MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Navy has deployed more ships in the Sulu Sea to facilitate humanitarian efforts and assist hundreds of Filipinos fleeing the violence in Sabah.
“We are eyeing an influx of returnees so our Navy ships, with supplies and personnel aboard, are now out there ready to assist them,” Maj. Franco Alano, acting spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said.
Eleven more vessels have been sent to the Sulu Sea, in addition to the 25 Navy ships patrolling the area.
The Navy initially deployed its transport and auxiliary ship BRP Tagbanua to Tawi-Tawi to pick up evacuees but request for the transport ship to dock in Sabah was denied by the Malaysian government.
The Navy vessels were also escorting smaller watercraft coming from Sabah to destinations in Mindanao.
Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic gave assurance yesterday that despite their large naval deployment in Sulu Sea, they still have enough vessels to protect the rest of the country.
“Our vessels’ distribution is not too thin. We have more than enough vessels to cover and patrol the country’s maritime domain,” Fabic said.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman said 60,000 sacks of rice would be shipped to Tawi-Tawi to address an emerging food shortage in the province.
Mark Basaluddin, chairman of the Canelar barter association, said they are now looking at trading with other countries like Thailand, Indonesia or China to keep their businesses afloat.
“If we will not do that business might close,” he said.
But Lt. Commander Joemark Angue, a coast guard station commander, said the closure of routes to Sandakan would only be temporary. – With Mike Frialde, Roel Pareño, Christina Mendez, John Unson, Jose Rodel Clapano, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Helen Flores
MANILA, Philippines - Confident that a majority of the administration Team PNoy senatorial candidates would win, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III revealed yesterday that Sen. Franklin Drilon is the most qualified to replace Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in the 16th Congress.
“President Aquino already announced or floated the name of Sen. Drilon and I think Drilon is well qualified to be the next Senate president. And Sen. Drilon’s relationship with Sen. Enrile is very good,” Osmeña said.
Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Senado at the Senate building, Osmeña added that he does not see any problem with Drilon becoming the next Senate president.
“Of course, there might be a dark horse who might have ambition but I don’t see anything at this time,” he said.
Osmeña said change in the Senate leadership “is already a given since two months ago.”
“We knew already that there will be changes in July when the new Congress comes about. We can practically be definite it will happen,” he said.
Osmeña said the pro-LP senators have allied with the Nacionalista Party (NP) grop led by Sen. Manny Villar.
“The division today is between UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) and Team PNoy,” he said.
UNA senatorial candidates said it would be up to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to conduct an investigation on the Christmas cash gifts given by Enrile to senators last Christmas.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay of UNA said that Cayetano, as chairman of the Senate ethics committee, has the authority to start an investigation to allow Enrile to explain his side on the issue.
Another UNA aspirant Nancy Binay said it is Cayetano’s decision if he would investigate Enrile.
“If there would be an investigation, I’m sure Senate President Enrile can answer the accusations against him,” Binay added.
UNA campaign manager Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said the Senate President can defend himself.
He said Enrile is willing to face the probe because there was no anomaly and he could easily defend himself, Tiangco said.
On Wednesday, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a complaint against Cayetano before the Ombudsman for his alleged failure to act on an ethics complaint against Enrile.
VACC accused Cayetano of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The group said Cayetano had ignored its complaint regarding Enrile’s grant of millions of pesos as Christmas gifts to his fellow senators last December.
VACC said the complaint was filed on Jan. 21 but Cayetano did not act on it even if it sent a follow-up letter to the senator last Feb. 13.
Cayetano has vowed to attend to the group’s complaint as soon as Congress resumes session.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero called for reforms yesterday in the use of the P25-billion Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF), the official name of the congressional pork barrel.
He made the call in the wake of the latest Commission on Audit (COA) report that nearly P200 million in PDAF allocations of Enrile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. ended up with a nonexistent private foundation.
Every senator receives P200 million a year from PDAF, while each member of the House of Representatives gets P70 million.
Escudero said senators and congressmen should make a detailed listing of their projects and beneficiary-agencies, foundations and non-government organizations (NGO) for more transparency.
“If we have resorted to line-item detail in the national budget, we should do likewise with PDAF for more transparency so there would be no suspicion and no mystery happening,” he said.
He said the more transparent use of the pork barrel could help restore the credibility of the Senate, which has been hounded by a succession of controversies.
“Before, when you meet a member of Congress, you shake his hand. Now, you shake your head,” he lamented.
COA reported that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla allocated nearly P200 million to the Department of Agriculture for livelihood projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. However, the funds ended up with a bogus NGO that auditors identified as Pangkabuhayan Foundation.
Enrile and Estrada claim
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The first Latin American pope, Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, is a theological conservative with a strong social conscience, and a modest man who declined the archbishop's luxurious residence to live in a simple apartment and travel by bus.
He was also the runner-up in the 2005 conclave that elected German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict. He was not an obvious candidate, but moderate cardinals looking for an alternative to the then Vatican doctrinal chief backed him.
His election came as a shock to Catholics because, at 76, he was considered far above the ideal age to replace a pope who broke tradition and resigned because of his advanced years. He had hardly been mentioned among the "papabili" (possible popes).
The decision to take the papal name Francis, the first pope to name himself after the legendary St Francis of Assisi, was also surprising because it evokes a life of simplicity and humility far removed from the splendour of the Vatican.
Described by his biographer as a balancing force, Bergoglio has the ways of a monk, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.
"He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force," said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years.
"He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active ... a Church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it," she added.
"His lifestyle is sober and austere. That's the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class."
The former cardinal, the first Jesuit to become pope, was born into a middle-class family of seven, his father an Italian immigrant railway worker and his mother a housewife.
He is a solemn man, deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions as he showed by asking the crowd cheering his election to say the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers.
Bergoglio is also a member of well-known Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo.
"He was always a very pleasant and accessible person," said Roberto Crubellier, 65, a church employee in a downtown Buenos Aires church where Bergoglio used to go and pray.
"He used to walk from the cathedral (about 10 blocks) and he stayed, praying silently in the last rows of pews, as though he was just an ordinary guy."
In his rare public appearances, Bergoglio spares no harsh words for politicians and Argentine society, and has had a tricky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.
Bergoglio became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies. Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years, holding the post of provincial of the Argentine Jesuits from 1973 to 1979.
After six years as provincial, he held several academic posts and pursued further study in Germany. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992 and archbishop in 1998.
Bergoglio's career coincided with the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, during which up to 30,000 suspected leftists were kidnapped and killed -- which prompted sharp questions about his role.
The most well-known episode relates to the abduction of two Jesuits whom the military government secretly jailed for their work in poor neighbourhoods.
According to "The Silence," a book written by journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Bergoglio withdrew his order's protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture.
Verbitsky's book is based on statements by Orlando Yorio, one of the kidnapped Jesuits, before he died of natural causes in 2000. Both of the abducted clergymen suffered five months of imprisonment.
"History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cosy with the military," Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.
His actions during this period strained his relations with many brother Jesuits around the world, who tend to be more politically liberal.
Those who defend Bergoglio say there is no proof behind these claims and, on the contrary, they say the priest helped many dissidents escape during the military junta's rule.
His brother bishops elected him president of the Argentine bishops conference for two terms from 2005 to 2011.
In the Vatican, far removed from the dictatorship's grim legacy, this quiet priest is expected to maintain the Church's strong conservative stand on issues of sexual morality but add the strong social conscience he has shown in Argentina.
In 2010, he challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill. "Let's not be naive. This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan," he wrote days before the bill was approved by Congress.
"He seems to be a good compromise. He's a mix of different things," said Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli.
Stories of his humility abound. When he was appointed a cardinal in 2001, Bergoglio persuaded hundreds of Argentines not to fly to Rome to celebrate with him but rather to donate to the poor the money they had raised for their airline tickets.
Bergoglio has been close to the conservative Italian religious movement Communion and Liberation, which had the backing of Popes John Paul and Benedict as a way to revitalise faith among young people.
Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, who was believed to have the most support going into the conclave, is also close to the movement, but has taken some distance from it as it got mired in political scandals in Italy.
"In Italy, Communion and Liberation is very politicised. For many, it was a tool for a career in politics," said Faggioli, who teaches at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis.
"Outside Italy, it's different. They are a Church group that can be more conservative than liberals would like. But they're not mixed up with politics," he said.
"I don't expect him to change on doctrine, but he is a more pastoral person." he said. "It seems this pope will be more aware of what real life is all about."
Rev Gerald Fogarty, a Jesuit and Church historian at the University of Virginia, said he was "pretty sure I'd never see a Jesuit pope" and was surprised that Bergoglio had been chosen because of the criticism of his stand during the dictatorship.
The Jesuit order was founded in the 16th century to serve the pope in the Counter-Reformation and some members of the Society of Jesus, as the order is officially called, think no Jesuit should ever become pope.
In the 2005 conclave, Bergoglio emerged as the moderates' rival candidate to the conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict. After that conclave, some commentators spoke of Benedict as "the last European pope" and said the Latin Americans had good chances to win the next time.
Bergoglio, who speaks his native Spanish, Italian and German, was then tipped as a possible head of an important Vatican department but he begged off, saying: "Please, I would die in the Curia."
According to reports in Italian media, Bergoglio impressed cardinals in the pre-conclave "general congregation" meetings where they discussed problems facing the Church.
After the 2005 conclave, a cardinal apparently broke his vow of secrecy and told the Italian magazine Limes that Ratzinger got a solid 47 votes in the first round while Bergoglio got 10 and the rest were scattered among other names.
Votes began to switch in the second voting round the next morning, pushing Ratzinger's count to 65 and Bergoglio's to 35. Limes said the Argentinian was backed by several moderate German, U.S. and Latin American cardinals.
The third round just before lunch went 72 for Ratzinger and 40 for Bergoglio, according to Limes, and the German cardinal clinched it on the fourth round that afternoon with 84 votes.
Bergoglio's tally sank in the fourth round to 26, indicating some supporters had jumped on the Ratzinger bandwagon. "Some apparently concluded this was the way the Holy Spirit was moving the election," one cardinal said after the vote.
In contrast to Benedict, Faggioli said, Francis should find more open ears among Catholics when he speaks, even if the positions he takes are not always popular.
"Pope Benedict was handicapped by his glorious past as a theologian. Having a lot of baggage as a theologian is not necessarily a help for a pope," he said. "It is harder to frame Pope Francis as representing a particular theology.
"Many people may not like what he says about gays or abortion, but he has a more nuanced personality." (Additional reporting by Damian Wroclavsky, Tom Heneghan and Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Helen Popper and Tom Heneghan)
VATICAN–The election as pope of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who as archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina had tangled with state authorities over abortion, homosexual marriage, and the culture wars, is expected to provide a pastoral polish to the conservative theology of his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Like Blessed John Paul, Pope Francis has called the liberal call for contraception, abortion and euthanasia as part of the “culture of death.” And like Benedict who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and doctrinal watchdog of John Paul II had called homosexuality an “objective disorder,” the new pope has come up with harsher language to depict the gay rights movement pushing for “same-sex marriage”: he has called it a “demonic movement.”
In short, Bergoglio provides both continuity and consolidation to the much lauded—or criticized—conservative stance of John Paul and Benedict.
Often derided for taking allegedly dogmatic positions on HIV-Aids and other issues of sexual morality, Benedict was perceived as theologically brilliant but pastorally deficient.
As a prelate actively engaged in various ministries for the family and the poor in Argentina, Bergoglio is expected to provide the pastoral or practical underpinning to the Chuch’s highly unpopular stand on the very divisive issues.
Bergoglio was made a cardinal by John Paul in the consistory of 2001. Depending on varying accounts of the papal conclave of 2005 that elected John Paul’s successor, he was said to have been runner-up to Benedict XVI or at least, his name had figured in the initial ballot. (A conclave is confidential and cardinal-electors take a vow of secrecy.)
Other accounts said it was another Jesuit contender, Milan Archbishop Emeritus Carlo Maria Martini, who was pitted against Ratzinger.
Under Benedict, Bergoglio became a member of the obligatory congregations such as the Congregation for the Clergy and Pontifical Council for Family.
Bergoglio also follows the cautious legacy of John Paul and Benedict on social justice.
While John Paul wrote the celebrated social encyclical on labor and justice, Laborem Excersens, and Benedict excoriated liberal capitalism, they were critical of the theology of liberation, a distinctly Latin American theology that provided a political reading of the Bible to connect it with the alleged structural injustice in South America and the need to liberate people from such an unfair system.
Ratzinger, as doctrinal watchdog, condemned liberation theology for its use of Marxist analysis. His 1984 “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’” was supported by Pope John Paul II, who having come from Communist Poland and spearheaded the movement that led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, was necessarily wary of any political philosophy that freely borrowed from Marxism.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales cited this as basis for sending a letter to her Malaysian counterpart right after receiving reports of human rights violations in Sabah.
Rosales explained a partnership with Suhakam or the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia will be the best option for both countries to make sure the armed conflict in Sabah will not affect innocent civilians.
“It would be best if we can have a joint mission with the Commission on Human Rights of Malaysia so we can go to Sabah and together, we can conduct investigation,” Rosales said in a chance interview.
“That’s what we want to do. But we need permission first from the Malaysian prime minister or their Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she added.
Rosales issued the statement after Filipino Muslims told tales of horror as Malaysian authorities launched a crackdown on Filipinos linked with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Citing oral reports from CHR in Zamboanga region, Rosales admitted being alarmed about how Malaysian authorities use brutality to drive away Filipinos from the oil-rich territory.
“I am, of course, concerned with these stories because the truth of the matter is, this is not the first time that Filipinos have problems of enjoying their human rights,” Rosales said.
“I used to go to KL (Kuala Lumpur) and talk to the embassy to discuss the problems of poor Filipinos in Sabah who are still being neglected because most of them are stateless,” she added.