August 23, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates in the United States are known for their work for justice. Adrian Dominican Sisters in the Philippines in the Philippines also have been fighting for years against issues of injustice in their own nation.
During a recent visit to the Adrian Motherhouse, three Sisters from the Philippines – Sisters Antonette Lumbang, OP, Bibiana (Bless) Colastio, OP, and Marissa Figueroa, OP – gave an update on their own work for justice.
Sister Antonette, Justice Promoter for the Remedies Chapter, began her presentation with a video that demonstrated the horrors of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.” This war results in the extra-judicial killing of drug dealers and users – many times by contract killers who take orders from the police. More than 4,000 people were killed in three months through this policy of extra-judicial killing.
“It’s still the same, two years and two months after [President] Duterte was elected,” Sister Antonette said. “Human rights continue to deteriorate … Gross violations of civil and political rights are happening alongside worsening deprivations of economic, social, and cultural rights.”
Human rights advocates also face the threat of violence. Sister Bless noted that three priests who advocated for human rights were gunned down in recent months. Sister Patricia Fox, NDS, a Sister of Our Lady of Sion from Australia, and a human rights activist stationed in the Philippines, was deported as an “undesirable alien” on September 4 when her missionary visa expired – after 30 years of serving the people in the Philippines, Sister Antonette said.
Sister Antonette also spoke of the exploitation of the ancestral land of the indigenous Aeta people by private investors and quarry companies.
“Before the Aeta are forced to leave their ancestral land for lack of water or livelihood, they are seeking compensation and help in regulating the quarrying and stopping the conversion that shrunk their territories,” Sister Antonette said. On January 30 this year, she said, the Aeta people put up barricades on their land to keep out the trucks that were coming in to work in the quarries; they have remained on their barricaded land ever since.
Sister Antonette said the Sisters from the Remedies Chapter have been involved in such strategies as prayer and fasting, rallies and mass demonstrations, lobbying at Congress, and education campaigns. In addition, Sisters Bless and Marissa are among Sisters and seminarians who are preparing to be involved in human rights monitoring.
The Sisters from the Remedies Chapter are also working, through their formal ministries, to advocate for justice and to improve the situation for people who are suffering because of injustice.
Sister Marissa, Director of the Community Extension Office of the University of the Assumption in San Fernando, said her office provides “holistic treatment and rehabilitation” for drug users. “We are strongly convinced and strongly believe that drug addiction destroys the person’s life and future,” she said. “Full recovery is a challenge, but it is possible.”
Sister Marissa’s office is also involved in community-based prevention. “Last year we conducted a drug-awareness forum, in partnership with the Archdiocese of San Fernando, attended by almost 700 parish leaders,” she said. “The key to prevention [of drug addiction] is to build a harmonious, supportive family environment and promote responsive drug rehabilitation in the community and the school system.”
Sister Bless, head of the Commission for Family Life of the Diocese of San Jose Nueva Ecjia, said the Commission trains and facilitates the ongoing formation program of para-counselors, people in parishes who are not professionals but who have the temperament to offer counseling to parents and children.
Once a month, Sister Bless is also involved in group counseling at the House of Prayer and Evangelization (HOPE). HOPE offers programs such as Bible sharing, skills training, and gardening to drug addicts. She also conducts a symposium on drug addiction and other social issues at the diocesan, vicariate, and parish levels.
“We believe drug addiction is one of the reasons for extra-judicial killings,” she said. By working to prevent or heal drug addictions, she and other counselors and involved citizens can stop the violence of President Duterte’s war on drugs through extrajudicial killing.
“What we do as a Mission Chapter is a drop in the bucket, with all the justice issues and with the president still enjoying popularity with the majority of people,” Sister Antonette said. “Justice moves slowly.”
But Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP, Director of the Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, praised the three Sisters and all members of the Remedies Mission Chapter for their commitment and their work for justice. “Thank you for updating us and for the work you do,” she said. “That’s very heartening, because I’m sure you’re saving lives. We are so proud of you and will continue to pray for you.”
Feature photo: Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP, Justice Promoter for Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in the Philippines, shares a light moment with her U.S. Sisters before giving an update of justice issues in her country.
March 21, 2018, Pidpid, Porac, Pampanga, the Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in Pampanga, the Philippines, stood in solidarity recently with indigenous peoples whose land has been taken from them for development.
The Sisters in the Remedies Mission Chapter, along with local Benedictine Sisters “are in the front line of support” for the united indigenous peoples, who have barricaded with rocks the road where trucks haul gravel and sand for development projects on the tribe’s ancestral land, said Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress.
Since January 30, the Aetas have established themselves in the barricaded area, putting up temporary grass huts to shield themselves from the heat, Sister Zenaida said. They have also set up an ongoing school at the barricade, indicating their intention to stay in the barricaded area as long as possible.
The indigenous Aeta Mag-indi and Aeta Mag-antsi tribes established their home in 1960 in the barrio (town) Camachilies. They were displaced in June 1991 with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and have since resettled in the nearby Pidpid area. “They no longer want to be thrown out by another disaster, which is now man-made and which is much more disastrous than the eruption of Mount Pinatubo,” Sister Zenaida said.
She noted that in 2006 the Aetas received a Certificate of Ancestral Domain title from the government of the Philippines, giving them title to 18,659.73 hectares (72.046 square miles) of land. But in 2009, because of development projects, the land was taken from them by local and foreign corporations that have established quarry operations there. This work has destroyed the natural habitat, leaving the Aeta’s water source polluted.
“A huge portion of this ancestral domain is being destroyed by these operators through quarrying and water pollution,” Sister Zenaida said. “While [these corporations] get millions in profits, the indigenous peoples are left with nothing except the destroyed natural environment.”
So far, she added, foreign and two Filipino-owned quarry operations have temporarily stopped their work, and the military have not been involved. “We pray that the quarry operations will be stopped completely.”
Watch a video from the barricaded area.