Friday, July 31, 2015

A 'science nation'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

After all that cat-and-mouse, cloak-and-dagger chase for information on a church imbroglio that broke in the news last week, I took in a different air last Saturday. I went to the much-awaited exhibit of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) at the SMX Convention Center.

I had looked forward to a leisurely stroll. Well, my friends and I arrived to see the huge exhibit hall jam-packed with students of varied degrees and focus of interest, as shown by the way they talked, gawked and poked at the stuff on display. While I found it to be a less-than-ideal situation for learning (for myself), I was happy that many young people and teachers came to see Filipino inventions and innovations. Academic institutions from all over the country displayed their scientific creations and discoveries.
“Science nation” was the catchphrase of the event—that is, the Philippines as “a science nation innovating for global competitiveness.” I thought: We might consider the Philippines a laggard in science (do I hear protests?), but definitely not in innovativeness. And as far as competitiveness is concerned, we are up there in the music and entertainment departments. Putting science, innovativeness and competitiveness together is a tall order that the DOST is bravely pursuing and tried well to showcase during Science and Technology (ST) Week.

The crowd was so thick I had little time and space to get to know about the ST that went into everything on display. I had to content myself with making brief exchanges with the persons in the booths and taking home reading materials. There was an area where products—mainly food, drinks and apparel made from indigenous ingredients and materials—were for sale. Benguet State University’s booth had lots of yummy stuff that the staff could barely cope. I bought strawberry wine and seeds of violet snap beans that I hope to grow in my backyard.

The bigger inventions on display could be ordered or custom-built for manufacturers and users. I stumbled upon a ready-to-install ground septic tank made of linear, low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). The INCA anaerobic septic tank or sewage treatment system is based on the settling and the anaerobic filtration of household sewage, particularly wastewater discharged from toilets.

Environment-friendly, it needs no electricity or regular maintenance. It is a one-piece, rotationally-molded plastic tank manufactured from virgin LLDPE. The tank comes in different shapes and sizes. It is designed to be completely buried in the ground and is suited for homes, offices, factories and churches. And why not, for a getaway cabin in the woods?

PCAARRD’s exhibit was mainly on how ST are “infused in agri-aqua-natural resource commodities” to improve productivity, product quality and profitability, and thus raise the living standards of farmers and fishers and their communities. Among the products featured were banana, mud crabs, abaca, goat, and the plant growth promoter. The plant growth promoter involves the use of radiation-modified oligo-kappa-carrageenan from algae/seaweed and oligo-chitosan from crab and shrimp shell for crops’ nutrient intake, for plants’ increased yield and resistance to disease and bacteria. Got that?

Sultan Kudarat State University used science in goat-raising to ensure that Muslims get authentic halal products in their meals that their religion requires. Shown at the exhibit was a video of Benham Rise, which has been declared part of the Philippine Extended Continental Shelf and now under the PCAARRD-funded program Exploration, Mapping and Assessment of Deep Water Areas. Backed by researchers, scientists and seasoned divers from different institutions, the program will explore the resources in the area.

I went to the booth that featured bamboo and its many uses. Bamboo belongs to the grass family that is often associated with difficult rural life. But bamboo is actually a great building material and has great potential for interior design, furniture and other building needs. The Philippines has many varieties of bamboo. Fast-growing, bamboo can be used to prevent soil erosion in landslide-prone communities. I couldn’t help thinking: Bamboo has long been romanticized, likened to the Asian trait of endurance and resilience amid tempests (or the other way around), but it has not quite gone mainstream compared with other building materials.

The DOST’s “SIPAG ni Juan” promotes bamboo as “green gold from the forests.” (“SIPAG” stands for Strategic Industry Science and Technology Program for Agri-Aqua Growth; it also means hard work.) It has developed scientific ways of managing bamboo forests and increasing yield. The bamboo program has target areas in Regions 3, 4, 6 (Iloilo) and 10 (Bukidnon), with farmers, nursery owners and manufacturers as beneficiaries.

Exhibited, too, was a traditional hand loom or weaving machine that sported a new and sleek design by the DOST’s Philippine Textile Research Institute using a mixture of metal and wood that makes it more efficient in weaving natural dyed fibers from abaca, banana and other plant materials. The University of the Philippines Los Baños also showed its work in improving abaca varieties.

By the way, the DOST has a SETUP (Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program) that helps small and medium entrepreneurs improve their productivity and competitiveness through technical assistance, personnel training, funds, design and even marketing. The DOST is only a call away.

Monday, July 27, 2015

INC minister in US defies church

Philippine Daily Inquirer/NEWS/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Maricar Cinco and JaymeeT. Gamil

A US-based Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister refused to read circulars that announced the expulsion from the indigenous church of the mother and three siblings of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, as more questions and alleged secrets of the group continued to leak out. It also now appears that among the family members expelled for allegedly sowing dissension in church ranks, Manalo’s mother, Cristina “Ka Tenny” Manalo, is actually in the United States with her son Marco. Brother and sister Angel and Lottie Hemedez are still reportedly being held in the INC compound in Quezon City.

INC minister Louie Cayabyab who served in Fremont, California, said in a recorded video that he would rather step down than read the expulsion circulars during worship services.

“I decided, brethren, that I won’t read those circulars… because in my heart, in my heart of hearts, I can’t take it. It is, it is just so, so difficult to betray one’s heart. I know, I know the repercussion of this and I know what will be the consequence. I know that I will be stripped of my duty. From now on, I will no longer be a minister, probably I will be expelled from the church, but I will take it, brothers and sisters. We admonish you to remain in the church no matter what happens.”

While Cayabyab was speaking, sobs could be heard from the crowd.

An INC source said another minister, identified as Joel San Pedro, was reportedly added to the expulsion list. Another expelled INC member, Joy Yuson, who used to work in the security department of what is called “templo central,” or the INC headquarters in Quezon City, came out in a video clip and appealed to his fellow INC members not to be afraid of expulsion.

Meanwhile, INC members expressed concern about Bro. Lowell Menorca II and his Japanese wife, Seiko Otsuka Menorca, whose whereabouts are unknown.

‘Fetched’ from Bulan

Menorca and his wife were reported abducted by INC members in Bulan, Sorsogon, on July 17. Bulan’s deputy police chief, Insp. Deo Cabildo, said a convoy of six vehicles arrived in Bulan at 11 a.m. on July 11 and introduced themselves as INC members when stopped by the local police. The group told the police they were on their way to Butag to “fetch their minister and bring him to the INC central office.” They left town about an hour later but Cabildo said he did not know if Menorca was with them.

Earlier, a blog written by Antonio Ramirez Ebangelista named Menorca as one of the nine ministers expelled or kidnapped for being critical of the INC.

Extortion in Bulacan

Lowell later mysteriously surfaced in a jail in Cavite but was reported on Sunday to have been suddenly released by the police after he allegedly signed an affidavit that he “was not abducted.”

Meanwhile, expelled INC minister Roel Rosal alleged he had a letter from a Bulacan mayor detailing how local INC ministers received payments to ensure bloc voting in past elections. Rosal, who has been holding a vigil outside the Manalo compound since Friday along with his wife Shirley, aired his own agenda: To personally speak to executive minister Eduardo Manalo to appeal his case.

“The Bulacan mayor was a childhood friend of my wife. He gave the letter to us so we could forward it to Ka Eduardo. The contents of the letter were allegations that some ministers accepted money from [the politician], in exchange for votes [of the church congregation],” Rosal said, in an interview with media.

The highest payment was “around P100,000,” Rosal said. The mayor, who won the last elections, nevertheless expressed doubt the INC had voted for him, which was why he wanted to complain to Ka Eduardo, Rosal said. Rosal said he and his wife had sent the letter to Eduardo via courier, but never received a response. Instead, they were surprised when, in June this year, they ended up excommunicated from the church by the Sanggunian (council) “for going against the administration,” a tearful Shirley said.

Following the letter from the Bulacan mayor, the Rosals had also written in January to the INC executive minister about a barangay (village) captain in Parañaque who also paid INC ministers to ensure his post. The barangay captain won despite being known as a drunkard and a drug addict, Rosal said.

Rosal named the INC “tagapangasiwa” (supervisor) involved in the bloc voting scam as Israel Flores, and Albert Dy in Bulacan. He said other ministers were also involved, as their “bagmen.” Rosal, however, refused to name the politicians.

‘Ka Erdy’s time’

Rosal said he wanted the INC to “investigate” his case, as he was simply trying to expose corruption. Rosal also expressed hopes he could be reinstated. “During Ka Erdy’s time, it’s the corrupt ministers who would have been excommunicated. I don’t know about Ka Eduardo. With all this happening, he’s being so quiet,” Rosal said.

Rosal said he had been receiving threats from the ministers and “tagapangasiwa” to stop airing his complaints, or else he would get sued. He expressed belief the missing INC ministers “also knew about these corrupt practices, that’s why they were abducted.”

“There’s no transparency with [church] funds. It just goes to [auditor] Jun Santos, his family and allies,” Rosal alleged. #

Saturday, July 25, 2015

'Deep Throat' shakes up Iglesia ni Cristo

Philippine Daily Inquirer/NEWS/by Ma.Ceres P. Doyo

WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD After being incommunicado for almost two days, Angel Manalo finally speaks to the media camped out till the early hours of Friday outside his home on Tandang Sora Ave. in Quezon City. He denied his earlier claim that he and mother Tenny Manalo were held hostage in their home. But he also told reporters that corruption was rife in the sect. The INC spokesperson denied his claims of ministers’ abduction. AFP

Who is AE? Is he a lone blogger or different people expressing their views?

AE, or Antonio Ramirez Ebangelista, is some kind of Deep Throat within Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) whose blogsite, Iglesia ni Cristo: Silent No More, has drawn a following among INC members who are disgruntled about alleged irregularities in their church. These members found one another through the blogsite and called themselves a core group.

Danica Rosales (an alias), told the Inquirer that AE is the voice of many INC members who had kept quiet for so long. AE’s strongly worded blog posts sparked outrage among the INC leadership but, Rosales said, the blogsite also galvanized members into voicing their gripes although anonymously.

And so, as INC prepares for its 101st anniversary on July 27, the indigenous Christian group that claims to have more than 2 million members has found itself wracked with internal dissension, with members questioning the integrity of some of its leaders and accusing them of corruption and abuse of power. (READ: Ex-minister accuses INC officials of extorting money from politicians)

The INC leadership moved swiftly to quell dissent, expelling on Thursday executive minister Eduardo V. Manalo’s mother, Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo, brothers Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Villanueva Manalo and Marco Erano Villanueva Manalo and sister Lolita “Lottie” Manalo Hemedez. At least 10 ministers were reportedly held under “house arrest.” Concerned members cried abduction, arbitrary detention and expulsion without due process. They ran to the media, not to the authorities, for help. (READ: Expelled INC Manalo kin calls for people power)

The blog

The blogsite should open the eyes of “blind followers” of INC, said Rosales, who described herself as a member who remains loyal to her church’s teachings.

Suspected as AE

In his July 18 blog “Tyranny of Justice,” AE wrote: “A truly sad day for the church when ministers turn against other ministers so that their evil ways are not further exposed. Innocent after innocent ministers who have served the current and past administrations with all faithfulness, who have given their lives and energy for the church, are being punished because they are suspected of being me, or helping me, or sympathizing with the family of the late Bro. Eraño G. Manalo. All three ‘crimes’ are punishable by expulsion and, worse, disappearance off the face of the earth!

“Bro. Isaias T. Samson Jr., former editor in chief of Pasugo magazine, and his wife, Myrna, were expelled today, together with Bro. Jerson T. Samson Jr. and his family. Isaias and Jerson are brothers, both faithful and honest ministers, who have served the church for a very long time. Bro. Radel V. Cortez and Bro. Matt Pareja led the house arrest and the interrogation. Reports have surfaced that the Samson brothers were both tortured and harmed physically in a futile attempt to get a confession. Where are they now?

“Another minister, Bro. Arnel Tumanan, has been placed under house arrest. Bro. Arnel was general secretary, a member of the Sanggunian (advisory council), during the time of our late executive minister, Bro. Eraño G. Manalo. He is loved and adored by brethren, including Bro. Eraño himself. He is reported to have been kicked and abused during the interrogation led by Bro. Radel V. Cortez.

“As some of you may know by now, nine of our ministers, workers and other brethren suspected of being either me, Antonio Ebangelista, or are helping me, have been dragged from their homes and held captive on orders from the Central Office. The ministers were abducted by armed men, some of them INC and some not, but all without conscience, animals who cannot differentiate right from wrong. They only see what they hope to gain, financially and otherwise, from this heinous act against men of God.

“The nine others were taken from Sorsogon, Meycauayan, Cebu and elsewhere and now believed to have been moved to Camp Karingal in Quezon City. One of the nine has been identified as Bro. Boyet Menorca, son of the late Bro. Lowell Menorca, former administrative secretary of the Sanggunian during Ka Eraño G. Manalo’s administration.”

In a press conference on Thursday, Bienvenido Santiago, INC general evangelist, denied the allegations of abduction and illegal detention.

“They allege that some ministers have been kidnapped. They want to make it appear that Iglesia is involved. That’s not true,” Santiago said, referring to the expelled Manalos. (READ: What split? What corruption? — Iglesia ni Cristo spokesman)

Afraid for their lives

A member of AE’s core group, Rosales spoke with the Inquirer on Thursday, as news of the alleged abduction and illegal detention of members who had been expelled broke. The unrest had been festering for some time, but INC members who wanted to air their grievances to the media feared for their lives and hesitated to speak out. It was only after a video clip showing Tenny and Angel appealing for help and expressing fear for their lives that concerned INC members called the media.

Eduardo Manalo, the current head of INC, was reportedly behind the expulsion of his own mother, brothers, sister and several ministers from different parts of the country. Eduardo, the INC founder’s grandson and the third in the line of succession, took over as INC leader after his father Eraño died in 2009.

Rosales made it clear that “Mommy Tenny, Angel, and Lottie were not being held hostage but were merely afraid for their lives.” They also do not intend to leave INC because “they have nowhere to go,” she said.

But arbitrary expulsions—there is even “expulsion by text”—should be stopped, Rosales said. Suspicion is rife, she said. For example, ministers’ wives are prohibited from doing Facebook, members are admonished about “liking” certain posts that “will make God ‘unlike’ you,” she said.

Undercover in council

Rosales said AE was a real individual who had access to the INC’s inner sanctum. “He moves around with members of the council. He’s some kind of an undercover,” she said.

Rosales herself hinted about why she knew much. She spoke about many changes in the INC that she thought no longer hewed to the teachings of the church’s founder, Felix Manalo. She pointed to the decisions of the seven-member advisory council that wields awesome power in the church.

Rosales spoke about the alleged wanton sale of INC properties, including one near City of Dreams on Roxas Boulevard and those in the United States because the church had financial difficulties arising from the construction of Philippine Arena. Rosales, however, did not show proof of INC’s financial difficulties. But Angel Manalo mentioned Philippine Arena and decisions by the INC advisory council as causes of difficulties in the group in his interview with reporters early on Friday. (READ: Disgruntled supporters make scene outside Manalo residence)

“That was not so in the past,” Rosales said. The church “never sold but only bought” property, she said. Financial transactions used to be transparent, she said. “Now it is no longer that way.” Rosales enumerated purchases, including “two choppers” and an “Airbus.” She also pointed to a minister who owned several expensive condominium units in posh Bonifacio Global City. “One minister even drives a Lamborghini,” she added.

“The families of these ministers fly on the INC Airbus for trips abroad and go on shopping sprees. They sport Louis Vuittons,” she said. These jaw-dropping allegations cry out for investigation.

Ministers are not paid much, she said. “We do not refer to their pay as salaries but as aid,” Rosales said. There are ministers who started off already rich so they have cars and all, she said. But there are ministers who became wealthy along the way in questionable ways, she added.

Major cause of dissent

A major cause of dissent is Philippine Arena in Ciudad de Victoria in Bulacan province, inaugurated last year in time for INC’s 100th anniversary. Often described as a showcase of INC’s power and wealth, the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena cost a whopping $200 million and has been declared the world’s largest indoor area by Guinness World Records. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo leaders fighting over use of funds, building of PH Arena – source)

“How can they recover the cost?” Rosales asked. Holding concerts there that are not in keeping with INC’s teachings has raised eyebrows, she said, adding that last year’s New Year’s Eve concert by US R&B star Chris Brown that fell through was proof of how the venue was becoming a white elephant.

When INC members troop to the arena in rented buses, Rosales said, they bring packed food and drinks in order to save on expenses. “What do the guards do? They make the people leave their drinks. The members should buy water sold by INC businessmen. Members are asked to sell tickets for events. During worship services they are asked to buy items on sale,” Rosales said.

Influential members have grabbed contracts, she said. For example, while there used to be many tailoring shops that made suits for the ministers, now the tailoring job is a monopoly, she said. Rosales, however, showed no proof of the monopoly.

In Eraño’s time

Rosales’ litany of grievances was unending, but so were her reminiscences of how things were when Eraño Manalo was the executive minister. “He was very kind. If you came with a problem you did not leave without his advice. Everything was transparent. The collections were accounted for,” she said.

Rosales said it broke her heart to see Eduardo’s mother (Eraño’s widow) and siblings in a state of fear. On the video that she and Angel posted on YouTube, Tenny pleaded for a meeting with Eduardo. Rosales said she remembered Eraño’s words: “I have not seen a disrespectful child who is blessed.”

Eduardo is Eraño’s eldest son, a third-generation Manalo who is the man on the block. While INC teaching eschews questioning the church’s head, Rosales said she believed Eduardo had a lot to do with the advisory council’s decisions. She said she deemed questionable the restoration of the position for a “political liaison.” The liaison is supposed to deal—or “make deals”—with politicians, she said. It’s no secret that politicians make a beeline for INC headquarters during elections. INC members vote as a bloc.

Blind followers

While members may not file charges against fellow members, there should be room for investigation, Rosales said. She gave the names of those whose activities need to be examined: General auditor Glicerio Santos Jr. and political liaison Eraño “Erdz” Codera. Rosales did not specify why Santos and Codera must be investigated, but their names were mentioned in television interviews with aggrieved INC members.

“We no longer feel compassion and love. There is so much concern for wealth,” Rosales lamented.

Rosales cannot quite picture how INC will be after these trying times except to stress again the need for change in the advisory council. She said she was not closing her mind to people power. But she stressed that her faith in her church remains unshaken. But the events of recent days should be a wake-up call, especially for the “blind followers,” she said.

‘I am AE’

AE’s latest blog post to those who are tracking him down: “You have, once again, manifested to everyone your STUPIDITY, RECKLESSNESS, AND DESPERATION. You are scrambling to take anyone, ANYONE at all, whom you suspect might be AE. Well, I AM HE, and you have NOT and will NEVER be able to get me. I am protected by God Almighty…” #

RELATED STORIES Minister detained by armed guards escapes; corrupt INC practices bared House of Manalo divided

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

BENIGHTED, adj.—overtaken by darkness or night; existing in a state of intellectual, moral, or social darkness; unenlightened.

Benighted this country would be if Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay’s pronouncement that elected officials’ term should be “hanggang sawa” (or unlimited) is allowed to come into effect. If he had his way he would change the law on term limits—Binay-ted, so to speak.

I was so shocked when I heard the presidential hopeful say this on TV last week, but it did not take longer than a minute for my shock to turn into gladness. Why? Because the proof came straight out of the man’s mouth—that is, the desire that he had long harbored in his heart which is that, like many politicians, he wants to hold on to power for as long as he wants.

Hanggang sawa were Binay’s own words. In street lingo, it means until one has his fill of booze and everything else, or until the fierce daylight forces the intoxicants out of the system of the besotted. Awakened from the past night’s drunken frenzy and as passersby look on with disdain, he hobbles toward where his comfort zone used to be, to find nobody there. That kind of disgraceful scenario.

Not so different from the fate of despots who, after years of excessive power-tripping and laying to waste their people’s resources, met their inglorious end in jail, in exile, or as corpses leaning against a cold wall while people danced in the streets and toppled their statues.

But after a day or so Binay clarified his hanggang sawa preference by saying that unlimited terms should apply only to elected local officials. Not to the presidency, he wanted it clear. A quick reversal.

Binay might have been testing the public’s reaction. Would he get cheers and see thumbs going up? Or would he get jeers and see thumbs going down?

Methinks Binay ’s hanggang sawa spiel was not a Freudian slip, like saying “sex” instead of “six.” He didn’t simply slip on a word, he was giving reason after reason why elected officials should stay on and on and on if people want them to. But if it was Freudian, after all, an utterance that came straight out of his subconscious, it was still a hint—a loud hint—on his preferential option for self-perpetuation in power.

The Binay family’s staying power in Makati is proof of this. More than 20 years (since 1986) of family rule in the country’s business capital show the Binays’ walang sawa (unsated) appetite to, um, serve. Three mayoral terms for Jojo, followed by Elenita the wife, followed by Jojo again, then by Junjun the son. Daughter Abigail is a congresswoman; another daughter, Nancy, came out of the woodwork and won as senator, sixth in the winning slate at that.

Reminds me of the TV show “How do they do it?”

But despite the cases of alleged corruption filed against him and the discombobulating, mind-blowing evidence presented, VP Binay is undaunted and is going full steam ahead with his presidential bid, the suspension by the Ombudsman of his son Mayor Junjun (also for alleged corruption) notwithstanding.

Binay continues to refuse to appear at Senate hearings to air his side, mumbling reason after reason why. His latest move was to file a P200-million damage suit against his accusers and those who dutifully go about working on his cases, among them Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales no less. And, why not, the Inquirer that dutifully reports on his cases, plus Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano and nine other respondents.

The Inquirer’s statement on the damage suit: “We learned from news reports that Vice President Jejomar Binay filed an action seeking P200 million in damages against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and several other individuals and government officials. We have not yet officially received a copy of the complaint (as of Wednesday morning).

“We emphasize that our news reports are either based on public documents and documents which have been made public by the courts or prosecutorial agencies or pertain to matters of legitimate public interest. We regret that the Vice President views the truth in news reporting [as] ‘malicious coverage’ intended to ‘unduly condition the minds of the public.’

“We are at a loss why the Vice President has singled out the Philippine Daily Inquirer even as the Complaint itself mentions some defendants getting ‘maximum media mileage’ from several media outfits (the Philippine Daily Inquirer was not among those mentioned). The Philippine Daily Inquirer was also not the first to report the ‘freeze’ order of the Court of Appeals.

“We value integrity and editorial independence in carrying out our duty to inform and serve the public interest. The role and mission we have taken requires us to uphold freedom of the press enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. We shall continue to discharge this mission with neither fear nor favor.”

Note that in libel cases, malice has to be proven. The burden of proof of malice is on the accuser. Unlike in criminal cases where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, in libel cases the complainant is wrong until he proves himself right about the one he is accusing.

How’s that again, you say? Well, in the case of the Inquirer, Binay has to prove that there was malice in the way the newspaper reported about his alleged colossal wrongdoing. Here’s a great chance for Binay to prove the Inquirer wrong and malicious; but this is also a great chance for the Inquirer and the other accused to prove Binay’s guilt. In libel, truth is the best defense. The onus is on Binay.

Doesn’t he know that by retaliating (through this libel case) against those who have the goods on him, he is already getting himself tried and fried?

I say, bring it on! #

Thursday, July 16, 2015

1949 Marian message, 2015 oratio imperata

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“SECRET MESSAGE—told to me [on] Oct. 17, 1949, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. ‘Pray hard for China’s dream to invade the whole world. The Philippines is one of its favorites. Money is the evil force that will lead the people of the world to destruction. Prayers, sacrifices, self-denials and the daily recitation of rosary will soften the heart of my Son as I said before.’”

It was two weeks after Mao Zedong proclaimed on Oct. 1, 1949, the establishment of the communist-led People’s Republic of China that Teresita Castillo, then a postulant in the Carmelite monastery in Lipa, Batangas, received that message. It was only one of the messages that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her.

Those who had closely followed the so-called Marian apparitions and the miraculous shower of rose petals in the Lipa monastery that began in 1948 would know the story of Castillo, whose nickname “Teresing” became synonymous with the reported Marian phenomenon that became grist for news and speculations during that era.

As Castillo herself narrated in her account of the Marian phenomenon (“I am Mary Mediatrix of All Grace,” published in 2008), she was barely out of college and was supposed to be preparing for her grand piano recital, a requirement for her music degree, when she dropped all of that to pursue a life as a Carmelite contemplative. Nixing her parents’ gift of a grand piano from Germany, Castillo, the youngest of six children, proceeded to follow the call despite her family’s objections.

To make that long story short, the patriarchal authorities of the Catholic Church at that time suppressed and oppressed the long-suffering nuns and made them go through some kind of inquisition. A so-called “cord of silence” was imposed. Even the bishop who believed in the apparitions became something like a pariah. The apparitions and petal showers were declared fake. It was a letdown for journalists who covered the event. Castillo was made to leave the monastery on orders from Church authorities. (She remains close to the nuns until today.)

It was only in recent decades that the phenomenon, long covered up and unresolved, was surfaced for reexamination. Some Carmelites who had witnessed the shower of petals were by then no longer alive. Those who silently believed must have felt vindicated when then Lipa Archbishop Mariano Gaviola allowed the Mediatrix’s long-hidden image to be publicly displayed for veneration. The late Edsa heroine and Marian devotee June Keithley had made an investigative documentary on what exactly happened.

Castillo’s published account has the imprimatur of a Filipino cardinal and the foreword of the archbishop who was just a child when the apparitions occurred. The Carmelite Monastery in Lipa is now frequently visited by pilgrims. A viewing deck has been built so that pilgrims can see the apparition site, a well maintained garden with the statue of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace (how Mary had introduced herself to Castillo) and beside it, the vine on top of which Mary had supposedly appeared more than 60 years ago.

As a journalist, I refrain from airing a judgement in my articles that have to do with matters of faith. As a feature writer, I have had varied and colorful assignments including coverage of religious phenomena and occurrences, interviewing visionaries, spiritual healers, etc. (not to mention members of a death squad, prostituted women, fugitives, convicted assassins and politicians). So just a few days ago, I was trying to seek out Teresing Castillo, now 86, to ask her about the 1949 Marian message on China looking with beady eyes at Philippine territory and because of China’s recent continuous intrusions into Philippine waters and the disputed Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea. And of course, the filing of the Philippines’ case at the United Nations arbitral court in The Hague, whose jurisdiction over the case it is first seeking.

Alas, my contacts in two Carmelite monasteries told me that Castillo is not well. (If Castillo’s next of kin think she is well enough for an interview, I’d be so happy to speak and listen to her. My editor in chief bids me, Go, find her.) A Carmelite sent me a text message describing Castillo’s health condition. She added: “We’ve known about [China] for a long time. Carmel’s been praying for China.” These women have not shut out the world. I am interested to know how a headstrong young woman who was into music and was bent on pursuing a life of prayer and contemplation at that time, would have China on her non-geopolitical radar in 1949. It couldn’t have been a product of autosuggestion. So how did that message come about?

Today, July 16, is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Which brings me to the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for prayers for the protection of the Philippines and for a peaceful resolution of its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea. The bishops have called for an “oratio imperata” (or obligatory prayer) while the Philippines’ case is being heard in The Hague.

Last Monday, the reelected CBCP president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, called for prayers so that the “tension may ease, and justice, equality and prosperity may be served.” Prayers will be recited at all Masses.

“We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people’s rights … that no harm be done to our marine creatures and habitat … that our fellow Filipinos protecting our islands and seas be kept safe from natural and manmade disasters… [S]end your Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding to our leaders that they resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue…”

Mary, Star of the Sea….

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Other Spratlys claimants

Nations with or without a stake in the West Philippine Sea’s (South China Sea’s) Spratly islands, shoals, banks, cays, reefs and rich fishing grounds must be watching the Philippines’ power team argue at The Hague against China’s encroachments in the area.
Watch us fight, watch us claim what is ours, not through brute force and size but through legal and historical arguments.
China is claiming “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratlys and its waters. It is hurriedly putting up structures on its newly created manmade islands in disputed areas that are claimed wholly (by China) or partly by several Southeast Asian nations plus Taiwan. It is even claiming shoals that are right smack inside Philippine territory.
The Philippines is the David to China’s Goliath. The Philippines is an upstart boldly going to an international court despite China’s refusal to participate and its preference for some sort of bilateral talks where it can stare us down. So to The Hague we have gone by our lonesome while the other Spratlys claimants (Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan) have chosen to watch quietly. Our victory can be their victory against a bully. I’d like to think that they are not as passive as they seem.
We know we are not alone. While we are not spoiling for a fight, we are not the kind to cower in fear and let go of our claims just like that. We don’t grab territories, but we do not let anyone grab what we believe are ours. Might does not mean right. And we will give the mighty a fight.
In a magazine series on the Spratlys years ago and in a recent column, I quoted extensively the paper “The Philippine Claim to the Spratly Islands Group” written by the late law professor Haydee B. Yorac in the Philippine Law Journal. Yorac’s piece was part of a larger technical work which focused on claims to territory and problems of delimitation of maritime boundaries in international law which had to do with the Philippines’ claim to the Spratlys.
I had already written about the Philippines’ claim as Yorac explained in her paper. What about the claims of the other countries?
According to Yorac, Vietnam also claims historic title to the islands but its claims can only be traced to as far back as 1927, when the French government sent a ship on an expedition. Two more expeditions followed, after which a French flag was planted in the area. The French government incorporated six groups of islets in a Vietnamese province, which provoked protests from China and Japan.
In 1938, the Indo-China Meteorological Service built a weather station on one of the islands. But questions arose: So, were these the only basis for their present claim?
This much I learned when I interviewed Vietnamese embassy personnel years ago: Vietnam does not recognize the right of discovery and first occupancy. It asserts that occupation by private individuals will not entitle their country to sovereignty as only the state can be a title holder. This is perhaps Vietnam’s argument against Tomas “The Admiral” Cloma’s claim on behalf of the Philippines, about which I had also written.
Vietnam reasons that in the 17th century, the Spratlys (and the Paracels as well) were already under its effective and continuous occupation until China invaded the islands. The French colonizers later administered the islands and drove out the Chinese forces after World War II.
Vietnam, which was occupying the most number of islands in the Spratlys (Truong Sa) in the 1990s, had supported its claims by invoking the principle of effectivity—“effective occupations and effective, continuous and peaceful exercise of state authority.”
While Vietnam’s precolonial claim needs scrutiny, its invoking the French expedition could run aground. Yorac asked then: “Did the French expeditions in 1927 and 1930 redound to the benefit of Vietnam?”
China claims that people from its Hainan island have been in the Spratlys since ancient times. Vietnam disputes this, saying that China had never administered the islands effectively and continuously in the past, and that other peoples—Vietnamese, Malays, Persians and Arabs—had made voyages to the areas. Complicating the Chinese claim is the “two China” reality.
Taiwan occupies Itu Aba, the biggest island in the Spratlys. Will China seize this in the dead of night?
Malaysia bases its claim on the concept of exclusive control over the continental shelf. Its official map now covers part of the Spratlys. In 1988, 48 Filipinos fishing near the Commodore Reef claimed by Malaysia were detained by Malaysian authorities. The reef is where Malaysian and Philippine claims overlap.
The Filipino fishermen’s detention posed a diplomatic problem at that time, and President Corazon Aquino had to plead for their release. The men were later released but by then one had already died in prison.
In the early 1990s, Malaysia put up a resort hotel on Swallow Reef (Terumbu Layang Layang), which is in a contested area. I remember this. It was seen as Malaysia’s show of sovereignty and expansion of its continental shelf. However, I learned that reefs, on their own, cannot sustain human life and therefore cannot be taken as basis for measurement.
Oil-rich Brunei’s claim is similar to that of Malaysia. So far Brunei has not tried to occupy any reef or island.
Maybe the Philippines can learn a lesson or two from this: When Pugad island, the Philippines’ ninth island, was abandoned about two decades ago, the Vietnamese moved in with lightning speed.
May our power team at The Hague be a winning team.#

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ML victims sue Marcoses anew: Pay up!

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Human rights violations victims (HRVV) during the martial law years under the dictatorial rule of President Ferdinand Marcos are seeking $353.6 million in compensatory damages from Rep. Imelda Marcos, the former first lady, and her son, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The lawsuit is for the Marcoses’ obstruction of the HRVV’s efforts to collect on the historic $2-billion (about P88-billion) compensation for 9,539 claimants awarded by a Hawaii district court in 1995.

Filipinos who were tortured and detained as well as relatives of those who were summarily executed and disappeared during those dark years were to file the lawsuit yesterday against Imelda and Bongbong at the Makati Regional Trial Court for the recognition of the US judgment.

(The lawsuit was to have been filed two days ago but most everybody who had official business in Makati City Hall were barred from entering. Police trying to enforce the Ombudsman’s suspension order on Mayor Junjun Binay, who is being investigated for alleged corruption, were barred by Binay supporters who caused a melee.)

The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are: Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Joel C. Lamangan, Hilda B. Narciso, Priscilla Mijares and Jose Duran in their own behalf and in behalf of the class plaintiffs in Class Action No. MDL 840, US District Court of Hawaii.

The counsels for the plaintiffs against the Marcos mother and son are Rodrigo C. Domingo, Rene A.V. Saguisag, Ruben O. Fruto and Nelson O. Loyola.

In their prefatory statement, the plaintiffs, through their counsels, said the action emanated from MDL 840, a class action filed in the Hawaii district court against Ferdinand E. Marcos’ estate “from where the herein sought enforcement of foreign judgment for compensatory and exemplary damages arising from Ferdinand E. Marcos’ tortuous violations of international law, including torture, summary execution and disappearance of approximately 9,539 citizens of the Republic of the Philippines between the years 1972 [and] 1986.”