Oxfam calls for respect of rights of Haiyan survivors

National and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials hold a dialogue this week in Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)

National and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials hold a dialogue this week in Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)

International agency Oxfam this week called on the Philippine government to respect the rights of thousands of families displaced by Super Tyhoon Haiyan last year in recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

“A year after [Haiyan], the government must ensure that resettlement processes follow a more principled approach that reflects the rights and priorities of displaced people,” said Alison Kent, Oxfam’s humanitarian policy advisor.

Alison said “meaningful consultations” with those directly affected by resettlement are necessary, “otherwise, resettlement plans risk reinforcing the vulnerability of targeted communities.”

The Oxfam official made the statement during a roundtable discussion attended by national and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials.

She noted that almost a year after Haiyan devastated the central Philippines, most of the 200,000 families identified for resettlement by the government continue to live in bunkhouses, tents, and homes repaired with scraps and debris from the typhoon.

While some affected communities are targeted for relocation in the coming weeks, many remain unsure of what services and supports will be available at the relocation sites.

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The Archbishop is on FB!

THE  Vatican is clearly doing more than just preaching about new media as a tool to bring about change in the Church.

Earlier this year Pope Benedict XVI made that “papal click” to launch the news and information platform News.Va, which sources information from the Vatican’s various print, online, radio and television media.

As well as that, he’s been on Facebook for some while with pope2you.

So it was no surprise to learn that the Vatican has named Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle – or “Bishop Chito” to his fans – as the new prelate of Manila. It’s especially appropriate as Manila is known as the texting capital of the world and one of the top sources of visitors to social media sites.

While some cardinals may still be meditating on what kind of animal new media is, Bishop Chito – and indeed many other Filipino priests and bishops – have already stamped their digital footprints firmly on the internet.

Bishop Chito is an active member of Facebook with 76,875 people liking his page. And as a regular face on TV, he uploads episodes of his appearances on the “Kape’t Pandasal” show on Youtube via the Jesuit community channel.

With his easy familiarity with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and whatever is just around the corner, we expect Bishop Chito to keep his flock fully and digitally updated.

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The ‘war’ goes on

THE bishops have been cleared.

The Philippine Senate said the seven bishops, who were accused of receiving sports utility vehicles from the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, did not commit any wrongdoing.

The prelates returned the controversial vehicles. They said they only accepted it to be able to implement better their pastoral projects in far-flung areas.

But the Church, and the faithful too, has been hurt. This much has been admitted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies…. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow,” said Bishop Nereo Odchimar in a statement.

And the faithful is not taking the insult to Mother Church sitting down.

A Church-based group started a campaign in Manila’s Quiapo district on Friday to raise funds to buy vehicles for the poor bishops.

Churchgoers donated 1 peso, 5 peso and 10 peso coins to the fund initiated by the Coalition for Family and Life. The group set up a tent outside Quiapo Church where boxes for the donations are placed.

“My faith in our bishops remains very strong,” a lady told a local radio station.

And those who thought the bishops would be silent after the controversy were wrong.

The bishops’ conference is now reviewing its “critical collaboration” with the government, said Monsignor Juanito Figura, secretary general of the conference.

On Friday, the bishops’ website posted an article written by former senator Francisco Tatad who said the controversy over the vehicles was done by “some hip-shooting senators and the anti-Church media.”

The former senator, known to be an ally of the bishops, questioned media outlets for “never (bothering) to verify, and have not said sorry for their irresponsible and harmful conduct.”

Tatad said a “usually reliable newspaper source” reported that the head of the sweepstakes office who dragged the bishops into the controversy had dinner with the editorial staff of one anti-Church newspaper before the “propaganda attack” on the bishops.

“They reportedly agreed ‘to teach the bishops a lesson’ for campaigning vehemently against the reproductive health bill, which the newspaper… and a well-funded foreign lobby are vigorously trying to push through Congress,” Tatad wrote.

With these stories coming our from the camp of the Church, we expect the “war” to continue in the coming days.

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New officials of the Philippine bishops’ conference

THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has a new president in the person of Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu.

After saying that he was not interested in the position because he has a lot of responsibilities in his archdiocese, Archbishop Palma reluctantly gave in to the nomination of his brother bishops.

“I will also have to solicit their cooperation,” the new CBCP president said.

Archbishop Palma was elected on Saturday during the 103rd Plenary Assembly of the CBCP at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Paco, Manila.

The other elected officials of the conference who will serve starting December are:

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan (vice president);
Bishop John Du of Dumaguete (treasurer); and
Monsignor Joselito Asis (secretary general)

Elected regional representatives are;

Archbishop Sergio Utleg of Laoag (North Luzon);
Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of San Fernando (Central Luzon);
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon (South Luzon);
Auxiliary Bishop Francisco de Leon of Antipolo (Southwest Luzon);
Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of Boac (Southeast Luzon);
Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran (East Visayas);
Bishop Patricio Buzon of Kabankalan (West Visayas);
Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao (North Mindanao); and
Bishop Guillermo Afable of Digos (South Mindanao)

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato will head the Episcopal Committee on Bishops’ Concern.

Archbishop Quevedo is among the bishops who will be investigated by the CBCP Permanent Council over allegations that some prelates received gifts, including sports utility vehicles, from the administration of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Other new officials of the CBCP are:

Bishop Elenito Galido of Iligan, Episcopal Commission on Culture
Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo, Episcopal Commission on Family and Life
Bishop Angelito Lampon of Jolo, Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue
Bishop Julius Tonel of Ipil, Episcopal Commission on Liturgy
Bishop John Du of Dumaguete, Episcopal Committee on Pension Plan
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, Episcopal Commission for the Pontificio Collegio Filippino
Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak of the Military Ordinariate, Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care

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Carabaos came from China

Carabao Riders by Mario V. Fernandez

THE Philippines national animal, the hardy, plodding carabao isn’t endemic to the country but descended from swamp buffaloes in China, a recent study conducted by scientists from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) proved.

Several researchers led by Leslie Anne del Barrio took a scientific way to end the debate on whether the carabao is endemic or not and plunged headlong into genetic analysis to discover the links between carabaos here and in China.

To measure the genetic link among the species, Del Barrio and her team resorted to the use of the D-loop mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA), microsatellites and protein coding loci.

The use of mtDNA is crucial to determine intra and interspecific variation by way of maternal transmission, no recombination and high substitution rate.

Through molecular analysis, particularly sequencing mtDNA and comparing them with other sequences all over the country and in other country, the team sought to know from where the extant carabao population came.

Eventually, the Del Barrio team established that the carabao, which is now a symbol of just how hardy Filipinos are, descended from the maternal line of Chinese swamp buffaloes.

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