Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: November 2023
Wednesday, 29 November 2023 07:16

Toward the end times

Second of a series

THIS takes off from my past two columns on a hypothesis on religion being a driving force for wars and even more conflicts. "Toward a tragic prognosis" (The Manila Times, Nov. 15, 2023) and last week's "Religion — impetus for war and conflict" (TMT, Nov. 22, 2023) garnered mixed reviews and some vitriolic responses. Religion is a profoundly sensitive topic, and discussions on dogma and supernatural revelations are indeed delicate and tend to float up the best of arguments tempered by the worst of debaters and distorted insights of an assortment of ignoramuses.

What used to be a discourse exclusive to men — no women allowed — restricted to the sterile, sacred inner sanctums of synagogues, temples, mosques, cloisters and monasteries, overseen by rabbis, priests and imams jealously guarding the sacred arcana of their faith, is now out in the open.

The atheists, unbelievers and agnostics condemned these totalitarians of faiths, these people of the cloth, for claiming to possess celestial truths passed on from above, revealed and known only to them and not to us. Social media and the internet have democratized religious conversation and demolished barriers to dogmatic intercourse,

To precipitate further discussions, this column attempts to present the three Abrahamic religions in the light of their commonalities and points of contention that might negate or reinforce this hypothesis. (I leave that to the readers.) These three religions share historical and spiritual genesis, foremost of which is monotheism — abandoning the beliefs of their ancestors and the zeitgeist of idolatry and paganism.


First on the scene was Yahweh, the God of Abraham, who appeared to Moses as a burning bush on Mount Horeb (Sinai) approximately 3,300 years ago (13th BCE). "And God said unto Moses. I am who I am; and He said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you." (Exodus 3:7-8, 13-14)

The Christian Bible, on the other hand, is filled with passages of God's revelation to man as God, but not as dramatic as the burning bush, although the Christian Bible acknowledges this passage in the Old Testament. "Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.'" (John 14:9-10)

Last is Allah, revealing himself to man, not directly to his face, but through their belief in the specially appointed prophets or messengers of Allah throughout history. No theatrics but words and instructions to Muhammad through Archangel Gabriel for 23 years from 610-633 CE.

The Abrahamic religions hinge on this one true deity, as "all-knowing, all-powerful" in the New Testament, while in the Quran, Allah is described as "having knowledge of all things and being capable of all things."

More importantly, the Abrahamic religions share many moral principles encompassing compassion, justice and charity, which are all written and contained in their sacred books, the Tanakh, the Christian Bible and the Quran — providing ethical guidance to their multitudes, which comprise 60 percent of the world's population.

But is Yahweh, the Christian God, Allah the same one true God?

The Catholic Church, since Vatican 2, has taught that Jews and Muslims all worship the same God, with Pope John Paul 2nd declaring in 1985: "We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection." And in 2019, Pope Francis implied as much when the Declaration on Human Fraternity, together with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi was signed. Therein, the two religious leaders mutually declare: "We, who believe in God and in the final meeting with Him and His judgment." (Gabriel Said Reynolds, Notre Dame University, May 26, 2020.)

But the details of this communion were unresolved. This harmony of monotheism is marred by some complexity. Although Jews, Christians and Muslims alike know God not only through reflections and revelations and scriptures transmitted to prophets, Christians and Jews share scriptures of the Old Testament, Christians and Muslims do not. Islam judges the bible as muharraf — falsified — rejecting the Old and New Testaments.


Dogmatic beliefs are something that is unbreachable and irreconcilable, striking as it were the very core of each faith. For Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. His death and resurrection are Christianity's foundation. For Jews, Jesus is not the Son of God and not the Messiah. Central to Judaism is the absolute unity and singularity of God, making the worship of Jesus a form of idolatry. Islam considers Isa (Jesus) an important prophet born of the Virgin Maryam who will return to earth before Judgment Day to restore peace and defeat al-Mash ad-Dajjal — the Antichrist. Isa is not God.

Other discrepancies are structural. Christianity has dozens of denominations, but the largest, the Roman Catholic Church, is hierarchical, tracing the papacy to St. Peter with bishops and priests attending to the flock with a huge bureaucracy in Rome attended to by appointed sinecures who elect Peter's successor in the event of a vacancy.

Judaism has a decentralized leadership of rabbis with no central authority. Instead, different Jewish denominations and communities may have their own governing bodies and leadership structures. In Israel's 6 million Jews, the people are united by homeland but have four distinct communities: the Haredim (the most devout), the Datiim (modern orthodox), the Masortim (the most diverse group), and the Hilonim (secular, the largest group in Israel).

Similarly, Islam is a decentralized clerically driven caliphate of imams, muftis and scholars of Islamic jurisprudence. Sunni Islam has no central religious authority, unlike the Shia, with a Grand Ayatollah reigning supreme but not encompassing the whole of Islam.

The Third Temple

But all these will come to a head if religious tenets are to be followed to the letter. The Jews must rebuild the Third Temple in fulfillment of eschatological prophesies anticipating the coming of the Messiah, at the very site of the First Temple destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, resulting in the Babylonian Captivity, and the Second Temple, razed down by the Romans in 70 CE resulting in the diaspora.

The Third Temple will rise from the remnants of the Second Temple, the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, encompassing the Temple Mount (Al-Masjid al-Aqsa), the third holiest site in Islam, the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock, the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

The Messiah will bring about the ingathering of the Jewish diaspora, the final restoration of Israel and the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. His coming will usher in an era of peace, justice and knowledge of God. Religion summons all protagonists to an eschatological confrontation in Palestine. The promised land!

The believers are arrayed, as they are now, around the dictates of their faiths. Hallelujah! God is Great! Allahu Akbar!

The end times!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 22 November 2023 08:10

Religion — impetus for war and conflict

THE fourth part of my series on the Palestinian-Israel conflict ("Toward a tragic prognosis," The Manila Times, Nov. 8, 2023) ended up with a statement: "The two-state solution was a formula for disaster for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Ishmael. Which brings us to the culprit of this wicked problem. Religion." This elicited several comments, two of which were thought-provoking and central to this article by readers. From Sultan Ali Mindalano of Mindanao: "The Culprit is the vested and twisted interpretation of extremists to the words of Allah/Yahweh/God." And from Ley Leyretana Sr. of Baltimore, USA, who looked at the column from a different angle, "...careful [of] its sensitivity ... don't be like Rushdie ... although it's about time someone writes about religion..."

Leyretana was cautioning me about Salman Rushdie, an Indian-British novelist who authored the controversial book "Satanic Verses" (Viking Penguin, 1988, UK), a thematically complex novel, purely fictitious, that the Muslim world considered to be blasphemous, earning for it a fatwa from Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling for the assassination of the author and his publishers.

We depart from the current Hamas-Israel madness, which is now on its seventh week of blood, gore and tears, and attempt to expand our hypothesis on the role of religion in geopolitical dynamics.

For purposes of discussion, three major global religions are selected as their communities constitute more than 60 percent of the world's believers. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, founded in that order, are the three Abrahamic religions that historically trace their doctrine on monotheism from their common prophet Abraham: Judaism and Christianity through his son Isaac, and Islam through his son Ishmael.

Abrahamic religions and violence

Perhaps havoc and violence were the underpinnings of Judaism. This was palpable when Yahweh, the God of Abraham, who, to test the faith of a mere mortal, required the slaughter and sacrifice of a child, Isaac. Offhand, this suggests a selfish, bloodthirsty God with a streak of cruelty. Or, perchance, this is an allegory to the coming of the chosen one farther down the line.

From the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Torah), when Yahweh, the God of Moses, called forth his people out of slavery in Egypt and back to the lands promised to Abraham's seeds, he directed them to kill all the Canaanite clans who were living in the land. The book of Joshua recounts the killing of every man, woman and child. This was not only a God perceived to be cruel but one who transgresses his own moral dictates. This episode of divine genocide has become a template for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Israel in the current Palestinian problem.

Judaism was marked with religious wars, aggressions and deprivations upon the express direction of Yahweh, from their enslavement in Egypt for 400 years to the exodus and wandering in the desert for 40 years (circa the 13th century BCE) to their subsequent Babylonian exile; the Roman-Jewish wars in the 1st and 2nd centuries; and eventually to the Jewish Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jews outside of their homeland. Throughout history, Jews faced antisemitism and pogroms, violence, forced conversions, and expulsions owing to their religious beliefs. But the greatest of these was the Holocaust and the "final solution," the elimination of millions of Jews in Nazi Germany, which prompted the creation of Israel.


Christianity traces its beginning in Judea from the Nazarene Jesus' time as a Judaic sect. Christians believe in Jesus as the Son of God, whose coming as the Messiah was foretold in the Hebrew Bible, thus establishing the nexus of the two religions. But the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of love. And He sent his only son to die on the cross and redeem mankind from its sins. His resurrection was the solid foundation of Christianity. Yet in the name of Yahweh, God and Allah — and the religions that emanated from them — their adherents over the millennia have been in a permanent state of belligerence.

The first major Christian-Muslim conflicts came with the Crusades, which lasted from the 11th to the 13th centuries. These were the Middle Ages military campaigns launched by Christian kingdoms with the blessing of the powerful central structure of Christianity, the papacy, with the purpose of wresting control of the Holy Land from Islam, focusing on Jerusalem, claimed by the three Abrahamic religions.

And on the Fourth Crusade, in April of 1204, the papacy allowed the sacking of Constantinople and the massacre of the Byzantine Christians, which led to the permanent alienation of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.


This third of the Abrahamic religion was founded in Mecca in the 7th century by Muhammad, an illiterate businessman, the last and final prophet, when he started receiving revelations from Allah through the Angel Gabriel for 23 years. It may be noted that in the Quran, the books considered to be part of the revelations by Allah, mentioned the Torah (Tawrat), the Psalms of David (Zabur), and the Gospel (Injil) and, more importantly, referred to the two main characters of these revealed books, Moses and Jesus (Isa), as prophets. Islam spread primarily through military conquests by Muhammad the warlord and the appeal of the religion's message of monotheism, social justice and equality for all believers through the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Europe, including Spain.

Among Muslims, Allah is depicted as merciful and compassionate, but there are verses in the Quran that describe him in another light. In chapter 5, verse 95, the Quran describes the laws on the Pilgrimage to Mecca and that every devout Muslim must undertake at least once in one's life. But Allah brooks no transgressions as "Allah will take vengeance on him, Allah is all-mighty, vengeful."

In Surah- Ma'idah (5:38): "And the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hand as a penalty for what they have earned, as an exemplary punishment from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise."

And in Surah Al-Anfal (8:12): "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip."

And the internecine upheavals within Islam itself are no less serious and deadly. Of note is the Sunni-Shia sectarian enmity precipitated by questions of succession harking back centuries as to where the rightful leadership mantle of the Muslim Caliphate falls after the death of Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. Sunnis believed that leadership should be based on consensus, while Shias believed that it should be passed on down through the family lineage of Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law.

But the more worrisome development is the rise of extremist Islamic groups — Hamas, Hezbollah, IS, etc. —that have captured the universal interpretation of Islam, threatening radical preponderance, making them palatable to their advocates. Suicide bombing, for one, is a totally faith-based act for the furtherance of political and religious aims.

All these are antecedents to Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic intolerance and antagonisms over the millennia, reinforcing the thesis that these are the impetus for more violence and wars.
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 15 November 2023 20:44

Right is might is right — a mirror image

AT the end of the Second World War, along with the advent of a bipolar world, the behavior of the hegemons America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) defined the global power dynamics. Both countries were perceived to be the major winners of the war against the Axis powers — Germany, Italy and Japan — America ascendant in Western Europe and USSR, Eastern Europe, with America extending its influence in the countries Japan had dominated in Southeast Asia. With major countries taking sides, a semblance of a balance of power reigned, though still confrontational, with the creation of the Iron Curtain dividing the USSR and its allies against America and Western Europe, embodied by the rivalry of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Nonetheless, this precarious global arrangement favored America and the West, with these countries ramping up their military forces, with NATO greater than that of the Warsaw Pact. But these forces were all roughly equalized by the introduction of nuclear capabilities in both protagonists' arsenals, drastically changing the game in global brinkmanship and ushering in a new doctrine in military strategy and security policy, the mutually assured destruction (MAD). The use of nuclear weapons by any of those that possess them against a country with second-strike capabilities would trigger an immediate retaliation — and annihilation of both. The prospect of Armageddon underpinned this balance of power.

Unipolar world order

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 dismantled the bipolar construct. The end of the Cold War left America as the lone world hegemon, maintaining stability and, for a time, providing leadership, enforcing order, deterring aggressors, and restricting and containing regional conflicts from spreading. Globally, America has always bannered the ideals of republicanism, democracy and the rule of law — which were touted as the elements that demolished the totalitarian ideals espoused by the USSR. America's idea of "right as might" was its cutting-edge dogma in advancing its influence in the global power dynamics. These principles include its version of international law, human rights, justice and moral values, which are adjuncts to upholding freedom for all peoples of all races, religions, or even political inclinations. America's concept of "right being might" was crucial in compelling cooperation and, more importantly, advocating capitalism and free trade agreements overseen by multilateral institutions, which in any case are heavily Western influenced — the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization (WTO), among others.

But America's rhetoric did not align with its actions. With its military, economy and geopolitical ascendancy, its ability to shape international events far superseded its role as arbiter of its ideals and molded international events to its own image. The unilateral use of untrammeled power tends to be abused. Afghanistan, Iraq and the various conflicts initiated by America and the West were just examples of these transgressions. There was no check to its promoting its own brand of fairness, justice and cooperation among nations. Subsequently, the "right is might" concept was abused, discarded and went down the drain, imperiling the rules-based international order. Consequently, all these may have sanctioned the authoritarian predisposition of other global power players, particularly China, which had been biding its time. And with Russia, we enter a multipolar world order.

Multipolar world

Conceptually, in this multipolar world, America can no longer impose its republicanism and democracy solely based on "right is might" or its traditional role in utilizing its soft power and diplomacy, promoting its values, and shaping global norms without repercussions. But it continued to maintain its dominance by leveraging its economic and military capabilities as well as its technological innovation and adaptability.

The US may now have to contend and engage more seriously with China and Russia and their major partners in the Brics countries, an incipient powerful bloc that has the potential to reshape the existing world order, to enforce a balance of power — a state of affairs still favorable to America.

While the US armed forces are still dominant, China is fast approaching parity, backstopped by its authoritarian allies with itchy fingers on nuclear triggers (North Korea) and those in the Levant with near-nuclear capacities (Iran) and renegades with oil money to procure nukes in the market. Russia, meanwhile, is bogged down in Ukraine, proving its military might to be ephemeral.

Might is right — the rise of China

While the US and its allies still have a huge influence in the geopolitical dynamics, nevertheless, "right is might" may no longer serve as an appropriate underpinning for a rules-based international order. China, in its recent actuations against the Philippines, revives the equivalent of the medieval age concept of the God-given divine rights of kings. In this case, as China is a secular unbeliever in the supernatural, then its communist party's God-given right to rule, "might is right," is easily the modern metaphor for acts of a bully. This is certainly true for its actions in the West Philippine Sea.

Witness the recent acts of intimidation by China this year alone. A Chinese coast guard ship rammed a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a civilian boat on a resupplying mission to the BRP Sierra Madre in the Philippine-owned Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). In February, a Chinese coast guard ship directed a "military-grade laser" at one Philippine vessel, temporarily blinding a crew member.

In August, China's coast guard fired water cannons at Philippine ships carrying food, water, fuel and other supplies for the Filipino military personnel stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

To refresh our memory, the BRP Sierra Madre is a decrepit World War 2 vintage warship deliberately grounded by the Philippine government in the shallow waters of Ayungin Shoal in 1999 as a response to China's seizing Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) earlier in 1995. Both are within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

The Sierra Madre is a pathetic poor man's version of a military base manned by a few of our marines. China has demanded the ship's removal and has oftentimes attempted to prevent resupply through repeated harassment and blockades.

Giving up this "Philippine base" will be tantamount to surrendering sovereignty over a territory we own. China's bullying will just allow the rusted ship to eventually crumble and be abandoned.

These encounters have heightened fears of an armed conflict in the West Philippines Sea. The United States issued a statement condemning China's disruption of resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal, stressing its position to stand by the Philippines and protect its sovereignty. It also reaffirmed the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), America's ironclad commitment to defend the Philippines against attack. And these extend to attacks on Philippine forces and vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

But China also understands the nuances of these provisions, reading its fine print only too well. China's insolence is the embodiment of the concept of "might is right." Its coercive acts are those of a bully, but China is acutely aware that they fall below the threshold for warfare, which the MDT implies, without which the MDT can't be triggered.

So, we continue to be bullied!

Published in LML Polettiques

Cong. Rufus Rodriguez, with Vice Mayor Bebot Rodriguez, led the series of groundbreaking ceremonies for the Sitio Electrification Program of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and MORESCO 1 in six hinterland barangays in the 1st District of Cagayan de Oro City.

The Sitio Electrification Program is a priority program of the government aimed at providing electricity to far-flung and underserved sitios in the country. This program will install electric posts in the sitios, with power lines that will link directly to individual households. It will also provide households with light bulbs to complete the electrification.

Recognizing that electricity is a basic human right, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez secured from NEA Administrator Antonio Mariano ‘Nani’ Almeda, a close family friend, the funds needed for electrification of sitios in Cagayan de Oro City, particularly in barangays in the first district.

Cong. Rufus was able to secure a total of P23,692,116.31 for 518 households under the FY 2022 and FY 2023 budget.

The first set of groundbreaking ceremonies took place in Barangays Dansolihon, Mambuaya, and Tagpangi.

In Barangay Dansolihon, P1.5 million is allocated for the electrification of 70 households in Purok 3B and Purok 3C. There are 59 beneficiaries of P1.7 million worth of electrification from Zone 1B and Zone 3A in Barangay Mambuaya.

Meanwhile, 125 households in Barangay Tagpangi, from Zone 2A, Upper Maragat, Sitio Tinipigan, and Sitio Butay, will finally be connected to electric lines. The electrification project in Barangay Tagpangi costs P10.3 million.

In sum, the first batch of barangays under the Sitio Electrification Program had a budget of P13.5 million.

Cong. Rufus Rodriguez extended his heartfelt gratitude to NEA Administrator Nani Almeda, for heeding his request and prioritizing CdeO in this electrification program. Moreover, Cong. Rufus thanks the officials from MORESCO 1, the implementing company for this program, Board of Directors President Dir. Nonito Labis, General Manager Jovel Ubay-Ubay, Dir. Bryan Noble, and Engineering Services Department Manager Engr. Collen Tarcelo.

Cong. Rufus likewise thanks City Councilor Bernie ‘Bitokbitok’ Esparcia, and now Punong Barangay of Dansolihon, Kap. Ogie Roa, and Mambuaya, Kap. Philip Porras, for taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony.


Published in News
Wednesday, 08 November 2023 22:51

Toward a tragic prognosis

Fourth of a series

THE world has never been in a more precarious period than these days. The Middle East is about to blow up, with Israel and Hamas providing the fuse. And it is lit! Israel has invaded Gaza to destroy Hamas once and for all. Strangely, Hamas is strategically hidden in plain sight among the Palestinians. The annihilation of Hamas could result in the obliteration of Gaza and its people. And Hamas has the people's support. To recall, in the 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Hamas won the majority from the ruling Fatah, its rival wresting control of what passes off as Gaza's government. Since then, the militant Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip, while Fatah controls part of the West Bank.

Hamas is a terrorist group not so much by its deeds alone but by virtue of its designation as such by Israel, America, Canada, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the European countries; and four Muslim countries in the Middle East — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In another context, Hamas is not designated as a terrorist by Iran and Qatar. Furthermore, Russia and China have engaged in diplomatic relations with Hamas, emphasizing the need for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both Russia and China have supported a two-state solution, recognizing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

In a recent development, Turkey, a NATO member, has President Erdogan proclaiming Israel as an occupier in Gaza, breaking away from the Western-influenced NATO mindset: "The main culprit behind the massacre unfolding in Gaza is the West ... I reiterate that Hamas is not a terrorist organization." (Dilara Senkaya/Reuters, Oct. 28, 2023)

He has called for an end to the Israeli occupation and advocated for a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. The lines are drawn between partisans of the Israel-Palestinian divide, except their standpoints are as convoluted as their alliances and geopolitical motivations.

Are there solutions?

The major guarantors for both sides have called for an immediate ceasefire, demanding Israel must abort its attack. A call for "ceasefire" has always been the default fallback to prevent the escalation and spreading of war and violence. Not America. It will continue obsessively to support Netanyahu's declaration for the Israel Defense Force's (IDF) total elimination of Hamas. President Biden curiously shied away from the conventional and fashioned an ambiguous verbiage — "humanitarian pause" — allowing food, water, medicine and fuel for hospital generators to be trucked into Gaza and allow hostages held by Hamas to be freed. For how long? Then what?

Skeptics caught on to Biden's pronouncements as a tacit acquiescence to Netanyahu's continued hardline position. The pause suggested by Biden plays to the global stage America's humanitarian face — and to both political hawks and doves during this American election season; and to paper over the Netanyahu government's criminal incompetence and intelligence failures allowing the October 7 debacle, while salvaging his image with his promise to the Jews to impose its own version of biblical retribution.

But these calls for ceasefires and pauses after brutal encounters since before Israel's independence in 1948 and through the devastating Six Day and Yom Kippur wars, intifadas, and deadly missile duels and skirmishes, and terrorist acts by both sides have always ended up with well-worn prescriptions. These phases, as proposed by the global community, are supposed to lead toward a final solution to the conflict.

The two-state solution

This original prescription, but reconfigured several times over, calls for the establishment of an independent, viable and economically vibrant Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. The West Bank, sliced from Jordan, and Gaza, from Egypt, were the designated Palestinian-governed territories. The borders delineating Palestinian and Israeli territories are to be negotiated and access to and from each zone are permitted. Jerusalem, held sacred by three major world religions, was to have an internationally guaranteed special status and was renegotiated after Israel annexed the area after the 1967 war. All sides, including the international benefactors, were to help guarantee finding a solution for the Palestinian refugees displaced since 1948 and now condemned to live in decrepit camps, some in neighboring Arab countries, which don't welcome them.

In conjunction is the confidence-building measures, which could include prisoner exchanges and, in the current case, release of hostages taken during the October 7 deadly Hamas encroachments. A festering sore is the settlement expansion of Israelis on occupied Palestinian lands stamping a mark of permanency. To Israel, this is a sine qua non to its survival. These are to be halted. All these are directed toward creating an atmosphere of trust and encourage dialogue.

And last but not least is enhancing security cooperation by both sides, which is critical to countering terrorism. A drastic suggestion is sharing intelligence and coordinating efforts to dismantle terror networks, a long shot by far as Gaza's government is under Hamas. Any cooperation is predicated on a legitimate Palestinian government in Gaza rising from the ashes of Hamas that rejects terrorism. This is Israel's raison d'etre for Gaza's invasion, in effect allowing a moderate Palestinian government to emerge. A tall proposition as Israel "has been there, done that" during Arafat's PLO ascendancy. Israel abandoned Gaza in 2005, presaging the takeover of Hamas. Today could prove to be another cycle of unending violence, terrorism and war.

Is there a viable formula for peace?

There is none! Peace will not come to Palestine in our lifetime, but intermittent periods of belligerence and hiatus, and at best a perpetual state of non-war and non-peace. The causes are deeply rooted in biblical times, with religious undertones. I refer to the Jewish teachings on the concept of the "Ingathering of the Exiles" (Aliya) in the Hebrew Bible specifically in the Book of Isaiah (11:11-12). "In that day, the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people ... from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

The Talmud and various commentaries reinforced the belief that the Jews, the chosen of the God of Moses, will be pulled back from the diaspora and settled in the land of their ancestors, from whence the Messiah will eventually come.

The inhabitants of Palestine vehemently disavow the promise of the God of Moses and offer a narrative contrary to the Jews. From the Koran and Hadith, specifically in Surah Al-Ma'idah (5:21), which states, "O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah's cause] and [thus] become losers." This verse is interpreted as a divine injunction to believers to inhabit and keep the Holy Land (Palestine).

These two monotheist religions have conflicting directives. Yahweh promised the Land of Canaan (Palestine) to the Jews; Allah gave it to the Muslims.

The two-state solution was a formula for disaster for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Ishmael.

Which brings us to the culprit of this wicked problem. Religion!
Published in LML Polettiques
As principal author of Republic Act 11898 or the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act of 2022, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Cong. Rufus Rodriguez sat as one of the panel members during the “Rethinking Plastics: EPR Paving the Way towards Circularity” Forum held in Mallberry Suites.

He was joined by DENR Undersecretary Atty. Jonas Leones, Nestle Philippines Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs Mr. Jose Uy III, and GIZ-BMB Project Manager Dr. Johannes Paul.

Cong. Rufus fought for the passage of the EPR law in Congress, which was approved last July 2022, as he found it necessary to oblige businesses to adopt programs aimed at reducing plastic waste through the reduction of non-environment friendly packaging products, recycling, and waste recovery, among other methods.

The EPR law mandates the compliance of large enterprises to meet the targets set by the law to achieve plastic neutrality by getting back or recovering the plastic products and plastic packaging of their products by the year 2028. Failure to register and comply with the EPR Act will result to fines ranging from P5 million to P20 million.

Cong. Rufus, during the panel discussion, underscored the importance of establishing recycling facilities all over the country, specially in CdeO (only 9% of all plastic wastes in the country are recycled) to help solve the plastic wastes problem. He will file a bill giving more incentives to recycling facilities.

Moreover, Cong. Rufus committed to filing legislation that shall mandate the inclusion of proper waste management and segregation in the curriculum for basic education.

“Compliance to any law needs more education on the subject”, Cong. Rufus explained.

According to Cong. Rufus, the proper implementation of the EPR law will be one crucial step forward towards a more sustainable and environmentally-responsible Philippines.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of the environment to health, poverty, employment, and education, Cong. Rufus is determined to develop comprehensive, relevant, and inclusive legislation and programs.


Published in News