Rice crisis artificial, says Angara

Collusion between traders, NFA execs reported
By Charlie Señase, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:41:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Edgardo Angara Sunday said the present rice crisis was “artificial” and was caused by hoarders and unscrupulous traders.

Philippine Daily Inquirer reports from the provinces indicated that rice hoarders were in collusion with some managers of National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses, who diverted tens of thousands of bags of cheap rice which were re-bagged and sold at higher commercial prices.

Angara said the country was actually facing “a rice distribution crisis” and that the panic was being fanned by the hoarders themselves who anticipate a rise in prices.

Angara, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and a former agriculture secretary, warned against imposing knee-jerk solutions to the problem, saying the situation would likely be resolved with this summer’s harvest and coming major shipments from Vietnam.

Click here to read full text.

Of course, reaction such as this would be the first to happen prior to the occurrence of crisis. Government should not adopt an attitude of denial. They should act now while there is still time left (less than three years before crisis). Focus on production rather than importation.

If there is anything that this administration can do for the nation that has real and direct impact on the lives of the people -- especially to the lowest class of the society -- it would be food security.

When the food crisis comes, all the gains on the other areas of the economy will greatly be diminished (if not wiped out), but the administration will not regret if they would focus and prioritize more the nation's food production.

The following are urgently needed because of the constraint of time:

1. Device ways to stop the unscrupulous conversion by large land owners their agricultural lands into commercial lands. They do it in order to evade Land Reform. Our Land Reform laws are so full of loopholes.

2. Subsidize the farmers production inputs and implements to augment their production. This is wiser than subsidizing the importation of NFA rice.

3. Conduct an aggressive campaign for food production. Offer real and good incentives for anyone who may wish to prioritize investing in food production.

4. Punish those unscrupulous food cartels and corrupt government employees who are involved in irregular food supply manipulations.

5. Nothing kills quickly our local production of food and other agricultural products than cheap imported products from other countries. If imported products are allowed without appropriate control to come in and compete with the products of our local producers, surely they will easily be discouraged to pursue their trade. We must patronize first our own local products in order for the nation to survive. Let us endure for a while the quality and quantity of our own products. It won't be too long and we can compete with the quality and quantity of the imported products. Therefore, control wisely the importation of food and other agricultural products. If necessary, allow imports only of those products which cannot be produced locally. Only if there is real need, allow minimal quantities of those imports of high quality products which can be produced locally (this is to encourage local producers to set their production standard to the level of quality of the imported products).

Our nation and our people can still make it before the crisis comes. And it will greatly depend on the leadership of the present administration, and on the cooperation of the people -- we all must follow. We all will suffer if we do not act now!

Isn't this a God-given opportunity for the administration (and for our nation) to redeem themselves (and ourselves) from the wrongdoings they (we also) have done to the nation? If they can't see it as a "blessing in disguise", then woe to them.

In our struggle with the stubborn problem of corruption, I have observed that many of us have started to become experts in criticism. If the Lord will not shorten our days in criticism, soon we will become mere talkers rather than also doers.


Earth Hour?

INQUIRER.net to join Earth Hour
First Posted 19:35:00 03/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- INQUIRER.net will briefly halt its updates for one hour from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight to join the world in an awareness campaign on climate change in the fight against global warming called “Earth Hour.”

The WWF, the global conservation organization, is requesting all the households and establishments to join the celebration by shutting off their lights for 60 minutes.

The Earth Hour was launched in Australia on March 31, 2007. The event mobilized 2.2 million people and 2,100 businesses in Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.

The Sydney government was able to save 10.2 percent of energy consumption from the activity.

It is 12:30AM of March 30, 2008 when I wrote this blog entry and the so-called "Earth Hour" has long passed already, but I chose not to turn off the lights in our house and instead I turned on every available light there is in our house.

But why? Am I apathetic about global warming and climate change? Of course not. Like many Christians, I strongly advocate proper stewardship of all of God's creation.

I saw this so-called "Earth Hour" as a form of subtle deception. Of course many of the organizers of this particular move are innocent of its true subtle symbolism. But there will come a time when the light of the Truth will be turned off by the darkness of unbelief disguising itself in various subtle ways.

What is really an hour of not using electricity worth or value with respect to global warming and climate change? Of course very immaterial and very insignificant! But the subtle symbolism is very great.

Let us not be deceived therefore, for we are living in an era of great spiritual battle not experienced before.

Arroyo Knows What Distresses the Nation

By E.P. Dakanay Jr.
Letter to the Editor
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In her speech at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) commencement exercises last March 18, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the nation was tired of the politics of despair and division. This is not true and she knows it. Only a seasoned liar could have made that statement with a straight face.

What distress the nation are the lies, deception and thievery in the highest offices of the land that characterize her administration.

Click here to read full text.

If not involved, why doesn’t she go for the truth?

By Jose Jacinto
Letter to the Editor
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Do the people, the bishops and the media expect Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to really go after the truth? If she and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo were not involved in government irregularities, she would have gone after the truth to save herself and sacrifice those who are guilty—the way she sacrificed her former loyal ally, ex-Speaker Jose de Venecia. But if her family is involved, would she really go after the truth?

Of course, not! Are most of us that stupid to still expect and wait for Ms Arroyo to go sincerely after the truth? In preventing Romulo Neri from testifying at the Senate, there is no state secret to protect, but the dark secrets of Ms Arroyo and her family!

Let us all unite to have an honest government for the sake of our country and people. It is our duty and obligation as citizens to be vigilant. Otherwise, the country is lost and only evil will prevail.

Apathetic When It Comes to Corruption

By Melo Acuña
CBCP News Online

Libmanan, Camarines Sur, March 28, 208—Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Emeritus Francisco Claver, S.J said that people are apathetic and discriminating when it comes to corruption.

"We are apathetic, we do not complain," Claver said about corruption which normally people condone as standard operating procedure.

Speaking Wednesday before 2,000 prime movers of Basic Ecclesial Communities from the Prelature of Libmanan, Claver echoed the bishops' pastoral letter on the national situation and said "let's not just blame the government for all the ills that we have. Let's look at ourselves."

He recalled how people are discriminating when it comes to corruption involving their own relatives citing an event in Bontoc during the general assembly of small Christian communities.

"They were singing 'we look at the projects that are started by our barangay captain, and we see that they are substandard' but hastened to add 'but when they are our relatives who do these things, we look the other way,’” Claver said.

"When I heard that, I said, that's exactly what is wrong with us, we talk about corruption by others, but when our relatives, or we do it, we turn the other way around," the prelate lamented.

The prelate added that this was the reason why the bishops said "don't just look at the people who are doing all these corruption, look into yourselves, because what we have found out is: if the problem continues, it is because we turn our eyes away."

He called on people to be sensitive to reports about the country's classification as the region's most corrupt. "We do not react, and here we are, we are a Catholic nation, but we have no reactions," he added.

"And this is where the bishops are asking you: let's do something about it, but let's start with ourselves, let's not just blame others, let's start where we can," Bishop Claver appealed.

Bringing the Stalemate to an End

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

...I am not sure how the public, nationwide, has received the Supreme Court ruling on the Neri case. The calls and text messages of ordinary citizens that I have heard on radio in the past few days have been quite alarming. They are filled with disgust, cynicism, and contempt. They had looked up to the highest magistrates of the land for a Solomonic and high-minded resolution of the stalemate. Yet the voting pattern of the justices in this case has only seemed to confirm their expectations about the political allegiances of the high court’s members.

What is the Senate to do under the circumstances? The Senate can resume its hearings and continue to gather information that may be useful not only to the crafting of new laws but also to the preparation of a new impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo. The Supreme Court anticipates that the issue may eventually take this route, and so it has admonished the senators against prejudging a case in which they will eventually be the jury.

Or, the Senate can conclude the hearings and cause the filing of criminal complaints against certain individuals, including high government officials. There is an implied promise in the Court’s decision that the evidentiary requirements of criminal proceedings may be allowed to override executive privilege, and thus bring out information that is being blocked in the current Senate hearings.

The chances that any of these two options may prosper depend, of course, on the independence of the House of Representatives where the impeachment case will have to originate, and of the Ombudsman and the courts which will have to investigate and try the criminal cases. The public perception of the credibility of these institutions, at the moment, is understandably low. That is precisely why the public has turned to the Senate hearings for information that they did not think the Department of Justice, or the Ombudsman, or the lower courts cared to unearth.

It is therefore unlikely that the stalemate will have an easy resolution via existing judicial processes. And so the issue is unavoidably re-politicized. In this arena, the options are varied...

Click here to read full text.

The Hunger that Lies Ahead

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

The hunger that lies ahead can be much worse than the hunger of today and yesterday. It is a direct result of neglect, especially by those whose main mission in life is the mission of One who came to bring glad tidings to the poor. It is a direct result of apathy, especially by Christians who could sleep peacefully while one in every five of his neighbors experienced hunger. It is a direct result of leadership without heart for Filipino farmers and without vision for their development...

...Poverty and hunger have been in our midst for so long that the non-poor and the non-hungry have become blind and insensitive to these. We cannot take care of the weak among us, of the marginalized and the old, the sick and the vulnerable young. We deserve the condemnation not only of the world who sneer at our pathetic posture but of all the gods and demigods depicted by statues and immortalized by rituals. We participate by our tolerance in the genocide of the poor, and willingly pay soldiers to keep them at bay when they grow hungry and restive...

...Government does take more than a cursory look at reports on hunger. Public officials are more sensitive than the ordained because they can be booted out of office every three years, or removed by people power. But official intervention has been quite ineffective, influencing a few percentage points up or down without any master plan for eradicating hunger. It is as though government is more afraid of its survival versus the appalling shame of having Filipinos experience hunger in the land of plenty...

Click here to read full text.

A tropical country like the Philippines, which is perfectly suitable for growing rice and has the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in our midst as source and guide for modern and efficient technology concerning rice production, should not be one of the world's major importers of rice -- it should rather be a rice exporting country.

But what happened to our country? This is a case of misprioritization and wrong focus -- if not total incompetence of leadership, or worse, yet another area of governance where corruption is prevalent.

Like a father, when the Lord corrects, He will first show us the areas in which we are weak. How many weak areas in our nation are yet there that we need to see before we (most especially our leaders) start to change our ways?

Let's All Repent To Move Forward

The Bishops' "naive" hopes
By Bishop Francisco F. Claver, S.J.

"How naive can they get?"

That was how a religious superior judged the Catholic bishops on their last pastoral statement dealing with the current political situation. He continued: "Two years ago they asked the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] to look into herself to see what part she played in the problems we were going through then. Nothing happened. And now they ask her to lead the fight against corruption in government!"

Yes indeed, how naive can they get? I agreed with the man: the bishops were naive. But I went on to add: "Naive with the naivete of the one who called himself the Good Shepherd and who is determined to keep looking for the lost sheep"--even when the sheep might be just as determined to remain lost...

...The message in that last pastoral statement of the bishops was the soul of simplicity: "Change your ways and lead the fight against corruption." In other words: "Be converted." Or was that message too subtle even for professional religious to grasp? Or worse, impossible in its intent of change?

Click here to read full text.


False Distinction About the Powers of Legislation and Oversight

By Dean Jorge Bocobo
Philippine Commentary

Anyone who understands English Grammar and Composition will be able to see very easily the gaping logical flaw in the just announced Supreme Court Decision on executive privilege versus the Power of Inquiry of the Congress...

...Having disposed of the PREMISES of the Main Decision in Neri v. Senate, I conclude that the decision is based on a false dichotomization of the Power of Inquiry and is therefore a decision that is morally and logically NULL and VOID. The Congress must ignore it if it is to do its DUTY of making and re-making the laws...

...It only remains to demonstrate that the ZTE NBN deal involves the suppression of evidence in a potential case of impeachment, in which case the SOLE and EXCLUSIVE power to initiate and to decide belongs entirely to the Congress. Although Executive Privilege covers confidential communications of the President and her men, that is only so if REGULARITY of those conversations (along with their candid nature) is unquestioned.

Click here to read full text.

Read also, "Truth and Institutions", by Randy David.


How Far Are We Yet?

By The WindChime

It is the tradition of most people to go to the beach to celebrate Easter Sunday. This is maybe because water is an instrument of baptism that signifies new life – a resurrected life from the old sinful life.

I remember one occasion when I was with a group that went for a first-time journey to a new beach resort in my home province not long ago. During the trip, every once in a while someone in his/her excitement would ask, “How far are we yet?” But at some point along the way, the excitement of the group was interrupted when all of a sudden our driver made an emergency stop to respond to the call of nature. We were not sure what took our driver so long in the middle of the thick corn field, but while waiting for him, one of us got anxious and asked, “Just where exactly are we already?”

In some way, perhaps these same questions will linger in our minds when we consider the situation that our nation is currently in. In our “journey” as a nation – maybe less due to anxiety but more of a self-evaluation – it would be of help to have some answers to those two questions.

But did you notice that in order to be able to answer the question, “How far are we yet?” it is necessary to answer first the question, “Where exactly are we already?” because how can we tell how far we are yet from our destination if we do not know where exactly we are already in the journey.

But before proceeding any further, pause for a while and try to ponder for some answers to the questions. There may be many answers as there are minds that are willing to help the nation in its journey.

The other week, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Manila issued a pastoral statement entitled “Towards A Morally Rebuilt Nation”. In their collective contemplation, the Bishops likened our nation to the nation of Israel when they passed through different places and situations in their journey towards their promised land.

Following their metaphor, the comparison goes something like this: As the crossing of the Read Sea marked the Israelites’ freedom from the bondage of Egypt, in like manner the “People Power” of 1986 marked the Filipinos’ freedom from the bondage of a corrupt dictatorial regime.

Continuing with the metaphor, the comparison goes something like this: But the Israelites grew impatient of the desert experience that followed after the Red Sea crossing and they longed for Egypt. They returned to the old sinful ways of the past and made themselves a golden calf to worship as their god.

At this point of the metaphor, an extended comparison for our nation would go something like this: On the other hand, we Filipinos grew complacent with our desert experience (the long transitional period which consisted of a series of change in administrations that followed after the 1986 “People Power”) and we fall back to the same old sinful ways before. It did not took us too long before we return back into corrupting our electoral system through various electoral frauds – from vote selling and vote buying to various forms of cheating of election results.

These brought the curse back upon us, and as a result, dishonest leaders (from the lowest level to the highest) who are products of our very own corrupted electoral process got installed election after election. They abused the power of their respective offices that they got themselves involved in various forms of corruption, so much so that we the people were forced to return also to the old “convenient ways of the streets” over and over again.

Now, we find ourselves back into struggling with the same old stubborn monster of corruption that we once had defeated before – but which we now have resurrected yet once again.

And this exactly is where we are right now in our “journey” as a nation. We are stuck in the desert of transformation paralyzed and unable to advance to the next place of our journey because we have fallen in an upside down position into the quicksand of denial and unrepentance – the head portion of our nation’s body is the part that sunk in the sand. Any wrong move we make to rescue ourselves (such as extra-constitutional means, unlawful actions, immoral maneuvers, etc.) will only cause us to sink even deeper.

How deep have we sunk? As deep as the depth of the unwillingness of the people involved in various corruptions to repent and put things right with God. Added to it is the depth of the unwillingness of the rest of the people of the nation to repent from their own individual dishonesty in their everyday lives – especially during elections.

How long could we stay buried upside down in this quicksand? The longer the truth is suppressed by means of cover-up, stone-walling, delaying, or distortion of truth by various government agencies and institutions, the longer the nation stays buried. One factor that adds to it is the apathy and indifference of so many of the people in helping solve the crisis. Another additional factor is the false sympathy and the opportunistic loyalty (that traditional politics of patronage had caused) of the rest of the people toward those who are part of the problem.

So, how far really are we yet from our true destination?

According to the Bible, from Egypt to the Promised Land would only take a few days of normal travel. Yet why did it took dozens of years for the Israelites to travel? Well, the complete answer is in the Bible (do the homework).

What about us Filipinos, is it 40 years already since our freedom from bondage?


RP's Option On the Spratlys Dispute

There are many bloggers whom I visit and whose thoughts I appreciate reading because they either always have something pertinent to say or because they inherently profess the same political views I do and sometimes both, but one of the rising stars in my blogsphere book is J who authors The Nutbox.

In his profile J says that he's only 20, and pictures that he's posted in Flickr (from which I lifted the one featured here) really do show a teen-agerish young man.

I recommend that our diplomats get cracking and read J's recommendations. Often, the solution to a complex problem is found in the most simple of propositions. They should pick his brains. Often too, the best solutions come from younger brains that have not been polluted or clouded by layers and layers of warped ozones of nonsense geopolitickings. The solutions that J have offered are doable, they can be easily cross-checked with what has already been done and can be further finetuned by the members of the senior anaylists and diplomats at the Philippine foreign affairs department.

- Manila Bay Watch

Manila's Best Option On the Spratlys Dispute
By "J", The NutBox

Much has been said about the treasonous deal Gloria Arroyo forged with Beijing and Hanoi. But only a few seems to be looking for the best way out of this imbroglio for the Philippines.

The agreement breached the Constitution, offered Philippine territories for exploration by foreigners and destroyed the political solidarity of the ASEAN, which was the key to the region’s successes against Chinese provocations during the last decade. But now that these damages have been exposed, what steps should Manila take to clean the mess?

If the Philippines would have the JMSU canceled, she would incur the wrath of China and Vietnam without gaining back the confidence of other ASEAN claimants who must have felt betrayed when Manila bypassed them during the forging of the agreement in 2004.

I can say there’s nothing wrong with scrapping the deal and upsetting Beijing, if only to promote Philippine interests in the region. But before Manila do that, she must first make sure that she would have the ASEAN to back her up once China explodes in anger. That’s because the Philippines alone could never handle China’s wrath. The Philippines needs to stick with the ASEAN and urge the bloc to face Chinese threat as a united group. This has consistently worked in the past.

Sadly, however, the damage with regards to the unity of these ASEAN claimants has been done and scrapping the deal at this point would not repair it.

What, then, should the Philippines do? Here are my suggestions:

Click here to read full text.


Focus on the Building of the New Order

Reaction to Antonio C. Abaya's article "New Order - Part 2"
By Noel M. Mirasol

Dear Tony,

I am a regular reader of your column at the Manila Standard Today. This note is in response to your question at the end of today's column.

First, I gather that you basically agree with the following premises:

1. The easier task is to do regime change, the difficult part is to establish the new order; (That’s what Jun Lozada-Romulo Neri said, which was the start of this discussion. - ACA [Antonio C. Abaya])

2. The first does not lead to the second as we've learned in the two Edsas; and

3. On the other hand, regime change prior to conclusion of term has downside effects on the nation's welfare and economy. (This is what happened in 1986 and 2001. The economy grew under Cory Aquino until Gringo’s coup in December 1989. The economy also grew under Gloria Arroyo and continues to grow, but may slow down in 2008 because of recession in the US. In both cases, the downturn was caused by extraneous forces, not because of regime change prior to conclusion of term. - ACA).

The current political noise is getting a lot of media attention and increasing participation by many seemingly well meaning people, not just the usual leftists, trapos and other usual suspects. Your columns indicate that you have joined this crowd whose rallying cry is "Seek the Truth".

It is hard to be against the quest for truth. The tragedy however is that "Seek the Truth" quickly morphs into a "GMA Resign" campaign. There seems to be a developing hysteria for another regime change even without a path to or realistic expectation of an ensuing new order.

I suggest that instead of getting all worked up with outrage, we will all be better off if we channel the energy that is being unleashed into building the new order.

The new order will not happen quickly. It will take a lot of work by a lot of people. It may even take a generation. But we should start now, while people are fired up. The next election is more than two years away and, if we start now, a good beginning can be made. Let us use the talent and zeal of the well meaning citizenry to literally create the laws and regulations that will never get done by the people in charge.

Here are examples of what I mean. Why don't we organize a parallel universe of working groups of respected people who will draft an effective anti-dynasty law? (There are several bills gathering dust in Congress calling for the dismantling of political dynasties, as called for by the Constitution. But the dynasts in power resist and will continue to resist such laws. - ACA) How about required improvements to the procurement process, tightening qualification requirements for government officials? I am sure we can draw up a long list of such reforms that will have a large impact. Here's the key … After drafting, there should be working sessions for explaining, debating and refining until we are satisfied that we have a workable solution. Then we can use the "people power" forces to pressure the authorities (congress, executive departments, whoever) to enact and enforce.

A second thrust is to start now to select candidates for elective posts in 2010. The anointed ones should be active participants in the reform activities and should run on a platform of reform implementation.

Another thrust is to conduct research on how other countries (eg., Singapore, Hong Kong) succeeded in eliminating graft and corruption. This research should not be the kind that produces esoteric scholarly articles that only serve to fill file cabinets. We should seek practical, easy to understand and actionable recommendations which could then be assigned to working groups to flesh out. Directing this research work would be a better activity for university officials instead of fawning over sinners, attending rallies and raising fists.

The basic idea is, on the one hand, identify what needs to be done and do the work that won't get done by the people in charge, and on the other, start identifying and preparing the new leaders that we can support in the next election.

We all need to focus on the construction of the new order instead of the destruction of the current administration. The latter may be the popular thing of the moment again, but, as history shows, it does not improve our lot and the country will definitely take a hit.

(These are all worthy initiatives that no one can argue against. But realistically it would be difficult to rouse public opinion in favor of these initiatives if you will not encourage people to also express their outrage over the present iniquities. Do you really think Lee Kwan Yew, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro could have built their New Orders without demonizing the Old? - ACA)

Click here to read more.


Reaction to the Bishops' Pastoral Statement

How Should We Read the Bishops?
By Francisco Tatad
Blog Homepage: First Things First

Let’s begin with the first sentence: “Today we are experiencing a social and political mess.” Another writer would probably have said simply, “We are in a mess.” To say “we are experiencing a mess” suggests the mess is inflicted on us by others. It matters not, by whom; enough that President Macapagal Arroyo is not being blamed for it.

“This, however, goes beyond the question of truth to the search for probity,” the letter continues. “Probity is about the integrity of all, the accuser and the accused.” But probity is one of the first fruits of truth; he has probity who has truth. Can we say we want to focus on probity, so we shall temporarily set aside our concern for truth?

The so-called “search for truth” has taken on the appearance of a political road show. It should not. It does not reveal its authenticity, nor fulfill its purpose, by vulgarizing the Holy Eucharist for political purposes, by turning front page headlines into political placards, or by converting every little assembly into a lynch mob. The search for truth is an integral part of “service to truth,” “service in truth,” or “service based on truth.” It should so remain. The search and the service thereof should define the very purpose of our moral, political and social life.

Click here to read full text.

Wrong Focus or Right Focus?

Columns - By The Roadside
CBCP Online News

I HEARD a story of a math teacher who was trying to illustrate addition one morning to a bunch of little Grade One students. She called Juan and said: “All right, Juan, suppose I lay three eggs by the blackboard and another three eggs by the door. How many eggs would there be?” Juan looked at his teacher and, struggling with words, said, “Ma’am, I-I’m not sure you c-can lay eggs.”

Both Juan and his teacher focused on two different things: the teacher on the problem of 3 plus 3 and Juan on his teacher’s laying eggs’ ability. Either can be right or wrong focus, depending on whose perspective is entertained, that of the teacher or Juan’s.

I think that every person is like a camera. We could be focused on different things or on the same thing. For believers or, better still, for Christians, it’s crucial to always ask ourselves what our focus is in life and in living. Wisdom, especially as the Scriptures and experience would bear out, dictates that taking God’s perspective is the key to have the right focus in life.

I once asked a group of Grade Three students who were taking First Communion in our parish to identify whether certain ways of behaving we see in people indicates right or wrong focus in living. “Suppose,” I asked them, “my concern is how I look and how much money I have!” All at once they chorused: “Wrong focus!” “Suppose I’m doing everything to make some quarreling members of the family talk to one another and become friends again…” This time they told me, almost shouting: “Right focus!” “And if my clothes are more important to me than what I think and do?” “Wrong focus!” they told me again. “But if I think that forgiving is more important than revenge?” “Right focus!” they cried out in triumph. Somehow I had a sense that those First Communicants have more wisdom in their young years than many adults I have known this side of life.

In the gospels it’s so easy to spot the people with the perennially wrong focus in faith life—namely, the Pharisees and, to a certain extent, the experts of the Law of Moses, the scribes. Jesus himself identifies and denounces their cult for what’s good to see from the outside. “Oh, you Pharisees!” Jesus confronts them. “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil! You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” (Lk. 11:39-40). This last remark stings and stuns. God indeed is the maker of everything, of the inside and outside parts of everything, of the visible and the invisible realms. And so why would anyone focus only on one aspect of the created reality, namely, only those that are visible to mere human eyes that can only judge appearances? All this constitutes wrong focus because it impoverishes reality itself and our grasp of it.

It’s funny in the Philippines how opposing parties look at the same Philippine realities but focus on different things. The administration constantly harps on the advances in the economy and how strong the peso has become; the opposition sees the strong peso as benefiting only the already wealthy and causing further agony on the poor (as OFWs say so) who also find prices of oil products and prime commodities skyrocketing.

Pro-administration people accuse the opposition of being merely focused on toppling the president and her regime; the opposition accuses the president and her camp of focusing mainly on trying to survive and keeping power at all costs, including via suppression of basic rights, charter change or what have they. Even our Grade Three First Communicants will doubtless be able to see through this charade and call each party to how wrong its focus could be when they fail to go beyond their own agenda to further their political interests. Meanwhile the common good is hardly even talked about or the people’s real needs responded to.

It’s so heartening how the right focus could bring untold benefits. For example, Mark’s gospel tells the story of four friends who bring a paralytic friend to Jesus, even if they have to bore a hole on the roof of the house where Jesus is preaching to a large crowd (Mk. 2:1-12). I think it’s a testament to how genuine love and genuine faith (as opposed to mere pretended acts of love or believing) bring us to the right focus in life. Because the four friends love their paralytic friend they go to such great lengths just so he could find relief. Because of this love they invest their faith in the power of Jesus to be able to do something about their friend’s suffering. Their love and their faith bring them to the right focus in life—Jesus Christ himself. Their worthy sacrifice, no less than the wisdom of their risk-taking, is confirmed. “When Jesus saw their faith (I always insist that it is the faith of the four friends rather than the paralytic that Jesus focuses on here), he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’—he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home!’ He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone” (Mk. 2:5, 10-12).

Jesus is the right focus in living because, as the Word of God, he brings to us God’s ways of looking at things and God’s ways of doing things. In Jesus Christ God’s ways could become our ways, his thoughts could become our thoughts when, like the four friends, we allow him to take charge and make his gospel lead us. If we do, as is clear here and in many other stories, our personal as well as our nation’s paralysis will find healing.


Towards A Morally Rebuilt Nation

(Pastoral Statement of the Archbishop, Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Manila composed of the Archdiocese of Manila, the Dioceses of Antipolo, Caloocan, Cubao, Imus, Malolos, Novaliches, Parañaque, Pasig, San Pablo, the Apostolic Vicariates of Puerto Princesa and Taytay, and the Military Ordinariate.)

Today we are experiencing a social and political mess. This however goes beyond the question of truth to the search for probity. Probity is about the integrity of all, the accuser and the accused. We are unhappy and we feel betrayed. And yet as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us “in spite of our great disappointment our great hope can only be God who has loved us and continues to love us to the end, until all is accomplished”, (Spe Salvi, 27). We also know that together we have the capacity to correct and purify the nation by starting with ourselves.

The Model for Change is the Desert.

The history of salvation teaches us that the long road to freedom inevitably passes through the desert of purification and conversion. Having escaped from Pharaoh, via the miraculous crossing through the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites considered themselves liberated. But they were not yet free, because they wanted to go back to their old ways in Egypt. “Should we not do better to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2-3).

The chosen people hesitated at the shores of the Sea and remained enslaved. So Moses led Israel away from the Sea of Reeds, and they entered the desert of Shur. (Exodus 15:22) Believing that Pharaoh was the idolater refusing them the worship of the true God, it was in the wilderness where the people discovered that they too were guilty worshipers of golden idols. (Exodus 32:1-29). People were disciplined and converted from their greed (Exodus: 17-21); and the desert which the Israelites feared to enter became for them a place of purification, discipline and conversion, before they could enter the promised land of freedom, forty years later. There are yet no proven easy short cuts to conversion and renewal.

Looking back at EDSA I, euphoric and heroic as it was, it appeared that the event became the Filipinos’ day of crossing to freedom; but that was only the first step that hardly anyone knew. The “desert” awaited the people who would be purified and converted, before they become fully liberated. But people preferred the convenient streets as the easier route to an imagined freedom, and feared that the “desert experience” that awaited conversion and new beginnings.

Corruption as the cancer of the nation.

We cannot add more to the wrath of God for lies, untruth, injustice and evil. Conscience, as the voice of God within, already tells us what good there is to pursue and what evil to avoid. Our people are known to be God-fearing and God-loving; sadly, they fight, deceive and kill for money.

Shamefully, we have been known to be a nation whose prime industry has been identified as politics simply because politics is the main route to power, which in turn, is the main route to wealth (1). In this country people use politics to get money, and more politics to protect more money. “Corruption radically distorts the role of representative institutions, because they become an arena for political bartering between clients’ requests and governmental services. In this way political choices favor the narrow objectives of those who posses the means to influence these choices and are an obstacle to bringing the common good of all citizens.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 411).

The subordination of the public good to individual or group interests is what corruption is all about. In whatever form it takes, the practice of corruption is both immoral and unjust. Corruption is worst than lies, because lies are employed only to cover it. Whenever Government money is stolen or whenever supplier or contractors’ money is offered as bribe to secure projects, to the disadvantage of the Government graft or corruption is committed. Graft is the acquisition of gain by dishonest, unfair and sordid means through the abuse of one’s position in politics, business, etc., while corruption is the improper enrichment of politicians or civil servants or those close to them by misuse of public power entrusted to them. [BIR, Revenue Memo Circular 12-2005]. As an injustice to the Government and people, graft and corruption are against the Seventh Commandment and have the added element if betraying one’s country.

The Universal and All-time Application of the Seventh Commandment.

The Seventh Commandment, “Thou shall not steal”, applies to all, as individuals or as groups. Thus, if one holds on to money or its equivalent that is not his or hers (or theirs), justice demands restitution of the stolen or bribe money to the owner. (CCC, 1459). If the owner can no longer be located, then the money should be given to the poor, or to a credible institution that will give the money for the poor or give true services for the poor.

Restitution was the constant teaching in relation to the violation of the Seventh Commandment in the Bible. “If anyone steals…he will pay back.” (Exodus 21:37).

“Look Lord, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.” With this confession, the Lord Jesus blessed Zacchaeus with salvation. (Luke 19:8-10). The teaching of the Church on stealing is this: No Restitution, no Absolution. In the words of Jesus: with Restitution, there is Salvation. (Luke 19:9). An authentic conversion demands willingness to restore what has been stolen and the resolve not to steal again.

The penitent should not be so complacent about one’s faith as to consider oneself truly absolved before God on account of faith alone, even if one has no contrition…For faith without penance would effect no remission of sins. (Council of Trent).

The mandate of the Seventh Commandment is also addressed to traders and ordinary citizens in all practices of business, commerce and trading. Fraud in business, over pricing, bribery in contracts, cheating in scales, cheating in legitimate taxes and the smuggling of taxable goods, including also the smuggling and trafficking of substances for abuse to damn the innocent and the weak members of society, etc. --- all these are among the many forms of violating the Seventh Commandment.

Our Response: Our desert experience.

The old and the young, from kindergarten through high school on to the tertiary level of education till up to the licensure exams, are all to be formed and guided towards integrity, trained never to cheat in studies and exams. The “discipline of the desert” is to be taught and applied, if anyone is to succeed at any level towards “the fullness of life.”

The Seventh Commandment covers not only the present corruption deals that have been recently exposed, but also all deals, at all levels of government service, of all administrations and governance, no matter what came out of the past or will come out of the present or future inquiries. “Thou shalt not steal” covers also all trading of even ordinary citizens.

We suddenly noticed that the widespread corruption we see in others is also the corruption we detect in ourselves.

Corrupt practices and fraud prevailed in the cities, towns and even in small Barangays. In the last two generations there had been tens of thousands of graft-ridden contracts in Government, the biggest single controversial project ever recorded in the Philippine history was the Westinghouse’s Bataan Nuclear Plant (2).

True liberation would mean that we enter our desert of repentance and conversion. Change lies only at the heart of every person. Let us begin there.

Values for living justly will be preached in parishes, prayed for in the homes, re-taught in schools, discussed in small communities and groups. Support structures will be required for a righteous life and fair dealings. After our personal and communal “desert” conversion, we will, please God, be ushered to the freedom we seek.

God’s Help is always needed.

We need God’s grace, if we are to encourage one another, forgive each other, pay our debts to the justice that we all violated, and start again, not at the banks of “our Sea of Reeds”, but beyond the streets of EDSA. Believers and lovers of God, like true Christians do not have to hate, destroy each other even if they want to correct the mistakes of the past or the present and of each other. Many are critical of the present governance particularly in the areas of truth and justice. But we can restore truth and justice without restoring to violence and hatred. A nation built on contempt is completely unimaginable. As pastors we cannot tell you less, even if some will resent the way we teach. It is for everybody’s good, especially the very poor among our brothers and sisters that we now address this call for communal renewal.

We need the leaders from the highest to the lowest and their families not only to leas us, but also to give us examples of repentance and true humble conversion. We also need people with other ideas but with positive emotions in nation building. Given the example and encouragement, the citizens will be inspired to follow where in the past they hesitated to proceed --- to their “desert” transformation.

Ngayon diretso na tayo sa hindi natin kaagad gustong puntahan --- sa Disyerto ng ating mga masamang karanasan at kasalanan na dapat nating baguhin! May Pag-asa ppo ang ating Bayan at ang ating sarili. Basta’t sa pagbabago kay Kristo Hesus tayo ay magsama sama.

In prayer let us beg Mary and Joseph to lead us back to the Christ that we had lost in the past! God bless us all!


When Institutions Work

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When institutions work, the codes and procedures they embody override whatever personal stature the individuals that lead them may possess. That is how it is in modern society. Institutions are the evolutionary achievements of society, the means by which stable collective life is assured. They begin to malfunction when they get corrupted, when they allow themselves to become the extensions of personal power.

Pre-modern societies had it the other way around: institutions served as the personal tools of the sovereign. They drew their authority from the wisdom or whim of the ruler. The latter not only had the final say, he could also intervene at any point in the decision-making process. Yet, even here, there were checks on the sovereign’s power. Fear of God was one of these. The last of them was the aristocrat’s own sense of personal pride, to which we might trace the cultural basis of what is today called “delicadeza” [sense of propriety].

Click here to read full text.


Tasting of Each Other's Medicine

Uncle Dick and Viktor
By Antonio C. Abaya

“Aragoncillo passed Cheney’s reports on Macapagal-Arroyo, some of which were obtained from National Security Agency intercepts to (Joseph) Estrada, a political opponent of Macapagal-Arroyo….Estrada was planning a coup against Macapagal-Arroyo with US support.”

Click here to read more.

Rad also, "Credit should go to Mike Arroyo".

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2)

If there is anything positive that can be drawn from the turmoils of these last two administrations is maybe the realization that "People Power" can't simply be abused and misused for one's own selfish political motives.

How did GMA and her "planners" felt when they were planning for the downfall of Erap then, and how did they felt when Erap attempted several times to topple her now? In like manner, how did Erap felt when he and his cohorts planned the failed downfall of PGMA, and how did he felt back then when he was victimized by a false "Power Power"?

May both of them (and their "opportunistic" supporters) realize that because of their selfish motives (and most probably driven also by the prodding of their circle of influential oligarchs), they are holding the nation's political progress captive. May they set our nation free from their grip by giving way to non-traditional political leadership. Our nation is not short of potential good leaders with integrity.


Using the Mass to incite disunity

By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

"WHY is the group of former Pres. Cory Aquino and Jun Lozada allowed to use the pulpit to vent their ire and divide the country?" scandalized observers have been asking. "It would be all right if they just hold a Mass and pray for their intentions.

* * *

But to raise clenched fists like what Leftists do and incite the congregation to fight against the government inside the church! That’s too much," they add.

Indeed, why hold such angry, hostile gatherings masquerading as Holy Mass when, in truth and in fact, they are partisan political assemblies?

* * *

That being their purpose, why don’t they just hold their activity outside the church? The Holy Mass ought to be a sacrament of unity, love and reconciliation. But what has been happening is it has become a medium to sow divisiveness, hatred and venomous attacks, thus defeating its very purpose.

* * *

It’s good that not all parish priests and bishops allow themselves to be used by these biased and self-righteous people. In this connection, I have my highest admiration to the Most Reverend Honesto Ongtioco, bishop of Cubao, when he put his foot down on the abuse of churches when he issued a pastoral statement in 2005 to all parishes and religious houses in his diocese "that churches and religious places should not be allowed to be used for partisan politics."

Click here to read more.

There are indeed some things that we as a society need to change because there are stubborn problems that simply can't be changed by doing the same methods all the time because all we would achieve is the same old problem back again.

"People Power" in its old form seemed to have been abused to the point that it has already started to become ineffective. Sometimes all that is needed for a method to be effective anew (against something that has evolved and has become stubborn) is a change of its "form". Power, like energy, has many forms.


Clandestine Manipulations?

A reaction to Tony C. Abaya's article on "Revolutionary Junta."
By Irineo Perez Goce
Lipa City, Feb. 29, 2008

Giliw na Ka Tony:

I read, with bated breath, your article on "Revolutionary Junta."

My particular interest was with regard to prognostications on a Noli De Castro leadership. Although I had it that he is not ideally clean, I would prefer him as against any other leading politicians of these days.

My serious doubt, however, is that he might not adhere to the GMA policy of returning wholesale English language to the classrooms. And that is the GMA ace which keeps her firmly ensconced in the Malacañang throne! Because it follows the Washington (World Bank-IMF) "policy of insuring the uninterrupted supply of cheap (Filipino) labor force for the needs of multinationals here and abroad." That sounds sordid, does't it?

As I see it, through diplomatic and even by means of clandestine manipulations, our country is firmly being retained as a USA cultural and intellectual dependency to keep RP as an American-retirees-reserve. I see nothing wrong with that if looked at through the prism of considerations for international brotherhood.

But my blood inevitably boils with the indubitable concern for our racial kin and the less fortunates in this our hapless Motherland! There lies my mental enigma, vis-a-vis the economist's notion of "survival of the fittest." and the elimination of the unfit!

Now, going back to Ka Noli, he is "maka-wika," in the terminology of the lovers of Inang Wika (which include this obscure and silent admirer of ACA since the time a bosom friend by the name of Simplicio Lat Endaya {sle_codiva@yahoo.com} -- now an ex-pat somewhere -- from Malvar in Batangas province occasionally referred to him).

My thinking of our country's current shaky situation inevitably reverts to our past history, particularly from the time the Aguinaldo revolutionary government was inveigled to fight the Spanish colonialists "to save the American troops" and then perfidiously annexed/colonized by means of the Treaty of Paris. Thereupon, Filipino children of school age were lured with benevolent wiles, inveigled them to learn and memorize English, parrot-style (which has degenerated into wers-wers in our time), and tie down the Filipino psyche very firmly into the apron-strings of Uncle Sam's economy -- forever-and-ever! Until and unless somebody from our kindred would pick up the tabs and rejuvenate our suffering and prostrate Inang Filipinas!

Ka Tony, I have my own very unpopular crusade, if "crusade" it may be called. It was featured by the late Celso Cabrera in the June 24, 1970 issue of The Manila Chronicle, in his "Inside Malacañang" column. It might interest you to look at it. Very much later James Fallows wrote Damaged Culture in the Atlantic Monthly, although his treatise was off-key.

Click here to read more.


Causing Young Minds To Stumble

[Matthew 18:1-10]

In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Most assuredly I tell you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.

“Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. See that you don't despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

What are we teaching the young students, righteous ways or ways of hatred?

In our effort to educate our society's young minds, we should not resort to desperate means. Teaching them to hate evil does NOT mean teaching them to hate the person who may have done the evil thing. Teaching them to abhor unrighteousness does NOT mean teaching them to mock and be sarcastic to the person who did an abominable thing.

High School and elementary students are not yet fully capable of making a genuine stand on their own on hard political issues. To exploit and abuse their young minds in such a way as to boost our so-called moral cause is not just causing them to stumble in their early walk with God, but in the first place it is causing them to veer away from the right path with God.

Let us therefore be careful and discerning in our present political struggle because in times of moral crisis where hope seems to be fading, inappropriate emotions could sometimes rule the heart making us vulnerable to false and sinister sympathies and will cause many to stumble.

When we see red flags in rallies and people are chanting hate slogans, whose/what ideological spirit is it that is moving? When we see young minds started to be corrupted in such way as shown in the photos, whose/what inculcation technique is it that is operating?

Although their ideology's schemes and tactics seem to be relatively irrelevant in this current political crisis our nation is undergoing right now, yet it is there and very active (not what most of us think that it is somewhat inactive and ineffective).

Are you still wondering what I mean? It is the Godless communist ideology of people like JoMa Sison! It is like a roaring lion seeking whom it may devour. Whichever/whoever in our society it deems are hurt morally or weak mentally or unsure ideologically, it exploits them using a very clever and deceptive scheme.

This is a basic strategy of a sinister ideology: They like to stir the people up to cause their bloods to boil with overwhelming outrage toward their very own government so that the land may be in turmoil, and that in the sidelines they may quietly devour the minds of those who fall "wounded" in the struggle.

This ideology would appreciate it very much if the administration of a government would react in such a way as to curtail the people's right to assembly and freedom of expression because this will lead to violent dispersion of rallies and warrantless arrest -- and worse, martial rule.

An administration whose cabinet members and advisers consists of some high-ranking retired military officers are very prone to falling into this trap of a sinister ideology because their reactions to crisis situations such as this are influenced by the background and mindset of a military strategist -- more of psychological warfare and almost none of spiritual warfare because they were trained that way.

But the Bible said in Ephesians 6:12, "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

In this present crisis our nation is undergoing, this is an excellent opportunity for such an ideology to employ its basic strategy - and in fact they are already doing it in the background with most of us ignoring it because we think we can make use of them but in reality we are the ones who are being used. We have become very vulnerable because of our legitimate "righteous indignation" toward the present administration because of overwhelming corruption.

What a very hard trial this is that we are undergoing. While we are struggling to right the wrongs in our government and society, on the sideline (if not already within and among us) we are being exploited by a Godless ideology.

Lord God, strengthen us in our struggle. Let the light of discernment not depart from us; lest we be lost and veer away from the right path. Guard our young minds to whom all the struggles of today are sacrificed for their future.


Corrupting Our Military

Make a stand, Jun calls on AFP, PNP
By Ellen Tordesillas

ZTE star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. yesterday called on upright members of the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police to make a stand on the issue of corruption hounding the Arroyo administration.

In an interview at La Salle Greenhills, Lozada said the opposition should abandon its call for President Arroyo to resign. “She has to be ousted.”

Lozada said given the arrogance of Arroyo and her officials, “people must really be prepared to bring this political crisis to a boil.” He added that people should stop deluding themselves that she will resign.

“She will never resign because they have committed so many crimes that the only way to exit is when they are dead,” he said.

He said when public outrage over disclosures of huge kickbacks by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and officials close to Malacañang in the NBN-ZTE deal were beginning to intensify, he overheard a Cabinet member saying, “Hindi natin ibibigay ito (the government) na walang patayan (we will not give this up without bloodshed).”

“That’s why we have to appeal to the military and the police,” he said.

Click here to read full text.

If the call for the AFP and the PNP to make a stand means that they support the move to oust the President by using their military strength beyond what the law provides, this of course is a very wrong thing to do. However, if it means expressing what is in their hearts openly while remaining loyal to their constitutional duty, that may not be a bad thing. But if anyone in uniform really wants to do something about his stand on the current national crisis, then the only appropriate thing for him to do is to resign from the military service and return his weapons to the government and let him be an ordinary civilian citizen and then let him take part in whatever action civilian organizations may wish to do that is within the bounds of the rule of law.

You see, a wrong thing can never be corrected using another wrong thing. Corruption in government can never be corrected by corrupting our AFP and PNP to violate their sworn constitutional duty and induce them to commit a felony. Our government may be full of corruption, but destroying the military's honesty and loyalty to the constitution by abusing them for our so-called moral cause, undermines their moral integrity.

How can we be victorious in our struggle against societal moral decay if we ourselves (who claim to be in high moral ground) are practicing what we are trying to eliminate? Doesn't it make us hypocrites? We are so good at demanding righteousness from others because we only see the mistakes they made but refuse to take a good look at our very own wrongdoings.

The Bible said that the heart of the king (or ruler) is in the hands of the Lord. In spite of so many prayers and pleas that we lifted up to heaven, have it crossed your minds that maybe the reason why the Lord is still hardening the hearts of those in power is because He wanted us to realize for ourselves that we too have a big part in the overall moral decay of our society? Are we really honest in our simple and everyday living? Are we willing to bend rules at any moral cost just in order to favor our cause? Oh people, aren't we all seem to be just one feather after all?

If we must change this nation, then let us first truly change our individual selves! Until we learn our lesson, the Lord will continue to send us tests in different ways. Let us all slap our faces so that we may all awake to reality.


The Crowd is the Statement

Rally is largest since start of NBN crisis
By Ronnel Domingo, TJ Burgonio
Associated Press, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Festive was Friday's interfaith rally, which was marked by prayer, poetry and presidential clout, with a warning of God's wrath thrown in.

Peaceful, too, with a strong youthful vein running through the rally site in Makati City, despite the fact that it was held to express outrage, demand truth and accountability, and call for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"This is that kind of rally," said Makati Business Club (MBC) executive director Alberto Lim, pointing at the thick crowd spreading in four directions from the intersection of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas Avenues.

"This is an interfaith gathering; there is no shouting slogans against imperialism, etc., which turns off many people," Lim said. "This rally is peaceful. The people here are in a merry mood."

"The crowd is the statement," he said, adding that the rally was "just the beginning."

It was the largest crowd yet since Ms Arroyo's latest crisis erupted. Crowd estimates ranged from 15,000 to 80,000.

The chief of the Makati police, Supt. Gilbert Cruz, declined to give a figure, saying he had not been authorized to do so.

Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, told the Inquirer that the corner of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas measured half a hectare, or 5,000 square meters.

"So if you have three people per square meter, our crowd estimate is 15,000 people. If you have four people per square meter, it might be too crowded," Barias said.

An officer of the Makati police said: "It could be around 17,000 to 18,000, but to be safe, let's say 15,000."

Organizers pegged the crowd at 75,000 but a radio report said Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay estimated 80,000.

"This is a good start," Sonia Roco, widow of Sen. Raul Roco, said in an interview backstage.

According to the organizers, the gathering is the biggest indignation rally since National Broadband Network scandal erupted late last year.

Click here to read full text.

A Gathering Storm?

It was so far the biggest mass action against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo since the national broadband network (NBN) scandal erupted. Yesterday, ralliers estimated between 15,000 and 85,000 gathered along Ayala and Paseo de Roxas Avenues in Makati City in protest of her “corrupt regime.

The interfaith rally was marked with speeches, prayer, poetry, and cultural presentations of various groups all calling for Arroyo's resignation.

The crowd roared and cheered when Rodolfo Noel ‘Jun’ Lozada Jr. took the stage together with his usual army of nuns in white and grey cloaks. Lozada urged the people to continue the fight for truth and justice for “love for our fellowmen who are victimized by corruption.”

Click here to read full text.

The sign that was told before has now started to come to pass.

A Challenge (Test) to the Pundits

Intellectuals Should Lead March for Change
Letter to the Editor, PDI
By Arcy F. Sibal

I have to admit that I was taken aback by the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Feb. 15 editorial (“Checkmated bishops”), which was critical of the bishops’ stand on the predicament the country is currently in. To impute that the bishops made themselves a party to a grand constitutional larceny runs contrary to a basic and accepted social theory—the separation of State and Church.

Apparently, the editorial had the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s past extraordinary stance in mind. By my lights, the extraordinary stand or action of the Catholic Church was justified then as called for by extraordinary circumstances. So the action was more of an exception to the rule rather than a precedent-setting posture.

Professor Randy David’s Feb. 16 rejoinder explained in depth why the Church should not take the lead on political exercises or happenings. The response from the good professor is brilliant and thought-provoking. I am provoked to think why intellectually sophisticated individuals should not lead the march for change. Are they not part of the people longing for a better government?

I’m afraid leaving the pursuit of change to individuals like me who are intellectually challenged would be messy. God forbid!