Young Filipino artists gear up for pope’s encyclical on climate with campus ‘wall’

Wall of Good Life 3 by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR

Contributed photo:A section of the Wall of Good Life mural at University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR.

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines (Catholic In Asia) – Young local artists’ colorful paintings of trees, earth and other nature themes brighten up a wall of a central Philippines university run by Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR) who have committed to raise the awareness and strengthen the responsibility of the school community to care for the earth.

“Wall of Good Life” project of DIHON group of artists intends “to raise social & ecological awareness among students and members of the school community, and in a way to prepare for the upcoming encyclical of the Pope on ecology,” OAR Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem told Catholic in Asia.

Wall of Good Life 9 Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR

Contributed photo of Wall of Good Life mural at University of Negros Occidental – Recoletos by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR.

In March 2014 Pope Francis reportedly spoke of his concern for the environment during an audience in the Vatican with superiors from the Franciscan order whose advice he was said to have sought. The pope by then had spent months drafting his new encyclical on Creation, and respect for the environment, Rome Reports news service reported.

 Word spread that the pope would possibly release the encyclical in Tacloban City last Jan. 17 when he was to visit survivors of 2013’s “super typhoon” Yolanda (Haiyan), but Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila when asked at a forum organized by Inquirer media group ahead of the visit replied that Pope Francis would like to make sure all questions and contentious issues related to climate change are studied well before he releases a document.

“I do not want a papal encyclical being accused of spreading false data or data that are not yet verified even by scientists,” Cardinal Tagle quoted a remark he said he had heard the pope make to journalists. “I’m sure you all know that as we talk about climate change there is also a big group saying there is no climate change, and that is present even within the Church,” Cardinal Tagle told the Inquirer-organized public forum in Manila.

However, Pope Francis in an in-flight interview from Sri Lanka to Manila in January was also quoted saying he was convinced that global warming was “mostly” man-made and that man had “slapped nature in the face”. He expressed the hope that the upcoming Vatican encyclical – the most authoritative documents a pope can issue – on the environment, would encourage negotiators at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris Nov. 30-Dec. 11  to make courageous decisions to protect God’s creation, the report on The Guardian’s online newspaper said.

Contributed Photo: Jamilio Bayoneta and young artists of DIHON by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR.

Contributed Photo: Jamilo Bayoneta (in black) and young artists of DIHON by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR.

 Meanwhile, Bacolod diocese’s young artists, led by Jamilo Bayoneta have gone ahead with their awareness-raising project to paint University of Negros’ Wall of Good Life from Feb. 15-March 15. Students from elementary through college and Brother Jakosalem, himself an artist and mentor of the group, joined painting sessions.

Wall of Good Life by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR

Wall of Good Life 8 Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR

Contributed Photos: Wall of Good Life by Jaazeal Jakosalem OAR
updated March 17, 10:38 pm (Manila)

Church, society called to enable new landowners via land reform – CBCP president

coffee farmers' cooperative, Laguna /NJ Viehland Photos

coffee farmers’ cooperative, Laguna /NJ Viehland Photos

AGRARIAN REFORM

AS A CONTINUING PROJECT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

Not too long ago I issued a statement on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its implementing law, lauding its achievements as well as candidly pointing out the challenges that still had to be hurdled.  The CBCP is once more being asked about the expanded and enhanced version of the program and whether it remains not only legally but morally justified.

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Laguna / NJ Viehland Photos

Agrarian Reform as Moral Imperative

Unless the expropriation of privately owned property serves the higher cause of social justice, agrarian reform cannot  hardly (be) justified.  When it casts itself off from this moral mooring, land reform merely becomes disguised confiscation by the State of private property.  This also means that the underlying motive as well as the defining criterion for any enhancement, expansion or amendment of the agrarian reform law presently in place must be social justice — and this is exactly what is disturbing because our Legislature that has not seen urgency in other matters of national concern involving social justice cannot credibly enact an enhanced or improved agrarian reform law unless it takes all the demands of social justice in their entirety to heart.

Some Concerns of Law Reform

The present spate of investigations into questionable acquisitions by officials of government of considerable tracts of land — often in scandalous proportions — leaves no doubt that the law has in several ways been circumvented and persons otherwise disqualified from amassing vast tracts of land in contravention of the law have in fact done so.  Genuine law reform and resolute law implementation must address this.

It is also a fact to which many of our pastors throughout the country bear witness that farmer-beneficiaries have, through some subterfuge, successfully alienated their acquisitions, defeating the purpose as well as the intendment of the program.  While on the one hand, this speaks of a downright irresponsibility on the part of farmer-beneficiaries, it also suggests that they needed assistance from government, from the Church, from NGOs to succeed in their new roles as land-owners bad sadly, at least according to their perception, received no such assistance.

Clearly, therefore, the nagging problems of the redistribution of land resources in this country cannot be solved by the mere passage of laws or the amendment of legal provisions.  The Church, for one, is called to that charity that takes the form of empowering new land-owners so that they may truly enjoy the self-determination that characterizes persons as God’s free sons and daughters.

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Laguna / NJ Viehland Photos

Family Fragmentation and the Vacuity of Land Reform

Agrarian reform envisioned the family as an economic unit, endeavoring to give each family that portion of God’s earth on which it labored so that together, having impressed the marks of their personhood — both as individuals and as a family — on the land, it would be truly be theirs.  But this idyllic picture is slowly fading, sliding over into the realm of fiction, for the sad reality is that the Filipino is now very frequently a fragmented family, youngsters setting as their priority migration to some foreign land with the result that continued ownership of the land their parents once lovingly tilled becomes a matter of indifference.

Again, it is clear that the issue goes far beyond legal considerations and touches on the very mission of the family and life apostolate of the Church.  Agrarian reform, the CBCP continues to hope, should be a potent instrument of social cohesion and the flourishing of the family as the domestic church.

THE CBCP THEREFORE requests the Legislature to consider the foregoing points in its project to expanding and enhancing the agrarian reform program, even as it calls on various church groups, lay groups in particular, as well as NGOs, to do their part to see to the meaningful fruition of this program.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 12, 2014

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas / NJ Viehland Photos

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS

   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
   CBCP President

CiA Document : Moral Ethical Dimensions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. - NJ Viehland Photos

Farmer beneficiaries of Land reform in Cabuyao, Laguna, south of Manila tell visitors how they banded together in Casile-Guinting Upland Marketing Cooperative (CGUMC) to support each other in developing and improving productivity and hold a strong bargaining position in the business of farming. – NJ Viehland Photos

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform will expire on June 30.

Where do we go from here?  We cannot remain oblivious to the plight of the poor famers.  It is useful to review some of the guiding principles that come from the treasury of Church social teaching.

 Basic Principles

First, capital (including land) exists for the sake of labour, because the human person is a ‘labouring being’ who fulfills his vocation in the dignity of human labour.

Second, the human person is more important than material things. Human beings must not be placed second to the land that they till.

Third, the private ownership of the world’s resources cannot and should not be the reason that God’s sons and daughters are denied access to these resources for the achievement of their full stature as human persons.  In other words, in the ethical order, the right to use precedes the right to own and private ownership is justified only to the extent that it allows for the more efficient use of the world’s resources.

 The Situation

The hard facts are disturbing.  In 2011, the Agrarian Reform Communities Level Development Assessment (ALDA) showed that 54% of households among agrarian-reform beneficiaries fell below the poverty line.  Due to this, we now have a class of newly-landed Filipinos, the majority live below the poverty-line.  This is what prompts observers to recognize a new class of farmers: “the landed poor“.

What is clear is that distributing expropriated land to beneficiaries and leaving them to their own resources does not serve the purpose of agrarian reform, for it is very well possible that the beneficiaries, lacking the wherewithal and the skills render of their new holdings that were hitherto productive now unproductive.  The generous allocation of funds for farm inputs, unless accompanied by an uncompromisingly rigid system of accounting and transparency, will only line the pockets of those who have remorselessly profited from public funds!

In this respect, the Church will do its share, and dioceses and other ecclesiastical jurisdictions are urged to activate their social action commissions to police, observe and report on the allocation, distribution and application of public monies and funds targeting farm productivity.  

Regrettably, some farmer-beneficiaries of agrarian reform have had recourse to the subterfuge of alienating their newly-acquired property in the underground market in an attempt to make quick money, frustrating the very purposes of land distribution.  In this respect, legal reform towards allowing farmer-beneficiaries to lease or mortgage their property when such contracts should hold out the promise of higher productivity for the land and higher standards of living for our farmer-beneficiaries must receive serious study.  But we, your pastors, must warn against every scheme that would have land that has already been distributed, gathered in the hands of those would once more amass tracts of land in contravention of the equitable purpose of land-distribution.  What this problem points to is the importance of the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries, including their Christian formation as ‘stewards’ of this world’s resources, particularly land.  

And where a farmer-beneficiary regrettably chooses to leave his holding idle, to abandon it or to leave it unproductive, there has to be some legal mechanism by which the land reverts to the scheme of re-distribution so that it may be awarded to farmer-beneficiaries who have the willingness and capacity to render it more productive and to serve the common good.

There is finally, the problem that 70% of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards issued are, thus far, collective.  These involve one million farmers and two million hectares.  In effect, the legal rights of the individual beneficiary are not yet settled.  Consigned to a state of uncertainty, this acreage cannot be productive, nor can the supposed beneficiaries enjoy the rights that the law intends them to have.  This is a matter to which the Department of Agrarian Reform must turn, with urgency and resoluteness.

 The Moral Reponse

In summary, while the task of re-distribution is apparently done, the government’s efforts — in tandem with the initiatives to the private sector, particularly our Catholic laity — should go into rendering these new holdings productive.  A more responsible system of allocating, distributing and applying government funds and resources towards farm productivity must be set in place coupled with people’s efforts at rendering transactions transparent and responsible officials, accountable.  Where legislative reform is necessary to enable leases and mortgages of acquisitions towards higher levels of productivity and a rise in the living standards of farmer-beneficiaries, these must be enacted.  But the Philippine Church must, with all haste and diligence, involve itself in the formation of our farmer-beneficiaries so that rather than devising ways of circumventing the law by alienating their holdings and contradicting the purposes of land-distribution, they may be true stewards of this world’s goods.

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, June 6, 2014

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
   Archbishop of Lingayan-Dagupan
   President, CBCP

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