Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Cha Cha Brouhaha

From our “remote” world of Cotabato, “far from the madding crowd” of “imperial” Manila, Manila with its peculiar concerns seems to be in another planet.

The people in the former “empire” province of Cotabato are daily generally concerned about violence, armed skirmishes, the security of the highways, floods, and the miserable plight of “bakwits”, families displaced from their homes because of armed encounters between government troops and various rebel groups, prices of basic commodities—i.e, basic necessities—the very first rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Manila and our honorable legislators, as the media blare out regularly on their first pages or at prime time, are concerned about “nagbabagang balita.” Such as impeachment of the President, charter change, and senate investigations of various so called “scams.”

There is something really sad and tragic about all this. The following are some personal theses, personal thoughts really, that do not claim to reflect the opinion of the CBCP.

Thesis 1: That the House of Representatives continue to push Con Ass is truly incredible. Some would say asinine. I would tend to agree. Our Congressmen are pushing this agendum for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time. They are out of touch with their own constituents. On this important matter, they no longer represent the people but only themselves. Wrong reasons, because their motivations are not clear and transparent and people simply conclude, rightly I think, that our “representatives” only want extension of terms. Wrong time, because today the whole country and particularly the poor are facing far more urgent concerns. Our legislators need to seriously consider, for instance, the impact of economic globalization and the global financial meltdown, the growing divide between the government and the Bangsamoro, and the undeclared but continuing “war” in the Cotabato areas.

Thesis 2: The Cha Cha brouhaha is even more amusing and exasperating than the Senate investigations to “search for the truth” and the House of Representatives’ yearly attempts to impeach the President. Except for the case against former President Estrada where witnesses who were directly involved bravely came out to testify to what they saw with their own eyes in the jueteng anomaly and regarding the Velarde account, Senate investigation of various “scams” generally is a “road to nowhere.” The Senate has not been the right place to search for the truth. The process undertaken reflects an identity crisis. It is neither in “aid of legislation” nor a process of legal investigation where truth is exposed through declaration and refutation. As a result, no change in belief takes place. Anti-Gloria people remain anti-Gloria and pro-Gloria people remain pro-Gloria. But it does make the “scam” even more public without really proving that it is, indeed, a scam. But perhaps that is the agenda? Thus witnesses are said to be lying when their testimonies do not agree with what Senators may already have believed to be the truth. This is why they would want “more witnesses” to come out. The bottom line seems to be that Senate “investigations” do not really bring out the truth. They belong to the entertainment genre. But the Cha Cha brouhaha takes the cake. In this case, amusement turns to exasperation. Why, oh, why should the Lower House continue to push a concern that seems to be so self-serving and so unpopular? It pushes credibility to its lower depths. Sometimes I wonder what “Lower House” really means.

Thesis 3: Reactions in Manila to its “burning concerns” are usually exaggerated overkill or are meant to overkill. Thus the Cha Cha protest rally of yesterday. Trumpeted one newspaper, “Rage vs GMA, Con Ass.” One would think that the whole country was in rage. But only about 7,000 people led by the same names and same faces (Left, Right, and Center) with the same well known anti-Gloria agenda, showed up for the rally. If it were a Church-sponsored prayer rally for cha cha, the headline would have scoffed at the poor showing. Yet the media keeps dancing to the tune of the same crowd, same names, same faces. These keep appearing in different fora. The forum could be interfaith. It could be a political alliance activity masquerading as a prayer rally. Yearly impeachments, investigations, rallies – why, oh why do they continue? The Lozada “truth” tour fizzled out for lack of public acceptance. Rallies that pre-claim to gather 150,000 to 500,000 can only gather 15,000. The peak of protests was when Susan Roces and Cory Aquino withtheir supporters collaborated with the political opposition and the Left. They could muster only about 50,000 people. These activities are meant to dramatize what they have been trying to push forward since 2001? That Gloria stole the presidency? That everything about Gloria, what she is and what she does is “evil”? The rallies are simply overkill, a hyperbolic reaction to what is perceived as truth. Is it possible that as long as the same faces and alliances with their own questionable varying vested agenda are there, there would be no “tipping point”? Are they perhaps the wrong names, the wrong faces and the wrong groups to call people to action? Are their varying vested agenda perhaps the wrong credentials? And so they ask the Bishops of the Philippines to help them. But is the situation really a matter of “searching for the truth” as the Bishops have consistently urged? Or is it for these groups a matter of the truth already incontrovertibly arrived at?

Thesis 4: My personal position on Cha Cha is the following –

a. No process of charter change should be allowed that intends to extend terms of office;

b. The elections in 2010 must proceed;

c. If charter change is to proceed it must not be by constituent assembly but by constitutional convention;

d. I have a personal conviction about two provisions: a new constitution must not do away with the pro-life and pro-poor provisions of the present Constitution; it must also provide a constitutional basis for Moro self-determination, without violating national sovereignty and territorial integrity;

e. There must be widespread people consultation regarding what needs to be changed in the Constitution;

f. The whole process must be imbued with integrity and transparency;

g. The bottom line is this: this is not the time for a constitutional change; the Bishops of the Philippines have, since the time of President Ramos, repeatedly said that if constitutional change is, indeed, necessary it should be at a time of social serenity, with no polarizing political divisions, with widespread people participation, and through a constitutional convention.

Thesis 5: I base the above position not on any political reason but on the social moral teachings of the Church. I cite particularly the principles of the common good, social justice and truth, freedom and self-determination, participation, integral human development including cultural, and the proper role of political authority. These, I believe, might be the moral bases of any statement that the CBCP could issue on the subject of the cha cha brouhaha.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
December 14, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Two Fundamental Postulates for Lasting Peace in Mindanao

After the tragic fiasco regarding the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), I presume as a matter of course that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are incontact with its other.

As a contribution to any backdoor channeling, I address myself to both Moros and non-Moros, and those who claim to represent them.

The following, I believe, are the two fundamental bases for the forging of lasting peace in Mindanao. At the very beginning of any peace negotiation, there has to be a clear and explicit recognition, mutually accepted: (1) of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution; (2) of the Moro aspiration for self determination and its concrete realization in a manner in accord with the Philippine Constitution. It seems to me that these fundamental concepts are at lease implicitly accepted by both groups.

I believe that the lack of clarity in the MOA-AD with regard to the above two-fold fundamental concepts, aggravated by lack of consultation and reinforced by anger, misinformation, misconceptions, biases, prejudices, and resistance to change, led to the present grave uncertainties regarding the peace process.

The first postulate is clear to non-Moros. The second is not. For most of us the recognition of Moro self-determination and the Bangsamoro Juridical entity in which it is exercised are tantamount to giving away parts of Philippine territory and establishing a Moro independent State. It does not matter if there are several examples in the world, where self-determination is recognized and implemented without necessarily establishing an independent State and dismembering a Republic. It does not matter if the rejected MOA-AD does not in any way express such establishment or dismembering. Great anger and violence have resulted from this situation.

The non-Moro should begin with Moro history to understand Moro self-determination. It is undisputed that Islam was brought to the Philippines before the Spaniards came, even before there was such a name as “Philippines.” It is undisputed that Muslim Sultanates exercised sovereignty and wielded political power over most of Mindanao, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, a territory considerably larger than the present ARMM or the “expanded ARMM” that the MOA-AD envisions. It is undisputed that the demographic composition of the population and the subject of political authority in Mindanao were completely reversed from Moros to non-Moros within only the 50 years between 1920 to 1970, such that Moros became a minority in the large swath of territory over which they, through their Sultanates, once held sway.

We, therefore, need to accept the fact that the Moro aspiration for self-determination is based on indisputable recorded history Our historical consciousness needs to go back to the times of the southern Sultanates and the religion they professed. There we see a people from the Malay race but with a distinct religion and political identity. They had been part of the indigenous peoples who had converted to Islam. We know that the term “Moro” came much later in their history, introduced by Spanish colonizers to refer derogatively to the people who had the same religion as the Moors that had conquered southern Spain. Through the Sultanates this distinct people from various indigenous tribes held political sway, sovereignty, if one may use the term, over a territory covering most of Mindanao and Sulu. Through the Sultans they governed themselves. At documented periods and occasions, Moros expressed their aspiration for self-determination either by peaceful means or by armed interventions. This aspiration has endured through four centuries of relative peace and short periods of war. Restlessness for self-determination lies deep in the collective Moro subconscious. Like Rizal and the Filipino elite of their time, Moro scholars, intellectuals, writers, warriors and leaders kept this aspiration alive.

The desire for self-determination we recognize now as a fundamental right. It does not necessarily mean an independent State. It simply means as a common attribute of all peoples an option for self-government outside or within a national community. It is an option that is enduring, lying deep in the subconscious of the human community, part and parcel of that divine gift we call freedom, or self-determination. It does not die. It maybe dormant, it might be repressed, but sooner or later it will want to surface either in rebellion or in peaceful assertion. War will not defeat this fundamental human option. It cannot be killed. Without recognition and some form of implementation, peaceful co-existence is simply an artificial temporary veneer. That is the human condition, the condition of human communities with distinct cultures and identities, especially with a history of self-determination.

Recognizing that legitimate aspiration, we also need to recognize the realities that came during the American period of our history. Spain ceded the entire islands to the United States. It was the United States that eventually and effectively placed all the islands under its political power. Yet even the United States recognized the aspiration of the Moro people with the creation of a “Moro province.” Historical records tell us that from time to time, Moro leaders would remind the ruling power of their right to self-determination, of not wanting to be under “Filipino” sovereignty.

But we cannot also escape the development of history. The historical reality is that the the United States, followed by the Philippine government, exercised political power over all of the Philippines. And so we have the concepts of national sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in successive Constitutions. Even if one might not accept the Constitution, the reality of national sovereignty and territorial integrity predates the Constitution which simply came later to express or articulate the reality.

These then are the two-fold realities that are fundamental to any peace negotiation: the recognition of Moro self-determination and the acceptance of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

These two concepts are not contradictory. They do not cancel each other out. One can exist with the other. It is the balancing and concrete implementing of these two fundamental postulates that is the central task of peace negotiating.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
September 4, 2008

A General Roadmap towards Lasting Peace in Mindanao

In the light of the impasse, lack of clarity, and confusion that have resulted from the MOA-AD fiasco, may I respectfully submit the following suggestion for the peace process to move forward.

As essential talking points representing a roadmap towards lasting peace in Mindanao, I believe that the following issues should be agreed upon by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF):

Any peace process in Mindanao must accept two basic principles: the Moro fundamental aspiration for self-determination and the Philippine government’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The beginning of a solution to balance Moro aspiration for self-determination and Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution is already partly expressed in the concept of ARMM. Despite its many inadequacies the ARMM is an exercise of self-determination in the form of autonomy within the framework of the Philippine Constitution. A more developed balancing elaborating constitutes the road to lasting peace.

The road to lasting peace involves a wholistic solution, political, economic, cultural, and religious.

A political solution, much less a military solution, will not suffice nor will a simply economic one, without the political and cultural/religious. The ill-fated Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is an attempt to provide a wholistic solution.

The road to lasting peace must resolve the following issues:

(a) the issue of representation in the peace agreement – does the GRP panel really represent the Philippine government; does the MILF really represent the Bangsamoro and the Lumad;
(b) the issue of prior and informed consultation with their respective constituencies;
(c) the issue of the territorial coverage of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE);
(d) the issue of the powers (e.g., judicial, executive, legislative, economic, diplomatic, military, territorial) of the BJE;
(e) the issue of the relationship between the BJE and the Republic of the Philippines (e.g. is the BJE clearly understood as part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines);
(f) the issue of disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation / reintegration (while the actual implementation could wait for the endgame of the peace process, its discussion should be introduced much earlier as in the experience of successful peace processes).

Given the above roadmap, the road ahead consists of the following elements:

(a) continuing the peace process within the parameters presented in number one above;
(b) resolving the questions enumerated in number three above;
(c) forging a unity of opinion – consensus – on the basis of all the above points through widespread consultations by both sides;
(d) building constituencies in order to support the peace process;
(e) stopping all armed conflicts during any peace negotiation.

Any military or violent reaction to respond to the striking down of the MOA-AD would merely reinforce the mindsets of bias, prejudice, anger, and resentment. Even now the volatile situation is threatening to explode through further acts of terrorism and the arming of civilians on both sides of the cultural divide.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
September 4, 2005

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front – a Terrorist Organization?

In the aftermath of the ruthless attacks by three MILF field commanders on civilian populations in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Sarangani, the question of the MILF as a terrorist organization has again been raised.

The issue: Is the MILF a terrorist organization and should it be officially declared so?

The usual non-Moro response is, “Yes. The MILF has once again revealed its true colors. It has attacked towns and villages. It has gone on a rampage, killing innocent civilians, murdering, burning, pillaging, looting, using civilians as human shields – these are terrorist acts. Therefore, the MILF is a terrorist organization.”

The Moro general reaction seems to be: “Indeed, these acts are not morally unjustifiable. They are to be condemned. But these do not make the MILF a terrorist organization. These acts were perpetrated by MILF commanders acting on their own against MILF official policy. We deeply regret such acts. They have given a bad name to the MILF. They have seriously set back the peace process.”

Listening to many Moros speak on this issue, I would add the following remarks to this general Moro reaction: “Like us these MILF commanders were angry at the rejection of the MOA-AD by the government. Like us they saw the long peaceful work towards the recognition of our aspirations for self-determination dismissed by the Supreme Court. Anger led them to violence. We do not agree with their reaction but we can understand why.” I might also add this reaction by a few radically inclined Moro thinkers: “We are not asking for independence. But if the government refuses to recognize our fundamental right to self-determination, why don’t we all unite and just go ahead and fight for independence?”

In the light of such context, the real question is: Does the brutal violence of three MILF commanders on civilian populations in Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, and Sarangani make the whole MILF organization terrorist?

Many Christians all over the Philippines would say yes. Against the opinion of many of my own Christian flock whom I serve as Archbishop, I say no.

May I submit the following points for sober reflection:

Among the scores of MILF commanders in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabungsuan, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Taw-Tawi, how many actually supported the action of the three commanders?
How many instead followed the official policy of the MILF about civilian populations?
Did the MILF Central Committee authorize the action of the three commanders?
Did the Central Committee not try to stop the three commanders?
Did our own military and ceasefire mechanisms not try to limit military objectives and the areas of operation so as to target only the forces of the three commanders?
Did the three commanders act like the Abu Sayaff and take 12 or even only two “kidnappable” people for ransom when they could have easily done so?
Does not the MILF Central Committee believe that the actions of its three commanders have seriously set back the peace process?
If the MILF were a terrorist organization like the Abu Sayaff and Al-Qaeda, would it even have ceased fighting to talk peace?
Would it ever have cooperated with our military to go after bandits going to their areas of influence?
Did investigations on atrocities committed against our Marines in Basilan provide evidence that such atrocities were perpetrated by MILF ambushers?

On the other hand:

We do not believe that our own government with our own military is terrorist, even if:

We had military commanders leading so called “lost commands” that operated freely on their own in Mindanao;
Our troops never really pursued them and rooted them out;
We never brought them to the courts of justice;
Fanatical vigilante groups known for their ruthlessness against Moro civilians were tolerated and even worked quietly with our military commanders;
Our military forces attacked Camp Abubakar, reportedly hours after an accord for ceasefire had been agreed upon;
We never investigated and brought to justice our own soldiers who were accused by human rights organizations for abuses against civilians, whether Moros or non-Moros;

Reflecting on the above questions and soberly responding to them would surely bring us to a wiser position on the issue of terrorism. We need to be more logical and wise in judging the MILF organization as terrorist on the ground that some of its commanders have perpetrated terrorist acts. The actions of a few are not necessarily the actions of the whole.

Mutatis mutandis we also apply, I believe, the same principle and the same logic regarding “scalawags” in the Church, media, military, police, executive, judiciary, and legislative branches of government. We do not necessarily judge the whole by the actions of the few.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
August 29, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Judging the MOA-AD: A Parable for Our Time

This is the first of two reflections on how to assess the MOA-AD between the GRP and the MILF in the light of our quest for lasting peace in Mindanao.

Many people reject the MOA-AD because they say the document is giving away Philippine territory to the Moros. It is a dismembering the Philippine Republic.

Other reasons for absolute rejection are:
*The Filipino people were not consulted.
*Even if there will be plebiscites, these will be rigged to favor the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity;
*The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is simply another name for an Islamic State independent of the Philippines;
*President Macapagal-Arroyo allegedly wants the MOA-AD because it would mean a change in the Constitution to extend her term;
*The President is allegedly so corrupt that we cannot simply trust her with any agreement;
*The United States reportedly influenced the peace process and the MOA-AD because it wants an American military base in southern Philippines and has economic interests in the area.

One observes that most of the above reasons are external to the contents of the MOA-AD. The MOA-AD is not being judged on its own merits. The document is being rejected because of suspicions regarding possible circumstances surrounding it.

For this reason may I tell a story.

The master told his disciples this parable. Jane, a jeweler, saw a beautiful diamond in a shop. She admired and desired it. Unfortunately her competitor, Juan, owned the shop. Juan was reputed to be dishonest and always wanted to take advantage of his customers. But the more Jane looked at the diamond, the more she liked it. So she asked Juan, “How much is that diamond?” “750,000 pesos,” said Juan. Jane was shocked. “The price is too high for such a small diamond!” “Take it or leave it,” answered Juan. But Jane really liked the diamond. So she asked, “Is it genuine?” Another gentleman entered the conversation and said, “Oh, yes. I certify it is genuine. By the way my name is William. I shaped the diamond myself.” Really desiring the diamond, Jane said, “I know you, but can I have the diamond examined?” Both Juan and William agreed. So the next day, Jane brought her husband, Jose, who was an expert diamond examiner. Using his examining tools, Jose scrutinized the diamond from every angle for a whole hour, noting every facet of it. Then he took his wife aside and whispered to her, “You know how much I dislike Juan and suspect that fellow William. I must admit that the diamond is 100% genuine. There is no doubt. But I have noticed certain flaws in the shaping. So try to bring the price down, we can correct the flaws.” So Jane bargained. After a while, Juan and Jane agreed on 700,000 pesos. Both were happy and became good friends.

The disciples asked, “Master, why did Jane buy the diamond from people she did not trust?” “Because the diamond, though imperfect, was genuine,” said the Master.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
August 17, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let the MOA-AD Speak for Itself

Violence is breaking out once again in Southern Philippines. Doubly tragic because such violence could be prevented. The popular rejection of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain has separated the positions of Moros and Christians quite clearly.

Many Moros are now saying, “Christians will never recognize our fundamental right to self-determination as a people. We do not want an independent State. We simply want self-determination in our ancestral land.” On the other hand, Christian Filipinos are passionately affirming their stand, “We do not want to be driven away from our lands. We do not want any Philippine territory to be taken away. We do not want to be part of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”

The great tragedy for the country is that the MOA-AD is being rejected for reasons that can be resolved or may not even be in the MOA-AD. It is as though our fears and prejudices have become the measure for judging the Memorandum of Agreement. There is no substitute to actually reading and studying the document – in itself – to know what it says, to know what it does not say, and to realize the implications of all these. By rejecting the Memorandum of Agreement on the basis of misconception, prejudices and misinformation, we may be throwing out a “piece of paper” that could very well be a good working basis for lasting peace in Mindanao.

Many Filipinos reject the MOA-AD mainly on the following bases:

(1) It is dismembering the Republic of the Philippines;
(2) It has certain unacceptable or at least questionable provisions;
(3) The Filipino people were not consulted;
(4) The present government cannot be trusted;
(5) President Arroyo wants the MOA-AD in order to extend her term;
(6) The United States had a “hidden” hand in the MOA-AD because of its own interests.

The first and second objections concern the content of the MOA-AD. The third objection is about process. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth objections are about circumstances external to the document.

I believe that all of us should let the MOA-AD speak for itself. To do this may I suggest some points for reflection.

On the concept of Bangsamoro self-determination:
*Do Christian Filipinos recognize that the right to self-determination is a fundamental right?
*Is such a right unconstitutional?
*Are the Bangsamoro people entitled to such a right?

On the Bangsamoro homeland or ancestral domain:
*In their history have the Bangsamoro people ever exercised the right to self-determination and sovereignty?
*Are we, Christian Filipinos, aware that even before the Spaniards came, the Bangsamoro people already had a system of political authority that held sway over a domain that covered most parts of Mindanao and Sulu?
*Despite Spanish and American colonizers, did leaders of the Bangsamoro people continue to claim political authority over their ancestral domain?
*Within the short space of 50 years, from the 1920s to the 1970s, did not Christian Filipinos completely reverse the demographic, territorial, and political situation in Mindanao and Sulu partly through a series of land laws that sent several waves of migrating Christians from the Visayas and Luzon?
*Are we aware that while we Christians call this historical, demographic, and political development quite legal, members of the Bangsamoro believed and continue to believe that this was an injustice to their historic claim to their lands and to the self-determination that they – for a long time – once exercised in their territory?

On Bangsamoro self-determination and exercise of sovereignty in relation to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity:
*Does Bangsamoro self-determination and exercise of sovereignty in their ancestral domain necessarily mean political independence from the Republic of the Philippines?
*Does the MOA-AD say that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is a separate and independent State? Does it intend to set up such a State?
Is there internal evidence in the MOA-AD that in fact it does not intend to do so, and that the agreement is not setting up an independent State?
*Does the MOA-AD say, even if only equivalently, that it is breaking up the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines?

If the document has internal merits, surely the problems of lack of consultation can be worked out. Flaws in the concepts and content can be remedied. Suspicions about the hidden hand of the United States or the hidden intentions of the President Macapagal Arroyo behind charter change can be resolved in their own context. But these to my mind are basically extraneous to the internal validity of the MOA-AD. We can surely correct its faults.

But to reject the MOA-AD completely on the basis of what it does not say could be a tragedy of incalculable proportion, possibly a death knell to lasting peace. The two panels have painstakingly worked out the peace documents for 11 long years. I would give them the benefit of the doubt that they have been conscientious in their work, looking out for the interests of their constituencies.

It is my firm conviction that if only the MOA-AD is allowed to speak for itself or examined on its own merits, it can be a good working document for lasting peace in Mindanao.


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
August 17, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The MOA-AD, a Memorandum of Intent?

(Fifth of a Series)

The distinct impression that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines gives me is that the title is a misnomer. The document is effectively a Memorandum of Intent.

The MOA-AD purports to be precisely what it says, a memorandum of agreement by the MILF and GRP. Both parties agree on the various points of the memo. And presumably both agree to implement them. In this sense the document is a memo of agreement. But can the two panels really bind, without prior consultation and consent, the two bodies they represent to do what is written in the document? That is the question this reflection wants to deal with. It is the reflection of a lay person in matters political and legal.

First with regard to the GRP side. Let us presume that the GRP peace panel did not consult nor have the agreement of the legislative and judicial branches of government. Let us also presume that much of the MOA-AD will depend on the consent of both these bodies. If so, it would seem to me that the GRP side would be assuming too much if it were to sign the Memorandum of Agreement prior to that consultation and consent. The Supreme Court could, for instance, strike down the agreement as illegal or unconstitutional. The legislative branch in turn might not agree with changes in government structures that a peace agreement could require.

Moreover from what I know about the reactions of both government branches to the document, I have the idea that the name “GRP” in the GRP-MILF negotiations would represent only the executive branch of the government of the Philippines. Therefore, if it signs the document prior to consultation and consent the executive branch only really intends to do its very best to persuade both the judicial and legislative branches that everything is above board.

Present developments and reactions to the MOA-AD would indicate this. The MOA-AD is now to be argued by the representatives of the Executive branch before the Supreme Court. Waiting for their chance to attack or support the MOA-AD are the members of Congress, House and Senate. What we read in the newspapers about the reactions of some members, albeit the opposition group, does not bode well for the MOA-AD.

On the other hand, the MILF could face the same challenge. The document is to be signed by the MILF on behalf of the Bangsamoro people. But logic tells me that the MILF cannot do so unless the ARMM and the MNLF that also claim to represent the Bangsamoro would first be consulted and give consent. The document could mean an entirely new basic law for the Bangsamoro people. Or it could mean amendments to the present ARMM law. But would the ARMM agree? Would the MNLF agree to changes that could possibly supersede their 1996 peace agreement with the government? Would both of these agree to changes in the power structure within the Bangsamoro ancestral domain that the MOA-AD implies? Perhaps this is one reason that at least one foreign representative has urged the various Bangsamoro groups to come together and forge a united position.

Moreover, the present MOA-AD contains many provisions stating that such and such points will be the basis of negotiations towards a future Comprehensive Compact. Hence, the present document could be more of preliminary agenda setting by way of consensus points for formal negotiations to take place. But as I go through the MOA-AD it seems to be more than agenda setting.

In the light of all the above, the following would be my conclusion: the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, initialed by both panels, is in effect an agreement on consensus points. By this document the parties intend to do their very best to have these points approved by the groups they represent. More negotiations and consultations will take place until a Comprehensive Pact is signed, indubitably “owned” by the Bangsamoro and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

But until such time, the document on consensus points would not really be a memorandum of agreement but a memorandum of intent and perhaps one of commitment to take the necessary steps towards a final Comprehensive Compact.

Should either party fail to get such an approval, the peaceful alternative would be for the peace panels to return to the negotiating table and resolve the problematic issues. It is for this reason that the following, I believe, are imperative: prior as well as ongoing consultation and dialogue with various constituencies on the issues of the peace negotiations, information for and education of the constituencies on the historical, cultural, legal, political, territorial, economic, and social dimensions of the peace talks, and the building of support constituencies.

Therefore, as a way out of the present impasse let organized and focused public discussions on the MOA-AD be conducted for a specific and reasonable period of time so that the two parties may be guided accordingly.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

August 9, 2008

Will People Accept the MOA-AD?

(Fourth of a series)

While the MOA-AD between the MILF and GRP can be the basis of lasting peace with the Bangsamoro in Mindanao and Sulu, we already see the negative reactions of Christians in North Cotabato and other provinces and of some legislators. Some of these reactions could be knee-jerk reactions with no solid basis. But I believe this is not always the case.

Two immediate reasons for the negative reception of the MOA-AD are lack of information regarding the contents of the document and lack of previous consultation with various stakeholders as to what the document should contain. No serious effort was apparently made to establish a supportive public constituency. Having consultations, asking for directions, providing progress reports – these are proven ways to have people participate in any matter that is of utmost importance to them and their future.

It remains true that many things cannot be negotiated in public, otherwise the plethora of opinions and suggestions, each one passionately presented and defended, would create disorder out of order. But there is a certain irreplaceable and indispensable benefit to people’s participation through consultation and information dissemination at various points in the peace journey. I am quite certain that both the MILF and the GRP have set a certain time for extensive consultations, perhaps when referendum and changes to constitution/law are to be made. But present reactions cannot wait for that time.

The journey to peace in Mindanao is inarguably long and tedious, with many stops and detours. It is almost impossible to accelerate it. Milestones have been set along the way, one of which was the 1996 peace agreement. These milestones are marks of progress. One would think then that along the arduous and difficult journey, certain stops should been made to ask for directions, consult people, set goals and then obtain consensus points at the roadside negotiation table.

This, of course, could simply be hindsight wisdom. Be that as it may, it is wisdom to consult, ask questions, and secure assistance regarding directions and goals from stakeholders, left, right and center. For the government – consult with the different branches of government and with the people directly affected by conflict. For the MILF – consult with the Bangsamoro people, with the MNLF, and with the ARMM. I am not sure that any of these consultations were done -- and in a satisfactory manner. On the GRP side, the negative reactions are open and even hostile. On the MILF side, much less so, except for some ARMM reaction. But the question of Bangsamoro unity (MILF, MNLF, ARMM, and their various constituencies) on the MOA-AD has yet to be established.

For the Bangsamoro people with three different groups wanting to speak in their name, not counting the extremists who claim a certain political or even ideological identity, the need for consensus is as important as for the GRP. For the MILF it may not be as apparently urgent.

There is certainly the imperative of educating all the various constituencies and stakeholders as to the contents (concepts and principles, territory, resources, and governance) of the MOA-AD, their bases in history and in law, the steps still to be taken, the recognition of mutual rights, as well as the mutual sacrifices needed by both peoples, Bangsamoro and non-Bangsamoro.

For the non-Bangsamoro people, knowledge of Moro history will sometimes make a bloody entrance because of mutual prejudices and biases, entrenched through four centuries of attitudinal and psychological buildup. A certain injustice to the Bangsamoro people is not a concept that is easily understood by the non-Bangsamoro, much less accepted. One can already perceive the truth of this statement in the immediate remarks of some politicians regarding the MOA-AD. In their present level of understanding of Bangsamoro history and culture, I doubt very much if they could ever acknowledge the right of various peoples, including the Bangsamoro, to self determination, a fundamental right already enshrined in the present Constitution.

For both peoples, the key to the acceptability of the MOA-AD consists, I believe, in the following: consultation and dialogue, information and education, and building a constituency supportive of the general goals and specific objectives as well as the processes and contents of the peace negotiations.

The Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Supreme Court is an occasion for all of us to reflect on this key to acceptability and work on it. Precipitous haste is not a wise response to urgency nor the way to acceptability.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

August 9, 2008

SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MOA-AD

(Third of a series)

To all of us who were not privy to the intense discussions in the peace negotiations, the MOA-AD has a lot of ambiguity as well as questionable presentation. Muslims, Christians, Lumad would want such issues to be clarified, before saying yes or no to the consensus points.

It is nowhere stated in the MOA-AD that the MILF acknowledges the authority and sovereignty of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines over all the territories covered by the term “Republic” in the Constitution of the Philippines. It has been reported, of course, that the MILF does not recognize the Philippine Constitution. So here are some questions.

2.1.Abstracting from the reported MILF rejection of the Constitution, Filipino citizens would want to know in clear terms: Does the MILF recognize either de iure or de facto that the Republic of the Philippines holds authority and sovereignty over the whole of Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan?

2.2.Does the MILF, with the MOA-AD, as a stepping stone intend to set up an independent State? In other words, is the MOA-AD an initial process of dismembering the Republic of the Philippines?

2.3.Did the Lumad people agree to being coopted into the Bangsamoro? By virtue of the IPRA Law, do they not in fact have their own ancestral domain? What happens to this Lumad ancestral domain when they are coopted by virtue of the MOA-AD into the Bangsamoro?

2.4.What do the negotiating panels mean by “associative relationship and associative arrangements”?

2.5.Does the use of the term “central government” in the MOA-AD connote the idea that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity recognizes the authority of a central government over it?

2.6.Does the term “shared authority and control” in the MOA-AD connote the exercise of power by two equal authorities, or is it a recognition that in the sharing there is a “primus inter pares” principle?

2.7.Is the MOA-AD faithful to the idea repeatedly reported that negotiations would take place while safeguarding the sovereignty of the Republic?

2.8.What happens if the Congress of the Philippines is unwilling to make the necessary changes in the Constitution envisioned by the MOA-AD? What happens if the MNLF and/or the ARMM do not agree with the MILF vision?

2.9.Why did the peace panels agree to include in Category A many barangays that are obviously Christian-dominated and thus make the MOA-AD unacceptable?

3. At present, I give the MOA-AD and the two peace panels the benefit of the doubt. They have worked at the agreement for years, painstakingly hammering out every word and every phase, every concept and its implications. I know that they have the interests of their respective constituencies always in mind. Right now, despite the ambiguities of the MOA-AD, I sincerely believe that both parties, given the complexities of the situation, have admirably attempted a remarkable balancing between Bangsamoro aspirations for self determination and GRP conviction in its own national sovereignty.

4. Therefore, my present interpretation of the MOA-AD is that it attempts to apply a treasured social principle called the Principle of Subsidiarity. Enshrined in the social teachings of the Catholic Church, the principle of subsidiarity may be expressed in the following way: a member of the social organism may do everything it is capable of, in freedom and self-determination, for its own good and for the good of the social organism. It is only when the member fails to do so that the social organism intervenes and provides the necessary assistance. The principle of subsidiarity is a principle of governance, authority, decision-making, etc., for the secular community. Nowadays Catholic scholars prefer to use an analogically similar principle called the principle of “communion” as more applicable to the Church community.

5. The answers to the questions posed above may prove me wrong about the MOA-AD as a concrete application of the principle of subsidiarity. But if the answers prove me right, then it is my contention that the peace process is going in the right direction.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

August 9, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Can the MOA-AD bring Lasting Peace?

(Second of a series)

The Memo of Agreement on Ancestral Domain initialled by the peace panels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is a sign of contradiction. For probably most Christians, it is a document that is unpatriotic, a betrayal of the nation, a surrender of national sovereignty over huge swaths of Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan, a selling of Christians “down the river”, a document to be rejected. For some Muslims, the document is not enough. It is a betrayal of their hopes and aspirations for self-determination and freedom, a surrender of territories that once belonged to them by right of ancestral domain and native title.

But the MOA-AD, no matter how one looks at it, is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I believe that the MOA-AD can bring lasting peace. Let me elaborate.

The document should be read in the light of Bangsamoro history. This history is not one that our Spanish and Filipino Christian historians have developed. Our history is a history written by one party to the complex human encounter that we call Philippine history, written perhaps by “victors.” Bangsamoro history has largely been one of oral tradition and only in the last 400 years do we see that history written, but not from their point of view.

But it is from the largely unfamiliar side of Philippine history that is also true and indisputable that the concepts of ancestral domain and a Bangsamoro homeland should be understood. The MOA-AD document returns to that concept as a basis for lasting peace.

On the other hand, the document is also remarkable from the angle of what Mindanao is today. Through successive waves of migration and public laws, the face of the population as well as of territories has changed. In less than 50 years beginning with the 1930s Christians now outnumber Muslims in the land once under the sway and influence of Muslim Sultans. The document recognizes this fact. And it is to the credit of the MILF that its vision today carries on the vision of its late Chairman, Hashim Salamat. He had said that his vision for the Bangsamoro people is framed in consideration of present realities. For this reason, the document speaks about the ARMM territory as the core of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Altogether, the territory is much less than the original Bangsamoro homeland. The MOA-Ad makes use of present realities as a basis for lasting peace.

The balancing act between Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and national sovereignty may be seen in the concepts on governance, concretized in such terms as “associative relationships,” “shared authority,” the idea of “central government,” and its responsibility for external defence, etc. For the GRP the balancing continues with two fundamental democratic safety valves – acts of Congress and referendum.

Perhaps, concepts need to be clearer. They can be made so in future steps of the peace process as both parties move towards a Comprehensive Pact. But the MOA-AD need not be the document that should contain all the details that would resolve all questions and doubts. The peace process will continue even after it is signed. With good will, patience and wisdom --- and consultation ---such further steps will surely resolve substantive questions.

Therefore, if seen from the perspective of history as we usually know it from our own Christian writers (Spanish, American, Filipino), with no consideration to the enduring aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination in their homeland, the MOA-AD will not lead to peace.

But if the document is seen from two perspectives, that of the Bangsamoro historical past and of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan present day realities, and these two perspectives are somehow respected, then the MOA-AD can lead to lasting peace.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

August 7, 2008

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What is the MOA-AD in the MILF-GRP Peace Process?

(First of a series)

What is the MOA-AD?

It is the Memorandum of Agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines that consists of statements agreed upon by consensus between the peace panels of both parties. It deals with Concepts and Principles, Territory, Resources, Governance of the Ancestral Domain of the Bangsamoro.

What is the Bangsamoro people?

According to the MOA, the Bangsamoro people “refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization and their descendants whether mixed or of full native blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the indigenous people shall be respected.”

What is the Bangsamoro homeland?

Historically the Bangsamoro homeland consisted of the territory under the control or influence of the Moro Sultanates. But now as described by the MOA, the Bangsamoro ancestral domain would only include the present territorial territory of the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) as its core and additional barangays in Region IX, XII, and Palawan. More than 700 barangays outside ARMM would be restored to the ancestral domain, subject to plebiscite within 12 months after the signing of the MOA. More towns would be included, again subject to plebiscite after 25 years. Moreover, this Bangsamoro ancestral domain would consist of land, waters, seas, air, and other resources.

What is the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE)?

The territory described above would have a juridical personality. It is a juridical entity that would have its own form of government and would exercise authority and jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

How will the BJE relate to the Republic of the Philippines?

The MOA is silent about the issue whether or not the JBE is part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines. Instead it recognizes “the Central Government,” and establishes “associative relationship and associative arrangments” between BJE and GRP, as well as “shared authority over territory” “shared responsibility” “sharing of resources,” etc., with a period of transition specifying the relationship. But the MOA also states that “The Parties shall faithfully comply with their commitment to the associative arrangements upon entry into force of the Comprehensive Compact.” Therefore, it may be understood that the “relationship of associative arrangements” will continue even after the JBE shall have been “fully entrenched and established in the basic law of the BJE.”

Will private owners lose their properties in the BJE?

The MOA expressly enjoins that “Vested proprietary rights upon the entrenchment of the BJE shall be recognized and respected subject to paragraph 9 of the strand on Resources.” Paragraph 9 of the strand of Resources refers to forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining concessions, mineral production and Sharing Agreements, Industrial Forest Management Agreements, etc. By such reference, privately owned farms and other properties would be respected by the BJE.

What changes took place through the years in the Bangsamoro ancestral domain?

To answer the question and to have a better understanding of the MOA-AD, we need to have a quick recall of history. Islam arrived in the Philippines 200 years before Christianity arrived. Eventually and before the Spaniards came a regime of sultans began. From that time on the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over their ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away. The Bangsamoro people came under the control of the Americans. The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain.

But even when the Americans gave independence to the Philippines, many of the Bangsamoro people continued to assert their claim to self-determination and sovereignty rather than be under the authority of the Philippine government. Successive waves of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained land titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people.

The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP), with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Mindanao people, with a minority of Muslim and IPs. In other words the Bangsamoro became a minority in their own ancestral domain. Difference in concepts regarding land ownership also contributed to these major changes in the ancestral Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

How does the MOA-AD respond to the loss of ancestral domain?

The MOA-AD restores a certain self-determination and sovereignty to the Bangsamoro people in their own homeland. Because of historical development since the 1900s the Bangsamoro ancestral domain/homeland is no longer of the same extent over which the sultanates once held sway. It is now limited territorially to what is described in #3 above. The MOA-AD also follows the principle that the IPRA law grants to the Indigenous Peoples, i.e., that their ancestral domain is not part of the public domain. The many details regarding concepts and principles, territory, resources and governance remain subject of negotiations in view of a Comprehensive Peace Pact. The concrete type of governance that would be established by and in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity would be determined by a basic law. Ultimately the changes regarding territory will depend on the Congress of the Philippine and peoples’ referendum.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

August 6, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bishop Romulo de la Cruz, Installation – Homily

[Readings:
Ez. 34: 11 – 16 (“I myself will look after and tend my sheep”).
2 Tm.: 1: 6 – 14 (“I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that
you have through the imposition of my hands”).
Jn. 10: 11 – 18 (“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down
his life for the sheep”)].

Our beloved Papal Nuncio
Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams,
Our newly installed Bishop,
Bishop Romulo de la Cruz
Immediate Past Bishop of Kidapawan,
Archbishop Romulo Valles of Zamboanga
My Brother Bishops
Reverend Fathers, Brothers and Sisters
Beloved Lay Faithful
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Good Morning! What a joyful and historical event this is for the Diocese of Kidapawan! Truly this is a day that the Lord has made! After more than a year of waiting, a new bishop is finally installed -- and someone who is really from among you!

Bishop Romy de la Cruz is a CotabateƱo and a Kidapawanon. He had three years of high school at Notre Dame of Kidapawan but graduated from Nuling Seminary in Cotabato. Kidapawan was his hometown. It was in Kidapawan where he was ordained a priest 36 years ago (1972) by Bishop Gerard Mongeau, O.M.I, when Kidapawan was still part of the Diocese of Cotabato. He spent ten years as a seminary formator at Nuling Seminary in Cotabato where all Cotabato and Kidapawan seminarians at that time had their seminary college studies. He was the parish priest of Tacurong for three years. In the mysterious way of God’s wisdom, he has finally returned to Kidapawan via Basilan and Antique. And now he is your fifth Bishop.

It is fitting that the Liturgy of the Word of God this morning speaks about the role of a shepherd.

Bishop Romy is your Shepherd, your leader. He is the head of the diocese, “the household of God.” With the priests as his closest collaborators, he teaches you the mysteries of faith. Through the sacraments he leads you to holiness. He provides direction for the diocese. He is the “visible source and foundation of unity” for clergy, religious, and lay faithful (Lumen Gentium [LG], no.23).

Bishop Romy is your Bishop, not through any merit of his own, not because of the many outstanding leadership qualities that he undoubtedly possesses. He is your bishop for only one essential reason -- God’s grace, God’s love. It is in the Holy Spirit that our Holy Father in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, appointed him to be your Bishop, your Shepherd.

Therefore, always in communion with the Holy Father in Rome, Bishop Romy is “Christ’s vicar and ambassador” among you (LG, no. 27; see also John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, no. 43). God himself has given him that extraordinary grace and power to act in the name and in the person of Christ the Good Shepherd (LG, no. 21). God has given him the fullness of the priesthood (LG, loc. cit.), sharing fully in Christ’s own mission to teach, to sanctify, and to govern. By divine will and by virtue of his Episcopal ordination in Cotabato 20 years ago, he is a successor of the Apostles (LG, no. 20). To him applies the words of Jesus to his Apostles: “He who hears you hears me.” By virtue of their own priestly ordination, the priests of Kidapawan collaborate with him in this same office of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding the people (see Presbyterorum Ordinis, nos. 42 and 44) -- to build up the people of God (see 2 Cor. 10: 8).

Yet Bishop de la Cruz knows fully well that to be your bishop is not so much to be given a title of honor as to receive the grace to serve (see Rite of Ordination of a Bishop, Homily). Honor comes to him when he serves. The word of God to us this morning tells us that a bishop has to follow the way of God’s shepherding: seeking the lost or scattered sheep, uniting the sheep together, binding the injured, healing the sick, bringing them to green pastures, seeking to know them, and willing to lay down his life for them.

He has to do all this not to seek his own glory, his own comfort, his own security, but in order simply to serve -- to serve without self-interest and self-aggrandizement. That great bishop of the ancient Church, St. Augustine, said that the work of shepherding the Lord’s flock is a work of pure love (“Sit amoris officium pascere dominicum gregem,” quoted in John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 24). Hence the Bishop has to exercise in an eminent way that special love of a shepherd for his flock called “pastoral charity.” It is the same compassionate love that Jesus had for the multitude that were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mt. 9: 36).

For this reason Bishop Romy has to remind himself frequently of the instruction that St. Paul gives to the young Bishop Timothy in today’s Liturgy of the Word: “Stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Tm. 1: 6-7). Having an office of leadership, the bishop possesses a “gift of power” that has to be exercised as a service of love.

To do this, Bishop de la Cruz will surely follow the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd who in today’s Gospel confidently says: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn. 10: 14). This is why, my brothers and sisters, expect Bishop Romy to travel all over the diocese -- from Kidapawan all the way to Tulunan and Colombio in the south, to Kabacan and Pagalungan in the west, to the many barangays of Makilala in the east, and to the mountain parishes of Antipas and Arakan in the north. Hundreds of barangays to visit, thousands of people to meet! To him as a shepherd modeling himself after Jesus the Good Shepherd, the abstract statistics of this diocese have to become faces of concrete people, Christian, Muslim and Lumad, with joys and hopes as well as sorrows and anxieties.

For everyone in this diocese, he has to be Christ’s vicar and ambassador, remaining always in communion with the Holy Father in Rome. More than any one else, he has to be, as the Bishop, the living assurance of God’s goodness and loving presence among the people. And if need be, to the extent of a total donation of his life for the sake of the people! “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10: 11).

What a heavy responsibility this is for Bishop Romy! This is why, my brothers and sisters, Bishop Romy needs your total support, your continual encouragement, your fervent prayers and your love. He is your Shepherd, your Father. Together with him and under his leadership, God’s family in the Diocese of Kidapawan (clergy, religious, and lay faithful) will be a sign of unity, of justice, of peace and love.

Finally to you, my brother Bishop Romy, on behalf of all the Bishops here present I assure you of our prayers and best wishes. Your Episcopal motto, “crescere in plebem suam,” is taken from that classic religious hymn usually sung for Bishops, “Behold the great priest!” (Ecce sacerdos magnus! See Heb. 10:21). With this motto, crescere in plebem suam, you pray that you may grow in wisdom and love among your people.

But today at this Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we pray “crescere tecum plebs tua” – may your people grow with you in God’s wisdom and grace through your Episcopal ministry today, tomorrow and always. God bless you, Bishop Romy! God bless the people of the Diocese of Kidapawan!


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
Kidapawan Cathedral
June 19, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

UNDERSTANDING THE ARCHDIOCESAN VISION – MISSION AND PASTORAL PRIORITIES

My purpose in this presentation is to reflect with you on the draft 2008 Archdiocesan Vision-Mission Statement in the light of the 2000 Archdiocesan Vision Mission Statement and on the priority areas indicated by 28 parishes.

My objectives are to show the continuity and the relationship between the two Statements; and to indicate how the priority areas pointed out by the parishes for APA 2008 may be considered and used.

A. The 2008 APA Theme: Isang Simbahan, Isang Pangarap

The 2000 APA envisioned that all the faithful in the Archdiocese of Cotabato (lay people, religious, and clergy) be genuine disciples of Jesus and a genuine community. This community of believers in Jesus has to be united as One Church, in communion with God, with one another, and with creation. This element of the 2000 Archdiocesan vision aspiring to be a united Church, Isang Simbahan, has been highlighted as the theme of VI APA, 2008.

Oneness is an apostolic mark of the true Church. It is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Oneness is our identity. It is the very nature of Church. In Christ, we are one Church. We have one mission – the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, the Lord and the Savior of the world.

But there are many gifts given to the Church by the Spirit of Jesus for this one mission. Various sectors of the Church have their own gifts, roles, functions. Thus we have the laity and their own roles and responsibilities in the secular world, the religious with their vocations and roles in the Church for the sake of mission, the clergy with their own gifts of ordination and personal roles.

Because of the many gifts, roles, and responsibilities in the church, it is the role of bishops to coordinate the various gifts in the Church so that we may all be one and united for the mission of announcing the Gospel. This is another deeper meaning of “Isang Simbahan” – unity of diverse gifts within the Church, diverse gifts working as one towards the mission.

Although the Church is by nature One, sometimes the diversity of roles are not very well united and coordinated. They are divided, they are sometimes in conflict, they are often subject to self-interest or even vested interest, they are not effective in achieving the mission. It is in the light of this weakness that we at APA 2008 aspire to be what we claim to be -- One Church.

In addition, sometimes we have different purposes and goals that clash with one another. One group would want the whole Archdiocese to be built on PREX, another group would want one religious movement or organization to take over all the formation program, and perhaps the senior citizens of the clergy, including the archbishop, would want one half of all the financial support system of the Archdiocese to be set aside for retirement and sickness benefit of the clergy. This would not, of course, be right. That is why as One Church, we should have one united aspiration – Isang Pangarap.

This why we have the theme: Isang Simbahan, Isang Pangarap.

B. Revisiting the 2000 Archdiocesan Vision

Let us now revisit the 2000 Archdiocesan Vision-Mission Statement in the light our 2008 Vision-Mission. Thus:

Sino?

In the light of our pastoral situation and impelled by our hope in Christ, We [the entire faithful of the Archdiocese of Cotabato]

Ano?

… envision ourselves as genuine disciples of Jesus both in word and deed.

We envision ourselves as Church, in solidarity with the poor among us, living like Jesus in evangelical poverty, promoting justice and peace as Church of the Poor.

We envision ourselves as an inculturated Church, understandable and credible to all cultures in our archdiocese in its announcing of the Kingdom of God.

We envision ourselves a genuine community of disciples, striving together in communion with God, with one another, and with creation.

We shall be a participatory Church whose members activate their God-given gifts and charisms in full co-responsibility toward the mission and work of the Church according to their vocations and various ways of life.

Paano?

We are convinced that our vision and mission are best concretized through the Archdiocesan pastoral thrust of building Basic Ecclesial Communities that reflect at the level of parishes and chapels, our vision of Church and our mission of integral evangelization.

For this reason our central pastoral priority, the core focus of our evangelization efforts is the transformation of the Family into a renewed and renewing domestic Church.

In a special way, in view of our pastoral situation, we shall emphasize the task of faith formation, justice, development and peace and reconciliation, especially between Muslims and Christians. We shall give priority to the poorest of the poor among whom are our indigenous brothers and sisters. We shall ensure that all our pastoral programs, movements and organizations shall be oriented and work actively toward this vision and mission.

[Commitment and Prayer]

To this vision of Church renewed and renewing with a mission of integral evangelization, we commit ourselves. We entrust ourselves to the loving intercession and protection of our Blessed Mother of the Immaculate Conception, the Patroness of our Archdiocese, who with our Lord Jesus acts at all times as our guide to the Kingdom of God, which is now and forever.

Mission

On the other hand, we have just approved our 2008 Archdiocesan Vision-Mission Statement:

Sino? – Kaming mga mananampalataya ng Arkidiyoses ng Cotabato

Ano? – Ay naghahangad ng nagkakaisang simbahang [One Church]
nakaugat kay Kristo [Rooted in Christ],
totoong maka-Diyos [pro-God],
maka-maralita [pro-poor = Church of the Poor]
may matatag na pananalig at paninindigan [Authentic
Discipleship]
at may aktibong partisipasyong ang lahat [Participatory
Church].

Paano? – Isasakatuparan namin ito (sa aming patuloy na paglalakbay)
[a Pilgrim Church]
sa pamamagitan ng pagtataguyod ng
Mumunting Pamayanang (Kristiyano) [BEC]
buhay na sumasaksi [Witnessing]
sa pagbabago at pagkaaktibo sa bawat aspeto ng buhay
[Integral Renewal, Integral Evangelization]
sa pagkalinga sa kapwa [Care / Service for Neighbor]
sa pagpapahalaga sa iba’t ibang kultura at pananam-
palataya [Inculturated Church, Inter-Religious Dialogue],
sa pagmamahal sa kalikasan [Care for the Environment]
sa paggalang sa lahat ng nilikha [Concern for all Creation].
sa pakikipagdayalogo tungo sa kapayapan [Dialogue for
Peace]
at sa pag-aaral upang maunawaan ang mga tanda ng
ng panahon [Discerning the Signs of the Times]

The above 2008 Archdiocesan Vision-Mission Statement is a re-echo of PCP-II. Thus in English:
Vision:

We, the faithful [Lay, Religious, and Clergy]
in the Archdiocese of Cotabato envision ourselves
to be a truly united Church,
rooted in Christ,
pro-God and pro-poor,
a firmly committed disciple-community
that is participatory.

Mission:

We shall journey towards this vision
through the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities that credibly work for and witness to:
Integral renewal and integral evangelization;
Care for others [particularly the poor];
Respect for other cultures and religious beliefs;
Love [care] for the environment;
Respect for the rest of creation;
Dialogue for peace; and
On-going discernment of the signs of the times.

Some Observations: Continuity of Vision - Mission

- Similarities of Vision
· Church of the Poor
· Inculturated Church
· Participatory Church
· Authentic Discipleship

- Similarities of Mission:
· Building BEC
· Peace and Dialogue for Peace

- Dissimilarities of Vision-Mission:
· Integral Evangelization – 2000 Mission; 2008 Vision
· 2008 Vision - Rootedness in Christ, pro-God, concern for Environment (implied in 2000 Mission)
· 2000 Mission – Family as Focal Point of Evangelization, Faith Formation, Justice, Peace, Development, Reconciliation, Orienting all Pastoral Programs to Vision-Mission
· 2008 Mission – Respect/Service to Neighbor (implies justice, peace, development, reconciliation
· Emphasis in the 2008 Vision-Mission on the crucial element of discerning the signs of the times.

Comment: Do we have here a break from the 2000 Vision-Vision? Or do we consider the absence of the major emphasis on Family and Faith Formation in the 2008 Mission as implied and perhaps part of the Strategic Plan that is still to come? I think this is the case.

C. Our work at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly:

· Proclaim and celebrate the final Archdiocesan Vision-Mission
· Priority and Goal Setting at the Archdiocesan level

D. Priority Areas:

A new process:

From what I observe the whole archdiocese was involved in discerning pastoral priorities in the light of the draft vision-mission of the archdiocese and in the light of their parish socio-economic, political, religious and cultural situation (environmental scanning). This took place in several community gatherings at the BEC level to the parish. The process of discernment is similar to that of 2000 prioritizing: from grassroots to the top. However for the 2000 vision, the grassroots participated only through their delegates to the APA. For the 2008 vision-mission prioritizing, the delegates brought with them the results of the prioritizing already done at the grassroots. This is a more reliable and more participatory. More reliable because at APA we are certain of the thinking of the grassroots regarding the priorities they desire.

The process consisted in answering a question which I understand to be the following: “Based on the draft vision-mission statement of the Archdiocese and on environmental scanning, what would your parish consider as the first pastoral priority?” The following are the collated answers:

Kaming mga mananampalataya sa Arkidiyoses ng Cotabato:

· ay naghahangad ng nagkakaisang Simbahan -- 5 parishes
· totoong maka-Diyos -- 5 parishes
· may aktibong partisipasyong ang lahat -- 5 parishes
· may matatag na pananalig at paninindigan -- 5 parishes
· pag-aaral upang maunawaan and mga
tanda ng panahon -- 4 parishes
· bukas sa pagbabago at aktibo sa bawat
aspeto ng buhay -- 3 parishes
· nakaugat kay Kristo -- 2 parishes
· nagpapahalaga sa iba’t ibang kultura
at pananampalataya -- 1 parish
· pagtataguyod ng Mumunting Pamayanan -- 1 parish
· nagmamahal sa kalikasan -- 1 parish
· nakikipagdayalogo tungo sa kapayapaan -- 1 parish

If we study the above, we see that priorities have been made by the parishes on various elements of the vision-mission statement. Some are priorities in the vision (those in bold); others are priorities in the mission (italicized).

On the other hand, pastoral prioritizing the 2000 APA was mainly on the elements of mission (e.g, Building BEC, faith formation, family as pastoral focal point, justice, peace, development work, inter-religious dialogue, orienting all pastoral programs toward the vision-mission statement, etc.

It also seems to me that the 2008 priorities both in the vision and mission elements indicate a picture more of the parish desire than of the desire of the Archdiocese. This has to be so because environmental scanning for the Archdiocese is necessarily different from particular parishes. For instance, Pikit with its Muslim-Christian population would have a different priority from that of Langgal-Gapok with its problems of environment. The Archdiocesan vision-mission would have to consider these two priorities in its over-all perspective but the priority given to these two elements might be different at the Archdiocesan level.

Therefore, an archdiocesan vision-mission statement does not intend to tell each parish what pastoral priority it should have. For instance the element, “Isasakatuparan namin ito sa pamagitan ng pagtataguyod ng Mumunting Pamayanan” - even if only one parish selected it as its first priority, it remains as a fundamental element of the Archdiocesan Vision-Mission. Other parishes have their own priorities. They tell more of the desire of individual parishes than of the Archdiocesan desire. That is the way I would understand the collated priorities.

In addition, even if only five parishes chose “kami’y naghahangad ng nagkaisang Simbahan” as their first priority, one can hardly use less than one fifth of the parishes as expressing the desire of all the 28 parishes of the Archdiocese. 23 parishes did not choose this as their first priority. And yet I am sure that the aspiration to be One Church is the general desire of all the parishes.

Further, one element of the Vision-Mission is “kami’y nakaugat kay Kristo.” We all know that the Church comes from Christ and has to be rooted in Christ. In another image, Christ said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” Cut off from the vine, the branch has no life. Therefore, rootedness in Christ is fundamental for the whole community, the Archdiocese, to be an authentic disciple of Christ. Yet only two parishes made this as their first pastoral priority. It means that at the moment it is their most felt-need.

E. Archdiocesan Priorities

At the Archdiocesan level, I suggest the first three priorities of the Archdiocese based on my pastoral visitation to different parishes:

1. the need for more active, more participatory, more evangelizing Basic Ecclesial Communities with more effective trained lay leaders (element no. 10 of the Vision-Mission Statement).

2. The need for more and better faith formation of members of Basic Ecclesial Communities as implied by element nos. 3 to 7 and 11 of the Vision-Mission Satement, naka-ugat kay Kristo, maka-Diyos, maka-maralita, may aktibong partisipasyon, may matatag na pananalig at paninindigan, bukas sa pagbabago at aktibo sa bawat aspeto ng buhay.

3. Need for better and more effective social services for farmers and indigenous peoples in so far as the Church could provide, networking with the government and non-government organizations (see elements nos. 5 and 12, maka-maralita, buhay na sumasaksi sa pagkalinga sa kapwa).

F. Recommendations on Handling Pastoral Priorities

Finally, what should we do with all the priorities identified?
Regarding how to handle them, these are my recommendations:

1. Let each parish use the priorities it has chosen or will choose for its pastoral strategic planning;

2. At the Archdiocesan level let all the Archdiocesan pastoral program and APT consider in their own pastoral strategic planning the main pastoral priorities that the parishes have expressed.

3. Let all the pastoral programs at the pastoral level be ready to serve the different parishes in meeting their own parish priorities.

4. The pastoral priorities at the level of the archdiocese are common objectives for all the parishes. Let all the parishes move as One Church towards meeting these priorities (e.g., the three priorities I have mentioned above). This would be one concrete meaning of Isang Simbahan, Isang Pangarap.

Conclusion

This is what I have done in this reflection:

1. I have provided a theological basis for the theme of APA, Isang Simbahan, Isang Pangarap.

2. I have shown a continuity as well as a dissimilarity between the 2000 Archdiocesan Vision-Mission Statement and the 2008 Statement. Continuity means that the environmental scanning done for both APA was valid. Dissimilarity means that there have been new insights from the process of discernment on the pastoral situation.

3. Finally I have recommended several ways by which the priorities may be handled, both at the parish level and also at the level of the Archdiocese, i.e., Parish priorities and Archdiocesan (common) priorities.

I thank you most deeply for your participation. Thank you.


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
VI Archdiocesan Pastoral AssemblyTamontaka
May 28, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Communion, Solidarity and Mission: Response to the Breakup of the Family of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples

Introduction

The phenomenon of migrants and itinerant peoples of various kinds from workers to refugees has been discussed thoroughly in the past few days at this seminar. Through various conferences we have become more aware of their social, political, cultural, religious, and economic situation. The litany of problems seems to be endless. The problems differ, sometimes in kind and sometimes in degree, from country to country. All these constitute the pastoral situation of migrant workers and itinerant peoples.

My subject matter is limited, namely, the issue of the breakup of the family of migrant workers and itinerant peoples. And the question is simple – what can we do to respond to family breakup?

May I attempt to develop a general pastoral response to this tragic situation.

The pastoral perspective that I shall assume is inspired by three decades of pastoral reflection on various pastoral challenges by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). The Federation is composed of all the bishops in Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia – from Kazakhstan to East Timor.

The themes that FABC uses to reflect on the pastoral situation include the following:

(1) in the light of the Asian pastoral situation the mission of announcing the Gospel of Jesus is by way of a triple dialogue – dialogue with the peoples of Asia especially the majority poor, dialogue with the various cultures of Asia, and dialogue with the different religions of Asia;

(2) for the common task of social transformation in the Asian situation of religious pluralism, a common basis for action is the universal Reign of God;

(3) the local church is the acting subject of mission;

(4) international collaboration is necessary to face the challenges in the common journey to God’s Reign;

(5) According to the 7th and 8th FABC Plenary Assemblies, the situation of itinerant and migrant workers is one of the major pastoral priorities in Asia.

The pastoral response I wish to present may be summarized in the following way: In the light of the universal mission of the Church to announce the Gospel of Jesus, relevant family ministry should be set up in every local church with the task of building communion and solidarity among members of families, among families and local churches. Such ministry should have a perspective of the Reign of God. It should respond to the needs of families in special situations, such as the families of migrants and itinerant peoples.


1. A Family Ministry in Dialogue with Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

Without doubt the great majority migrants and itinerant peoples leave their homes and work in other countries without referring themselves to their local church. They go to recruiting agencies and work out their travel and immigration papers directly through them. In many cases they receive only a minimum of information about the receiving countries, the people and their cultures, the employers that hire them, conditions of work, the customs of the people among whom they will work. If they go to countries with a predominantly different religion, they have only little knowledge about the risks to their own faith, the problems of practicing their faith, the pressures on them because of differences of faith.

In general they are aware of the problems of living apart from their families for an extended period of time, the pressures on the brothers, sisters, and parents they leave behind, and particularly on their spouses and children. At the end as Ecclesia in Asia (1999) says, “In the countries to which they come, these people often find themselves friendless, culturally estranged, linguistically disadvantaged and economically vulnerable” (no. 34).

But all these they have decided to go through for the sake of a better future for their families. The future of their family is uppermost in their minds.

As migrants leave for work the temporary break-up of the family of migrants and itinerant peoples becomes actual. In the duration of their work contract, the separation of the members of the family will be keenly felt, even for those who have worked for several years away from their families with brief periods of vacation. Intermittent reunions will not completely assuage the loneliness of being separated from their families.

But it is not only loneliness or homesickness that is of concern to families. It is the negative impact that the absence of perhaps a key member of the family (e.g., a father or mother, an older brother or sister) would have on the family itself, on the natural growth and development of the children.

Moreover in the experience of many families, a permanent breakup is not only possible. It can be real, as when the migrant or itinerant worker falls into other relationships either casually with many persons or permanently with one person. These relationships can ruin the relationship that the migrant worker has with the family that is left behind.

Given the above situation of temporary and permanent family breakup, possible or actual, and the many other social, cultural, religious, economic and legal problems that have been mentioned at this seminar, the setting up of a family ministry at the churches of origin and destination is imperative. Among its tasks would be to help migrants and itinerants regarding legal cases and to be their advocates regarding their rights. But family ministry has to go beyond these tasks.

Family ministry has to be in dialogue with migrant workers and itinerant peoples. Pastoral workers have to know them, their life situations, their conditions of work. Dialogue with them will reveal their real pastoral situation, their priority needs, and the ways by which effective response can be given to their situation. Through such dialogue an effective family ministry with the proper social dimensions on behalf of migrants and itinerant peoples can be set up. Without such dialogue a pastoral response can be misdirected and irrelevant.

2. A Family Ministry that Cares and Serves

Family breakup contradicts the nature of marriage and family. The Lord of families calls the local churches to do the task of explaining in a credible and convincing manner the nature of marriage and of family as a communion of love and care.

This task also aims at educating members of families to reflect in their lives and relationships the communion that they are called to be. The family is a sanctuary within which the unity of husband, wife and children is fostered. It is God’s gift to them for the sake of salvation. In this way their natural desire for unity in love is consciously brought to the realm of the spirit and of the Reign of God. Such formation in faith given by the local church regarding marriage and family builds communion and solidarity within the family. It prepares them to live up to their family commitments while one or more members of the family depart for work in a foreign country.

The task of formation and education requires a family ministry that cares for and serves families of migrants and itinerant peoples.

When migrants and itinerants actually leave for their places of work, the local church of origin still has the task helping maintain and promote the communion and solidarity of the family. Through pastoral guidance and encouragement, the local church provides the spiritual resources that give them strength to bear and cope with separation.

On the other hand, in communion and solidarity with the local church of origin and with the migrant and itinerant worker, the church of arrival has to provide a similar ministry of care and service. It begins with a “ministry of welcome” (see Erga migrantes caritas Christi, no. 40). In this way the “stranger” will find a home away from home -- in the Lord’s household that is the Church. The local church of arrival is not only a place where migrants and itinerant peoples go for worship. It should be a place where they find “family” belongingness, friendship and fellowship in community. Simple celebrations of birthdays and other anniversaries take on greater meaning when celebrated within such fellowships.

Concretely, this means the active presence and ministry of chaplains and pastoral workers to whom migrant workers and itinerant peoples can refer their problems and find a listening ear and caring hand. Letters of introduction would also help. It is important for pastoral workers to know a little bit of the cultures of migrants and itinerant workers and be able to speak to speak to them in a language they understand. The lack of ability to communicate in a language that is understood is one of the most serious causes of loneliness and alienation. Associations of migrants and itinerant peoples will add to the spirit of common strength, belongingness and fellowship they find in the church.

Such pastoral care was envisioned by the FABC at its 8th Plenary Assembly held in Daejeon, Korea in 2004 on the topic: “The Asian Family towards a Culture of Integral Life.”

One of its pastoral recommendations is the setting up of family ministries in Asia that “form and empower,” “care and serve,” and “promote social transformation.” Among the special programs of a caring and serving family ministry, the Plenary Assembly recommended “setting up programs for families with migrant workers abroad and helping migrant workers before they leave and when they return” (Final Document, no. 119).

The FABC vision of family ministry in Asia calls for pastoral programs that should “make the inner resources of our faith (the sacraments, liturgy, prayer, day-to-day spirituality) available to couples and heir families in their striving toward a culture of integral life… and should empower families to become evangelizers, such that ministry is not only for families but by families” (no. 116).


3. A Family Ministry that Forms and Empowers

Beyond the simple idea of receiving pastoral care is the universal mission, valid also for migrants and itinerants, to evangelize others. For this reason, a family ministry should form and empower in the faith. In communion and solidarity both the church of origin and the church of destination have to work on empowering migrants and itinerant peoples to become evangelizers.

It is well known that by the dynamism of their religious faith migrant workers and itinerant peoples have impressed peoples with weakened faith or with hardly any practical faith. Domestic workers in many countries of Europe bring the children of their employers to church on Sundays, teach them how to pray and what the basic tenets of the Church are.

In the churches of origin faith formation and empowerment can be done through the regular catechetical and biblical programs at the parish level in collaboration with the family ministry of the parish. The local church should especially emphasize formation to a spirituality of communion in the family:

… at the heart of the family is Communion, communion with God, communion of the spouses, communion of young or elderly parents and their children, communion with grandparents and other members of the extended family…. It is a union of hearts and minds that in a human way reflects the communion of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Triune God from whom the family came to be…. Communion within the family, however, reaches out to the wider community and impels the family toward a mission of service for the sake of the Reign of God. This outward movement enables the family to share the Trinitarian communion that it is gifted with. A spirituality of communion infuses vigor and enthusiasm – life – into the dynamics of the family, the relationship between spouses, between parents and children, between members of the extended family (8th FABC Plenary Assembly, Daejeon, Korea, August 17-23, 2004, Final Document, nos. 105-106).

A spirituality of communion, unity, and solidarity will definitely help spouses and children cope better with the aches and pains of temporary separation. Kept alive through prayer and communication, it would also serve to overcome temptations to permanent separation.

In the churches of arrival, migrant workers and itinerant peoples could follow a designed program of catechesis and have on-going faith and biblical formation. For instance Filipino migrant workers who come together for Mass and socialization every Sunday could have on-going faith formation for an hour after the Mass and before their socialization and fellowship activities. [In Rome student priests at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino are assigned to various churches on Sundays where Filipino migrants and itinerants gather for Mass and fellowship. They act as chaplains providing religious services, giving spiritual conferences, helping organize them, and bringing them together for various events, social and religious. This is a practice that can not be replicated in other places, simply because of the lack of chaplains].

But on the issue of on-going formation and empowerment, an initiative in some countries like the Philippines is significant in the light of the concerns of migrants and itinerant people. This is the training of pastoral workers. A week-long course was started six years ago by the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila in collaboration with the Philippine Bishops’ Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. This was designed to train pastoral workers for migrants. Last January the course was attended by 46 pastoral workers from Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines. They went through learning modules covering the migrant situation in Asia, church teachings on migration, the mission with migrants in Asia, specific issues on the care of migrants, networking and planning future programs.

The more programs there are to train pastoral workers, the better for the mission of caring and serving migrants and their families.

My suggestion is for pastoral care and activities to go beyond worship, socialization and fellowship and into ongoing formation and empowerment for integral evangelization.

Evangelizing by migrants and itinerant peoples may seem to be idealistic but for many Filipino migrant workers this is already a lived experience. Already many Filipino migrants who belong to various lay religious movements such as El Shaddai, Couples for Christ, and other charismatic groups follow the faith formation sessions of their lay groups.

It is a matter simply of consciously bringing the missionary or evangelizing dimension into the on-going faith formation session and continuing what may already have been started at the local church of origin.

Here again we see the great need of collaboration – of communion and solidarity for mission among migrants and itinerant peoples, between them and the local churches of origin and arrival.


4. In Dialogue with Other Cultures and Religions

What has been said so far would seem to apply only in places where migrants and itinerant peoples can practice their own religion freely and where local churches of origin and destination play a great role.

But the great majority of Asian migrants and itinerant peoples live and work in countries where they cannot freely and safely practice a religion different from that of their host country. In such countries temporary separation from one’s own family becomes even more acute. They are deprived of the strength and consolation that religious faith and fellowship could provide even when a celebration is merely a birthday or anniversary.

It is in this situation that prior formation and empowerment in the local church of origin is important and imperative. Prior faith formation can help migrant workers and itinerant peoples cope with the pressures of work in a country of different religious persuasion and where religious conversion in order to have better work conditions and higher compensation is always a severe temptation.

Only a dialogue of life is possible in such situation. For domestic workers, more restricted to the home of employers perhaps not even this is possible. Friendship and fellowship with peoples of other faiths and cultures would certainly ease the aches of homesickness and being separated from families.

Moreover, dialogue – solidarity and collaboration (or diplomatic arrangemenst) -- between governments with peoples of predominantly different religions will go a long way to make migrants and itinerant peoples feel at home in their countries of work.


5. Solidarity and Collaboration at the International Level

Beyond decent and humane working conditions is a mutuality and reciprocity of rights, especially of the fundamental freedom of religion, based on the universal golden rule – “Do unto others what you want them do unto you.” Recent appeals by the Holy Father for such reciprocity of rights and freedom of religion have raised the consciousness of people around the world regarding this human rights issue. It has also raised the bar of inter-religious dialogue a bit higher.

To promote this reciprocity of rights and to ensure that peoples of different faiths practice their religion freely and safely everywhere would be a paramount responsibility of international decision makers. It needs dialogue, solidarity, and collaboration between States. It would also be necessary for the United Nations to act determinedly on this issue in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Dialogue towards recognizing and practicing reciprocity of the freedom of religion is a task needing the utmost mutual respect, openness, persistence and determination. For if States do not recognize such freedom for their own citizen-minorities, how much more difficult it would be for States to recognize the same freedom to migrants and itinerant workers.

Dialogue, solidarity and collaboration at the international level should also address another burning issue – the issue of reuniting the families of migrants and of recognizing their rights as families, according them the same protection as other families (see the Holy See’s Charter of the Rights of the Family, 1983, Article 12).

Granted that there are many obstacles that prevent effective resolution, including concerns about internal security, economics and demography, the obstacles are not insurmountable. The pastoral care of migrants and itinerant peoples would call for local and international advocacy on these issues regarding family unification and family rights.

To be highly commended is the work of non-governmental organizations both at the local and international levels, such as the International Catholic Migration Commission, that pushes the advocacy of the Church and its dicasteries forward at various fora. Advocacy is part and parcel of pastoral care and strives to press forward ethical decisions on migrants and their families in accord with the teachings of the Church.


2. A Common Basis for Pastoral Work toward Communion and Solidarity -- the Reign of God

In a situation where peoples of different religious traditions and their governments are involved, the pastoral care of migrant workers and itinerant peoples would require a common perspective. We who believe in Jesus Christ are guided in our work by this belief in Jesus and by the mission of proclaiming him as the Lord and Savior of the world. This is our unique perspective. We need to keep this perspective in our consciousness. It should always motivate and energize our pastoral work.

But in the care of migrant workers and itinerants, collaboration and solidarity with other religious traditions and their governments would require a common perspective. This is provided by the perspective of God’s Reign. Brothers and sisters under the one God are on a journey together towards God’s Reign which comes definitively a the end of time. We are in the “now and not yet” dimension of God’s Reign. We are called to make this one globalized world a safe home for all, a home to be built on justice, truth, freedom, peace, and love. These are fundamental values of the Reign of God.

It is this perspective of God’s Reign, of God’s loving dominion over us, that pulls together efforts of various religions and ideologies to respond to the family breakup of migrant workers and itinerant peoples.


Conclusion

To the question how can we respond effectively to the breakup of the family of migrant workers and itinerant peoples, I have attempted to provide a pastoral response in the light of reflections of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

The response concretely calls for a triple dialogue – with the poor, with cultures, and religious traditions. It calls for the setting up of a family ministry that is in dialogue with migrants and itinerants, with their cultures and religious traditions.

It is a family ministry that cares and serves, forms and empowers for mission. Formation towards a spirituality of communion which is at the heart of marriage and the family is the key element of this pastoral response.

The response also calls for solidarity and collaboration between churches of origin and arrival, and between States at the international level. The crux of the matter is reciprocity and mutuality of rights, particularly of the freedom of religion. When migrant workers and itinerant peoples enjoy freedom of religion, they are able to avail themselves of the spiritual resources of their faith. They are better able to cope with pressures of temporary family breakup and the severe temptations to permanent family break-up.

The common basis of action for such solidarity and collaboration is the universal journey of all peoples towards the Reign of God, a journey towards justice and truth, peace, freedom and love.



A Recommendation to the Pontifical Council

In two full days we have listened to 22 conferences on the situation of various kinds of migrant workers and itinerant peoples. For us who are new to this ministry of pastoral care, the conferences have given us an excellent panoramic view of the pastoral situation. But due to time constraints we may not have been able to explore major issues in depth.

In a certain sense, migrant workers and itinerant peoples constitute a global “diocese” or even a number of global “dioceses.”

Therefore, for a better and more effective collaboration and solidarity, may I respectfully recommend that those responsible in regional and continental Episcopal assemblies come together every two or three years under the leadership of the Pontifical Council for the purpose of discussing in depth two or three burning issues affecting migrant workers, itinerant peoples and their families.

Thank you.


+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
FABC Secretary General
Rome, May 15, 2008