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.
August 16, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – One of the focuses of ministry for many Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates is advocating for social justice in a wide range of issues. Adrian Dominican Sisters from the United States had a special opportunity on August 2 to learn about the justice issues facing their Sisters in the Philippines, members of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter.
Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP – Justice Promoter for the Remedies Chapter – gave a presentation on three key justice issues that her nation faces, as well as the responses to those issues by the Sisters of the Remedies Chapter. Sisters Maria Socorro Garcia, OP, and Lourdes Pamintuan, OP also took part in the presentation.
After a brief description of the history and geography of her South Asian nation – made up of 7,700 islands – Sister Antonette explained through words, videos, and slides three key issues facing her nation today.
War against Drugs. After taking office in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte launched a war against drugs, in which suspected drug dealers and users are killed by the police without due process. Sister Antonette noted that thousands of people have been killed in drug raids – “mostly poor or simple users,” while the major players in drug trafficking have remained at large. While drugs have been a problem in the Philippines and enforcement of drug laws is an important step, “the issue here is that you don’t just kill people without due process.”
A related issue is the declaration of martial law in May 2017 in Marawi, a city in the southern region of Mindanao as a result of armed conflict between the military, security forces, and ISIS terrorists. Sister Antonette noted some of the results: people killed and wounded in the siege; a greater likelihood of arrest; and the displacement of thousands of civilians.
The re-imposition of the death penalty. About a decade after it was abolished, the death penalty in the Philippines is coming closer to being reinstated. The bill to reinstate it has passed in the House and we’re “waiting for the results in the Senate,” Sister Antonette said.
In response to this violence, Sister Antonette said, the Remedies Sisters have been protesting through their own Walk for Life in their northern region of Pampanga, supporting the Catholic Church’s stance against any policies that oppose the sanctity of life.
“We’re making a conscious effort in our schools to raise the consciousness of the students” on the issue of the death penalty, Sister Antonette said. The Sisters are also involved in demonstrations against the death penalty. Sister Antonette was among a group of Sisters from her Chapter who lobbied against the death penalty at the House of Representatives in January.
Climate Change. “This is the area where our Chapter has been most involved,” Sister Antonette said, noting that the Philippines has already been impacted by climate change. Families are already impoverished in the Philippines, she said, but climate change has added to their burden. “Climate change will severely affect our future growth and put our region at risk.” Her country has already experienced severe typhoons in recent years. Because of the increased temperatures, typhoons and floods will become even more common in the Philippines, Sister Antonette explained.
The Sisters in the Remedies Chapter have been involved in mitigating climate change in a number of ways. Some Sisters have signed the Laudate Si Pledge to respond to Pope Francis’ encyclical on environment by “praying for and with creation, living more simply, and advocating to protect our common home.”
The Sisters have also responded in practical ways: through community farming, work towards zero-waste management, and setting up windmills in two of the Sisters’ communities to generate wind power.
Sister Antonette brought her update on justices issues in the Philippines to Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates in the Detroit and Chicago areas later in the week.
Feature photo at top: Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP, addresses Adrian Dominican Sisters at the Motherhouse about the major justice issues facing the people of the Philippines.