Last January 14, 2016, the University of Santo Tomas, through its Simbahayan Community Development Office, hosted the Philippine Dominican Justice, Peace, and Care for Creation (JPCC) Assembly, convened by Rev. Fr. Gallardo Bombase, O.P. The assembly that served as historical, missionary and pastoral important for the Philippine Dominican Family to gather together. The assembly created space to reminisce, review, reflect, share, and learn from the JPCC engagement of different Dominican Religious congregations in the Philippines. UST Rector Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P. delivered the welcome remarks.

Fr. Bombase set the perspective of the assembly by emphasizing the importance and challenges for JPCC for the whole Philippine Dominican family. To be able to bring back and strengthen the JPCC apostolate is to ensure the networking, collaboration, communication and strong relationships between and among Dominican Family members.  To be able to make these aspects working, it is about time to look for and develop working structures that will facilitate the strengthening of JPCC apostolate among the family members.  Most importantly, it is necessary to formulate or to review or to adopt the vision, mission and goals of JPCC apostolate.

The assembly participants were enlightened in the issue of human trafficking thru the sharing of Sr. Cecille Espenilla, O.P. and three women survivors from human trafficking.  Human trafficking is a contemporary human slavery in the different forms of labor, sex and tourism.  Human beings were being trapped in the law and supply demand process and became simply one of the resources or materials that can be utilized, consumed and exploited in the name of economic power of few and exploitation of men over children and women.  The campaign and engagement against the human trafficking of Sr. Cecille’s congregation is a work closely coordinated with the Visayan Forum, a non-government organization (NGO) working for the rights and development of children, families and women.

Fr. Clarence Victor C. Marquez, O.P. and Sr. Rose Yaya, O.P. shared about the history of JPCC engagement of the Dominican Order.  Their sharing was entitled Pagbabalik-Tanaw: Relieving JPCC in the Dominican Order.  The Philippine Dominican have already plotted a JPCC vision, mission and plans.  Most importantly, it already shared and engaged a lot in the JPCC from the past thru environmental issues’ campaigns and actions, United States (US) Military Bases Clean-Up, human rights advocacy, health and social services/programs and, social action and community development apostolates.

Fr. Quirico T. Pedregosa Jr., O.P., current Rector of the UST Central Seminary, a former Provincial of the Dominican Philippine Province and an active JPCC promoter and advocate of the rights and development of workers, farmers, urban poor, indigenous peoples and, other marginalized sectors, shared experiences and learnings from his past and on-going JPCC engagements.  He mentioned some challenges to the assembly such as the following: (a) to be more and concretely engage in JPCC is a need for Dominicans and lay partners; (b) to be more and be felt in action than words if we want to be a JPCC advocates and promoters; (c) we have to be clear of the distinctions and similarities of mercy and JPCC; (d) we are not really addressing the issues that sacrifices human dignity because issues are structural problems; (e) we need new and to be more creative in our JPCC strategies.  Usual strategies such as petition letters, rallies, strikes, mobilizations and others are not working anymore; (f) collaborative projects between and among promoters and advocates is a strategy that needs to be highly considered; and; (g) a question raised “what now after this?” assembly.

During the open forum, varied sentiments, opinions, and stand points were raised.  Some of these were:  (1) JPCC was gone for nothing or it took its course that contributed a lot for the love and solidarity with the poor; (2) The Philippine worse and complex situation has losses the fate and fire of the faithful in relation with JPCC values and actions because it does not really address and resolve the real issues;  (3) The importance of documentation and communication systems must be establish to come-up with the accounts of JPCC engagements; (4) Justice should start and live within ourselves and; (5) JPCC must be a relational.  In general, revitalization of Philippine Dominican JPCC is a common sentiment of the assembly.

The participants of the assembly raised different recommendations and commitment for JPCC engagement to be done collectively by the Philippine Dominican Family and respective local of mission of the different Philippine Dominican religious congregations and affiliated groups. The assembly triggered the participants’ senses and feelings on the urgency and importance of JPCC engagements where Dominicans and partners are into.  he importance of living with the periphery to be able to see, to feel, and to act was emphasized.