CBCP President on ongoing Mamasapano investigation

SEEKING TRUTH AND JUSTICE
PURSUING PEACE

CBCP Statement on the Ongoing Mamasapano Investigation

CBCP 2015 Archbishop Villegas NJ Viehland

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan at the end of the bishops’ plenary assembly Jan. 2015 at Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Congress has commenced its inquiry into that sad episode of our recent history — the slaughter of 44 gallant men of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.  We note that the two chambers of the Legislature have opted to conduct separate investigations when a joint inquiry would have allowed for a more expeditious investigation and would have obviated the possibility of findings at loggerheads with each other.

Truth and Accountability

The President and his advisers must give a full and satisfactory accounting of their actions in respect to this tragic loss.  The targets of the SAF operations were characterized as “high value targets”.  If the police went after them, it can only be because they were ordered to do so.  Policemen do not order themselves, not even members of the Special Action Force.  Indeed, that is what corroborated statements now clearly establish: The decision was made on the highest levels to go after these “high value targets”.  The only thing that was awaited was “the window of opportunity”, a judgment that is made by people on the ground.

Questions call for unequivocal and truthful answers.  Lives were needlessly lost because in many ways the operation was covert.  Why, for one, were the highest-ranking official of the Philippine National Police and his civilian superior, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, left out of the loop of information, consultation and command?  It seems that a suspended police officer played more than a merely advisory role.  Why should he have been giving orders?  And if he was in fact issuing orders and commands, should it not be clear that his authority to do so, precisely because he was laboring under a legitimate order of suspension, emanated from higher levels?

The concealment of truth or the foisting of deliberate falsehood even to shield one’s superiors from embarrassment or to spare them indictment is always a moral wrong, especially in the context of legal processes and under oath.  When one swears to tell the truth and invokes the help of God, one is morally obligated to speak the truth.  We therefore urge all witnesses and all those in possession of information material to the resolution of facts in issue to speak the truth at all times.

 Heroes Among Us

As we did almost immediately after being informed of the gallant deaths of our SAF men, the CBCP extols their courage, their heroism and their fidelity to the call to duty.  We understand the heartaches of the SAF men and women who rightly have reason to feel that our leaders failed them.  While it is true that every person who dons the uniform either as a police officer or as a soldier puts his life on the line in the performance of his sworn duties, it remains the solemn moral duty of the national leadership to protect them from needless harm and to uphold their interests as well.  The human person is never merely a means, no matter how glorious, noble or desirable the ends may be!

quevedo bday bishops mejia NJ Viehland

[from right] Bishops Leopoldo Tumulak of the Military Ordinariate, Mylo Vergara of Pasig and Father Marlon Mejia, CBCP Secretary General in Cotabato City, Philippines.- NJ Viehland Photos

The Peace Process

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines offers its assistance to the pursuit of lasting peace, a settlement of differences that will allow the people of Mindanao, Muslims and Christians alike including indigenous peoples to live in peace and as equals, citizens of one Republic, nationals of one country.  We hold it to be morally obligatory for the government and for the restive segments of Philippine society to search for the paths of peace.

It is of course true that peace cannot rest on deceit, the suppression of truth and subterfuge.  This is the reason that getting to the truth of the Mamasapano tragedy is of paramount importance.  In fact we should learn from Mamasapano for we paid a heavy price to learn its lessons.  We have painfully been shown the pitfalls and the traps, the gaps and the lacunae of deals we have thus far entered into.

The goal cannot be the cessation of hostilities at any cost, but a principled settlement of the dispute, and peace born out of truth, a commitment to social justice and adherence to the fundamental law of the land!

If anything at all, Mamasapano should instill in all, especially in our legislators, a sense of circumspection in respect to examining the first draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.  Let the document be assiduously studied, fully debated and exhaustively examined.

The Moral Requisites of a Just Settlement

There has to be SINCERITY on both sides — on the side of government forces and agents and on the side of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  Hostilities must cease while legal processes must be observed.  Officers pursuing fugitives from justice or identified terrorists can never be the legitimate objects of attack.  Similarly where a truce has been agreed on, it is incumbent on all parties to hold their fire.  The government must resolutely pursue its projects for the further development of Muslim Mindanao and for the speedy and lasting attainment of social justice so that our Muslim brothers and sisters may fully share in the resources of the country and in the strides it makes towards prosperity.

The MILF must surrender the culprits: those who cut down the SAF 44 in the prime of their youth and must not interfere with their prosecution and their trial. The video clip that went viral showing the merciless execution of SAF men who were wounded and helpless cannot and must not be shrugged off.

The CBCP stands with the widows and orphans of the fallen to demand Justice and the indictment of the culpable.  It must also explain satisfactorily why international terrorists were within the territory supposedly occupied by them.

Finally, the arms and ammunition captured from the SAF and from other lawful agents of the Republic of the Philippines must be returned.  Justice and peace demand restitution of what one has wrongfully taken.

Solidarity in Prayer

The CBCP remains one with the grieving families of our fallen SAF men, as well as with the families of all who lost loved ones in this armed encounter.  Whether Christian or Muslim, we believe in a God who does not allow those who remain faithful to him to be lost.  We turn now in this moment of grief to the One Father of us all for consolation, strength and hope.

Appeal for True Patriotism

This is not the time for political opportunism.  This is not the time for adventurism or grandstanding.

While resolute action is necessary on the part of all, precipitous action and recourse to extra-constitutional measures will only visit more harm and misery on our people.

 The CBCP cannot lend its support to any movement that may bring greater suffering for our people.  We would do well to join in the debate spiritedly, to be zealous in ferreting out the facts and to be unyielding in demanding accountability.  But it is also our moral duty to be law-abiding citizens, animated at all times by the Gospel that insists that we love even those who we may find difficult to love!

No Peace Without Humility

 The Kingdom of God is as much a gift as it is a project, for while only God can make his kingdom come among us, he calls us all not only to preach it but, by our deeds, to make its presence tangible and real for the world.  Peace is the mark of this kingdom, and so it is that for a Christian there is no other way but to work for peace.  But time and again we have been taught that clever calculation, crafty speech and pompously worded documents never bring lasting peace.  It is when we humble ourselves and pray, and allow the Spirit to lead us that shall find that path of peace.

 The CBCP therefore invokes God’s Spirit even as it pledges that bishops individually and collectively will make themselves and their resources available for the demands of arriving at a lasting solution to the problem of turning swords into ploughshares.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, February 16, 2015

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Will Pope Francis come to the Philippines for the Eucharistic Congress?

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. - NJ Viehland Photos

Four Philippines cardinals with nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto (in black) helped Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, 51st IEC Chairman, and his team present the congress to media at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros. – NJ Viehland Photos

This is question #14 in Frequently Asked Questions {FAQ) on the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) scheduled to be held in Cebu on Jan. 24-30, 2016.

Traditionally, the Pope doesn’t attend International Eucharistic Congresses, and sends instead a Papal Legate to represent him in this gathering, the printed FAQ handed out at the June 10 press conference in Manila says.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s video message announcing last year the 51st International Eucharistic Congress venue would be in Cebu was screened at the June 10 press con in Arzobispado de Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

IEC is a Church event where people from different parts of the world gather together to celebrate the Eucharist; to reflect the richness of the Eucharist and to pray before the Eucharist, organizers explained.

Eucharist is the Sacrament in which Jesus Christ gives himself – his body and blood – for us, so that we too might give ourselves to Him in love and be united with him in Holy Communion (YOUCAT, 208)

The first time delegates came to Asia for an IEC was for the 1937 congress held in Manila.

Philippines' most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. - NJ Viehland Photos

Philippines’ most senior cardinal amused guests at the June 10 press conference in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros, with stories of his first communion at 6 years old during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress in Manila. – NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 57, said he had no personal experience to share about the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress when his parents were only 7 years old. He shared instead his reflections on the theme of the 51st IEC, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – NJ Viehland Photos

"Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the 'ruruk' (summit) of our Christianity," retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. - NJ Viehland photos

“Eucharist is the unique prayer of Jesus, he is just taking us along. It is the ‘ruruk’ (summit) of our Christianity,” retired Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales explained, teaching some a new Tagalog word. – NJ Viehland photos

At the press con to formally present the IEC to media, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Congress chairman replied to a request for confirmation of Pope Francis’ attendance at the congress:

 “We have heard of reports he’s coming next year, we pray he will come to the Eucharistic Congress, but until we have definite word he is coming we are not sure.

  “Meantime we can pray because we believe the holy father loves us. The fact is he has sent many cardinals to come over to manifest his love for the people especially those affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato said:

“If the holy father is coming to visit disaster areas, there are two kinds of disaster – natural and man-made. I hope…I wish that he will also visit the disaster area called Central Mindanao. But that will depend on the nuncio, the pope, Archbishop (Socrates) Villegas (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president), perhaps the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato answers reporters at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress press con in Arzobispado de Manila, Intramuros on June 10, 2014 – NJ Viehland Photos

After the press conference Cardinal Quevedo explained:

“I was simply wishing that perhaps for the Holy Father when he comes to the Philippines to visit Yolanda victims he can have a side trip if his time allows to go to Cotabato City and perhaps push the peace process there.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas' letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter's question on the pork barrel controversy. - NJ Viehland Photos

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato summarizes CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ letter as Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and retired Cardinal Vidal listen to him answer a reporter’s question on the pork barrel controversy. – NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado - NJ Viehland Photos

Dulce and her son sang the International Eucharistic Congress theme song at the June 10 press conference at Arzobispado – NJ Viehland Photos

 

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Cardinal Quevedo, Man of Peace in Muslim Mindanao – ARMM Tribute

BY: OLIVER ROSS V. RIVERA
Wednesday 26th of March 2014

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo appeals for people to collaborate to fight prejudice and work together for the success of peace efforts in Mindanao during his homily for the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and Pope Francis' creation of Quevedo as cardinal last Feb. 22. By NJ Viehland

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo appeals for people to collaborate to fight prejudice and work together for the success of peace efforts in Mindanao during his homily for the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral for his 75th birthday and Pope Francis’ creation of Quevedo as cardinal last Feb. 22. By NJ Viehland

COTABATO CITY,  March 26 (PIA)  The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) paid tribute to Orlando Cardinal Quevedo on Tuesday, hailing the first-ever cardinal from Mindanao as a “Man of Peace in Muslim Mindanao” for his contribution to the advancement of peace in the region.

Cardinal Quevedo, 75, is a highly respected leader in Mindanao, largely recognized for promoting trust and understanding among its diverse population.

He is one of the 19 bishops from different countries (elevated in February) to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis.

ARMM’s officials and employees, of different tribes and religion, convened on Tuesday to show gratitude to the Cardinal for his role in advancing peace and speaking out against injustice.

“In behalf of the ARMM, I thank you for the kindness you have given to the people of Muslim Mindanao,” Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, ARMM vice-governor, said.

He said the Cardinal is “not only a man of God but also a champion of Muslim human rights.”

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday March 11, 2014 was Bainon Karon (extreme right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF and later Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. By NJ Viehland

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday March 11, 2014 was Bainon Karon (extreme right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF and later Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. By NJ Viehland

“To you the respect of human rights is the demand of duty,” he said.

In his article “Injustice: the Root of Conflict in Mindanao”, Quevedo wrote: “Through the years I have gained some understanding of the Moro viewpoint that has significantly influenced, even altered, my Christian viewpoint. The change came not only from reading books authored by either Christian or Muslim scholars but most importantly from teaching, advising, observing, conversing, and being with Muslim students and professionals for many years, even as I accompanied my fellow Christians in their own journey through ongoing history.”

Quevedo said the answer to the injustices in Muslim Mindanao is to give justice to the Moro identity.

He said religious leaders from all sides have a major role in allowing Mindanao’s population to overcome their prejudices and biases.

Leaders from the Catholic community, the Muslim community and the indigenous community – Bishop Colin Bagaforo, Sammy Maulana and Valentin Juan, respectively – took turns to thank and give homage to the Cardinal.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao and Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato concelebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in thanksgiving for the cardinal's 75th birthday on March 11, 2014 and his induction into the College of Cardinals in Rome on Feb. 22. NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao and Auxiliary Bishop Collin Bagaforo of Cotabato concelebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in thanksgiving for the cardinal’s 75th birthday on March 11, 2014 and his induction into the College of Cardinals in Rome on Feb. 22. NJ Viehland Photos

 

Lucman said the Cardinal’s “words as a man of peace will not end here” and will once again be called upon with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) this Thursday.

“Your voice will once again be the resounding voice of peace and unity,” he said.

(ORVRivera-PIA12/Bureau of Public Information-ARMM)
– media release from government’s Philippine News Agency  http://news.pia.gov.ph/index.php?article=2411395805914#sthash.SCyIJdyg.dpu

Message on Peace Agreement from Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

March 27, 2014

 Like all peace loving Filipinos, we rejoice with our countrymen as we mark a milestone in the peace process with the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao.

I appeal to the Philippine government panel to continue the process of widespread consultation and an honest, open and trusting dialogue with other communities in Mindanao especially those who feel marginalized and ignored like the MNLF. It is so important for peace to be sustainable that it be inclusive and all embracing. The strength of the (signed) agreement lies in its willingness to reach out to everyone including those who are antagonistic to it. A continuing dialogue will strengthen our peace even more.

It is very urgent that economic activity in Mindanao be enhanced immediately. There can be no peace without human development. Development and the promotion of human progress is another name for peace. The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further. The people of Mindanao have been suffering for decades.

May we all be ready to become channels of peace! Peacemakers are children of God.

Socrates B Villegas
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato's 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

President Benigno Aquino, Vice President Mar Roxas, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were among government officials who attended the March 11, 2014 thanksgiving Mass at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City for Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato’s 75th birthday and induction into the College of Cardinals. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Celebrating with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on his 75th birthday were foreign guests and former officials of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by Bainon Karon (right) former chair of the Women’s Committee of the MNLF Kutawato State Revolutionary Movement, and later Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Taken under red program lighting at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City, March 11, 2014. NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo

Religious of the Virgin Mary nuns from around Mindanao, southern Philippines, celebrate with Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato his 75th birthday on March 11,2 014 at South Seas Mall, Cotabato City . NJ Viehland Photo