(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 9, 2016 – 12:00am
It’s an honor to be elected or appointed to government national positions. Recognizing this, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines dedicated a day for a national thanksgiving and a testimonial dinner and gave out plaques to members who have joined President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet. On the plaques were inscribed the prayer for servant leaders as “a reminder to put God first” in their leadership roles.
The honorees have been members of UCCP churches, notably Cosmopolitan church, a history-laden evangelical church on Taft avenue, Manila.
Two Cosmopolitan church members who served in past administrations recounted the influence of the church’s teachings during their governance. They were former President Fidel V. Ramos, who spoke about climate change and the need to be united as a people, and former Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, whose short and sweet message was on the challenge of government service. President Ramos and Senator Shahani’s parents, Narciso Ramos and Angela Valdez, were pillars of Cosmopolitan church.
Honorees who could not attend the testimonial dinner, were Representatives Feliciano R. Belmonte Jr., Marisol C. Aragones-Sampelo, Alexandria Pahati-Gonzales, Henry S. Oaminal, Neptali M. Gonzales II and Ranjit R. Shahani, Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar and Agriculture Usec Epifanio D. Anfone.
During the 10 o’clock morning service, Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza, general secretary of the UCCP, delivered a nicely thought out sermon, asking the congregation “to pledge ourselves to pray for (the men and women President Duterte) had appointed and the honorees to commit themselves to dedicated public service and uphold and stand by the principle that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” and that ”the prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people.”
“In this we stand as a church and as patriotic citizens of the land in prophetic witness even as we assert with the president that while there is separation of the church and state, there is never now and ever will be a separation between God and the state. It is in this arena that we will do our prophetic witness.”
Secretary Ernesto Corpus Abella, presidential spokesperson of President Duterte has a master of divinity from Silliman University. He became a pastor of a UCCP church in Davao. The soft-spoken church minister said he is in government out of a “sense of social justice , (of the primacy of) righteousness, justice, and truth.” He said, in response to a question asked, that he does not believe President Duterte will ask him to lie. The president, he said, “is really the result of the Filipino social revolution that got stuck from 1571,” from the Spanish to the American regimes. Duterte’s own brand of social revolution is that “he sees himself as a datu of a barangay, whose commitment is to the public good.”
Perfecto Rivas Yasay Jr., secretary of foreign affairs, is a member of Cosmopolitan church. He is a son of a pastor who also served as chaplain of Southern Christian College where Jun studied from Grades 1-3. He has a bachelor of arts in political science from Central Philippine University, and a bachelor of law from the University of the Philippines. He is a member of the bar of the US Supreme Court and circuit court, and at home, once served as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was pressured to relinquish the post because he could not allow himself to give in to instructions that he believed were not right. He got out of the “lion’s den” because it was the right thing to do.
Congressman Harry Lopez Roque is a member of Cosmopolitan church where his aunt, Judge Lilia Lopez, is one of the pioneer members. He represents the party-list Kabayan (Kabalikat ng Mamamayan). He has a BA in economics and political science from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, a bachelor of laws from the UP, and a master of law with merit, from the London school of Economics. He is a law professor at the UP and a practicing lawyer, and is widely known for his nationalist stance on issues.
Education Secretary Leonor “Liling” Magtolis Briones is a member of the UCCP in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. She earned her BA in business administration, major in accounting, at Silliman University, and her master of public administration at the UP. She was national treasurer during the administration of President Joseph Estrada. Among her numerous awards is the Outstanding Sillimanian Award in fiscal and public administration. At Cosmopolitan on July 31st, she said she would tell her students that when one is in government, one suffers, one does not become rich, but to one’s work one must bring in one’s faith, to do what the Lord requires. The Christian is guided by the dictum, “Via, Veritas, Via” (the way, the truth and the life).
The new commissioner of Immigration and deportation, Jaime “Bong” H. Morente, is a member of UCCP Midsayap in Cotabato. He finished high school at Southern Christian College, and was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1981. He retired as PNP regional director of Southern Mindanao with the rank of chief superintendent. He retired in 2015.
Also honored was the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board chair, Lina Castillo Sarmiento, the first woman two-star general of the PNP. Before she could retire in 2014, she was appointed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III as chair of the HRVCCB. She was a member of the Cosmopolitan vesper choir when she was a chemistry student at Adamson University. Her original membership was with UCCP Calaca in Batangas where she was an active member of the Southern Tagalog Christian youth fellowship.
Dr. Erlinda Nable Senturias, an HRVCCB board member, obtained her medicine degree at the University of Santo Tomas. She served as president of Southern Christian College in Midsayap, Cotabato. Since her husband, Alvaro O. Senturias Jr., became pastor of Cosmopolitan church in 2012, she has been an active full member of the church and is now chair of its board of Christian education and nurture for this ecclesiastical year 2016-2017. She is currently a student in theology at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and is sent by Cosmopolitan church to the lay formation program of the Lowland Cavite South Manila Conference of the UCCP.
Also present at the thanksgiving service and dinner were Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine biologist and a National Scientist, former Defense Secretary and Senator Dr. Orlando “Orly” Mercado, Dr. Susan Pineda Mercado, retired Court of Appeals Justice Delilah Vidallon Magtolis, currently chief of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) academic affairs office, and Dr. Mariano Apilado, former president of Union Theological seminary.
* * *