Friday, February 24, 2006



On this fifth anniversary of Zamboanga Sibugay, we have many blessings to be thankful for – a completed highway, more farm-to-market bridges, higher prices for rubber, and, despite some outbreaks of violence, relative calm and quiet throughout the province.

Yet, we cannot close our eyes to the shadows around us – the continuing poverty of many rural households, the lack of basic services, and the growing threat to our environment with the coming in of mining operations, whether large or small-scale. We should also not forget the killing of our Provincial Accountant, Mr. Venancio Ferrer, Jr., more than a year ago. This brazen crime remains unsolved up to this day.

In the latest Philippine Human Development Report of 2005, our new province, which is still included in the mother province of Zamboanga del Sur, is listed among the bottom ten “most inequitable provinces” (p. 111). Comparing measures for inequality from the years 2000 to 2003, Zamboanga del Sur (and Sibugay) ranks as the second least improved province, being outdone only by Lanao del Sur (p. 112). In sum, our province together with its mother province manifests extremes of wealth and poverty that accounts for the marked degree of inequality among residents.

It is in this light that we can soberly count our blessings along with the many more challenges that confront us – either as private citizens, or as public officials and civil servants for those of you who have been vested with some form of public authority.

The recent pastoral statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines calls for “renewing our public life through moral values.” It points out that the root of our crisis is the erosion of moral values. It invites public servants and citizens’ groups alike to promote “a spirituality of public service, integrity and stewardship.” “These forms of social spirituality,” the statement continues, “should counteract the persistent evils of gambling, drug-pushing, usury, destruction of our environment, and corruption in public office.”

The CBCP statement is addressed not only to one person or political party, but to all of us. How then do we develop a spirituality of public service – that builds lasting peace and development in our land?


In his Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of this year 2006, Pope Benedict XVI dwelt on “the truth of peace.” We invite all men and women of good will to reflect with us over the salient points in this papal message:

1) Peace cannot be equated simply with the absence of armed conflict, but should be viewed as “the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder.” It is this fundamental truth about God and the “tranquillity of order” that he has established that drives us to express our own yearnings and hopes for peace in our land.

We reach out to all believers in one God – whom we acknowledge as Creator, Father, or Transcendent Being. Together we can help bring about the order in society that God has willed for all of us.

2) The truth about God enables us to know “the truth about man.” Despite our differences in creed, culture, and socio-economic class, we all share the same origin and destiny from God as well as the same nature as human beings. It is this realization of our common humanity that enables us to regard everyone as our brother and sister.
Every human person is endowed with intelligence and free will, and created in the image of God. From this basic human dignity flow our rights and corresponding duties to enable us to attain our natural and supernatural ends. These human rights and duties are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable.

3) How then do we build peace in our land? Pope Benedict XVI recalls the four pillars of peace outlined by his predecessor, Pope John XXIII, in his landmark encyclical, “Peace on Earth” (Pacem in Terris). These pillars are: truth, justice, freedom and love – principles and human values that are rooted in “the universal moral law written on human hearts.” This innate voice of conscience impels us to work for the integral development of the person and to promote the human rights of every person in society.

It impels us also to work for the common good which is the “the sum of social conditions that enable persons to achieve their full human potential.” Public officials, in particular, are expected to work for the common good, not their private good. Indeed, the common good is the reason that political authority exists in the first place (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 168).

4) As Christians, we proclaim the “Gospel of Peace.” We attest that “Jesus is the truth which gives us peace.” Jesus was averse to every form of falsehood; he was completely transparent in his dealings with others; and he opened the paths for forgiveness and reconciliation. Through his life of compassion and caring for the poor and the despised, we too are asked to serve everyone, but especially the least of our brethren.

5) Peace is ultimately a gift of God. Yet it is also a task and a responsibility for all of us. “When we hear the Gospel,” Pope Benedict reminds us, “we learn to build peace on the truth of a daily life inspired by the commandment of love.” Through the example of the Holy Family in Nazareth may we begin to build this peace first in our homes and communities and in our province. And may it be a peace that reaches out to all persons and to all warring groups in our land.


As we strive then to live out a spirituality of public service, we can make Solomon’s prayer for Wisdom our own (Wisdom 9:1-6, 9-11):

God of my fathers, Lord of mercy,
you who have made all things by your word
and in your wisdom have established man
to rule the creatures produced by you,
to govern the world in holiness and justice,
and to render judgment in integrity of heart:

Give me Wisdom, the attendant at your throne,
and reject me not from among your children;
for I am your servant, the son of your handmaid,
a man weak and short-lived
and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws.

Indeed, though one be perfect among the sons of men,
if Wisdom, who comes from you, be not with him,
he shall be held in no esteem.

Now with you is Wisdom, who knows your works
and was present when you made the world;
who understands what is pleasing in your eyes
and what is conformable with your commands.

Send her forth from your holy heavens
and from your glorious throne dispatch her
that she may be with me and work with me,
that I may know what is your pleasure.

For she knows and understands all things,
and will guide me discreetly in my affairs
and safeguard me by her glory. Amen.

* Homily at Ecumenical Service, Opening Program, 5th Araw ng Zamboanga Sibugay,
Capitol Hills, 17 February 2006.

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