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(Statement of CBCP Plenary Assembly Adopting the Mindanao Catholic Bishops on the BBL and the Peace Process)

“Guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:79)

Our Common Stand

Questions and varying opinions about the peace process and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) abound at all levels of Mindanao society.

As religious and moral teachers we, Catholic bishops of Mindanao, stand on common moral ground on the issues.

We do not intend to endorse or not to endorse any draft BBL being discussed by the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives. But we intend to envision a BBL that is based on and guided by social moral principles.

We note that:

(1)   Christianity and Islam are religions of peace;

(2)   The vast majority of Muslim, Christian, and Indigenous People communities in Mindanao aspire for peace; and

(3)   All-out war is not the answer to the Mindanao situation.

Ever since colonial times, Muslim leaders have expressed three major grievances: the reduction of their ancestral territory, the erosion of their cultural identity, and the loss of self-determination in the development of their communities.

At the basis of the deep fundamental Bangsamoro aspiration to self-determination in an autonomous region is the moral principle of social justice. Social justice implies the other moral principles of just peace and inter-religious harmony.

This is the moral framework from which we view the peace process and the draft BBL.

A Social Climate of Mutual Mistrust, Bias and Prejudice

The present social context is one of mutual biases and prejudices, of mutual charges of injustice. Such social climate demands moral consideration.

For the Christian disciple, the fundamental wake-up call to conscience would be: Would Jesus approve our biases and prejudices that create unpeace?

Bias and prejudice are part and parcel of the deep mistrust between Christians and Muslims, two peoples coming from the same Abrahamic faith.

It is this climate of mistrust that the horrible human tragedy at Mamasapano, Maguindanao, has resurrected. It has placed the peace process and the proposed BBL in limbo. But we believe that the Mamasapano disaster must not be equated with the BBL.

A BBL We Do Not Want

Everyone wants peace, everyone wants some kind of BBL.

On our part, viewing the issues from a moral angle, we do not want a BBL that does not effectively address the root causes of social injustice.

We do not want a BBL that does not achieve the centuries-old Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination.

We do not want a BBL that makes the proposed Bangsamoro area of self-determination less autonomous than the ARMM it is meant to replace.

We do not want a BBL that discriminates by not effectively protecting and promoting the rights of minorities, indigenous or not.

We do not want a BBL that will foster ethnic, religious, political, and economic discrimination.

A BBL We Want

Like everyone else we, Bishops, want a just and lasting peace.

For this reason, we want a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is rooted in social justice and promotes social justice.

We want a BBL that effectively addresses the injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro as well as the injustices suffered by indigenous peoples and various religious minorities within the proposed Bangsamoro area.

We want a BBL that concretely achieves the self-determination of the Bangsamoro in an identified area that remains part and parcel of the territorial integrity and under the national sovereignty of the Philippine Republic.

We want a BBL that promotes harmonious relationships between peoples of various ethnic groups and of different faiths.

We want a BBL that effectively protects universal human rights, particularly the rights of IPs already enshrined in law, and the rights of Christian minorities who fear harassment and further marginalization.

We want a BBL that responds concretely to the concerns, hopes and aspirations of all stakeholders, of various Bangsamoro groups, and of non-Moro citizens within the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

We want a BBL whose provisions are clearly Constitutional, without betraying the intent and spirit of peace agreements.

That is the BBL we envision on the basis of social moral principles of social justice, harmony and peace. It is a vision that goes beyond the proposals now being discussed in our legislature.

The Constitutional Issue

On both sides of the constitutional issue are legal experts and constitutional luminaries. One group defends the constitutionality of BBL provisions and their root-documents, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The other group rejects them as unconstitutional.

In the light of these divergent expert opinions we note the scrutiny of the BBL by Ad Hoc Legislative Committees.

We pray that the Ad Hoc Committees seriously and fairly consider these contrary expert opinions so as not to imperil the requirements of social justice for the Bangsamoro.

The suggestion of many experts, we believe, is wise — that such issues be left to the Supreme Court for judicial review. If left out through substantive revisions, the Supreme Court can no longer re-insert them.

The Need for Trust in Waging Peace

Through many years of intense, and often adversarial debates, the relationship between our government peace panel and the MILF peace panel has evolved from suspicion and hostility to mutual trust and understanding.

Theirs was a labor of partnership and they have produced, they believe, an agreement that, though imperfect, is a pathway to a just and lasting peace.

Let us then transcend the negative emotions of human tragedy and continue on the road to peace by way of dialogue, based on mutual trust, openness, and respect.


We reiterate the fundamental intention of this statement. It does not intend to be either for or against the various drafts of the BBL being discussed in our Legislature. It simply presents social and moral principles and envisions, in general terms, a BBL that flows from the same principles.

The moral imperative to lasting peace is this: Christians, Muslims, Lumads and members of other faiths have to begin trusting in one another.

Continuing mistrust is the road to continuing violence and unrest in Mindanao. Trust is a moral pre-requisite for justice, harmony and peace.

Mary is eminently honored in both the Qur’an and the Christian Bible as the Virgin Mother of Jesus, whom we Christians call “Our Peace.” To the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Peace, we commend all our striving for a just and lasting peace.

On the Occasion of the CBCP Plenary Assembly

Pius XII Center, Manila

11 July 2015


CBCP Pastoral Letter on Drug Trafficking and Drug Addiction

When Pope Francis visited us in January — those wonderful, faith-filled and joyful days — he asked us not to allow ourselves to be victims of new forms of colonization.  He certainly had in mind “imported values” and “borrowed tastes” that threaten our identity, dilute our spirituality and wreck our sense of what is right and wrong as formed by our consciences that have been immersed in the God-loving, God-fearing culture of the Filipino nation.

Certainly, one of the most pernicious forms of “colonization” has to do with the traffic in drugs and their use.  Not too long ago, media was abuzz with reports of a new party fix: “liquid meth”, it is apparently called, patronized, peddled and consumed by the wealthy, both the adults and the young. But the poor, too, fall prey to this habit, through shabu, known as the “poor man’s cocaine.” It is less expensive than cocaine but still it is something the poor certainly could not afford.  Shabu is also daringly ubiquitous, oftentimes peddled openly in parks, bars, and street corners.

Contrary to the Image of God

“Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God” (Adversus Haereses, Bk IV, 20, 5-7).

We are not only creatures of God.  We are his imago etsimilitudo…his image and likeness.  And, above all, we are “hearers of the Word” to whom He has communicated not thoughts, not ideas, but Himself in His Eternal Word, Jesus the Lord.

Social Moral Decay

The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers included an entire section on “Dependency and Drugs” in its Charter for Health Care Workers.  It says:

“Dependency, in medical-health terms, is an addiction to a substance or product — such as drugs, alcohol, narcotics tobacco — for which the individual feels an uncontrollable need, and the privation of which can cause him psycho-physical disorders.  The phenomenon of dependency is escalating in our societies, which is disturbing and, under certain aspects, dramatic.  This is related, on the one hand, to the crisis of values and meaning which contemporary society and culture is experiencing and, on the other hand, to the stress and frustrations brought about by the quest for efficiency, by activism and by the high competitiveness and anonymity of social interaction.” (n. 92)

“Drugs and drug-dependency are almost always the result of an avoidable evasion of responsibility…an expression of masochism motivated by the absence of values.” (n. 93)

These statements from the Charter sound harsh, but the problem can be addressed resolutely only when it is accurately diagnosed, as the Pontifical Council did.

We are Responsible

The Charter points out that while the drug-dependent cannot be blamed completely for the addiction, neither is it right to hold him or her as a blameless and helpless victim.

Every individual is free to make decisions, and while we are faced with life’s frustrations, hardships, and loneliness, with communities that are no longer held together by faith, many do not turn to prohibited substances.  We, your bishops, thus seek to address this matter of individual freedom and discretion.

Talagang ganyan na yan…is a common expression that is related to the problem drug abuse.  When one sees things as fated, as something about which a person is helpless, or a fact to which we resign ourselves, then we give up on human freedom and lose the motivation to change. When the person who has become addicted to drugs or the members of his family say of his dissolute ways talagang ganyan na yan, then the most powerful forces capable of breaking the destructive cycle of addiction are neutralized by this terribly mistaken belief!

“I set before you, life and death…”(Deut. 30:19). This is the wisdom of the Scriptures: that it is a fundamental human experience that every person is free; that he or she can make a choice against destructive habits, and turn from sinful ways.  If the human person were not free, the call to conversion would be utterly senseless!

Moral Response

There is a social dimension to the slavery of an addicted person.  Society has not provided him or her with a moral compass, because society is itself, adrift in so many ways.

Rapidly vanishing is a sense of the worthy and the noble, of what is worth pursuing in life.  It is the Church’s mission to provide the flock with the vision of a good and full life.  The Catechism for Filipino Catholics show what life-everlasting is, that ought to be our hope:

No longer will we have to lie to ourselves that what we enjoy now will last forever.  It will not, but it will be returned a hundredfold.

No longer must we fear and disguise the reality of death.  We will die, but live ever more fully in Christ.

No longer need we deplore the fleeing, transitory character of time that drains away even the earthly memory of our fragile joys. These momentary sparks of joy will be brought together in the eternal Light of the Risen Christ.

No longer must we bewail twisted limbs, withered by age, or dread the revelation of our sinfulness — we shall be made whole in a new creation of body and soul.

No longer will solitary emptiness and loneliness threaten us: we will be received in the company of all Christ’s joyous members.  (n. 205)

Let us remember the question of Glyzel to Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas, “There are many children neglected by their parents. There are also many who became victims and many terrible things happened to them, like drugs or prostitution. Why is God allowing such things to happen? Why are there only a few people helping us?”

The youth cry for meaning. That meaning can only be found in God. We must not get tired of answering that only in God can we find life’s meaning.

Sustained Pastoral Programs

How can this answer reach the youth? Humbly we admit that we are not doing enough to fight drugs because we have failed in bringing God to the youth as the only way to happiness.

The dioceses and parishes must invigorate and energize their youth ministry to make them more creative, pro-active and responsive and come up with judiciously planned activities and programs for and by the youth with the help of and in collaboration with youth ministers both priests and laypeople. There must be an effort by the adult Church people to listen to young people and become familiar with their temper, moods, language and “norms.”

More importantly, the Church, in the spiritual and physical sense, must be a haven for the youth where their restlessness can be quelled and their curiosity assuaged through productive interaction with their peers and with adults who can share with them the Good News in a meaningful and enlightening fashion, and who can show them the fulfilling path of discipleship.


The evil of trafficking came to our homes and vivid consciousness through Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia for bringing in, unknowingly, she said, about two kilos of heroin. We pleaded and prayed for her life, and our pleas and prayers were answered when she was granted a last minute reprieve.  Her dire situation showed the existence of malevolent people running cartels and syndicates that recruit the young and prey on the innocent to carry out their crimes and elemental human rights to determine.  The transporters of their prohibited substances are called “mules” an insult both to the beast who helps human beings in carrying their burdens, and to the humans who are reduced to a beastly, deadly, and criminal task.

In 1992, the Pontifical Council for the Family, writing precisely on drug addiction, had this to teach:

“In today’s society an artificial consumerism, which is contrary to the health and dignity of man and favors the spread of drugs, has taken root.  This consumerism creates false needs and urges the person, especially the young, to seek satisfaction only in material goods, thus causing dependence on them.  Furthermore, a certain economic exploitation of young people easily spreads in this materialistic and consumerist context.”

To be sure there are psychological and emotional prompters for the use of and dependency on addicted substances but mostly at the root of the addiction is the “pleasure” derived from it and the momentary escape from the “realities” of life that oftentimes demand responsibility, maturity, respect for others, and many other virtues.

Thus drugs feed the evil in a person and present an alternate reality that further isolates him or her from life. Those of who manufacture and peddle drugs destroy persons and communities, in a much worst way than natural calamities.

Proactive Socio-Civic Pastoral Guidance

The ministries for the pastoral care of migrants and their families should set up desks in every parish where regular seminars can be given to persons who plan to work abroad. The persons manning these desks must be trained in their tasks, and thus should also have gone through the proper related para legal courses with the private and government agencies involved in labor migration and foreign travel.

The ideal is for Filipinos who have families to be with them and work in our country and not have to be compelled by economic reasons to work abroad. But the increasingly global nature of the economy should also provide and ensure that work and travel should be safe and not be a channel for criminal activity.

More Resolute Action from Government

While the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines reiterates that the Church is against the death penalty, it calls for resoluteness from the police and law-enforcement agencies to prevent the trafficking of drugs; to apprehend those involved in the trafficking of drugs; to dismantle the syndicates and cartels involved in the drug trade, and to make sure that the drugs they seize are not recycled and brought back to the underground market. We call for the relentless prosecution of those responsible for trafficking in drugs and for those who traffic persons to be their drug mules.

Community Vigilance

It has been said that the day we stop buying is the day they stop selling. There is also a need for communities to be formed into being involved in the prevention and persecution of crime. It is the duty of the community to report crime, report the criminals in their midst, and ensure that justice is meted on the guilty through their testimony.  The community should be on the lookout for another, especially being conscious of those who bring bad influence to their youth.

Stand as One

The community of the faithful should stand as one and be united in fighting this destructive menace and social evil. We must be firm in our resolve to eliminate it in our communities so that our young can live towards a healthy, productive, and vibrant future, and our adults not be sidetracked in their quest for fullness of life.

We pray with you, calling on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, who is our guide, our counsellor, the comforter of the afflicted, and the source of perpetual help, to pray for us, our young people, our compatriots seeking work abroad, that we may be safe and kept from harm and the clutches of the evil of drugs and their criminal traders.

We ask the Holy Spirit to constantly shine His light on us, so that we may walk in freedom and peace with Jesus, towards the Kingdom of the Father.

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Intramuros, Manila, July 13, 2015



Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines


Pastoral Letter on the Transition Years of the K to 12 Program

“He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2.51-52)

Saint Luke provides us this glimpse of the “hidden life” of Jesus, in Nazareth where also the dynamics of family and learning played out for Him.  Nazareth was the home of the Holy Family and the school of Jesus. We, too, can draw from the interplay and social relationships of the Holy Family in Nazareth in dealing with the changing opportunities and challenges for us today


Indeed we live in very challenging times and amid the changes whirling around us, we take on the “lenses” of hope; a hope that moves us to engage in a continuous dialogue (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 18). In dialogue, we show solidarity, respect and affection for the whole human family. It is in the spirit of dialogue that we face the transition years of the K to 12 program of basic education.

The Church, the family and the school are the three institutions of moral stability responsible for the formation, education and training of the young.   And for the Church, the integral formation of the young is a commitment to excellence. This excellence is holiness of life. The aim of education in the mind of the Church is “to make saints of our students” (Pastoral Letter of CBCP on the 400 years of Catholic Education).For government, as enunciated by its Department of Education, education should aim at making Filipinos become “maka-Diyos, maka-Tao, maka-Bayan, and maka-Kalikasan.”


A vital tool of imparting knowledge in the school is the curriculum, which is never static but ever dynamic  to respond proactively to the needs of the learners and the emerging realities of society and thew orld. In our country, one of these changes is the K to 12 program, deemed by many experts as a necessary response to global situations and ever-expanding knowledge. The Church confronts this change through its education ministry and the many schools she runs. How ready are we to implement this program? In dealing with this question, we begin with an attitude of openness and respect. There are petitions on K-12 in the Supreme Court. We leave the issues on the legality of the K-12 program to the honorable court. Our concern here is on principles that can guide us.

Three principles can guide us to shape attitudes open to the transition phase of the K to 12 program.

First, the family is the “first school” of the young.We have said this time and again” parents are the first educators, first catechists of their children; the home is the first school. The government and its agencies are tasked to assist the parents, and the first school. To this end, the Church says: “Public authorities must see to it that “public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom. The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice. Whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice … The State cannot, without injustice, merely tolerate so called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance”. (CSDC 241)

In this regard, we appeal to the Department of Education through the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) to increase the subsidy to private schools both for the students (ESC)  and the teachers (TSS) especially the Church’s mission schools in far-flung areas, that arein heroic “survival” modes in order to transmit excellence to students.

The K to 12 program in basic education should have all the mechanisms in place in order for the smooth transition to happen. Parents should be provided regular “updates” on the transition plan. There will be fewer anxieties and resistance if lines of communication are kept openamong all those involved in the transition. There is no perfect mechanism to effect change but a positive attitude can help all to “weather” these difficulties.

We appeal to parents to get to know the K to 12 program, thoroughly. School and education officials must be ready and capable to discuss it with parents, and even the students themselves in an atmospher of loving dialogue. The K to 12 program is about our children’s future. Let us not simply pass on to the school the responsibility of educating them. We all are their educators and formators. Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child.

Second, the Church has a preferential love for the poor. Where are the poor in the K to 12 program? The K to 12 program provides skills and competencies for the poor who may not have access to college education. Employment is no longer the privilege of the college graduate. Rather, through the senior high school program with its varied “trackings” and the academe – industry linkage, the K to 12 graduate at age 18 can enter the work force. This is a big help to the poor! Realistically though we know that there will be many students who will drop out of the whole program. There should be means to help out these dropouts. We do not yet see this issue being addressed in the program.

At the same time Catholic schools must go beyond merely preparing for the K to 12 program and turn their eyes and affection to the poor: the indigenous people, the children in conflict with the law, the streetchildren and the persons with disabilities. Catholic schools must always have a place for them, not merely as out-reach, but as part of their education ministry, and members of their learning community.

Third, the principle of solidarity and subsidiarity must be observed.In the Church there is no competition, only communion. This means solidarity and subsidiarity.  Saint John Paul II said in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, solidarity is the virtue of interdependence; it is the new name of peace. It is working hand in hand with each other in the service of the common good. It is to see the other as part of my life; it is to carry one another’s burden.

We call everyone to enter the table of fellowship and engage in “appreciative conversations” regarding the education of our youth. Let us listen to one another bare their worries, concerns and misgivings. Let us all walk towards enlightenment and allow charity to permeate our dialogue. As we go through this challenging phase in our work of education let us all, parents, school officials, industry partners and government agencies such as DepEd, CHED, DOLE and TESDA, walk in enlightenment and collaboration and solidarity for the good of our children and a better future for them.

We plead with the government agencies tasked to implement this new policy, to do everything to ensure that all members of the schools are not displaced or unemployed. We call on schools in a given territory or region to discuss the years of “no enrollment” in college and see how best to cope with this reality. One way is through the assistance to be provided by the basic education schools in the area that will offer senior high school. It is not the time for “unbridled competition” among schools – of who can offer the “best”. It is the time to activate communion through solidarity and subsidiarity. We caution that the K-12 program should not lead to the teachers and school personnel losing tenure in their employment. Adjustments will have to be made by all but no one should be make to unjustly suffer in the implementation of the program. In line with the principle of subsidiarity the personnel affected by the transition should be consulted and their views and suggestions be given serious consideration. Teachers are not to be considered just as expenses but as partners in the noble mission of education. May this not lead to the contractualization of the teaching personnel.


We invoke the Holy Spirit in making this transition to this new program, this new way of learning, smooth and effective. May our Lord Jesus who grew in wisdom, age and grace, under the guidance of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, inspire and guide all our young people towards the plan of God in their lives.

We entrust all the parents, educators, students, and workers in academe and government, to the Heart of Jesus. And we pray through the intercession of Mary, the Seat of Wisdom that all our efforts may help to form men and women engaged for the service and love of God and country, for the life of the world (pro Deo et Patria – pro vita mundi)

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 13, 2015


Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

On the US Supreme Court Ruling on Same Sex Marriage

The US Supreme Court was asked whether banning same-sex marriages was in accord with the Constitution.  It has recently ruled that such a ban is unconstitutional.  That is the gist as well as the significance of the ruling of the US Supreme Court.  Its reference is the US Constitution.

 Fortunately for human persons, there is so much more to us and to our dignity than what the law prescribes.  While human positive law is the distillation of human experience of orderly and organized life, it does not exhaust human wisdom, nor does it have room for the wisdom of which God makes us participants.

The Church continues to maintain what it has always taught.  Marriage is a permanent union of man and woman, in the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual fulfillment that the union of a man and a woman bring into the loftiness of the matrimonial bond.  If there is an undeniable difference between man and woman, there is also an undeniable difference between the permanent union of a man and a woman. This is the way the Church has always read Sacred Scriptures.

This is the way it has live its faith, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in that living normative found called Sacred Tradition.  We will continue to teach the sons and daughters of the Church that marriage, transformed by The Lord Jesus and by His Church into a sacrament — a means by which the Risen Lord encounters his people — is an indissoluble bond of man and woman. There is much that the Church receives that is part of the “depositum fidei.…the deposit of faith” of which she is not maker but guardian and steward.

As President of the CBCP, however, I reiterate our commitment to the pastoral solicitude of all, and no bishop, priest, deacon, religious or lay leader actively serving the Church will ever demand to know of a person his or her orientation before serving the person, as The Lord Jesus commands all his disciples to serve.  All will continue to find welcome in the Church, while, under command from The Lord himself, will continue to teach what the Church has unceasingly taught.

The US Supreme Court decision will not go unheeded.  We shall study it with assiduousness, and revisit our concepts and presuppositions, always with an eye to being faithful to the Gospel and to the mission of the Church.

June 27, 2015

(SGD)+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan President, CBCP

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