federal Government is not suing them for sedition, when in fact and in truth their words are already seditious?

Why the Double Standard? Or, it is because they are friends and colleagues of Ibrahim Ali?


Is this their concept of moderation? Whatever the hell happened to the nation’s central principles of unity in diversity?

I am sad by what is happening in our beautiful land, yet I cannot end this humble exposition without saying in a categorical sense that despite my sadness and disappointment, I am also equally happy and hopeful seeing Marina and reasonably, critical and liberal-minded Muslims like them who has the courage to stand up for their fellow Malaysians who belongs to the religious minority.

It is beyond the shadow of doubt that there is hope in our Malaysian society.

Marina and her courageous companions has reassures us once again that Moderation is still alive in our collective community and their great example has emboldened us to further remain vigilant, patient and firm for our continuous quest and struggle for national solidarity, harmony and societal peace!

Bravo, Marina!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

Philosophy lecturer
College of Arts and Letters
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.

[People] Peace and the peace process This is just a pit-stop; the race is not yet won by Dr. Renato Mabunga

Renato Mabunga. Photo from CMA-Phils.

Peace and the peace process
This is just a pit-stop; the race is not yet won
by Dr. Renato Mabunga

Renato Mabunga. Photo from CMA-Phils.

Renato Mabunga. File photo from CMA-Phils.

The landmark signing of an initial peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has reinvigorated hopes of a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

The framework peace deal lays the foundations for a “just peace” that should be guided by human values and international standards of good governance, human rights and the dignity of peoples and communities.

The peace deal is supposed to aim at the full development of a nation, nay of a community, guaranteed by the supreme sovereignty of the people.

What can be observed in the “framework agreement” signed by government and rebel peace negotiators this month is the truthful reference to the pains and aspirations of the people of Mindanao and its adjacent islands.

Unfortunately, only well-intentioned individuals, the wounded and those who empathize with the people of Mindanao can fully appreciate, without equivocation, the agreement. It comes out devoid of pretension and political subtlety.

People in Mindanao (and even outsiders), however, should understand that peace is not a political compromise between conflicting parties. Political compromises connote the satisfaction of vested interests of opposing camps.

Read full article @ www.ucanews.com

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.

[Statement] What one Government gives, another Government takes away

What one Government gives, another Government takes away

(Statement of Bishops and Priests of the National Clergy Discernment Group and the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group on the Barangay Luz, Cebu City Demolition)
October 17, 2012

Demolition in Barangay Luz, Cebu City Photo by Visayan Clergy Discernment Group

“To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14)” [Deus caritas est, 35].

With these words of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we, bishops and priests of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group and the National Clergy Discernment Group, give our full support to the legitimate and just cause of the families of 32 households facing demolition in Barangay Luz, Cebu City who are heirs of land given to them in the 1950’s by the government of President Magsaysay through Proclamation 394 on March 15, 1957. The barangay was then named by the people after his wife Luz Banzon Magsaysay.

More than 50 years later, another government takes away their land, through some technicality, as decided by the Supreme Court.

The Cebu City Council refuses to act on the Executive’s proposal for on-site relocation. The reason – the Council is dominated by the opposing political party. The usual trapo politicking results in more suffering for the people.

The judge who implemented the Supreme Court decision is now in a bind. The first nine families whose houses got demolished and he got evicted are told that their designated relocation lots are in fact already owned by other families. So, the evicted families are left to live under tents next to their own inherited land – ironic!

We hear them crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) and we respond with collective voice in asking the Supreme Court to order the RTC of Cebu to postpone further demolitions until all the requirements of relocation are adequately in place; preferably that the heirs hold on to the land given to them by President Ramon Magsaysay.

Secondly, the bishops and priests of the NCDG urge the Executive and Legislative branches of the Cebu City LGU to lay aside partisan politics, and serve the people.

May the day won’t come that we would have to ask the Lord: “…When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we would not help you?” And may we would not have to hear the Lord reply: “I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting” (Mt. 25:44-46).


In behalf of the NCDG and VCDG,

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, D.D. (SGD).
Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro
Tel. No. (033) 3291625

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.


[Appeal] Letter of appeal in behalf of the hijab-wearing Muslim enrolled in Pilar College -National Commission on Muslim Filipinos

August 2, 2012

S. Maria Nina C. Balbas, RVM
Pilar College
Zamboanga City

Dear Sister Balbas:

Greetings of peace!

I am writing, not only as the Secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos with the mandate to look after the welfare of the Filipino Muslims, but also as a resident of Zamboanga City who graduated from the Ateneo de Zamboanga in 1972, and had friends from your College, including a nun we fondly called Sister Linda (Sr. Erlinda Macatol).

I am writing, not to argue, but to enlighten; and not to object, but to appeal for your kind reconsideration and compromise, in behalf of the hijab-wearing Muslimah enrolled in Pilar College.

I have premised my letter in this manner to show you and the esteemed RVM sisters of Pilar College that I have long interacted with Christians and Catholics, including the Jesuits of the Ateneo, in a spirit of deep respect and understanding, which I discovered, has always been reciprocated in kind.

On July 28, 2012, I was furnished a copy of your letter to the good Mayor of Zamboanga City, the Hon. Celso L. Lobregat, responding to Resolution No. 552 (June 27, 2012) of the City Council of Zamboanga. The letter justified the non-wearing of hijab as your school policy which you say is “explained to them” (the Muslims), so that “in this way, we are giving freedom to students to choose a school which best fits them.” You add that “because they (the Muslims) have been informed that the hijab is not allowed inside the school, they are duty bound to follow the same,” and “they are deemed to have agreed to the rule if after having been informed of the restriction, they still chose to enroll.” Your letter justified this on the basis of “institutional Academic Freedom” which allows “a private school community” to be “organized according to the tenets of freedom of association” and hence, “it may freely adopt its own policies, standards, regulations and set forth its conditions for those wishing to join this community as student.” According to your letter, “this is part of academic freedom in connection with which the school has the right to choose whom to teach.” [citing Ulpiano Sarmiento in Education, Law and the Private School, 2009]

The foregoing discourse of Atty. Sarmiento dwell on the general and must give way to particular provisions of the law, and issuances of concerned government institutions. The Magna Carta of Women (R.A. No. 9710) for instance, provides for the protection and promotion of the rights of women in general, and Muslim/Moro/Indigenous women in particular. Sec. 32 (e) of the said law is more in point when it says: “Sensitivity of regular schools to particular Moro and indigenous practices, such as fasting in the month of Ramadan, choice of clothing (including the wearing of hijab)and availability of halal food shall be ensured…”

Then also, the Department of Education in its Order No. 53, series of 2001 decreed the the protection of religious rights of students by providing as follows:

x x x

“4. In the specific cases of Muslim students, the following policies shall be adopted:

Female Muslim schoolchildren should be allowed to use their veil or headdress inside the school campus.
In Physical Education (PE) classes, Muslim girls shall not be required to wear shorts; they shall be allowed to wear appropriate clothing in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Muslim students shall not be required to participate in non-Muslim religious rites.”

x x x

I hope that Pilar College can reconsider its policy in view of these very clear legal mandates and institutional policy of the Department of Education. Pilar College should realize that while educational institutions can formulate their own policies, the same should not run counter to existing laws and state policies. While Pilar College claims the exercise of academic freedom, such freedom must conform to law and the basic indices of justice and fair play, as well as the corresponding exercise by students of their equally constitutionally-enshrined right to religious freedom.

Your policy appears to be premised on the fact that Pilar College being a Catholic institution, “the core of the curriculum … is Christian living, the reason why all of our schools have Christian Living/Theology/Religious Studies subjects”. You say that “our academic instruction, no matter how excellent they may be, can never be fully accomplished if we do not teach and guide our students the way to God”.

I admire your College for the noble purpose of its educational endeavors. And perhaps, a number of Muslim families in Zamboanga City harbor the same admiration, which is why they have sent their daughters to enroll in your College. In this context, I do not see how allowing your Muslim students to wear a hijab (that may be regulated and agreed upon) will prevent your College from teaching and guiding your students the way to God”, because the wearing of the hijab is by itself, a Muslim’s way to God, as the practice is part of religious studies which your College teaches.

As a matter of fact, the wearing of the hijab is akin to the wearing of the veil which is practiced by your religious orders and which has a long history of Christian usage to indicate modesty and dedication to God. It is mentioned in the Holy Bible, particularly in 1 Corinthians 11:3-10, which says, “For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven. But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”

In the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, it says that “the taking of the veil suggested an obligation of constancy, which forbade, first, illicit sexual intercourse, and afterwards marriage itself. Virgins took this veil themselves, or received it from the hands of their parents. It was worn also by widows, who made a profession of continence, and was called velum, velamen, maforte, flammeus (flammeum), flammeus virginalis, flammeus Christi (Wilpert, “Die gottgeweihten Jungfrauen in den ersten Jahrhunderten der Kirche”, p. 17). [Quoted from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15321c.htm%5D

More so, until the 1960s it was obligatory for Catholic women to wear a veil when going to church. The foregoing shows that Pilar College can adhere to its avowed Christian educational policy even and in fact, especially, if it allows its Muslim female students to wear their veil or hijab, becausethe wearing of the veil is as much Christian as it is Islamic.

As a final note, I hope to disabuse your position that this is a mere issue of choosing schools according to one’s community because this position is fraught with perilous implications. If we are to abide by this position and apply this indiscriminately, then we shall have schools banning students because they do not belong to their community. We shall have education apportioned to people of the same class and intolerant of others who do not belong to their class. We shall then be damaging the very ramparts of freedom and democracy upon which this nation was built.

Instead, we should look at this issue as one of policy which may be altered, or moderated, to use a more proper word. Because if policy were to be unchangeable even if it is discriminative, then Rosa Parks of the Civil Rights Era in the United States would have always been obligated to give up her seat for white passengers because it was the policy and tradition then.

The oppressive tradition of the time of Rosa Parks has changed, resulting in the election of the first black President almost four years ago. That change did not destroy America. In the same manner, allowing the hijab prohibition and regulating it in Pilar College, will not destroy the College and its noble educational goals. Nor will it impair its right to academic freedom, because in spite the hijab, Pilar College can determine its academic system of accepting students, its method of teaching and giving grades, its mode of student discipline, and the intellectual and spiritual well-being of its students as a whole.

As the wearing of the hijab or the veil is a sign of modesty and obedience to God, it can never denigrate or damage educational institutions. Instead, it can uplift the institution’s sense of modesty and morality without distinction as to religion.

Given the foregoing, I hope Pilar College can revisit its anti-hijab policy for the good of all its students, Christians and Muslims alike. We shall be happy to sit and dialogue with you, if you feel that the NCMF can contribute to the resolution of this issue.

Warm regards,

Very truly yours,


National Commission on Muslim Filipinos

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] School bans Muslim students from using veil, triggers outcry -RAPPLER.com

School bans Muslim students from using veil, triggers outcry.

By Amir Mawallil
July 31, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Groups are protesting a school policy here that bans female Muslim students from wearing the veil in school.

Pilar College has prohibited its female Muslim students from wearing the traditional hijab in the school premises. The city council has passed a resolution questioning the policy, but the Catholic school has stood firm in its decision.

Most Muslim women wear the veil to practice their faith, although its use has been a fodder for controversy. In 2010, France passed a law banning the use of Islamic veils in public places.

While predominantly Catholic, Zamboanga is host to a large Muslim community and serves as the commercial and trading gateway for Muslim-dominated provinces such as Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. It’s also host to a large Catholic university, the Ateneo de Zamboanga, which allows its female Muslim students to wear Islamic veils.

In a July 9 letter to Mayor Celso Lobregat, Sister Maria Nina Balbas, president of Pilar College, confirmed that the school is implementing the ban. “Our origin is Roman Catholic and we cannot deviate from that origin,” Balbas said. “It is true we cater to students of different religions, but before they are officially enrolled, during interviews of student applicants, rules and regulations are explained to them particularly the non-wearing of the hijab or veil.”

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

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.

[Blog] The Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression is beyond religion by Jose Mario De Vega

The Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression is beyond religion
by Jose Mario De Vega

This refers to “Don’t gossip about the case, Christians urged”, (The Star, July 3) concerning an article which originally appeared at the Strait Times/Asia News Network that centered on the prevailing controversy being face by the City Harvest Church.

As the said article noted:

“Its founding pastor, Kong Hee, and four senior church leaders were charged with allegedly misappropriating millions of church funds.”

The case is now lodged in court of competent jurisdiction in Singapore.

I agree with the several religious leaders at some churches who “reminded their followers during Sunday worship services that the charges against City Harvest Church were directed at individuals and not the church, or religion in general.”

That, in my view is the correct view and utterly the right words to say under the circumstances.
The charge against Kong is for “allegedly siphoning off nearly S$23 million (RM 57 million) of the congregation’s money to support his wife’s singing career.”

According to the AFP:

“Pastor Kong Hee, 47, faced three charges of criminal breach of trust relating to the misuse of the funds of the City Harvest Church, one of Singapore’s biggest with a membership of over 30, 000.

“Kong was accused of dishonestly misappropriating monies from the church’s building fund over several years to support the career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun, who tried to become a music star in the United States.

“The church, which has affiliates in neigbouring Malaysia and other countries, is known for services that resembles pop concerts.”

Besides Kong, four other church executive were arrested by the Commercial Affairs Department, a unit set up by the police to fight financial crime last Tuesday.

Based on Singaporean law, they could face life imprisonment, as well as fine if convicted.
My issue in this case is the interest of the public or the public interest.

Public interest simply means that the state through its duly constituted authority and agency which is no other than the government is empowered by the constitution, the relevant statutes and law and the whole body politic to act boldly and move swiftly the moment an organ of the community or society at large (whether public or private, an individual or an association, a group or an institution) violates or transgress the law of the land or committed acts which are prejudicial and detrimental to the common good which is the very interest of the public.

That in an elementary form is the basic principle of the Police Power of the State; the sole purpose of which is to defend and protect the welfare and well-being of the people and the citizens as a whole.

Of course, the said principle or power is not unlimited or unquestionable. That is why in every constitution, there is the corresponding Bill of Rights to serve both as a defense and a permanent injunction to the arbitrariness and excesses of the enormous power of the state.

In the case at bar, Kong and four of his associates are about to be tried by a competent court.

Hence, let the judicial process run its due course. Let justice be serve and the right to triumph.

My second issue with regard to this case is the apparent gag order or diktat by the various Christian groups to their members and congregation which commanded them not to talk about, gossip or discuss the said case whether orally or through the internet.
Those Christian leaders said that instead of talking and/or gossiping about the facts of the case, the members should rather pray for the church instead.

Point one. What is wrong for a member or a bunch of members to talk, gossip and discuss the merit and the propriety of the case?

It is my firm view that the membership themselves up to the a particular member do have all the moral and the legal standing to ask, to inquire, to ‘gossip’ and to know everything which concerns the said organization, whether it pertains to the leader’s management style, policies, structure and especially the financial matters.

In every organization, the power lies to its members not its leaders; for the undeniable reason that the members themselves are indisputably the very backbone of the organization. Take away the members and there is no more organization that will be able to stand or be able to exist!
Hence, the members incontestably have a say on all matters and they have all the right to posed all the questions, demand answers and ultimately know the score and the truth!

It is in this great sense that, it is my uncompromising stand and firm view that the order or the call of the leaders not to ‘gossip’ about the case is patently stupid, downright preposterous and completely ridiculous!

What is their moral right to issue such a call? Correspondingly, what is their legal right to order the members not to talk or to ‘gossip’ about the case?

For all legal intents and purposes, it is only the court which is handling the case have the lawful right to order the legal and respective parties-in-interest not to discuss and talk about the merits of the case based on the Latin doctrine of the sub judice rule.

No religious leaders for that matter have the right to order silence or to demand the members to shut up. The gag order or that dubious call is a clear case of theocratic dictatorship.

My central main thesis is that the constitutional provision guaranteeing the right of the people and the citizens to the freedom of expression is beyond religion!
Point two:

Last Sunday, the City Harvest Church issued a statement dismissing the allegations, even before the case has gone to trial.


Why those leaders have the guts to demand their members not to talk or to ‘gossip’ on the case, yet they do not have the balls to question the purpose and the intent of Kong and company in issuing his ‘strongly worded statement’?

Is Kong not subject to the gag order of his fellow in not talking and ‘gossiping’ on the/his case?

Does Kong and company have the right to express themselves, yet their members have no right to even talk and/or ‘gossip’ about the case?

What kind of justice is this?

Assuming arguendo, that the statement issued by Kong maintaining his innocence even before the case has gone to trial, then the relevant and pertinent issue here is that:

If Kong have the right to issue a statement, then it logically follows based on the principles of natural justice that any person (whether a member of his church or not) do have the same right and privilege to talk, to discuss and to inquire about the case.

As a philosopher, a humanist and an academic, I condemn to the highest possible extent that diktat and/or order by the various Christian groups of calling on their members in not talking and/or inquiring about the case.

This case is impressed with public interest by virtue of the very fact that a substantial portion of the members of the said church are part and parcel of the public. Lastly, there is no way, wherein the people and the public may stop or cease from discussing the merits and/or the facts of the said case by virtue of the fact that the facts of this controversial and shocking case, it is now part of the whole public discourse!

Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

July 4, 2012
Subang Jaya, Darul Ehsan,
Selangor, Malaysia

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.

[Featured Video] Philippines: Abuses Go Unpunished -HumanRightsWatch

Philippines: Abuses Go Unpunished

Published on Jun 27, 2012 by Human Rights Watch

Philippines: 2 Years under Aquino, Abuses Go Unpunished
No Successful Prosecutions of Security Forces for Killings, ‘Disappearances’

(New York, June 28, 2012) –President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines has not fulfilled his promises to hold accountable security forces responsible for serious abuses since taking office two years ago, Human Rights Watch said today. The Aquino government has not successfully prosecuted a single case of extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance, including those committed during his presidency, Human Rights Watch said.

In his inaugural speech on June 30, 2010, Aquino gave “marching orders” to the Justice Department to “begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.” Five months later, at an event to commemorate human rights, he said that, “The culture of silence, injustice and impunity that once reigned is now a thing of the past.” And during his 2011 State of the Nation Address, Aquino reiterated this commitment, saying, “We are aware that the attainment of true justice does not end in the filing of cases, but in the conviction of criminals.”

“President Aquino has not lived up to his promises to bring those responsible for serious abuses to justice,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Concrete measures — rather than more promises — are needed now.”

Human Rights Watch today released a video, “Philippines: No Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” in which family members of the “disappeared” call on the president to live up to his promises of justice.

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.

[Event] July 10: Biblico-Theological Forum on Debt -FCAID

July 10: Biblico-Theological Forum on Debt

Dear faith-based partners,

It will be exactly two weeks from now before the July 10 Biblico-Theological Forum on Debt. We do hope that you can spend your one day with us to learn the faith-based perspectives on debt so we can be united and mobilized effectively as moral shepherds of the people in their everyday journey through life amidst poverty.

For confirmation, please email back or fax to us the registration slip together with an attached sheet of paper with the names of your delegation if more than one on or before July 6. See program below for more details. Salamat.


Faith-based Congress Against Immoral Debts (FCAID)

In partnership with the
Loyola School of Theology (LST) and the
Inter-Congregational Theological Center (ICTC)

You’re Seminary/Convent, Theology School/Department is invited to the
Biblico-Theological Forum on Debt
July 10 (Tues), Cardinal Sin Ctr., LG/F LST, Ateneo de Manila, Loyola Hts., Q.C.

Objectives: 1) Understand the Biblical and Theological perspectives on the debt; 2) Gather Theological reflections and materials on debt and use them in guiding the faith-based people into action an in performing their duties as moral guides to the people who directs the path of the country towards a sovereign society. This means a country that can dictate its own economy, the kind of development it wants to pursue, where it spends its money (more to the people than debt service) independent from the loan pushing and conditionalities of international financial institutions (IFIs).

Registration Fee: Php70.00/hd
Slots Available per organization: 5-10
Slots Available per theology school: 20

For inquiries: Contact Jofti (09088945174) / Ador (09328726166)

Registration Form (submit on/before July 6 at fcaid@yahoo.com / 924-6399 so we can prepare kits and food)

Name of Attendee (individual/organization): _________________________________________________________

No. of attendees from your org/school: _____________ (please attach a separate sheet of paper for their names)

Contact Details: ___________________________ (landline/fax/cell #) ______________________ (email address)

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.

[People] The Time of Transparency by Fr. Shay Cullen

The Time of Transparency
by Fr. Shay Cullen

The conviction of the Philippine Chief Justice Corona for dishonesty having failed to tell the truth in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required of every public official by law is a serious event in the history of the Philippines. The first impeachment of a public official. It could pave the way for greater accountability by government officials, judges and prosecutors and an improvement in the administration of the rule of law in the country.

The alleged corruption of some members of the judiciary is legendary yet very few judges have been brought to trial and convicted. That is why this decision finding the chief justice guilty of dishonesty is monumental. It has brought hope for judicial reform in the country. The Supreme Court has ordered all judges to open their SALNs to the public. It is only right and proper.

It is the judiciary which can pass judgment on the rest of us. The supreme court justices interpret the constitution, they establish what is right and wrong. Judges must be totally dedicated to truth, honesty and integrity starting with themselves. How else can they implement the law with impartiality if they themselves do not obey it or think that they are above the law.

It has been the common belief that the judges protect each other. Complaints against them are seldom fully investigated. A Judge in Davao blocked an investigation by the Human Rights Commission into a suspected burial grave for victims of summary executions. Although it was clearly an obstruction of justice, he got away with it.

Allegedly, a hefty bribe can secure a marriage annulment or a dismissal of a serious charge. Some people believe court decisions are for sale to those who can pay the most. However exaggerations abound and the conviction of the chief justice must not be taken as a conviction of the whole judiciary, there are many good honest judges but we need many more.

It is common belief too that some judges favor the rich above the poor, that they are over lenient with child sex abusers and rapists. It makes the judiciary look like protectors of pedophiles. There are few convictions of child abusers and no foreign sex tourists have been convicted for child sexual abuse in many years. Although corrupt prosecutors are to be blamed also.

The long delays, endless postponements and frequent dismissals of charges against child abusers by suspect judges and corrupt prosecutors is a serious injustice. Speedy trials with continuous hearings should be the right for every child victim but they don’t get it and frequently they give up seeking justice. The rapist goes free just as planned by all except the child victim.

The apparent impunity of human rights violators, police and military, and people traffickers, is shocking and received heavy criticism from the Geneva based UN committee reviewing the Philippine record last week. This is the now the greatest challenge to the administration of President Aquino. Much has been achieved in two years but much more is needed.

The conviction of the Chief Justice and the order for the Supreme court to judges to open all their SALNs to public scrutiny has opened up the possibility that all officials will have to publish their SALNs . We can expect a rush to the banks by officials with hidden assets to withdraw them especially those with US dollars. Government officials and politicians reportedly keep their secret and unlawful wealth in dollar accounts on the premise that they cannot ever be disclosed under the banking law.

But the impeachment trial and conviction busted that all too convenient interpretation of the law used by the chief justice. The people will be demanding to see that all officials SALNs are published and accessible on the internet. For sure wily officials will use dummies to hold their ill-gotten wealth or they will hide it abroad.

We can look to the future with hope that there will be a positive and beneficial outcome to this conviction. The Philippine judiciary will be a healthier and more trustworthy servant of the people and deliver justice speedily and fairly. Perhaps abused children will find justice, the even the assassins might be tried and convicted. If we can have that we will have a more just and happier country.

Need Help? Contact:

Privacy Policy:
We will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information with anyone without your advance permission or unless ordered by a court of law. Information submitted to us is only available to employees managing this information for purposes of contacting you or sending you emails based on your request for information and to contracted service providers for purposes of providing services relating to our communications with you.

Physical Address:
Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. e-mail: shaycullen@preda.org, newsletters@preda.org
SEND US DONATIONS: You can now send us donations Online via PAYPAL. Please visit our website.

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

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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] Protecting human rights -INQUIRER.net

Protecting human rights.

By Ustadz Magadapa
Cebu Daily News
April 22, 2012

Islam provides many human rights for the individual. The following are some of these human rights that Islam protects.

The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred, whether a person is Muslim or not. Islam also protects honor. So, in Islam, insulting others or making fun of them is not allowed. The Prophet Muhammad said: Truly your blood, your property, and your honor are inviolable.

Racism is not allowed in Islam, for the Qur’an speaks of human equality in the following terms Allah  said:

Islam does not reject certain individuals or nations being favored because of their wealth, power or race. God created human beings as equals who are to be distinguished from each other only on the basis of their faith and piety. The Prophet Muhammad  said: “O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e., white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety”.

Read full article @ newsinfo.inquirer.net

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.

[People] Helping Others is Our Path to Happiness by Fr. Shay Cullen

Helping Others is Our Path to Happiness
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

What brings out the crowds to cheer on a hero, a liberator, a Messiah like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and the greatest of all, Jesus of Nazareth, and many more. All but one of the above was executed or assassinated and all were brutalized and jailed unjustly for their beliefs and mission. They had a common goal to bring justice, freedom and truth to the world held captive by tyranny and evil.

These great people of our generation, despite their human frailties, Jesus excepted, gave their lives for others without counting the cost. They are inspiring leaders that lived out the deepest values that makes us so human and dignified human persons. For believers, Jesus is divine but he humbled himself to be fully human like the rest of us and shared our human condition and came to redeem it.

We admire them in varying degrees because they are what we would all wish and aspire to be, but cannot find that same courage and bravery in ourselves. And yet they are liberators of our spirits and of all who are captive to fear and insecurity because they have stood non-violently against tyranny and oppression.

They took a stand to defend the helpless, the victims of poverty, cruelty violence, hatred, bigotry and torture and they suffered the same themselves. They took a stand for us. They knew from experience what they were standing against and what they were ready to live and die for. We cheer for them because they represent our highest aspirations, yet we frequently fail to stand up for ourselves and our neighbors.

As always happens when the tyrant and oppressors or their agents of violence arrive with guns, sticks, knives and swords, the messiahs are left in the open alone, deserted, betrayed. Then the cheers, hosannas, and euphoria die away and they are led to the gallows, the firing squad or the crucifix to pay for their bravery and self-sacrifice. Then fear triumphs and the once euphoric followers flee and hide. It is then that a great silence descends as a voice is choked off, a vision is mocked and trampled upon, and tyranny seems to triumph.

But then when we see the same today in an equally cruel and selfish world. Are we not disgusted to see so many ignore the poor, the hungry, the abused child and turn away? That is the hour for us to decide on whose side we are really on, the liberator or the oppressor? Can we overcome fear and speak out or do we fear pain and punishment so much that we would allow a neighbor, a friend to suffer and die, children to be abused and we do and say nothing, but deplore and denounce it in others? That is a betrayal of our faith. To believe in justice but not to help victims is hypocrisy.
There are many thousands of great and good people doing heroic things everyday to alleviate the hurt of others. They are involved in charities, they volunteer to help the downtrodden and the needy wherever they find them. We are challenged to go and join them, find a way to end our apathy and complacently and our selfish indulgent ways.

We need to ask how can I help? Everyone can help ease the hardship of another and that means more than to the needy than we can understand. If we suffered like them, we would understand pain. Just to see that there are others far worse off than we ourselves are the start. We only need to count our blessings and appreciate what we have when others have so little to be motivated to help.

If we are healthy, we can help the sick, if we are rich we can share with the poor, if we have strength we can lift up the fallen and the weak, if we have faith we can move mountains of apathy. That’s what Jesus of Nazareth did and those who followed him.

Giving our lives for others is the highest form of love that Jesus of Nazareth practiced and other great heroes. We can’t reach those heights perhaps, but we can start to help people in small ways and then we can be small heroes. You’ll be happier for it and so will they. END
Need Help? Contact:


Privacy Policy:

We will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information with anyone without your advance permission or unless ordered by a court of law. Information submitted to us is only available to employees managing this information for purposes of contacting you or sending you emails based on your request for information and to contracted service providers for purposes of providing services relating to our communications with you.

Physical Address:

Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines. e-mail: preda@info.com.ph, newsletters@preda.org

[From the web] “My name is not XX”: searching for the truth by naming the disappeared -OHCHR

“My name is not XX”: searching for the truth by naming the disappeared

Source: ww.ohchr.org

Thousands of unidentified bodies, labelled XX, have been buried in common graves at La Verbena cemetery, in Guatemala City, for many decades. Many of them are believed to be the victims of enforced disappearances during the country’s 36-year-long civil war (1960-1996). More than 200,000 people – most of them civilians – were killed or disappeared during the conflict.

The “My Name Is Not XX” campaign, launched by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation in 2010, aims at exhuming and identifying the remains of the victims buried at La Verbena by matching their DNA with DNA samples provided by the victims’ family members. The main goal of the project is to bring dignity to the victims and a sense of closure to their families by ensuring that the thousands buried as “XX” finally have a name.

The Foundation is a non-governmental organization that contributes to the strengthening of the justice system and to the respect for human rights through the investigation, documentation, dissemination, education and awareness-raising of historic violations of the right to life and cases of non-clarified deaths.

The work of the Foundation “demonstrates that the relentless efforts of victims’ families to finally know the truth about the fate of their loved ones have not been in vain,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay during a recent visit to La Verbena cemetery.

She said that the perpetrators of these gross human rights violations “may have tried to silence the victims who are buried here, but they were unable to silence their families.” “Each exhumed and identified body helps to heal the wounds that many tried to close without allowing the truth to be known,” she said.

The right to the truth, which is the focus of the International Day observed by the United Nations on 24 March, was first recognized in cases of missing and disappeared persons. Its importance in that context has not abated, but the right has evolved and its application has been extended to other gross violations of human rights such as extrajudicial executions, torture and ill treatment, including sexual violence.

It provides for victims and their families the right to know the truth about the circumstances in which violations of human rights occurred, including who participated in them. In cases of enforced disappearance and missing persons, it also implies the right to know the fate and whereabouts of the victim.

Tools for ensuring the right to the truth include truth-seeking mechanisms, such as truth commissions, commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions, as well as international, regional and national courts, and national human rights institutions.

At La Verbena cemetery, Pillay said that the work carried out by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation is not only promoting the right to the truth, but it is also providing “valuable support to the justice system in its efforts to put an end to impunity for serious human rights violations.”

“The results of the exhumations and identifications being carried out here,” she said “are helping the country to move towards reconciliation.” “A reconciliation which can only be achieved through a comprehensive and transparent process of justice, truth, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.”

The UN Human Rights Office in Guatemala works closely with the Forensic Anthropology Foundation, the victims’ families and other civil society organizations by providing technical support and advisory services.

The Office, established in 2005, monitors the human rights situation in the country and provides technical assistance to state institutions and civil society on the implementation of international human rights obligations. The Office aims to empower civil society, including vulnerable groups, to understand and claim their rights and to support Government institutions in developing legislation and policies that, among others, provide redress for victims of human rights abuses.

The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was established by the UN General Assembly in 2010 and is observed annually on 24 March.

The right to the truth is recognized in several international and regional treaties and instruments, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, national laws, national, regional and international jurisprudence, and numerous resolutions and statements of intergovernmental bodies at both the international level and the regional level.

23 March 2012


[From the web] To Ban a Religion is to Ban a Basic Human Right by Mario De Vega

To Ban a Religion is to Ban a Basic Human Right
by Mario De Vega

I refer to the international news reported by Andre C. James published by the Digital Journal which deals with a Moscow regional court’s ruling that the “Church of Scientology is nothing more than an extremist cult and should be banned”.
The said ruling was handed a week ago.

Further, according to the court, Scientology texts:

“foster the creation of an isolated social group, whose members are taught to precisely carry out commands, many of which are aimed at confronting the outside world.

“The ruling marks a decade long battle between the Church of Scientology and Russian authorities, with the most recent incident in 2009 where Scientologists won a decision at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in which Russia was fined 20,000 euro for repeatedly failing to register a Scientology cell in the Siberian city of Surgut as a religious organization.

“According to expert opinion accepted by the court, Scientology is nothing more than hate speech directed to certain social groups who denounce Scientology. The court is of the opinion that Scientology is only a selection of books and leaflets by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who founded scientology in the 1950s.

“The Church of Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950’s after he developed a self-help system called Dianetics which was first published in May 1950. He subsequently developed his ideas into a wide-ranging set of doctrines and rituals as part of a new religious movement that he called Scientology. His writings then became the guiding texts for the Church of Scientology”.

As a Humanist and a practicing philosopher, I beg the indulgence of the reader to allow me to share my ideas and adumbrate on my point with regard to this significant issue.

It is my considered view that the ruling of the court is not wise, capricious, arbitrary and patently illegal.
It is my humble contention that the said ruling is unwise by virtue of the fact that it negates the basic right of an individual or the citizens to freely practice their religious right. This is a clear case of the state’s unconstitutional, immoral and illegal act of encroaching upon the heart of man. It will negate the autonomy and diminish humanity of man!

It is capricious on the ground that it violates the laws, both local and international. I am specifically referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other pertinent global convention.

It is arbitrary on the grim account that the state violated the legal doctrine of the separation of the church and the state. The state has no right to tell to the people, which religion is good or which beliefs are bad, evil or detestable. If they will do that, then such actions will incontestably lead to discrimination, bias and selective justice!

Wherefore, both logic and reason will lead us to the undeniable conclusion that the said judgment of the Moscow regional court is patently illegal and void ab initio (void from the beginning).

If it is fine for the government to ban all religions, then would it be fine also, if one day they decided to ban atheism, agnosticism and the like? The constitution guarantees the right of the citizens to have religion or not to have religion, to believe and not to believe, to be a believer and be a non-believer.

Hence, for purposes of the constitution and the law, atheism, agnosticism, paganism, and the like are statutorily construed as “forms of religions” or “religious beliefs and affiliations”. To reiterate, whatever the hell an individual’s religious and/or spiritual beliefs are, the fundamental law and so as various international treatises and conventions guarantees and protects that basic human right!

I may not agree with those people who profess religion, yet I am going to passionately defend to the fullest possible extent their right to practice or not to practice their right, either to believe or not to believe or even to suspend their judgment.

In the titanic and immortal words of Voltaire:

“I may not agree to the words you say, yet I am going to defend to death your right to say it!”

It is in this great sense that I also vehemently and blatantly disagree with the government in its truly unwise and utterly invasive interference with the people’s right to believe or not to believe!

Part of the duty and obligation of the state is to respect and protect the rights of the people to freely choose or abstain from any religious beliefs; not to reduce the right nor to limit it or impose otherwise!

The arbitrary act of banning religion is unconstitutional and inhumane! Your religion is yours, my non-religion or being an atheist is mine and the state has no right whatsoever to meddle in my domain of conscience! To each his/her own!

Let’s agree to disagree with all rationality, always governed and persistently guided by our full reason and humanity!
In the monumental words of former American President Thomas Jefferson:

“We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

[Press Release] PHILIPPINES: “I stand trial to defend the ‘concept of human rights’,” Sulu activist writes from prison -AHRC

PHILIPPINES: “I stand trial to defend the ‘concept of human rights’,” Sulu activist writes from prison

(Hong Kong, March 20, 2011) Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, an activist from Sulu province who was falsely charged with attempted murders based on evidence taken by way of forced confession, writes from prison his reasons why he submits himself for court trial.

In Temogen’s letter dated February 4, 2012, originally written in Tausug Language and posted on his Facebook account recently, he wrote that he “dared to face the challenges and bear the hardships because I wanted to pursue my case in court”. He explained three of his reasons below:
1. I cannot afford to forsake my responsibilities (‘hak’) to my wife and children;
2. I will not put into waste the seeds I have planted for 12 years in my homeland (human rights work), namely, the ‘Concept of Human Rights‘ for/in Sulu; that we must persevere in defending the rights of any person from people in power (i.e. guwah-sarah=authorities) who use their positions (i.e. to abuse and oppress).
And the respect for entitlements (rights) and the valuing of human dignity should be equal and the same for all;
3. If I will not face them in court, it is as though I have already succumbed to their wish to criminalize the work of human rights defenders.
Temogen, now held at the Camp Domingo Leonor, Davao City, left his hometown in Sulu on 10 October 2009 in “the hope to find another place where the Judge is not corruptible. A place where rich and poor alike is the same in the eyes of law. A place not like Lupah Sug (Land of the Current1).”

Temogen was instrumental in cultivating the idea of documenting cases of human rights violation and making complaints.

For details about his case, read: AHRC-STM-011-2012; AHRC-UAU-002-2012.

In our Statement on January 18, a few days after Temogen’s arrest and detention, we argued that his trial over forced confession and fabricated charges, “questions not only the legality of evidence or the denial of due process, but also reveals a far deeper social and institutional problem unthinkable to many.”

We also raised concern that “unless this wrong (prosecution of fabricated charges) is corrected…the trial itself will effectively undermine the fundamental principles of human rights. It is the fundamental concepts of human rights, and not only Tulawie, stands accused in this trial.”
1 Wikipedia, “Tausug People“, last accessed 20 March 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taus\%C5\%ABg\_people

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.


[Press Release] Visayas Clergy, Bishops’ Lenten Message: Aquino Government Should be Concerned with the Poor’s Welfare

Visayas Clergy, Bishops’ Lenten Message: Aquino Government Should be Concerned with the Poor’s Welfare

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, head convenor of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG), in a Lenten Message, called on the Aquino Government to show its concern for the poor Filipinos by taking steps to address the unabated oil price increases.

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten message to be “concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works,” Bishop Alminaza said that “being concerned means being responsible for our brothers and sisters and not being indifferent to their plight.”

The priests and bishops of the VCDG said that in the Philippine society where many are hungry, jobless and homeless, the occurrence of the “unabated oil price increases result to the skyrocketing price of basic commodities, which in turn, add a heavier burden to our already suffering people.”

As Pope Benedict XVI exhorted in his Lenten message that Christians must not remain silent before evil, Bishop Alminaza said that we share in God’s work of salvation; therefore, we have to struggle untiringly for the total salvation of all.

Bishop Alminaza is concerned of reports that oil companies have overpriced the pump price of diesel by 8%-43%;  and that the government is said to have benefited from the unregulated oil price increases as it earned revenues of P48 billion pesos annually or a total of P239.6 B in the last five years due to the 12% VAT on oil.

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate,  VCDG said that governments must safeguard and value the human person who is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.

VCDG is urging the Aquino Government “to manifest that it is indeed concerned with the well-being of the Filipino people by taking steps to alleviate their sufferings such as: regulating the oil industry so that oil companies will be stopped from overpricing the price of oil; removing the VAT on oil; and instituting price control over basic commodities.”

VCDG  hopes that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection inspire all people “to work for a transformed world: a new heaven and a new earth where all people enjoy the fullness of life, truth, justice and genuine peace.”

For reference:

Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro/ Head Convenor of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG)
Tel. No. (033) 3291625

E-Mail Address: visayasclergydiscernment@yahoo.com

Press Release
March 20, 2012

[Statement] PHILIPPINES: Prosecutor dismissed charges of torture by invoking acts of torture -AHRC

Asian Human Rights Commission

PHILIPPINES: Prosecutor dismissed charges of torture by invoking acts of torture

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that a city prosecutor in San Fernando, Pampanga, had dismissed the complaint of torture by five torture victims against a police colonel and other policemen due to “insufficiency of evidence” because their identification of the accused were ‘dubious’ since they were ‘blindfolded’. The five complainants filed a petition for review at the Department of Justice (DoJ) asking them to reverse the prosecutor’s recommendation. This is still pending. Under the Philippine‘s prosecution system, it is the secretary of the DoJ who has final decision on whether or not criminal charges would be filed in court for trial.

Asian Human Rights CommissionThe complainants, Lenin Salas, Jose Gomez, Jerry Simbulan, Rodwin Tala and Daniel Navarro, filed charges on August 9, 2010, for violation of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 against P/Supt. Madzgani Mukaram, commander of the Provincial Public Safety Office (formerly Regional Mobile Group) and other police officers whose names could not be immediately identified at the time. They were arrested and detained for their alleged involvement with the Marxist Leninist Party of the Philippines, an illegal armed group. Read details here: Story 1: “There are no human rights for us”. They filed complaint of torture while in detention six days after their arrest.
After the overly delayed and lengthy process of, for example, the submission of affidavits, appeals and petitions (including demands by the accused to expunge from record the complaint of torture), prosecutor Maria Gracella Dela Paz – Malapit, concluded in her resolution dated July 21, 2011 that “the instant complaint for violation of Rep. Act No. 9745 (Anti-torture Act of 2009) against P/Supt. Madzgani Mukaram be DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence”.

However, while Prosecutor Malapit admitted that “there exists a probability that they (victims) were tortured”, she nevertheless dismissed the complaint invoking that the facial identification of the accused was dubious because they “did not have the opportunity to see him considering that they were blindfolded”. In justifying her argument she invoked the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on People vs. Acosta1, by merely copying the jurisprudence that the “identification of the offender is crucial in every criminal prosecution”.

In People vs. Acosta, the jurisprudence was applied in the context in which the convicted person, Jesus Acosta, challenged the identification of Freddie Osmillo, the principal witness of the prosecution of him as the person who shot dead Rafael Villavicencio, Jr. in April 28, 1980. Here, the SC weighs the defence of alibi of the accused as against the positive identification of the witness. The SC held to affirm the conviction of Acosta with finality in determining his guilt for murder.

However, in her resolution Prosecutor Malapit applied the doctrine of ‘positive identification’ in exonerating the accused P/Supt. Mukaram and eventually also the other accused police officers from criminal liability for torture. In Acosta’s case, it was after the conclusion of a criminal trial, but in this complaint of torture it was dismissed invoking exactly the same doctrine even though it was not a criminal trial, but rather the process of determination of probable cause. Her application of the doctrine of positive identification in dismissing the complaint of torture, therefore, is completely taken out of context. Here, she pre-empted and usurped the authority that should have been solely for the court to decide: positive identification to determine the innocence or guilt.

In her resolution Prosecutor Malapit argued:

“Like Salas, the identification made by Tala, Simbulan and Navarro seemed to be dubious. It is unusual that they should be able to identify the respondent talking to them when they did not have the opportunity to see him considering that they were blindfolded. Uncertainty thus exists as to the veracity of respondent’s identification as it is possible that owners of the voices they heard belong to that of other persons who inflicted physical harm on them⦔

If this reasoning is not corrected, the exoneration of the accused by invoking  “blindfolding“, which itself  defined as act of torture under section 4 of the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, renders any sort of remedy inapplicable and meaningless. Here, P/Supt. Mukaram and other policemen had been exonerated from criminal liability for the crime of torture for reasons because the perpetrators had blindfolded the victims they were torturing. This type of reasoning rather emboldens perpetrators to create more sophisticated form of torture without them being identified and assured of impunity.

Prosecutor Malapit, however, admitted the existence of probable cause:

“In here, with the presence of the above-stated injuries of the complainants, there exists a probability that they were tortured. It bears to emphasize that physical evidence is that mute but eloquent manifestations of truth which rate high in our hierarchy of trustworthy evidence (People vs. Vasquez, 280 SCRA 160)”

Anyone who studies law, reading this argument would say these are contradiction in substance as to what the role of prosecutors should be in criminal cases. In the Philippines legal system, the prosecutor’s role is to determine ‘probable cause’, meaning a reasonable ground or circumstances that demonstrate a crime had probably been committed. None of the parties challenged the existence of probable cause. It is not within the prosecutor’s authority to make judgement on whether or not the identity of the person who is accused of committing crime as charge is actually the very person who had probably committed the crime. This principle explains the practice of using John Does and Jane Does, which denotes the identities of persons that are yet to be identified, in the criminal complaint. Therefore, the authority that prosecutor Malapit had taken to herself is in effect, that of the court.

Here, in dismissing the torture complaint, Prosecutor Malapit arbitrarily assumed the authority and power of the court. By deciding this matter to herself, beyond her obligations on determining probable cause, she disregarded the role of the court in determining the matter within their authority. Thus, the questions as to identities of the accused involved in torture, the merits of the case and determination of guilt or innocence, which are supposed to be heard in proper trial, were denied effectively from the court because the case did not reach their jurisdiction.

Freedom from torture is an absolute right. It is a serious crime as it is attributed, not only to an individual criminal act of a person, but a person acting on behalf of the State. Therefore, in applying doctrines and jurisprudence, more caution must be observed. They cannot be interpreted narrowly by arguing and invoking analogous to ordinary case-laws and jurisprudence. In fact, the Resolutions of the Prosecutors are not court decisions, where the guilt or innocence of the accused are determined, but rather contains details on existence of ‘probable cause’. But the manner how Prosecutor Malapit argued in her Resolution it has become in form effectively a court decision following a criminal trial.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is shocked, but not surprise as to how prosecutor who had legal obligations to investigate complaints of torture, understands and interprets how the probability of the crime of torture under the Anti-torture Act of 2009, are committed for them to proceed in recommending prosecution of case in court. In the Philippine legal system, the duty of the prosecutor in determining the existence of ‘probable cause’ is very crucial in criminal prosecution. They are ‘bottle neck’ on whether or not a case proceeds in court for trial.

The AHRC therefore urges Department of Justice (DoJ) to resolve without delay the complainants’ petition for review asking for the reversal of the city prosecutor’s decision in their favour so as to proceed with the prosecution of the case in court. If this wrong is not corrected, it will deny any possibilities of remedies and redress for victims of torture. In prosecution of cases of torture, where public officers are acting within the authority and the power of the State, utmost caution must be observed.

[1] People v. Acosta, G.R. No. 70133, July 2, 1990, 187 SCRA 39, full text: http://www.chanrobles.com/scdecisions/jurisprudence1990/jul1990/gr\_70133\_1990.php
Read this statement online

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Visit our new website with more features at http://www.humanrights.asia.

March 15, 2012

[From the web] UN Special Rapporteur highlights need for further investigation and participation of victims in fight against torture -www.irct.org

UN Special Rapporteur highlights need for further investigation and participation of victims in fight against torture
March 14, 2012

Last week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, presented his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The report focuses on identifying best practices for the implementation of commissions of inquiry and makes extensive references to the standards contained within the Istanbul Protocol as key in the establishment of an effective and independent commission of inquiry.

In his presentation to the HRC, Mr Mendez specifically noted that “the earlier work carried out on this subject including the adoption of the Istanbul Protocol… provide useful guidance both to States and the international community on national as well as international commissions of inquiry.”

During the interactive dialogue a number of issues were addressed including the relationship between commissions of inquiry and criminal justice processes; the need for more elaborate and binding standards for commissions of inquiry; and how commissions of inquiry can contribute to the development of an institutional human rights culture.

Read full article @ www.irct.org

[From the web] Revisit policy on terror, gov’t urged -RAPPLER.com

Revisit policy on terror, gov’t urged.

by Amir S. Mawallil, RAPPLER.com
March 7, 2012

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Human rights groups are asking the government to re-evaluate its policy to crack down on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), citing various human rights violations allegedly committed by security forces.

“We have recorded a number of mistaken-identity cases, especially in the province of Basilan,” Nixon M. Alonzo of the Mindanao Anti-Torture Alliance (MATA) said in a phone interview Monday, March 5.

“Because his first name is Abdul and he is from Al-Barka (town), there is a high possibility that authorities will tag him as an Abu Sayyaf member,” Alonzo said in Filipino.

Rosemarie R. Trajano, acting secretary-general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), also underscored the need to review government’s war on terror.

“Of course we condemn those who really commit criminal acts whether they are members of Abu Sayyaf or not, but we hope that government will spare innocent civilians from the scene,” she said in a separate phone interview.

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

« Older Entries