Sunday, November 30, 2014

Year of the Poor

As the Year of the Laity draws to a close, we welcome the Year of the Poor at the beginning of a new liturgical year, a time in which we also celebrate the Advent Season. While the theme is obviously focused on the materially poor and the marginalized in our society, let us also not neglect to give attention to the 'spiritually poor'. This should not be confused with being poor in spirit, which is one of the eight Beatitudes. We can say that someone is spiritually poor when he does not have God in his life and is deprived/unconcerned about the things of God. The corporal works of mercy must be practiced alongside the spiritual works of mercy because man has both material and spiritual needs.

Year of the Poor Logo Explained

CRUCIFIX:  The Crucified Lord, the center of all our engagement with, in, for and to the poor, gazing into us. On His Cross, Jesus is always with us… stripped of His clothes, His dignity, His possessions, His power, His strength. By the poverty, Jesus saved us. He is fully with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable and the outcast. Jesus is calling us to SEE everyone as His beloveds… to look at each other the way He gazes into us.

The Man Colored in Red:   Red symbolizes “Blood” – sacrifice of Christ to give Life… of Redemption. We are reminded that our strength and passion must always be towards “Life Giving… sharing of Love”

The Man colored in Red is lower than the Man colored in Blue, signifies the last, least and the lost – the poor. Though in poverty, the poor has same dignity with the Man coloured in Blue and also has the capacity to share Life and Love… (“No one is so poor that he cannot give…”)

The Man Colored in Blue:  Blue symbolizes “Royalty”, of riches and Service to God and godly living. It also signifies “Light” – Hope. We are reminded that God in His Royalty gives us the perfect model of Service. And all of us are called to Serve God through our neighbours. We must be the Light to others.

The Man Coloured in Blue is higher (elevated) than of the Man colored in Red, represents those who are well-off, the powerful. Yet in their abundance the rich are reminded that all what they have are coming from God and they are commanded to share and to be generous… an act of gratefulness to the giver of graces - God. The “rich” are being challenged to share their gifts especially to the “poor”. (“the more you have, the more is expected from you.”)

Man colored in Red and Blue “LOOKING UP TO JESUS” that forms a heart symbolizes people’s compassion to follow Jesus and the commitment to be in solidarity with all to DO JUSTICE AND LOVE KINDNESS (Micah 6:8). Justice as the “right relationships… restoration of what is due to all, not only of the majority… It challenges us to be in correct relationship with God and our neighbour. “Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God.


CBCP Pastoral Message on the Year of the Poor

And the Lord turned and looked at Peter… (Lk 22:61)


Love and Compassion, Forgiveness and Challenge

CBCP Message

Opening of the Year of the Poor 2015

When you gaze into the eyes of the Crucified Lord, and he gazes into yours, you encounter the love of the Resurrected Lord. Many prefer not to look. Many recoil at looking into the eyes of a man in deadly pain. Many balk at having to respond to love. But these are not the eyes of a defeated man, condemned for criminal insurrection. They are the eyes of an unlikely King, who in dealing death its death blow, still looks into our eyes with challenge. In his love is his call to the Kingdom of his Father, his Kingdom of justice, compassion, peace and life to the full.

In the sign of this crucified Lord, now resurrected, we your Pastors, invite you to the celebration of the Year of the Poor. Behold Jesus, poor. No image of Jesus, poor, surpasses this one. Jesus hangs from his Cross stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength. He is fully one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcast. In the Year of the Poor, look into the eyes of the crucified Lord. There is no experience richer.

You who are poor…

In those eyes, you who are poor, feel his suffering-with-you. From his Cross, he walks with you through crowded alleys, stumbles on mud, recoils at the stench of unmoved sewerage. He bows to enter your makeshift home hobbled together from salvaged materials; it is for your family, but you share it perforce with rats and cockroaches, an oven in the hot season, a waterfall when rainy.

On his Cross, he is with you - God with you. He has taken on your nakedness, your vulnerability, your hunger, your illness, your shame. You once thought you could escape the hardship of your rural beginnings. But your suffering only increased. Here, you cannot find the camote to chase the hunger from your belly; you cannot find the herbs to stop your baby's vomiting and diarrhea; you cannot find money even to keep your single bulb burning. Here, though amidst thousands, neighbors are distant.

You were once grateful for the backbreaking work you finally found; your work continues to break your back, and bend you. But your debts just continue to grow. The clothes and shoes you bought last year to send your children to school are already worn out. In your home you have an altar. Mary is there. The Nazareno is there. So is the Sto. Niño. You pray. But you tremble when you hear the shouts of the demolition crews approaching. You cry out for mercy. You look into the eyes of your crucified King.

Looking into his eyes, you feel his gaze into your soul. You do not understand. Why the love for you, but a poor man? Why the energy from the Cross to convince you: you are loved? Why the persisting message like a mantra in the sign of the Cross: "I have come to bring life, and bring life to the full," and, "Blessed are you who are poor.... Blessed are you who hunger now... Blessed are you when men hate you..."

Why his silent acceptance of abuse, hatred, rejection, oppression and death in rejection of yours? Why his abiding identification with you, as he calls on his disciples to act in your aid? "Whatever you do for this poor person, that you do for me. ... Whatever you do not do for this poor person, that you do not do for me?" Why, on your behalf, to any who follow him, his mandate to works of mercy? "Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Ransom the captive. Bury the dead." For the answers to these questions… look into his eyes, and search within.

You who are weary…

In the Year of the Poor, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, we your Pastors invite you, as Jesus himself did: come to Jesus. "Come to me," Jesus said, "and I will give you rest.” Life has not reduced you to penury, but life has not lifted you to wealth. To you also Jesus has said, "I have come to give life, and to give it to the full."

Thinking of your families, your spouses, your children, the relatives who run to you for help in their unending need, you work long hours, you work overtime, you even take on second and third jobs, just to make ends meet. Often ends don't meet; demands exhaust you; your taskmasters overstress you; worries distress you.

But you labor on in love. Thinking of the smiles on your children's faces and the promises you have made your spouse to provide adequately, you work on, hoping your sacrifice will bring the full life that Jesus brings. Whenever you can, whenever you remember, you pray. You ask him to help. You ask his mother for help. He does help. She does come to your aid. You know that. Now, coming to Jesus hanging from his Cross, look into his eyes as he looks into yours with love.

You who are rich…

“I have come to bring life,” he said, “life to the full.” Some of you, sadly, are unmoved by this. You do not believe this. You do not believe Jesus brings anything. You say you do, but you don't.

For you, the fullness of life is the good life: your doing. It is not gifted, but taken. It is not brought to you as a blessing from above, but seized as a result of pushing and shoving from below. It is not selfless, but selfish. It is fueled by pride, scheming ambition, the exhilaration of power, the taste of blood. For this you work harder than hard, you push yourselves to the limit, you even push beyond the limit. To achieve “the sweet life,” to outdo your ambitions, to over satiate your sycophants, to make them applaud without end, you abuse your bodies, you break the law, you violate your conscience; you ravage Creation. Your social life is your needy ego. You manipulate people, exploit their skills; take advantage of their weaknesses; pay them poorly. What is rightly theirs, you steal; what rightly belongs to society, you conceal. What is there for all, you horde for yourself. For you, there is no common good, only your good!

You build your first house, then your second houses; you provide for your family, then for your second families. You fill your lives with deceit, hypocrisy, and misery, and so glory in your "good life.” You take great satisfaction in that you are not like the rest of the rabble. You have no need for prayer; you have no need for God.

In this Year of the Poor, we your Pastors invite you, step back from the rat race, the pressure, the din. Step back, and look into the eyes of the King.

His gaze penetrates through your eyes to your heart. It is the same gaze of compassion as his gaze into the eyes of the poor. But it is a gaze altered by your own arrogance and cynicism. It is a gaze marked by concern. You may not wish to hear his message, but he says it again for you: "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe when society speaks well of you, for your fathers did the same to false prophets."

He doesn't thunder this from loudspeakers, nor embarrass you with this in the media, for you are well-respected and honorable persons. He says it simply in his gaze, knowing fully you can reject it, as you have rejected it before.

But in the Year of the Poor, where so many poor are poor because of your decisions, he also reminds you that over concern with your humungous investments, your corporate takeovers, your capture of political power and your fine reputations to the detriment or negligence of the poor may have serious consequences. "Whatever you have done or not done to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done or not done to me." For not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, succoring the sick, sheltering the stranger, visiting the imprisoned, the Lord, the Just Judge, may say to you, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire..." for I was poor, and you did not care.

If you have trouble believing this, look into his eyes gazing at you from the Cross.

Behold Jesus poor…

If that gaze, filled will love, brings you to confusion, shame and repentance in this Year of the Poor, then consider its urgent challenge for you:

With God's grace, turn away from your haughtiness, your pride, your selfishness, your idolatry of money, your all-consuming fascination with power. In love, work to build the Kingdom of God on earth!

In the Philippines, this means, urgently: stop the corruption.

Stop the misuse of the People's funds. Stop the wanton destruction of the environment. Fight the poverty of the poor. Build vibrant companies that use our resources to create wealth for our people, but distribute that wealth equitably. Build an economy that responds to the unconscionable poverty of the fishermen, the tillers of the soil, the urban laborers. Build an economy that is open to the world, but whose benefits do not exclude the poor. Provide jobs.

Provide education that respects all our people as human beings and children of God, not just cogs in a global production machine. But provide education relevant to the fight against dehumanizing poverty: basic education to all, and higher education to all who desire it. Build a society of dialogue in our diversity, and especially for our poor, build a society of peace. No more war, for the greatest victims of war are the poor!

Behold Jesus, hope of the poor…

If that gaze, filled with love, brings you in poverty to consolation, encouragement and peace, take heart in Jesus' love. He strengthens you, encourages you, and calls the Christian community to help you progress from destitution to the fullness of life.

But help the community in helping yourselves. Should you have no work, look for work. Should you have work, work well. Cultivate a personal sense of industry, self-respect and social responsibility. As the economy allows, continue to provide well for your family in love: nutritious food, adequate clothing, medical care, good education, wholesome recreation. Strive for conditions of work that are humane and just. Continue to contribute to the welfare of your neighbors, your barangay, your municipality, your city, your nation. Always be helpful. Vote as the common good demands. Together with your spouse, lead your children to the love and respect the Lord through our Catholic communion. Be active in your parish and in your basic ecclesiastical community. Love, as you are loved by God. Share courageously of your faith in love! You are not just receivers of the Gospel. You are its bearers!

Shepherds looking into the eyes of the Good Shepherd…

Finally, in the year of the poor, we your pastors, and with us, all priests and religious, look with you into the eyes of the crucified Lord. How often it is that we have look into those tortured eyes and failed to notice their twinkle! We have seen only embarrassing defeat, jaded suffering and obvious dying, but failed to notice the light that pierces the gloom in our hearts.

In the void that loneliness and isolation brought by our distance from Crucified, we can be misled to fill the gaping abyss with new phones and ipads. We can cover the gaping vacuum with another luxury car or designer jeans or more fashionable shoes more than our shoe racks can contain; with a vacation out of the country or another gadget for the bedroom. We can hold on to the whisky bottle and hope that the bottled spirit will exorcise the spirit of boredom in us. It can also be filled up by working like a horse to impress the people, to create a fans’ club and move you up higher to a better assignment. It can also increase our interest in bank savings, the stock market and the accumulation of more properties. Church funds and personal funds are deliberately mixed up. The parish crawls in financial difficulties while we sprint and jump with financial security. Our easy and comfortable lifestyles can make us numb to the peril of worldliness. It can make us at ease with ecclesiastical vanities.

How often have we reduced his living eyes to painted plastic on a wall, and deprived ourselves of feeling what those eyes twinkling in passion convey: that we are noticed, appreciated, valued, and sent forth. In so doing, we have cheated ourselves of the only treasure in our calling: the felt certainty from the Cross that we are each individually and totally loved.

We have exchanged this prize, this pearl of great price , for the compulsive conservation of conceptual castles, for the anxious pettiness of rules and regulations, for the obsessive preservation of a pecking order, for the selfish defense of private space, for the eccentric collection of quaint things, as well as for the lifelong preparation for our retirement.

Or, we have exchanged this self-emptied Messiah for self-established messiahs on distinguished thrones, ourselves rejecting the folly of the Cross, preferring the authority of feared prelates or the renown of pious celebrity or the fashionable cynicism of the insecure. For these recognized spiritual professionals, there is really no need for prayer, no need for prophets, and certainly no need for the unlettered and unwashed, for all ultimately is about themselves.

Look at Jesus…

In this year of the poor, we too are being asked in silence to peer into the eyes of the crucified Lord, not plastic, nor wooden, nor closed, but open for me, confusing me, disturbing me, returning me to an original inspiration, healing me, raising me up, making me whole and surprising me anew with unaccustomed joy. In those twinkling eyes, we consider the quiet invitation to be actually poor, one with him, stripped of his clothes, his dignity, his possessions, his power, his strength, one with the unwashed, the oppressed, the scorned, the powerless, the miserable, the outcaste. Of course, we can say no. We can repeat the valid, reasonable excuses. But we can also say yes.

In this Year of the Poor, may our neediness be turned to sanctity, and may our arrogance be turned to service. In all, may the love of the Crucified Lord triumph as he gazes into our hearts and we dare to look into his.

Amen. Amen.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, November 30, 2014, First Sunday of Advent

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Saturday, November 22, 2014

'I'm Attracted to Men, But I Love God More'

This is a brief personal testimony of Jovi Atanacio, a member of the support group After Call. Like Courage, their group also shares with our goal to live chaste lives in union with Christ in the midst of our SSA struggle, but unlike us they are not anonymous. Once again, this testimonial proves that it is possible for people struggling with same-sex attraction to live a life not dictated by one's sexual desires and urges.

Jovi Atanacio testifies that it is possible to be a faithful son of the Church and to be a person with same-sex attraction (SSA), sharing how ultimately, the faith shows homosexuals how to truly love.

“This is my cross …I may be attracted to males … but I love God more,” he said, noting how God through the Church invites all to true love.

While admitting to SSA, having been a former moderator for an After Call community of people with SSA, Atanacio has decided to remain celibate, and agrees with the Catholic position on people with same sex attraction that invites all to love, including homosexuals.

“I am free … I made the decision myself to follow and conform to God’s will and what the Church teaches … I forego of the worldly lifestyle,” he declared, confessing how years back, he was sexually promiscuous with various “casual hook ups”.

Homosexuals called to love

Atanacio bemoaned pro-LGBT rights camps often gloss over the fact that the Church has consistently enjoined everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, to love.

“As surprising as it may sound, the Church today does not forbid people who experience same-sex attractions to love one another,” shared Atanacio.

He attests that the Church seems to be the only institution that stresses love for members of the LGBT community.

“We are made to love and be loved … And our lives mean nothing if we don’t experience it,” he added.

Atanacio, one of the many actively engaged in the promotion of the devotion to Lipa’s Mary, Mediatrix of All-Grace, thinks the LGBT sector is asking too much when it expects the Church to change its stance on homosexuality.

“The LGBT wants the Church to just let them be … or allow them and not call the [homosexual] acts sinful …which will never be acceptable,” he noted.

“They keep on trumpeting pride in being gays … But they’re quick to blame others when HIV cases run high, supposedly because they’re too embarrassed to buy condoms,” he added.

True love

According to him, while many members of the same sex desire union with their romantic partners because of love, Atanacio believes true love desires more than just physical and emotional union.

“It wishes the good of the other. It wishes the good of the other person, encouraging him or her to embrace the virtue of chastity,” he explained.

He clarified, however, that chastity does not mean turning one’s back on love, pointing out it is but a profound and courageous expression of that same love.

Single and chaste, Atanacio, who also maintains the Facebook group “Wanted: Filipino Saints”, underscored the need to grow in the understanding of what love really means.

“If two members of the same sex profess love for each other, they will strive to do what is best for one other. They will encourage one another to identify themselves as beloved children of God who happen to experience same-sex attractions, rather than people who are defined by their sexual urges and happen to believe in God,” he explained, citing a Chastity Project article.

[Source: CBCP News. Published with permission from Mr. Jovi Atanacio.]

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cardinal Burke on Homosexuality

At the height of the controversial Relatio on last month's Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Cardinal Raymond Burke was one of the few who stood out in defense of the Church's teachings on homosexuality when others sought to undermine the issue. It's unfortunate that some of those who ought to speak up in defense of the truth chose to play it safe and remained silent. I'm posting here an excerpt of an interview conducted by BuzzFeed News pertaining to that topic. What a shame that he was demoted from his position as head of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, and given a non-curial and largely ceremonial assignment as patron of the sovereign military order of Malta. In support of Cardinal Burke, an article was published a couple of weeks ago by a former gay activist detailing how the good cardinal, who he once despised for his 'traditional' views on homosexuality, has become instrumental in his conversion to the Catholic faith.

BuzzFeedNews: I did a story a while back reporting on a conversation that sources relayed to me between an LGBT activist and Cardinal Müller. In that conversation, the activist apparently asked Müller about the possibility of the Church possibly accepting some forms of civil unions, based on some of the comments that the pope had made and some of the positions he was understood to have taken while he was the president of the bishops conference of Argentina. Müller reportedly responded that [that decision] wasn’t up to the Pope, it was up to “us,” referring to the curia. In that thinking about how these kinds of church teachings are made, can you explain to an outsider what the relationship is between this kind of conversation and the pope’s personal thinking?

Cardinal Burke: Well I suppose the simplest way to put it is that all of us who serve the church are at the service of the truth: the truth that Christ teaches us in the church. And the Pope more than anyone else, as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth. And so the cardinal is quite correct that the pope is not free to change the Church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other truth of the faith. On the contrary, his work is to teach these truths and to insist on the discipline which reflects the truths in practice.

BFN: It sounds like there’s a tension, what we’re seeing play out in this [Synod]. It sounds like you’re saying there are some people who deliberately want to change teaching. Like the people who are supportive of some of the positions that were articulated in the Relatio are saying that they’re trying to balance the pastoral need [for actual behavior and PRACTICE] to find space for people who are living outside [contrary to] what the Church [doctrine] teaches is the appropriate lifestyle, to find a way pastorally [in ACTUAL PRACTICE] to incorporate them into the [Catholic] Community and to bring them more in line.

You’ve used very strong words about homosexuality; in a recent interview you say again that homosexual acts are always wrong and evil. Is there any middle ground [compromises or loosening up], any way to make space for LGBT people inside the Church while also adhering to church teaching?

CB: Well the Church doesn’t exclude anyone who’s of good will, even if the person is suffering from same-sex attraction or even acting on that attraction. But at the same time out of her love for the person who’s involved in sinful acts, she calls the person to conversion, in a loving way, but obviously, like a father or mother in a family, in a firm way for the person’s own good.

There never can be in the Catholic Church a difference between doctrine and practice. In other words, you can’t have a doctrine that teaches one thing and a practice which does something differently. If people don’t accept the church’s teaching on these matters than they’re not thinking with the Church and they need to examine themselves on that and correct their thinking or leave the Church if they absolutely can’t accept what the Church teaches. They’re certainly not free to change the teaching of the Church to suit their own ideas.

BFN: But as I read the Relatio — and again I’m reading this as a layperson — it seems like what they’re saying is [trying to establish] a welcoming tone. While not changing the teaching, they’re also trying to not make the primary point of contact be a fight over these lifestyle choices. While holding up that the ideal remains matrimony, they’re not going to be pushed out and harassed by virtue of not being in that arrangement.

CB: The point is that for the Church, moral teaching is never a matter of ideals. They’re understood to be real commands that we’re meant to put into practice. All of us are sinners and we have to undergo a daily conversion to live according to the moral truth, but it remains for us always compelling. It’s not just an ideal that we hold out there, that, “It would be nice if it were this way, but I can’t do it.” No, we’re called to conform ourselves to those truths.

That’s the difficulty with the Relatio, which is [a] not well expressed, and [b] does not have a good foundation neither in the sacred scriptures nor in the Church’s perennial teachings, and [c] also uses language which can be very confusing.

One of the confusions is that it confuses the person with the sinful acts. In other words, it tries to say that if the Church teaches that these acts are sinful that somehow they are turning on the people and driving them away from the Church. Well, if the individuals involved are sincere and want to live the truth of moral law, the Church is always ready to help. Even if someone sins repeatedly, the Church always stands ready to help them begin again. But the truth of the moral law remains and it is compelling. It’s for now, it’s for me, it’s not something out there, some ideal out there that would be nice to realize but it doesn’t compel me.

[Source:  Buzz Feed. For the full transcript of the interview, click here.]

[*Note:  I did some underscoring for emphasis.]

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Position Paper of Courage Philippines on Anti-Discrimination Bill

I have published a similar but longer version of this post in the past and so now I am posting a shorter version. There seems to be a push towards enacting anti-discrimination bills not just on the national but local level as well. I hope that they will be guided by our position regarding the said issue.

1. Classification of individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under these bills is unreasonable.

• Provision/Section

Section 3 – Definition of Terms

a. “Sexual Orientation” refers to the direction of emotional sexual attraction or conduct. This can be towards people of the same sex (homosexual orientation) or towards people of both sexes (bisexual orientation) or towards people of the opposite sex (heterosexual orientation).

b. “Gender Identity” refers to the personal sense of identity as characterized, among others, by manners of clothing, inclinations and behavior in relation to masculine or feminine conventions. A person may have a male or female identity with the physiological characteristics of the opposite sex.

• Reason for Opposing this Provision/Section

Anti-Discrimination bills on SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) were authored to address anti-discriminatory practices. However, by doing so it unjustly favors a group of individuals unreasonably classified over the rest despite basic natural gender similarities. We then see that these bills are gravely in violation of the constitutional guaranty of equal protection. The Equal Protection clause states “that no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances” (Tolentino v. Board of Accountancy) .

However, classification of persons must follow all of the following criteria (People v. Cayat) :

1. It must rest on substantial distinctions.
2. It must be germane to the purpose of the law.
3. It must not be limited to existing conditions only.
4. It must apply equally to all members of the same class.

There has to be what is called substantial distinction, as contrary to superficial difference. This is the reason why we could distinctively classify men from women (difference in reproductive roles), minors from adults (difference in age of consent), citizens from aliens (difference in nationality) etc. This distinction can be described with relative permanency in the characteristics of the distinction being made. However when a person uses colors for vehicles or emotions and/or lifestyles for persons, they convey superficial differences in as much as these differences can change relatively in time – there exists no permanency in the distinctions being established.

It is important, therefore, to understand that sexual orientation is such a superficial difference since the attraction of a person to the same sex varies in degrees, and there are recorded cases of persons with diminished same-sex attractions, if not totally transformed into heterosexuals. So to classify individuals according to their sexual orientation (homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals) is unreasonable.

The same argument can be applied in classifying persons based on gender identity. There are persons who may have in some aspects of his or her character an identity of the opposite sex, yet still retain some aspects of his or her character identifiable with the same sex. There are cases of persons who may at some point of their life decide that their identity is of the opposite sex, even to the point of undergoing sex change, yet reverted back to identifying themselves with their original gender. So it is also unreasonable to classify individuals based on their gender identity.

Anti-Discrimination bills on SOGI violate the equal protection clause as it is an established principle of constitutional law that the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on unreasonable classification

2. Anti-Discrimination bills on SOGI are redundant of existing laws recognized in the Philippines.

• Provision/Section

Section 2 – Declaration of Policy
It is the policy of this state to work actively for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that offends the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights and the State obligations under human rights instruments acceded to by the Republic of the Philippines, particularly those discriminatory practices as defined herein shall be proscribed and penalized.

• Reason for Opposing this Provision/Section

There are sufficient laws recognized in the Philippines : civil, administrative, criminal and political, that can be invoked for the protection of the rights of anyone – including persons with same-sex attractions.

a. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1 and 7)
b. The 1987 Philippine Constitution (Article II - Section 11, Section 15, Section 18, Section 26, Article IX-B (Civil Service Commission) - Section 2 (2), Article XII (Labor) - Section 3, Article XII (Health) - Section 11, Article XIV (Education) - Section 1, Article XVI (Military Service) - Section 4 )
c. The Labor Code of the Philippines (Article 3 and 6)
d. The Civil Code of the Philippines (Article 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 32) – covering Section 4, paragraphs (a) to (i)
e. The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Section 3 (e)) – covers the public sector applications of Section 4, paragraphs a to g
f. Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA No. 6713) - Section 4 (c)
g. The Revised Penal Code (Article 287 on Unjust Vexation sufficiently covers Section 4, paragraphs a, f, g and h. Articles 282-287 on Threats and Coercion and Articles 353-362 on Libel and Slander and Article 364 on Intriguing Against Honor sufficiently cover Section 4 (h))
h. The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA No. 7877) - Section 2

These established laws sufficiently cover the entire length and breadth of Anti-Discrimination bills on SOGI’s concerns.

3. There is an imminent danger of abuse of “perceived discrimination” under these bills.

• Provision/Section

Section 3 – Definition of Terms

c. “Discrimination” shall be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether actual or perceived, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by all persons of an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.

• Reason for Opposing this Provision/Section

Categorizing a discriminatory act as perceived is something relative – to the person being accused, to the person accusing and to the circumstances and other persons that surround the act itself. Therefore, defining “discrimination” with this phrase allows the law to be manipulated by scheming individuals, to which the law does not define protection over their possible victims. A scheming individual may or may not be a homosexual. Upon slight provocation, this individual may just simply sue anyone through this bill whom he or she feels is discriminating him or her. He or she may use this bill to sue anyone whom he or she pleases – convinced that he or she was discriminated against. Individuals, who may perceive by mere suspicion that he or she is being discriminated against, can also use this bill to his or her advantage.

Also, because gender identity is defined in terms of the individual’s inclinations or behavior, it is shortchanging the legitimacy of the behavior action being done. By virtue of this definition, a person may use the bill to incriminate individuals or institutions, even if his or her behavior is illegitimate – such as talking or laughing boisterously in places of worship, or making sexual advances to a person he or she is attracted to.

The following are some scenarios that may occur following the approval and implementation of this bill:

a. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the Philippines will be apprehended if they will not admit individuals with active homosexual orientation as scout masters (Section 4 (b))
b. The parishes of the Catholic Church, despite of its moral stand on homosexual activities under the right to religious freedom, will be apprehended if they will not recognize gay militant organizations that would like to enter as parish-based organizations (Section 4(d))
c. Hospitals and clinics may be apprehended if they are not able to prioritize homosexual persons in admission to their facilities (Section 4(e))
d. Establishments, despite of their right to draw policies of dress code and conduct in their premises, will be apprehended if they will deny entrance to a homosexual person who exhibits dress code and/or behavior contrary to the policies of the establishment (Section 4(g))
e. Judges and/or church officials will be apprehended for not granting marriage licenses to homosexual couples (Section 4(h))
f. The responsibility of parents over their minor children under the Family Code of the Philippines will be undermined (Section 4 (i))
g. Law enforcers who arrest persons caught in illicit behavior (such as sexual activity in a public place) will be apprehended for harassment (Section 4 (j))

The provision on Section 4 (k) on other analogous circumstances present a dangerous and vague concept, which can be used by ill-meaning individuals who wants to pursue their own selfish interests. Individuals with perversions, such as pedophiles and sadomasochists, can also use this provision to justify their actions and behavior as something in relation to their gender identity and sexual orientation.

4. This bill may supersede existing criminal laws.

• Provision/Section

Section 8 – Repealing Clause

All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations o; parts thereof inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

• Reason for Opposing this Provision/Section

Because of this clause, it is not unlikely that it will undermine and consider useless the other criminal laws that are “inconsistent” with the provisions laid in the bill. It means it will supersede any law that is working contrary to the needs of homosexual persons.

For example, this bill may undermine the anti-harassment laws by allowing persons with homosexual inclinations and behavior to pursue other persons by making sexual advances to them, as it is warranted by their gender identity to do it because of their sexual orientation.

Prepared by:

COURAGE Philippines
09285066974 / 09178427434

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Lord is my Shepherd - A Personal Testimony

This is a personal testimonial of a fellow Courage brother, 'St. Pope', who has since returned to his hometown province of Antique. 

"The Lord pursues me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord forever!"

This is how I would describe my journey with the Lord. He always pursues me to return to Him and remain in his love.

In my early years as a child, I was raised by three significant women in my life - my mother and my two aunts. My father is a seafarer and I only met him when I was already five years old when he returned home. However, on his return, I never felt any affection towards him as a father. He was a stranger to me. Although he stayed with us for quite some time, our father and son relationship was not developed. He remained a stranger to me whom I fear for he never smiles.

I grew up in an environment of a family who are mostly devout Catholic and are active in parish and church activities. Their influences draw me to grow in faith to God by being involved in the works of our parish.

At school, I am also excelling as a student. Every end of the school year, it becomes a common practice already for me to go up on stage together with my aunt to receive an award.

I was a good boy. I always wanted to be a good boy. I asked myself, “And for what reason that I wanted to be a good boy?” I thought because it is the right thing to do. But then again, this question revealed a painful truth for what really motivates me to be a good boy. Deep inside me, I wanted this image to stand out to cover up the humiliation that I was experiencing from my peers and to older people who noticed my effeminate behavior. They labeled me with names and made fun of it. They call me ‘bakla’ or ‘bading’. I just could not accept that and I kept on convincing them that I was not what they are calling me. I was hurt not only because of humiliation in public that I was experiencing but because I know for a fact that there is a truth on what they are telling me. I end up convincing myself that there is no truth to what I heard from them. At a very young age, I could not also understand why people looked at gay kids with mockery. I did not want to be mocked; therefore, I do not want to be gay. The other sad truth is I could not open up to my family what I was going through out of shame and fear of rejection from them. I fear that they will not love me anymore.

Yet God is good. When I was in high school, he placed me in an institution where I could grow more in my faith to him. I studied in a Catholic school. There are still people who noticed my effeminate behavior and teased me and mocked me with dreadful names. However, this time, I attempted to become the man just like my peers. I observed, learned and imitated their language and behavior. What moved me for doing this is my longing for acceptance, that sense of belonging to other boys. I was grateful then that God provided me a group of friends where I felt I was accepted and belonged.

When I was in college, God again provided me with a group of friends who accepted and loved me. It was like as if God is telling me that I don’t need to be good at something in order for me to be accepted by other people or for Him to love me. I did not realize it at that time.

Ironically, I was attracted to one of my male friends. The attraction was too strong that I became emotionally dependent to him. My day was not complete if I could not see or talk to him. I did not confess what I was feeling for him and took advantage of our friendship in order to be with him always. But then again, God knows what I was going through. After graduation, our situations forced us to separate ways and we seldom see each other then. After sometime, the attraction faded and what remained is authentic friendship with him. I was eventually able to confess to him my homosexual issues and he accepted me for who I am. We are good friends until now.

My first job at work was in a dominantly male industry – a metal fabrication company where out of around 50 employees in the plant, there were only two females at work. God wanted me to interact and develop more friendship with men.

It was also during that time that I happened to read the book of Rick Warren entitled, “The Purpose Driven Life.” Reading it, God revealed to me this truth - being attracted to the same sex or having an effeminate behavior doesn’t make a person bad. It is the choices that he makes that would determine if his actions are good or bad based on what his Christian faith tells him. This was a liberating truth for me and I finally learned to accept my homosexual issues.

God was never tired of pursuing me. Even when I was working, he sends friends, relatives or colleagues at work who will invite me to prayer meetings and rallies of different Catholic communities like Love Flock, Elim and El Shaddai. While I was busy attending such prayer meetings, I was also living a gay lifestyle discreetly. I have been involved into series of flings and one night interactions with the same sex. I was living a double identity.

God still remained faithful that as He saw me at a loss in handling my homosexual issues, he led me to this Catholic support group called Courage, who caters for men and women struggling with same sex attractions and wanted to be right with God. My healing journey began after I joined this group. Finally, I do not feel alone anymore in my struggles. I have other people who understand really what I was going through and could relate to me. I started to understand myself and God just continuously revealed a lot of truth about his design to me as a man and how I could realign my desires to His will for me.

I have undergone more healing from wounds of the past that led to the development of my homosexual behavior and attractions when I attended the programs of Living Waters. It was a healing program for emotionally and sexually abused persons. I experienced cleansing from my sins and felt renewed.

In God’s perfect timing, He also provided me a community where I can develop and nurture genuine friendship and relationship with real men of God. It was a Catholic movement of single young professionals who wanted to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I became a part of Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon Catholic movement. Healing continued to take place as I grew in my relationship with my fellow brothers and even with sisters. Only then also I realize that I never really knew how to treat women with care and respect. The brothers, through their example, taught me how.

I thought I was already okay. I was wrong. The pressures at work, internet pornography and desires for flesh cause me to take for granted my prayer life and my commitments to my support group and community. Life suddenly becomes overwhelming and I could not take hold of it anymore.

Seeing my situation, God called me to retreat for a while. I resigned from work, left the life at Metro Manila, and went home in my hometown province of Antique. For almost one year, I was not employed. I focused myself in serving our parish youth ministry and in developing our backyard into a vegetable garden. While serving God through the youth ministry, my journey to manhood continued to develop when I became a gardener of our own backyard and front yard. I engage myself to manly activities that I have never done before like building garden boxes, digging and tilling soil, making posts for trellis of beans and ampalaya and many other carpentry works. I enjoyed doing that. It affirms my manhood. I enjoyed being a man. I appreciate the good of the masculine as designed by God.

At present, I serve the parish as a speaker in our weekly Bible study that we have established. God provided me another work to sustain me in my daily needs here in our province, away from the temptations of the metro but very near to my family. I have also re-established a quality prayer life with the Lord.

My journey with the Lord still continues as I strive to live as a good witness of His love for me. There are still issues in my life that cause me to sin and need cleansing and purification.

God has pursued me all through these years of my life and He never failed to show his great love and mercy to me. I may still have battles that need to be won and I believe that with God on my side, there is nothing but victory.

To God be the glory and honor for all that He has done and will do in my life.