PASTORAL STATEMENT: Fighting for Justice and Human Dignity. By Bishop Honesto Ch. Pacana, SJ

Let us recall that in 1994 the 144 hectares of the land claimed by the Sumilao farmers were awarded to 137 of them as beneficiaries.  However, through machinations of power and money, the land was converted from agricultural to agro-industrial in 1996.
 
Though this resolution was legally questionable, the Sumilao farmers respected the decision of the Supreme Court— that the land can be converted to an agro-industrial status within a five-year period. However, none of the conditions and provisions contained in the conversion order was fulfilled at the end of the term.  Hence, by law, the land must revert back to its original agricultural status open once again to CARP.
 
In view of this, the Office of the President issued an Executive Order (EO) revoking the Conversion Order for not complying with the rules of conversion.  However the EO does not include a Cease and Desist Order for the company to stop its hog shelter construction activities; neither does it include the necessary Notice of Coverage.
 
Let us not forget that over and above legalities, the Sumilao concern is a moral one. It is about the dignity of the human person. It is about justice and human rights. It is about their right to be heard. It is about a people fighting for freedom, refusing to be controlled by external dictates,  struggling to stand up,  for the right to determine his own future.
 
The question may be asked. Is it right for the rich to own everything and let the poor remain slaves to the caprices and whims of "good and generous" employers?  The Sumilao farmers' answer is  "No".    
 
Hence, we witness once again an exemplar of the indomitable Filipino spirit in this small group of people. Perhaps insignificant to society in terms of status and number. They were  even  unpopular  in their own district  (" No prophet is acceptable in his hometown" {Lk.4:24}), yet these people walked 1,700 kilometers, through mud and dust, cold rain and scorching concrete, plagued with disease, fever and fatigue.  They have awakened our conscience and made us aware that there is something very wrong in our society.
 
For us, however, the issue is far more significant. When we see these people unfazed by a colossal corporation, standing up to claim what is theirs- legally, and morally, it becomes for us a question of our spiritual standing: whether we are truly children of God, source of all that is life-giving in this seemingly hopeless world. Dare we remain in the background, deaf and mute?
 
My dear People, let not apathy, cynicism, faithlessness, hopelessness or pessimism grip our hearts!  We are Christians, people of hope.  What we hope for we have already attained in substance albeit partially.  The risen Lord with us is already an assurance  of victory over sin and death.
 
Let us hope and pray, then,  that these urgent concerns facing the country  will find a peaceful resolution soon before it is too late.
 
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
 
+Honesto Ch. Pacana, S.J.
Bishop of Malaybalay
January 13, 2008

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