Friday, July 31, 2009

Dinner with the Biking Archbishop

I just came back from Zamboanga this morning after a meeting at the Silsilah Harmony village yesterday. I stayed at the Archbishop's residence last night and had dinner with Archbishop Romulo Valles. When he was still bishop of Kidapawan, the archbishop used to join the Bike for Peace together with his other priests and other bikers of North Cotabato. He also accompanied me on the first day and the second to the last day of my 21-day Mindanao Bike-Tour for Life & Peace in 2006. So naturally, during dinner last night, we talked mostly about biking - reminiscing our biking adventures in the past. We also talked about the recent Tour de France.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Failing Grade for President Macapagal-Arroyo

I read in the newspapers Melissa Roxas' account of her abduction and torture by alleged military men who accused her of being involved with communists. This brought back memories of my own harrowing experience 36 years ago under the Marcos dictatorial regime. On Sept. 21, 1973 - one year after the declaration of martial law - I was picked up by intelligence agents, tortured for a week, and detained for seven months in a military camp in Cebu. I was just one of the many victims of human rights violation. My confrere, Fr. Rudy Romano, was less fortunate - his body has never been found. When Marcos was deposed and democracy was restored, I expected that torture would be a thing in the past.

I am very upset that this practice continues even today under the presidency of Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo. The military under her command continues to use the methods of the former dictator to supposedly protect democracy. In one of her previous State of the Nation Address, she even praised General Palparan who had been accused of torture and extrajudicial killings in his counter-insurgency campaign. Another practice that was prevalent during martial law which continues today is the summary execution of suspected criminals. During martial law the perpetrators were the "secret marshalls." Today we have death squads who are allegedly sponsored by local government officials. The president has failed to ensure the rule of law and the respect of human rights in this country. She has also failed to solve the insurgency problem and bring about peace. She has failed to stamp out corruption at all levels of government including the military. She herself has been accused of corruption and cheating in the last election. She is no better than the late dictator.

If I were asked to give a grade for her 9 years as a president, I won't hesitate to give her a failing grade. I was filled with hope and euphoria when she took over as president following EDSA II. Now I only feel revulsion.

This coming Monday she will be delivering her State of the Nation Address. I hope it will truly be her last - unless she follows the late dictator and succeeds in prolonging her stay in power by changing the constitution. If she harbors these intentions she should beware. She will face the wrath of the people. She will share the same fate as Marcos. I will be one of those who will strive to end her rule even if it means going through what I experienced 36 years ago.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Launching the Human Rights Watch Report on the Davao Death Squad: Commemorating 10 years of Campaign against summary execution

The Human Rights Watch book on Davao Death Squad "You can die anytime"

Archbishop Fernando Capalla with Fr. Antonio Samson, SJ - Ateneo de Davao President

Atty. Manny Quibod - Ateneo College of Law dean and spokesperson of CASE

Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ - reciting his poem "Sanayan lang ang Pagpatay"

Yours truly (Fr. Picx, CASE spokesperson) giving the closing remarks.
From 2 to 5 pm this afternoon, we gathered at Finster Hall in the Ateneo de Davao to launch the New York-based Human Rights Watch report/book on the extrajudicial killings in Davao and other parts of Mindanao. This is part of the activities to commemorate 10 years of campaign against summary execution.
The event opened with a prayer, followed by the opening remarks of Atty. Manny Quibod (dean of Ateneo College of Law and CASE spokesperson). After him, Atty. Carlos Zarate gave a presentation on the highlights of the 10-year campaign against summary killings. Then the book was launched - with a showing a video presentation about the book, the reading of the statement from the HRW and the presentation of the book to representatives from various sectors: City Council, Academe, Religious, families of victims, and CASE.
There were 3 "discussants" who shared their thoughts and reflection on the book. One represented Atty. Angging Librado of the City Council, one from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and for the families of victims - Clarita Alia who lost 4 sons to the DDS.
I then gave the closing remarks and Archbishop Capalla led the closing prayer - the Oratio Imperata.
Below is the text of my closing remarks:
Closing Remarks:10th anniversary of campaign against summary execution
and launching of the Human Rights Watch Report
Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

We marked today the 10th anniversary of the campaign against summary execution by launching the Human Rights Watch Report on the DDS entitled: “You can die anytime.”

After 10 years what has been achieved?

First the bad news. We note that number the victims has reached over 900. It would appear that we were not really successful in putting a stop to the killings over the years.
The question is, why has the number of victims reached over 900?
Fr. Bert’s poem gives us an insight of the mind of those who order and carry out the killings: “sanayan lang ang pagpatay.” They get used to killing. They are no longer bothered by their conscience.

I may also add, “sanayan lang ang makabalita o makarinig o makakita ng mga pagpatay.” People get use to hearing or seeing the killings. They are no longer disturbed by it, others even approve of it. Many prefer to remain silent. Thus, the culture of “impunity” as CHR chair De Lima calls it.

In spite of the deafening silence and seeming approval by many , the voices those who continue to condemn and oppose these killings still resounded. Among them
the CASE (Coalition Against Summary Killings)
the archdiocese under the leadership of Archbishop Capalla who wrote
the pastoral letter “Thou shalt not kill” several years ago, and ordered the Oratio Imperata to be read in all the churches since the beginning of Lent.
the priests and pastors who condemned the killing in their homilies,
the lay faithful who put up the streamers that appeared in all the churches.

Like voices crying out in the wilderness, we continued to function as conscience of society – promoting the value of life amidst the culture of death.
Our efforts and prayers have not been in vain.

The good news is that since the investigation of the Commission of Human Rights started and the Human Rights Watch report was first released 3 months ago, the number of killings attributed to the DDS has subsided. (have they relocated?). We heard from insiders that the DDS have received an order from the top to stop the killings for the meantime

A few nights ago, “Ramon” a former member of the DDS, one those interviewed by the Human Rights Watch and also one of the witnesses who met the Commission of Human Rights finally affixed his thumb mark on the sworn statement the revealed all he knew about the DDS.
What impressed me about Ramon is that he was no longer afraid to tell the truth. He has broken the culture of silence. He has become aware of his conscience.

What we hoped for and prayed for have partially come true.

Yet , just because the killings appeared to have stopped, we should not be complacent.
We have to continue the campaign that the truth will fully be revealed, and the perpetrators be held accountable for these serial mass murder and justice may be served.
We need to work for a society that is truly compassionate -- that respects life, that seeks the lost, that promotes healing.

We hope that there will be more Ramons who will courageously stand up as witnesses and reveal the truth.
We hope there will be no more mothers like Clarita who grieve for their sons or daughters.
As we end this event marking the 10th anniversary of the campaign against summary execution and launching the HRW report, we express our gratitude to the sponsors, the guests, the discussants and all of you who are here.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Consultation on the Mindanao Peace Process

As the fighting between Government forces and units of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rages in s0me areas in Central Mindanao, convenors and members of the A'immah-Pastors-Priest Forum (APPF) came together yesterday and today to participate in the Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on the Peace Process conducted by Konsult Mindanao.
Similar FGDs have been conducted in various areas of Mindanao among various sectors to gather ideas and recommendations for the peace panel of the Government and the MILF. This is part of the effort initiated by the Bishop's-Ulama Conference to facilitate grassroots consultation that can aid the peace process.
We had an animated sharing and discussion about our vision of peace, recommendation for the peace process and what we can commit/sacrifice for the peace process.
This is what I shared regarding my vision of peace in Mindanao:
Muslims, Christians and Lumads living together as neighbors, friends and brothers/sisters rather than enemies.
The battlefields will be transformed into rice-fields
The tanks will be turned to bulldozers
The only blood shed will that be of chickens and cows for feasting, only the sound of fire-crackers will be heard
The land and its resources will be shared by everyone, and no one will wallow in poverty.
Some Recommendation for the Peace Process:
Immediate resumption of the peace negotiations without preconditions.
Transparency of the peace process. It should not be done secretly, outside the country.
The government peace panel should not be dominated by people from Manila or Luzon, nor by former military men. Mindanaoans should be adequately represented.
Recognize that Mindanao has become the homeland of Muslims and Lumads as well as Christians. Any discussion on ancestral domain and boundaries have to take this into consideration.
Search for New Paradigms/framework other than the "Ancestral domain claim" that can lead genuine and lasting peace.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Effect of Uphill Running on my Blood Pressure (or how to bring down blood pressure without medication)

This morning I measured my blood pressure before my uphill run. It was very high: 176/108. I didn't take any medication. I decided to bring along my blood pressure monitor and see if my hill running will bring the pressure down.

After running uphill for 15 minutes, I measured again my blood pressure. Now it is 113/60! No medication can have that instant lowering effect.

I continued with several uphill intervals. I measure again my blood pressure 30 minutes after the beginning of my run. Still very low: 111/66.

I headed home, this time mostly downhill. I increased my pace for the last 500 meters. Upon reaching the church grounds I measured again my blood presure: 116/71 after running for a total of 40 minutes.

Nine minutes after I stopped running and was resting, I once again measured my blood pressure. My post-run reading: 128/87.

I am amazed at the effect of an intense uphill running on my blood pressure. Normally, an intense activity - like running uphill - should bring the blood pressure up. In my case, the already high blood pressure goes down. It would seem that the more the intense the exercise, the lower the blood pressure. I remember an article about the Tarahumara Indians whose blood pressure were measured after a day's run. Instead of going up, their blood pressure went down. So it seems that like those running braves, running has a lowering effect on my blood pressure. The lesson for me: instead of taking hypertension medication, I should just go out and run.