On the plane back to Cebu after attending a public service outreach in Iloilo City back in May, I learned from Chancellor Liza Corro of University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu that Amina Rasul-Bernardo will be our school’s graduation guest speaker.
The selection occurred long before the siege on the Islamic City of Marawi and on account, among others, of the chancellor’s access by way of personal friendship to Bernardo, daughter of the former senator Santanina Rasul.
With the recent outbreak of more conflicts in Mindanao, to have Bernardo, a native of the island group, speak at our 80th commencement rites has become far more timely.
Somehow, this complements the choice of UP Diliman to appoint Arman Ali Ghodsinia, a native of Marawi City, to deliver the valedictory address for his class with whom he is graduating with a major in molecular biology and biotechnology, summa cum laude.
Bernardo hails from Mindanao’s southern tip. She graduated valedictorian at Notre Dame High School in Jolo, Sulu. She then moved on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics from UP and a master in business administration from the Asian Institute of Management.
Bernardo further graduated from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government. While her mother was the first Mindanaoan elected to the Philippine Senate, Bernardo is the first Filipino to become a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC.
She is one of the prime movers of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy that has been organizing ulamas to form a national network. She is also a leader of the Asian Forum for Islam and Democracy that is “a network of Muslim advocates for democracy and peace.”
I look forward to an inspiring speech from Bernardo to our graduates and the UP Cebu community on Wednesday, June 28. Many of our students come from Mindanao and are anxious to see the land get back into the path to progress and peace.
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Yesterday, the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Ordinarily, today would be the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But according to the liturgical calendars, precedence goes today to the Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist.
Around this time of the year, I remember the beautiful symbolism of the summer and winter solstices in connection with the liturgical year.
The solemnity of John the Baptist is celebrated soon after the summer solstice, when the day from its peak length starts shortening day by day, helping us remember when he said in scripture that Christ must increase while John must decrease.
Conversely, Christmas begins on the 24th of December, six months after the birth of John, first to commemorate the identical biblical record of the timing of Christ’s birth but also to remember Jesus’ increase in the lengthening of each day after the winter solstice.
We need very much the intercession of Saint John, who was martyred for preaching the truth and who was the precursor to the Messiah who identified himself as the truth.
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The church and the state have come out with different approaches to the burgeoning crisis of the circulation of false news on the internet.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, writing on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, reminded believers that the production and dissemination of untrue information constitute sins.
“Not only does [fake news] offend against the orientation of the human intellect to the truth,” Villegas wrote. “It is, more fundamentally, a sin against charity because it hinders persons from making right and sound decisions and induces them, instead, to make faulty ones.”
Lawmakers like Sen. Grace Poe, on the other hand, wish to launch an investigation in relation to fake news, especially after the Justice secretary falsely alleged that some senators were the ones who cajoled terrorists to lay siege to Marawi.
In fact, one of the new lawyers in my network, James Generale, discovered that the manufacture and spreading of fake news had been declared criminal via an executive order of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos that was later overturned by president Corazon Aquino.
One thing is clear: It would be a great tragedy if nothing but the sheer force of the law compelled citizens to responsible and truthful in communication. Our freedom fighters throughout history did not take up their causes to secure for our people the liberty to lie.
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At UP Cebu, senior high school students will be taking up a new course called “Media Literacy.” I hope to help younger generations be more discerning and truthful than their elders in handling information when I start teaching the first classes under this course in August.