At Large

Reflection, meditation, prayer and penitence

Filipinos observe Holy Week toward the end of the month, and even if the observance is all too often held in beaches and other leisure spots, the fact remains that these few precious days of vacation are based on religious rituals. Not everyone takes a hedonistic break during Holy Week.

For many Catholic Filipinos, the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is marked—or is supposed to be marked—by reflection, meditation, prayer and penitence.


To remind us of the spiritual roots of Holy Week, the Archdiocese of Manila has come up with a small publication titled “Holy Week and the Easter Triduum” with words by Fr. Anscar Chupungco, OSB, and photographs by “papal photographer” (and Papal Awardee) Noli Yamsuan Jr.

Fr. Genaro O. Diwa, chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission of Manila, the publisher, says the book was inspired by two great churchmen: Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, archbishop emeritus of Manila, and Father Chupungco, an outstanding liturgist who sadly passed away before it could see print.


As the official photographer of the Archdiocese of Manila, Yamsuan had followed Cardinal Rosales, fondly called Cardinal Dency, as he presided over the Holy Week services at the Manila Cathedral. The photos record the events and rituals of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to the Easter Vigil. Father Chupungco, seeing the photos, was inspired to accompany them with extensive captions, and then encouraged archdiocesan officials to publish a “small coffee-table book, more as a keepsake than a volume.” He did not live to see it, but it will remain a “keepsake” of his years of service to the Church he served so well.

The launch of “Holy Week and the Easter Triduum,” with Cardinal Rosales as guest of honor, will be held tomorrow, March 23, starting with vespers at 4:30 p.m. at the Chapel of the Arzobispado de Manila in Intramuros. Copies of the book will be sold at a discount during the event.

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Lawyers for Oberthur Technologies, which I wrote about in a recent column in connection with the “e-passport” project of the Department of Foreign Affairs, have written to clarify certain points raised in that piece.

Oberthur Technologies, its lawyers claim, introduced the “e-passport” technology to the Philippines, and in the years it ran and maintained the system for the DFA before its contract expired, there were no major hitches that required repairs. It was “a trusted technology provider … capable [of supporting] the system.”

Oberthur claims that APO, the recognized government printer that was selected to carry out the new passport system, lacks the technical knowledge to fully implement the e-passport system. Ensuring “a proper turnover” is APO’s duty, it says, but lacking this “proper turnover,” it is now experiencing difficulties with the technology.

That is why, Oberthur says, the DFA asked APO to enter into a one-year maintenance support agreement with it, and to hold technical meetings between the two firms “to discuss the transfer of technology and the scope of work needed for the e-passport maintenance.”


* * *

“With the requirement of the one-year maintenance support agreement, the DFA recognized the need for APO to be as technically capable as Oberthur,” says Oberthur. But, it says, “while meetings were held … attended by APO’s sales manager, nobody from APO’s senior executives with whom Oberthur can discuss and finalize the management support agreement bothered to attend. In short, while there were indeed three meetings held, no management support agreement was concluded simply because APO was not aptly represented during said meetings.”

Oberthur “does not question the wisdom of the DFA in resorting to direct contracting with APO rather than conducting an open competitive bidding,” the firm says. And in initiating meetings with APO, neither did Oberthur “intend to form a forced partnership but rather, it chose to be supportive of the DFA and all its endeavors.”

The latest word I got is that, instead of formalizing its agreement with APO, the DFA has called for other bids from other government printing firms. One cannot help but wonder if the objections of Oberthur, which used to have a cozy relationship with officials of the DFA, played a role in this decision to further postpone production of the e-passports. Is this also why Oberthur has issued thinly veiled warnings of possible “delays” in the issuance of passports?

* * *

Over in Makati, there is a continuing crisis over who is the “real” mayor. Is it Mayor Junjun Binay who claims he was “saved” when the Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order on his suspension from office? Or is it “acting” Mayor Kid Peña, the erstwhile vice mayor who was installed and sworn in as mayor after the order of suspension on Binay was taped to the front door of the Binay-occupied City Hall?

Listening to lawyers of the two sides explain the intricacies of the situation, a nonlawyer like me finds her head spinning. Does it really all boil down to a matter of timing—since the suspension order was posted on the morning of March 16, and the TRO was issued later that afternoon? Who was the CA justice who allowed the issuance of the TRO? Doesn’t he listen to the radio or even just follow Facebook and Twitter?

The confusion may seem amusing, especially to folk who do not live in Makati. But a Makati barangay chair told me that the mess at City Hall “has left us all paralyzed.” She confessed that for now she chooses simply to stand to one side and wait how it all plays out. So in the meantime, is time supposed to stand still while supposedly responsible officials bicker and bash one another?

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TAGS: Department of Foreign Affairs, e-passport, holy week, Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, Junjun Binay, Kid Peña, Makati City, oberthur technologies
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