13 January 2017
17th EDSOR Peace Congress
EDSA Ortigas Consortium of Schools (EDSOR)
delivered on 10 January 2017
First of all, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this Congress for your excellent work. Sister Irene was telling me earlier that you started this early on, in the 90s, after the EDSA Revolution. I myself was an EDSA baby. I graduated from college in 1986, just after the People Power Movement. And I think that was a defining moment for me, I was very apolitical before. But because of the assassination of Ninoy, because EDSA happened, because of the people power revolution, I knew that I had to work government or with government, so that sort of derailed my being a lawyer. And I think that is what prepared me for the task that I am performing now. I always enjoy being in the company of young Filipinos like you, because you have so much energy and passion. Thank you for this opportunity to share my ideas with you.
We all know that the times are changing faster than ever. The internet has shrunk the world into memes and clickbait articles. We find ourselves obsessing over Facebook Likes, although I don’t know, ang Facebook daw ay para sa mga matatanda. Over the next Instagram post that pops into our feed. Modern technology has evolved at breakneck speed, yet we have a hard time keeping up. People on the Internet cannot seem to discern lies from truth.
And while modern technology can keep us connected to each other, it also tempts us to withdraw into our individual lives. Millennials are in fact accused of not caring about anything except themselves. Self-absorbed. Living in digital islands by themselves.
I don’t agree. I believe that millennials like you, care. I believe that modern technology puts you in the perfect position to protect the greater good. Most importantly, I believe that you are ready to fight this fight, to answer the urgent call for nation-building, no matter how young you are.
But when I say “fighting the fight,” I don’t mean that literally. In protecting the Filipino people and the interests of our nation, we must not resort to the brutality of warfare. Our democracy has no room for political intimidation or violence. Progress can always be achieved peacefully.
As students of some of the foremost Catholic schools in the country, you know firsthand the value of peace in our faith. It is asked of us in thought and in deed. It is central to our identity as Catholics. Jesus himself lived a life of deliberate peace, even in the midst of turmoil and persecution.
We must choose peace as He did. There is a reason for this. Your teachers and parents have schooled you on this truth: every act of violence inflicted on the world is the rejection of God’s love. Violence—physical or otherwise—disrespects the dignity of every life.
As men and women, we are creatures of understanding built in the image of God. Let us make the most of this grace by becoming faithful stewards of all creation. But this can be a challenge. Everyday, the environment suffers terrible abuse in the hands of men. Ecosystems are destroyed to make way for malls and parking lots. Factories dump their waste into rivers that once sustained our ancestors.
We treat the earth as though it were an infinite resource, as though it were ours for our taking. This is not stewardship.This is heedless abuse, done with no thought for future generations or its grave consequences on every living thing.
We are already paying for this. The effects of climate change are causing devastation around the globe. Our people are especially vulnerable to extreme weather patterns. The last decade offers abundant proof: Typhoons Ondoy and Pablo, Supertyphoon Yolanda, and just this year, Supertyphoon Ferdie and Typhoon Nina. And each time a calamity strikes, it is the poorest who pay for it—sometimes with their own lives.
In the wake of a disaster, the gravity of loss truly breaks our hearts, especially when we see it up close. But we can’t let heartbreak get in the way of our work. We mustn’t, especially when whole lives are at stake. Last week, when we visited the communities destroyed by Typhoon Nina, we had to spring to action quickly. We personally surveyed the aftermath of the typhoon, especially the damage it wrought to schools, hospitals, and houses in the coastal areas.
With the help of local governments and national departments, we want to keep sending aid where it is urgently needed. Post-disaster relief isn’t the only priority. We’re also looking at long-term rehabilitation, so that people in risk-prone areas—especially the poorest—are better-protected against future calamities.
In a moving speech delivered recently, I don’t know if you saw it on social media: Meryl Streep said these words: “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.” The same is true of our relationship with the environment. We have plundered the earth violently, and nature’s response is of equal violence.
It must therefore be emphasized: come in peace to the world, and that peace will be returned generously. But when we think of the environment, we seem to forget that it holds a most valuable resource: human life. For some reason, we now take warfare for granted. People are killed in the name of seemingly noble causes.
In today’s day and age, technology has been a blessing. It has given rise to scientific breakthroughs that benefit mankind and the environment. It has given us quick access to a world beyond our immediate experience. But contemporary technology also comes with a warning: it makes the quick fix attractive. It makes cutting corners an acceptable course of action.
Violence is the quick fix that we must prevent and condemn. Violence is a way of cutting corners, where complex problems are met with simplistic but ineffective solutions. Here in the Philippines, we are faced with issues of terrific scale and complexity. But violence is not the right response to poverty and inequality. Bloodshed will not solve crime and injustice.
Today, in this Peace Congress which you are attending, we are reminded of this: Peace may not give us quick answers, but it requires us to think carefully before we act. Peace urges us to consider the welfare of our world, to respect the fundamental rights of every human being, and to find solutions that will work in the long term. Peace challenges us to use modern technology for the larger good.
You—the students of La Salle Greenhills, Poveda, ICA, and Xavier—are young and full of hope. With your knowledge of modern technology, you can make a huge difference in our country and the world. Use this technology so you will be responsible stewards of the environment, and yes, of human life as well. But to make that possible, you must first be stewards of peace. Only then can you make real change happen. Thank you very much, and a good day to you all!