• The enduring gift of brotherhood

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    ASIDE from being an esteemed pastor and popular author, the late Reverend Norman Vincent Peale was also a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason. The author of the bestselling book, The Power of Positive Thinking, was interested to know why “masons devote so much time to their fraternity.” A good answer to this question, he wrote in his essay, “What Freemasonry means to me,” came from a Grand Master who told him that he “enjoys his involvement because it gives him another dimension to living.”

    As I understand it, having this other dimension, means living beyond oneself as we tend to the cares and pain of others. I am delighted to be around this kind of people who are not contented to be cocooned with their personal and familial concerns. They answer the call for help in the words so familiar to us all: Nobody lives only for himself.

    Many of them are now at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), and some of them are entrusted with positions at the various Masonic Lodges in our country. Some say it’s because my godfather is Chief Reynold S. Fajardo who became Grand Master of your organization. That’s why some say it’s as if I’ve inherited his position.

    One of them is Antonio Alcantara, the District Public Attorney (DPA) of PAO-San Jose, Antique District Office. DPA Alcantara was installed as the incoming Worshipful Master of Hamtic Lodge No. 76 in 2014. Another one is, of course, your very own newly installed Worshipful Master, the head of the PAO-National Capital Region, Marlon E. Buan. By the way, last September, Marlon was appointed Regional Public Attorney by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

    Kapatiran, or in the Masonic language, Brotherhood, is the end of Masonic goals, according to Master Mason Stanley Maxwell. He said that in Brotherhood, “what we build today will endure. That is our hope and faith.”

    Brother Masons of Araw Lodge No. 18, I hope that you could offer the enduring gift of brotherhood to your fellow Mason, Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino. He is a client of PAO, being a recipient of our provisional, limited, or temporary assistance. Lt. Col. Marcelino is known as an anti-drugs crusader, and yet some groups are trying to incarcerate him, to silence him, and also to suppress his advocacy against illegal drugs.

    It is highly ironic for him to be charged with the violations of Sections 11 and 26 of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.He and his co-accused, Chinese national and NBI agent, Yan Yi Shuo, were only doing undercover operations for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). In June last year, the Department of Justice already cleared him, and the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 82, granted him bail, in the case filed against him by the past administration. However, the ruling was later reversed.
    The case is now with the justice department on a petition for review.

    Brigadier General Ronald C. Villanueva, chief of the military’s Intelligence Service (ISAFP) has certified that Marcelino “ has never been involved in any illegal activities, particularly illegal drugs.

    General Jessie D. Dellosa, former Deputy Commissioner of the Intelligence Group of the Bureau of Customs, has written in a letter that Marcelino’s was a test case “for all military personnel detailed to support law enforcement operations and tasked with risky and dangerous jobs, who may also be forced to run against powerful and corrupt people. If it is shown here that we cannot defend one officer who has shown his courage, integrity and love of country, leaving him alone to fight against wealthy and influential corrupt rumor-mongers and syndicates, then we will lose even more principled officers who will have no means of defense…”

    Outside of the Masonic Brotherhood, there are also less fortunate brothers and sisters who are in need of our help. They are the inmates in our overcrowded prisons nationwide. As of now, the PAO is giving time and attention to a particular group — some 80,000 accused in drug cases. They are always left out because there is no plea bargaining when it comes to drug cases. Those accused of kidnapping, murder, and rape are allowed to plea-bargain. But those accused of illegal possession of .01 or .02 grams of illegal drugs are imprisoned for 10 to 20 years. We are fighting to have the Supreme Court declare Section 23 of RA 9165 unconstitutional for being in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. As of December 31, 2016, those involved in illegal drug cases number 303,534.

    There are so many problems of our justice system. The death penalty law against drug cases is nearing approval. We need to strengthen our justice system. I know there are many Brother Masons who are lawyers, fiscals, judges, PAO, etc. Let us all help each other to attain justice so no one who is innocent is imprisoned.

    The late George E. Burow, who was also a Mason, said: “We can only know the fullest joys of Masonry when we truly walk the paths of service and of hard work in the quarries.”

    (This article is from a speech delivered during the 109th Public Installation of the Officers of Araw Lodge No. 18 for the Masonic Year 2017 that was held on March 18, 2017, at the Scottish Rite Temple, 1004 Taft Avenue, Manila.)

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